How to best showcase your home’s first impression.

Whether you’re prepping your home for sale, or just want it to look good, don’t forget about the exterior — especially the front yard and door!

Here are some great tips from home stagers and curb appeal experts on how to best showcase your home’s first impression.

Walk to the curb

The first order of business: Walk to the curb or street and look at your home from the road.

This will probably be the buyers’ or the buyer agent’s first, real-live impression of your house. Take the time to review the way your front yard looks. Does the front door look fresh and inviting? Is the landing or porch neat and tidy? These are the details that can make a huge difference for that ever-important first impression.

And if you sense something’s off, clip home improvement ideas from books, magazines or professionals who can really help you maximize the appeal of your home and get it ready for the market!

One professional, Michelle Molinari, has the perfect way to consistently spruce up exteriors of listings. She adds flowering white flowers to yards in Louisiana because they “always look great on photos,” she said.

Molinari also recommends a layer of mulch to finish out garden spaces and — a fun little tip — she suggests coordinating the mulch color with the roof color. The match will make the entire front appear more complimentary to the eye.

In lieu of green grass in the U.S. Southwest, xeriscaping is used because of the way this water-conserving method makes use of natural landscape items like rocks and desert-friendly plants.

The money shot: Your front door

One big item: Don’t forget the front door!

A brightly painted front door and decorative house numbers lend to this home’s curb appeal.

Some home stagers recommend using the same exterior color for the front door, but I prefer to a color to complement exterior house colors. For instance, a Tudor-style house with cream walls and grey trim would be great with a hydrangea blue on the door. A gray wall Colonial with white trim would look stunning with a black door. Most of the paint manufacturers have suggested exterior combinations (walls, trim and doors) to help sellers determine which color works well with the exterior paint colors and style of their house. (See: How to Choose Exterior Paint Colors).

In addition to the front door, potted plants and tables and chairs are great additions for a front porch. For the smaller landing, Karen Eubank of Eubank Staging in Dallas, Texas suggests a pot of rosemary by the front door. What a great way to have potential buyers enter your home after taking a nice whiff of rosemary at the door, signaling their welcome.

Numbers add a punch

Last, but not least, don’t neglect the house numbers or lighting. House numbers are best seen with dark numbers on a light background and are very important when selling! Ensure there is enough light to read them comfortably from the road. And if the front of the house is hard to see from the road, place another set of numbers closer to the road so buyers don’t miss the house!

Hopefully all of these tips will help your home make a great first impression!

To read the original article, please click here.

Mowing Your Lawn the RIGHT Way

A chore though it may be, mowing your lawn properly will do more than just improve its appearance.

When it comes to your landscape, one of the most time-consuming summer chores is mowing.At this time of year, under the right circumstances, the grass puts all its energy into growing, leaving you struggling to keep a tidy lawn. But mowing is not just a chore–done right, it’s one of the most effective ways of maintaining healthy turf. Here’s how to mow properly…

Mow more often
It might be more convenient to wait for the lawn to get straggly before mowing, but doing it every 4-5 days during the growing season will keep you from cutting too much off for healthy growth. Aim to take off no more than one-third of a blade’s height at once. This leaves enough leaf tissue so that the plant can continue photosynthesis. If you get behind one week, raise the mowing height to keep from cutting off too much at one time.

Don’t bag the clippings
Assuming you are mowing often enough so that the clippings aren’t excessive, leave them on the lawn to decompose and fertilize the soil. If it looks untidy, redistribute with a rake.

Sharpen those mower blades
Start the season with a sharp blade and replace as necessary. Help maintain sharpness by mowing when the grass is dry to keep wet leaves from clinging to the blades.

Switch directions
It doesn’t actually matter whether you mow in rows or spirals, but switching it up will help reduce soil compaction and turf wear.

Get the right mower for your lawn

- Manual-reel mowers: The best for the environment but requiring a lot of manpower, reel mowers demand keeping the grass quite short, which means cutting more often. They are easier to store for those lacking garage space and are perfect for those with small lawn space.

- Electric mowers: With an electric motor that pushes a rotating blade are second best in turns of minimal effect on the environment because they don’t produce exhaust. They are best for homeowners that have level lawns. Try a cordless one with a side or rear bag to catch the clippings if you chose to bag, otherwise get one that cuts finely enough to let them settle on the yard.

