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Setting the Stage to Sell Your Home

Bedroom Staging

You’ve seen them – the photos of homes for sale and we think, “Who would sell their house looking like that?” It’s hard to imagine – especially in this market – anyone trying to sell their home without doing a top to bottom makeover; but unfortunately, it happens all the time. According to RESA, professionally staged homes sell 67% faster than homes that are not staged (181 days vs. 60 days). When you consider the costs that you will incur maintaining and paying for your home over 6 months, you cannot afford NOT to stage your home.

There are lots of ways to update and refresh without breaking the bank. If you are selling your home this year, you will sell faster it if you follow my easy steps.

  1. Do you research. Ask your realtor for some active properties that are in better condition than yours. Be completely honest – you’re trying to sell your home, don’t stay too attached to the ivy border you stenciled in 1980. Buyers want current, updated, neutral homes.  And listen to her listing price recommendations – remember the more your house sells for, the more money she makes so she will best position it to sell quickly.
  2. Determined which areas need the most work, usually kitchens and bathrooms, and set a budget. Kitchens and bathrooms have a high return on investment and can often be the key to a sale without dramatically lowering your sale price. If you have old cabinets, don’t go crazy with high end granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances. It will only draw attention to what needs to be done. Instead, spend time painting the cabinets, replacing hardware, and updating the counters with new, inexpensive Formica.
  3. Clean everything (this is the most overlooked area). Don’t forget drawers and closets –buyers will look there. Do a top to bottom clean in every room. Clear out clutter or excess furnishings. Too much furniture will make a room look smaller and conversely, too little furniture will make it difficult for the buyer to imagine how they would use a room.
  4. Lighten it up. Add higher wattage bulbs (if possible)and add more lamps to dark rooms. Most room are underlit, so you can’t go wrong adding more light to pretty much any room.
  5. Freshen up with paint, especially if your colors are dated or paint is really worn. Keep it simple by painting every room the same neutral color. And remember, neutral doesn’t have to mean beige. Liven up your space with pretty neutrals like sage, khaki, cream, and gold.
  6. Freshen up the outside. Remove dead plants, take down those cute little flags and wind chimes, and clear everything that doesn’t belong from porches and patios.  When spring finally arrives you can put out pretty pots of flowers but be sure to keep them watered and pinched back.

Even in this market, you can sell your home if you take the time to prepare before you put it on the market. Don’t know where to start or don’t have the time? Check out my Facebook Page for lots of decorating and staging tips and photos or Contact Me today to schedule your in-home consultation and get ready to sell your home!

Resolve to Be Clutter Free in the New Year!

clutter free

If you’re like most people, you’re busy making too much trash(or already breaking) your New Year’s resolutions. If your resolution for this year is to live clutter free, then I have some tips for you! It can be overwhelming to even think about clearing out the clutter but you really can do it; you just need a plan to help guide the way. If you can coerce a spouse or good friend into helping, then even better! Thankfully my boys are at the age where they still want to be helpful so if you’ve got some willing hands at home, then enlist them too!

  1. Don’t try to do it all at once. This is especially important if it’s been a long time since you’ve de-cluttered or are Cleaning Girlbordering on being a hoarder. You’re setting yourself up for failure if you try to tackle several rooms at once. Pick one room or even part of a room, and get to work. Start small and once you see changes, you’ll be inspired to keep going.
  2. Remove everything from the room. If you can’t remove large pieces, pull them away from the wall to clean behind them. Remove all small pieces like art, photos, throw rugs, and accent furniture.
  3. Clean, clean, clean. Once the room is cleared out, clean it top to bottom. Use a clean dust mop on ceilings, walls, trim, and floors. Use a soft clean cloth on light fixtures, light switch covers and outlets and vacuum window treatments. While the room is empty, touch up paint or even repaint the whole room (remove all outlet and light switch covers).
  4. Sort your stuff into piles – keep, sell, donate and toss. baby sortingBe realistic, if it’s in bad condition, outdated, or you never use it, let it go. The only things in your keep pile should be things you cannot live without. Ask a very honest friend to help you make the tough decisions (you know, the one who will tell you when something is ugly – and trust her opinion!). If you like to dabble in Craig’s List, then make a sell pile (items from brands like Pottery Barn or Gap sell better than Wal-Mart). The rest should go into the donate or trash pile. Try The Bagster if things have really gotten out of control! It’s a portable dumpster bin that you fill up and Waste Management comes to take it away. It’s available at The Home Depot in my area.
  5. Start bringing things back into your space. While it may not be possible to only bring back things that you love, do your best. Bring back large pieces, small furnishings and accessories. Put your accessories in different places to make them feel new. When you’re all finished, remove at least one thing from each quadrant of the room – there is such a thing as too many accessories!

