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December
6

Prep Your Home For Guests With These Tips

The holidays are a special time of year when joy and laughter fill the air. We decorate the house with festive ornaments, string lights along the rooftop, shop for holiday gifts, and celebrate the season with family and friends who come to visit.

Whether your holiday guests are visiting overnight or staying for a few days, they need a cozy place to relax and sleep. Hosting guests requires some preparation, but you don't need to stress. With a little effort, you can make your guests feel comfortable and welcome for the holidays.

Create a Warm Welcome

Welcome your guests to your home with a festive entry that showcases the holiday season. Starting outdoors, adorn the trees and shrubs with holiday twinkle lights, line the front walkway with poinsettias, hang a seasonal wreath on the front door, and greet your guests with a cup of hot chocolate. As guests step into your home, welcome them with scented holiday candles, a roaring fire in the fireplace, freshly-baked muffins, and a beautiful holiday tree filled with ornaments, tinsel, and wrapped gifts.

Stock the Kitchen

When you're hosting overnight guests, make sure you stock the kitchen with extra food and beverages. A self-service style layout will keep you from playing short-order cook, especially when guests are staying for several days. Set up an area in the kitchen for a coffee bar with mugs, spoons, and sweeteners. Provide a convenient countertop area for making toast, sandwiches, salads, and plate lunches. For late-night snacks, fill a big basket with fresh fruits, snacks, and sweets so guests can munch at their leisure.

Prepare the Guest Bedroom

A beautiful, inviting guest room is a sure way to make your holiday guests feel welcome. First, create a comfortable, cozy bed with fresh linens, puffy pillows, and warm blankets or quilts. As a welcoming gesture, leave some mints or chocolates on the pillows and a good book on the nightstand. Next, make room for your guests' personal belongings:

  • Find space for suitcases
  • Clear a shelf or drawer
  • Clear out space in the closet
  • Make room for a laptop
  • Buy an extra shoe rack

If your guests are staying for a while, make sure they have easy access to wall plugs and consider sharing your wi-fi password. To create more restful sleep, put a sound machine, a small fan, or a humidifier in the room. If there's no TV in the guest room, leave some magazines, a pack of playing cards, or a puzzle on the dresser. In case of an emergency, make sure there's a flashlight near the bed.

Prepare the Guest Bathroom

Whether your guest bathroom is directly off the bedroom or down the hall, make sure your guests have everything they need. Before you start gathering essentials, clean the bathroom spic and span, clear out non-essentials, fill the room with fresh scents, and put down non-slip rugs. Once the bathroom is sparkling, you can put out guest essentials:

  • Fresh towels and washcloths
  • Rolls of extra toilet paper
  • Toiletries (toothbrushes and toothpaste)
  • Liquid or bar soap
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Air freshener
  • A first-aid kit

Some people travel with their own beauty essentials, so put a decorative basket on the sink or vanity where they can conveniently store them during their visit. For fresh scents and a relaxing atmosphere, place a few holiday candles on the tub or the vanity.

Above all, remember it's the personal attention you show to your guests that really matters, so welcome them to a comfortable holiday home filled with warmth, laughter, and lasting memories.

December
2

5 Holiday Decorating Tips for Small Spaces

Are you in the process of getting your decorations up and realizing you're running out of room? Maybe you are starting to outgrow your current home? Today, we are sharing 5 decorating tips for small spaces.

Keep It Simple

A Christmas tree is a must but opt for something smaller that won't take up a ton of space. When it comes to your Christmas decor theme, use lots of neutrals. Winter White looks so pretty againt a tree and won't overwhelm small spaces. 

Create Ambiance

Candles are your best friend when it comes to making smaller spaces festive and cozy. You might not have tons of extra space for strands of garlands and lights without feeling overwhelming, but candles can be added to decorative trays, countertops and your mantle, if you have one. 

Chunky Linens

Swap out linens and blankers with cozy, chunky textures. Think chuny knut blankets, sheepskin rugs and comfy pillows. If you don't want to totally replace what you have then bring on the layers! Festive flannel sheets are a fun way to add decor to your bedroom without taking up any additional space.

Festive Framed Artwork

One of the easiest ways to add holiday cheer to your home is to swap out current framed photos or art with fun Christmas prints. You can even print your own Christmas quotes in pretty font and frame them for the season.

Bring The Outdoors In

Evergreen clippings, berries and birch logs for the win! You can add berries to a pretty vase, and use evergreen clippings to accent the fireplace, kitchen table, a mirror - really anywhere! Lean birch logs against a corner wall or throw into a woven basket for some easy decor.