- Gas-powered mowers and lawn tractors: The exchange for power and usability does come with a heavy toll on the environment, so please choose a newer model that produces less exhaust emissions. Also part of the exchange for convenience comes the required maintenance—regular tune-ups, refuels, and oil changes. But for larger yards, they are the most practical solution.

To read the original article, please click here.

Lowering Your Energy Bills during the Dog Days of Summer

As temperatures rise, it’s common for utility bills to do the same.

A whole-house makeover isn’t necessary to begin generating energy savings this summer.Even the simplest changes can save you some serious dough in no time.

Clean filters

Want your air conditioner to run as efficiently and inexpensively as possible? Be sure to put “clean filters” at the top of your to-do list.

Dirty filters significantly block airflow and reduce a system’s efficiency. With normal airflow obstructed, air that bypasses the filter may carry dirt directly into the evaporator coil and impair the coil’s heat-absorbing capacity. Clean your filter and you can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by up to 15 percent.

For central air conditioners, filters are generally located along the return duct’s length. Room air conditioners have filters mounted in the grills that face into your house.

Some filters are reusable; others must be replaced. Clean or replace your air-conditioning system’s filter or filters monthly during the cooling season. Filters may need more frequent attention if the air conditioner is subjected to dusty conditions or you have pets.

Insulate

Just as it keeps your house warm in the winter, insulation can help keep your home cool in the summer. Insulation can reduce heating and cooling costs as much as 20 percent, according to Energy Star.

If you’re only going to insulate one place, look upward. Attic temperatures can soar to 140 degrees or higher in the summer. That heat will radiate down into your home. Insulation can stop that flow of heat and keep your main living space cooler in summer.

Shade those windows

Shades and blinds won’t actually reduce air leakage, but they can play a huge role in saving energy.

Awnings, for example, can reduce solar heat gain in the summer by up to 65 percent on south-facing windows and 77 percent on west-facing windows. Awnings require ventilation to keep hot air from becoming trapped around the window. Consider installing adjustable or retractable awnings so that sun is allowed to warm the house in cooler months.

Interior blinds can’t do much to control heat gain, but the fact that their slats can be adjusted helps control both light and ventilation. When completely closed on a sunny day, the U.S. Energy Department estimates highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by approximately 45 percent.

Drapes or curtains may also reduce heat gain, but their effectiveness varies greatly depending upon their fabric type, color and backing. On hot days, close draperies on windows receiving direct sunlight to prevent heat gain. Studies demonstrate that medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33 percent.

Invest in a smart thermostat

Set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible in the summer. The smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.

Programmable thermostats have the potential to save enormous amounts of energy. Unfortunately, most users don’t program their programmable thermostats, leading the government to exclude the devices from its Energy Star program.

Never fear, there’s a cool new thermostat available that can actually do the thinking for you. The Nest features a simple dial that allows you to set the temperature you want; the $250 thermostat will learn your schedule as it goes. In about a week, it’s able to track your habits and programs itself. The Nest can also be controlled remotely, via smartphone or laptop.

Best of all, The Nest is aesthetically pleasing and, to quote the MIT Technology Review, “a little bit sexy.”

Turn off, unplug

The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that the average household spends $100 a year on plugged-in devices even when they’re not being used directly. Nationwide, idle gadgets and appliances suck up 100 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity at a cost to consumers of about $11 billion.

According to the EPA, computers account for 2 to 3 percent of overall U.S. household and office energy use. Sleep mode helps, but your best option is to unplug entirely or use a power strip, such as the Smart Strip, which kills power when it senses inactivity.

Another big energy suck? That garage or basement fridge that’s being used to cool a half-empty ketchup bottle and a package of stale cheese. Pre-1993 models gobble twice as much energy as newer models. Need cold drinks for a party? Plug in the fridge the night before, but don’t keep it running unless you really need it.

To read the original article as published on zillowblog.com, please click here.

Staying Cool Without A/C

Using a fanWant to save on air-conditioning? You can still keep cool when the weather heats up. Stephanie Sisco, associate home editor at Real Simple magazine, talks about the best ways to cool yourself and your home.

It’s all about the windows. When it comes to cooling the home, start with the windows. “Close your curtains and blinds, ideally with a sun-deflecting white on the window side,” Stephanie explains. “That will actually help reduce the amount of heat that passes through your home by up to 45 percent.” Another great tip comes from rangers in Death Valley, Calif. “Hang a damp sheet across an open window, so that when the breeze comes in, it will cool you and your entire home,” she adds.

