7 Creative Ways to Repurpose a Fireplace

What do you do when you’ve got an old wood-burning fireplace that hasn’t been living up to its true purpose in years? Why, repurpose it, of course! Lots of older homes come with non-functional yet gorgeous old fireplaces that haven’t heard the cackle of burning wood in forever. Instead of letting that thing just distribute filthy soot in your living space, repurpose it to add an element of decor that works for your personal space.

Here are a few ideas to get our creative juices flowing.

Stack Your Books

Instead of firewood, neatly stack all your already-read books inside the fireplace. Position them in all different directions to fit really snugly into the space – it’ll create a funky pattern under the mantel.fireplacebooks

Add Neatly-Cut Logs

While you won’t be burning them, you can still stack a bunch of small, round logs in the fireplace with the cut ends facing outward. The wood isn’t exactly functional, but its presence will easily create a rustic look in your living area. And depending on the type of wood you put in there, you’ll also get the benefit of a subtle outdoorsy scent wafting in your home’s interior.fireplacelogs

Light Up Your Fireplace With Candles Instead of Wood

You’re not lighting firewood in the fireplace, but that doesn’t mean it still can’t glow. Light up your fireplace with pillar candles in varying heights to somewhat create the effect of a fire without the mess and bother of actually building one.fireplacecandles

Fill it With Plants

Plants belong in just about any space in a home, so why not the fireplace? Fill that empty old space with your favorite breeds of the green stuff, from ferns, to aloe vera, to Christmas cactus. Use a bunch of different sizes and types of planters to create an eclectic effect to the space. If you’re looking to create a focal point in a room, this would be it!

Create a Wine Rack

Who doesn’t love easy access to their treasured wines? Hang out in your living room with your guests and quickly reach for your vino of choice! Portable wine racks can be found at just about any home decor store, so get one that fits the space well and is able to handle the haul you’ve got!fireplacewine

Cover it With a Chalkboard

Got kids? Let them decorate the fireplace for you! The color of a dark chalkboard somewhat impersonates the soot that accumulates in a traditional fireplace, but with a totally different purpose. Let the kids doodle on the chalkboard and come up with their own unique design.

Forge a Bookcase

No one said a bookcase needs to be beside the fireplace, so why not put one directly inside it? Cover the back of the fireplace space with your wallpaper design of choice, then install a couple of shelves to house your magazines, framed photos, vases, and any other knick knack you need to find a home for.

Your fireplace may have originally been a heat source way back when, but how you use it today is only defined by your ingenuity! Give one of these ideas a shot to repurpose your fireplace and give it a new lease on life.

5 Reasons Why You Should Buy Your Next Home in 2016

Still got cold feet about buying a home? Wait ’till 2016 rolls around! With the new year upon us, now’s the time for all you renters and first-time buyers out there to start organizing your finances and jump on the homeownership bandwagon.

Of course, it’s totally understandable for it to be overwhelming and even intimidating to jump into homebuyer status, given the recent financial crisis that plagued the nation. But given the key economic indicators that are flashing right now, 2016 is potentially the perfect time to buy.

And here’s why.

1. Mortgage Rates Are Still Ridiculously Low – But Not For Long

If you want to lock into a mortgage, now’s the time to do it. Consumers have had the benefit of low interest rates for quite some time now, but there’s talk of rates finally increasing in the new year. You likely won’t be seeing rates this low for a long time to come, so the earlier you lock in, the better.

As it stands right now, you can still get a rate around 4%. If you can lock a mortgage in while rates are still low, you can knock a good chunk of change off your mortgage payments. Low interest rates makes home buying more affordable. Put more of your hard-earned cash towards the principle instead of flushing in down the toilet in interest payments!

shutterstock_3135302392. Rent Prices Are Forecasted to Spike

Renting might be a good way to get your feet wet in the real estate market, but it looks like rental rates are about to experience an uptick in 2016. In many of the major centers in the US, supply is running low while demand is still strong. This off-balance is causing rent prices to teeter to the side of landlords who are able to charge more for their units as supply continues to remain sparse compared to demand.

