Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Home is where the heart isn't

I blame it all on the magazines. Even though they have given me plenty of business over the years they still hold up the gold standard of what you can't afford. Sure everyone wants to duplicate that summer porch in the Hamptons but you don't have that summer porch and you don't live in the Hamptons. Face it, no one is sending a camera crew to your home in anyplace USA to document your stunning choice of outdoor fabrics. You need a famous relative or a multimillion dollar home with catered breakfast (camera crews have to eat) to make that happen. The best you can realistically hope for is to make what you do have look good and support your lifestyle. By lifestyle I mean if you have half a dozen head of screaming children then your surroundings are going to reflect that and they will reduce that idealized dream porch of yours to their existence in no time. The rich and famous don't worry about play-doh stains and unidentifiable stuff between the cushions. They have people for that. Face it you still have that fast food french fry the vacuum couldn't reach in whatever vehicle you use day-to-day be it a Chevy or a BMW. Then there are the adults. If you choose to share your haven with friends that enjoy hospitality and good times they will invariably repay your graciousness with wine stains, spilled beer and sending down burger condiments to join those of the childrens between the cushions. The magazines don't show the effects of people actually using the spaces that they are showcasing. That spongebob doll or petrified onion ring won't make it into the glossy pages. It's all about making it work for you.
To that end what we do is what works for us. If you don't have kids you are ahead of the game since you don't have to work around them. If you do have kids then you are still ahead of the game since you already know how to work around them. Comfort should never take a backseat to style because style without comfort is never a good thing. Remember the good furniture your parents wouldn't let you sit on? Who wants more of that? If a 4 year old can't sit on it with a dribbling popsicle then it may not have a place in your home. Conversely if a 30 year old can't sit on it with a dribbling beer bottle then perhaps it was a bad choice and money not well spent. But hey! It looks good right?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Yuck is not a Martha Stewart color.

Like it or not the aesthetics of a rental property are not primary considerations of whoever is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the home. Even if they were the odds of your choice in wall color being in line with the decision maker are slim to none. I live here in sunny Florida but the chamber of commerce doesn't include rainy Florida in the marketing plan therefore a lot of thought and preparation must go into the re-painting of a typical home here. In this state as in others across the south mildew is the unofficial state flower and I have seen bugs bigger than some of my roommates. These are two maladies that can be addressed in the preparation stages of a paint job. My word of advice to the novice painter is to get the free assistance of a professional at a professional quality paint retailer. The money spent on the right selection of a quality finish properly prepared and applied is money better than well spent because a paint job is the first and last thing you will see every day and botched job will just eat at you till you do it over and you don't want or need to do it over. I can give you the basics but the guy that makes his living making you happy with his paint and tools is an invaluable resource for getting the right solution to any particular problem or situation you find yourself confronted with. A mildewcide can be added directly to the paint in any location where high humidity may be common. Likewise an insecticide. An insecticide will not control any insect problems (especially not the ones big enough to get their own place) but they will keep the cobwebs to a minimum and discourage other bugs from lingering. Proper pest control is the solution to this but that's for another article. Preparation is key to an acceptable paint application so leave the paint in the bucket for awhile and get your walls and trim in shape. Patching and spackling are a must and replace any missing or damaged trim. Scrape loose and peeling paint and putty nail holes in the trim before caulking all the trim and windows. Small defects in a wall or trim piece may not be noticeable under your work light but they will cast shadows that stand out under the everyday lighting or even sunlight coming in a window. They are easiest to handle now so do it now and save some grief. Now let's talk primer. Primer is a must because not a paint around will cover the color yuck in a single coat. Repairs and patches especially need to be primed before painting even if you use one of the preparations of paint and primer in one mixture. A fresh patch will stand out as a flat spot due to it's different absorbency of the fresh paint. If you are not adept with a paintbrush (get a good quality one it makes a difference) you need to get adept with the masking tape. And I'm not talking about dollar store masking tape. The professional grade masking tape is expensive and worth it,don't start cutting corners here you'll regret it. Whew! it's been a lot of work and you haven't even opened the paint yet. Well hold off a little while yet cause you have some clean-up to do. This is one of those jobs where you have to clean before you start to get a good looking finish product. No matter what method you are using to apply your paint you need to clean and dust the entire room. If you are spraying then dust on the floor will get blown up into the wet paint leaving an undesirable granulation in the paint near the floor. If you are brushing the baseboards then dust will get in your brush or interfere with the adhesion of the masking tape so clean-up now. Good luck and happy painting.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I don't have anything to wear!

