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Top Five Tips for Summer Entertaining

by Alexandra Zega

 

RISMEDIA, Summer is finally in full swing and so is the season for entertaining. This summer, try trading in your burgers and hot dogs for a little more glam, while remaining under budget.

Check out these tips from celebrity style and entertaining expert Robert Verdi, in partnership with Ecco Domini, to create tips for throwing the perfect fashionable fete.

1. Bottle Up the Excitement: Grab guests' attention, and evoke beachtime nostalgia, with a unique message in a bottle invitation. Use a clear glass bottle and fill it with a little bit of sand. Then roll up your invite and insert it with a string attached for easy access. For a truly personal touch, hand-deliver it to each guest!

2. Go Tribal: Tribal inspirations are making a mark on this season's attire. It's easy to bring this trend to life at home by introducing native elements into your décor such as hand-carved wooden candlesticks or animal print rugs. Make the most of your budget by picking up some tribal printed material at your local fabric store and draping it over your table. This versatile piece not only adds instant summer style to your room but can later serve as a stylish sarong making you a fashion hit at the beach.

3. Stay Cool: Creating your own style statement often means putting a new twist on traditional wardrobe items. You can apply the same concept to entertaining by using your favorite vase or pitcher (glass or ceramic are perfect) as a non-traditional wine cooler. Simply fill the container of your choice with ice and place the wine bottle inside.

4. Dine Under the Stars: Make the most of your outdoor space this season by transforming your rooftop or backyard into an outdoor cafe. A mix of citronella candles and colorful tea lights will keep the pests away and help set the mood for an intimate evening affair. For an added fashionable touch, try draping a vibrant pashmina over each chair- this adds a burst of color to your space and gives guests a way to keep warm if the night gets chilly. Finally, set all of your foods on large trays ahead of time for an easy and quick way to serve guests without making multiple trips to the kitchen.

5. International Tastes: True fashionistas take their style cues from the fashion capitals of the world. Why not do the same when it comes to your party menu? Trade in the typical barbecue burgers and hotdogs for gourmet treats with international flair. For example, create a buffet of easy-to-eat Italian treats such as caprese salad skewers with mozzarella and summer ripe tomatoes, prosciutto-wrapped melon balls or olive tapenade crostinis.

10 Value-Adding Home Improvement Projects

by Alexandra Zega

Now that summer has arrived, homeowners across the country are taking advantage of the warm weather by tackling home improvement projects they have been putting off. If you are looking for ways to add value to your home, the following home improvements may be just what you’re looking for.

Tip 1: Remodel your kitchen
Kitchen updates are one of the best ways to increase the value of your home. Adding modern appliances and refacing your cabinets to give it a more modern look is well worth the investment.

Tip 2: Add a Garage
Homes with at least a two car garage are more attractive to potential home buyers. Having a home with a small garage is almost as bad as having no garage, so consider upgrading before putting your home on the market.

Tip 3: Remodel your bathroom
Bathrooms are very important to home buyers. Just as with the kitchen, home buyers look for modern conveniences. Adding a Jacuzzi bathtub, painting the walls and adding appropriate flooring will go a long way toward increasing your home’s value.

Tip 4: Install the right flooring material
Natural materials such as wood and ceramic are popular among home buyers today. Laminate flooring is a good option, as well, as it creates a natural look without the headaches associated with natural flooring materials.

Tip 5: Install granite counter tops
Granite counter tops are popular in both kitchens and bathrooms. These countertops are low maintenance and quite attractive and can add significant value to your remodel.

Tip 6: Increase curb appeal
Your home needs to grab a potential home buyer’s attention and look great as soon as he or she pulls in the driveway. Add flowers to the outside of your home and make sure it looks bright and cheery.

Tip 7: Add natural light
Home buyers like homes that are bright and cheery on the inside as well as the outside. Look for places to add windows or patio doors that will allow more natural light to come in.

Tip 8: Open up the space
Homes with an open floor plan are more valuable to home buyers than those that feel closed up. Knock out walls wherever possible and open your home up. A great place take out a wall is between your kitchen and your dining room.

Tip 9: Apply a fresh coat of paint
A fresh coat of paint makes a home look new again. When repainting walls, choose neutral colors that don’t stand out too much. Bold colors may be attractive to you, but they may be a turnoff to potential buyers.

