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Stay up-to-date on all of the latest information in the real estate industry. Check out our blogs for upcoming events and real estate tips for buyers and sellers.

March 3, 2017

10 Hacks to Make Spring Cleaning Easy

 

It's that time of year again – those months in between packing up the Christmas decorations and pulling out the spring decor, where your home might feel stale and in need of some freshening up. Spring cleaning is a perfect time to refresh your home, declutter, and realign with feng shui. But before all of the stress about cleaning starts, don't fret – we've simplified the process with these 10 hacks to make the process much smoother and simpler this year (and maybe even a little fun?) Read below for the 10 best hacks for tackling spring cleaning and getting your house prepped for a fresh, airy springtime.

 

 

1. Time Yourself

Dreading getting started? Set a timer for twenty minutes and tackle one, small project. Giving yourself a time limit will keep you focused and working faster and more efficiently. Plus, you'll probably be surprised at how much you can get done in twenty minutes; timing how long tasks take make them seem much more manageable. If you realize it only takes ten minutes to scrub down the bathroom, you might not put it off again for so long.

 

2. Work From a Checklist

It's a classic strategy, but nothing beats the efficiency of a checklist. This checklist by Jennifer Flanders is a free printable sheet and organizes your home by each room. Going down a sheet and checking off tasks will give you a sense of completion and help you stay on top of which rooms are crisp and clean (and which tasks you can delegate to others!)

3. Dust With Cheap Household Cloths

You'd be surprised at how many common household cloths work just as well as expensive wipes. Dryer sheets are a great substitute for more electrostatic cloths and work just as well. A dryer sheet wrapped around a spatula or butter knife is perfect for cleaning vents. Socks, when worn as a mitten, work in tight corners. For wiping electronics, try a coffee filter - it will pick up dust from a television monitor or computer screen.

4. Spray Vodka on Your Mattresses

It's an old trick to use vodka to kill odors, but it works especially great on a heavy mattress that's cumbersome to clean. Pour vodka into a spray bottle and spritz lightly across your mattress and air dry. The alcohol will kill any odor-causing bacteria. For a fresh follow-up, dust baking soda over the mattress, which will draw out any remaining moisture. Finally, spread a few scented dryer sheets across the mattress before remaking the bed to add a fresh scent while you sleep.

 

5. Wash Your Windows on a Cloudy Day 

Washing windows during a bright, sunny day will cause your windows to dry almost immediately and leave behind streaks. For a quick washing solution, mix equal parts white vinegar and warm water, or a teaspoon of dishwasher liquid to a gallon of water. For cleaning dirty ledges or corners, use a high-power hose at least from five feet away to quickly blast away dirt.

 

6. Throw Ice Down the Garbage Disposal

Smelly sink disposal? Try this hack: chop a lemon into small chunks (aim for a dozen), place the pieces in an ice cube tray, top with vinegar, and freeze. Throw the frozen cubes down your disposal every few days to keep it staying fresh-year long (just don't accidentally add these cubes to your drink!)

7. Buff Your Stovetop with Car Wax

After a thorough wipe-down of your stovetop, apply a thin layer of car wax and then buff it off with a clean towel. The surface will look shiny and new, plus makes wiping future spills a breeze. 

 

 

8. Use a Hair Dryer to Banish Water Rings on Wood

For those pesky water rings on your wooden table, there's a simple solution: a hair dryer. Blast the white water ring with a hair dryer on high heat until it starts to disappear. Once gone, rub a small bit of olive oil over the area to recondition the wood.

9. Use Your Dishwasher For More Than Dishes

Leave the deep cleaning to the machines. There are tons of things that you can clean in the dishwasher besides the usual: contact lens cases, hair brushes, pet dishes, plastic toys, soap dishes, and even a detachable showerhead! 

 

10. Soak Your Showerhead Overnight

For showerheads that aren't detachable, you can still deep clean without scrubbing. First, fill a plastic sandwich bag with vinegar and secure the bag over your showerhead so it's submerged – an elastic hair tie works great. Leave the bag attached overnight and let the vinegar soak do the hard work. Simply detach, toss the bag, and let the shower run in the morning as normal.


These ten tips above should make your cleaning this year much more streamlined. Let us know which tips worked best for you, or any additional tips for making spring cleaning more efficient. Best of luck on your cleaning endeavors!

