Month: December 2016

Top 10 Christmas Light Ideas to Brighten Up Your New Home

By Drew Knight

christmaslights

 

Looking to add a little extra spirit to your new home this holiday season? Brighten it up with an updated Christmas light experience. And since we’re heading into the year 2017, we all know it could use a little updating.

Whether you’re an experienced Christmas lights fanatic or just getting started as a new homeowner, these top 10 Christmas light ideas can definitely help you up your game this year:

10) Time It Right

The easiest way to update your lighting system this year is to put it on a timer.

At a low price, Walmart sells a three-outlet mechanical timer with multiple settings (light it up for two to eight hours), from dusk till dawn and a daily repeat. Just pick your setting and enjoy the feeling of complete automation.

This one’s almost a must-have, because who wants to go outside in the snow to unplug it all?

9) Rope ‘Em In

Tired of the typical string lights and icicles? Try rope lighting.

Perfect for wrapping around columns, banisters and tree trunks, rope lighting adds a modern appeal to your Christmas lights display.

8) Supersized Decor

From inflatables to Christmas light sculptures, you’ve seen them in all the best holiday displays … but they’re not for everyone.

Some communities have guidelines and restrictions toward how “supersized” and how bright you can actually go, so before your develop a plan, check in with your HOA — and next-door neighbors — to make sure you’re not going overboard.

From a lit llama to an air-blown Yoda Santa, you’re bound to find something that suits your holiday style.

7) Cast a Net

Have a good supply of foliage in your front yard? Instead of lighting it up branch by branch with string lighting, take the easy way out with net lights.

Save time and energy by casting a net over a bush or tree in moments.

6) Brighten Your Path

A Christmas décor staple for many holiday spirit enthusiasts, simple path lighting is an easy way to add character and cheer.

If you have a stretch of sidewalk or driveway in front of your home, light the way with some pathway markers. For example, Lowe’s has plenty of options from candy canes to oversized light bulbs.

5) Raise the Curtain

A rarer treat you don’t see too often is the Christmas light curtain.

Perfect for draping across your front window or from your porch rafters, this light curtain has a whimsical cascading effect.

4) Go Green with LED

With the help of LED lighting, the future is now.

When compared to the bulbs of the past, LED Christmas lights generally have a longer life, carry less risk of electrical fire and are more energy efficient — many even come with Energy Star certifications.

Available in regular style, fairy or dewdrop and even solar power, we highly recommend these mighty lights.

3) Holiday Projections

Rounding out our top three are projector lights, similar to what you’d see at a rock concert or theater.

From star-spangled Laser shows to light and bright snowflake projections, there are plenty of options for upping your production value.

2) Custom Colors

If you really want to get technical, check out Philips Illuminate C9 lights series. This selection of holiday lighting allows you to customize your light show every night with different colors and moods.

With the help of the Illuminate app on a smart phone or tablet, you can browse through colors or create your own, select one of the many preloaded functions (like warm or cool) and even change the speed of these functions.

It’s the perfect way to get your first go at the world of extreme Christmas lighting.

1) Put on a Show

But, if you’re ready to put together a Christmas light display worthy of viral video fame, our No. 1 tip can help you get there.

The Home Depot sells a system to help sync your lights along with your favorite holiday songs. Dubbed the Holiday Brilliant Spectacular Light and Sound Show, this series of products can detect the pulse of music you select and trigger the lights to match the beat.

These products allow you to select your music via Bluetooth from a computer, smartphone or tablet, control it up to 30 feet away and amplify the sound to suit your needs.

Learn how it all works right here. And if you learn it right, we’d love to see a link to your holiday display in the comments.

Happy holidays and may all your Christmases be bright!

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Got the Need for Speed? 10 Timely Tricks for Buying a Home in a Hurry

By Jamie Wiebe

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Ostrid/iStock

Buying a home can be a mind-numbingly slow process, broken up by periods of confusingly frantic activity. It goes something like this:  Look at a zillion homes before you think you’ve found one. Hurry up and get in your offer … and then wait. Submit a million letters to the underwriter … and then wait. And don’t even get us started on closing. The average time for closing on a loan is 50 days, according to Ellie Mae, and the process can often take even longer.

But sometimes you don’t have the luxury of waiting. Maybe you’re moving from another state and need a place to live now. Or maybe your current home sold significantly faster than expected—and if you don’t find a new place, the deal will die.