How can a house be too big and still not have room for all your stuff? Simple, you have too much stuff. Some of your junk needs to go.and you will need to get creative to store the rest. We recently moved from a 1000 sq ft home to one half again (or more) larger and still have boxes of stuff stacked in various rooms. Closet and kitchen cabinet space is at a premium and will need to be tweaked for maximum capacity. Closets are the easiest of the two since they are essentially just small rooms with a well defined purpose and require no plumbing or electrical work unless it's a walk -in and needs lighting alteration. Now I am not Martha Stewart so I don't know the rules of organizing but I believe the first order of business should be to get rid of unnecessary stuff.
      First things first. Start with clothes, box up clothing using the three basic rules. Donate stuff that....
1) you can't wear.
2) you don't wear.
3) you shouldn't wear.
      You are going to have to make some hard choices but it needs to be done. Once you have whittled down your inventory to the necessities you'll have a much better grasp of the task ahead. I recommend staying away from the cheap white vinyl covered steel grates and going with wood. You can gain hanger space by installing a second rod beneath the top one. this is a great way to hang shirts, blouses, and folding slacks. If you have dresses, garment bags, or suits partition the bottom section in half with 1 X 12 stock. Use 1 X 4 cleats on the walls to carry the shelves and rods. You can easily buy the hardware to carry the rods at any hardware store. When it comes to the actual rod don't be cheap you'll need to carry a lot of weight so get accurate measurements remembering to allow for the hardware or install hardware and then measure. I find I have acceptable results using
1" galvanized steel pipe it has very little flex under a load so you won't have to worry about sag. Everyone has different ideas of what they require of a closet so get creative,  personalize it so it works for you instead of just being a place to dump your stuff.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Who put the toilet in the closet?

Well it's time for the next installment of rental home shortcomings vs occupancy requirements. Rental properties are historically neglected by absentee landlords because the out of sight out of mind method of management applies perfectly to the situation. Investing money in the upgrade of a rental means that income declines with every dollar expended for maintenance/upgrades. Add to this the fees collected by property management firms and you have an understanding of why "if it aint broke don't fix it" is not a tired cliche where landlords are concerned. Property managers are hired because the owner does not wish to deal with the day to day details of maintaining a rental property and they keep their jobs by minimizing the involvement of the owner. With that in mind I am tasked with the job of upgrading a bathroom that while technically functional with regard to the fixtures is woefully inadequate for the purposes it is used for. A working woman uses this washroom for the day to day routine of getting ready for work and the bathroom offers little more storage than the minuscule area in the vanity beneath the lavatory. Modernizing this bathroom is a challenge on a budget and the focus will be on optimizing space with an eye towards storage and function. Maximizing unused space is a must and to this end a new vanity/lavatory was installed which was larger and thus more useful than the el-cheapo original. After removing the flat mirror above the vanity there was adequate room for a medicine cabinet/mirror to take its place. Another under utilized space was the wall space above the commode which easily accommodated a matching storage cabinet. All of these basically install ready improvements increased storage fourfold and got all the cosmetics, hair care, hygiene and multiple other preparations essential for the maintenance of a working woman off of the lavatory rim and windowsill. Covering a generic dingy beige paint scheme with an ultra white high gloss finish took full advantage of a new lighting fixture which added more horsepower to the illumination of the entire room. Whew! I never knew such a small room could have so many problems. I am not finished yet. Moving the toiletries off the windowsill pointed out the glaring need for a window treatment that was more attractive and functional than the big box store $5 plastic mini blinds. And also in a bizarre development possible only in a rental I will be replacing a bi-fold closet door with an honest to goodness door equipped with a privacy lockset one would expect on a bathroom. Stay tuned for more while I see if I can get any reimbursement for my out of pocket improvements.