Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Two One-Eyed Cats - A Christmas Story


Four years ago Roger and I decided that our Christmas present to each other would be to adopt a kitten from All Creatures Great and Small, a controversial local shelter that was in the process of closing. When we went there we found Baci, a very tiny feral ginger kitten, who came home and joined the family, to our continuing delight.

I also met Milky and Caramel, two one-eyed brothers who, as I was told, had injured each other during a fight. They both were so charming and affectionate that I didn’t see how the story could possibly be true, but there they were with their rakish pirate charm, and little chance of being adopted together, which was required because of their strong bond of devotion.

With so many healthy single animals there urgently needing homes, the chance of someone taking on two special needs cats was very small. Something had to be done to help them, so I told the staff that I would give a $100 adoption bonus to the person who would take them both. Someone on the staff of All Creatures told the Times-News about the bonus, and I was asked to come back to the shelter for an interview and picture with the boys. About a week after the story ran, no one had claimed the reward so I called All Creatures and was told that the kittens had been adopted, but they couldn’t be located for the routine follow-up the Humane Society was conducting. Fearing Milky and Caramel were dead, or worse, I blamed myself for calling attention to them, and for the next few months, whenever I thought about them I was deeply sad.

One day I went to the Post Office and found a letter with a return address that said only, “Milky and Caramel”. They were alive! I was so stunned and relieved I burst into tears in the middle of the parking lot. When I pulled myself together and opened the envelope, I found a note from the boys saying how happy they were, and several pictures to prove it. A few more times since then I’ve had cards and pictures of “Kumal and Sangha”, as they now are called, but the kind and still anonymous person who took them in has never asked for the bonus money.

Today I received a Christmas card that said, “My how we’ve grown! Four years old, still together and enjoying life. Haven’t forgotten your kindness…” Inside the card was a fuzzy picture of them looking very well-fed and content, the latest chapter in their remarkable story which I’m happy to share with you. 

March 16, 2023

Sangha died in the Fall of 2020 and Kumal died this morning. They had long and happy lives together, thanks to the loving kindness of the person who adopted them. Over the years we corresponded, and I saw many pictures of them playing, enjoying the sunshine, and watching the birds from the safety of their screened porch. Their benefactor and I have still never met, but we have built a connection that will endure. The story of the two one-eyed cats has had the happy ending that’s everything I hoped for. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Take A Picture

One of my tried and true design tools is a photograph of the project I've just completed, whether it's a room, a Christmas tree or a flower arrangement. Try as I do to achieve balance, when I've worked to create something I don't see it objectively right away because I'm too close to it. Taking a picture gives me a chance to see my work with a fresh viewpoint and recognize what works, and what doesn't.

Take this Christmas tree, for example. I thought I'd done a reasonably good job of spacing the ornaments, but when I saw the picture I noticed there were clusters and gaps, and the tree needed a little tweaking.

Now I grant you that I may be a bit fussier about these things than most, but I always want to improve and I appreciate tools, like a picture, that help me make my work better. Try it for yourself and see what I mean.

By Sandy LeRoy

Monday, October 17, 2011

Exterior Painting - Color and Details Matter

When you're painting the outside of your house, one of the decisions to make is what to accent and what to hide. It's a decision every bit as important as choosing the right colors to flatter the permanent elements in the house, such as the roof or stonework. Here's a look at one of our projects that will show you what I mean.

On the right you see a house where just about everything had been accented.The list includes all, and I do mean all, the banding boards, the shingles in the peaks of the garage, the garage doors, the downspouts and many small details. Instead of looking unified and harmonious, the house appears to be an assemblage of bits and pieces, not only because of all the accenting, but also because of the high contrast between the dark gray wall color and the white trim.

Here's the house after Roger painted it a medium taupe and accenting was limited to the door and window casings, certain secondary doors and the fascias. He also painted the foundation, the deck posts and the lattice under the front porch in the wall color so they would like more like part of the structure, and less like distracting (or overlooked) details.