With a little bit of elbow grease, you really can have a room that feels new. Stuck? That’s okay – I can help! Give me a call today to schedule your in-home de-cluttering consultation and start living clutter free in this year!

Add a Little “Ho Ho Ho” to Your Holiday Decorating

Christmas Centerpiece

I love beautiful things, and in case this is the first time you’ve read my blog, I will tell you my secret: I’m cheap. Clearance sales make my pulse pound and finding ways to re-purpose things I already have for new and different uses completely makes my day. I never have the same “look” for Christmas two years in a row and if you follow my tips for beautiful, budget decorating, you can have a fresh look every year that your family will be talking about for years to come (or at least until next year when you blow them away again!).

Bring the Outside InChristmas Centerpiece

In keeping with my love of all things cheap, of course I turn to nature to provide me with beautiful things that I don’t have to pay for. I live out in the country so there is always something pretty to to collect and bring inside.

  1. Place natural elements like acorns, pine cones and evergreen branches in large bowls or platters and insert candles for a beautiful, unique centerpiece (use glass hurricanes to keep it safe).
  2. Spray evergreen branches with silver or gold paint and place in tree as decoration or in vases around your home.
  3. Bump up the beauty factor of your store-bought garland by weaving evergreen branches and other pretty natural elements throughout.

Think Beyond Red and White

This year, I planned to do a lime green and silver theme. I wasn’t able to find enough lime green ornaments (even though I broke my Christmas Treerule of buying things not on sale!). I was able to find a dozen or so lime green ornaments locally and had plenty of red and silver to make a beautiful silver, red and green theme. Sometimes you have to be a little flexible to get a look that you love, even if it isn’t exactly what you imagined it would be at the start. I LOVE my tree and despite my kids’ best intention to “help” me decorate, it’s a truly beautiful and unique tree that I will find hard not to replicate next year. Here are a few color combinations to consider:

  1. Sapphire and silver, magenta and amethyst, and silver/gold and white are great alternative color palettes for Christmas.
  2. Use a theme – Adirondack, Victorian, modern or country.
  3. Mix it up – use a different palette or theme each year so you don’t have to look at the date on your photos to recall when it was taken.

Decorate the Everyday

Whoever said that decorating has to be relegated to front doors and Christmas trees. There are lots of areas in your home screaming for a little piece of the action.Christmas Chandelier

  1. Weave glass bead or evergreen garlands in and out of the arms of your chandelier and hang glass balls with silk ribbons at different levels to add interest.
  2. Place cards and garlands on TV units, coffee tables, and artwork. One year I used wide gross grain ribbons down the sides of our TV unit and stapled our cards to them. It was so wonderful to look at every time we walked into the living room and to think about our friends and family.
  3. Fill bowls with bright, shiny Christmas balls and leave in bathrooms and on hallway console tables.

If you don’t have time to create the perfect holiday display, don’t worry! With my One Day Makeover, you can have a beautiful winter wonderland without spending a lot of time or money. But with just two weeks before Christmas, don’t wait to book your in-home appointment! I can re-arrange your space for a party, decorate for that special Christmas morning or create a one-of-a-kind outdoor display. Be sure to find me on Facebook.

