8 Ideas for Your Spare Room

Do you have a guest room, but no guests? Or maybe you have a great bonus room … but have no idea what to do with the space. Rather than leave the space empty or fill it with junk, create a functional space that will add to your quality of life and your home value!

Here are our favorite 8 spare room transformations:

P: HGTV

P: HGTV

Home Office – A home office is probably one of the best and most popular uses for a spare room. Bring in a desk and comfy chair to create a workspace and home for your computer. Keep all of your mail and important papers organized neatly in a filing cabinet. Bookshelves are great for organizing, well, books, but also office supplies, knick-knacks, photos, etc. Paint the room a soothing shade of blue or gray to make a relaxing, tranquil space that you will want to work in.

Craft or Art Studio – A wood or laminate floor works best in this type of space as you are likely to  drop craft materials or spill paint. Install cabinets to store supplies, or opt for a bookcase or open shelving with baskets to organize and hold supplies. Bring in a large table or floating island to place in the center of the room to provide a flat workspace.

Game Room – Create a dedicated space to hang out with friends … or where your kids can hang out with their friends and not tear up the entire house! If you’ve got the space, a pool table is always a win for a game room focal point. But there are plenty of other options – poker table, bubble hockey, arcade games, or a folding table tennis table. Assemble a lounge area with seating and a coffee table or large ottoman to play board games or cards.

P: HGTV

Home Theater – Who wants to spend $9 on a movie ticket when you can kick back and relax in the comfort of your home? Bring in a large sectional and some recliners or chaise lounges for plenty of comfy seating. Mount a large flat screen on the wall, or get tech and install a projector and screen for the ultimate movie experience. Add a surround sound system, blackout drapes, and an old-school popcorn machine and get ready for some binge-watching.

Boutique Closet – Ladies, this one is for you! Take that tiny extra bedroom and turn it into your dream closet with dressing room. Install tons of storage – hanging, shelving, and drawers. Up the ante by adding a center island with storage and a stone top to display your jewels. Bring in a full length floor mirror (or 2!) to lean against a wall. Add some dazzle with a sparkly chandelier.

Wine Bar – If your idea of entertaining includes uncorking a fabulous bottle of wine, why not create a room dedicated to good taste? All wine, red or white, should be stored between 53 – 57 degrees Fahrenheit, so you will want to invest in a wine refrigerator or build your own wine cellar with wine racks and a cooling system. Bring in a simple bar, a few bar stools, and a wall-mounted wine shelf with glass rack to complete the bar. Add some cozy lounge chairs for guests to sip and relax.

P: Green Heat Initiative

P: Green Heat Initiative

Home Gym – There’s no excuse not to work out when you have a gym at home. Start with wood floors or interlocking rubber tiles to support any heavy equipment. Add mirrors to one wall to check your form and bring in a TV to do your workout videos or watch The Real Housewives when you’re running on the treadmill.

Library – If settling in to a comfy chair with a good book is your ideal Saturday afternoon, then consider turning that extra room into a library. It really won’t take much – bring in a few bookcases, you can buy cheap bookcases at Ikea and add your own molding to make them look like an expensive built-in. Add a couple plush chairs, pillows, and soft lighting to create a relaxing reading space.

Revamp with Paint!

Feel like your home could use a little update? Or maybe you are just looking to change things up … either way, the simplest way to make an inexpensive change is with paint! The walls are an obvious choice, but you can spruce up almost anything with paint, from fixtures and objects to floors and furniture.

Not all surfaces are alike, here are some guidelines for painting 5 different surfaces:

  1. P: How to Nest for Less

    P: How to Nest for Less

    Wood: Probably one of the easiest surfaces to paint, wood will easily soak up paint. Clean the surface, removing any buildup. If it has a glossy finish, you will want to lightly sand it first so the paint will adhere. You can use a primer, but it’s not often necessary, and most paints these days have primer already built-in. Stick with eggshell paints for interior wood projects, it’s more durable and has a slight sheen.

2.  Metal: The first step in painting metal is to remove any rust using sandpaper or a wire brush. Next comes the primer to protect the surface and provide a good base. Choose a paint with rust inhibitors or spray paint – they make spray paint specifically for metal. You will need to apply multiple layers for a nice finished look.

P: decorpad.com

P: decorpad.com

3.  Concrete: Yes, you can totally paint concrete! Floors should be sanded and the surface must be clean and completely dry before painting. You will need to prime and then opt for a floor or epoxy paint. They make kits to paint garage floors that include decorative chips to give a speckled effect.

4.  Tile: Have some dated tile or are you just sick of the color? Instead of ripping out your existing tile and replacing with new, which could be quite expensive depending on the tile, refresh the look with paint. Tile must be cleaned and then use a special glass or tile paint, other paints will easily chip or scrape off.