 

 

Posted in General
Feb. 21, 2017

Laugh for Lives Brings Comedians and Community Together For Worthy Cause

laugh for lives

 

AvantSF is proud to support the Asian American Donor Program's 10th annual Laugh for Lives comedy benefit show. The show will take place this Friday, February 24th, at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. AvantSF Sales Associate Venus Zheng will be volunteering at this event, which brings comedians together to increase awareness about stem cell and bone marrow donations. 


The show, which runs from 8-10PM, will feature performers Amir K, KT Tartara, Atsuko Okatsuka, Irene Tu, with MC Jin serving as host. Tickets for this one-time show are still available and are on sale at the AADP website for $25; tickets will be $40 at the door on the day of show. If you can't attend the show, there is an option to make a small donation to the AADP on their website.

Check out the trailer below for a preview of some of the hilarious content coming your way this Friday:



The show is sponsored by the Asian American Donor Program, a non-profit organization “dedicated to increasing the availability of stem cell donors, helping to build a diverse National Registry, and saving lives by working with the community.” The AADP is only able to achieve their mission with the support of generous supporters and attendees of benefit events like Laugh for Lives. Laugh for Lives is still seeking sponsors for this event. If you would like to become involved, please contact Venus Zheng at venus@avantsf.com

Posted in General
Feb. 1, 2017

Brain Talks Explores Technology and the Brain for a Good Cause

brain talks promo

 

AvantSF is happy to be involved with this year's Brain Talks event, happening in San Francisco on February 7th. AvantSF Sales Associate Venus Zheng will be a producer during the event. The purpose of the talk is to “brings us together to talk about the human brain and the way it interacts in our modern world” and is being organized by Mattan Kitchales, the director of content strategy at Meta Augmented Reality. The talk will be held at Upload Collective, a tech-focused co-working space in the heart of San Francisco. 


Not only is Brain Talks all about exploring new technology, but it's also for a good cause. According to the event page, “100% of all contributions and ticket sales will be donated to purchasing clothing and other material goods for homeless people in San Francisco.” While Brain Talks wants to spread technological awareness, it also wants to build awareness for the homeless. “It's all about inspiring people to solve a problem,” says Mattan Kitchales, the Brain Talks event coordinator. 

One of the main focuses for the talk explores the speech-based communication between humans and AI, such as with Amazon's Alexa or iPhone's Siri. When it comes to collaboration and communication, what is the best way to interact with these technologies? What other technologies, such as virtual reality and home furnishings, will integrate speech into their interfaces in the future? And – how does this new technology help our capacity to help others and the world around us?

Featured speakers include Meron Gribetz, CEO and founder of Meta Augmented Reality. On the heels of his 2016 TED talk, Gribetz has recently been named one of MIT’s Innovators Under 35 List. CEO and innovator Liesl Yearsley will also be speaking; Yearsley is a co-founder of Cognea Artificial Intelligence, a software company that created speech-driven AI, which was acquired by IBM in 2014. In addition to the talks, the event will also showcase virtual reality demonstrations and offers the first drink free to all registered attendees.

Brain Talks is inspired by the prevalence of artificial intelligence and its potential to impact our everyday lives. It explores the deeper question of using these technologies to enhance our innate capacity for doing good. The talks will not only be focused on the possibilities of these new technologies, but their utilization in ultimately producing positive social change.

The event will be on February 7th, starting at 7PM. You can purchase tickets here on Eventbrite. If you're interested in volunteering or becoming involved with this event, you can contact Venus Zheng at venus@avantsf.com.

Posted in General
Jan. 31, 2017

Imagine Talks Event an Inspiring Success

 

imagine talks


Imagine Talks, the all-day event promoting empowerment and social change, took place on January 14th and was an inspirational day of talks, empowerment, networking, and innovation. AvantSF was proud to be able to sponsor the event this year and to have Venus Zheng serving an instrumental role on the sponsorship committee. In addition to her important work securing many of the event's sponsors, Venus also hosted live videos of the event, which can all be viewed in their entirety on the Imagine Talks Facebook page, along with photos of all of the speakers during their talks.

The day-long TED-style talk gave experts in tech, entrepreneurship, and other talented artists the chance to share their story and inspirational advice. One particularly emotional moment occurred when Jennifer Tzeng, a gifted violinist, shared her deeply personal story of sexual abuse and trauma. Her courage and openness inspired many attendees.

