It’s Great To Be Home . . .

a homebody’s guide to home renovation and more

A Real Simple Deal February 26, 2009

Real Simple has been one of my favorite magazines ever since my good friend Jen gave me a year’s subscription for my birthday awhile back.  If you’ve never read the magazine, drop what you’re doing and either go buy a copy or check it out here – believe me, it’s really that great.  Real Simple is filled with tons of useful ideas to make your life more . . . simple!  (You never would have guessed that from the title, right?)  But it can also make your life more organized.  And beautiful.  And all sorts of other fun things.

Right now, Real Simple and The Container Store have joined forces to bring you two free issues of this awesome mag.  Go ahead and click here to sign up for this great deal!!


Real Simple | Life Made Easier, Every Day

The Container Store® - The Original Storage and Organization Store®

While we’re on the subject of the awesomeness of Real Simple, I thought I’d tell you about this nifty wine-pairing tool on the Real Simple website.  Even though I’m a big fan of wine (we even have our own built-in wine fridge in the hutch in our breakfast nook), I’ve never been able to figure out which wine to serve with different dishes.  Turns out it’s real simple!  Click here and you’ll never commit another wine-pairing faux pas again – or at least you won’t have any excuse if you do! 

P.S.  I just used the wine-pairing tool and found out that I’m supposed to have a glass of Gewurztraminer or Riesling  with my spaghetti tonight – delish!!


Real Simple Wine Pairings


Images courtesy of Real Simple and The Container Store.


Toasty Every Time February 25, 2009

Filed under: Reno — Liz @ 07:56
Tags: , , , , ,

It may just be that I am inept when it comes to faucets, but it seems like every time I take a shower I’m either scalded, frozen, or spend half my time fiddling with the handles to find the perfect temperature.  So, imagine my delight when I learned that there was this spiffy little contraption that could take the place of your regular shower valve and give you the perfect water temperature – every time!!!  I know, it sounds too good to be true.

Let me back up a bit.  I first encountered the thermostatic valve (yes, that’s the name of the perfect-water-temperature-creating device) while scoping out our contractor’s work before we hired him to renovate our house.  I went to the home of one of our contractor’s former clients and while I was checking out the tile work in the bathroom the homeowner began talking about the fabulousness of the thermostatic valve that our contractor had installed in his shower.  I, of course, had no idea what he was talking about and inquired “thermo-whatey-what?”  I’m sure he was very impressed.  

Turns out this thermostatic valve is a simple little device that takes the place of a regular shower valve (the shower valve is what you turn to select your water temperature).  It looks just the same as a regular shower valve, but instead of leaving you to fumble around with the water temperature the thermostatic valve allows you to pre-select a water temperature that will be maintained for every single shower you take.  Talk about awesome!!!!  Thermostatic valves are also great for children, because you can set the water temperature to ensure that little ones never get scalded (of course, you should also make sure that your water heater’s maximum temperature is set to no more than 120 degrees as recommended by the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission).  

Here’s a pic of the thermostatic valve that we had installed in our shower:

thermostatic valve 

The little handle on the left is the “thermostatic” part of the valve – you set that little baby in place at your favorite temperature and then leave it alone.  When you turn the big valve on the right – bingo!!  Perfect temperature every time.  I’ve been really impressed with how well it works – I haven’t had to fiddle with the water temperature since it was installed, which is pretty awesome!!  Together with our recirculating pump, the thermostatic valve makes for an awesome shower.  

Click here to find out a little bit more about thermostatic valves.


Shameless! February 24, 2009

Filed under: Homebody Chatter — Liz @ 21:02
Tags: , , ,

So, it turns out that I’m like a proud parent when it comes to showing off our awesome reno – I have no shame!!  Check out pics of our master bath and kitchen on HGTV’s Rate My Space here and here when you get the chance!


All Sproost Up

Think you have a pretty good idea of your decorating style??  Test yourself with this interactive on-line quiz from Sproost!  This fun quiz that I came across on This Young House shows you fully furnished and decorated rooms that fit into one of 16 different design styles and directs you to decide whether you “love it” or “hate it” for each room.  You may look at anywhere from 16 to a bazillion rooms, depending upon how quickly Sproost can nix a design style from your answers.  Interesting and pretty darn fun, if I do say so myself!!

I was surprised by the personal style combo that the Sproost quiz came up with based upon my answers to the quiz – a mix of cottage chic (36%), Nantucket style (36%) and vintage modern (28%).  