Decorating on a Budget Doesn’t Mean Sacrificing Style

fall floral display

Fall is officially here so start bringing out those fall decorations to get ready for the upcoming holidays.

decorate the front door

photo: Better Homes & Gardens

One of the easiest ways to stretch your budget is by using fall décor rather than Halloween or Thanksgiving décor. This simple step will take your home from September through November. Using in-season items will get you maximum impact for minimum dollars. Branches, vines, and gourds from your backyard, mixed with ceramic and wooden bowls, pottery, and lots of candles create a beautiful fall display for free! Mixing in natural elements with sparkly man-made elements creates visual tension and makes for a more interesting display. And don’t forget the after-Thanksgiving sales to get the best prices on holiday décor you can use year after year. Follow my tips for fall decorating and you’ll be sure to have a home your guests will be talking about for years to come.

Decorate Those Common Areas

fall floral display

photo: Better Homes & Gardens

  • In the mudroom, pumpkins and pitchers or buckets of branches, bittersweet and Japanese Lanterns welcome visitors.
  • Place small gourds, candles and flowers on hall console tables and in bathrooms.
  • Scatter pumpkins around entryways – group in odd numbers for interest.
  • Fill window boxes with pumpkins, leaves and other fall foliage – fill them with fresh greenery for the winter months.

 Make the Ordinary Extraordinary

  • Repurpose ordinary items to make beautiful displays – use garden
    fall gourds

    photo: Better Homes & Gardens

    twine as napkin rings, tie name tags to fruit stems, and decorate the table with brightly colored leaves.

  • Use baskets, pitchers and buckets as vases (use a glass insert to keep it water tight).
  • Fill wooden bowls or ceramic platters with apples, pears and fall colored fruit.

Mantels Aren’t Just for Christmas

  • Use various sizes of pumpkins and gourds and mix in other natural elements.
  • Weave white or orange lights through pumpkins.
  • Create height with tall clear vases filled with candles or mini pumpkins.

Are you hosting this year’s family get-together? Don’t have time to make the perfect display? Or maybe your house has looked the same year after year and you’re ready for a change? With my One Day Makeover, I can transform your home from ho-hum to Ho! Ho! Ho! Let me create that room for you so this year will be the one they remember! Contact me today to schedule your in-home consultation. Don’t delay, the holidays will be here quicker than you can say – I want to Love My Home Again!

Clear the Clutter – Creative, Budget-Friendly Storage Solutions

shoe closet

Clutter is everywhere – in our mudrooms, closets, drawers and sometimes in plain sight! Storage is a problem in every house, no matter how big or small. And add a kid or two (or four or five), and a husband, and it’s a recipe for more clutter than you ever thought possible. I am not a clutterbug. I like everything in its place (okay, I’m actually a little OCD) and it drives me crazy not to have stuff in its proper home. The only thing on my kitchen counter is a paper towel holder, and only because my husband insisted after we got married. I don’t want to look at coffee makers, Kitchenaid mixers, and microwaves. Tripping over bins of toys and craft supplies makes me nuts. Because I’m always looking for furniture and accessories for my clients, I’m always thinking of new ways to use things to clear the clutter that inevitably invades my home. Here are a few things I’ve come up with over the years to keep my family’s junk under wraps (and way under budget-mostly!).

Shoes, glorious shoes (and coats)
We have a huge mudroom. Because it’s a big room, my family dumped their shoes and coats everywhere. When we moved in, we had one coat rack for all of our shoe closetcoats, and two boot trays for our shoes. The problem: no one but me put their shoes and coats where they belonged. So after two years of griping at everyone (and picking up after them-and griping about that!), I finally figured out a solution. My mother in law had given me an old cabinet a year before and I put it in my garage unsure of what to do with it. It was a shabby little thing with bowed paneling and stickers on the front. One day I was out in the garage, I saw the cabinet and thought with a coat of paint and some shelves, it might work for all of our shoes. I scrubbed off the stickers, painted several coats of bright red paint (my accent color), painted the existing hardware black, and had hubs add several thick pine shelves. The wood cost $35 but other than that, it didn’t cost me a dime.