 


As AvantSF Sales Associate Venus Zheng shares, “It's stories like [Jennifer's] that inspired all of us to get involved with events like Imagine Talks. When you encounter a very difficult situation in life, you embrace it, move forward and become a better and stronger person. Jennifer was able to overcome her dark past, continued her passion to influence and motivate those around her. Her message was very clear on how she envisions to change the world. Although her story was saddening, seeing her shine when she performed something she is truly passionate about was deeply inspirational.” You can view Jennifer's talk, as well as performance, in the Session 4 video around the 50 minute mark. 


Other volunteers also had wonderful memories to share from the event, taking to social media to share their experience of such an invigorating day. Francis Kong, the President at Edge Interns who help run the event, shared, “Thank you volunteer crew! You were all amazing in the planning and execution of the conference. This is a testament to the excellence of your work. Thank you for allowing me the honor of working with you!”

Rose Chung, founder of the Miss Asian American Pageant and sponsor of the talk, said, “It was teamwork to the extreme! Thanks to all of you, I was able to enjoy all of the awesome speakers. I think everyone walked away with an “a-ha” moment. I laughed, teared up, and jaw-dropped with the revealing stories from the heart. Thanks to the speakers who shared their wisdom; the timing was right for many of us to understand and accept the message. Serendipity occurred and many connections were made along the attendees. I am filled with gratitude.”

A special thank you goes to Miss Asian American Global and the Asian American Foundation for organizing the event, as well as Pivotal Labs for hosting.

This is the 3rd year for Imagine Talks; the event began back in 2014 with the mission to “promote mentorships, empower aspirations, and foster growth by sharing ideas, art, and stories of humanity.” Imagine Talks says they owe their success to the collaboration of speakers across many different fields of expertise, being limited only by their imagination, and this year's talk is no different. The innovation they're inspired will linger in the months to come. 

Posted in General
Jan. 27, 2017

How To Save For Your Dream Home Year-Long (Part 2)

 

This is part 2 of our article on saving for your dream home throughout the year. Check out part 1 for steps you can take this first quarter.

Saving to buy a home is no small task; it requires months of planning, budgeting, and researching. Last week, we introduced the steps you should be taking now to ensure you're ready to buy your dream home by the year's end. These include understanding the costs of buying a home, being familiar with your credit score, having a budget outlined, and understanding what you can realistically afford in a home. Have all that down? Great! Here's what you should continue to do throughout the year to make this a resolution you won't quit after spring: 

 

SUMMER

First: keep up with that budget. Diligently review your spendings with your savings goal in mind. Summer is a time when many of us let the cash flow freely – vacations, trips, and parties all equal relaxed spending. Keep yourself honest. If need be, re-evaluate your budget – can you trim anywhere else? Whatever you do, don't open up a new line of credit. You can ask for a higher credit limit on an existing card, but opening up a new card can hurt your credit score, which means hurting your chances of getting a mortgage later.

If you need help saving, consider a staycation this year. With your extra vacation time, why not explore the city you already live in? Catch up on personal projects, visit old friends, go hiking, or take day trips. It might not be what you planned, but think of how wonderful it'll feel to be in your new home by year's end because of your hard work and discipline. 

AUTUMN

You’ve saved up the money, you know your home-buying budget, and now's the time to start interviewing potential real estate agents. Look for someone that is knowledgeable, knows the market, and values your time. Now's the time to ask all of your burning questions, show your agent how prepared and committed you are, and start understanding what sort of home is in your budget.

During this time, keep your eye on mortgage interest rates. Rates can often change, and don't assume that when you go to get approved, you can get the lowest available rate possible. Your interest rate also depends on your lender, so keep this in mind as you move on to the final phase of home buying. 

 

WINTER

Now that you've found an agent to work with, it's time to find a mortgage lender. Remember: resist any drastic activity on your accounts. This is the time when a lender will carefully scrutinize your financial activity: be ready to show W2s, tax returns, and documentation for any large cash transfers or deposits. You'll definitely want to compare lenders and quotes, but a good starting point is with your existing bank or credit union – you'll want to feel comfortable with your lender and know that all your questions are welcome.

Remember to not overspend during the holiday season while going through the approval process. If you're worried about hitting your down payment amount, suggest financial gifts instead, or set up a registry so loved ones can donate towards furnishing your future home.

With that, get to home shopping! You're ready for it, after preparing yourself year-long for this moment. Review our top 10 common mistakes that first-time home buyers make to give yourself an extra boost of preparedness.