In the entryway every banding board originally was accented, as were the mounting boards for the light fixtures and the tiny strips of molding in the corners between the sections of wall, detracting from the beauty of the porch and front door.

When Roger painted the house, he made all these details "disappear" by painting them in the wall color. In addition he refinished the front door, the bead board ceiling and the porch.

Along with the peaks in the gables, the large garage doors were originally painted white. They dominated the area and unfortunately were the first things that greeted visitors. The front door is down a path to the right.

Today the garage doors, peaks, banding boards and downspouts are painted the wall color. An arbor has been added at the beginning of the path to welcome visitors and direct them to the front door. It's the first step in renovating the landscaping in this area, with more planting to come.

As you can see, choosing attractive colors is just the first step. Equally important is making the correct decisions about what to accent and what to hide so that the result flatters the architecture of the house and looks cohesive . When you hire us to paint the exterior of your house, a color consultation and recommendations about how to treat the details are a free part of our service.

Working together, Roger and I made a significant difference in the curb appeal and value of this house, and we can do the same for yours. To schedule an estimate, call me at 828-685-0560.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What Color Should You Paint the Garage Door?

Because of its size, a garage door painted in an accent color commands a disproportionate amount of attention and, depending on its location, can detract from the entryway which should be the focal point of the front of your house. After all, the garage door is only the entrance to where your cars live, it’s not where you welcome visitors. 

The solution is simple: paint your garage door** the same color as the walls of your house, and choose a special accent color with a dash of pizzazz for your front door, a color that’s used nowhere else.  You’ll be amazed at the difference this simple change will make.

**Some garage doors can't be painted. Read the warranty.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Paint-Primer Hybrids-Do They Work?

The new paint/primer hybrids being marketed today are very popular with consumers who hope to reduce the work of painting, but do these products perform as advertised? The answer is perhaps they will in some situations, and definitely not in others. In spite of the marketing hype, these hybrids aren’t always the right choice, so it pays to get expert advice about your specific project.  

The primer you need depends on: 
  • What you’re priming (wood, drywall, plastic or metal)
  • Whether you’re working inside or outside
  • What you want to accomplish. 
The primer to use on a rusted metal railing outdoors is different from the primer to use on a water-stained ceiling.

The right primer will:
  • Improve adhesion, or the ability of the finish coat of paint to stick to the surface. 
  • Fill imperfections to create a smooth surface and make the finish coat more attractive and durable.
  • Marry two different types of paint, such when you want to use a latex paint over a surface previously painted in an oil base paint. 
  • Enable you to make a significant color change. (For maximum coverage, tint the primer to the color of the finish paint.) 
  • Reduce absorbtion of moisture to protect the item being painted, especially wood.
  • Retard the development of rust.
  • Block tannin, grease, wax crayon, water damage, rust or smoke stains, etc. from bleeding through the finish paint.
  • Retard odors from nicotine, fire damage, etc. 
  • Evenly seal the drywall paper and taped areas so that paints with a sheen will have a more uniform, attractive appearance.
Finish paints are designed to be:
  • Attractive
  • Durable
  • Cleanable to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the type of paint and the sheen
Paints aren’t formulated to do the same work as primers, and when you combine the two, it’s arguable that the resulting hybrid is a less effective version of both. In addition, because primers cost considerably less than finish paints, using the right primer followed by a good quality finish paint will reduce the overall cost of your project, and give you more attractive, long-lasting results. If all this has your head spinning, remember that one of the many benefits of hiring a professional is product knowledge. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Your Baseboards and Crown Molding - Should They Disappear?

When painting the inside of your house, you not only have to choose attractive wall and trim colors, you have to decide where to put them. One important decision is whether or not the baseboards, crown molding and other details should be accented.

I firmly believe that you should accent only the details that are:
  • attractive 
  • suitable to the design of the house, and
  • in the proper scale with the room
Many of today's houses have narrow, utilitarian baseboards and crown molding that don't deserve special attention, but people go on automatic pilot and paint them in the trim color, usually a white. This creates awkward, skimpy white lines at the floor and ceiling that draw the eye, and when the wall is a rich color, the high contrast makes their shortcomings even more obvious.

