Friday, June 26, 2009

welcome to my 'hood

{Editor's note: rouge is having a crazy-busy week working on the HSA community project...I'll tell you all about it in next week's blog. I wrote this in March for East Coast By Choice, but thought I'd post it again here, in case you missed it!}

I love this city. Do I think it has the potential to be a much, much better city? Hells ya. But that’s another blog altogether…

For now, let’s talk about style. I could get on my soap box about that one too. I believe one the sacrifices of living in a small city is that, well, it’s small. So, there isn’t the same kind of access to fabulous boutiques, high style furniture or accessories as any number of large cities. True. But, it still makes it’s way here, Halifax.

Let me introduce you to my little evolving neighbourhood. I’m not going to talk about the pros and cons of re-gentrification and all those very real issues here (cue: soapbox). Let’s just say I bought a lovely home on my favorite street in Central Halifax. And one of my favorite strolls is along Agricola Street. Have you been lately?? You might be surprised what you’ll find. Grab a coffee and walk with me…

Starting at the corner of Almond and Agricola, check out Finer Things & Curios (2797 Agricola Street). Quickly becoming one of my favorite places, I find myself stopping here often. And am always thrilled with my purchases – a vintage ’70s lamp, and antique locket, and beautiful sterling silver & moonstone antique ring. There is so much to look at here, be prepared to spend some quiet time letting your imagination run wild.

Traveling south, the next stop is Bellissimo! (2743 Agricola Street). Located in an old brick building, they have huge curb appeal. It’s very hard to walk by. Their slogan? “Decorative finds for beautiful living.” They deliver the goods.

Now, steady yourself and carefully run across the street to Army Navy Store (2660 Agricola St). This is a look at the grittier side. Their ad in the phone book says “New & used clothing and footwear. Hunting and Fishing supplies.” Huh? One look at the building and the always-interesting window display will give you an idea of what you are in for. You will be stared at with the slightly intimidating “you are not a regular, who are you and what are you doing here” look as you enter. Don’t let that stop you. Besides, this is the Maritimes, and relatively speaking, we are a pretty friendly bunch at heart. A little secret about this place is that they buy furniture from a couple of the local big hotels. Dig around…there are some really great deals to be had (and some strange things to see), if you’re looking for a furniture make-over project.

Next up is Norman Flynn Design (2698 Agricola Street). We’re not going to stop in today, but soak in the incredible lighting fixtures as we amble by. They've just expanded and their offering will dazzle you. These guys have been featured all over the place, including in Enroute Magazine. They know their stuff.

Time for a little break? All this discovery making you hungry? Here we have two great choices. Stay chic and pop into
Fred – salon, gallery and cafĂ© (2606 Agricola Street). While you are here, you may have to remind yourself that yes indeed, you are still in Halifax. Central Halifax, in fact. Option two is to dash back across the street and venture into Gus’ Pub (2605 Agricola St.) for a taste of the old-school neighbourhood. I can’t even fathom what they were thinking with the newish, screaming red paint job, but am trying to get past it.

Moving on to Statement (2534 Agricola Street) and immerse yourself in the upscale, trendy options available here. Ah…perhaps I could just move in for a while??

With a sigh, we are almost at the end of our stroll. But no shopping trip, window or otherwise, would be complete without a few clothing stores thrown in. Check out Lost & Found Art Vintage Kitsch (2383 Agricola St.). You will find lots of wonderful vintage clothes here and more than likely visit the change room. You may even get to meet the resident hound dogs, if you are lucky.

Finally, take a left off Agricola St. onto Cunard, past the new condo building quickly taking shape, and stop into Pretty Things Boutique (5685 Cunard Street). Retro & rockabilly inspired fashions – fabulously feminine fashions inspired by the 1950’s and 1960’s. I bought my most favorite fancy dress here that I call “1950’s housewife does new year’s eve” and I’ve never felt so great or had so many compliments.

If you know me in real life, we’d pop around the corner to my place to have tea (or a glass of red) to review the fantastic finds of the day. Either way, you would have noticed that on our stroll we went by many other interesting places…cafes, bakeries, a local source market, art spaces and so much more nestled in between new and old.

I’m sure you’ll be back. And I look forward to seeing you one of these days in my ‘hood.

