Friday, March 23, 2012

Elizabeth Bradley Spring Cushions

When I brought out my collection of Elizabeth Bradley cushions for Spring the other day, I continued the project of photographing them and looking up the names, which I'd forgotten years ago. I still can't get over the fact that I had it in me to do so many needlepoint projects, and I wonder if I'll ever be inclined to tackle another one.

New cushions are just one aspect of the seasonal changes I make around here, which I do it a little at a time. One Saturday it's the cushions, and another it's redoing the flower arrangements or bedding. Over the years we've acquired or made things to reflect the time of year, and both Roger and I enjoy putting away the stuff from the previous season and bringing out the "new" old stuff for the current one. Doing it here where there are four seasons, instead of the two that we had in the San Francisco Bay Area, makes it even more fun.


The Blackbirds' Nest


Interlocking Hexagons

Spring Basket
Sweet Peas
Apple Blossoms

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Choosing A REALTOR? Look at Their Report Card.

At last week's class on "How to be a Smart Home Seller", one of the topics was how to choose a REALTOR**. I don't remember exactly where the thought came from, but off the top of my head I blurted that I would look on line at the listings of the people I was considering to see how well they were presented. The thought of using pictures of a REALTOR's listings as a kind of report card hadn't occurred to me before, but the more I consider it, the more it makes sense.

In fairness to REALTORs, there are always sellers who won't listen to reason when given sound advice. However, if every single one of a REALTOR's  listings has been photographed "as is" and looks dreadful, the unfortunate clients are living in the house instead of selling it. The likely reason is that this REALTOR isn't willing or able to give proper guidance, nor are they recommending a consultation with a professional stager. As a prospective client, I would be concerned about working with this REALTOR because no matter how much I liked them, I couldn't be confident that my listing would look any better. Since compelling on-line photographs are my most important marketing tool, I would be putting the sale of my house in questionable hands, particularly in this highly competitive environment.

For my own information, I looked on line at the listings of several local REALTORs, and sad to say, the results were pretty dismal. Their report cards put every single one of them in the "D" or "F" category in terms of how well prepared their listings looked, and whether or not they would be appealing to the average buyer. I wish I could show you those dramatically bad pictures because you'd see exactly what I mean, but I want to protect the identity of everyone involved.

This failure to emphasize the importance of creating cosmetic appeal isn't a new story. Far too many REALTORs still don't realize that it's all about the pictures, and unfortunately the results are all over the internet. With over 95% of today's buyers shopping on line at home before contacting a REALTOR to see the house in person, this is a significant problem.

When you're choosing a REALTOR, be sure to look at their on line "report card" and ask questions about their approach to marketing your house. To sell on the best terms, you need to work with someone who gets it.

**The answer is on the basis of merit and compatibility. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Saturday Morning at Hendersonville's Curb Market

One of my favorite stops on Saturday mornings is the Curb Market on North Church Street in Hendersonville. I love the history and tradition it embodies, the wonderful locally grown and created things you can find there, but most of all I enjoy the people.

Louise Hill with her nest collection
It's always a treat to visit with Louise Hill, who has a wealth of local natural history knowledge and lore. At her stand I always find many things that delight me, and they change with the season.

Right now Louise has some spring wildflowers for sale and nests made by wrens, cardinals, robins and titmice, among others. They would make a wonderful addition to your Spring decor...

She also showed me a nest that a Carolina wren had made in a hanging basket. There were a couple of eggs inside, but they weren't viable and the parent wrens left them behind. The wren's habit of nesting near people is one of the things I find so endearing about them, although their screeching isn't a pleasant sound. Louise also showed me an intact skin shed by a large black snake, and said that non-poisonous snakes lay eggs, while poisonous ones give birth to live young. It was news to me...

Mary Jones
Then it was on to the stand where every Spring I buy black pussy willows (salix Gracilistylus 'Melanostachys') from Mary Jones. It was a quest for this item in particular that brought me to the Market on Saturday, so I was glad she still had some.

I would love to grow black pussy willows, and pink or red ones for that matter, to create long-lasting flower arrangements, like the one that's been on my computer table for at least four years. It looks as fresh as the day I bought it, and you'd never know that I've also used it as a prop in many a home staging project.

Black pussy willow
Members of the willow family root very easily, and I stuck Mary's branches in water to enjoy and see what develops. When I researched the shrub I learned that it grows 6-10 feet high and spreads aggressively to about 6 feet wide by both roots and suckers, but can be pruned drastically to control its wandering. If the stems do root, I'll have to research the plant further to be certain we have a good place to put it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Carpenter Bees Will Be Active Soon

 I'd never heard of carpenter bees until we moved here, and even then it took a while to find out what was drilling symmetrical holes in our front porch ceiling, and on the back deck, and leaving piles of sawdust. I soon came to learn how pervasive and destructive they are.

