Spruce Up your Rental

While of COURSE I am a huge homeownership cheerleader, I know that it’s not always the right time for everyone to buy a place of their own. I know how it feels to live in a rental but desperately want to make it your own. Here are a few tips that can make a huge impact on a rental without breaking the bank or losing your deposit!

Hardware & fixtures: One of the best ways to make a quick impact around your place is lighting and fixtures. As long as you save the originals, you should have no problem easily swapping out drawer pulls, changing out the blah light switch covers, introducing new doorknobs or even installing a trendy ceiling fan or light fixture. You can also consider alternatives like plug-in sconces, swag lighting or big floor lamps. Always get professional help with anything electric and check with your landlord about big projects, but you may even find they love it and want you to leave it when your lease ends!

Mirrors: Dated, giant mirrors in your bathroom can make your space feel impersonal and old school. You can CAREFULLY remove them (make sure to put duct tape in an X over the whole mirror) and install a more chic version. If you have a double vanity, adding two smaller framed mirrors goes leaps and bounds! If you’re not quite ready to take that risk, get a removable frame like this MirrorMate one that snaps into place around your existing mirror.

Walls: At some point, you’ve probably considered painting a wall or two to warm up your space. However, many times that isn’t feasible with requirements to paint it back or restrictions on what shades you can choose. Consider removable wallpaper or a gallery wall to take up maximum space with minimum effort. In the kitchen, employ a solution like TicTac Tiles to temporarily get the Pinterest kitchen of your dreams!

Bathroom: For me, the bathrooms in my rentals weren’t so much a cosmetic problem as a logistical nightmare! I added cute Command Hooks (they make SO many options these days) right by my shower to avoid dripping across the floor to where the DUMB towel bars were installed. If you are lacking a ledge for shaving, this suction-cupped step saved my life! Lastly, a new shower head can make you feel like you’re in a spa in no time. Again, save the original and talk to your landlord, and if that doesn’t fly you can at least give it a good cleaning using this technique to get it running better than ever.

While where you live now might not be your forever home, I hope this inspires you to make a few homey changes!

Thanks to the gals at The DIY Playbook for letting me borrow their image from their swag lighting project. They have tons of their own awesome tips about projects you can do yourself to make your space your own! 

Red, Red Wine

The Best Stain-Fighting Tips for a White Couch

As a family that loves red wine, black labs and white couches, something terrible was destined to happen to us. Seriously, it was only a matter of time. Now, if you know me offline, it’s easy to assume that I was behind this Cabernet display. I can’t legally name names, but y’all, this was actually, really, truly, not my fault.

I DID place the wine on a table of suspect sturdiness, but ultimately I was not responsible for its unruly end. That’s all I got to say about that.

And unruly it was. There was wine dripping from the mantel, in between the fireplace grates, down the walls, and covering the arms and the cushions of our couch. I had to act fast. Here’s how:

  1. I started by BLOTTING the spots with a dry towel to remove as much as I could. I followed with the same motion using a towel drenched in ice cold water. No scrubbing, no rubbing, just consistent up and down motions. Keep in mind, at this point for some reason the couch was turning BLUE because it’s got feathers in it?! There was a lot of sweat and outdoor voice action happening.
  2. Once I had removed as much as I could, I reached for my Dryel pen. This is the craziest component, because it comes as part of an at-home dry cleaning kit. This specific pen was recommended to my mom for upholstery by a long-time patron of JoAnn’s Fabrics, and those ladies don’t PLAY. I have since used it on all stains and it is an absolute wonder.
  3. For the walls,  I actually let the red wine dry, much to the absolute terror of my husband. Once it dried, I hit them with a Magic Eraser and it looked as good as new.
  4. The carpet trick came from something I learned in college during an “informative speech” day in my public speaking class. I taught the class how to make breakfast in bed, and James Adams taught everyone how to remove a Jungle Juice stain from the carpet. MAY GOD BLESS YOU JAMES! Please note, I have since verified this with ApartmentTherapy and Bob Vila and all parties agree that it’s legit.