Regardless of the reason, if you’ve got the need for speed, real estate transactions can fly through quickly. But you’ve got to have a little luck and a lot of preparation. Here’s what you need to know before kicking off the buying sprint.

1. Pick your Realtor® carefully

The No. 1 secret to purchasing a home super-quickly? Find a Realtor intimately familiar with your preferred area—one who knows which homes are about to hit the market.

“This will give you a head start in finding out if that listing is right for you,” says Adriana Mollica, a Realtor in Beverly Hills, CA.

2. Ask questions early

The home-buying process can be mind-blowingly confusing—especially if you’re a first-time buyer. You shouldn’t feel guilty about peppering your agent with questions, but getting the most important ones resolved early on will expedite the process.

“When you fall in love with a home in a competitive market, you need to be prepared to sign the offer fast and submit it before the deadline,” Mollica says. “There may be some questions you want to ask your lender, lawyer, or accountant. If you wait until the offer to ask these questions, you may miss the deadline.”

3. Get pre-approved (not just pre-qualified)

It’s a good idea to get pre-qualified for a mortgage before starting your house hunt—but a pre-approval is a necessity if you’re eager to close quickly. The two are vastly different beasts: A pre-qualification requires little more than a quick conversation with your lender and perhaps a peek at your credit score.

A pre-approval basically front-loads the entire underwriting process. (Be warned: It might not eliminate all underwriting concerns.)

It “makes your offer look stronger,” Mollica says. “It also minimizes any surprises that may delay or force a cancellation during escrow.”

4. Be narrow-minded

Agents often tell buyers to stay open-minded about homes that don’t fit their wish list precisely. But if you’re in a rush, it’s best to be particular about the homes you see. Just don’t bring a super-long list of attributes you think you need. Define your absolute, must-have features and only look at homes that fit that list.

But first, “consult with your Realtor to determine if your wish list is possible in your area and price range,” says Michael Shaffer, a broker associate with LIV Sotheby’s International Realty in Greenwood Village, CO. If you run out of homes to see that check all your boxes, you may want to review your criteria.

5. Look for slow sellers

Often, the sellers who are most motivated to move quickly are those who haven’t been able to sell their home for a while.

“Ask your Realtor to look into homes that have been on the market for a long time,” Schaffer says. “In some markets, that may be a week or two. In others, it could be a year or more.”

6. Make a strong offer

Now isn’t the time for underbidding—even if you’re convinced that all that ratty wall-to-wall carpeting should lower the asking price.

“Make sure your offer is as strong as possible, with your Realtor’s expertise and guidance,” Schaffer says.

That doesn’t just mean offering a lot of money. You can also offer a larger down payment and more earnest money. And that fast closing date will definitely help. Remember: Sellers who aren’t worried about the buyer backing out are more likely to accept an offer.

7. Be prepared to waive contingencies

When you’re buying a home, it’s standard to throw in some contingencies. (A contingency is a clause in the offer that allows you to walk away from the deal under certain circumstances—with all of your cash in hand.)

But if you’re looking to buy in a hurry, you might have to take a deep breath and bypass some of those bad boys. Just beware: Waiving certain contingencies can spell trouble down the line—and possibly land you in a money pit. Choose your battles—and your concessions—carefully.

8. Have your paperwork in order

Even with a pre-approval—the buying process requires reams of paperwork. Get everything together beforehand: At least three months of bank statements, pay stubs, letters of explanation for any weird or unusual expenses. If your mom’s giving you cash for the down payment, make sure the payment is documented.

When you think you’ve provided enough proof of everything, double it. The more documentation, the better, when you’re trying to buy fast.

“In most cases, things get held up because paperwork and information isn’t readily available,” says Raena Casteel, a Realtor with the Casteel Little Real Estate Group in Tucson, AZ. Even the smallest omission could end up delaying your closing for a week.

9. Write a letter

If you can’t eliminate contingencies or offer more money, and the sellers aren’t moved by a quick closing, consider writing them a personal letter. Tell them about the children you plan on raising in the house, or about your love for the home’s vintage ’20s details.

“Sellers often want the highest price, but oftentimes, offers come in very similar,” Mollica says. “Your letter could be the edge in getting the seller to choose your offer.”

Keep it short—nobody wants to read your autobiography. (Sorry.) One or two paragraphs are all you need to prove your worth.

10. Don’t tell the seller

Beyond writing a quick closing date into your contract, don’t hint to the seller you’re desperate for a home.

“When [buyers need] to buy fast, they are at a disadvantage in a negotiation,” Schaffer says.