Air-dry everything. “Machines use so much heat, and during the summer, you just don’t want to add that to your house.” Stephanie says. Instead, let dishes air-dry after running a wash cycle, and hang your clothes on the line after doing a load of laundry to avoid the excess heat from the dryer.

Beware of unexpected sources of heat. You’re probably not thinking about the fireplace in the summer, but, Stephanie says, ” make sure that you close the damper before the summer starts.” Leaving the damper open can suck hot air into your home as opposed to pushing it out.
WATCH: Easy Sunburn Remedies

Put your computer to sleep. Laptops are always warm, so if you’re going to be away from your computer for more than 10 minutes, set a timer for sleep mode. “If you’re going to be away for any more than 10 minutes, just power it down completely,” Stephanie says.

Water is your friend. Keep hydrated and “stay away from beverages that include alcohol, excess sugar, and caffeine,” she says. Another great tip? Keep a spray bottle of water in the refrigerator, and spray the inside of your wrists when you get warm. It cools the blood running through your veins and encourages thermal regulation.

Dress the part. Sweat-wicking clothes worn by athletes and other clothes made of lighter fabrics can help you avoid feeling sticky in the summer. “Choose something that’s thin, lighter-colored, and more loose and flowy,” Stephanie says. “That allows the air to kind of flow next to your skin and evaporate that moisture to keep you cool.” Lose the shoes to cool your body from the bottom up.

Eat right. There’s a reason why people gravitate toward salads and lighter foods in the summer. “Look for items that contain a lot of water like fruits and vegetables,” Stephanie says. Hydrating foods will help cool you from the inside out.

To read the article as published on shine.yahoo.com, please click here.

Modernizing Your Kitchen on the Cheap

Kitchen RemodelWe always hear that remodeling a kitchen is one of the most expensive home improvements. And it can be.
The Remodeling 2014 Cost vs. Value Report listed the average cost of a major kitchen remodel at $54,909, and even a minor remodel came in at $18,856.

But kitchen remodeling doesn’t have to be that expensive. “If you take it piece by piece, you can do something good on a budget,” says Aimee Grove, a communications and marketing specialist in the San Francisco area. She and her husband have remodeled two kitchens on a budget. “I have my dream kitchen now,” she says. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

The choice of materials makes a big difference in how much you’ll spend. Custom-made, solid-wood cabinets with a premium finish and decorative molding can easily cost $1,200 or more per linear foot, which is the way cabinets are normally priced. But you can get attractive cabinets at Ikea or even a local shop for a quarter of that cost if you shop around.

And while granite countertops definitely cost more than laminate, if you visit enough stores, you’ll learn that granite itself varies widely in price. “We went to 10 different marble places until we found the slab we wanted at the right price,” Grove says.

She and her husband remodeled the kitchen of their cottage-style home for about $12,000 after getting a quote from a contractor for $32,000. They chose to paint rather than replace their existing cabinets, but added a marble countertop and a subway tile backsplash, plus two new stainless steel appliances.

They found that it really pays to shop for materials and labor. For example, the price of the marble they wanted varied from $80 to $13 per square foot, and the fabrication quotes ranged from $3,200 to $6,000. Quotes to paint their cabinets ranged from $1,500 to $7,000. Tile, both for flooring and backsplashes, can run $1 to $15 per square foot. You may find the cabinet hardware you liked most in the store for half the price online.

Danielle Colding, who runs Danielle Colding Design in Brooklyn, New York, recently redid her kitchen with sleek, ultramodern gray lacquer cabinets from Ikea. “They’re really affordable,” she says. “You can do a normal kitchen for $4,000 to $5,000.”

Colding, who won HGTV’s “Design Star” competition in 2012 and also hosted “Shop This Room” on the network, says local shops can also be an excellent option when remodeling on a budget.

Grove and her husband chose to act as their own contractors, hiring separate painters, marble fabricators and tile installers. They gathered names from a contractor friend and the marble yard, and then asked those companies for bids and references.

Being your own contractor creates more work because you’re screening multiple contractors rather than just one general contractor for the entire project. Plus, you have to be available during the day to supervise, and you have to shop around to find the best price on supplies.

