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Crystal Halley

Associate Broker

Crystal's Blog Corner

Get The Look: Transitional-Style Kitchen


The Basics: Mixing Old and New

Fundamentally, transitional style is all about balancing traditional and contemporary elements to achieve an elegant style that doesn't feel too stuffy or minimalist.

Often this means taking evocative traditional shapes and applying a contemporary finish to them. For example, take a look at this beautiful bridge faucet. It's a very traditional style of faucet, but when used in an au courant brass finish (as opposed to, say, a rustic blackened bronze), it feels quite contemporary.

Essential: Shaker Cabinets

Perhaps the best example of this balancing of traditional and contemporary elements is the Shaker style cabinet front.

These cabinet doors and drawers typically have a flat panel in the middle with a raised flat border at the edges and no "profiling" (i.e., no fancy curved molding). This gives a bit more richness than a minimalist flat-front cabinet without feeling fussy. Cabinets in this style would have traditionally been wood toned, as built by the original Shakers, but they achieve a nice balance of old and new when painted in a crisp, contemporary shade.

The Palette: White and Gray with Neutrals

White Shaker cabinets are not seen in every transitional kitchen, but they are certainly a popular pick. This is likely because the freshness of white instantly makes any space feel more spacious.

Again, transitional kitchens are not strictly minimalist either, so the white is usually mixed with grays, woods, enticing metallics and other neutrals and textural elements for a friendly palette.

Dark and charcoal grays are quite popular as well, either instead of white cabinets or added alongside white for a tuxedo effect. Deep, true-neutral grays feel classic and sophisticated but also up-to-date.

For a fun twist, a dark gray chalkboard paint gives a room a sense of levity that keeps the mood from being too somber.

For those who prefer a bit more color, blue and blue-grays make a perfect hue for fixed elements like cabinets or floor tiles. This sort of color makes white porcelain and polished stone appear even more fresh, and it will work with changing accent hues in future years.

Essential: Rich Woods

Mixing these broad strokes of crisp paint with wood brings in much needed texture, so it's very common to see transitional kitchens with wood floors, wood bar stools and butcher block counters. Flooring planks in a herringbone layout bring additional richness, playing up the positives of traditional parquet floors in a way that doesn't feel stuck in the past.

Sometimes the best way to use wood is unexpectedly, like as an accent on a vertical surface (like the side panels of a wall cabinet) or even on the ceiling. This brings in natural texture in a way that definitely won't leave your space feeling as if it's outdated.

Essential: Sparkling Stone

For quite a time, dark granite was widely seen as the top choice for countertops. But for a coveted transitional style, a lightly flecked or veined marble or quartz brings a mature sensibility without looking heavy. It's just rich enough to suit the more traditional elements, but crisp enough to also work with contemporary accents. It's great for all of the counters, or with a contrast stone or butcher block on an island for pleasing contrast.

Essential: Subway Tile

While we're talking hard surfaces, here's another key transitional style staple: subway tile. Whether you go for seamless off-white grout or a darker accent tone, humble white subway tile carries a timeless sense of elegance and simplicity, holding its own without fighting to be the star of the show.

Slab Backsplashes

That isn't to say that subway tile is the only option, of course. Another very popular choice is to simply continue the counter material up the wall. This leans toward a more contemporary look, turning the counter and backsplash into a singular dramatic statement.

Mosaic Backsplashes

If you prefer the look of a mosaic backsplash, consider choosing one in a neutral palette in a rich, classic pattern rather than one in a trendy accent color. This is another great place to consider a herringbone installation or a tile with an interesting shape such as fish-scale or hexagon. This will suit the transitional style and help you avoid passing color trends in an area that's not easy to update.

Essential: Stainless Steel

Stainless steel appliances are highly coveted but especially so in transitional kitchens, where they bring a chef's-kitchen appeal and help integrate modern features into a somewhat traditional setting. Plus, adding some strong elements of crisp metal offsets the organic character of wood floors and stone counters. If you don't currently have the budget (or the desire) to use stainless steel appliances throughout, consider using this finish for just one appliance like the range or through other accents like cabinet hardware.