Crown Molding Enhanced With Paint
Don't worry, I'm not suggesting that you replace your trim! There are two simple solutions. You can either make it disappear, or you can enhance it.

  • To make trim "disappear", paint it in the wall color so it becomes texture. The ceilings will look taller and the room more unified and spacious. 
  • To enhance the trim, use masking tape and trim paint to redefine it, as was done in the above example from one of our projects. Notice how small the wood section of the crown is, and how much larger and more attractive it looks after Roger enlarged and painted it in a golden bronze metallic I chose to complement the blue walls, gold ceiling and the mirror frame. 
If you want to enhance your trim, you don't have to have a fancy look and metallic paint. The technique works just as well in less formal rooms.

Our two hour color and detailing consultation ($225, plus travel charges in some areas) includes suggestions on how to make the most of the details of your house. If you hire us to do the painting, the consultation is free as part of our services. To schedule a consultation or a painting estimate, call me at 828-692-4355.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Where Are Your Window Treatments?

Roger started a new interior painting project today, and last week I visited the homeowners to help them choose colors, a free service for our clients. While I was there the conversation drifted, as it often does, to other design issues. 

One of my recommendations was that they bring more light into the house by re-hanging their window treatments at the top of the wall, instead of at the top of the window, and that the panels come to the outside edge of the window casing, instead of hanging over the window. If you have a valence over blinds, the bottom of the valence should hide the stack - but that's all. Moving the window treatments will make the room look larger and brighter, and it won't cost our clients a cent. Look at the impact of this simple change. The windows are the same size, but the one on the right looks much larger and has a lot more pizzazz.

Between the window treatment rehab and the spiffy new paint colors, this lovely house will look even better, and be a more cheerful, enjoyable place to live.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Renting Furniture to Stage Your House - Is It Money Well Spent?

Yesterday I had a call from a local REALTOR asking if I had furniture to rent. She had a client with a vacant house, and she thought that adding furniture would make it more appealing. I told her that although I had a few things, I didn't think that renting furniture was a good idea, so I usually recommend against it. (I think she was surprised to hear me say that).

In my experience, the furniture that's available for rental is often unsuitable for a particular house because of its quality, size, color, design or condition. If you stage a house with odds bits of furniture here and there, or with the wrong furniture, it looks a lot worse than no furniture. Having some furniture definitely is not better than having none.

Renting furniture is also expensive. In addition to rental fees, sellers have to pay to have the furniture transported and installed, and to have the rooms staged. They probably will also have to pay one or more months rental in advance, and may not be able to pro-rate the fees if the house sells during the rental term. Then they have to pay to have the furniture removed. This money is usually collected in advance too. In addition, if the furniture is damaged or stolen, sellers are responsible for repairs or replacement. You can see how the costs add up, which is why some stagers are really in the furniture rental business. They love the months of passive income, and who can blame them!

My preference is for sellers to use their budget to do things that add value, create more appeal (both in pictures and in person) and convey with the house, such as painting. The key is to use the right colors, because attractive colors will add a "wow" factor and help to furnish a vacant house, along with a few well-chosen accessories in the right places.

Instead of renting furniture, sellers should invest in a consultation with a professional stager who can recommend smart solutions that pay off, such as new paint colors, and upgrades of flooring, lighting and other fixtures that would enhance the value of the house and make it more marketable. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Choosing Exterior Paint Colors? Use This Questionnaire.

 Many people find it difficult to choose paint colors because they don't know how to begin or what factors they should consider. To help guide you to a color plan that will make your house look its best, I've developed the following questionnaire.  


  •  How large is the site?
               The larger the site, the more color latitude you have. 
  •   What is the relationship of the house to the site?
                 The more secluded the site, the more color latitude you have.
  •   How close and visible are your neighbors?
                Do their color decisions affect yours?
  •    If your neighbors are visible, what colors have they used?  
                Your house should look harmonious, but different.
  •   What is the distance from the house to the curb?
                Is the front yard very deep or shallow? Color can adjust how it looks.
  •   Does your subdivision, neighborhood association or historic district have strict rules about color?  
                New colors may require formal approval.