While I never would have said that my style included anything called “cottage chic,” Sproost’s explanation of the style proved that its analysis was right on:

Who says that cottages can’t be modern and chic? Who says that they have to be floral and cheesy? Not you!

You love the carefree spirit that the cottage interior inspires, but you are also serious about your appreciation for modern art and hip treasures. You love old and new alike, and love to highlight them all to expose the uniqueness of each. What better way to show off these treasures than with a light background?

Although you haven’t had a chance to check out my art and accessories collections yet (you will, don’t worry!!), I think that “cottage chic” describes our living room to a “T,” don’t you? 

But what about “Nantucket Style”?  Not so sure about this one, Sproost.  While I’m all about greens and blues and whites, I’m a sucker for dark wood over light wood any day of the week!


 Oh how you love the beach! Who doesn’t, right? And so your dream home is either perched in your favorite beach town, or you’ve brought that favorite beach town into your house.

Your art and accessories speak directly to the activities that are found at the beach. Pieces of driftwood you found here, pictures or paintings of the amazing views there. Things that remind you of the coast – surf boards or fishing boats – are found throughout the house. The feeling of the seaside is both abstract and literal in the design of your space. The fabrics are natural, cottons and linens and are light in color and touch. Much of the furniture is wood or wood framed (the lighter the better, think driftwood!) and wicker, when done right, is a must.

And since your true inspiration is the sea, the colors and textures in your home are the same that you would find at your favorite beach: white, light beiges and grays of the sand and driftwood, a variety of blues for the ocean and sky, and greens and vibrant blues of the sea glass, but the key is white! Your space should feel light and airy and give off the mood one has when at the beach: laid back!

Your furniture is comfortable and the layout is cozy. The more it reminds you of actually sitting on the warm sand, the better! And what do you do at the beach? Hang out with family and friends – and your home is just an extension of this play place. And though the space is filled with large white furniture, it somehow manages to feel both durable and casual.

“Vintage Modern” makes up the last 28% of my design style:


 Flea Market, anyone? You know you are drawn to modern furniture and interiors, and yet you don’t like a space that feels cold and sterile. And who could blame you? That’s why Vintage Modern is so appealing to you. Though the backdrop of the room, the walls and windows, are many times white or monochromatic, the furniture and accessories have the color, shape and texture to bring the warmth into the space.

The great thing about Vintage Modern is ease of mixing different styles in the one space. You can have a new modular sofa mixed with a great pair of chairs that your grandmother purchased in the late 1950’s. The new and old work appear as though they were destined for each other. Even if you don’t have time for swap meets and garage sales, so many of the mid-century pieces were so great that they have been remade and mimicked year after year.

I’ve gotta say, I think Sproost nailed with the Cottage Chic and Vintage Modern.  Not so sure about the accessories Sproost picked for me, though… what is that boat doing there?




Think you know what your design style is??  Give the Sproost quiz a whirl, you may surprise yourself!

Images courtesy of Sproost.   


Pump Up Your Home’s Value February 23, 2009

With the housing market like it is these days, lots of people are opting to spruce up their home to make it better suit their lifestyle rather than moving into a new place.  While there are an endless number of improvements you can make to a home, what are some investments you can make that will actually increase your home’s value and make it more attractive when you ultimately decide to sell it?  Real Simple magazine suggests making these changes:

  1. Spiff it up with paint.  Painting is one of those few things in life that provides instant gratification and can make a huge impact on the appearance of your home.  DIY painting is super cheap but pretty time intensive, while professionals can charge a pretty penny (about $3,600 to $6,000 for around 2,400 square feet, accordingly to Real Simple) but the job will be finished before you know it. If you paint the exterior of your home, it can cost between $8,000 to $11,000 for a professional job.  Not cheap, but painting the exterior can take your home from shabby to super in no time.
  2.  Add an outdoor deck.  Who doesn’t love outdoor living?  While exterior living space can’t technically be included in the square footage of your home, a buyer will definitely consider it to be a valuable extension of your home.  Real Simple found that in 2007 homeowners recouped about 85% of the cost of installing a wooden deck when they sold their homes.  