Essential: Modern Furnishings

If you stick to just traditional trappings, you might end up with a kitchen that slides from transitional to just traditional overall. This is where some great modern furniture pieces come in, such as high-tech extruded dining chairs, midcentury bent metal barstools, cool industrial accent lights or a minimalist dining table.

Splurge: Statement Pendants

Your lighting is a great place to splurge, as it always makes for a natural center of attention. In transitional style, it's very common to see sizable lights in a simple material and shape, relying on the drama of their size to catch your eye without being so bold as to overwhelm your field of vision when you sit down to snack.

Humble schoolhouse, dome or cone shapes are popular, as are glass globes or lantern-style fixtures. Like most of the other elements described here, they carry a subtle, traditional air without being fussy or too ornate.

You can use the lights as an opportunity to introduce a new accent material or color, such as a hint of red or copper, or match them to another finish in the space. These cone pendants pair nicely with the base of the stools.

Finishing Touch: Traditional Rug

As a tailor-made finish to your transitional space, a warm, colorful traditional rug will make sure it doesn't feel too staid, bringing a splash of personality and sense of relaxed confidence. Try a runner placed alongside your island or even in the main workspace, or a full rug anchoring an eat-in kitchen table.






Five No Regrets Real Estate Buying Strategies To Avoid Missing-Out


In real estate, "the one that got away" stories get told and retold, usually with little satisfaction to the teller.

The real estate you didn't buy, but still wish you had, can weigh heavily on your mind and may even top your "Big Regrets List."

Every piece of real estate, vacant or otherwise, is unique. Once a property is sold, searching for its exact match is fruitless. Compromise becomes key.

Here are Five No-Regrets Buyer Strategies to spare you dreaming about a property you missed out on:

#1. View When You Can Buy:There's a whole group out there who casually visited an open house for a number of reasons but who were not ready to buy. When the property proved to be "it" — their dream home — and they could not buy it, missing out haunted future home searches. View homes when your finances are in place and you can put in an offer, just in case the open house you visit is the "one."

#2. Buy Before The Market Turns:When real estate prices are down or stalled, jump in. Your purchasing power goes further. Those who wait to see whether the market will come back or that a neighborhood will catch on can find themselves squeezed out of properties they could have afforded during the slump. Real estate professionals have been tracking prices and value longer than you have, so talk to them about where opportunity lies for you now.

#3. Buy The Abutting Condo Unit: If noise is an issue, buying the unit over yours can mean quieter living while expanding your home into a two-level delight. If you'd like to widen your terrace and add interior space in the process, consider purchasing an abutting unit. Before you select a condominium complex, check out rules on combining units to be sure you know your options. Contractors can tell you which approach makes sense and project costs. Keep an eye on what happens around you.

#4. Buy The Abutting Property: Keep in touch with the neighbors whose properties surround yours, so you act quickly when someone decides to sell. Protect your view by buying the vacant lot across the street; protect the mature trees edging your property by buying that land; protect your mutual driveway or other access by purchasing that abutting property; protect your solar rights before a new owner builds a sunshine-blocking monster home. Anticipation is a key talent in real estate ownership. It's not only what's happening now that should occupy owner's thoughts, but what could happen next to upset their current use and peace of mind.

# 5. Investigate That Amazing Property: Do you have a special lot or recreational property that you have always admired? Is there a house or condominium unit that you feel would suit you and your family beautifully? If the property you love is suddenly listed, act just as quickly to get your real estate professional working for you. You may have even put this expert on notice in case that property comes on the market. If you have your eye on a property that's not listed, tell your real estate professional and they'll approach the owner and get the ball rolling for you. Sometimes, this proactive approach nets buyers a dream home without having to search the market.

The ultimate strategy to ensure you get the real estate you want is to put in an offer!

That's the crucial task that real estate professionals take responsibility for by asking a buyer to put in an offer when they show interest in a property.

If you don't make it to the offer stage, that real estate may be a property that was never within your grasp in the first place.


Modern Exterior Decor To Update Your Holiday Home


Perhaps you've had the same holiday décor for decades and are ready to modernize your look. Maybe you just moved into a new home and decided this was a great time to start fresh. Either way, you probably want to make sure your new holiday décor reflects modern trends. We've got ideas.