Posted in Buyers
Jan. 17, 2017

How to Save For Your Dream Home Year Long

 

This is part 1 of a 2 part article on saving for your dream home this year.

A new year brings a new set of goals, dreams, and resolutions. 2017 might be the year where you have “save for my dream homeon that list. Making the commitment to be in a new home by the end of the year is a wonderful decision, but as you know, it's also a huge commitment that requires planning, saving, and spending. It might be overwhelming at first, even seeming impossible. Start by thinking small: focusing on quarterly goals instead of year-end goals will split the planning into smaller, manageable chunks. Here, we cover steps you need to take in the first quarter, which involves taking action to prep your bank and savings account. Begin with these five things:

 

Know the costs.
Educate yourself. Study the market, mortgage rates, closing costs, typical expenses. Don't let yourself fall privy to one of the ten mistakes that most homebuyers make. Most importantly, learn how much you will need to start saving. A good goal is to save for 20% of the home's purchase price. This can be used later as your down payment. Planning for a 20% down payment will allow you better options for mortgage and interest rates

 

working

 

Check your credit.
In addition to planning to save for a down payment, know your credit score inside and out. Your ability to borrow is largely dependent on your score, so now is the time to make sure you will have the score you need for the mortgage rate you desire. Get in the habit of checking your score every month (there are free credit score websites that won't negatively affect your score, such as CreditKarma.com). If need be, plan to start raising your score. Extra payments, higher lines of credit, and reducing your interest rate can all improve your score. A good rule is to use 30% or less of your available credit on each card - plan now in this first quarter to stay under that number.

Open a savings account.
After planning for a down payment and knowing your credit score, another major thing you should do in this quarter is open a savings account just for your down payment fund. You will stay organized throughout the year if you have a separate account with a specific purpose and goal in mind. For more peace of mind, set up an automatic transfer from your checking to savings. An automatic transfer will take that extra money out of sight, meaning you won't be tempted to spend it.

planning

 

Stick to a budget.
How much to move from checking to savings? Ah, yes, the final piece of the puzzle is to establish (and stick to) a budget. Creating a budget is crucial to keeping a healthy credit and steadily growing savings so you can meet your goal by year's end. There are many tips to creating a budget, but most importantly, create a line between what is necessary and what is not. Rent, bills, loan payments – necessary. Spontaneous trips and lavish meals out? Maybe not as necessary – at least, not while you're saving to buy a home. Once you pin down what's left over each month after necessities, figure out how much of that needs to go into savings each month to reach your 20% down payment goal. 

Be realistic.
A 20% down payment goal might be quite high; it usually means a few thousand of dollars a month just into savings, which is often more than most can afford. This is where a budget is crucial. It will show you whether you actually can afford that dream house you've been having your eye on, or whether it will stay in your dreams. Taking a cold, hard look at your finances this quarter and making a plan – by getting educated, knowing your credit score, opening a savings, and creating a budget – is the first step into making your dream of home ownership a reality.

Stay tuned next week for part 2 of our article, which covers tips to help keep up with your plan year-long. Follow the AvantSF blog every week for more insight on buying, selling, home decorating, and more.

Posted in Buyers
Jan. 3, 2017

Imagine Talks and AvantSF Inspire for Social Change

 

Avant Real Estate Group is proud to be a sponsor for Imagine Talks, a collaborative event focused on entrepreneurship, empowerment, and inspiring the community to make a difference in the world. AvantSF luxury specialist Venus Zheng is on the committee for the event this year and will be providing live Facebook coverage for the event on January 14th. Venus was also instrumental in securing the event's venue this year, which will be at Pivotal Labs, an innovative software company passionate about changing the world. While on the sponsorship committee, Venus secured other name brand sponsors such as Glico and Itoen, who will be serving up snacks and beverages for the event.

 

Venus Zheng portrait

Venus joined the sponsorship committee because she is “passionate about their mission and what they are doing for the community,” she says. The goal of the talk is to inspire and mentor as many individuals as possible by using “innovation, art, new big ideas, and stories to make a difference in the world.” 


The talk will feature many prominent and important guest speakers to inspire change and new ideas. A few noted guest speakers include Kevin Lin, COO of Twitch.tv, Jessica Lim, Miss Asian America 2016, and Fiona Ma, member at the California Board of Equalization. Many other CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs, and influencers are scheduled to attend and speak. The full list of speakers is available at the Imagine Talks website. The talk will be a great opportunity to network with those who are actively making social changes and promoting growth in the community.

