5 Easy Improvements to Get Your Home Guest-Ready for the Holidays

Hosting a holiday gathering can be a lot of fun, but perhaps a bit intimidating, too. You want your house to look its best, but now isn’t the time to undertake any major updates.

Chances are, you’re busy enough get ready for the event. So, focus on just the areas of your house where your guests will spend time.

Whether you’re a first-time party host with a few jitters or an old pro looking for some new ideas, these tips will help you ensure that your home is ready for any gathering.

Light the way

The sun sets early this time of year, so it’s important to make sure the entrance to your home is clean and well-lit.

If you have a large front yard, focus on the entryway and the path leading up to it. Install porch lights or replace the bulbs if needed. Cut back any shrubbery that is obstructing the walkway.

On the day of your party, open the blinds on the front windows so your guests can see into your warm, festive-looking home as they approach. It’s a great way to create a sense of welcoming anticipation.

Pro tip: The easiest way to create instant lighting for walkways and paths is with the solar lights that you just stick into the ground. The sun does the rest of the work!

Take care of the bottom line

Our mothers used to say this, and it’s true: If your floors are spotless, they make your whole house look cleaner.

Even if you’re unable to do an in-depth house cleaning before your gathering, make sure your floors have been cleaned before that first guest steps over the threshold.

Pro tip: If you have carpeting, clean the carpets a minimum of three days ahead of your affair so they have time to dry fully.

Brighten up your bathroom

If you’re bothered by grimy-looking grout in your bathroom, try this easy, inexpensive, and non-toxic method to get rid of it nearly instantly: Just spray on some full-strength hydrogen peroxide, let it sit for 10 minutes, and then wipe clean. That’s it!

Next, add some flowers, holiday decorations or pictures on the wall to further spiff up your powder room, and it will be ready for your guests.

Pro tip: Get the buildup out of a slow-moving sink drain with a Zip-It. This inexpensive tool looks like a giant zip-tie. You just work it down into the drain to pull up hair clogs – all the other gunky stuff will come up with it.

Tune up kitchen appliances

Your kitchen appliances will be the workhorses of your holiday party, whether you’re hosting a big family dinner or a cocktail party. You want them to be fully functioning and ready for action.

Make sure all stove burners are working. Now’s the time to clean the oven if you haven’t done that for a while.

Clean out the refrigerator, and check to see that the fridge and freezer are running at their optimal temperatures.

Make sure your dishwasher is in good working order. You can clean it easily with a dishwasher cleaner that you run through a cycle.

Pro tip: Sharp knives will make easy work of preparing the big meal. Make sure all your kitchen knives are newly sharpened, and also check the batteries in your electric carving knife, if you have one.

Make your space kid-friendly

If you make your home welcoming for children, you’ll ensure their parents have a great time as well.

If you happen to have kids that are the same ages as your young guests, you’re in luck. But if not, think about adding some considerate touches that will make parents more comfortable and alleviate kid boredom.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Turn a spare room or an upstairs bedroom into a private nursing/changing area for a new mom.
  • Toddlers and younger children will want to be near their parents, so a good idea for them is to set up a corner of your living or dining room with toys, books, a tablet for watching cartoons and some comfy pillows or throws.
  • One of our favorite strategies for older kids is to turn the dessert course into an activity. For instance, you could bake a huge batch of sugar cookies in holiday shapes, and then put out different colors of icing to let kids (and adults) go to town with decorating their own cookies.

Pro tip: If you don’t have children, or if yours are older, don’t forget to kid-proof your space. Put away anything expensive, breakable or unstable. Do some baby-proofing, if necessary. This way you and the parents can relax and not have to worry about safety hazards.

Want more DIY tips? Watch more of See Jane Drill’s home improvement videos. 

Related:

  • 12 Easy Steps to Prepare Your Home for Fall
  • DIY: Refresh Your Bathroom With a New Sink and Vanity
  • Holiday Hazards: How to Avoid Insurance Claims

Originally published November 2016.