10 Ideas for Stunning Holiday Lights

Go all out this year with these techniques to light up your house and garden for the holiday season

By Lauren Dunec Hoang

As anyone who has untangled a snarled string of lights or come up 5 feet short on the roofline can attest, the process of hanging holiday lights is more complicated than it looks. A satisfying result depends both on having the right products on hand as well as proper installation. Let us help take the guesswork out of your holiday light setup this year with tips from lighting professionals, including tricks for hiding cords, the best lights for tree-wrapping and how to evenly hang lights along the eaves of your home.

Private Sunken Walled Garden

 

1. Wrap shrubs: Adding just a few lights to the landscape can make a big difference in making the garden an inviting place to walk through or gaze at. In this walled garden in Manchester, England, a pair of clipped shrubs wrapped with white lights makes a lovely entrance to a garden room.

Get the look: To evenly cover outdoor shrubs, pick up “net lights,” which have bulbs distributed over a square or rectangular lattice of cords. Energy-efficient LED net lights often have a more true-white or bluish-white color than those with incandescent bulbs. Read the packaging to be sure the netting is large enough to wrap all the way around your shrubs.

 

Front Porches

2. Deck out your front porch. This front porch in Atlanta — done up with festive garlands, strings of lights and a Santa figurine — looks lavishly festive without being overwhelming.

Get the look: Concentrating outdoor decorations in a single area, such as the entryway or a garden bed, can be a great way to go all out with holiday exuberance without turning your front yard into Disneyland.

 3. Showcase trees. Gardens this time of year are primarily quiet. Highlight the branch structure of deciduous trees by wrapping the trunk and individual branches with white lights. Choose a single tree as a specimen, or illuminate a cluster of trees for greater impact.

Pro tip: To get the professional look in this photo, Ryan Morici of Heritage Oaks Landscaping recommends swapping regular holiday lights for LED mini lights to save on power consumption. “The LED lights allow you to use many more lights per circuit versus the incandescent lights,” Morici says.

4. Line a pathway with luminarias. Welcome guests this year with an enchanting walkway lined with glowing luminarias.

Get the look: You can purchase luminarias or make your own with paper bags weighted with a handful of sand at the bottom. If you’re thinking of a large display, gather some helpers to place tea lights in each one — or use battery-powered candles — and light just before guests arrive.

5. Hang snowflakes. Trade traditional string lights for a set with glittering snowflakes. Hang them where they have room to stand out, such as just below the eaves or along large branches of a tree in the front yard.

6. Illuminate potted branches. You may not have small trees or shrubs to wrap with lights along driveways or paved entryways. But you can light up container plantings instead.

Get the look: Pick up branches from the backyard or a florist, and set them upright in containers filled with sand or gravel. Wrap the branches with lights of your choosing, and use conifer trimmings to hide the plugs and containers.

7. Add magic to snowy landscapes. Lights twinkling like tiny stars hovering over a snowy garden are just about as magical as it gets. To mimic stars overhead, wrap branches that overhang garden walkways or beds to create a softly lit canopy.

8. Light up a treehouse. As if a backyard treehouse weren’t magical enough, this one is fully decked out for Christmas. A Houzz favorite for the past few years — with good reason — the treehouse was built by a Dallas couple, with the help of an architect, to give their grandchildren a place for imaginative play.

A Magical Tree House Lights Up for Christmas

10. Outline the eaves of your home. Perhaps the most classic style, perimeter lighting along a home’s eaves and roofline creates an inviting arrival. Pelham McMurry from Light Up Nashville shares these tips for getting a professional look at home:

  • Upgrade your lights. “Even the most expensive sets of LED lights at box stores are cheap-quality,” McMurry says. “Commercial-grade LED lights purchased from specialty retailers is the way to go if you don’t want to repurchase your lights year after year. Quality lights cost more, but in the long run, you’ll save time, frustration and money by not having to repurchase every year.” To get those perfectly straight lines, where every bulb seems exactly aligned with the next one, attach lights to your trim with commercial-grade clips.
  • Consider a professional. “There are many reasons to hire a professional to install your holiday lightings, but maybe the most important is safety,” McMurry says. To avoid the risk of falling from a ladder or slipping on an icy roof, consider hiring a local lighting professional.

