My Christmas Home Tour 2019!

Welcome! I finally got it properly photographed thanks to amazingly talented Katie Kinsley Photography!

I am slightly obsessed with Christmas and holiday decorating and like to change it up a little each year. This year my daughters wanted me to repeat the Candyland theme from a few years back. I was too tired to get the big lollipops I made out from the attic but we made do. Hope you like it!

BREAKFAST ROOM AND KITCHEN

Breakfast room table: instead of gingerbread houses we made candy trees and the placemats are from Pier 1 a few years ago.

Kitchen island – this is actually kind of funny. It was my birthday and my husband told me to go buy myself something nice while he made the cake for me with our daughters. So I went to a consignment store and found this Chef Santa on a broken bike, brought him home, fixed the bike and voila! The candy disks all over the kitchen is home made, my family was thrilled last August when I sat them down to paint them. Thrilled, I tell you. LOL.

FAMILY ROOM

I tend to get tired of the visual overload that the candyland theme is so I kept the rest of the house more muted. I love how this mantel came out, kind of Victorian.


DINING ROOM

FOYER

LIVING ROOM

There’s no TV here, this is our reading and now piano playing room. We had an upright in the basement until girls were playing better (and least well enough to come upstairs!) so we caved in and got a baby grand. We always get a real tree, I love the smell which sadly dissipates in few days and I definitely do not love putting the lights on and cleaning up the needles. What about you guys? Real or fake?

Both girls got a slimline tree in their room also.

Is staging necessary to sell your home?

In this market where almost everyone is losing money, I would say yes, absolutely. How we live, is not how we well.  And I am not saying that because I am a stager. Staged house is more than just a decorated home, it is a neutral house which helps buyers picture themselves there. Staging, if well done, showcases the best of your house, demonstrates its value and evokes a positive feeling in buyers. It increases the perceived value of the property. A staged home will look better on marketing photos as well which is really what will drive traffic to your listing. In the era of HGTV most buyers want a ready made home where they can move in and be done.

Photo: HDS Design

This room was just too dark, getting the right paint color took some effort but completely changed the room.

Photo: HDS Design

Could you do it yourself? There are lists out there online (Houzz has a great list here) and surely it’s not rocket science: edit the clutter, organize and make things look pretty! It is so important to bring someone else in because you, however great your taste) are no longer able to see your home without bias. I’ll let you in on a little secret, when we sold our last house, the realtor brought in a stager! I almost had a heart attack, how dare she! And while she only suggested a few changes, boy that was a hard pill to swallow until I realized that while having my desk by the wall gave me the privacy I needed, moving to a different location made that area appear twice the size. It’s little things sometimes but these are things you can’t see objectively because you live there every day and are used to the way your home looks but it may not resonate with potential buyers. Staging is not a DIY sport – you need a professional to objectively assess your home.

This was a home office and while it worked just fine for the owners, the buyers of this particular home were surely going to be a family with children and needed a playroom more than a massive office. The heavy brown furniture and orange wall paint also needed to go.

Photo: HDS Design

After: fresh coat of paint, better lighting and different layout turned this room into a bright and cheery room where both younger kids and teenagers could hang out.

Photo: HDS Design

If your home is empty, you should stage at least some rooms such as dining, master, and family room. People have a tough time visualizing themselves and their furniture in the space. If the room is empty, they might think it is too small for their furniture or doesn’t have enough space to entertain etc. Stager can also help you figure out how to best use awkward spaces in your house and they will know what buyers are looking for.

Photo: HDS Design

The negatives of staging are that it takes money when you are already likely to take a hit on your house. But then again, it sure is cheaper than your next price cut. It’s a not a fun process: someone comes in and rearranges your house, until it doesn’t quite look like yours. Your life will be temporarily upended. It can be time-consuming, if you haven’t organized and edited your belongings, shifting though decades of stuff is time consuming and often overwhelming for sellers.