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P: Pinterest

5. Drywall: If you are starting with a newly dry-walled wall, make sure you’ve sanded down the seams so that the surface is smooth and then clean off any dust.  Primer is not required, but recommended on new walls. The type of paint you choose really depends on the room – satin or eggshell finishes are fine for bedrooms and living spaces. You will likely want to go with a higher-gloss finish for kitchens, bathrooms, and entryways that can easily be wiped down.

7 Ways to Live Greener at Home

Have you been yearning for a more eco-friendly existence? You don’t need to go to extremes or jump through tons of hoops to reduce your environmental impact.

Start simple – at home! Here are 7 ways to achieve a more environmentally friendly life at home:

  • Change the bulbs. Making the switch from traditional incandescent light bulbs to LED lights will save energy – these bulbs use up to 85% less power and provide the same amount of light. LEDs are now available in a variety of colors, and with a lifespan of about 22 years, choosing LED light bulbs is a no-brainer.
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    P: Fast Company

    Clean green. Swap out chemical cleaning products for more eco-friendly options. Seventh Generation, based in Burlington, offers a plant-based line of disinfectants, surface cleaners, soaps, and laundry detergent that will remove grease, grime, and dirt without harsh fumes.

  • Unplug. Even when you are not using a device, anything that is plugged in will still draw energy – so be sure to unplug your phone charger, toaster, printer, etc. when not in use. It is a small amount of electricity, but unplugging anything unnecessary will reduce your energy use in the long run.
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    Reuse/Recycle. We are pretty lucky when it comes to recycling in Vermont – most glass, metal, plastic, and paper can be recycled and you don’t even need to sort it yourself! There are undoubtedly items in your home you are looking to get rid of that cannot be recycled, think about reusing these items in a new way, like repurposing an old ladder into a bookshelf, or turning an old picture frame into a jewelry holder. Pinterest is a great resource for ideas for upcycling and repurposing items you are no longer using.

  • Harness the power of the sun. Go solar for your exterior lighting. You can find tons of options for pathway lighting, stair lighting, and spotlights – all utilizing the power of the sun so no need to plug in.
  • Recharge. Rather than tossing tons of AA and AAA batteries when they die, buy rechargeable batteries and a good charger. You’ll reduce the number of disposed batteries, creating less waste. An added bonus – look for rechargeable batteries made with recycled batteries.
  • Use appliances to your advantage. Dishwashers and clothes dryers produce a lot of heat, capitalize on this by running these appliances throughout the day in the winter months and at night during the summer.

8 Ideas to Celebrate the Fourth of July in Style

Celebrate America on the 4th with some festive decorations and patriotic treats:

  • P1130835Rustic Americana fabric banner | Combine a mix of stars, stripes, red, white, and blue fabrics to create a rustic garland banner to decorate your space. Get the tutorial at Catch My Party.
  • Red, white, & blue cocktails | The Firecracker will not only quench your thirst, but will look fun & festive for your Fourth celebration. Get the recipe at Cosmopolitan.
  • mason-jar-american-flag-@it-all-started-with-paint-300x922American flag mason jars | Paint 1 mason jar blue with white stars and 2 jars with red and white stripes to create Patriotic utensil holders! Go to It All Started With Paint for the full tutorial.
  • Patriotic parfaits | Layers of angel food cake, strawberries, and blueberry whipped cream create a tasty and simple dessert perfect for any Independence Day bash. Get the recipe at Good Housekeeping.
  • Pinwheel wreath | Red, white, and blue cardstock are used to create a simple and stylish patriotic wreath. See how at Blooming Homestead.
  • Stars + stripes flower pot | Take a simple terra-cotta pot, dress it up with some paint and you have a festive centerpiece or patio decoration. Get the tutorial at Lolly Jane.
  • Red-White-and-Blue-Cheesecake-Cake-RecipeGirl.com_Red, white and blue cheesecake cake | Red and blue colored vanilla cake layers surround a layer of cheesecake to create a festive dessert to wow guests when the cake is cut. Get the recipe at Recipe Girl.
  • Jazz up your plasticware | Add some red, white, and blue flair to your plastic forks and knives with washi tape – just stick on the tape and voila! Check it out at Tikkido.

Staging With A Purpose

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P: cathyhobbs.com

When a buyer steps into your house, you want them to be able to easily envision living there – not trying to figure out what to do with that tiny bedroom that seems to be your storage room.

If you are using a room in an odd way, maybe you turned the dining room into your children’s playroom, it may work for your needs but will likely leave potential buyers feeling bewildered, and moving on to the next house.

Follow these 3 tips to stage each room with a purpose:

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    P: urbanpresentations.com

    Make it simple. Stage rooms for their original or most obvious purpose – a bedroom should have a bed, a dining room should have a table and chairs, etc. If you have a large finished basement, carve out a space for a rec room, theater room, or exercise room.