But for someone whose remodel doesn’t include knocking down walls, reconfiguring the layout or dealing with city permits, appointing yourself contractor can be a way to cut costs. “If you have the capabilities to be the general contractor yourself, you can definitely save some money,” says Jason Kloesel, owner of VK Construction and Remodeling in Austin, Texas. “If you don’t have the smallest construction knowledge, I would not recommend this at all.”

Whether you hire a general contractor or individual companies, make sure the contract is very specific about what is included when it comes to labor and materials.

Here are 14 tips for remodeling your kitchen on a budget.

Know what look you want before you start interviewing contractors. Drop by local showrooms to see cabinets, counter top options and combinations. This will help you get a sense of costs for different options, too.

Keep your plumbing and gas lines in the same place. A kitchen remodel costs considerately less when you don’t change the layout.

Don’t assume big-box stores have the lowest prices. A local cabinetmaker, in some cases, may offer a better deal than the larger competition.

Shop around. Explore all options for both labor and materials, from granite to hardware to appliances. Price varies a lot.

Consider used. Entire kitchens are routinely sold on Craigslist and at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore as well as architectural salvage stores. Hiring a local cabinetmaker to create a piece or two is much cheaper than creating an entire kitchen. “It’s used, obviously, but it’s usually very high-quality,” says Cathie Pliess, design program coordinator for the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.

Look for remnants of granite and marble. Most fabricators have stone left over from previous jobs, and they’ll often sell it for a fraction of the original cost.

Make friends with cabinet shops. Once they’re finished with a display, it is sold at a deep discount. And don’t forget about big-box stores. You can score deals on cabinets by being friendly with them, too.

Shop online. Hardware, plumbing and lighting fixtures are all great items to buy online.

Don’t skimp on planning. The exact layout of the kitchen and choice of cabinets will make a big difference in how well your kitchen functions.

Find out where contractors shop. Many of those stores and fabricators are open to the public. Some offer discounts for bigger purchases, and many sell products that aren’t available in retail stores.

Be flexible on materials. If there is a look you want, see if there is a cheaper way to get it. Subway tile and glass tile, for example, are available at many price points, as are granite, marble and porcelain floor tile.

Do your due diligence. Check references of any contractors you plan to use, and make sure the contracts spell out who is responsible for buying materials, exactly what materials the contractor is supplying (down to brand and model number) and what the cost will be if you make changes during the job. Cheaper is not necessarily better.

Paint when possible. Know that paint is cheaper than stain, and that goes for the labor, too. “People shouldn’t overlook what a difference it makes to paint your cabinets,” Pliess says.

Consider alternative materials and designs. You can take the doors off the top cabinets or repurpose old furniture as kitchen storage or to create an island, Pliess suggests. Beadboard creates an attractive, inexpensive backsplash. And you might be surprised at today’s laminate countertops. “Laminate has come a really long way,” Pliess says. “It doesn’t have that ugly laminate look anymore.”

To read the article as published on homes.yahoo.com, please click here.

Clean Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Organized

470_2806556Your house may look clean, but these common organizing mistakes can make it hard to maintain order. Professional organizers share their top pet peeves and how to solve them.

The Mistake: Confusing “Clean” and “Organized”
“Having piles neatly lined up on the counter doesn’t mean you’re organized,” says professional organizer Linda Rothschild. If you find your flat surfaces filling with clutter, it’s time to designate a spot for everything coming into your home. Once you get the hang of it, the piles will disappear.

The Mistake: Keeping Counters Too Clear
Once you’ve cleared off what doesn’t belong on the kitchen counter, don’t forget to leave room for things you use every day. If you make daily smoothies, make a spot for the blender. It’s easier to keep the surfaces clean and organized if you have what you need at hand and everything has a designated spot.

The Mistake: A Full Refrigerator
“A big, messy focal point is a refrigerator tacked with magnets and reminders and notes and letters and photos and wedding invitations and art projects and shopping lists,” says professional organizer Jeni Aron. “Instead, keep one clipboard on your kitchen wall with all of the reminders and lists you need. When the clipboard is full, that’s your maximum number of papers you can keep.”

The Mistake: Disorganized Kitchen Shelving
Glass-front cabinets or open shelving can look messy if dishes are piled at random. “The solution? Add fabric or contact paper inside the glass cabinets. A better solution: Setting up a way to keep dishes organized,” says professional organizer Alejandra Costello.