What do you think of these simple holiday decor ideas? What is your favorite way to make your home festive for the holidays?

November
25

Make Your Home Smarter Without Spending A Fortune

Everything from security cameras and thermostats to light bulbs and locks is now available with wireless connectivity, and when multiple devices communicate, they join an "Internet of things" that instantly makes life more convenient and customizable. Some even learn your preferences and household habits, then adjust themselves accordingly. However, some homeowners still assume that "smart home" technology is still out of their price range.

If you want to smarten up your home and take advantage of the latest gadgets, you don't actually have to invest in a six-figure rewiring job. Instead, just take some of the following steps to keep your home compatible with the 21st century.

  • Swap Out Your Light Bulbs for Smart LED Bulbs
    Traditional light bulbs generate heat, use electricity, emit one color, need to be replaced every so often, and only respond to physical switches. Smart LED bulbs, on the other hand, generate no heat, use far less electricity, may change colors, last much longer, and can be controlled wirelessly. Whether you care about the planet or you need more lighting options, WiFi LED bulbs like the Philips Hue system or single LIFX bulbs are the way to go. If you want to spend less than $20 per bulb, opt for Bluetooth-enabled bulbs like the GE C-Life instead.

  • Plug Your Appliances into Smart Plugs
    Do you want to control your oven, computer, TV, or any other appliance remotely? You don't have to wait until a "smart fridge" is in the budget. Now, it's possible to connect your mobile devices to anything that plugs into your wall, thanks to pass-through plugs like the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch or the mydlink Home Smart Plug. Download an app to turn appliances on and off, monitor usage patterns, and more.

  • Invest in a Nest
    It's hard to overstate the value of a programmable thermostat, especially when it's as striking as the popular Nest. This wireless-enabled thermostat is easy to plug into your existing HVAC wires, and once it's installed, you can use your phone to adjust the minimum and maximum temperatures, set specific temperatures, program fluctuations, and more. Best of all, the Nest knows where you are and adjusts your temperature accordingly. You can even set it to conserve extra energy by turning off its screen until you walk up to it.

  • Greet Visitors with the Ring Video Doorbell
    Who's at the door? If you had a Ring doorbell, you would never have to ask that question again. Ring integrates two-way audio for speaking back and forth through the door, a camera that allows you to see your visitors in HD from anywhere in the house (or the world) in any lighting, and motion sensors that make it easy to start recording when someone arrives. With Ring, you can even set up mobile alerts when someone rings the bell or comes near your door. Ring's doorbells range from $150 per doorbell to more than $600 for whole camera systems, but peace of mind is priceless.

How will you turn your house into a smart home? Investing in a few wireless gadgets now may save time, money, and energy for years to come, but let's be honest: it makes your house look a whole lot cooler, too. Whether you hope to attract buyers soon or you want to make life in your new home more convenient and futuristic, these smart products are a great place to start.

November
16

Meet Your Neighbors with these Three Party Ideas

If your strategy for meeting the neighbors is a quick hello while walking the dog or picking up your mail, you need a better approach. Here are three ideas for neighborhood get-togethers that are easy to organize, inexpensive and a lot of fun. 

  1. Progressive Dinner – Organize a progressive dinner party that involves traveling to several homes, each serving up a different course to the meal. Start with hors d'oeuvres at the first home, then move on to soup or salad at the next, an entrée at the next and then end with dessert at the final home. Leisurely pacing out the evening in this way is the perfect way to encourage lively chit-chat between bites and en route to the next destination. And because everyone chips in, no one host is burdened with the cost, preparation or clean-up for the entire meal.
  2. Progressive Party – Put an engaging twist on the traditional cocktail party by applying the progressive concept to adult beverages: each stop can feature its own signature drink. There are all kinds of ways to spice things up, such as establishing an imaginative theme to the evening or having each home come up with a quirky name for its individual concoction. Once the creative juices start flowing, so will the conversation!
  3. Game Night – A small group of eight or fewer can meet up for a rousing game night. Everyone has their favorites, whether it's trivia that tests your knowledge or a drawing game that gives you a chance to exhibit your artistic prowess. Teaming up and encouraging a little bit of healthy competition among friends (and soon-to-be-friends) is a sure way to get further acquainted while having fun in the process.

Since you already share a neighborhood, you may as well find out what else you have in common. This spring, assemble the troops and plan some creative festivities to mix and mingle.

October
21

Windows that Wow

What's one of the fastest and easiest ways to update a room? You guessed it – window treatments. Gone are the days of heavy, dark, drab curtains. Instead, you can refresh just about any space with a variety of modern options to fit every style and budget.