Chic Holiday DIY: Fragrant Herb Chandelier and Custom Treat Bags

Holiday entertaining is all about one-of-a-kind decor, and we’ve got some show-stopping looks that you can make yourself. You don’t have to be an expert crafter to accomplish these easy DIY projects. Creating a custom hanging herb chandelier and dessert takeaways will really impress your guests at this year’s seasonal get-together.

Create a rustic vibe by wrapping the dining table in brown kraft paper. Arrange leaves, loaves of bread and open bottles of wine along the center of this setup. Lovely butter knives atop neatly placed cloth napkins seal the deal.

Serve tea or coffee with your homemade treat bags after the meal to brighten everyone’s day. Taking the little bit of time to make this thoughtful goody that your guests can break into right away or take home really makes visitors feel special. Taffy, cookies or a slice of pie are all great sweets to bag up for later.

Hanging Herb Chandelier Materials

  • 3-foot cut of wood (or desired length, depending on your table)
  • Cup hooks
  • 5-foot length of multi-purpose rope
  • Baker’s twine
  • Ribbon
  • Herbs/flowers

Stamped Paper Bag Takeaways Materials

  • Brown canvas, burlap or paper bags
  • Stencil (ours is Antlered Deer, part of the Winter Holiday 4-Pack by Stencil 1, $13)
  • Black craft paint
  • Taffy or other candies

Videography and photography by Mikal Marie Photography. 

Related:

  • Deck Out Your Guest Room to Give Holiday Visitors a Warm Welcome
  • Styling Bar Carts: 4 Irresistible Looks
  • A Guide to Giving Holiday Gifts to Your Roommates

Originally published December 2015.

The Secret to No-Fuss Holiday Decor? Use What You Already Have

Hold your holiday decor horses! Before you purchase gobs of tinsel and piles of twinkle lights, take another look at items you already have – they may be the holiday embellishment you’ve been looking for.

By hunting through your cabinets and closets, you can easily repurpose common household items into yuletide decor for your abode. Need a little inspiration? These design experts share how they style up everyday objects into festive flourishes.

Dig through the craft closet

“Bust out the burlap! I’ve been known to use burlap for anything from tablecloths to a Christmas tree skirt. It’s so versatile and lends an organic, rustic vibe.”
– Brooke Wagner, Brooke Wagner Design

“Roll out brown or black butcher paper on your table like a runner. It somehow elevates everything you set on it. Plus, you can write your guests names on it in black marker (or chalk marker for black paper) instead of place cards.”
– Jenn Muirhead, Jennifer Muirhead Interiors

“Paint a wall with chalkboard paint. It’s the perfect themed accent wall that’s fun and creative, and it gets the kids involved, too.”
– Melissa Martin Molitor, MMM Designs-Interiors

Photo courtesy of Melissa Martin Molitor.

“Tie ribbon on everything! Thread it through chandeliers or banisters. Or put festive printed fabric in picture frames and scatter them throughout the house.”
– Katie Schroder, Atelier Interior Design

Scour the kitchen cupboards

“Place a set of teacups on a pretty tray, and fill each cup with a succulent or small flower arrangement. Or create a centerpiece by placing candles on a serving tray or cake stand.”
– Gita Jacobson, In The Deets

“Fill a large glass serving bowl – or maybe a punch bowl or trifle bowl – with whatever seasonal item you want. Just use the same thing so it looks purposeful and pretty.”
– Jenn Muirhead, Jennifer Muirhead Interiors

“Take an ordinary flower vase, and stick glass ornaments inside with a string of white lights. It’s a pretty display that’s simple and creative!”
– Wendy Berry, W Design Interiors

Ransack the fridge

“Dried fruit garland is still classic and sweet. Take a needle and thread to some popcorn, cranberries or dried sliced oranges, and string it up wherever you want to!”
– Jenn Muirhead, Jennifer Muirhead Interiors

“Cut up fresh fruit and put it in a pitcher before adding flowers for a centerpiece. Throw in some cloves and cinnamon sticks for added flair. For a dash of festivity, use oranges with cloves in them for place card settings.”
– Christine Estep, Jackson Thomas Interiors

