7 Creative Ways to Repurpose a Fireplace

What do you do when you’ve got an old wood-burning fireplace that hasn’t been living up to its true purpose in years? Why, repurpose it, of course! Lots of older homes come with non-functional yet gorgeous old fireplaces that haven’t heard the cackle of burning wood in forever. Instead of letting that thing just distribute filthy soot in your living space, repurpose it to add an element of decor that works for your personal space.

Here are a few ideas to get our creative juices flowing.

Stack Your Books

Instead of firewood, neatly stack all your already-read books inside the fireplace. Position them in all different directions to fit really snugly into the space – it’ll create a funky pattern under the mantel.fireplacebooks

Add Neatly-Cut Logs

While you won’t be burning them, you can still stack a bunch of small, round logs in the fireplace with the cut ends facing outward. The wood isn’t exactly functional, but its presence will easily create a rustic look in your living area. And depending on the type of wood you put in there, you’ll also get the benefit of a subtle outdoorsy scent wafting in your home’s interior.fireplacelogs

Light Up Your Fireplace With Candles Instead of Wood

You’re not lighting firewood in the fireplace, but that doesn’t mean it still can’t glow. Light up your fireplace with pillar candles in varying heights to somewhat create the effect of a fire without the mess and bother of actually building one.fireplacecandles

Fill it With Plants

Plants belong in just about any space in a home, so why not the fireplace? Fill that empty old space with your favorite breeds of the green stuff, from ferns, to aloe vera, to Christmas cactus. Use a bunch of different sizes and types of planters to create an eclectic effect to the space. If you’re looking to create a focal point in a room, this would be it!

Create a Wine Rack

Who doesn’t love easy access to their treasured wines? Hang out in your living room with your guests and quickly reach for your vino of choice! Portable wine racks can be found at just about any home decor store, so get one that fits the space well and is able to handle the haul you’ve got!fireplacewine

Cover it With a Chalkboard

Got kids? Let them decorate the fireplace for you! The color of a dark chalkboard somewhat impersonates the soot that accumulates in a traditional fireplace, but with a totally different purpose. Let the kids doodle on the chalkboard and come up with their own unique design.

Forge a Bookcase

No one said a bookcase needs to be beside the fireplace, so why not put one directly inside it? Cover the back of the fireplace space with your wallpaper design of choice, then install a couple of shelves to house your magazines, framed photos, vases, and any other knick knack you need to find a home for.

Your fireplace may have originally been a heat source way back when, but how you use it today is only defined by your ingenuity! Give one of these ideas a shot to repurpose your fireplace and give it a new lease on life.

5 Reasons Why You Should Buy Your Next Home in 2016

Still got cold feet about buying a home? Wait ’till 2016 rolls around! With the new year upon us, now’s the time for all you renters and first-time buyers out there to start organizing your finances and jump on the homeownership bandwagon.

Of course, it’s totally understandable for it to be overwhelming and even intimidating to jump into homebuyer status, given the recent financial crisis that plagued the nation. But given the key economic indicators that are flashing right now, 2016 is potentially the perfect time to buy.

And here’s why.

1. Mortgage Rates Are Still Ridiculously Low – But Not For Long

If you want to lock into a mortgage, now’s the time to do it. Consumers have had the benefit of low interest rates for quite some time now, but there’s talk of rates finally increasing in the new year. You likely won’t be seeing rates this low for a long time to come, so the earlier you lock in, the better.

As it stands right now, you can still get a rate around 4%. If you can lock a mortgage in while rates are still low, you can knock a good chunk of change off your mortgage payments. Low interest rates makes home buying more affordable. Put more of your hard-earned cash towards the principle instead of flushing in down the toilet in interest payments!

shutterstock_3135302392. Rent Prices Are Forecasted to Spike

Renting might be a good way to get your feet wet in the real estate market, but it looks like rental rates are about to experience an uptick in 2016. In many of the major centers in the US, supply is running low while demand is still strong. This off-balance is causing rent prices to teeter to the side of landlords who are able to charge more for their units as supply continues to remain sparse compared to demand.

In the last year alone, nearly 90% of property managers across the US have jacked up their rent prices, with no sign of that slowing down any time soon. So instead of throwing your money away in rent, you could potentially spend the same amount each month to be put towards home ownership and building equity instead.

3. “Know Before You Owe” Mortgage Regulations Put Buyers in the Driver’s Seat

Ever try to navigate mortgage paperwork? It’s like reading a foreign language if you’re not an agent yourself. And if you’re not careful, you could wind up getting stuck with mortgage terms that you’re not comfortable with.

Well, not anymore, thanks to the new TRID rules that came into effect this past year. Also known as the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule, mortgage forms and loan costs are now being organized and stipulated in such a way as to make it a lot easier for the average homebuyer to understand all the terms involved. This gives consumers a better chance to make sound decisions and choices when it comes to their mortgages at the closing table. That way, there are no unpleasant surprises waiting for them once the keys are ready to be handed over.

couple looking at home4. Prices of Homes Will Be Scaling Back

For a while there, it was super tough for the average consumer to be able to afford some of the sky-high prices of homes that have been listed. And it still is in many centers across the country. But these prices are likely to slow down quite a bit in 2016, making home ownership more affordable for the average joe. Just don’t expect this price cut-back to be as pronounced in super-hot markets like San Francisco or NYC, where prices aren’t forecasted to pull back as much in the coming year.