The Best Stain-Fighting Tips for a White Couch (1)

You simply fill a spray bottle with 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Next, plug in your iron to the highest steam setting. While it’s heating up, spray the stain liberally with the vinegar mixture and lay an old white towel over top of the stain. Press the hot iron over top of the stain and move it around until you see steam appear. When you move the iron, you should see that the stain transferred on to the towel like MAGIC. Continue moving the towel around and repeating until all of the stain gets transferred.

The last thing that I will rave about during this stressful time is our amazing furniture company, Discount Furniture of the Carolinas. When we purchased our couch, the owner Bradley advised us about this program called Guardian. It’s an insurance that cost us a whopping $150, and lasts for 5 years. It covers rips, tears, stains, pet mishaps, you name it. There’s no deductible, so I thought there HAD to be a catch. After sending a picture to Bradley (that I’m sure is up on their Wall of Shame), he sent out a whole brand new half of our couch. Normally they’d try to replace or repair cushion by cushion, but ya know, we really brought the house down with our stain.

I can NOT say enough good things about Bradley and this company in terms of selection, customer service, integrity, communication, and the list goes on.

I hope this never ever happens to you, but if it does, I hope this helps!

In the Dog House: Buyer Edition

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So, it’s no secret that Dorothy June runs our life and we joke (sorta..) that we bought her a back yard for her birthday. And honestly, with 1/3 of millennials agreeing that they purchased a home for their pup vs. marriage or stability, it kinda feels nice to know we aren’t alone. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, there are important considerations for every member of the family. I’m going to share some of the highlights today to keep in mind when you’re buying:

  1. Research the Community- One of the best things about moving from an apartment is no longer having to answer to a leasing company. However, many homes you’ll see are part of a Homeowner’s Association where you’ll pay dues for them to do a variety of things from maintaining your lawn to planting flowers in the shared spaces to planning the 4th of July BBQ. Many of these associations also have restrictions on whether or not you can fence a home and what styles are allowed. ALWAYS make sure to get a survey of your lot so you can see where the property lines are, and if there are any easements or setbacks that would keep you from fencing in your land. Also make sure to take leash laws, noise ordinances and other restrictions into account from the local government.
  2. Scan for Dangers- This isn’t a dealbreaker by any means, but you should 100% scan your new backyard and take note of anything dangerous for your pup. For instance, I heard a story recently of someone losing two pets in the same day after they ate poisonous mushrooms in their new backyard. Are there plants you don’t recognize? Holes that could belong to snakes? Woods for wildlife like coyotes? All these things are great to run by your agent, the sellers and your vet.
  3. Be Open to Tradeoffs- I sometimes find it’s difficult to satisfy my pet owner clients, because obviously our babies deserve the best. However, sometimes you may end up loving a house with a small yard. Be sure to take a spin around the neighborhood and look for walking routes, parks, and other dogs to play with that could lighten the pressure of having the perfect outdoor space. Also be sure to note things like stairs and hardwood floors that could be challenging for older dogs, or exciting and great exercise for young pups.
  4. Update All Records- Once you land on a new place, update your dog’s microchip information immediately. With all the new sights and smells, there’s a chance that they’d run off and be uncomfortable in their new neighborhood. Also, take some time early on to interview new vets, find new caretakers or dog walkers, and transfer any records and medications to the new doctor.

As silly as it may sound, it helps to find an agent that understands how hard it can be to find the perfect match for your WHOLE family when your dog runs the show. We all know animal lovers are among the most trustworthy and beloved, so never hesitate to ask any questions necessary during the interview process!

Staging Secrets with Minted Spaces

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I was so thrilled when Aryn at Minted Spaces reached out to me to meet up. I had swooned over her work for the longest time, and it was so fun to get to sit down and chat all things home over a cup of coffee. The most interesting takeaway, and what I really think sets Aryn apart, is that she has a background in psychology. It’s hard to realize until you’re in the moment, but we are so attached to our homes and our belongings, whether buying, selling, or even decluttering. I asked Aryn to share the scoop on her process and how you can get that perfectly staged feeling in your home without driving yourself insane and selling all your things online. Keep in mind, many of these suggestions are awesome to keep in mind day-to-day, even if you don’t plan to sell your home!