Kitchen Design Tips: Choosing Durable Floors

By Bethany Jenkins

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The holidays seem to be coming faster and faster each year. If you’re like us, you feel like you just get your decorations up and it’s time to take them down again. It can be a lot of work and take a fair amount of time, and time seems to be our most precious resource these days.  So why not skip the separate Thanksgiving and Christmas tables and make a blended holiday table that works for both? That’s what we’ve decided to do this year.

Decorating the Holiday Table

A great way to start is to keep the table runner and other table linens neutral. That is not to say they have to be boring though. We’ve picked a table runner that had a little bling in it for this year’s look. At only $18, you can never go wrong with a neutral color that has a little sparkle to it. Next, we’ve picked placemats and napkin rings that have a sort of luminescent sheen to them that says, “I could be silver or I could be gold.” We looked for a pearl color but found these to be even better.

Bring in a Bit of Rustic

With all of the bling and sheen, we needed a touch of rustic to tone it down. So we brought in some gourds and rustic candles to bring it down a notch.  The gourds also serve another purpose for us–they look more like Thanksgiving than Christmas. So, when we are done with Thanksgiving dinner, all we have to do is toss these and bring in our next favorite live decoration, one that looks more like Christmas. These could be holly, cranberries, or even some small white pumpkins. These are best found at your local grocery store or craft store.  If you prefer an even more rustic look, you could line a bowl or tray in brown paper and fill it with red pomegranates like the ones shown here. We love the addition of a live decoration. Not only for the nice look, but live decorations also tend to be inexpensive and don’t have to be stored for next year. Yay!

Fill in with Snacks and Sweets

Now this part is entirely optional and doesn’t work for everyone, but we LOVE it. There’s nothing nicer than sharing yum-yums at the holidays, and having candy out as a decoration is one of the easiest ways to do that. Especially if your family is in and out at various times, just tell them that the candy on the table is for them to enjoy and share. Even no one eats them until the actual holiday, they will look great and very inviting on the table.  Unlike the store display, your table will look like it’s for real people.

The Finishing Touches for Decorating your Table

The final touch for us is the lighting. The battery-operated twinkle lights, or fairy lights as they are sometimes called, are just too much fun on the holiday table.  Especially when you have glass plates and other reflective surfaces, the lights seem to pick up everything that is fun about the table and project it to anyone standing nearby.

Decorating the holiday table is a very personal endeavor. Just like good design in any form, it is highly personal. Here at Jenkins Design+Build, we spend our days thinking about ways to design each home’s details in ways that are personal to the individual homeowner. We do our best to listen well and understand each homeowner’s personal style in order to them in every detail.  In the words of Eero Saarinen (who designed the famous St. Louis Arch), the best designs are “the shapes that the ‘creators’ best relate to and thrive in”.  To see a sample of what we’ve been designing lately, check out our What’s in Design section here on our website.

From our team to your family, we wish you ‘happy decorating’ and hope your table turns out just the way you like it.  More importantly, we wish you and yours Happy Holidays during this special season!

Experts Share the Most Creative, Thoughtful and Unexpected Host or Hostess Gifts

hostess-gifts

Nobody wants to walk into a party empty-handed. And yet, equally as dreadful is the idea of being the umpteenth person to hand a bottle of wine to your creative and generous host.

Well, I guess it’s not the worst thing in the world to have too much of…

But what if, instead of wine, you had a different gift in your arsenal—one that was equal parts crowd-pleasing and unexpected—to hand off to your host or hostess? Wouldn’t you go for that unicorn every time? Me too. That’s why I called in the experts.

These 13 party people dished about the things that, as a host, they’re always jazzed to get. Their ideas range from simple to sensational, so you’ll have the perfect gift for your next invite, whether it’s a simple get-together or a blow-out bash. Read on, take notes, and be the favorite guest at your next party.

joy-cho

“I like giving people something that’s small yet useful that goes     beyond just that night—like a salt cellar with great salt, a succulent plant in a fun vessel, or a vase filled with local flowers.”

— Joy Cho, Oh Joy!

 

chantal-aida-gordon

“One year I was stressing over a holiday punch in the middle of a party, and moments after I realized we’d run out of lemons, a new, invited-on-a-whim acquaintance walks in and hands me a lovely glass jar of fresh-squeezed lemon juice wrapped with a bow from the farmers market.”

— Chantal Aida Gordon, The Horticult

    kate-arends

Maldon Salt. If they’ve used it before, they’ll love you for bringing them an extra box. If they haven’t used it before, they’ll thank you for the introduction.”

— Kate Arends, Wit & Delight

    sarah-ashley-schiear

“A great bottle of olive oil, used for that last-minute drizzle that takes so many dishes to the next level. This is my favorite.”