Friday, June 19, 2009

my favorite chair

This is my favorite chair. It currently sits in my home in a little reading nook on the second floor. I love it for its design and its personality. But I really love it for sentimental reasons…it’s got a great story behind it. That’s why it’s on the front page of my website (

When I moved back to Halifax from BC almost 8 years ago, I was more than a little lacking in the furniture department. Sometime around Thanksgiving, I was having a random chat with my folks about the style of furniture I was thinking about buying. To describe the Egg Chair, I said, “…you know…like the ones they used to have in the town library when I was a kid…” That in itself is remarkable, because sometimes I have trouble remembering things that happened two days ago.

Even more remarkable, my Mom tells me that they are STILL in the library. Turns out the small town I grew up in doesn’t boast heavy readers, apparently. The library was built sometime in the mid-60’s and these chairs have been there since it opened.

Thinking nothing more of it, I was incredibly surprised to find this beauty under the Christmas tree with a big red bow on it. Shortly after that discussion with my folks, they happened to be at the library and noticed new chairs. Because it’s a small town, my determined folks tracked down “the old library chairs” before they were thrown out. Climbing through the pile of chairs slated for the dump (yes, there is still a town dump!), my eagle-eyed mom picked out the best one and negotiated a purchase price of $25. She thought that was a bit too much, but knew it would be a great surprise for me, so gave in and my Dad paid.

I was blown away…that they were listening, that they remembered, that they were so thoughtful, and that they put lots of effort into giving me such a fun surprise. That made me love the chair and the story even more. Of course, I already loved my incredible parents.

Through a series of further coincidences, someone who had a chair-obsession was at my place a few months later. Commenting on the chair, she asked if it was an original. “Uh…I don’t know. I doubt it…it came from my hometown library.” She immediately flipped the chair over and after about 3 seconds, pointed out the authenticity label carefully hiding underneath (made in Denmark, 0167, Fritz Hansen).

Holy Cow! (Ok, so maybe those weren’t the exact words.)

“The EGG is a chair designed by Arne Jacobsen, one of Denmark’s most influential 20th century architects and designers, in 1958 for the SAS Ari Terminal and Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. Known for combining modernist ideals with a Nordic love of naturalism, the Egg boasts a strikingly organic shaped upholstered seat on a slender metal base.”

My black–leather original is in as close to perfect condition as you can get. It’s estimated worth is somewhere more than $7,000 the last time I checked. (A pretty healthy return on your investment, Mom & Dad.)

To me, it is absolutely priceless. But it’s got nothing to do with the estimated value. It’s what I would grab if the house was on fire.

Is that so wrong?

Friday, June 12, 2009

ten reasons people don’t stage their properties (but should)

Here is a list of the most common reasons people give for not staging their homes. This is my condensed interpretation of information found in Home Staging for Dummies (Chapter 26). It's direct and straight to the point -- and I like that! My hope is that it may give you a better understanding of the home staging industry...and some of its challenges. Or at least make for an interesting read!

1. We don’t have time for home staging – if you have time to sell your home, you have time to stage it. Don’t undervalue the staging process unless you are prepared to accept less than your property is worth. There are lots of stats to support that homeowners who stage are very likely to get the money back that they put into staging – and more. Fail to stage your home, and you’re less likely to get your asking price and your house might stay on the market much longer than you want.

2. Location and price will do the work – even if you have a great location and a good price, a house in lousy condition will languish on the market and you will eventually reduce your asking price. Improve the condition of the house before you list it and realize the highest return possible by staging.

3. I get compliments on my home all the time, so I don’t need to stage it – Too bad you aren’t selling your home to friends and family. Living in and staging a home for sale are two very different situations. You have to appeal to the widest possible audience of potential buyers. Like it or not, selling a house isn’t about you, your taste, or your decorating style. It’s about what the buyer wants.

4. My neighbour’s house sold without staging – Good for them! What you don’t know is if they made as much money as they could have.

5. My agent said I don’t need to stage my house – Will your house sell without staging? Maybe. Will it sell at the price you want? Not as likely. Think about first impressions: a blind date, a job interview, test driving a car. Each situation requires spit and polish. Staging helps you put your best foot forward.

6. If my house is good enough for me, it’s good enough for anyone – This is just an excuse and would be convincing if you really don’t care how much money you make – or don’t make – on the sale of your property. People have more choices, buyers are more educated and have busier lives. Buyers are making a short list based on what they see on-line. Get your house on that short list by staging before putting it on the market. If you can’t be bothered to fix or change things, neither will the buyer.