    Outdoor Deck

  3. Spice up your kitchen.  You’ve heard it time and again – kitchens sell homes.  So go ahead and make yours fabulous!!  But keep in mind the potential buyer pool when you’re renovating your kitchen so that you don’t price yourself out of the neighborhood.  While some neighborhoods demand high end appliances and granite countertops, in other neighborhoods a home with freshly painted kitchen cabinets and stainless appliances is all you really need.  Real Simple estimates that homeowners will see 83% of their kitchen investment back upon the sale of their home.
  4. Boost your bath.  Other than kitchens, bathrooms are the other rooms that can sell a house.  But “avoid anything too trendy,” says designer Vern Yip. “Choose classic features, like off-white subway tiles, that will appeal to people with both traditional and contemporary tastes.” There’s no need to splurge on fancy fixtures, either. “A tub is a tub. A Jacuzzi will never make or break a sale,” says designer Steven D. Bullock. If a major bathroom overhaul isn’t in your budget, consider reglazing the tile or tub for a fresh, updated look.  
  5. Switch out your old windows.  Real Simple says that homeowners received a return of 81% last year when replacing windows.  Not only are new windows attractive, but the lower energy bills will be attractive as well.  
  6. Pump up the curb appeal.  This is an improvement that I can’t wait to make in my own home!!  Right now the lawn is in great shape but the landscaping is pretty frightening – think hedges pruned into the shape of beach balls, for starters.  “Landscaping” the front of your house doesn’t have to involve hiring professionals.  If the basic bones of your yard are pretty solid, you can spruce things up with a few colorful potted plants.  However, sprinkler systems and trees are big ticket items that will really pay off in the long run.  The bottom line – make your yard both pretty and functional.  “Buyers make their decisions in exactly eight seconds,” says Barbara Corcoran, founder of the Corcoran Group, a Manhattan real estate firm. “After that, they’ve either fallen in love or are just honoring an appointment.”

    Front Lawn
    Not only will improvements to your home make buyers drool when you go to sell, but you get to enjoy all of the goodies while you’re living there!!  What improvements are you considering making to your home?    



Tax Credit For First-Time Homebuyers February 22, 2009

As you’ve probably heard, the federal government recently passed a tax credit available to first-time homebuyers.  Although the tax credit is pretty straightforward, there are a few little quirks that you should know about:

  1. Who is a “first-time homebuyer”?  The government considers a “first-time” buyer to be anyone who has not owned a home for the past three years – so, in reality, the tax credit is available to people who previously owned homes, as long as they haven’t been homeowners since about 2006.
  2. When does the home have to have been purchased?  The tax credit only applies to homes that are purchased between January 1, 2009 and December 1, 2009.
  3. How much of a tax credit can you receive?  The stimulus bill allows first-time buyers to claim a tax credit on their 2008 or 2009 taxes for $8,000 OR 10% of the home’s value, whichever is less.  That means that homes worth less than $80,000 will receive a tax credit of less than $8,000.
  4. Are there any income restrictions on who can take the tax credit?  Yes.  Full credit is only available to first-time buyers that earn less than $75,000 for singles, or $150,000 for couples.  However, a partial credit may be available to singles or couples that earn more than the income ceiling.
  5. How do I claim the tax credit?  It’s easy!  Just claim it on your return – and if you’re really ambitious and have already filed your return, then you can just file an amended return to take the tax credit.
  6. Will I have to pay back the tax credit?  Maybe.  Basically, the tax credit is yours to keep unless you live in the home for less than 3 years – then you have to pay it back.

Pretty cool, right?  The tax credit is a great and unique deal available to you first-time buyers, so definitely be sure to take advantage of it on your tax returns!  To find out a little bit more about the tax credit and how it might apply to you, just click here.


Fab Fabrics February 21, 2009

Now that most of the major renovation projects for our home are completed, I can’t WAIT to start decorating!!!!!  I came across some beautiful and totally affordable fabrics the other day that I am dying to do something with:

moorish-black-tile       apriana-confetti

I think they could be great to reupholster the barstools at our kitchen counter or on the windows in the second bedroom.  The black and off-white in the tile patterned fabric would look dynamite on the barstools, and really complement the weathered iron knobs and pulls on the kitchen cabinets.  I love the paisley pattern because it is full of color and movement, and would really liven up the green bedspread and tan walls in the second bedroom.

I was really impressed by the fabric selection at this on-line fabric store, with most of the prices per square yard ranging from $9-$12, which is a huge discount compared to similar quality fabrics at other fabric stores such as Joann’s (I think the prices beat Joann’s even with a discount coupon!!).

So what do you think about the fabrics??  Which one would you choose?  Have other suggestions?