Sift through the closet

“Use a vintage plaid throw as a tablecloth or runner. Or decorate a small tabletop tree with jewelry or ribbon.”
– Katie Schroder, Atelier Interior Design

“Repurpose one of your favorite scarves as a cozy centerpiece runner.”
– Gita Jacobson, In The Deets

Forage in the yard

“Instead of placing a star at the top of my Christmas tree, I’ll take a handful of fallen sticks and tie them together at the top of the tree with a raffia bow. I’ll also layer pine cones throughout my tree to balance out the glass ornaments for an organic, natural feel.
– Wendy Berry, W Design Interiors

“I gather sticks cedar branches, along with magnolia, holly, boxwood and pine. I spread them around the bases of containers or arrange them in colorful tea tins. It’s an easy way to bring in greenery without spending too much money.”
– Susan Jamieson, Bridget Beari Designs

“I love to add a garland of fresh greens around my dining room chandelier and hang ornaments from it. The fresh scent mixed with holiday cooking is wonderful.”

– Jennifer Stoner, Jennifer Stoner Interiors

Look everywhere!

“Scatter some festive items that aren’t necessarily holiday themed. For example, we’ll set out some naturally shed antlers in the fall or a tuxedo hat around Christmas. I’ll mix in a few of these types of things that feel seasonally appropriate but aren’t necessarily traditional holiday decor.”
– Summer Thornton, Summer Thornton Design

“Give a corner of your home a holiday touch with just a handful of tweaks. We made a sitting area more festive by adding new pillows (they needn’t have an overt holiday motif – a wintery look works just as well), some evergreen cuttings from the yard (with a few sprigs of berries), a stack of wrapped gifts, a scarf and bow for our deer, and a teddy bear found in the attic.”
– Chris Stout-Hazard, Roger + Chris

Photo courtesy of Chris Stout-Hazard.

“Gather objects with a similar color scheme. I pull out all of my white and silver anything and group them together – candle holders, vases, pots, ribbon. Then I go to my neighbors’ yards for magnolia and holly cuttings and get laurel out of my own yard. I just keep everything green, white and silver – jumbled together it works.”
– Lesley Glotzl

“Repurpose a metallic vessel into a vase for displaying rich greenery or arrangements of holiday objects. A brass champagne cooler, a bright silver trophy cup or even small copper mugs could work perfectly. Add fresh pops of red with cranberries, pomegranates, deep-red apples or even a few red roses.”
– Kerrie Kelly, Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Photo courtesy of Kerrie Kelly.
Top photo from Zillow listing.

Related:

  • How to Decorate Simply for the Holidays (With Big Impact)
  • Chic Holiday DIY: Fragrant Herb Chandelier and Custom Treat Bags
  • Entertaining Essentials: 5 Items Every Host Needs

Originally published November 2017.

How to Decorate Simply for the Holidays (With Big Impact)

You may have dreams of decorating your home like it’s a display window at a fancy department store, but then reality strikes: You’ve still got gift shopping and wrapping to do, holiday parties to attend and host … not to mention your everyday life to live.

Don’t get overwhelmed. Go for intentional minimalism. Some years, less is more.

Simple decor can still have a big impact – not the least of which is relieving you of some holiday hustle and bustle. All you need to do is hone in on sprucing up three key areas in your home.

Target your tree

The most obvious place to start is your Christmas tree. For an easy, fuss-free tree, go with a monochromatic color scheme.

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Metallic ornaments give your tree extra glitz and seasonal sparkle.

Another option is to use all neutral colors so you don’t have to worry about balancing a color palette or tree placement – it will coordinate with any room’s normal decor.

Make your mantel magical

If you have a fireplace in your home, the mantel is an ideal spot to bring a little holiday cheer, but don’t make it too complicated.

mantel_4
Cotton branches intertwined with silver artificial garland.

Choose a statement-making garland to hang or drape across the top. Place some candles on the mantel to light at night, and you’re good to go.

Top off your table

The holidays are a prime time for entertaining, hosting and gathering around the table. So bring seasonal flair to your table with a beautiful garland, which can go a long way as a table runner.

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A garland made of magnolia leaves and evergreen creates a dramatic table runner.