What is the first thing you think a buyer notices when they walk into a home?

I think the first thing buyers notice is more of a feeling than actual tangible items. Most buyers want to walk into this magical “ah this is home” feeling. While that might look a little different for everyone, overall you can accomplish this by creating a neutral and warm space.

What is a quick way to make your home feel “staged” in under an hour?

First, remove all personal photos. No one is going to have that “ah this is my home” feeling if they see the current homeowner on the walls. Next, focus on the main rooms: kitchen, dining, master bedroom, and living room. If you have a partner, it may be best to split up to cover more ground.

In the kitchen and dining room, make sure all surfaces are clear of clutter and clean. Don’t go overboard though, you want a few décor items out to give it that cozy feel. In the living room be sure the couch has pillows placed near the arms, and a throw blanket over the arm or back of the couch for an extra cozy feel. Sweep/vacuum the floors before finishing up in this room. For the master bedroom, be sure to make the bed (preferably with light colored bedding), toss a throw near the foot of the bed, and clear the surfaces of any vanities, dressers, and nightstands. Adding some flowers (real or faux) helps give this space a retreat feel.

Bonus tip! Have some Scentsy, diffuser or other flameless candle options strategically placed in these main rooms. Vanilla and jasmine scents are proven to be relaxing while lifting people’s moods. If you’re listing in November and December, using cinnamon and pine scents will evoke a cozy feeling. Just be sure to not have them be too strong, as some people get migraines when the scent is overwhelming.  

Is there any advice you find yourself giving over and over to clients? 

Everything I listed above is in nearly every staging consult list I give to clients. Another one is to add real or faux plants to rooms to bring texture and life to a space. Snake plants are excellent for staging. They are tough little buggers and can handle being forgotten about for weeks. They’re also very trendy. There’s no need to repot them, you can simply stick them as-is into a wicker basket and bam! You’re living room is Instagram worthy.

What tips do you have for keeping your house organized and show-ready but also livable? 

The first is to de-clutter. This is easiest to do by season. If you’re listing in the summer, go ahead and pack away all those sweaters, coats, boots, and sleds. This should empty out the closets some.

Next, wicker/cloth baskets are your new best friend. These make closets and cube storage spaces look put together when really, the inside of those baskets can be a hot mess. These are perfect for throwing all the shoes into, then placing in the entryway closet. Toys in the living room? Wicker baskets with lids are your friend. Tuck one under a window and add a pillow on top, and now it’s a cozy area for showings.

Finally, have a plan and delegate. Everyone who lives in the home should have their own set to-do list before leaving the house. This eliminates the frantic, random cleaning where you and your partner are going over the same spaces. If you have pets or children, have a bag packed and ready to go near the door with snacks, toys, treats, and whatever else they may need over the course of a few hours. Doing all of these should help get you and your family out the door with minimal stress.

Hopefully you can implement some of these tips to make your home magazine-worthy, whether you are listing or just nesting!

Countertop FAQs with Geo’s Marble & Granite

graniteFrom the minute I heard another agent in my office say “I like to quiz myself on different granite types in my spare time”, I knew I was in the right place. In my opinion, nothing can change the whole look of a kitchen faster than new countertops. However, when my husband and I were looking at homes, I was totally overwhelmed trying to determine what material was in a kitchen, how easily I could replace it, and what that might entail. So, when I got the chance to sit down with the team at Geo’s Marble and Granite, I got right to the bottom of it all. The company has been in business since 2012 and came highly recommended, so I knew they’d be the ones who could answer my burning questions.

What are the most common materials you might find in a kitchen? How could someone tell the difference when they walk in a home?

Most often you will find quartz (which is manmade), granite or laminate. Occasionally you might see marble but it’s not usually recommended for a kitchen. To quickly tell which type is installed, look underneath. Naturally occurring stone like granite or marble isn’t often altered on the bottom, whereas laminate or quartz will have some factory markings or be smoother and more finished.