In the last year alone, nearly 90% of property managers across the US have jacked up their rent prices, with no sign of that slowing down any time soon. So instead of throwing your money away in rent, you could potentially spend the same amount each month to be put towards home ownership and building equity instead.

3. “Know Before You Owe” Mortgage Regulations Put Buyers in the Driver’s Seat

Ever try to navigate mortgage paperwork? It’s like reading a foreign language if you’re not an agent yourself. And if you’re not careful, you could wind up getting stuck with mortgage terms that you’re not comfortable with.

Well, not anymore, thanks to the new TRID rules that came into effect this past year. Also known as the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule, mortgage forms and loan costs are now being organized and stipulated in such a way as to make it a lot easier for the average homebuyer to understand all the terms involved. This gives consumers a better chance to make sound decisions and choices when it comes to their mortgages at the closing table. That way, there are no unpleasant surprises waiting for them once the keys are ready to be handed over.

couple looking at home4. Prices of Homes Will Be Scaling Back

For a while there, it was super tough for the average consumer to be able to afford some of the sky-high prices of homes that have been listed. And it still is in many centers across the country. But these prices are likely to slow down quite a bit in 2016, making home ownership more affordable for the average joe. Just don’t expect this price cut-back to be as pronounced in super-hot markets like San Francisco or NYC, where prices aren’t forecasted to pull back as much in the coming year.

5. More Properties Will Be Making Their Way to the Market

Along with the deceleration of home prices will come more homeowners listing their properties, giving homebuyers more selection. Let’s face it: anyone who’s hung onto property over the past few years has had the opportunity to build up serious equity as prices continued to skyrocket month after month. Many of these home owners want to cash in on that equity, and are more likely to list in 2016 to liquify their money. That means buyers will have more selection when it comes to he home-buying process.

Not only that, but the new home construction market is also probably going to grow in 2016 with builders placing more focus on starter and middle-range homes. That’ll do well to spike inventory and make it easier for homebuyers to snag a place. More homes on the market means the potential for prices to ease off even more.

All these forecasts for the new year point to fantastic possibilities for those who are finally looking to put their name on title of a home. Just make sure that you’ve got a professional real estate agent in your corner who’s experienced in the specific neighborhoods you’re looking to plant some roots in.

Don’t Make These Rookie Homebuying Mistakes

Think about all those past purchases that you’ve later regretted, from your old Milli Vanilli CD to that exercise contraption that you never use. And while you may have wasted your money on these items that were seldom used, they pale in comparison to the amount of money you’d be spending on a home. That’s one major purchase you definitely don’t want to suffer ‘buyer’s remorse’ from.

Buying property is likely the biggest investment you’ll ever make in life. It’s is an exciting thing, but it can also send you up the creek if you’re not careful.

If you’re a home-buying newbie, steer clear of the following common mistakes that rookies tend to make throughout the buying process. Your wallet will thank you.

Not Finding Out What Your Credit Score is

Your credit score plays a key role in whether or not a lender will say “yes” to your mortgage application. And even if you do get a stamp of approval, your credit score could affect the interest rate you get stuck with. The higher your score, the better. Generally, if your score is 700 and up, you’re looking at getting the lowest interest rate that the lender can offer, which can shave off thousands of dollars from your mortgage.

You’ll want to find out what your credit score is before you even look into getting a mortgage pre-approval. And that means getting your hands on a copy of your credit report. Chew on this fact – over 40 million credit reports have mistakes in them! And these mistakes can have a grave effect on the credit scores that Americans are walking around with. Catching these errors and disputing them before you apply for a mortgage can ensure that the interest rate you’re given accurately reflects your actual score.

So if you find any errors that could affect your credit score, make sure they’re fixed right away. Check your credit report at least three months before house hunting, and if you spot an error, kindly ask the credit bureau to fix it.

whoops credit reportNot Visiting With a Mortgage Specialist

How will you know what you’ll be able to afford if you don’t get your finances in order and get pre-approved for a loan? Even if you’ve got a decent handle on your money, that doesn’t necessarily mean the bank will say “yes” to financing a certain purchase. There are a lot of factors that affect your mortgage application aside from just the listing price of the home.