— Sarah Ashley Schiear, Salt House Market

jordan-ferney

“My husband is an artist so I always make him do a little sketch of someone’s dog or child. It’s a special little gesture.”

— Jordan Ferney, Oh Happy Day!

mandy-kellogg-rye

“While you can never really go wrong with a great bottle of wine, or even a candle, there are a few classic moves I like to pull. I love gifting something personalized or homemade, whether that’s a set of monogrammed tea towels or napkins, a high end local line of preserves and jams, or my personal favorite: a preserved boxwood or magnolia tree in a gorgeous planter to be potted  later.”

                              — Mandy Kellogg Rye, Waiting on Martha

camille-styles

“A loaf of homemade zucchini bread with a jar of jam from the farmer’s market.”

— Camille Styles, CamilleStyles.com

    danny-seo

“A great bottle of olive oil, used for that last-minute drizzle that takes so many dishes to the next level. This is my favorite.”

— Danny Seo, Naturally, Danny Seo

holly-becker

“Something handmade and personal. I love when a hostess gives me a little tin of homemade cookies or a mini loaf of bread or some homemade jam. These personal handmade things make me feel so loved and happy. Plus I love sampling what other people make.”

— Holly Becker, Decor8

roxy-te

“A champagne corksafe. It’s a great keepsake and makes for a unique hostess gift when paired with a favorite spirit.”

— Roxy Te, Society Social

lauren-conrad

“Sweets! It’s nice to bring the hostess some candies or baked goods for them to enjoy later.”

— Lauren Conrad, The Little Market

    michiel-perry

“My favorite candy or a set of stationery. I have a huge sweet tooth so candy will always make me happy, especially anything with caramel. And stationery is one of those required essentials, especially for a southern hostess. If they get it from Papyrus I am event happier.”

— Michiel Perry, Black Southern Belle

ashley-rose

“Not that it’s necessarily unexpected, but I always love receiving candles!”

— Ashley Rose, Sugar & Cloth

7 Must-Know Closet Organization Tricks the Pros Use

By Amanda Sparks

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Closets are one of the most abused areas in homes. While some closets are neat and well kept, it is also factual to say many are so disarray and cluttered. We love our closets, but are they really presentable enough? If no, then you obviously need some serious closet organization task to do. You’ll certainly benefit from this in the long run. Probably, one of the greatest benefits is the fact that you will learn how to be more organized in life because the principles are quite similar.

So are you now inspired to move forward and give your closet the proper attention it deserves? let’s get started.

Set a schedule

The first thing you need to do when making a custom closet is to set a schedule to do this stuff- maybe on weekends when you’ll have plenty of spare hours. Not only that, you can involve the kids or spouse to help you get on with it. You can just cajole, sweet talk or even blackmail them to assist you. The more hands, the faster and better!

Secure empty boxes

The next step is to secure empty boxes and write some labeling words on them like favorite clothes, accessories, designer clothes, underwear, casual wear, undergarments, and so on. The higher the level of diversity of your clothes portfolio, the more the variation in the number of boxes you will need. However, you can still group them together either on the bed or the floor in case you run out of boxes.

Research on the ideas of purchasing a closet organizer

There are lots and lots of custom closet organization aide which comes at affordable costs and you can find them at ClosetPro. You can get wire closet organizers for $60 at your favorite home décor store. There is no need for you to go for luxurious organizer system. Though, you can, if you’ve got some cash to spare.

Empty out everything

This is the most difficult task to handle. If you already assisted, then there will be no need to sweat this out.

But if you are on your own, get ready to accept that this will take you some time. You will have to completely empty out all the things inside the closet, pieces by pieces, one by one, before putting them in the empty boxes prepared by you. Group the clothes that belong in the same category together. An advantage of this is that you may just end up finding some stuff that you have been looking for.

More segregation

After grouping the stuff you just emptied from the closet, the next thing is to segregate further those stuff that you still feel you might want to use or wear. Ask yourself questions like: “Do I still need to wear this rickety looking shirt?” or else, you’ll just realize that your closet is stuffed with clothes you haven’t wear for long.

Finally

Now this is time to put the clothes you can still wear back in the closet. Make sure you put things back in proper perspective. Pack clothes of similar category together. If you hastily put them back and end up mixing them up, then you might end up to square one.

Job well done

Well done! You just did a nice work of the closet organization. Now, you will find your closet amazing.