White on white


It doesn't get any more elegant than white lights along the architectural lines of your home. This classic look gets a modern touch by keeping it simple while still looking festive, without needing to add more lights or displays to your lawn or other parts of the landscape.


Add some sparkle


If you do want to add to the basic look, try this Everglow 2980-22 100 Clear White Wire Light Set, $9 on Amazon, which was voted best white lights by The Spruce. "The Holiday Wonderland light sets are ideal for indoor and outdoor use," they said. "These mini-incandescent bulbs hold up remarkably well to the elements and don't overheat, making them a safe bet for decorating the Christmas tree, the mantle, or anywhere outdoors. Reviewers love the set for the simplicity, warm light it gives off and low cost." 



LED lights have been growing in popularity every year and have recently surpassed incandescent lights. They may still be a bit more expensive than their incandescent counterparts, but they use only about 10 percent of the electricity, are less of a fire risk, and last two to three times longer.

Amazon users love these TaoTronics Dimmable lights, which "give you ultimate control with 10 settings to adjust brightness and lighting modes like a strobe function, flashing, fade and more," said The Spruce. "They come in warm white or our favorite pick, the multi-colored set. Featuring 33 ft. of easily adjustable, bendable, sealed copper wiring, this set allows you to wrap and illuminate any holiday decorating project." The 100-light set comes with a remote control(!) and costs $15 on Amazon.

C9 Bulbs

After many years of small bulbs dominating the market, larger C9 bulbs have made a resurgence. You can choose from white bulbs, twinkling versions, multi-colored, and ceramic, which "have the traditional colors that look like the bulbs have been dipped in latex paint," said NoveltyLights.com. These ceramic C9 replacement lamps are prefect if you are looking for a classic and colorful display. Come to think of it, if it's been many years since you updated your lights, this "everything old is new again" look might be what you already have!

Pre-lit garland

Garland is not a revolutionary idea, but if your garland dates back to the days when you had to use your own strands of lights to get some sparkle, you'll love how simple and elegant these pre-lit versions are. "Save yourself the hassle of wrangling string lights around swaths of evergreens and opt for these natural-looking strands instead," said Good Housekeeping. "Twist them around porch poles and bannisters, or frame the front door using Command hooks." 

Rope lights

You can always wrap your trees with traditional lights, however these make installation super simple and also may be less attractive to rabbits and other cord-eaters. You can also "use these waterproof lights to wrap pillars or fences," said HomeBNC. "Made out of flexible material, these lights can bend and shape to fit any decoration idea you may have."




5 Easy Design Tips For A Zen Bedroom


A good night’s sleep is a much-coveted dream of many, and for good reason. Research from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute shows that sleep is vital for emotional well-being, decision-making, physical health and creativity. And yet 45 percent of Americans report that poor sleep negatively affects their life at least one day a week, the National Sleep Foundation says. Luckily, there are some proven strategies to rediscover dreamland, and they all start with a zen bedroom. From design decisions to color choices, here are five easy ways to transform your bedroom into a calm, peaceful environment so you can relax and get the best possible rest.

1. Choose a Natural Color Palette


Neutrals like white, gray and warm brown provide a timeless backdrop that evokes the calmness of nature and matches any accent color for an ordered space. A dresser, bed frame and nightstands in a natural wood stain look great against misty gray walls and crisp white window trim and baseboards.

For walls, try a light and airy paint color like Sherwin-Williams Passive with the buttery-smooth Cashmere finish. If you want to try a more colorful accent wall, opt for a light shade of blue that is associated with relaxation and wisdom.

2. Invest in a Great Bed


A substantial and comfortable bed promotes a good night's sleep. If space allows, opt for a king-size mattress with a dense memory foam core. This provides the maximum support on pressure points like hips and shoulders while keeping the spine aligned. The larger size will also minimize any disruptions from a partner’s movements during the night.

When arranging the furniture, position the bed against the wall farthest from the door, HGTV.com suggests. This helps achieve a sense of safety and allows for foot traffic to flow through the room. Also, consider anchoring the bed with a heavy wooden, leather or upholstered headboard, or even a dark accent wall to create a sense of being enveloped or cocooned.

3. Display Beautiful Art

Choose art that is pleasing to look at and calming in its effect. Black-and-white photographs, landscapes or abstract prints of water or foliage work well. Whatever the style or medium, think simplicity and minimalism.