I also had several antique iron hooks and had him mill up some beaded boards. I painted the hooks black andcoat hooks did a red and black distressed paint treatment on the boards to make them look old. I hung one row at a kid-friendly height, another at my height, and a third at my husband’s height (on another wall). Another issue was apple crate storagethe apparent procreation of our hats, mittens, scarves, plus the toys and garden tools. I had a shelving unit from Pottery Barn that once held my TV and stereo. I put that in my mudroom, filled it with wooden apple crates and designated one crate to each person, plus extras for the toys, helmets, and gardening things. The wooden crates cost me $15 from a local apple orchard. Just today I bought three more to store the inevitable mess that accumulates from thin air (or my family!). The mudroom isn’t perfect, but until we’re ready to rebuild it (it will eventually be torn down and rebuilt as a proper mudroom) it serves its purpose well and is somewhat organized.

Toys, Games, and Legos
If your family is anything like mine, your kids have more toys than 10 kids could ever play with in a Antique laboratory cabinetlifetime. We’ve cut back buying toys quite a bit in the last couple of years but our boys get so much for their birthdays and Christmas, we were just running out of room to keep it all. We moved from a much smaller house so we didn’t have a lot of furniture when we moved into our current home. For two years, we made do with bins for toy storage. I had bins everywhere – lined up along the wall, stuffed under the coffee table, piled on top of each other in the corners of the room. I really hated them. One year for our anniversary, we decided to buy a large piece of furniture to store all the toys. We looked at new furniture but nothing felt right.  On our anniversary, we got a sitter, headed to Troy (when it had lots of antique shops) and spent the day picking through shops. We finally came across a huge, oak laboratory cabinet that we both fell in love with. We hauled it home and filled it with toys (we call it the world’s most expensive toy box). After that, the rule was if it doesn’t fit in the cabinet, it doesn’t stay in the living room. It definitely wasn’t one of my bargain finds, but that’s okay. I don’t mind splurging every once in a while for something that speaks to me! And it’s really beautiful so we feel like we got double the pleasure from it!

Keep the Desk Clean
Once fall officially set in and I was freezing in my office, I decided to move to the living room for the winter (the woodstove keeps it toasty) andPottery Barn Printer's desk found myself in need of a desk (my kids’ craft table was not cutting it!).  I had my eye on the Printer’s Desk at Pottery Barn for quite a while so I did splurged a bit on the desk. But after that, I was out of money for accessories. I often write about “shopping” your own house to get a new look without spending a penny. So following my own advice, I walked around my house, gathering this and that to stylize my desk. In my home, everything has to be pretty as well as functional. I don’t buy things because they’re practical if they don’t look good too. My kids’ crayons and markers are stored in antique wooden cheese boxes, I use old wire baskets for magazine and paper storage, and keep my pens in pretty vases. I grabbed a stack of Pottery Barn design books, topped it with my boys’ marker box, and filled an antique milk glass dish with my business cards. I added a lamp from my other desk, an antique stapler and an old black phone and my desk was complete. It looks beautiful and the accessories cost me nothing! And, it gave me the opportunity to move some things around in my other rooms, making them feel fresh too! I am going to repaint my lampshade to match my décor and liven up my little corner of the world (when I find the time).

You don’t always have to spend a fortune to have the storage solutions that contain the clutter in your home. Antique dressers are some of my favorite storage solutions as are old wooden bowls and boxes. Have a piece that isn’t great but has the storage space you need? Try a new coat of paint and some new (or repainted) hardware. Look at the things you have and see if you can give them a new life with a little bit of imagination.  And when you’re done, post a picture on my Facebook page! Not sure how to start organizing your clutter? Contact me to schedule your in-person consultation today!

Makeover Your Space in a Day!

One Day Makeover Thumbnail

Have you ever stood in your living room wishing you knew what to do with your sofa, chairs, tables and accessories? Have you re-arranged your bedroom many times but still aren’t happy with the way it looks or functions? Does your little one need to graduate from a nursery to a big boy or girl room but you’re not sure what to toss and what to keep? Are you hosting a holiday family dinner or gathering this year and dreading having your whole family in your cramped and dated living room?

Do not despair – I can help! With my One Day Makeover, having the rooms you love has never been easier. In just one day (or less), I will take your room from drab to fab, giving you the room you always wanted. Download my new One Day Makeover brochure for beautiful pictures of some of my one day makeovers.