What do you need to consider when replacing countertops in my home?IMG_1913

At Geo’s, you’ll need to set aside about 5-7 business days for measuring and installation (this can vary greatly from business to business). As a rule of thumb, summer is better for installation as the winter months get extremely busy in the industry. Always ask if they are willing and able to remove old countertops as well. Geo’s is happy to help for an additional fee, but other companies may not offer disposal.

Which material is the easiest to care for?

Let’s start by saying marble is NOT the easiest, and is often discouraged in kitchens. Many styles can stain and etch easily when they come in contact with things like wine, coffee and even styrofoam. Marble is much better in a bathroom where it’s less likely for these things to come in contact with your surface. Quartz and granite are actually extremely easy to care for and they only require sealing once a year, which is just a simple spray (which you can purchase at Lowes or Home Depot) almost like cleaning and wiping down your counters. As long as you maintain the sealing, they are able to withstand heat, cutting, liquid, and all kinds of other kitchen mishaps. Another great thing about granite is that even if there is some accidental staining, the pattern will often camouflage it.

What happens if my kitchen is oddly shaped or requires a very long countertop?

No problem! While they try to have the fewest seams possible, they are often required in lengths over 10ft. Curves, rounded spaces and overhangs are no issue either.

What determines the cost of different countertops?

At the core, it’s all about supply and demand and what’s the most popular. Besides that, the main factors are material and square footage. Cost also fluctuates based on the amount of waste it takes to get a beautiful pattern. Granite pricing is tiered, so a “level one” granite would be a builder-grade material that starts around $29/ square foot. It has repetitive, even patterns that allow for one piece to be cut after another. Conversely, a complex piece of marble might require a lot of waste in order to get to that perfect design element on a piece, driving up the price. If humans can make more of it (quartz and laminate), it is often more affordable than things we rely on nature to produce (granite, quartzite, marble).

IMG_1231What are the biggest countertop trends right now?

The light, bright pieces are flying out of the store. Many people are going for the look of marble but prefer quartz or granite with that same design. For styles, waterfall countertops (where the counters extend over the sides all the way to the floor, like a table) are increasing in popularity.

I hope that helped clear up some of the questions out there about counters! The best part about this conversation was meeting someone that knew their stuff and loved what they did. They had a wonderful selection (much of it was imported from Brazil- fun fact!) and they were incredibly knowledgable about the varieties, nuances and trends. The team helped me understand how affordable and simple it could be to install and maintain these beautiful additions. If you have any other questions, I’d love to pass them along for answers!

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Odd Things to Refresh

So far, 2018 in the Azzarello household means that for a few weeks nothing is safe from being tossed, donated or stowed in a decorative basket. Between moving and feeling re-energized starting a new career, I have been the mood for all things fresh. I noticed that outside of the big ticket items (pantry, closets, laundry room) I’ve gained great satisfaction from refreshing a few out of the ordinary things I normally would have overlooked.

  1. Keychain– I totally took for granted how many times a day I handled my keys. My key ring was filled with mystery keys, empty rings that add length and weight, and crusty store cards that I barely used. I grabbed a staple remover to hold my key ring open to save my nails, then I removed every keychainkey, card and ring. If you can’t let go, consider an app like Stocard to store your discount cards digitally. Only keep things that are absolutely necessary or fill you with joy. I cut it down to my key fobs, gym card, my library card, my Wendy’s free Frosty for a year card, and my fun pom-pom keychain.
  2. Phone Case- While I know I have a problem picking up my phone itself, I never realized how big of an impact the case makes. In today’s world, it’s the first thing people see and associate with you, as weird as that sounds. I’ve found that the more I switch mine up and the more they resonate with me, the happier I am. I had this reindeer one from H&M on during the holidays, and it was an amazing conversation starter. I’m currently rocking a Target Dollar spot case with jazzy sloshing glitter that says “You’re a Llama fun”, and the happiness and entertainment it brings me is immeasurable. If you are on team practical, at the very least take off your case and wipe down the buttons, screen, and disinfect the back.
  3. Unmentionables– My underthings drawer (including my socks, tights and bras) was an  absolute nicoryghtmare. I saved mismatched socks and sports bras that were hanging on by a thread “just in case”. I even reached into my tights drawer the other day and pulled out TWO pairs with holes in them. Past Me putting those back in the drawer was like leaving Future Me a flaming bag of dog doo on the front stoop.