When hanging artwork above the bed, ensure that it feels connected to the bed rather than floating above it. To accomplish this, measure eight to 10 inches above the headboard — that’s where the bottom of the artwork’s frame should be.

4. Pay Special Attention to Lighting

One of the most annoying ways to lose sleep is glaring sunlight flooding your space. To create a nurturing and intimate sleep space, cover windows with light-blocking roller shades framed by beautiful linen drapes.

To give the room a romantic glow at night, frame the bed on either side with table lamps or wall-mounted reading lamps. Soft indirect light, rather than the harsh brightness of overhead light, will help to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.

5. Layer on the Natural Textiles

From wool rugs to cotton bedding, go overboard on high-quality natural textiles. The softness of the material will cushion sound and make comfort and calm a priority.

For large area rugs, look for 100 percent wool since the synthetic blends don’t hold up as well to traffic and vacuuming. When shopping for bed sheets, choose 100 percent cotton with longer fibers such as Egyptian, pima and supima.

Now you’re ready to create your own zen bedroom. Go forth with calmness, serenity and balance.


8 Unusual Factors that Can Affect Your Home’s Value


Most of us think that it’s all about location when it comes to real estate, and that is true for the most part. However, there are a multitude of quirky or even unusual factors that can affect your home’s price; and we’re not just talking of lot size, number of bedrooms, total square footage, number of bathrooms, and when the home was built.

There are some factors that seem unimportant or of no value at first, but can have a huge impact on your home’s marketability and price.

Your House Number

Believe it or not, some numbers simply don’t sit well with some people, be it because of their cultural background or just a personal quirk. The number 4 is frowned upon by some Asian cultures and a few 6s in a row would throw off those with a certain religious inclination, therefore the home might have to be priced lower to generate a sale. Statistics also show that for homes listed for more than a million, about 25% have 9 as the last non-zero digit.

What’s In a Name?

Your street’s name play a huge role in driving up your home’s price. Generally speaking, an address on a boulevard or an avenue allows you to command a higher price than one on a random street.

Trees Are The Your Friend

The presence of mature trees generally improves property value and lends a certain aura of prestige unto the property. Have a few mature trees lining up the street and buyers would come knocking on your door.

Death Is Never Good

Some cities require that a death on the property has to be mentioned when selling a place, thereby possibly scaring off some buyers. Some even require you to mention supernatural occurrences such as ghosts.


Noisy and/or nosy neighbors is a turn-off! Inconsiderate neighbors will chase away buyers right from the moment they get a glimpse of the noise or unusual behavior. On the other hand, a simple house in a good quiet neighborhood usually sells for more than the asking price.

Details and Finishes

Almost everyone knows that fancy finishes and materials such as chrome and granite can drive up a home’s value, but do you know that crown moulding does the same (for the most part)? Add some crown moulding to add extra class to your home.

Popular Stores Nearby

Having Whole Foods, Starbucks, and Trader Joe’s nearby can boost your property’s value by as much as 40%. People will pay for convenience, that’s a fact.


Your Sports Fan Gear

Whether you are wearing your sports fan gear or got them on display, a home buyer who’s a fan if the rival team is likely to perceive you and your home as not good in their book and either offer a lower price or won’t go through with the sale. If they are a fan of the same team, the opposite happens. This is why it is best to keep things neutral by removing personal items when staging a home.




Is Now The Right Time For A Kitchen Remodel?


It's totally normal for those kitchen remodeling pangs to go crazy during the holidays. If you've spent time at a friend or family member's house that has a freshly updated kitchen, you may be feeling a little envious. If you hosted over the holidays, your kitchen's shortcomings may be top of mind. But is this the best time of year to finally go ahead with that remodel? It may just be.

"Many people think spring and summer are the best times to do a remodel because the temperature is warm and can be beneficial for the work crew especially if they have to work outside," said C. Haynes Construction. "The best time to remodel is not necessarily a when but a what. It's best to remodel when your budget and hassle will be at a minimum."


About that budget

Say you set a $20,000 budget for your remodel - just under $22,000 is a national average for amid-range kitchen remodel. That number may be solely based on what you can afford, but not necessarily enough to cover what you want. Working closely with a designer and/or contractor to establish your budget based on needs and wants is step #1.