Now Trending
Whether you're creating a home office space, looking to be more eco-friendly or moving into a new home and want to add your own personal touches, window treatments can make all the difference.

If energy efficiency is on your list, you have many options to choose from. High-tech cellular shades offer temperature control capabilities in a variety of innovative designs. Roller shades have a modern, minimal look and provide UV ray protection while allowing ample natural light in. Blinds have also come a long way, now designed with modern patterns, textures and materials to enhance any space.

 Bring on the Drama
If you're ready to breathe new life into a room and add a little drama, consider luxurious curtains. Depending on how much light you want, a sophisticated, patterned drape can set the mood and make a bold statement.

By introducing a pop of color, like a bold orange or deep red, you can give your space a dramatic new look. Not into vibrant tones? White window treatments can be just as impactful. Layer white shades with a gauzy curtain to create a romantic and whimsical feel. You could also inject a little boho chic into a room by pairing classic woven or bamboo shades with patterned drapery. Whatever you choose, curtains can easily give your home a whole new look in a matter of minutes.

 Smart Tech
Who would've thought that you'd be able to open and close your curtains with the touch of a button? Say hello to smart windows, which let you control your blinds, curtains or shades through either a remote control or handy app. You can easily set up a schedule or use the setting to adjust your window treatments without even having to leave your comfy couch.

Giving your interiors a fresh new look is easier than ever by simply by changing out your window treatments. Whether you're creating a space that's soft and serene or bright and bold, these ideas should help set you off on the right path.

October
14

How to Remove Dog Odors From Your Home

There are plenty of home improvement projects that will add value to your home if you're selling and add comfort to your home if you're staying put. One of these home improvement projects is clearing out pet odors from your house. Lingering smells from dogs are particularly unpleasant — and worst of all, you may have become so desensitized to them that you can't sense them at all! Regardless if you're planning to sell or planning to entertain guests, here are a few easy home improvement tips for removing dog odors from your home.

  • Regularly Steam Clean Carpets
    Carpet fibers will trap pet odors and require much more than a simple vacuum treatment to remove them. Steam clean your carpets regularly, ensuring they are completely dry before your dog gets back on them.


  • Wash Hard Flooring Weekly
    Although solid flooring won't trap odors as strongly as carpets do, they can still hold onto these smells. Along with vacuuming your floors for pet hair, wash them every week or two with soap and water.


  • Use Furniture Covers
    Even if your dog is not allowed to sit on your bed or couch, your furniture can still hold onto pet odors. One home improvement hack is to purchase washable furniture covers that you can clean periodically to remove the smells and prevent them from getting on your clothing.  


  • Clean Dog Beds Regularly
    No matter how often your dog uses their bed, it only takes one long nap to make it smell. Another home improvement hack is to purchase a dog bed that either has a washable cover or that can be cleaned easily to remove smells and stains.


  • Throw Away Stinky Items
    Unfortunately, some of your items may be too stinky to save even with the most thorough of home improvement cleaning projects. Don't be afraid to throw items like dog beds or blankets away and replace them with fresh items.


  • Purchase Specialty Cleaners
    Not all cleaning products are strong enough to remove pet odors. However, pet-specific cleaners are. Purchase specialty cleaners designed to remove dog odors for maximum effectiveness.


  • Create Natural Cleaners
    Many pet owners don't want to use artificial chemicals in their home, especially on surfaces where their pets lay. Thankfully, you can create safe, homemade cleaners to remove pet odors. For instance, let baking soda sit overnight on the carpet, then vacuum it up or spritz surfaces with a little vodka, which will remove odors as the alcohol evaporates.


  • Locate Problem Areas
    Since pet odors can linger, dogs may gravitate to those spaces and make them smell worse. Locate and treat these problem areas to eliminate the smell.  


  • Purify the Air
    One way to eliminate odors without completing a home improvement project is to purify your home's air. Open windows to air out your home and change your ventilation filters regularly to cut down on unpleasant smells. You should also consider purchasing an air purifier if the smell becomes too much.


  • Keep Your Pup Clean
    Keeping unpleasant odors away involves more than home improvement cleaning projects. You should also make sure your pet is regularly groomed and bathed so that they smell fresh and stay healthy.

Your home doesn't have to smell like you own a dog! Clean your home and four-legged friend consistently to eliminate strong odors from your house.

October
11

Curb Appeal Tips for Fall

First impressions are everything when it comes to selling your house.  When a potential home buyer drives by your home, what will they see?  The outside of your home should serve as a preview for the inside of your home.