The Real Estate Staging Association (RESA) found that staged homes spent 72% less time on the market. And while staging may not help sell your house for more money or even for the amount you are asking, it will in a vast majority of cases help sell the house faster. Paying for mortgage while the house sits on the market, constantly getting ready for showings and cleaning non-stop is so stressful and costly. Empty house doesn’t look, owner decorated house can still look off and cluttered. If you are not hiring a stager in this market, you are throwing away time and money. Staging is more than just decorating.

 

Stay tuned for an exciting announcement early next week!

Can you guess what it is? Here’s a hint…

How to really organize your refrigerator

I saw an article in WSJ called “Yes, you can Marie Kondo your refrigerator” which was accompanied by this beautiful photo of Kristen Hong’s fridge.

Dr Joel Fuhrman nutritarian diet what Dr Michael Greger How Not to Die Diet Vegan Keto Whole30 Fridge WFPB plant based copy

I looked up her blog and it’s awesome, lots of healthy veggie centric recipes and lots of insta worthy pics of her fridge. I’ve tried to do this and it looked amazing. For like a day. Before kids got in there, before I cooked dinner and hubs went looking for greek yoghurt. What’s the point of decanting orange juice into a prettier bottle or putting blueberries into a different container. Unless you wash them first, which means you have to lay them all out to paper towels to dry completely before refrigerating, otherwise it will be a moldy mess in a minute. I have 2 refrigerators and neither looks like this. This is currently the state of affairs


Ok? I am due to clean both fridges out but before I get there, let me tell you why the first photo and all the others you see on Instagram don’t work and what to copy. I do dislike these insta photos, fun to look at but so unrealistic. As you can see she only has one row of containers, nothing is in the back. So basically the entire family eats nothing but fruits and vegetables for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Good for them. That’s not my family and I am guessing not yours either! Here’s what to copy!

  1. Cutting up vegetables and fruits, in moderation. First and foremost, unless you are getting ready to make bulk quantities of gazpacho, this isn’t going to last you more than 3 days. Strawberries cut up will dry up or get moldy within 3 days max, ditto cucumbers etc. However, cutting up melons etc makes sense. I do also cut up some strawberries and toss other fruit on the plate and just put it out on some afternoons or weekend breakfasts, kids will eat them if they are ready on the counter. I do cut up vegetables but not all of them! 1 pepper, some broccoli, radishes etc for us to snack on with hummus or bit of ranch dip. If you have it ready on the counter, no-one will get the chips out.
  2. Assign different food groups a set place. I’ve tried to do it but am not sure it shows, LOL. Eggs and dairy on the left, fruits on the right.
  3. Using uniform containers. Its not a must, any container will do but it will look s much prettier and more professional. Container Store is selling these and I am tempted to buy some, I like that they have clear lids so you can see what’s in there. Not cheap at $4.99 – $8.99 each but have great reviews.

Lustroware Crystal Clear Rectangular Food Storage

4. Put the herbs in a glass of water. Basically like flowers in the vase, they’ll keep longer.

5. Personalize your fridge. My main fridge is ridiculously deep, I can’t see what’s in the back or reach it without climbing halfway in. I used a Lazy Susan (amazon, container store or local TJ Maxx will have these, measure first) and some larger clear bins.

 Adjust the shelves so that all tall items can be on one spot etc. If you keep wines in your fridge, get this.


I actually thought Khloe Kardashian’s fridge was more realistic than most Insta ones. And she has staff!

 

House of the week: from Gone with the Wind

Basically the house of my dreams is up for sale! Or rather, it will be auctioned off soon with a starting bid of $1M! I was obsessed with that book, or rather books. And the movie! Though I was somewhat sad that I looked so different from her, I thought we were pretty similar personality wise. I don’t have her hair color and the 17″ waist!!! Well, neither did Vivian Leigh, she was 24-25″. Dont have that either, lol.

woman in large white dress running from large white mansion

According to AD: The 10,000-square-foot home, dubbed Twelve Oaks, unfortunately fell into disrepair after 1939, but the dwelling recently underwent a $2 million restoration. In 2017, the current owners overhauled the 12-bedroom, 13-bath property, which now boasts stunning 11-foot ceilings, a formal parlor, a large dining room, hardwood floors, three laundry rooms, 12 fireplaces, chandeliers, and period lighting. In the master suite are a library with built-in wood bookcases and a fireplace with room for seating.