Contact me today to setup your personal consultation!


Download My Free e-Book: How to Pick the Perfect Paint Colors

paint ebook cover thumbnail

Need help picking out paint colors for your next project? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Download my free e-Book: How to Pick the Perfect Paint Color and your next project is sure to be a breeze! Never pick the paint color again and learn my tips for a successful paint job.


To get your free e-book, fill out the form and it will be sent to you right away! And feel free to share this link with your friends, co-workers, on your Facebook page, to your Twitter followers, or with anyone else you think would appreciate it!

My Top 5 Secrets of Good Design

HGTV living room

HGTV makes it look easy: despite a $1,000 budget, the designer has fabulous fabrics which she whips into gorgeous slipcovers for $100 outlet chairs and amazing window treatments for only $100. Add the $2,000 rug she just happened to find on clearance for $199, the $500 lamps for $99 each, and the $5,000 sofa found at her local antique shop for $200 – in perfect condition, of course. All told, the room that could grace the cover of House Beautiful only took a half hour, and $997.

If only decorating in real life were that easy! While decorating is fun, staying on budget and still creating a beautiful room can be challenging. But follow my secrets of good design, you too can have an amazing space without breaking the bank.

  1. Define your style. I talk to people all the time who have no idea of what they really like. Look at lots of pictures, magazine and websites, and pay attention to the styles that you respond to. Do you like country (or its modern cousin?)? What about contemporary? Folk art? Adirondack or mission? There are a plethora of styles so do some homework and figure out which one suits you (and your budget) best. Ethan Allen has a great online tool called What’s Your Signature? that helps you define your style through a series of pictures. I’m not saying you need to clear out your closest Ethan Allen, but use the things you love as inspiration for finding items in your budget.
  2. Create your own design library. Tear out pages from your favorite magazines and catalogs. Keep pages separated by room or accessory (rugs, window treatments, wall décor) so you can find things easily when inspiration hits. I started collecting pages years ago and now have half a file cabinet drawer filled with thousands of ideas for everything from kitchens and baths, to kids rooms, and art. It’s really an invaluable resource.
  3. Shop. Visit stores and browse online – hit the national chains and your locally owned stores and boutiques. You don’t have to actually buy anything, but know the stores you like and check back frequently for sales, close-outs and new merchandise. LIKE your favorite stores’ Facebook pages and be the first to know of sales, coupons and specials. And don’t forget to bargain hunt on Craig’s List, Ebay and your local thrift stores (my personal favorite!).
  4. Only buy what you love. I know it’s tempting to buy something because it’s on sale, or it “goes” with your room, but if you don’t love it – and I mean, love it like you can’t live without it – then do not buy it. You’ll only end up throwing it out or giving it away later. Even if you have to save more money or wait until it goes on sale, it’s not a bargain unless you really love it.
  5. Try new things. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying go out and drop $5,000 for a plum velvet Victorian sofa for your contemporary den (although, it could look fabulous!). But what I am saying is mix it up a little bit. If you like country, stick with it but throw in some elements from other styles. Or instead of the usual mid-tone country palette, use deeper hues to give it your own signature look. Mixing styles can be a great way to personalize your space.  A contemporary element such as a piece of artwork or accessories in a country-style room can infuse energy into a room and creates your own personal style.

How do you make your design dreams come true? LIKE my Facebook page, Locust Grove Designs, and tell me about your favorite projects and how you used ingenuity to get the room (or house) of your dreams. And I’ll give you lots of ideas for your next project!

Falling For Fall

At the Beach

I’m sitting at the beach in Cape Cod while I write this article and I can’t tell you much fall is NOT on my mind. That said, I do love the change of seasons and though I love warm weather (I’m a transplanted Texan, after all), fall is my favorite time of year. The crisp smell in the air, the soft filtered sun, the beautiful warm colors; I sometimes wish it could be fall all year long.

At this time of year, I’m ready to update my house for the new season, on a budget of course. Small changes make a big difference in the way you look at your home. Starting with the outdoors, change out your potted annuals for mums, cut back the browning perennials, trim up trees and bushes, and start prepping beds for winter.