"WOW" home buyers from the curb with these tips perfect for the fall. 

  1. Spruce up your lawn
    Brilliant fall foliage can automatically "sell" your home for showings, but that doesn't mean you should forget about raking the leaves and mowing.  Keep those leaves raked and give your lawn the TLC it needs to look great. Patch any brown spouts, and water the lawn as long as possible to keep it green and vibrant.
  2. Plant fall flowers
    Once lawn maintenance is handled, add a splash of color to your landscape by planting fall flowers.  Some of the best fall flowers include vibrant mums, yellow marigolds, sedum, or goldenrod.  You can also place fall flowers in pots near your front door along with a few pumpkins as accents.
  3. Highlight the front door
    Calling attention to your front door is a good selling tactic no matter what season when you're selling your house.  Your front door is like an invitation to your home. Hang a fall wreath for added color and a festive touch.  A fresh coat of paint in a vivid color can make your entrance stand out.
  4. Tidy up the exterior
    During the fall, your home becomes more exposed making its exterior appearance even more important.  Before listing your home for sale, pressure wash your siding, sidewalks, and walkways.  Clean the windows.  Apply a fresh coat of paint as needed.
  5. Clear out the gutters
    Being diligent about home maintenance tells buyers you care about your home's upkeep.  Keeping your gutters and downspouts clear from leaves and debris protects your home from water damage and ups the ante for curb appeal.
  6. Invest in outdoor lighting
    Days get shorter during the fall.  Exterior light adds a touch of elegance and sophistication to your landscape and improves safety. Illuminate your walkways, front door, and important landscaping elements so the home shines no matter when people drive by.
  7. Keep outdoor decorations simple
    A simple fall wreath on the door and seasonal flowers make your home look inviting to potential homebuyers.  However, scarecrows and spooky Halloween decorations may "scare off" homebuyers and distract them from the gorgeous exterior you've worked so hard to otherwise create.
September
23

5 Simple Ideas for Fall Home Makeovers

Whether your fall interior design aesthetic is spooky, sophisticated or somewhere in between, it's the ideal moment to implement some fresh ideas to spectacularly enjoy the season. If you're ready to deck out your home for fall, here are five easy, creative ways to infuse fall colors and textures into your décor:

Add Seasonal Wreaths

Not only do fall wreaths add beauty to your front door, they can also add a touch of the season inside your home. Try a playful twist on the traditional fall palette with unique "statement" fall wreaths, which are a must-have this fall. For the crafty, DIY wreaths are a whimsical way to add some vibrancy to your usual autumn décor. Remember, wreaths are versatile! Display a colorful wreath as a table centerpiece or hang it from a pretty ribbon to enjoy it from a different perspective.

Update Pillows

Switch out summer pillows in lightweight fabrics in your family or living rooms for luxe, velvet ones in rich, fall shades. Think burgundy, cinnamon or caramel velvets and warm brown brocades, or classic fall colors in strong hues like burnt orange or exotic chinoiserie red.

Swap Out Rugs

Change area rugs throughout your home, replacing lightweight summer jute rugs with thick, plush rugs in rustic, autumn colors to make rooms look and feel warmer.

Add Flowers

Create a beautiful fall table with distressed and repurposed containers filled with your favorite fall lowers and dark-hued berries. Or make a cornucopia of fall colors by arranging autumn blooms on a chic serving tray. Mimic nature's fall transformation by introducing dried floral arrangements into your home – adding a rustic vibe to match the season. Add some beautiful fall-colored flowers, like mums or cockscombs, to your front porch or patio.

Cozy Up Outdoors

Make the most of fall's cooler evenings by creating a small conversation area around a firepit on the deck or in the backyard. Bring out a few pillows and autumn-inspired throws for the chairs and keep a large basket nearby so you can easily bring the linens indoors if inclement weather threatens.

These are just a few of the many ways to fill your home with autumn beauty without overhauling your holiday décor stash.

September
16

6 Easy DIY Projects To Boost Your Home's Value

Home improvement is the key to enhancing your home's value and increasing its ever-elusive curb appeal.

Of course, you probably already know that, but what you might not know is that upgrading your property doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming. The right DIY home improvement projects improve your home, add value, and bring buyers to your door.

  1. Improve Your Landscaping
    Why hire a professional landscaper? You can save money by trimming, mulching, planting, and decorating your own home into a garden showplace. With one trip to your local garden shop or hardware store, you can get everything you need to give your landscape the wow factor home buyers love.

    • Design your dream landscape, and then bring it to life.
    • Seed your lawn. Cut back overgrown bushes so buyers can see your home.
    • Add seasonal color with potted and hanging flowers.
    • Enhance your landscape with solar lights and pavers that save energy.

