Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Affordable Items that Make Your House Look Chic

by Allison Saunders, March 2, 2018 in Home Decorating

Last fall, we discussed inexpensive ways to make your house look expensive. It’s a hot topic among style-savvy homeowners and seasoned interior designers. After all, who doesn’t seize every opportunity to look good for less? Especially since styles tend to shift every season. We just recently witnessed a transition from midcentury to hygge (HOO-gah) home décor trends.
With the ever-changing tide of interior design, accompanied by a seasonal decoration switch, it can be challenging to stay on-trend – not to mention on budget, when you’re striving to make your house look chic and in style.
However, you don’t have to blow your budget to make your home look like an HGTV magazine. The answer lies in a few low-key elements that have the potential to make a high-impact in your home. And the best part? They’re affordable.

Comfort Over Style

Comfort is a 2018 trend that we can get behind! With the emergence of hygge a Danish concept of togetherness, home décor has shifted from prioritizing form and function to indulgence and coziness.
You will see these concepts take the form of oversized throw pillows and blankets and more scented candles.
“Adding throws and pillows is a great way to introduce bold colors and rich textures to any space,” explained Annie Santulli, of Annie Santulli Designs. “They also tend to be tactile and will keep your guests’ idle hands busy and off their phone – for a minute!”
Santulli revealed that jewel tones are making a comeback in 2018. Pantone announced their bold ultra violet 2018 Color of the Year; bright, bold colors have caught the designer eye ever since.
However, if you’re looking to be economical and would rather select a versatile color that compliments any style, try incorporating neutral throws. You’ll get more bang for your buck, should you decide to shake it up next season.
Faux fur throw blanket
Gray Long Faux Fur Throw $13.99 
Candles are a perfect cost-effective, high-impact addition to any room in your home. They’re more than just source of soft lighting; they cater to your senses of sight and smell in perfect harmony, creating a calm and relaxing vibe in your home.
No really. Smell is psychological, able to affect your mood, sleep and overall physical and mental health. For example, it’s speculated that the scent of peppermint stimulate the mind and body, while scents like jasmine and lavender are supposed to entice sleep and relaxation.
Soy candles
The Burlap Bag Soy Candle $20 
Incorporating candles into a few rooms in your home will not only create a warm, relaxing environment for your guests; it has the potential to affect their very state of mind. Strive to place warm, homey scents, like coffee or fresh baked bread, throughout the home.
Lamps and other lighting fixtures are inexpensive items that can easily change the look of a room. The right – or wrong – lighting has the potential to transform your space, acting as the spotlight to your furnishings and home décor.

“Interesting light fixtures are one of my favorite ways to add glamour to a room and lighting always creates a specific mood for each space,” said Stantulli.
Heather Hess, the lead designer behind interior decorating site, SwatchPop!, suggested to upgrade overhead lighting with a larger-sized chandelier or pendant.
Ceiling light
Glass Globe Ceiling Light $69.99
“This one simple upgrade can instantly make a room look more expensive because it will look custom and create a new focal point in the room,” she said. Additionally, overhead lighting can eliminate unflattering shadows in a room that may be distorting the perspective of your décor.
Adding interesting artwork is a great way to increase the appeal of an area in your home, creating a polished look with the other furnishings and décor.
“You can change the feel of an entire space by adding an oversized piece of art, and then adding a few accessories that pull the colors into the room,” added Santulli.
You don’t need to spend big bucks to enhance your space with artwork and prints. There are many affordable places to get quality artwork for a reasonable price, like Esty.
“As a print shop, we know the value of art and the joy it can bring to a room,” said Melissa Golz, digital marketing manager from Parabo Press, a photo-printing add for design-minded printers. “The best part about decorating with artwork is that once you tire of it, you can always switch it out for something new!”
Forest prints
Forest Prints $11.37
Flowers bring more than just a pretty pop of color to a room. Like candles, they appeal to your senses of sight and smell. And if you know where to go, they can also be a low-cost addition to your home décor.
Grocery store flowers are relatively inexpensive, depending on where you shop. Instead of paying upwards of $100 for an arrangement, you can try your hand at assembling your own bouquet for a fraction of the price.
Add a simple, decorative vase from your local second-hand or dollar store and you’ve added a level of hospitality and comfort to your home.
However, if you don’t have the time to assemble a fresh arrangement every week or so, there are still affordable monthly flower subscriptions at reasonable prices.
Pomponi Daisies with Eucalyptus $55
Details, Details
Home décor details are the sprinkles on the cupcake. They add a level of simplistic sophistication to a room, usually at a more reasonable price compared to home furnishings and furniture. Upgraded kitchen hardware or a backsplash above an appliance may be just a few of the details that can spruce up your kitchen.
However, when you’re looking for inexpensive details that will make a statement, focus on the surfaces of the home that are usually neglected – your walls and floor.
Mirrors are a great statement piece to your wall, having a higher-impact compared to picture frames and wall decals.
By strategically placing a few mirrors near a lighting source to create a reflection, you create dimension and the illusion that your space is far larger than is actually is.
Round glass wall mirror
Round Decorative Wall Mirror $47.49 
Let’s face it. Finding a fashionable, affordable rug can be like finding a magic carpet: impossible and probably somewhere in a Disney movie.
However, it’s not impossible to find a reasonably priced rug to transform your space. All you have to do is find the right rug for a room in your home, in both style and proportion.
If you have wood floors, try finding a rug that’s plush and soft. Not only will this add a new texture to the space, but it also creates a welcoming addition to a room. On the other hand, if you already have carpet and you’re just looking to add another layer to your floor, try opting for a thinner rug.
If you’re looking for a rug to go underneath your furniture, like a dining room table and chairs, make sure the rug extends the correct amount of space beyond the furniture above it, as too short of a rug will have the reverse effect of making your space look less expensive and smaller than it actually is.
Whether you’re seeking a style that’s on-trend or a home that’s more accommodating and comfortable, using these affordable, but high-impact home décor items will transform your space in overall quality.