  •  What is the architectural style of the house?
               Rustic, contemporary, colonial, bungalow, ranch, etc.
  •   Does the architecture suggest a color palette?
                 •   Regional colors (tropical, urban, mountains, desert)
                 •   Historic colors (Colonial, Craftsman, Victorian, etc.)
  •    Does the house have pleasing portions?
                You may be able  to make adjustments  by how and where color is used,  or by adding trim or  other decoration.
  •   Are there different siding materials?
                Don’t automatically accent them. The result could look busy or choppy.
  •   Are there horizontal or vertical banding boards?
                Banding boards are usually utilitarian, not decorative.   If they're accented, the house often looks busy and chopped up.
  •   What are the dominant colors in the permanent elements, such as the roof, stonework, walkways, etc.?
                Are the colors warm (red, orange, yellow), cool (blue, green purple) or neutral (black or white)? 
  •   Is the entryway a naturally attractive focal point, or is the garage door the first thing you see?        
               Paint the garage door with the wall color to minimize its impact.
                (All doors aren’t paintable. Check the warranty first.)
  •   Is the entryway recessed and dark, even in daylight, or shallow and  bright?
               If it's dark, consider a light or vibrant color for the front door.
  •   Is the front door painted or stained?
                •    If the door can be painted, choose a unique color for pizzazz, and to create a focal point. Coordinate with the other colors and the permanent elements.
                •    If the door is stained and in need of refinishing, coordinate the stain color with the paint color(s) and the permanent elements. 
  •   Is there a separate storm or screen door?
               •    Is the style compatible with the front door? Storm and screen doors often hide the features of the front door, or clash with it.
               •    Can the storm or screen door be painted the front door color? 
  •  Are any doors and windows pre-finished, with parts that are inaccessible, or can they be painted?
             If they can’t be painted, consider them permanent elements and incorporate the color in your overall plan.
  •  Are there attractive, paintable details to highlight, such as windows, doors,  shutters or trim?
             Don’t automatically accent every detail!  Consider its role and the effect on the house as a whole. Banding boards are a perfect example of a detail that usually shouldn't be accented, particularly in high contrast colors.
  •  Is the foundation visible?
              Paint the foundation in the wall color, or a coordinated one of similar value, to create unity with the house. 
  •  Are functional items visible, such as downspouts, cable or utility boxes, wiring?
              Make them “disappear” by painting them in the wall color.      
  •  What colors dominate the permanent landscaping?
               Consider the color(s) of foliage, flowers, fruit, and bark. Are the colors warm (yellow, orange, red), or cool (blue, green, violet) or neutral (white)? Paint and landscaping colors that clash is a common problem.


  •   What colors do you like?
                Light, dark, neutrals, historic… 
  •   What overall impression do you want to create?
               Elegant, modern, rustic, cottage, grand, sophisticated, dramatic, subtle …


  • Pick colors that work with the permanent elements.
  • Plan how to make corrections with color where needed.
  • Choose the right things to accent. 
  • Camouflage the rest.
Details Add Up and Make A Difference…

Getting Started

  • Answer the questions in the survey.
  •  Determine what will be accented and what will be painted in the wall color.
  •  Decide what paint you want to use, then gather brochures to get ideas for color combinations. Buy the very best paint you can afford.
  • Choose two or three candidates for the wall color and buy the smallest amount of paint you can to create sample boards. View the samples under varying conditions and choose a color.
  •  Be sure you really do like the color by painting a small wall before buying all the paint you'll need.
  •  Choose candidates for the trim and front door colors. Create sample boards.  For trim, cut the board into strips and place around a door or window to show how the color would look in proportion to the wall.
  •  Analyze the effect of the wall and trim colors, then choose the front door color.
Choose paint colors that work well together and flatter the permanent elements in your house and landscaping, in all seasons.
©2011 Sandy LeRoy

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Painting Vinyl Siding

Last week I did a staging consultation for a couple whose house has been on the market for six months, to no avail. The house has vinyl siding with a great deal of dirt and mildew, and the paint on the trim and shutters is in poor condition, so cleaning and painting were among my top recommendations. The sellers had been afraid to pressure-wash for fear of damaging the windows, and they thought the vinyl siding couldn't be painted.