Imagine Talks began in 2014 and is presented by the Asian American Foundation with Edge Interns. Their mission is to “promote mentorships, empower aspirations, and foster growth by sharing ideas, art, and stories of humanity.” Imagine Talks says they owe their success to the collaboration of speakers across many different fields of expertise, being limited only by their imagination.

Imagine talks is an all day TED-like event on January 14th; tickets to this one-day only event are still available. For those not based in the San Francisco area and don't want to miss out, Venus will be hosting live video features on the Imagine Talks Facebook page, giving a look behind-the-scenes at the event, as well as interviewing guest speakers.

If you're like Venus, and want to make a difference and impact in the community, you can still help sponsor or promote the event. If you're interested in becoming involved with this unique and inspirational talk, please contact Venus Zheng at venus@avantsf.com for more information.

 

Posted in General
Dec. 21, 2016

The Dos and Don'ts for Hosting Holiday Guests

Sometimes, hosting guests can seem more frustrating than fun. This is especially true during this time of year – add in the stress of holiday shopping, cooking, wrapping, and planning, and it's no surprise your home is chaos by the end. The holidays should be a time to welcome loved ones into your home and celebrate the season together. Our hosting tips below will let you focus on the joy of the season as you navigate having more bodies than usual in your home. Read on for our list of what to do (and of course, what not to do) when hosting guests over the holidays.

Do:

MAKE THEM FEEL AT HOME

This is an obvious first, but don't overlook the small touches you can add that make your home seem inviting. Simply clearing out your entryway and leaving spaces on your coat and shoe rack can make a guest feel more welcome upon arrival. Arrange for extra closet space for large suitcases - tucking these away will make guests feel more settled. A extra throw blanket and reading lamp are nice touches for the guest room. Techies will appreciate a charging station for electronics as well.

STOCK THE KITCHEN

Keep the cabinet full of quick snacks that guests can grab in a pinch. Especially for those late night grazers: leaving out a cookie jar or fruit bowl will make it easy for them to pick something quick. This goes for drinks as well; a simple drink station stocked with water, hot chocolate packets, and a coffee carafe can keep guests satisfied.

KEEP IT FESTIVE

Want to keep the holiday cheer alive? Sprinkle it around your home! Christmas lights, garland, wreaths, candles, music, and more can add that festive touch and keep spirits light. Check out our 20 DIY tips for decorating for the holidays for more inspiration and quick ideas.

MAKE ENTERTAINING EASY

Don't feel like you must keep your guests entertained 24/7. Set out family-friendly board games on a side table in the living room for easy access. In addition, a stack of classic Christmas films next to the entertainment center can hold over guests while you're busy around the house. These encourage family participation in a low-effort way.

ACCOMMODATE ANY SPECIAL NEEDS

If young children are coming to visit, make sure your place is toddler-proof first. It might not be obvious to you, but remember, children can usually find their way into anything. Double check your locks on cabinets holding hazardous or breakable items. The same goes for pets! In addition, follow up with your guests on any particular food allergies and diets. They will appreciate your efforts to ensure there's something in the house they can indulge in, too.

ENLIST HELP

Yes, they are your guests, but they are also most likely staying without charge at your home, so put them to work! Delegate simple tasks like cutting veggies for dinner or setting the table. Dirty work, like the dishes and trash, are best left to the guests you're more comfortable with, like family members (just don't get too bossy!).

Don't:

BRING UP OFF-LIMIT TOPICS FOR CONVERSATION

While you should create an inviting atmosphere, that does not mean you have to invite guests to speak rudely or hurtfully around the house. Set boundaries for what you will tolerate and, if need be, agree with guests on a list of topics that will simply not be discussed. A minefield of divisive conversations will eventually make your home explode.

LET THEM OVERINDULGE 

If you know your guests struggle with indulgence or addiction, don't enable these behaviors. Feel free to cut guests off if they've had more than their share. Don't let guests be a danger to themselves or others while under your roof. Take control of the rules of your home and enforce them.

STRESS THE SMALL STUFF

Is the centerpiece lopsided? A few ornaments broken? It's OK! Your guests more than likely won't notice these small details and won't judge you if you're not the perfect host. Don't fall into stress and drama with details that ultimately won't matter. Spending time with loved ones is what's important – foster that environment as much as possible.