“Quality over quantity is key to working with a budget,” said Hess. “Quality does not always mean expensive, think of it as high-impact and statement pieces that will add to your room.”

Monday, February 26, 2018

5 Things You Can Do at Home to Beat the Winter Blues

by Zeel, February 8, 2018 in Health & Safety

The winter can be a tough time for many of us, especially after the excitement of the holidays dies down. It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s gloomy and we’ve eaten all the leftover candy.  In addition, many people suffer from a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which makes those affected feel especially sad and sluggish during the winter months. But there’s good news. Even if it’s too cold or dreary to head outdoors, there are ways to beat the winter blues in the comfort of your own home. Here are five tips to cheer you up during the winter – no need to put on your shoes or grab your coat.

Let There Be Light

One of the main factors leading to winter depression is the noticeable lack of sunlight. The days are shorter and it’s often overcast (or snowing). The solution: maximize the amount of sunlight in your home.  There are a few simple decorating tips that will make your house brighter and more pleasant in any season, but especially winter.
  • Open the drapes. Consider swapping heavy drapes for lighter curtains that admit more sunlight (go for translucent, not see-through – you still need your privacy, after all).
  • Still have an air conditioner in the window? Remove it. You’ll get more sunlight.
  • Mirrors will increase any sunlight that does manage to enter your house. Place them strategically opposite windows. Mirrors also visually expand your space.
  • Speaking of windows, make sure they’re sparkling clean – light doesn’t travel well through dirty glass.
  • Finally, if you have SAD, or if the darkness is just putting you in a bad mood, consider investing in a lightbox. A lightbox (sometimes called a sun box, sun lamp or light therapy box) serves as an artificial sunlight source (with the harmful UVA/UVB rays filtered out, so don’t expect to get a suntan with a lightbox)  Light therapy boxes can be purchased online and typically start at about $50. Still have money in your Health Savings Account (HAS) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA)? Not only can you pay for a massage with HSA/FSA funds, you can also pay for a lightbox if you have a doctor’s diagnosis for SAD.
  • If you’re shopping for a home and know that you’re prone to the winter blues, make good lighting a prerequisite of any apartment or house purchase.

Massage Does a Body Good

If winter is making you miserable and sluggish, a massage could help! The health benefits of massage are many: it has the dual effect of improving your mood and getting your blood pumping – literally, as it boosts circulation in the body.  Massage is also great for easing muscle aches and cramps (if slogging through slush or shoveling snow has given you back pain). Finally, massage raises levels of the hormone serotonin in your brain, increasing your feelings of happiness.
Of course, leaving your home to get a massage isn’t always the most appealing thing to do in winter weather. Zeel created an app that brings a massage therapist to your house, even when it’s freezing outside.