I understand their concerns about pressure-washing because all too often the person doing it is an amateur who uses too much pressure and causes damage. The answer is to use the right cleaner (and the right person) for the job, and to let the cleaner, not high pressure, do the work. As for being unable to paint vinyl siding, it's a common misconception.

Vinyl siding can be painted, if it's done the right way. Vinyl is a non-porous material that expands with heat and can buckle, making paint adhesion and elasticity key concerns. Look at your siding to see if it's already buckling because applying paint could aggravate the problem. Read the warranty on your siding if you're tempted to paint newer vinyl, just for a color change. You could void it.

Here are some other things you need to know:

  • Before you paint, thoroughly clean the siding to remove dirt, mold and any chalking caused by the deterioration of the vinyl.
  • Use a high quality latex paint with a blend of urethane and acrylic resins. It's easy to apply, has superior adhesion and is more likely to withstand the movement of the vinyl as temperatures change. 
  • Talk with the experts at your local paint store and ask them to recommend a product. Describe the condition of your house to determine if priming is needed. Some companies such as Sherwin Williams have a special line of paints designed for use on vinyl siding.
  • Avoid dark colors. The rule of thumb is for the new color to be no darker than the existing one. White vinyl can be painted, if you pick a light color and use the appropriate product.
  • For the paint to cure properly, don't apply it in direct sunlight, or on a hot day, or when rain threatens!    
The marketing hype is that vinyl siding will last forever and be virtually maintenance-free, but unfortunately vinyl does deteriorate and the color will fade over time. If your vinyl siding isn't looking its best, consider painting it, but do your homework first.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Don't Ask (Or Expect) Your REALTOR To Give Staging Advice

I'm usually frustrated when I look at pictures of houses for sale because 99% of the time the pictures are terrible. Either the house is so filled with stuff that you can't see its features, or it's so poorly presented, bland or dated that it has no appeal. Either the REALTORs didn't understand the importance of cosmetic appeal and communicate this to their sellers, or the parties tried to "stage" the house themselves after watching a few shows on HGTV. The seller is the big loser because those bad pictures will cost them money and time.

Don't ask or expect your REALTOR to give staging advice. Here's why:

  • Very few REALTORs have in-depth training and experience in the application of design principles to real estate marketing. At best some have taken a two day staging class, or they've read staging articles on the internet. It's not nearly enough! 
  • Even if the REALTOR has some training, most are reluctant to tell sellers all the things they really need to hear for fear of offending them, straining the relationship or even losing their business.
Just as you wouldn't expect your REALTOR to do the pre-listing home inspection, you shouldn't expect her to give staging advice. There's a lot more to it than getting rid of clutter.

An unstaged or poorly staged house results in bad pictures and little buyer interest. Don't let that happen to you. Before you list, have a consultation with a professional home stager with the training and experience to transform your home into a competitive product that will photograph well and motivate buyers to visit in person. Contrary to what you might think, staging is not expensive. A two hour informal staging consultation with me is only $225, and I look at everything on the inside and outside of your property, starting at the curb. Compare that to the typical, first price reduction when your house hasn't sold. 

Let REALTORs concentrate on the things they do best, the things you really need them for. The list doesn't include staging!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Enhancing Architectural Details With Paint

Crown Molding Enhanced With Paint
Problem: The crown molding in our dining room was too skimpy for the nine foot ceilings.

Solution: Instead of replacing the crown, we used paint to make it look larger and to add a little pizazz. The walls are a dusky blue and the ceiling is antique gold, so Roger painted the crown and a one inch strip just below it in a matte antique gold metallic paint. It worked beautifully and the cost was negligible.

Paint is an easy, inexpensive way to correct the proportions of certain architectural details, like skimpy crown molding. Try it!