When Roger does exterior estimates he often finds significant damage from carpenter bees, and repairing the holes is an important part of his work prior to painting or staining. Unfinished wood, or wood with a deteriorated finish, are the most susceptible to carpenter bee damage, and at our house we were happy to find that the bees were less inclined to nest in wood that Roger had recently stained or painted.

carpenter bee
There are hundreds of species of carpenter bees around the world, with the most common in our area being the Xylocopa virginica. Carpenter bees aren't all bad. They're important pollinators, particularly now with colony collapse disorder killing millions of the bumble bees we count on for our food supply. Although they look similar at a glance, the carpenter bee is the larger of the two and has a shiny, black metallic abdomen, while the bumblee bee has yellow and black hair on all body parts.

A carpenter bee hole is easy to identify, but then what? The important thing to know is that a female bee is inside building nests, and you need to do something before her family gets larger.

Carpenter Bee Hole
The Bee's Nest Inside the Wood

It's not enough to fill the hole and hope for the best. Carpenter bees come back year after year, and if an old nest is occupied, females will drill new ones and things can quickly get out of hand. 

I don't like to indiscriminately spray poisons all around our home, so I consulted the North Carolina State University web site for the Department of Entomology to see what they suggested.

Unfortunately, these experts aren't encouraging about our ability to prevent carpet bee damage, but they do have some ideas about how to control it.

If carpenter bees have struck at your house, Roger can work wonders to repair the damage to stained or painted wood. Call me for an estimate at 828-692-4355.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mixing Tint Colors with Shade Colors: Proceed with Caution

One of the key attributes of a successful interior color plan is harmony. That means, among other things, that there's an overall concept and colors that work well together. In the real world, color plans often evolve, and when they do, the result often lacks harmony because each new decision is made without enough consideration of the choices that preceded it, or without considering the permanent elements of the house, like the counter tops, flooring, tile, etc., or the architecture.

Tints, Tones and Shades
In color theory, when you mix a hue with white, the result is a tint, and the more white you add, the lighter and more pastel the color becomes. A tone is the result of mixing a hue with gray, and when you mix a hue with black, the result is a shade.

Note the more saturated (intense) color on the left side of each strip, and how it changes, becoming less and less identifiable as the starting hue, which is the same orange in each row.




A Single Approach to Wall Color is Best
Color is very personal. We all see it differently and we're entitled to have our own ideas. I personally don't enjoy houses where both tints and shades are used in large areas, such as on the walls, because they feel incompatible and disrupt the flow of color. If a room is pale pink (a tint of the hue red) and the next room is dark olive (a shade of the hue green), it isn't pleasing to me, even though red and green is a classic color combination. However, if tint versions of red and green were used on the walls, or the tone or shade versions of these colors, the results would be much more cohesive and attractive, and enhance the value of the house.

These samples illustrate how different a tint color is from a shade color, and why using both in the same house can disrupt the "flow" from room to room.


In our area, walls painted in tint colors, whether they're pastel or chromatically intense like the tint green example, feel somewhat harsh and out of place in most situations, except perhaps modern buildings or certain businesses or institutions. They definitely don't suit more rustic architecture. Even in a baby's room, I think a toned hue in a light color works better than a pale tint, and is easier to live with.

To avoid a tint-shade problem with your wall colors, decide the look you want and start training your eye. When you go to the paint store, look at the color displays and identify the tint sections, where the colors will look significantly lighter and brighter than the rest, because they include white. Make a conscious decision about the look you prefer, then shop for colors from that area of the display. Don't jump around!

Tone Colors: The Perfect Compromise
I think tone colors, which are a hue plus gray, represent the perfect compromise between brightness of tint colors and the somber look of shade colors, and are well-suited to most houses in our area. Tone colors can be pale, or they can be dark. Think of them as a little softer.

It's All About Proportion
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you should never use tints, or that you should never mix tints and shades. Quite the contrary! In smaller amounts than on the walls, such as in art, furniture or pillow fabrics or trim, or in ceramic pieces, more extreme colors can look fabulous and provide a desirable, lively or dramatic touch to your color plan. Just be careful how you combine them with more subdued hues. Keep the proportions relatively small, and use them as the icing, not the cake. You'll find the results are more harmonious and pleasing than a mix of tints and shades on your walls.