TAKE IT PERSONALLY IF THEY TURN SOMETHING DOWN

If guests can't make a movie or dinner arrangement, don't feel personally offended. Traveling is quite exhausting, and many guests are simply looking to relax. It doesn't reflect on your hosting skills. It's always good to check with guests before they arrive if you've arranged any plans, and feel free to ask them what they would like to do while in town.


Overall, remember that guests have made this trip to see you and your family – and not to judge to state of your home. Opening your home to others shows generosity and compassion, and let that be your compass this season. Our tips above can help ease any tension and focus on what's important. Enjoy the season and your valuable time with those you love. 

Posted in General
Dec. 14, 2016

20 DIY Ways to Decorate Your Home for the Holidays

Once again, the holiday season is upon us, and it's a great chance to spread the festivity throughout your home. Decorating your home to fit the season can get you and your family in the spirit and spread the cheer to all who visit. While there are many traditional ways to spruce up your home - such as a tree or wreath - there are many new, innovative, and easy ways to change up your decor this season. Check out our favorite tips and tricks for easily decorating your home this holiday season:

ADD AN OUTDOOR TREE

Sure, we all know that the big fancy tree belongs in the house, but a lean, untrimmed, and bare spruce next to the door can add extra charm and set the tone before stepping inside.

CRAFT YOUR OWN TREES

Yes, the more trees, the merrier! This symbol of the season can be reinvented in many ways: stand-up felt trees, artfully arranged books, and even ornaments by themselves pinned up to resemble a tree can easily add cheer.

FILL YOUR HOUSE WITH GIFTS

Under the tree looking crowded? Spread wrapped gifts - or faux gifts from wrapped boxes - around your home. Stack boxes on a bookshelf, window ledge, or basically any corner that needs some love.

FILL UP THE ENTRYWAY

It's hard to limit the ornaments on the tree - add those extras to an evergreen garland and drape along a doorway or banister. You can also hang ornaments from ribbons around the home for an extra festive feel.

DRESS UP A CENTERPIECE

A bowl of candy or nuts is too commonplace - create a fun centerpiece with extra shiny ball ornaments, leftover wrapping paper, and a few candles for an eye-catching look.

REPURPOSE WINE BOTTLES

Wrap bottles in shiny wrapping paper and place candlesticks in the opening for an easy but charming holiday look.

MAKE YOUR OWN STOCKINGS

You can use secondhand sweaters, mittens, or even an old quilt to create your own rustic and personalized decor to hang from your mantle. There are many easy to follow stocking instructions if you're not so handy with the needle. Get sewing with these step-by-step instructions.

THE MORE GLITTER, THE BETTER

Lack of snow bringing you down? Silvery glitter is a great trick for giving your home an icy frost feel. Roll ornaments or faux fruit in white and silver glitter to give your accessories a winter shine.

DECORATE WITH NUTS

Skip the nutcracker bowl: use walnuts and cranberries to fill vases and jars for festive flavor throughout your home. Add a tall pillar candle in the middle to complete the look.

EMBRACE NATURE

Bringing in the green will keep your home feeling alive. Mix real evergreen clippings into faux garland or centerpieces, or let the clippings live in a small vase (watered daily) to add a real life mini-tree to the mix.

SHOW OFF THOSE HOLIDAY CARDS

All of those cards from coworkers and family can add to the decor with a simple framing. Attach cards to string lights or hang from a staircase to make you smile as you move throughout the house.

GIVE THE WREATH A SNOWY UPDATE

Add a touch of the winter chill to your standard wreath with glittered pinecones, berry sprigs, and a touch of faux snow to encourage that seasonal feeling. 

FAKE A FIREPLACE

Apartment living? No worries: stack logs and candles to create a fireplace effect, or simply chalk one up yourself!
These step-by-step instructions show you how to turn a canvas dropcloth into a faux mantel wall hanging that you can simply roll up and store when the holidays are over.

DON'T FORGET THE SNOWMAN

Use foam balls and fresh white carnations to create a floral and friendly snowman for your house. These tips and instructions make this a fun family project you can complete while watching your favorite holiday movie.

GET INVENTIVE WITH MASON JARS

Fill mason jars with Christmas lights to create festive lighting throughout the house. Or, add Epsom salt for a snowy look and tiny votives. Or, stack jars like a pyramid and wrap with garland to resemble your own mason jar tree - the possibilities are endless!