Things like walls being taken down, whether or not your cabinets need to be replaced or if they can be refaced or painted instead, the quality of new appliances you want, and the cost of other materials will help determine the cost. And, you may be able to get a better deal on some of what you need at certain times of the year.

"This principle of supply and demand can determine how much we pay for items. For example, December 26th is a great day to pick up Christmas decorations for next year," said C. Haynes Construction. "Why? The holiday is over and they're on sale. The same can be said for home improvement items. Large appliances like refrigerators, stoves and dishwashers are pretty cheap before the holiday season kicks in. Another example is flooring. Flooring is often affected by the price of oil (for shipping and production). During the winter, the cost of crude oil is cheaper so you may want to buy the flooring then. It's also a good time to buy in the late winter and very early spring because new flooring lines are coming out and there are deals on lines being discontinued or upgraded."

Indeed, flooring, as well as items like backsplash tile and faucets have been among the Black Friday deals we've been seeing at big box stores this year. Home Depot and Lowe's have both been running 40% off appliance specials that go through November 30 and which can save you thousands of dollars. Even if you're not planning to remodel right away, purchasing appliances now may be a good idea.

Labor Costs


Remodeling your kitchen during the winter, which can be the slow season for many, may also save you money on labor costs because you're not paying a premium for subcontractors and skilled labor.

"If we're talking seasons, winter is ideal for deals," said Build Direct. "Among cold weather's natural benefits, such as curing paint faster, is that it traditionally represents a time when contractors are hungry for work."

Look for openings in your contractors' schedule

Even top contractors and designers may have a light time, and it's probably right now. While some remodeling projects may not be best to undertake in the winter (like building a pool in a snowy climate, perhaps), hacking away at your kitchen in December or January may be a great way to get what you want quickly, and for less money out of pocket.

"With some early planning and a little flexibility, you might be able to get your project in motion well before the main rush, allowing you to finish a little earlier and allowing your contractor to work more efficiently, as he or she won't have any other projects to contend with," said Home Advisor. "Since you'll be providing work for your contractor when little is available, you are likely to get excellent service. Since the mistakes and backtracking are likely to be greatly reduced, the ‘slightly off-season' is one of the best times to remodel!


House Hunting? How Good Manners Can Help Get The Home You Want


As most people know, the real estate market shifts between a buyers' or sellers' market, depending on supply and demand. However, regardless of which market we're currently in, buyer etiquette can help you get the home you want with the least amount of stress.

It may sound odd to some, especially first-time homebuyers, but manners matter when it comes to the real estate transaction. I'm not talking about "Please" and "Thank you." So, what exactly does this mean?

Buyer etiquette is not only about doing the things that are vital to helping sales go through but it's also about general manners like being on time for your viewing of a home, being prepared with your financial documents, and being responsive when requests for documents, signatures, or answers are needed from your real estate professionals.

This isn't about lecturing buyers about minding their manners; rather, think of this as the inside tips to helping land the home you really want. For instance, sometimes, being late for a viewing of a listing could cause you to lose that particular home. In a really hot real estate market, if you're late or you don't show up for the listing, you might not get a second chance - the home could be sold.

Another consideration is to be aware of how much time you need to view a home. If you try to see too many homes in one day, chances are you're not going to treat each home with the same respect. The first homes might get lots of attention by you in terms of time and what you notice. However, by the time you're on, say, 15th home of the day, you might be so tired that you blaze through it barely giving this last home the attention it deserves. You'll end up wasting your time and potentially making a poor choice because you were worn out when you viewed it. Instead, you may have to return to the last few homes you viewed that day. While it's often expected to return to a home you're very interested in, it's time-consuming to have to return to several homes simply because you weren't able to focus or pay attention in great detail.

One of the most important etiquette tips is to make sure that you've been pre-approved and are a serious buyer, ready to take action should you find the right home. Shopping for homes is serious business. It's likely the largest monetary transaction you'll make; being financially and emotionally prepared is good etiquette and will help expedite the process.