Make the decor as simple as placing a lush garland in the center of your table and mixing in candles for added ambiance.

Decorating for the holidays doesn’t have to be a chore. Focus on these three spots, and your home will feel magical and holiday-ready in no time.

Photos courtesy of White Buffalo Styling Co. 

Related:

  • The Year I Decorated the White House for Christmas
  • Chic Holiday DIY: Fragrant Herb Chandelier and Custom Treat Bags
  • 5 Home Repairs to Make Before You Host a Holiday Gathering

Originally published December 2016.

How to Actually Afford to Buy a Home in America

Home buyers today face tough challenges – housing prices have soared, a dollar doesn’t go as far as it once did and rent is more expensive than the past.

How are people today making such a large purchase despite these hurdles? With more flexibility and a bit of financing creativity, today’s buyers are finding ways to achieve homeownership.

Know your options (and credit score)

The first step to knowing if you can afford a home is figuring out what financing options are available to you, including what mortgages you’re eligible for and how much you need (and can afford) to put down upfront.

Learning the minimum FICO score required by lenders and understanding your own credit score are important starting points.

Many home shoppers aren’t sure how much they have to put down on a home, what the lender-required minimum down payment will be (it’s not always 20%), or what programs are available to help with down payments, like FHA loans.

Before buyers even start thinking about saving for a home, they should know what their financial resources are and if they’re eligible to buy.

Make enough money to save

With fewer resources to pull from than their older, wealthier counterparts, renters wanting to buy face tough financial headwinds.

According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019, renter households typically earn a median income of $37,500 annually, which is nearly $40,000 less than the median household income netted by households who recently bought a home (of whom the median household income is $75,000 annually).

While there are ways to enter into homeownership without making $75,000 in household income, it’s hard to afford to buy if you make significantly less. “If you’re making $37,500 per year, it’s probably not feasible for you to buy in almost any market,” says Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell.

While households purchasing homes are more likely to have two incomes than renter households (and thus a higher median household income combined), even two-income households struggle to afford to buy in competitive markets.

Save enough cash (but not as much as you think)

One of the most daunting parts of home buying? The down payment. In fact, two-thirds of renters cite saving for a down payment as the biggest hurdle to buying a home, according to the Zillow Housing Aspirations Report.

For people buying the national median home valued at $229,000, with the traditional 20% down payment, that’s $45,800 upfront – just to move in.

“The down payment remains a hurdle for a lot of people,” says Gudell. “But they should know they don’t have to put 20% down.”

Although putting down less than 20% means additional considerations, such as the cost for private mortgage insurance (PMI), some find it worth the hassle. In fact, according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019, only one-fifth of recent buyers (20%) put 20% down, and just over half of buyers (56%) put less than the traditional 20% down.

Buyers are also getting creative about piecing together a down payment from multiple sources. According to the report findings, 34% of buyers who get a mortgage also get help in the form of gifts or loans from friends and family to come up with a down payment. 

Know your deal breakers, but be flexible

To get into a home – even if it’s not the home of their dreams – some of today’s buyers are considering homes and locations outside of their initial wish list and getting increasingly flexible when it comes to neighborhood, house condition and even home type.

“I do think people get discouraged when they look in their target neighborhood and they see homes around $170,000 when they’re looking for a $110,000 home,” Gudell says.

Affordably priced homes do, in fact, exist. But in popular areas, where people most often want to live, it’s going to be harder to find that cheaper home, Gudell says.

“If you’re willing to take a longer commute and make a couple trade-offs, you might be able to find a home that is farther out that might be cheaper,” Gudell explains. “You have to leave the paved path before you can find cheaper choices.”

Related:

  • A 3-Step Plan for Finding and Buying Your Next Home
  • 3 Weird Things You Can Ignore When Home Shopping
  • What Do Mortgage Lenders Review on Bank Statements?

This Isn’t Your Average Woodland Cottage

“We spend so much of our lives in boxes,” says Alexis Borsboom, owner of this cottage nestled among the trees on Mayne Island, BC.

The unique shape is just one reason she and her husband moved in. The rest of the story lies inside its walls – and begins with the walls themselves.