CREATE A COUNTDOWN

Advent calendars are popular holiday decor, but you can easily create your own! Pin up a board and get crafty with wrapping paper, ribbons, and gift tags to creatively count down the days. You can fill a handmade chicken-wire cloche with small wrapped gifts, colorful ornaments and ribbons. Download the advent tags and more (free!) holiday printables.

GET CREATIVE WITH GIFT WRAP

Holiday gift wrap isn't just for pretty packages; you can also put it to work to give everyday items, like serving plates, a holiday makeover. Just cut the paper to size and line serving ware for a festive look on the fly. Also, use wrapping paper to dress up kitchen cabinets! Just cut wrapping paper to fit the size and stick with double-sided tape.

DECK THE WINDOWS

Bring the feeling of chill inside by adding some frost to your windows. Use plain white copy paper and printable snowflake templates to string together cut-out snowflakes, creating a chilly curtain for any size window inside your home. Get crafting with these step-by-step instructions.

CHAIR ADORNMENTS

Create festive dining chair embellishments to coordinate with your tabletop decor. Wrap and tie a two-loop bow in the center of each chair using two-inch ribbon in your preferred seasonal colors. Embellish the center of each bow with greenery, pinecones and berries. Get step-by-step instructions.

CREATE UNIQUE ORNAMENTS

Scraps of wrapping paper look pretty as a picture when tucked inside nickel frames. In addition, vintage baking molds add a sweet touch to any tree; simply hot-glue ribbon loops to their backs and hang.

Many of these DIY holiday decorations can be completed today. Not only will these festive ideas spruce up your home, but the decor will also provide heartwarming fun for your family and friends to create together -- because isn't that the point of the holidays? Spend time with your loved ones and turn your home into a holiday wonderland.

Posted in General
Dec. 7, 2016

Feng Shui Brings Ancient Harmony To Modern Homes (Part 2)

This is the final installment of a series of two articles regarding feng shui and how you can easily incorporate the philosophy into your home.

As we mentioned in part one of our article series, feng shui is the practice of creating balance and harmony in your home by thoughtful arrangement of your living space. While there are feng shui experts you can hire to create this balance, there are also many easy, affordable steps you can take yourself to make your home feel a little lighter and brighter. Below is a practical list of many feng shui strategies professionals use that you can easily incorporate into your home today to bring balance and harmony.

1. Keep your home uncluttered and clean.

An easy first step, but one that is often overlooked. Don't let mail pile up on the table; make sure dishes are cleaned by the end of the night. A simple vacuum or mopping can make a room feel fresh and remove a layer of dust we often overlook. 

 

2. Open the doors and windows to let the fresh air in.

As often as possible, let your house be filled with fresh, outdoor air. This creates ventilation, which is an important principle of feng shui. In addition, keep all doorways unblocked to allow chi to flow into your home.

 

3. Keep indoor plants.

According to feng shui, plants represent life and soften the energy of the home. Plants also provide oxygen, purify the indoor air, and add a bit of greenery. 

 

4. Get a chiming clock or play music.

Background noise will make your house feel alive and vibrant. The steady ticking of a clock can create a rhythm and order in the home. 

 

5. Make sure your furniture is proportionate to the room size.

Overcrowding a room can feel stifling; it also limits the amount of air flow, which is important in feng shui. In addition, make sure to provide cozy, inviting fabrics and materials throughout your home. Remember, the choice of paint color can affect your mood, too. 

 

6. Have more square objects rather than round.

Roundness denotes movement while square denotes stillness and stability. In your home, this can have a calming effect and make your home feel less busy. 

 

7. Align bed against a wall. 

Particularly, not a wall where there is a toilet on the other side. Also, it is considered bad luck if the headboard of the bed is on the same wall as the bedroom door or under a window. 

 

8. Create equal amounts of bed space and floor space.

Make sure the surface area of the bed is not greater than half of the surface area of the entire room. Take proper measurements before bed shopping to make sure you can fit that king size in your space without throwing off the harmony of the room. 

 

9. Do not have reflective surfaces — such as mirrors or televisions — where you can see yourself while in bed.

Your time in your bed is your personal time when you are free from judgement or appearances. It is also not good to have "other people" depicted in your bedroom (paintings of other people, statues, etc).

 

10. Decorate bathroom space with plants and a large mirror. 

Plants and flowers are especially important in the bathroom to bring in vitality. Your bathroom shouldn't be cluttered, but your toilet shouldn't be prominently displayed either, as seeing a toilet represents money and luck going down the drain.

Posted in Buyers, General