7. Staging is just de-cluttering and cleaning, and I’ve done that – These are important first steps, but it isn’t the whole picture. You need to make sure your house looks the same or better than comparable properties on the market. Staging includes cleaning, repairing, reducing and refreshing, correct use of color, professionally placed furnishings, lighting, props and art – all targeting the buyer most likely to buy your house.

8. Homes have been selling for years without staging – That’s true, but times have changed. Interest rates have changed and savvy buyers are watching decorating and real estate shows…these are a few of the things that make the home selling process more competitive. Today’s buyers don’t want to inherit your to-do list. They want to move right in and live their lives.

9. I can’t afford staging – The money you’d save by not staging is a shortsighted savings. If you want to get all you can from the sale, then don’t leave money sitting on the closing table. Consider what it might cost to pay additional mortgage payments, property taxes and household expenses while your house sits on the market waiting for a buyer who can see past your life.

10. It’s a hot market so the house will sell “as is” – it may sell, but at what price? You are gambling with your equity if you sell without staging. Staged properties bring exceptional return on investment whether the market is hot or soft. (When the market is soft, staging is key in generating interested buyers.) Staging gives you a competitive edge and makes your property stand out. If you don’t stage your property, trust that someone else who’s competing for the same buyer is.

Friday, June 5, 2009

desk makeover

My rickety little desk has been driving me nuts lately. I’ve lugged it around in every move for such a long time, I can’t really remember when I acquired it. I do know that it originally came from Ikea and was my dining table. At some point, I painted it and started using it as a desk. Finally fed up this week, I posted it on kijiji (along with 4 dining chairs I also refinished ages ago and was equally tired of) and was happy to see it all go out the door that same day.

I spotted this desk at a second hand store, liked the simple clean lines and the “old but not fussy” feel to it, so I scooped it up, and got to work.

Here are the steps to this makeover project:

1. thorough clean with a damp cloth, wipe dry
2. remove broken handle from drawer
3. paint one coat of Tremclad black gloss paint (let dry for 24 hours)
4. replace drawer handle
5. custom ordered Plexiglas to fit desktop (same day availability)
6. buy wrapping paper
7. cut paper to size of desktop & place under “glass” top

I chose a glossy black paint to give the desk a more upscale look. Tremclad rust paint is great for something like this because it can be painted on pretty much any surface without a lot of messing around. Most surfaces don’t even need to be sanded. Warning: this downside of this paint is that it has a really strong smell. I recommend painting outside, if you possibly can. It’s also next to impossible to clean your paint brush afterwards, so use one that’s seen better days or pick up a cheap one that you don’t mind throwing out when the job is done.

I also decided to splurge on a glass desktop because, well…I’m a bit of a klutz and I often drop things on my desk. My desk takes a beating just through day-to-day use as well. The top of the desk actually looked great on it’s own after it was painted and it wasn’t necessary to add anything. But I liked the idea of adding a glass top because it will keep the desktop looking good for a long time and it really allows for greater flexibility in the design. I can easily (and cheaply) change out the paper anytime I want to change the look.

Wrapping paper, wallpaper, photos…really anything flat that inspires me would work well here and dramatically change the overall look. All things considered, I bought a nice thick piece of Plexiglas with finished edges instead of tempered glass. I dare you to look at it and say it’s not glass!

This 2-day project was done on a small budget (my favorite kind!) that breaks out like this:

desk– (Army/Navy Store) recently reduced to $49
paint – left over from past painting projects $0
vintage glass drawer handle – (Renovator’s Resource) $10
two new nuts & bolts (for handle) – (Canadian Tire) $1
Plexiglas top – (Speedy Glass) $86

Note: the cost of a tempered glass top would have been approximately $25 more and taken a few extra days.

I’m very happy that I now have a solid, beautiful, new (to me) desk that inspires. I recycled my old desk by passing it on, gave something old a new life, and have another truly unique piece that will last me a very long time – you gotta love that! And I did it for $146. If you factor in what I got for my old table and chairs that I put towards the project, I really did it for a mere $56. Don’t expect to see this one on kijiji anytime soon…

In my mind, this is upcycling at its best.