4. Closet: Hopefully you’ve already pulled out clothes you don’t wear, I don’t need to remind you to do that (but go do it again). I found it incredibly rewarding to take it a step further and make everything “ready to wear”. I pulled out everything remotely wrinkly and ironed it, I shaved pills off of sweaters, cleaned silver jewelry and cut off those annoying hangy things that get in the way while getting dressed. I’m a huge fan of my velvet hangers so I tossed out all of the wire ones and ensured they were all replaced as well.

pens5. Pen holder: For some reason, writing with a dried up pen gives me the willies- like biting into a popsicle. It’s also frustrating and unprofessional to not have a working pen handy that doesn’t advertise a fast food chain. Go through while watching TV and ditch all the pens that are broken, dried up or less than stellar. Sharpen broken pencils, pull out Sharpies and highlighters and stash pens where you most need them.

Sometimes when I start to organize, I get overwhelmed and freeze up after a big project. I hope that this gave you a few more ideas to keep plowing through your spring refresh! What has breathed new life into your routine recently?

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Welcome, Y’all!

Hi y’all and thanks so much for visiting me here at Flying Pig House & Home. I am a Realtor, newlywed and obsessed dog mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. I’ve wanted to start a blog for years, but for reasons out of my control (extremely easily distracted, dessert, failed diets, vacations, Netflix binges), I’ve never made it far out of the gate.

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I’m a big fan of Q&A so hopefully these next few lines will give you some insight into my plans.

First of all, why the name Flying Pig? House & Home? Huh?

Flying pigs have always been a favorite motif of mine. Society knows the cute little fellas with wings as a depiction of the impossible happening. For me, starting a brand new business, finally keeping up with a blog and hopefully helping lots of people along the way feels impossible, and I hope to conquer that. The “house” part pays homage to my career as a Realtor. I will share tips from experts, explanations of crazy difficult concepts, market trends, design inspiration, & more. The “home” part is the most important to me, in that I want this to feel like you’re walking into my apartment, moving some of the papers and Oreo Thins and black labs from the couch, and sitting down with a G&T or cup of coffee. I hope to provide approachable advice without being preach-y, and share what has worked for me in my limited adulting career.

Are you doing this to sell me stuff, Elizabeth?

No, girl (or man). I vow to only share things I love and have tried myself, most likely from Walmart, Ross Dress for Less or Trader Joe’s. Next question.

What kind of things will you be sharing?

I will admit, humbly, that I often have no clue what I am doing. I rely on a team of trusted advisors (you’ll meet some of them tomorrow) and Google to help me navigate this maze called adulthood. I have cracked the code on a couple things, and plan to share routines, articles and self-help tips that I swear by. I will focus heavily on interviews with said trusted advisors so that you and I can learn together (with G&Ts. And the coffee). I will answer any and all questions that come my way about Real Estate or life or dog motherhood or cooking or travel or anything else. I am a self-taught chef and will share recipes, and I am craft-obsessed so you can expect lots of tutorials as well. I am a huge travel and reading nerd, so you can follow along with me on staycations & vacations, and see which books I have my nose in along the way. Lastly, my husband and I are new homeowners, so plan on giving and receiving ideas, before-and-afters and lotssss of Pinterest links.

Anything else?

I promise to honestly and openly give and receive advice in this space. I will not try to advise you on things I have no experience in, and I will give you blanket suggestions just for the sake of writing content. I am ALWAYS open to kind, honest feedback (just ask my husband how great I am at taking feedback), and hope to make this as interesting and as useful as I can.