That’s because they’re made from cob: a combination of clay, sand and straw that’s mixed with water and then sculpted by hand. The couple fell in love after meeting in a cob-building workshop; later, they purchased the home and built a life constructing cob structures together.

With soft edges throughout and a wooden staircase, the interior of their home seems like something out of a dream – but subtle nods to 70s decor make it feel familiar.

Cob is a little like adobe. But unlike adobe, which is formed into bricks and hardened before building, cob structures are sculpted while the mixture is still wet.

Working with raw earth means there’s not much need for loud equipment on a cob site. And because most of the necessary materials can be gathered from the surrounding area, constructing a cob has very little ecological impact.

This construction style also informs the natural, organic shapes you’ll find throughout a cob home, like arched doorways and a space perfectly sized to fit the wood-burning stove.

The kitchen, which sits just off the living area, is a cozy space with enough room for the essentials – plus a breakfast nook for enjoying a morning cup.

Upstairs, a gently sloping ceiling gives the bedroom and workspace a uniquely homey vibe. And just above that ceiling sits a wide, undulating roof. It’s crucial – it protects the home from wind and rain. With a strong foundation and the right roof, a cob-style home can last forever. But “if it’s left out in the elements, it will turn back into dirt within a year,” Borsboom says.

The door on the second story leads out to a small deck that’s perfect for catching the magical sunsets off Canada’s western coast.

Alexis describes cob-style homes as a “gentle and beautiful way to live.” We couldn’t agree more.

Related: 

  • Quiz: What Does Your Dream Cabin Look Like?
  • Before & After: Low Country Cottage Renovation
  • From Scraps to Sanctuary: A $700 A-Frame Cabin

Step Inside the Castle a Dad Promised to His Son

Many kids dream of owning their own castle, but John Lavender – owner, designer and builder of the Highlands Castle in Bolton Landing, New York – made his son Jason’s childhood fantasy a reality. After telling his (then) 3-year-old son that he would build him a castle, Lavender delivered on his promise, constructing it from scratch himself. Nestled in the beautiful Adirondacks and overlooking the coast of Lake George, the stone castle sits on nine acres of land and feels as though it was plucked from a medieval English countryside.

Construction on the Highlands Castle began in 1982, and ever since, Lavender has been in the process of constantly building and renovating it to perfection. Currently, the structure stands at an impressive 12,000 square feet and features 3 beds, 2.5 baths as well as a two-story tower sitting area, and a “great hall” with floor-to-ceiling windows that give you a picturesque look at Lake George. The castle also has a music/library room, sitting room, den and a covered terrace that gives you magical, panoramic views of the lake. Lavender also incorporated a sense of play into his castle design, adding a secret passageway to the downstairs bedroom, patio and entertainment room.

To give it a sense of old-world authenticity on the interior, the castle is filled with antiques and collectibles at every turn – ranging from beautiful pieces of furniture to sculptures to hand-carved wooden knights – that Lavender started procuring five years before he even purchased the land.

“I went out and purchased antiques year after year. And I started to just put them in storage,” Lavender says. “I … was committing myself to fulfill the promise [of building the castle].”

Attention to detail was important in the design and construction of Highlands Castle, which features over 800 tons of stone (placed painstakingly one at a time), custom woodworking and stained-glass doors, all lending to its antique Gothic style. Thankfully, however, the home does include some modern amenities that make castle life suitable for the 21st century, including an open concept and up-to-date kitchen, luxurious bathrooms with custom tile work, and spacious bedrooms fit for a king or queen.

The best detail of the castle, however, is the unmatched view of Lake George, which Lavender says he never takes for granted.

“There’s a lot of people will ask the same question: ‘Do you ever like get tired of looking at the view? Or do you ever not look at it and just forget to look at it, take it, you know, just for granted?’ And the answer is no. I mean, I can sit here and tell you that several times a day I will give thanks just for my time that I’m able to spend here,” he says.