Before you start pounding the pavement in search of a new house, it’s wise to get pre-approved for a mortgage first. While this doesn’t exactly guarantee that final approval will be granted, it’ll at least give you a specific price range to look within, and it’ll show the seller that you’re serious about buying and that you’ve done your due diligence.

If you’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage that would cover no more than a $300,000 home, there’s no point in looking in neighborhoods where the average home goes for $600,000+.

Falling in Love With a Home That You Haven’t Bought Yet

This is a biggie. Newbie homebuyers have a tendency of falling head-over-heels in love with a home while on the market prowl, only to wind up losing the home for whatever reason. This ends up leaving homebuyers heartbroken and jaded about the market, which does nothing put put a wrench in the process.

You may come across a home that you absolutely adore, but getting emotionally attached before you’ve even signed on the dotted line is a bad idea. What if there’s a bidding war and you lose out? What if you can’t get financing for the place? There are several reasons that could prevent you from snagging that prized possession, so keeping your emotions in check can is important.

Remember – there’s always going to be another house out there. The more homes you visit, the better.

Waiving the Home Inspection Clause

Even the home you’re thinking of buying is new-ish, it still needs to be inspected by a professional after you’ve signed a purchase agreement. You just never know what might be lurking up in the attic or in the plumbing pipes that you might not have noticed during your own inspection of the home.

New homebuyers might skip this step because they get emotionally attached to the property (see #1) and want the place no matter what. Maybe they’re competing with another interested buyer and want a clean contract to get the deal done. Whatever the case may be, waiving the home inspection is a bad idea.

This clause will help protect you should the inspector find something that would otherwise be a deal-breaker. You’re then legally able to walk away from the deal if something is found that you just can’t live with, or you can even ask the seller to fix the issue or drop the price in compensation. Don’t be afraid to include this clause, and speak up to get things fixed before you seal the deal.

no home inspection mistakeNot Using an Agent

Just about everyone who’s looking for a home will look to the internet to search listings and see what’s out there. That’s fine and all, but when your search starts to get serious, there’s no substitute for a real live agent.

A good real estate agent will find homes that you won’t necessarily see advertised on the net. They’ve got the inside scoop on properties that might not even have hit the market yet. And aside from what the home is priced at and what it looks like, you’ll be able to get a lot more nitty gritty details about properties that the average joe won’t be able to find, such as recently sold comps, neighborhood walk scores, and so on.

You’ll be better armed at the negotiating table if you’ve got a professional real estate agent in your corner.

This last one is probably the biggest mistake you’ll want to avoid, as an agent will help prevent you from making the other blunders in the first place.

Jumping into the real estate market for the first time is exhilarating, and so it should be. But taking precautions is totally necessary if you want to avoid getting stuck in a money pit.

Infographic: 15 Ways to Conserve Water at Home

Infographic-15 Ways to Conserve Water at Home

Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent List Their Greenwich Village Pad For $10.5M

Design guru Nate Berkus and his equally design-savvy hubby Jeremiah Brent just listed their hoity toity Greenwich Village apartment for a cool $10.5 million.

It was only two short years ago that the design couple settled into this Lower Fifth Avenue apartment with their daughter Poppy after Oprah’s fave designer sold his 9th Street crib only a hop, skip and a jump away.

And considering the fact that they paid $5 million for it at the time, they’re making a pretty penny off the place if they get anywhere near what they’re asking. Perhaps it’s a bit on the ambitious side to be asking more than double what they paid only a couple of years ago, but it looks like Mr. Berkus and his husband really hold their redesign to the highest of standards.

Located just above Washington Square Park in the 1922-built building, the pad is positioned in the ideal spot surrounded rich cultural heritage that is unique only to the highly coveted Greenwich Village.