When viewing a home, if the sellers are present (sometimes this happens), don't share your likes or dislikes about the home with them. Be courteous and keep the conversation to a minimum with the sellers. You want to make sure you leave the negotiation process to your experienced real estate agent. If you have questions about the home, be sure to take good notes and consult with your agent. Your agent is the liaison for good reason. The agent is experienced and knows how to find out the information you need without undermining your bargaining position. Polite conversation with the sellers is appropriate if the opportunity occurs. And, if the house isn't right for you from the moment you set foot in it, at least give it a quick walk-through, just to be absolutely certain.

Good manners when house hunting is about more than just having people like you. It could be the potential development of a successful real estate transaction. Good will during that process helps keep things moving along at a steady pace and possibly with a better outcome than if the sellers were selling to a buyer they really didn't like.





6 Ideas For Selling Your Home In The Winter


#1 Keep the house warm.

While you don't have to keep the heat on all the time, keep the house warm during showings. You don't want people shivering while they look through the house. Set the thermostat to at least 70 degrees -- whether you'll be in the house or not.

#2 Trim the outdoor foliage.

Remove snow from shrubs and trees so that potential buyers don't get wet as they walk up the sidewalk to your home. Brush off snow, prune the tree limbs and trim the hedges as needed. You can even hire a tree serviceto do this for you if you're strapped for time. While your lawn is dormant this time of year, you can at the very least make it look well maintained to give buyers a sense of what it looks like during the spring and summer. You can also display photos in your entryway of how your home looks outside during the greener months.

#3 Handle winter conditions.

If you have ice and snow on your driveway and sidewalk, you need to take care of it way in advance of showings. Clear ice and snow with shovels and salt, so that your exterior looks nice and safe to buyers. It will also increase the aesthetic quality of your home to buyers and keep you from getting sued by a buyer who falls or slips. If you have particular trouble with ice and snow, you can call a snow removal service to do it for you.

#4 Show off the fireplace.

If you have a fireplace, you should showcase it as part of your home's aesthetic appeal. A gas fireplace is easy to turn on before a showing, and it adds natural beauty to your home -- not to mention warmth. A wood-burning fireplace is a bit harder to maintain, because you can run out of firewood. So you need to time the lighting just right before the showing. You also need to make sure the chimney is in good condition, so have it cleaned and checked by a fireplace professionalahead of a showing to avoid any problems.

#5 Add comfort to your home.

There are other steps you can take to make your home more comfortable and inviting during the winter months. Focus on small improvements to your home like:

  • Adding blankets to your couch
  • Turning back the comforter on the bed
  • Baking a pie or cookies for the smell
  • Lighting some candles
  • Turning on some relaxing music

#6 Make sure your home is well lit.

Since winter takes away a lot of sunshine, you need to utilize light bulbs and other forms of lighting. Outside lights, security lights, candles, LED lighting -- every bit of lighting is crucial in the interior and exterior. You want all lights on when buyers are walking through your home -- don't focus on your electricity bill right now. You also want to make as much use of natural lighting as possible. Open your window treatments during the day showings.

SOURCE:  REALTY TIMES- bu Andrea Davis








Stylish Trends For Modern Holiday Décor



If your idea of holiday decor still centers around popcorn on a string and ornaments that have seen better days, it may be time for an upgrade. Today's hottest holiday decor trends offer modern hues and styles that allow you to be as festive as you want to be and still maintain a home that showcases your unique flair.

Unique fabrics


Unless we're talking about red-based plaid or your Great-Great-Grandma's Gingerbread Man comforter - may not necessarily impact a holiday feel. But rich fabrics like the velvet and faux fur being shown by West Elm this season bring the luxe, helping transform your space into a winter wonderland. "The retailer declared velvet ‘this season's lust-have,' offering quilts, duvets, throw pillows, and blankets in the textured fabric. And who could ignore their gorgeous new faux-fur throws," asksMyDomaine.


This hot color is another surprising yet ultra-chic choice for your holiday house. "Twas the year of blush pink. Unsurprisingly, trendy gals are swapping their red ribbons, buntings and blooms for something something rosier... and much less expected," said PureWow. All you need is some silk ribbon tied around some greenery to achieve a special look for your stairway.

Glittery white trees

Frosted branches, mercury glass ornaments, and twinkling lights create a glowing centerpiece to your holiday décor. Keeping everything light and bright and effervescent makes for a show-stopping look that is both brilliant and calming.