  2. Beautify Your Bathroom
    You spend an awful lot of time in the bathroom. It should be a beautiful sanctuary that increases your home's value, not a shabby refuge. Change your perceptions and add value with these DIY home improvement projects.

    • Install trendy light fixtures.
    • Replace your sink with a designer vanity and a marble bowl.
    • Install a copper or chrome faucet and metal-coordinated accessories.
    • Eliminate unfortunate color choices with white wall paint.

  3. Welcome Light into Your Home
    If you have large windows that allow natural light into your home, lucky you. If you don't have large windows, try these light-enhancing projects.

    • Install brighter light fixtures.
    • Paint your walls white and replace your drapes with neutral-colored blinds.
    • Remove some furniture to open up your space.

  4. Up Your Energy Efficiency
    Green technologies save money, increase home values, and reduce your carbon footprint. When a potential buyer queries your utility company about your average energy bill, they'll like what they hear. You can perform several green upgrades yourself.

    • Replace light bulbs with energy-efficient versions.
    • Replace your stove, refrigerator, and small kitchen appliances with models rated high for energy savings.
    • Install solar-powered exterior lights.
    • Repair window seals to minimize hot/cold air exchange.

  5. Modernize Your Kitchen
    Home buyers love grand spacious kitchens. Even if your kitchen isn't as big as a buyer desires, you can complete these DIY projects to make it irresistibly grand.

    • Redo your kitchen floor with trendy wood-look, gray, wide-plank, or natural wood tiles.
    • Upgrade your stove, refrigerator, and dishwasher with popular stainless steel or black steel models.
    • Install a farmhouse sink and faucet for a country modern workspace.
    • Replace your countertops with granite. You'll need someone to measure and cut the openings and a buddy to help you lift them into place.|

  6. Make Your Home Intelligent
    Guys like gadgets. Okay, ladies like gadgets too. With a little time and effort, you can make your home gadget central. Internet-connected and digitally enhanced appliances and devices give your home an intriguing, high-tech feel.

    • Install a Wi-Fi-connected refrigerator.
    • Replace your stove with an intelligent version that lets you control cooking remotely.
    • Upgrade your home security system with cameras that let you watch your home and interact with visitors wherever you are.
    • Connect your coffeemaker to your alarm clock to brew your coffee when you wake up.

With these fixes, buyers will be flocking to your property and making top offers. And remember, it's not always the costly changes that give the best ROI, so consult your real estate agent about which home improvement changes will be better suited for your home.

September
13

5 Tips For Improving Your Home Security

Whether you're new to homeowning or have been a homeowner for a while, improving the security of your home is a good idea. It can provide peace of mind and help you keep your property secure while you're away. These 5 tips will help you know where to start.

  1. Upgrade your locks. The first thing you can do to improve security as a new homeowner is to change the locks. You can take this opportunity to install smart locks which allow for changing entrance codes and locking or unlocking remotely. Many even integrate with security systems to provide video. If you don't want to go with a smart lock, you can probably upgrade the standard lock on your door. Most residential locks have an ANSI rating of 3, which means you have room to upgrade to something more secure.
  2. Invest in a home security system or upgrade your current one. They can vary in price and go from basic to complex, but a security system still makes a big difference. Today's systems protect against break-ins and have plenty of other advantages that will help you improve security and provide you with peace of mind when you're away. Integration with smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and leak sensors can help avoid dangerous situations as well. You can also add cameras and home automation features to many systems, and a system may even save you money on your homeowner's insurance too.
  3. Eliminate outdoor hiding places. It's obvious you want to keep sheds, garages and other ­buildings on your property locked, but you should also have these areas decluttered and well-lit to deter anyone from snooping around your property. It's also a good idea to eliminate or prune any extra-large landscape bushes.
  4. Add or improve outdoor lighting. If you don't have outdoor lighting, adding some is a good idea. It not only deters intruders but improves outdoor safety as well. There are lots of energy-efficient options available, and you can use motion sensors or solar lighting to decrease energy costs. One of the best places to put motion-sensing lights is above your garage door, especially if you have additional cars that sit outside.
  5. Don't make your home vulnerable during home improvement projects. These projects often involve things like ladders and tools that can provide an easy route to theft. You may also be leaving areas of your home such as windows, doors, or sheds unsecured. Put away tools and ladders when not in use, and lock everything back up when you're done.

Improving your home's security isn't difficult. With these tips, a little work can go a long way to giving you the peace of mind that your home is safe.

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