The building where the inn is located

Gallery image of this property

I had no idea it functioned as a B&B – believe you me I would have gone for a visit!!! That chandelier is stunning!!!

Gallery image of this property

Gallery image of this property

Gorgeous front porch – we don’t have that and always wanted one. My husband is from South, well not the real South, he is from Florida but I think front porches are mandatory down there.

Gallery image of this property

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Ah, and that grand staircase. Can you imagine decorating the bannister with garland for Christmas, kids sliding down on it… or you doing Scarlet and grandly sashaying down the stairs. Ah, I wish!

I also really really wish for this robe! Or dress!

Scarlett O'Hara

House of the week: Ralph Lauren home in Bedford, NY.

Who better to be featured before the 4th of July than the quintessential American designer Ralph Lauren. WSJ just ran an article on how many celebrities live in the sleepy enclave on Bedford NY, the anti-Hamptons where Michael Douglas can take his kids to see a play and noone bats an eye. Martha Stewart, George Soros etc live there and Glenn Close just listed her home there for $3.6M. You’ll be likely to be bump into some bold and beautiful people when running into local CVS.

Ralph Lauren owns homes around the world but this is the main residence where they raised their children. He even has a houseware and bedding collection named after Bedford (believe Martha Stewart does, too, at least paint).

Ralph Lauren's Bedford Estate

House is decorated in quintessential RL fashion, his particular brand of cozy but luxurious furs, plaid, horns, crystal. Not many people can do opulent, dramatic and homey. 17,000 sq feet and 250 acres of land.

Ralph Lauren's House Bedford entrance hall

A circa 1860 English chandelier illuminates the living room. Above the George II table is an 18thcentury tapestry. The...

Can you imagine a more perfect setting for Christmas dinner?

Prominent paintings in the dining room include from right A Woman Hunting 19th century by Alfred Dedreux Henry Koehlers...

The drapes in the office are of the same material as the wall covering.

Dominating a corner of the master sitting room is a Louis XV bureau plat attributed to Jacques Dubois from the...

Among the artworks in the library are from left Fecit Romae 1774 by Pompeo Batoni The War Bonnet by Edgar Samuel Paxson...

 

Love this blue paint!

The master bedroom which is enveloped in a deepblue fabric is anchored by a Georgian mahoganyandwalnut bureaucabinet and...

The Laurens shuttle between the Bedford retreat and a summer house in Montauk New York a Manhattan town house a villa in...

Pool house.

Ralph Lauren's House Bedford pool house sitting room

Ralph Lauren's House Bedford terrace dining

 

Designer of the week: Lisa Hilderbrand

How’s your week going? Kids are home, day 1 and everybody’s losing it. It’s been raining so hard all day, I am watching sadly how all the blooms get pounded off. All the rose petals are on the ground like some romantic gesture gone array, peonies got killed off for good and poor phlox cant even stand up under this torrential downpour. Kids are fighting as they are already poured and NOONE is interested in organizing the playroom. Might have overshot there.

I usually do a house of the week but occasionally just feature a designer: Lisa Hilderbrand lives actually really close me here in Connecticut. I emailed her once telling her if she needed an office manager or assistant, I’m her girl. Shockingly she didn’t call asap. LOL. But she (Hilderbrand Interiors) is amazingly talented and has given new life to an antique colonial she lives with her family.

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This photo is tempting me to paint the doors black! And those floors!

Hilderbrand-Interiors-Silvermine-Antique-interior-design-new-canaan-©Jane Beiles-1802280882.jpg

Everyone and I am guilty as well is going for white and grey and marble but I love the moodiness of this room and I’ve always adored paneled rooms, gentleman’s library style. So cozy!

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Big farmhouse kitchen.

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One of her son’s bedroom.

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Loggia – love.

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And really the main reason we should be besties is that her holiday decor style is amazing.  Should you want to bookmark this for holiday, she shared her holiday decorating tips with Traditional Home.