The Mistake: Stuffing Kitchen Cabinets
Getting organized means making good decisions about what to keep and what to let go of, starting on the inside of the cabinets,” says professional organizer Linda Rothschild. Take everything out and take stock. If you’re not using it, let it go.

The Mistake: A Non-Functional Entryway
An entryway offers a home’s first impression, but it’s often covered with coats, backbacks, shoes and more. The solution? “Rearrange the coat closet in the entryway where kids can hang things,” offers professional organizer Alejandra Costello. “Or put a basket by the door to toss shoes inside. If the shoes can just make it inside, it can make a huge difference.”

The Mistake: Choosing Closet Form Over Daily Function
We all dream of a chic walk-in closet, but think about what you really use before devoting tons of space to baubles and high heels. “Things you wear on a regular basis need to be accessible,” says professional organizer Linda Rothschild. “If you go running everyday, those shoes should be in the front,” she says. Wear boots to work? Keep those out and stow away heels. Being realistic about your real-life closet needs makes it easier to keep the space neat.

The Mistake: Out-of-Order Containers
Throwing your stuff in a box or drawer doesn’t make it organized. “Every drawer, cabinet and shelf is a container, but consider taking it a step further by using additional containers within those storage areas to organize your things even more. Use bins, baskets, cups, tin cans, stackable bins and dividers to help keep your items better contained and visually appealing,” says professional organizer Vanessa Hayes.

The Mistake: Shopping First, Organizing Second
“The biggest mistake I see is that people think buying a bunch of organizing products will solve their clutter nightmares, but it usually just adds to the frustration,” says professional organizer Vanessa Hayes. “Instead, you need to edit your stuff first, then decide on products to help you organize what’s left.” That way, you’ll buy only what you need.

The Mistake: Skipping Labels
“Bins are fine, but they need to be space-efficient, properly labeled and specific,” says professional organizer Nancy Heller. “Leave a little extra space, but don’t throw a mismatched glove in there because there’s room. A label helps you halt and say, ‘oh, this doesn’t go here.’”

The Mistake: Too Many Toys
“For families with kids, many fall victim to every room becoming a toy room and the entire home becoming toy-centric,” says professional organizer Vanessa Hayes. “You’d be amazed at how much cleaner your home will look if you limit the toys you have, and keep them in only 1-2 places in your home.”

The Mistake: Not Corralling Cords
“This bothers me like crazy,” says professional organizer Alejandra Costello. “Wires on the wall or floor are a complete eyesore. Make your own backing with black foam board, or whatever you have. Or, actually detangle the wires and use a cord organizer to line them around the furniture.” Boom: A neat entertainment center, desk or nightstand.

The Mistake: Scattered Collections
When styling bookshelves, small pieces look more dramatic (and less cluttered) when grouped with like items. “Collections of vases showcase what you love, versus having one on the coffee table and two on the end table. It doesn’t look cohesive,” says professional organizer Nancy Heller.

The Mistake: Packed Bookshelves
Displaying only books you love leaves breathing room and space for decorative accessories. “I always go for balance. I’m fond of telling people when your bookshelf is 80 percent full, it’s really full,” says professional organizer Nancy Heller.

The Mistake: Letting Laundry Linger
When the laundry room is downstairs, piles of un-folded clothes can accumulate. “It’s all about just doing it right away,” says professional organizer Alejandra Costello. “Don’t do laundry unless you have enough time to finish it. When you’re ready to fold it, take it out of the dryer and put it away right then.”

The Mistake: Packed-Full Rooms
“Too many chairs, couches, tables and decorative items can quickly make a room look cluttered and feel closed-in,” says professional organizer Vanessa Hayes. “Selecting just a few pieces can open up a space and make it feel more relaxing and peaceful.”

The Mistake: Getting Used to Clutter
“Clutter actually becomes invisible,” says professional organizer Linda Rothschild. “When things are in piles, they become like wallpaper. Things get dumped and they get ignored.” Devote a few minutes a day to ditching the piles one by one – you’ll be amazed how much different your space will feel.

The Mistake: Too Much Stuff
“People love staying in hotels because it’s such an escape. You can have that in your home, you just have to have less stuff,” says professional organizer Kendra Stanley.

The Mistake: Stuffing Small Spaces
“Be realistic about the space you have and how you use it,” says professional organizer Nancy Heller. “If you are in a small home, you really have to be realistic about how much you can really have there without it being cluttered and overwhelming.” Opt for hidden storage under the bed or stairs, but know when to minimize your stuff, too.