Get More Vitamin D

Scientists believe that vitamin D deficiency may be responsible for many cases of SAD and winter blues. A lack of vitamin D can impair serotonin production and make us more susceptible to depression. Sunlight is a good source of Vitamin D – but we typically don’t expose a lot of skin to the sun during the winter.
Fortunately, there are many good sources of it that you can eat, such as wild-caught fish (if that’s too pricey, canned tuna is just as effective), milk (either whole or reduced fat will do), shiitake mushrooms and egg yolks. Don’t rely on your new lightbox for vitamin D – since UVA/UVB rays are screened out, they won’t spur your body to produce the vitamin.

Invite People Over

If your mood is down, one cure is to surround yourself with friends.  And you don’t even need to leave home; let your pals come to your place. Even a small studio can become a comfortable place to host parties. Consider a potluck (make sure to choose healthy winter foods and vitamin D-rich nibbles), a board game night or a favorite show or big game viewing party.  Studies have shown that surrounding yourself with supportive friends reduces stress and can make you healthier too.

Learn Something New

Use your indoor hours to take up a new hobby. Studies show that hobbies can reduce stress and lift mood – in fact, they may be just as useful as exercise in making you happier and healthier.  Some options for indoor activities that beat winter blues include crafting, cooking, exercise, reading, learning a new language and more.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

How to Furnish Your First House: Expert Designers Reveal How in 10 Tips

by Allison Saunders, February 14, 2018 in Home Decorating

Purchasing your first house is an exciting time. There are endless possibilities for how you can personalize your space and make it your own, but it also might be a little nerve-racking deciding where you should start.
Luckily, we’ve put together a list to put your anxieties to rest. We reached out to expert interior designers to get their insight on furnishing your first house. Read on for their tips!

The Bare Necessities

Before you add any items to your online shopping cart or start pinning design inspirations to your Pinterest board, take a moment to establish a budget for new home furnishings. Remember: You just moved in to your first home. There’s no pressure to have a fully-furnished home straight from the get-go.
First make a list of furniture necessities, suggests Elizabeth Dodson, co-founder of HomeZada. “[A] bed, a table with chairs and maybe one sofa … allows you to entertain, share a meal and get some sleep,” she explains.
After living in your home for some time, you’ll start to realize what things you actually need versus want. Ashley Marino, the owner of Ashley Marino Designs, advises decorating one room at a time, prioritizing your purchases based on where you spend the most time in your home. We’ll talk more about that next.

Prioritize High-Traffic Areas

If you’re in the market to buy new furniture, Marino suggests to focus your efforts on the areas in your house that get the most use. Then, prioritize furnishing these areas before the other rooms in your home.
“Do you love snuggling on the couch while watching Netflix, or are you a host who loves to have dinner parties? Prioritize the areas that you’ll be in most when it comes to purchasing furniture,” Marino suggests.
By prioritizing the rooms you know you’ll get the most use out of, you can spread out your trips to the furniture store, give your budget a break and take your time.
Spencer Chambers, owner of The Chambers Organization, recommends you “keep things basic in the beginning, if necessary” asserting that “making the home livable at first,” is prioritized over styling and decorating.

Refurbish, Repurpose, Recycle

You’ll soon find that the funds to furnish your first home is one of the hidden costs of homeownership. And while you might be in the market to buy some key pieces of furniture (a bed, a dining room set, a couch), other pieces may come at a pretty penny.
If you find that you have a tight budget when it comes to home furnishings, Chambers suggests reaching out to family and friends to see if they’re looking to get rid of any extra furniture. This route is ideal, because even if they’re looking to sell the furniture, you might still be able to get it at a bargain.
Additionally, any Pinterest or DIY website will tell you that refurbishing old or outdated furnitureis in. Marino suggests this as a more affordable option.
If you’re in the market to buy home furnishings, there are places for affordable home décor that will help get you started

Make Sure It Measures Up

Before you begin seriously styling your space, make sure you account for the amount of room you have to work with in each area of your home.
“Looks can be deceiving in a showroom, and that chair or sofa may take up much more room in your home than you think,” warns Pam Faulkner of Faulkner House Interior Redesign.
Faulkner says to consider the architecture of each room, accounting for the size, the placement of doors, window and walls, and to consider how high the ceiling is. This “will determine how the furniture, lighting and wall décor may be used and placed.

”To prepare yourself, Faulkner advises having a floor plan with exact measurements and location of outlets, floor and wall vents, plus the height, width and length of doors, doorways, halls and stairways. To make this process easier, there are apps for just that.