Related:

  • Living Legacy: Making a Family Home in a Historic Mansion
  • 1800s Estate Proves History Is Anything But Drab
  • This Urban Castle’s Magical Design Will Have You Spellbound

4 Ways to Cozy Up Your Kitchen for Fall

The season has changed, and so follows your home decor. Decorating for the chillier fall months means incorporating warm and inviting colors and textures into your home’s interior design, specifically in the kitchen.

Try these four tips to create a cozier kitchen for fall.

Weave in dark textiles

Fall means decorating with gorgeously textured throws, pillows and table linens. Introduce your kitchen to an autumnal palette using dark, natural window coverings and similar table linens for a cozy effect. This look juxtaposes raw texture with soft details like fresh fruit, warm place mats and smooth surfaces.

Bank on butcher block

Found most often in farmhouse-style or rustic homes, butcher block is great for countertops and tables because it’s durable and looks better the longer you have it.

If you’re thinking about switching out your countertop, consider butcher block for a warm, inviting feel. If you don’t want to commit to a full countertop, try a large cutting board or table to add earthiness to your kitchen.

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Photo from Zillow listing.

Add pops of color

If your kitchen has a blank space or accent wall, consider painting it for an inviting scene. For the fall season, you can choose to use warmer, darker colors like a deep red, warm orange, or olive or brown tone.

Don’t want to paint an entire wall? Select a piece of art or two featuring deep and rich colors to create a cozy ambiance. You could even paint your cabinets or counters.

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Photo from Zillow listing.

Nurture indoor plants

Houseplants are always good go-to decorations because they require little upkeep and add a touch of freshness to any space. They are particularly useful in the fall because they can double as herb gardens or unique decor.

Install a small indoor garden on your window sill or on a shelf near a window to have easy access to fresh rosemary, sage, and basil, even when the weather might not call for gardening.

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While these suggestions may seem small, they are great touch-ups to boost your festive theme this fall season. Add one or two, or mix all of the design tips for a home-sweet-home feel.

Related:

  • Our New, Old Kitchen: How We Rose to the Remodeling Challenge
  • These Stylish Floors Will Make You Rethink Your Renovation Plans
  • 5 Retro Decorating Trends That Deserve a Comeback

Originally published October 2015.

7 Perfect Kitchen Upgrades for a New Look Without Remodeling

Kitchen renovations require time and money, often taking several months to complete and costing tens of thousands of dollars. If you don’t have the financial resources for a full-on renovation, there are a variety of ways you can give your kitchen a new look for a lot less. From refacing cabinets to replacing lighting, a few cosmetic tweaks can give you the kitchen you’ve always wanted.

Cabinets

Many homeowners are turning to kitchen refacing as an easy way to update their cabinets. Refacing involves replacing the doors, drawers and hardware and covering the entire exterior of the cabinets in a brand-new veneer. If you’re happy with the layout and function of your kitchen, but aren’t so keen on the aesthetic feel, consider cabinet refacing.

“It’s for people who have kitchens from the ’70s and ’80s that have solid wood cabinets,” says interior designer Anna León, who has a background in kitchen refacing with Home Depot. “They can take off the original doors and put on modern doors.”

The cost, which typically starts at around $6,000, depends on the size of the kitchen and the materials used. With an array of options available – such as woodgrains, painted wood and pressure-fused laminate doors like Thermofoil – you can transform a kitchen’s facade easily. Contemporary Thermofoil doors also come in a variety of fun looks, including glossy, matte and woodgrain.

While a full kitchen gut and renovation may take several months to complete, cabinet resurfacing typically takes three to five days.

Painting cabinets is more affordable than refacing, costing around $3,000 to $5,000 for a professional to do the job, according to León.

Or, you can always DIY, which is the most affordable option, but it’s laborious and takes a great deal of time.

“Painting cabinets is great, but it’s all about the prep work,” says Richmond, VA-based interior decorator Lesley Glotzl. “You have to prep and paint them perfectly or they’re going to chip or peel. You can’t cut any corners.”

Photo from Zillow listing.

Backsplash

Creating a new backsplash is an easy way to freshen up your kitchen. Be sure to choose a timeless material that will complement your cabinetry, and avoid mixing styles and periods. For instance, if you have ’70s-era cabinetry, you won’t want to pair that with something trendy like subway tile.