  • Spell it out. If your home has an undefined or awkward space, stage it with your suggestion for how to use it. For example, a small alcove or under the stair nook could be staged as a home office just by adding a desk, lamp, and chair. Stage each space so there is no question what it’s for.
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    P: stagemyownhome.com

    Lay it out. Open floor plans are popular, but can be confusing to a buyer trying to figure out how to arrange the space. Don’t try to cram too many uses into one great room – stick with the basic dining area and family room.

If buyers have to guess how to use a room, they may leave thinking the house won’t fit their needs. Make the purpose of each room clear so that buyers can visualize where they will put their own furnishings and accessories in the house.

5 Landscape Projects That Make Sense

P: 411homerepair.com

P: 411homerepair.com

Warmer temps and sunshine have us itching to get out and enjoy the outdoors. When Spring hits, it’s prime season for yard work –  you don’t want to be slaving away in the gorgeous summer weather when you could be sipping lemonade (or a margarita!) in the shade of your perfectly manicured outdoor paradise.

But where do you start? What projects are really worth it? Here are our top 5 landscape projects that offer the best return on your investment:

  • Spruce up what you have. Start with a spring yard cleanup – pull out the weeds, prune trees and bushes and rake up any leaves you may have missed in fall. Freshen up your mulch by flipping and fluffing with a rake, once you’re finished you may not even need to buy new mulch for the season!
  • Renew your deck. A wood deck will take a beating being exposed to our crazy VT weather. If your deck is looking a little worn, start by power washing to get a completely clean surface. Once dry, you can stain and then follow with a waterproofer designed for unsealed wood to protect your deck.
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    P: sheknows.com

    Plant flowers for a pop of color. Choose some colorful perennials to dot your yard, these plants will last for years so you will not need to replant every spring/summer like an annual. Cone flowers, daylillies, and hydrangea are good choices for VT. Annuals come in so many pretty varieties, you can add them in to your landscaping or plant in window boxes and colorful pots. Choose a variety of flowers that bloom at different times, as well as a mix of heights, colors, and shapes.

  • Plant some trees. As trees grow, they appreciate in value providing fantastic ROI. Trees also provide privacy, which tops most buyers’ wish lists. Emerald Green Arborvitae are a great option for privacy, and are perfect for VT as they resist snow and ice damage. Other trees that thrive in VT include spruce trees and of course the sugar maple.
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    P: lockerdome.com

    Create an outdoor living space. Pick out some stone pavers that complement your house and landscape to build a patio and/or fire pit. Permeable paving and fire pits rank high in outdoor elements that buyers desire. Learn how to lay a paver patio on Lowe’s website.

Save Money Around the House – 8 Simple Tips

Some of the best money saving hacks can be found in your own home – and they are so simple! Try these 8 tips to cut down on your monthly bills and save big bucks over the course of a year:

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    P: hometone.com

    Update your light bulbs. Switching out traditional light bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs could save up to 80% on your electric bill. They cost a bit more, but they last 3 to 25 times longer!

  • Unplug. Your electronics will continue to use energy when plugged in, even when they are turned off. Unplug your computer, chargers, and other small appliances when not in use. To simplify, plug everything into a power strip you can use as a master switch.
  • Use a programmable thermostat. Programming your heating and cooling settings based on your schedule will cut your utility bills by $135 – $145 a year.
  • Seal windows and doorways. Save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs by sealing up cracks and adding proper insulation. Try caulk to fill cracks in windows and doorways. Insulated window shades, weather strips, or plastic film kits will also seal up openings.
  • P: bergefarrell.com

    P: bergefarrell.com

    Buy generic. Cut costs on items like food, toiletries, OTC meds, cleaning items, etc. by going generic and it could save you $50 – $500 a month.

  • Wash your laundry in cold water. Most clothes will come out just as clean in cold water as they do in warm or hot. A hot wash and warm rinse costs about 60 cents per load, while a cold wash and rinse costs only 4 cents per load.
  • Coupon codes! Before you purchase anything online, search for coupon codes. Sites like Retailmenot and Coupons.com have codes for almost any retailer out there.
  • Run appliances at night. Do your laundry or run the dishwasher at night to avoid peak energy rates.

6 Home Staging Don’ts

We talk a lot about what to do to stage your home, but what about what NOT to do? Here are 6 staging mistakes to avoid:

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P: Fox Hollow Cottage

  • Don’t go over-the-top with decor. Less is more in home staging – keep decor simple and neutral to appeal to a variety of buyers.
  • Don’t make your home smell like the department store perfume counter. Any type of overwhelming scent, whether something good or bad, will send buyers running for the door.
  • Don’t stuff all of your junk in the closet. Buyers will open every door to check out the storage space in the house, a messy stuffed closet will give the impression that there is not enough storage space.
  • Don’t do major renovations. Finishes and fixtures that you love may not appeal to every buyer. Limit any work to essentials like replacing old flooring, small repairs, updating old fixtures, and minimal painting.
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    P: Retro Ranch Revamp

    Don’t misuse rooms. A bedroom should be staged as a bedroom, not that ‘extra’ room where you store your odds and ends.