Establish Your Style

Your personal style essentially reflects who you are. Are you an outdoorsy nature lover? Are you a polished perfectionist? Or more minimalist and intentional? Think of the attributes that represent who you are and translate them into furniture. After all, you’re the person who’ll be spending the most time in your home, so make sure it’s something that you’ll enjoy aesthetically and functionally.
However, if you don’t know how to find your style, the best way to start, according to Maria Stone, professional organizer, and décor and Feng Shui specialist at I-Deal Lifestyle, is to do your research. “It could be a mixture of styles, a more eclectic look, or it could be traditional, contemporary, modern or vintage,” Stone explains.
You can also utilize online platforms like Pinterest that help you build a board of home decorating and design ideas. When you figure out what home décor items best represent your style, you’ll be better equipped to add your personal touch to your new home.

Personalize Your Space

If you took the route of repurposing furniture or snagging hand-me-down decorations from friends and family, it can feel like your space is more eclectic rather than the best representation of your personal style. Emma Lundwall, an intuitive interior decorator based in New York City, says that there’s an easy way to fix this.
By adding small, personal details to your space, you can enhance your current furnishings and provide a more fluid style between the old and new pieces in your home.
“Splurge on a scented candle or two, and get into the habit of lighting one every time you come home,” says Lundwall. “This will instantly create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and guests won’t mind so much that not everything in your home matches perfectly.”
Lunwall also suggests a bouquet of fresh flowers or a luxurious Egyptian cotton hand towel in the bathroom to create a welcoming vibe in your home.

Decorate Around Your Favorite Pieces

Much like adding a personal touch to your home, Marino suggests to pick a few of your favorite current pieces, perhaps a statement sofa or enticing end table, and decorate around those pieces to draw attention to that area.
“Go on Pinterest to see what kinds of rooms you’re drawn to,” she advises, “and then go from there to curate your own personal style.”
By decorating around your favorite pieces in each room, you’re emphasizing that particular space, with the intention of drawing the eye of guests who enter that room. This is an easy way to add a decorated and completed look to your space without the pressure of having to decorate every corner of the room.
However, make sure you don’t overdo it. By adding a few striking items, you can make a larger impact in the room. In other words: Less is more!

Less Is More

There are many benefits of living a minimalist lifestyle that don’t just apply to decluttering your closet. From psychological health to financial freedom, many have found success with applying minimalism to every aspect of their lives.
To clarify, minimalism doesn’t mean only have one couch in a completely empty room. It just means getting rid of anything that’s not a necessity, like furniture pieces you don’t use or clothes you don’t wear. So when you’re decorating your new space, think about furnishing your home with items you’ll actually use on a somewhat day-to-day basis.
“Make sure you only let things you actually want, and need, enter your home,” says Lundwall. “Moving is an excellent time to declutter.”
Lundwall recommends cleaning out your space regularly, donating any items you find that you’re not using regularly anymore. Quality over quantity is the name of the game when making your home more minimalistic.

Neutrals Are Your Best Friend

Hand-in-hand with the ideals of minimalism is keeping the base of your home as neutral as possible. Make sure you don’t overload your space by painting your walls too many colors or adding in too many textures and designs in your furniture and décor.
Keep your design simple by keeping all walls, floors and ceilings white or neutral (like beige or cream), suggests Lundwall, and then, add pops of color on details like a throw pillow on a couch or a bedspread in your master bedroom.
“You can always change it up as you feel like it, or as the seasons shift, and you don’t need to decide on an overall color scheme right from the start,” she adds.
If you have issues with color commitment, Lundwall proposes living in the space for at least a few months to “get a feel for what colors you want to surround yourself with.”

Lighting Is Key

Let there be light!
It should come as no surprise that access to good lighting sources is a must for a functional space in any home. Faulkner stresses that “good lighting is key for both the overall look, feel and function in any room.”
You’ll want to make sure that you have adequate window coverings for privacy, light and temperature control. Faulkner recommends curtains, shades and shutters for critical use in controlling the natural light in your home.
If you don’t have the best access to natural light in your home, creating a cozy ambiance in your home is as easy as having many smaller light sources around the room, suggests Lundwall.
“Whatever you do, stay away from blue, fluorescent light bulbs” she stresses. “Opt for ones with more yellow, warmer light.”
Of course, the most important tip to remember when furnishing your first house is to remember that every first-time homeowner is unique. While some might have a little more wiggle room in their budget for home furnishings, others might want to save by shopping at discount stores.
Remember that this home is completely your own, and at the end of the day, you’re the one living in it and it should work for your personal style and needs.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Prevent These 4 Money Fears from Crippling Your Financial Future