Working your way indoors, start by changing your color palette with warm fall colors. Orange, red, gold, plum and green are quintessential fall favorites. You don’t have to go overboard – changing out pillow covers, scatter rugs, throw blankets and even lamp shades are all that’s needed to give a room a little update with a dramatic impact. Take a look at other areas too – mantels, dining room tables and bookshelves are easy areas to update and make a big statement. And by moving things from room to room, you can create a fresh look with things you already own.

If you’re like me, you never got around to completing your spring cleaning, so this is a great time to do “fall” cleaning before buttoning up the house for the winter. Cleaning windows and window treatments, ceiling fans and light fixtures, and giving the walls, ceilings and floors a once over go a long way to making your home feel fresh and ready for the winter.

Want more home decorating ideas? Check out my 8-week class through the BHBL Continuing Education program. Each class will cover a different subject on decorating and do-it-yourself projects. If you can’t make the classes, you can always find decorating advice, DIY projects and product information on my Facebook page: Locust Grove Designs. And, feel free to call me to talk about your projects!

Summer of (old house) Love

Farmhouse Exterior 2

This has been a productive summer for the DiLorenzo family. We normally spend most of our summer working on projects that we can’t do during the long, long winters. For the last two summers Pete and I stripped and painted (okay, Pete stripped, I painted) our 200 year old farmhouse. They were truly the longest two summers of our lives. Between the two of us, we must have spent 600-700 hours out on that scaffolding. This summer, we need to finish up some trim and work on the porch. I’m trying to talk Pete into screening it in but so far, he won’t commit. And neither of us can bear to get back out there to finish it up. We are both hoping the paint fairy will show up and finish it while we’re sleeping!

This summer has been just as busy but because we’re not working on an all-encompassing project, we’ve had a little more time to enjoy the fruits of our labor. We put in several new garden beds and renovated the existing beds. Locust Grove Organics was born out of our wish to share some of the excess out of the garden (and Ben’s wish to purchase his own Wii!).  We’ve had the stand up and running for a few weeks with the little bit of extra food from our gardens. Yesterday was the first day we’d made a sale to non-friend. It was very exciting to watch her out there, looking through everything, carefully choosing her produce. She later emailed me to tell me how much she enjoyed her purchase and how her son loved the fact that we grow our own food. She also blogged about it. It was very exciting to read that someone is happy over what we’ve created with our own hands.

We’ve also been renovating our bathroom. We started renovating three years ago when we put in a new tub, new fixtures and tiled shower surround after our tub sprouted a huge crack.  A year later, we put in a new toilet when got tired of plunging several times a week. But that’s as far as we managed to get. Fast forward three years, we finally picked out our granite top (Pietra Cardosa) and put down a deposit (that was January). In March, Pete laid the gorgeous tile floor after a few mis-starts. In May we contracted a company to make our wide bead board to go on the walls, horizontally. July – all of the bead board is up, all of the walls have drywall but Pete’s in the throes of mudding hell, and the switches are in but there’s no electricity. Our granite was installed but has a big rust stain on it and the backsplash was scratched so it will be replaced this week (hopefully)! We have been in renovation for about 8 years and I can live through a lot of mess and clutter. I can go months with things out of order – then – I reach my breaking point. I’m there. I’m breaking. I. Need. My. Bathroom. Back.

I know that people think my projects should all go smoothly and easily. The truth is, we are a busy family and we work around lots of things to continue renovating our house. We both work, our kids are small and demanding, we each have our own personal hobbies that we don’t want to totally give up (although they certainly take a backseat). And most importantly, we make and stay within our budget – which isn’t always easy when you have good taste! Projects never go as smoothly as they seem to on HGTV. A whole house renovation wrapped up in an hour show? Not likely that it went according to plan and without several glitches along the way. I’m trying to keep in mind that we love this house and this is what we signed up for when we took on an old, dilapidated house (no one to blame but ourselves). In the end, we always love what we do and it’s totally worth it when it’s over. It will be over soon, won’t it?

Do you have a project that you can’t seem to finish? Tell me about it and post your pictures on my Facebook page. Maybe together, we can get each other motivated to get it done.