If that's a little too sedate for you, try this tip from Elle Décor and "make white your base color" with pops of red.

Blue Christmas

Is the traditional red and green color scheme on its way out? Never. But, this year a festive blue hue is making a strong argument for holiday domination. "It's all about the blue," said MyDomaine of West Elm's luxurious take on this year's holiday trends. "While red and green made an appearance in the form of an evergreen tree, ornament, or flower arrangement, almost every page featured a deep jewel-tone blue. Think dining chairs, pillows, and even dinnerware."

Black and white

Another color combination is bringing more interest to the holiday home. "One of the hottest 2017 holiday decoration trends is black and white," said Connecticut in Style. It's absolutely timeless. Black and white is also the ideal backdrop to add ANY color to, especially red. When it comes to decorating with black and white, the possibilities are endless. It could be a simple wreath with a black and white bow, a buffalo check runner down your holiday dining table, your Christmas tree, or just a few spots around your home."

We love how black and white brings beautiful style to this table, and all you need is a tablecloth and a set of decorative plates to pull it off.


Unique ornaments

Make your tree a focal point with these modern shapes and metallic hues.

But don't stop there! Ornaments look great in other places throughout the home, too, like over the dining room table. "Don't restrict magnificent baubles and sparkly snowflakes to the tree when it comes to your Christmas decor ideas," said Real Simple. "Accentuate overhead lighting with shimmery decorations and stick to a fresh winter palette like pale blue and silver. Finish it off with an elegant satin ribbon gently dangling from the chandelier."







3 Tips for Aspiring First-Time Home Buyers


After years of renting, you are more than ready to take the plunge into home ownership. You dream of having a cozy casa to call your own, and you cannot wait to start the house hunting process.

While looking for your first home is exciting, it can also be stressful as unexpected bumps in the road tend to pop up. To avoid as many negative curve balls as you can, keep the following cautionary tips in mind:

Get your finances in order

Many Realtors will not work with home buyers until they have been pre-approved for a loan. In order to be sure that you qualify for a decent amount, spend some time getting your financial house in order. As Bank Rate notes, start by checking your credit score and report, since it will be a key factor in how much you will qualify for, as well as determining your interest rate. You can use a free credit score checking service like CreditKarma, or if you have a credit card like Discover, you should be able to check your FICO score there as well.

In addition, get copies of the actual reports from these companies that show all of your lines of credit as well as the reasons for your score, and go over everything with a fine-toothed comb. Look for mistakes, unpaid accounts and any collections, and if there are any issues, start the repair process at least six months before buying a home. Having a high debt to income ratio may also negatively impact your FICO score; if this is true for you, do all you can to pay down your credit card bills and other debts before shopping for a home.

Choose your neighborhood carefully

Some first-time home buyers are so focused on getting a certain style of house, they may overlook the quality of the entire neighborhood. The surrounding area deserves as much consideration as the house. Research the local school system, even if you don't have kiddos yet, because it can impact home values.

Check to see how close needed amenities are, like grocery stores, gas stations, coffee shops and hospitals, and do a practice commute to see how long it takes you to get to work. You can also check the local crime stats, and if you drive through it at different times of the day, you can check for unexpected noises and activity levels; like a busy fire station nearby or a sports field where high school bands go to practice.

Make sure technology is working

Once you start the actual home search, you may be pleased to see that some of the homes come with innovative features like a home security camera system, thermostats and other cool forms of technology. Rather than assuming that everything works, either check these gadgets yourself to be sure they are functioning properly, or if you have made an offer on the home, ask your home inspector to determine that the tech is in good working order.

If you find that the security system and other tech is broken or woefully outdated, you can either ask the sellers to change it out to a newer system, or you can ask for a credit so you can purchase a new home security camera system or other tech when you move in. If you go with the latter option, you might want to check out HD security cameras and other home security systems from Lorex Technology; the company offers DIY high definition surveillance systems that are affordable, easy to install and do not require you to sign a contract.

By doing your financial and neighborhood homework and remembering to never assume that anything in a potential home is working properly, your house hunting experience is sure to be more fun and fruitful than stressful and overwhelming.


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