Tip 10: Clean up clutter
A cluttered home appears small and dirty. Make certain all clutter is cleaned up on the inside and the outside of the home. Rearrange furniture or remove furniture in order to make the home feel less cramped.

 

(c) RISMEDIA, Paige Tepping

Kitchen Remodels on the Comeback Trail

by Alexandra Zega


The explosion of remodeling shows on TV and makeover spreads in magazines has whetted America's appetite for glamorous rooms brimming with the latest furnishings, appliances and color schemes.

Kitchen remodels are among the most popular, according to a report in the just-published August issue of Consumer Reports and online at consumerreports.org. And the economic slowdown means there are outstanding deals on everything from cooktops to countertops. It also means kitchen designers and building contractors are eager for work and willing to negotiate.

But bargain prices and good looks aren't everything, said Celia Kupersmzid Lehrman, Consumer Reports' deputy home editor.

"When remodeling a kitchen, functionality is every bit as important as style. Fortunately there are many products that look good and work well," she said.

The design of your kitchen is every bit as important as what goes into it, said Jim Spence of Spence & Vaughn Fine Kitchen and Bath in Maitland, Fla.

The most functional design is based on the "work triangle" — the relationship between the prep area, the cooking area and the sink, he said. Ideally, the distance between them should never be less than four feet or more than nine feet. Of the three areas, the most-used is the sink.

When planning a remodel, determining your budget is one of the first steps. The National Kitchen & Bath Association calculates the average kitchen remodel costs between 10 percent and 20 percent of the home's value. But obviously, the extent of the makeover determines its cost. In its latest issue, Consumer Reports takes top-performing products and creates three design schemes: a do-it-yourself makeover for $5,000; a plan that costs $15,000 (the average spent on a kitchen remodel); and a full-scale renovation for $50,000.

Determining your priorities is another key step, said Phil Johnson, a partner at Spence & Vaughn and a certified kitchen designer.

"Do you love to cook? If so, now might be the time to consider professional-style appliances," he said. "Do you have a large family? Consider how best to accommodate them in your new space. Think about the things you love in your old kitchen — and the things you dislike."

In addition, Johnson recommends the following steps for a successful remodel:

—Do your homework. Watch TV remodeling programs, clip appealing pictures and articles from magazines, attend remodeling seminars, visit home shows and parades of homes. Consult with a kitchen designer who is a member of the NKBA, who has the training and experience to avoid many of the things that can go wrong with a remodeling project.

—Visit a showroom. Examine the options in cabinets, countertops, appliances, flooring, plumbing and lighting. Decide what you want — and can afford.

—Schedule a home visit. The designer/installer need to measure the kitchen and adjacent rooms, and make a note of existing walls, doors and windows, electrical supplies, ceiling height, attic access, type of wall construction, plumbing details, etc.

—Finalize the project. The design is refined, construction plans are completed, appliances and supplies are ordered — and the initial deposit is paid.

—Survive the dust, noise and workers. With proper supervision, the disruption can be kept to a minimum. Make sure materials are ordered and on the way before beginning the tear-out. Clear a space in the garage for workers' tools and supplies and items removed from the old kitchen. And communicate regularly with the designer/installer.

The August issue of Consumer Reports identifies these four rules for a successful kitchen remodel:

Don't rush. There are many kitchen products that combine value, performance and good looks. Take time to meet with professionals, browse the Internet and visit showrooms and home centers. Haste can be costly. Changing your mind after the project is started typically adds about $1,500 to the cost of a kitchen project.

Size matters. In addition to being expensive, oversized kitchens can be exhausting to work in and keep tidy. A more compact kitchen often functions better. The National Kitchen & Bath Association website, nkba.org, provides guidelines for optimal space between appliances, cabinets and islands.

Beware of budget busters. Leave a 10 percent to 15 percent cushion for surprises, such as unexpected structural repairs. Avoid settling for a cheap option, thinking someday you will replace it with something you really want. Chances are that will never happen.

Get it in writing. When using a professional for a remodel, the written contract should list each phase of the project; every product, including the model number; and copies of each contractor's license, and workers compensation and liability insurance to confirm they are current. Call references and, if possible, visit them.

(c) 2010, Jean Patteson, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).

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