The couple designed every inch of it, so it’s a no-brainer that the 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom spread is a stunner. So striking was the renovation that the apartment was featured on the cover of Architectural Digest once the remodeling was complete.

The bright and airy penthouse duplex is bathed in white, and boasts cathedral-like coffered ceilings and gold and black accents throughout.

A key player in the 2,800 abode is the massive Carrie Bradshaw-esque closet that’s seriously bigger than most apartments in The Big Apple. The master bedroom boasts it own fireplace (one of three in the whole penthouse), as well as a spa-like master bath equipped with a glorious free-standing cast iron bath tub and double sinks.

The sizable gourmet chef’s kitchen is equipped with an 8-burner range, a butcher’s block, marble counters, and skylights, and spills into a formal dining area. You’ll be lead to private living quarters on the lower level via the fabulous wrought iron staircase – it’s the perfect spot for overnight guests to get a little ‘me’ time. On the upper end, the dramatic all-glass double-doored terrace overlooks the dazzle of lower Fifth Avenue.

Whoever decides to put in an offer on this puppy will have the option to purchase the gorgeous furniture that already adorns the place. It’s not necessarily part of the sale, per se, but for the right price, the power couple will entertain any offers on special request. And buyers should also take note of the hefty maintenance fees: a cool $7,073 per month.

Based on how truly magnificent this place is, it’s probably going to sting a little to cut ties with it. Whatever the case may be, one thing’s for sure – Nate’s new place is going to have to feature an equally large wardrobe and shoe closet – after all, you can’t go backwards. And Poppy’s only going to get older, which means the shoe collection is only beginning.

So where is the Berkus-Brent family off to next? West Hollywood, where they recently purchased a $2.36 million 4-bedroom home. Looks like an expansion of the family is in the works, perhaps?

Incorporating Pantone’s Serenity & Rose Quartz Into Your Home Decor

Not one, but two colors have been chosen by Pantone as the ‘it’ shades of 2016.

The winners? Pantone 13-1520 TCX (Rose Quartz) and Pantone 14-3919-TCX (Serenity). In layman’s terms, that would be pastel pink and pastel blue (with a touch of lavender).

So what’s up with these specific color choices? According to Pantone, it all has to do with the blurred lines in the gender realm of our current times. That’s right – the colors of the year have been heavily influenced by cultural forces, and more specifically, the acceptance of gender fluidity in society.

No other two colors are more representative of gender – traditionally, pink for girls and blue for boys. And by choosing these two specific hues, Pantone hopes to help shatter the stereotype that each of these colors belongs exclusively to one gender over the other.

And if you thought these particular shades were stuck in the 80s, or could only work in a kid’s bedroom, think again. The softness of these colors provides designers and homeowners more flexibility when decorating a home’s interior. Not only can they be used on their own, they can also be used together within the same space to add luxury and refinement.

Incorporating these two blissful colors into your home can be done any number of ways without turning your home into an Easter egg.

Offset their demure side

These colors are naturally gentle. To bring in a little more drama, these hues can be combined with deeper, darker shades of the same color, such as navy blue or mauve. And to go modern and contemporary, use neutrals like off-white or cool gray coupled with Pantone’s choices.

Stick with their original effect

Serenity is the perfect color to use in bedrooms or other settings where a calm, serene effect is sought. The blue with a hint of soft purple is named accordingly, as it truly evokes a soothing, tranquil feeling, which is ideal for any space where you want a calming ambience.

Go subtle

If you’re sort of embracing these colors, but aren’t so bold as to lather them all over your walls, you can always start off small and infuse your space with Rose Quartz and Serenity via accessories. Whether it’s artwork, throw pillows, flowers or vases, you can easily use these winning shades of pink and blue without having to fully commit to them. Or else dedicate only one ‘accent’ wall to one of these colors, and complement it with a variety of neutral wall art.