If you’re a confident DIYer, tile your backsplash. Or for $20, you can paint it in a bold high-gloss paint that you can easily wipe down after cooking.

In Glotzl’s home, she installed a beadboard backsplash and painted it in a high-gloss blue.

Shiplap is an affordable and durable option as well, and it’s not difficult to DIY. Glotzl also recommends using vinyl wallpapers from companies like Osborne & Little as a backsplash, as they come in an array of fun textures, colors and patterns.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Countertops

For countertops, head to your local stone yard and choose a granite at the lower end of the price range. Formica – a more affordable option than natural stone – has a lot of cool countertop options in patterns like Greek key or textures like barn wood or grasscloth.

If you’re short on counter space and aren’t looking to add more cabinetry, consider buying a premade island or bar-height table that you can float in the center of your kitchen.

Or, if you have a more contemporary kitchen, consider purchasing a stainless-steel food prep table from a restaurant supply company. Just make sure you have at least 36 inches between the cabinets and island on all sides for easy traffic flow, advises Glotzl.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Shelving

If your cabinets don’t have lip molding on the interior, remove cabinet doors to create open shelving and show off your beautiful serving dishes.

Or, if you have an empty wall, create your own shelving system with floating shelves from a retailer such as Pottery Barn or IKEA. Just be sure you install brackets underneath the shelves if you plan on loading them up with dishes and cooking wares. Glotzl recommends Van Dyke’s Restorers for shelving support.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Lighting

Lighting can dramatically change the look and feel of any room. Tear out harsh fluorescent lighting and replace it with can lights.

Make food prep easier by having an electrician install under-cabinet halogen fixtures or ambient Light Tape. Over the kitchen sink is the perfect place for a statement piece like a sculptural pendant light.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Pulls and knobs

If you’re going the cabinet-refacing route, you’ll have plenty of new pulls and knobs to ponder. You can find them at online retailers or local shops.

If you’re painting your cabinets – or even if you’re not – new pulls and knobs can go a long way toward creating a new look in your kitchen. This simple solution is one that works particularly well for renters.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Appliances and plumbing

Dated appliances paired with updated cabinetry will make your kitchen feel incomplete. New stainless-steel appliances are the finishing touch. For less than $500, you can get a new stainless-steel electric range; for less than $700, a brand-new top-freezer refrigerator.

“Compared to everything else you have to do, it ends up feeling like pocket change,” says León.

You can easily update your faucet for under $100 (although, of course, you could spend a lot more). And a new farmhouse sink could be yours for less than $400.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Related:

  • 5 Signs You Need to Upgrade Your Kitchen
  • Maximizing Space in a Small Kitchen
  • Pro Tips for Making the Most of Your Kitchen Remodeling Budget

Originally published January 2018.

Enter If You Dare: Inside a Real-Life Haunted House

With no city lights for miles, The Pillars Estate stands alone in the darkest of nights.

Inside, guests are greeted by dim candlelight, a windy staircase and a gentleman from Scotland.

Tony McMurtrie purchased the Civil War-era estate in Albion, NY when it was ready to be torn down. Restoring it to its former glory over the past decade, he’s carefully curated every detail – from the grandfather clocks to the silver.

“I don’t know where it comes from,” he explains. “I just like that time and that era.”

His love of antiques and a refined way of life hasn’t gone unnoticed. Cora Goyette moved to Albion from England and bonded with McMurtrie over their shared appreciation of European culture.

Today, she takes care of the 13,286-square-foot house as if it were her own, hosting tea parties and events in the grand ballroom.

But unlike McMurtrie, Goyette won’t stay at The Pillars alone. In fact, most of McMurtrie’s friends refuse to spend the night.

“A spirit really is within the house,” Goyette says without blinking an eye. “It’s quite serious.”

From mysterious footsteps to children’s voices and a piano that plays itself, strange happenings have been reported since McMurtrie started restoring the house.

Some believe he’s unlocked a haunted past, while others remain skeptical.

Originally published October 2015.

Video and photos by Awen Films.

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