The Mistake: Waiting Until Tomorrow
Staying organized is easy if you do something every day. “It’s continuous maintenance. For every hour we spend organizing we save 3-4 hours,” says professional organizer Nancy Heller. “Spend 5 minutes tidying up your junk drawer…just 20 minutes here, 10 minutes there will make all the difference.”

To read the article as published shine.yahoo.com, please click here.

Precautions for When Leaving Your Home Alone

Summer is traditionally the vacation season, and with college students heading back to campus earlier and earlier, family travel is often in the equation around this time. So if you will be leaving your home “alone” for a few days or a couple of weeks, it’s a good idea to take some precautions.

Enlist the help of friends and neighbors

The sure way to avoid vacation-related worry is to arrange for a house sitter, particularly if you’re planning to be away for an extended period of time. If that’s not an option, have a trusted friend, neighbor or family member visit periodically to check the house, water the plants and bring in the mail. If it’s a good neighbor, ask if he or she will park a car in your driveway, if yours will be otherwise empty. And don’t forget to hire a neighborhood kid to mow the lawn and trim the hedges, as an unkempt lawn is a sure sign of an unoccupied home.

Remember, water can be the enemy

If a pipe leaks or bursts while you’re gone, the resulting damage could be devastating. Shutting off the main valve is the best protection, but if you can’t do that, at least consider shutting off the valves to the most common sources for water damage — dishwashers, ice makers and washing machines to name a few.

Check the weather report, too. If a storm is on the way, ensure your gutters are free of blockage and reinforce any areas that could allow water in. If your basement is prone to flooding, test that your sump pump is working as it should.

Be security smart

There are plenty of simple ways to keep your home safe and sound while away, including:

  • Notify the post office to stop mail delivery to your address for the duration of your trip.
  • Place electronic timers in various rooms and set them to activate/deactivate lights on a staggered schedule.
  • If you have a pool, padlock the surrounding gate or install a retractable cover.
  • Consider motion detector lights for the front and back of your property.
  • If you have an alarm system, make sure it’s turned on and that you’ve told the alarm company the dates you’ll be away.

Before you’re set leave, put together a checklist of all the security measures you plan to make. This list will help you stay on task in the hectic days and hours before you leave. After all, the last thing anyone wants is to go on vacation with the lingering thought, “Did I remember to lock the back door?” Plan ahead and you’ll find it’s easy to stay on the safe side without stressing.

To read the original article, please click here.

Making Your Private Property More Private

As the seasons change and the temperatures go up, dinner on the deck or a cocktail on the patio can offer welcomed rest and relaxation — unless you’re sipping that drink under the watchful eyes of others or the sounds of busy traffic or noisy neighbors.

Short of building a stone wall and moat, there are steps you can take to make your outdoor space more relaxing. Of course, before starting any sort of construction or planting project, you’ll want to check with your local municipality and homeowners association. Many cities — and even neighborhoods — have restrictions on height, setback from the street, appearance or materials that can be used in establishing privacy screens.

Walls and fences

Building a wall or fence is, perhaps, the most obvious way to add privacy to your yard.

Wood fences are the fastest and cheapest to erect; in fact, you can buy prefabricated sections of wood fencing from home improvement stores and build a fence yourself in a few days. Open lattice can be used to break up the mass of a wood fence.

If you like the look of wood but don’t want to worry about rot or upkeep, vinyl may be a good option. Vinyl fencing resists discoloring and is available in a wide range of styles and colors.

Stone and brick can be used to create attractive, long-lasting barriers — or, if you overdo it, they can take on a prisonlike air. If you’re drawn to stone or brick, you might consider creating a shorter retaining wall that can be paired with screens or greenery.

In many parts of the country, cinder blocks are the material of choice for property walls. Concrete tends to look stark. Consider using paint or decorative ironwork to add interest, or soften the look with vines or other plantings.

Hedges

A wall of lush evergreens can separate your home from the neighboring properties.

Even novice gardeners and landscapers can plant evergreens to create a living, year-round privacy screen. Planting trees or shrubs in a zig-zag — rather than straight — line will allow the plants better access to sun and will create a fuller visual effect.

Boxwood, yew, arborvitae, juniper, laurel and holly are among the nation’s most popular hedge plants. You’ll want to talk to knowledgeable landscape experts to learn which plants do best in your soil and weather conditions. Also be honest about how much pruning you’re willing to do: Some plants require considerably more upkeep than others.