Bring it outside

You don’t have to confine these two colors to the interior only. In fact, Rose Quartz and Serenity were meant to be outside! Think about the colors of many of your favorite followers – from bluebells to peonies. Many of them are already sporting these colors, so it only makes sense to add a splash of Serenity or Rose Quartz to your garden fence or landscaping trim.

Go all out

If you’re head-over-heels in love with Pantone’s choices and aren’t scared of commitment, then cover all your walls in one of the shades and use the other in your sofas and chairs. And if that’s still not enough for you, throw in an area rug with one of these colors to really show your support of Pantone’s choices for 2016.

Regardless of the societal message behind these two particular colors, one thing is for sure: they really do look lovely together. They’re both beautifully pleasant shades that make great companions with each other, even without the political message behind them.

How to Prep for Holiday House Guests

Is your home is the hub of the holidays this season? If so, you’ve got some work to do before your guests knock on your door. Luckily, it doesn’t have to take weeks of hard labor to get the place ready – just a few smart and simple tasks will do the trick to get your home prepped for holiday house guests.

Figure Out the Sleeping Arrangements

If you’re lucky enough to have a guest room, fantastic. If not, you’ve got a little coordinating you do. Figure out the sleeping arrangements for your house guests, and if that means shuffling family members around to accommodate, do these logistics beforehand.

Maybe Junior will have to sleep with Mommy and Daddy to free up a bed, or perhaps the living room couch will be need to act as a makeshift bed. Whatever the case may be, have this arrangement handled in advance so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.

Make Up the Guest Bed(s) With Fresh Sheets

If no one has slept in the guest bed for months, the sheets will start to get a bit stale. Rip those babies off and slap on a set of crisp, fresh-smelling bedsheets and pillowcases. Set out some extra blankets and pillows too, in case your guests are the type to get really cozy and bundled in bed. And while you’re in there, take a couple of minutes to tidy up and get rid of anything that doesn’t belong.

Clean and Stock Up the Bathroom

Tidying up and dusting is a no-brainer, not just when house guests are shacking up with you. But one room in particular that needs some extra attention is the bathroom (for obvious reasons). Most people won’t get too bent out of shape about a tad of dust underneath furniture, but certain marks and streaks (and smells) in the bathroom can be enough to turn anyone off.

Make sure you clean every corner of the bathroom, including the floor, sink, toilet, shower stall, bathtub and mirrors. Dump out the trash, take out a fresh stack of clean towels, refill the soap dispenser, and restock the toilet paper. Your guests will appreciate the fact that they don’t have to bust your chops asking for anything when everything has already been handed to them on a silver platter.

Have Your Morning Essentials in Order

Some people instinctively reach for their coffee first thing in the morning, while others look forward to a massive bowl of cereal when they wake. Everyone’s different, so make sure you get the 411 on what your house guests prefer to have at their disposal in the morning.

Find out what they like to drink and eat for breakfast, and make sure to hit the supermarket to pick these things up before they arrive. Set these things up in an easily-accessed area on the kitchen countertop, and be sure to point them out to your house guests when you’re giving them the tour so they don’t feel obligated to be served in the morning.

Give Them a Spot to Chill Out in Peace

As cool and fun-to-be-with as you are, most people don’t necessarily want to be in each other’s faces 24/7. So give your house guests some quiet space where they can catch up on their novel, watch their favorite show, or do whatever else floats their boat. They’ll appreciate the consideration of setting up a little area where they can retreat to in order to get a little ‘me’ time.

Plan Things to Do

Depending on how long your house guests plan to stay with you over the holidays, you might want to plan some fun things to do while they’re there. Sure, you could watch holiday movies until you’re blue in the face, but consider finding out what types of things your guests might be interested in doing besides being stuck in front of the tube.

Maybe they’d like to check out the local museum or infamous eateries in your city. Or maybe they’d like to check out some landmarks specific to your town, or even checkout a show. You don’t have to do all of these things, but even a day or two of activity can be enough to break up the monotony of an extended holiday guest stay.

The holidays are all about family and friends, and sharing in the joy of the season. But if you’re well-prepared for your house guests, the holidays can be that much sweeter.