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I like that she didn’t try to make this house something else, she kept it true to it’s style. Here’s another project of hers that I pinned awhile ago, much different look.

Love love love these antiqued mirror panels.

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What Do People Want When Buying A House?

A realtor visited  my house to pick up something and she paused to look at my gardens (really a yard at this point with bunch of beds, it’s a work in progress!) and remarked – “You know, most people don’t want all this. Too high maintenance.” Well, perhaps. Though trust me, I don’t want to spend all my waking time in the garden either. I am game for deadheading roses which rewards you so richly with new blooms shortly afterward. Fertilizing, mulching, trimming and buying annuals are a given but beyond that, I hope I am done. One of the things that sold our previous house was actually our yard, the buyers loved the swath of rhododendrons I had planted and mix of boxwoods with knockout roses. So who is right?

A 2018 survey conducted on behalf of National Association of Landscape Professionals found that millennials value the outdoor space and green lawns prioritizing it so much that it ranked 2nd after remodeled kitchens. Most millennials have at least one child, entertain outside and relax at home so an inviting garden and outdoor feature such as a patio, fireplace or firepit or terrace were high on the wishlist.

Another theme that stays constant in pretty much every survey is that millennials do not want to buy fixer uppers like generation before. They are not interested in spending weekends working on projects and are looking for low maintenance, smart, energy efficient homes. While that does sound lovely, they don’t want to pay extra for any of these features. I don’t think there’s ever been a generation that says oh boy, let me spend my free time working on the house. Rather you get the house that it’s big enough and hopefully in a good location and then you slowly go about fixing it up adding sweat equity. So perhaps not surprisingly over 60% of the millennials regret their house purchase according to this study by Bankrate.

  • they underestimate maintenance costs
  • buying a home too small in size
  • picking a poor location

One of the projects I undertook in our previous house was white washing the fireplace.

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Before

 

family-room-hillcrest

After

 

House of the Week: Joy Tribout Design

Hi loves, meet one of my favorite designers Joy Tribout! She loves equestrian design, does modern glamour which still feels cozy and welcoming better than anyone else. Here’s a home designed by her dubbed Webster Groves.

One of Joy Tribout’s trademarks is definitely the use of color black in her designs and she rarely designs a room without an urn, animal print, metals (preferably silver) and striking print.

I love that door separating dining room and kitchen – reminds of restaurant doors that always swing open.

Here’s some of her older work which I prefer to more current one.

Obsessed with this living room.

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Garden, Home and Party: Designer Joy Tribout

My favorite celebrity homes!

TGIF or thank God it’s Friday! What a week we had – my husband finally had his ACL replacement surgery which took all day and recovery is painful to say the least. He has not been the best patient with frustration about not being able to move and fighting pain and nausea. Here’s hoping next week is better!

I was thumbing through Architectural Digest and wanted to share my favorite celebrity homes. Here they are in no particular order!

Candace Berger Hampton home. The room has tall ceilings but they have made it look cozy and inviting. Prefer horses over cows but it works here!

The dining room.

The dining room was opened up to the den, at rear, and the living room. Dillingham & Company carved dog under writing table from Notus. Lee Calicchio chandelier. Marvin Alexander brass lamps. Bergamo drapery fabric. Blue chair check, Lee Jofa. Elizabeth Eakins rug.

The house also has a beautiful back porch.

The porch.

Gerard Butler’s NY loft. He does sleep with awful lot of starlets so I guess he needs a cozy space to do it. He transformed the raw space into this rustic baroque medley, bit random but I like it. It certainly doesn’t feel like NY loft.

Yolanda and David Foster’s Malibu home, they divorced and sold it for $19M.

This is the house that included her famous fridge that had it’s own twitter page!

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You can obviously only have this Subzero glass door fridge if you have staff. Even any super organized fridge pic on Insta is suspect! You guys I have organized mine, been ready to take a photo to show off and then realized that once I will cook pretty much one single dinner the orderliness will be gone! But it looks good!

Tommy Mottola Greenwich, CT home. Beautiful, classic colonial.

The exterior.

 

The breakfast room.

The kitchen.