  • Don’t defer yard work. If you have overgrown shrubs, an unruly lawn, and a broken fence, chances are that potential buyers won’t take that extra step to look inside.

Our Top 5 Home Trends for 2016

Thinking about a home renovation project or just want to spice up your decor for the New Year? You want to be sure that the items and projects you invest in will stand the test of time, and are not dated fads of years past, especially if you are planning to put your house on the market.

Here are our top 5 favorite home trends for 2016:

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    P: BHG

    Mismatched Cabinets – Add interest to your kitchen by pairing 2 different cabinet styles, varying in color or texture. Think a light color on wall-mounted cabinets and a darker color on cabinets under the counter. Or choose 1 color for wall cabinets and a different color for an island.

  2. P: bostondesignguide.com

    P: bostondesignguide.com

    Statement Pendant – Change the look and feel of a room just by updating the light fixture. You can find pendant lights in a variety of shapes and sizes, from brightly colored lanterns to industrial style metal-shaded fixtures.

  3. Fireplaces – The fireplace is once again becoming the focal point of rooms. Don’t ignore
    P: HGTV

    P: HGTV

    this feature if you have it! Arrange your furniture to put the fireplace center stage. Have a non-working fireplace? No problem, you can still dress it up to make it shine. Fill it with candle holders of varying heights to cast a warm fire-like glow.

  4. Black Stainless Appliances – Instead of shiny new silver, it
    P: CNET

    P: CNET

    looks like sleek black stainless steel appliances will be the finish choice of the future.

  5. Mixed Materials – Create a truly unique space by combining a variety of styles like a rustic wood, sleek tile, shiny metals, and vintage finds.

P.S. Mason jars are so 2015, and word on the street is that the rustic chic look is on the way out.

10 Holiday Decorations That Won’t Break the Bank

Love to deck the halls for the holidays? Who doesn’t like a little festive cheer in the home? At a time when money can be tight from the gifts to the food and parties, your decorations don’t need to break the bank.

Here are 10 great ideas for how to use what you may already have on hand, or a few inexpensive items, to add some comfort & joy to your home this season:

  1. P: Tara Dennis

    P: Tara Dennis

    Magazine Trees – upcycle your old magazines by folding the pages into triangles that will form a tree, spray paint and add some glitter and presto! A sparkly table top tree! Full instructions from Tara Dennis.

  2. P: Brittany Makes

    P: Brittany Makes

    Glitter Letter Banner – Use large alphabet stencils to trace and cut letters out of cardboard. Lightly paint 1 side of the cardboard with school glue and coat completely with glitter. Once dry, punch 1 hole on each side of the letter and string together with twine, ribbon, or yarn. Full instructions at Brittany Makes.

  3. Snowflake Hurricanes – Jazz up your glass hurricanes by printing this template from Martha Stewart, punch the holes, and adhere to the glass.
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    P: Design Improvised

    Bow Wreath – you only need 30 minutes, a wreath form, and lots of cheap bows. The beauty is that you can make the wreath to fit your style by choosing shiny or matte bows, traditional holiday colors, all metallics, or all the colors of the rainbow. Design Improvised will show you how!

  5. P: Life Á La Mode

    P: Life Á La Mode

    P: Real Simple

    P: Real Simple

    Peppermint Topiary – simple to make with a few supplies from the craft store and so adorable! View the tutorial at Life Á La Mode.

  6. Ornament Chandelier – tie ribbons of varying lengths and colors to ball ornaments and tie ribbons to a plant hook or eye-hook mounted to the ceiling. For step-by-step instructions, check out Real Simple.
  7. FREE Christmas Printables – just print, frame, and display! Head to DIY Candy for a collection of free printables.
  8. Joy Wine Bottles – repurpose empty wine bottles into holiday decor! Spray paint 3 like-size bottles matte white (may take 2-3 applications), once dry either stencil or free-hand one letter (J, O, Y) on the center of each bottle with white paint. If you’re feeling creative, replace the O with a snowflake.
  9. Shiny Ornament Display – take pretty ornaments you already have on hand and place them on a cake stand, nestled in pine or leaves to create a simple centerpiece.
  10. Card Garland – glue strips of wrapping paper to clothespins and clip pins to a length of ribbon. Hang the ribbon along your banister or mantel and attach holiday cards as they arrive.