Screens and roofs

A vine-covered pergola-style roof can add privacy as well as visual interest.

A lattice or louvered wood panel, ornamental iron or well-placed stained glass partitions can help create cozy spaces within a yard. Most homeowners prefer to anchor screens into the ground so they don’t fall victim to the occasional wind gusts. Semi-transparent structures won’t offer complete privacy, but can blur sightlines and add visual interest to a landscape.

Fabric panels or drapes are an easy, inexpensive way to make a porch or patio area more intimate. Similarly, adding an awning or pergola-style roof covered with vines can help create a space that’s secluded from nosy neighbors.

Water

Water features, such as a gurgling fountain, can help mask the sounds of unwanted noise from neighbors and traffic.

Water features range from off-the-shelf tabletop versions that cost less than $100 to expansive, custom waterfalls that can run upward of $20,000. Be aware that if your water feature rushes over too many tiers or if the waterfall is too high, you may be creating a noise that’s louder and more distracting than the one you’re trying to cover up.

To read the original article as published on Zillowblog.com, please click here.

Is Your Home Turning Heads?

Curb appeal with flairCurb appeal is your first and best chance to generate interest in your home and perhaps a quick sale. Whether you are selling your home or not, see tips below for creating curb appeal.

Add Flair
You don’t have to spend a lot to enhance your home’s exterior. Simple updates – like a planter of flowers – can have a big impact.

Stay Grounded
When updating the front yard, it’s important to make sure all the elements tie together: the walkway and driveway and plants and trees around the house.

orange front doorFocus on Front Door
It welcomes visitors, sets the mood of the home and the tone for what’s inside. Your front door deserves some love.

Get Inspired
Manicured trees and shrubs, warm lighting fixtures and fresh paint trim are some features that add outstanding curb appeal.

 

To read the complete articles as published on zillow.com, please click on the links above.

Create a Successful Container Garden

Container-Garden-c31b6d-e1400519170675When she’s not sharing her knowledge of container gardening as a guide on About.com or photographing New England gardens for a forthcoming book from Timber Press, you’re likely to find Kerry Michaels tending to the nearly 100 potted plants that surround her home in coastal Maine. “No matter how hectic life can be,” she muses, “I get such enormous pleasure from these pots!” Here, Michaels offers six tips to boost your own container gardening know-how.

1. Water properly

“It still surprises me how much water a good-sized container needs to get to the roots of a plant,” says Michaels. Don’t just wet the top of the soil, she advises. Rather, continue until you see water dripping out from the holes at the bottom of the pot.

2. Supplement nutrients

“There are no nutrients in most potting soils, and even those that have some will need to be supplemented throughout the growing season,” Michaels says. If your potting soil doesn’t have any (check the bag), then augment with slow-release fertilizer every couple of weeks. Be sure to follow the directions closely, whether you choose to use diluted liquid fertilizer or granular fertilizer.

3. Pay attention to pot size

Pots that are too small can be a problem for container gardeners, Michaels reports. “Small pots mean less soil, and less soil means that there isn’t much margin for error when watering, because the pots dry out so fast,” she says.

4. Add some holes

If your pot is skimpy on drainage, don’t be afraid to make a few extra holes in the bottom. You can either use a drill with a special bit for ceramic pots (because these pots can crack, always wear safety goggles and make sure the pot and bit do not overheat), a regular bit for plastic pots, or an awl or nail and hammer for metal pots. “Sometimes my pots look like Swiss cheese, because I put so many holes in them,” Michaels says. “The more drainage, the better.”

5. Skip the gravel

“It’s a myth that stones or shells at the bottom of a container help keep your plants from getting waterlogged,” Michaels reveals. To keep soil from escaping the bottom of your pot, place window screening, a coffee filter or a paper towel over the holes of your container before adding soil.

6. Elevate pots

“When containers are set flat on nonporous surfaces, drainage can be affected,” says Michaels. “And on a deck, the constant moisture can damage the wood. Air circulation below pots is beneficial to both the plants and your deck.” She suggests using commercially made pot feet, like Potrisers or Pot Pads. Depending on the weight of your containers, you might also consider teacups, shot glasses or small terra-cotta pots to elevate them.

To read the article as published on zillow.com, please click here.

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