by Ashley Chorpenning, January 25, 2018 in Saving Money

Is there anything keeping you up at night? Are you worrying about your children’s safety or maybe your long to-do list? Some Americans toss and turn during the night due to feeling financially unsettled. Northwest Mutual found that 85% of the population has some sort of financial anxiety. Any type of unrest can be bad for your health.
The good news is you can take control of your financial situation, confront these money fears head-on and get in the driver’s seat of your financial future.
So, how do you address these fears? Here are some common financial concerns many Americans have and the proper steps to take to tackle them while preparing for your financial future.

Not Being Able to Retire

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! No matter what you read, you see doom and gloom about the financial state of your fellow Americans. How many times have you heard that Social Security is going bankrupt and there will be nothing left for the people that are currently working? Most likely, plenty.
Many people feel as though they won’t have enough to retire no matter how much they save. With the descent of Social Security and the extraordinary increase to health care costs, it seems impossible for anyone to even consider retiring. No wonder everyone is freaking out.

What to Do

First of all, know that the Social Security trust fund may run out by 2034; however, you will still receive benefits, just maybe not as much. But in order to really combat this fear, you must develop a personalized financial plan to reach your goals. Meeting and partnering with a financial planner and tax professional could be the best solution for tackling this fear. They can help you navigate the twists and turns that your financial journey can produce.
A financial plan can also help you prepare for unexpected situations. What if you need a new roof? What if you have a car accident? There are plenty of factors that could play a role in creating a strong financial future. Having a financial plan may help you sleep at night.

Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Some Americans are spending every dime of their paycheck. It’s a never-ending cycle and they can’t seem to get ahead or save for the future. It can seem almost paralyzing.

What to Do

Develop a budget you can stick to. Whether your focus is to pay down debt or work on increasing your contributions to your retirement accounts, decide how you can put it in the budget. A budget shows you what is coming in and going out. It will help you evaluate areas where you could cut back on your spending and what habits are keeping you living paycheck to paycheck.
For example, try canceling your cable bill and only using a subscription service. This may save you hundreds of dollars depending on your plan. Try focusing on one area of your budget every month. This way you will not feel overwhelmed. This process will slowly help you cut back your spending little by little.
By cutting back your spending, you will be able to shift your focus to some of your financial goals. Maybe your dream is to own a home. By evaluating your budget and finding ways to save, you could achieve this goal in no time.

Losing Your Job

At 4.1%, the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in years, but this doesn’t mean that every job is secure. For example, if you work in the retail sector, layoffs happen every day. Or, your company might want to replace you with different talent. You never know what could happen.

What to Do

Build an emergency fund of 3 – 6 months of your expenses. You could either use those funds for an emergency or if you get laid off. Your emergency fund will give you a little bit of a cushion so you can get back on your feet and not stress about going further into debt.
Also, always look for ways to increase your skill set. This will make you more marketable if, in fact, you do lose your job.

Living in Debt for Eternity

The American debt crisis is real. Recently, the average American household credit card debt increased to $16,000 per NerdWallet data. With interest rates on the rise, this could cripple some Americans’ finances. We live in a society where we want to keep up with the Joneses, even if it’s financially out of our reach. It’s easy to get in the habit of living in debt. Or, maybe unexpected expenses left you buried in debt, and it can be hard to find a way out.

What to Do

Did your New Year’s resolution consist of tackling debt? If so, you have taken the first step toward debt recovery: recognizing there is a problem. You can pay off any amount of debt if you create a strategy to do so. No matter how much debt you have, develop a strategy for repayment.
One option would be to pay off your debt with the highest interest rate first. Some credit cards can charge upward of 20% annually.
You can also pay off the smallest debt first. This will make you feel as though you are crushing your debt that much faster. It will leave you feeling accomplished and motivated to continue and do more.
Once you have paid off your debt, keep it that way. Create positive spending habits. This could include waiting 48 hours to make a purchase. If you give yourself time to think about buying an item you may not need, you’ll most likely forgo the purchase.
Financial fears are real, but with a little time and effort you can combat them. If you have financial fears that keep you up at night, create different ways you can help prevent them from happening. How can you plan now to put your mind at ease? It may not happen overnight, but you can work toward relieving your financial stress one day at a time and enjoy sweet dreams.