5. More Properties Will Be Making Their Way to the Market

Along with the deceleration of home prices will come more homeowners listing their properties, giving homebuyers more selection. Let’s face it: anyone who’s hung onto property over the past few years has had the opportunity to build up serious equity as prices continued to skyrocket month after month. Many of these home owners want to cash in on that equity, and are more likely to list in 2016 to liquify their money. That means buyers will have more selection when it comes to he home-buying process.

Not only that, but the new home construction market is also probably going to grow in 2016 with builders placing more focus on starter and middle-range homes. That’ll do well to spike inventory and make it easier for homebuyers to snag a place. More homes on the market means the potential for prices to ease off even more.

All these forecasts for the new year point to fantastic possibilities for those who are finally looking to put their name on title of a home. Just make sure that you’ve got a professional real estate agent in your corner who’s experienced in the specific neighborhoods you’re looking to plant some roots in.

Here’s How Millennials Are Getting Mortgages These Days

You’d be hard-pressed to come across a 20-something who doesn’t use a smartphone for just about everything. From paying for a latte at Starbucks, to depositing a check right into a bank account, Generation Y’ers sure are savvy when it comes to digital technology.

And these days, that’s exactly how they’re getting mortgages, too.

Acute lending start-ups are paying close attention to the needs of the younger home-buying demographic, and have long been noticing their need for instant answers and online convenience. That’s why we’re seeing a host of fintech – or ‘financial technology’ – lending companies popping up everywhere on the internet. Homebuyer hopefuls can get pre-approved for a loan in a matter of minutes.

millennial tablet mortgageThe millennial generation – which is in the 18 to 34 age group – is inspiring big changes in the mortgage industry. This demographic wants a technology-based mortgage application platform, as well as online resources to educate themselves on the loan process as a whole.

Millennials are used to having things done quickly thanks to the advent of digital technology, so it’s no surprise that they’re expecting the same when it comes to mortgage approvals and closings.

Millennials Want Convenience

One of the biggest factors for going the fintech route for a loan is the sheer convenience of it all. The process can be started and finished anytime, anyplace. Whether it’s at home, on the train to work, or at the local cafe, applying for a mortgage can all be done virtually. All dealings with the lender occur online so there’s no need to make a bunch of trips to the bank to hammer out the loan in person.

Millennials Wants Simplicity

The mortgage application process itself is simple and fast, and the time it takes to approve the application is minimal compared to conventional methods.

Lending criteria is also a lot more lax, without all the hoops to have to jump through to get a stamp of approval. Whereas a lengthy employment history or stellar credit is expected at traditional financial institutions, online lending companies can find ways to approve borrowers without all this history.

millennials in a meetingMillennials Want Speed

Forget about waiting days or even weeks to get an answer about the status of a mortgage application – approvals can be granted in as little as 48 hours. Many times this can translate into successfully snagging a home over another interested buyer who couldn’t get their mortgage closed as quickly.

Transparency is also an important component for Generation Y’ers, who want to know exactly where their loan stands in the mortgage process.

While perks like these will serve all customers well, it’s really the millennial demographic that’s driving it.

An increasing number of lending companies are waking up to the fact that the younger generation expects to be able to search and apply for mortgages completely online without having to physically visit a bank branch or even speak with a live agent over the phone.

As a result, more lenders are embracing technology that lets borrowers apply for a mortgage online and electronically submit all the necessary paperwork needed to get the process moving.

This is a DIY generation that looks online instead of to the bank for tools to get all the info they need about getting approved for a mortgage. And while they’re probably a bit more anxious about exactly who they go to for a mortgage, once they’ve solidified that relationship, they’re openly willing to share all the info needed to make the loan process move along.

The lending industry is going to have to get used to this unique brand of borrowers. This demographic represents the biggest group of homebuyers in the US – about 32% according to the National Association of Realtors. And this number is just going to keep growing into the near future.

Childproof Your Home Without Sacrificing Your Decor

Kids are the cutest. That’s why parents are quick to make some major adjustments in the home to make sure there aren’t any booby-traps waiting in the midst for the kids hurt themselves with. But your stylish ways don’t necessarily have to be thrown out the window in the name of child-proofing your domain.

Here are a few tips to protecting your kids from harm’s way while still maintaining your stylish interior.

Trade Your Coffee Table For an Oversized Ottoman

It’s like toddlers look for sharp corners to smack into. If you’ve got a coffee table in the pathway of your little one, consider swapping it for an oversized, upholstered ottoman instead so you don’t have to deal with poked eyes or goose eggs on foreheads.

Not only is an ottoman cushy enough not to cause major injury to wandering wee ones, it’s also functional enough to put your magazines or drinks on. And they’re still super stylish! Ottomans come in a all sorts of fabrics and colors, so you’re bound to find one that matches your home’s decor.

Tuck a Non-Slip Pad Under Your Area Rug

You found the rug of your dreams, but your waddling toddler keeps sliding around on it causing her to wipe out 10 times a day. Don’t fret – you don’t necessarily need to get rid of your beloved rug. Instead, place a rug pad underneath it to keep it in place and prevent any further slipping and sliding. Just make sure the pad you get is designed for your specific type of flooring material.

Eliminate Glass or Any Breakable Objects

Glass is like a target for little kids. They just instinctively know where to go to find things that are easily broken. Not only do they ruin your favorite accessories and decor, but they can also take an eye out – or worse. Get rid of anything glass – and that includes vases and hanging art covered with a glass panel.

Ever see a 1-year-old walk up to a glass-encased picture on the wall and smash on the ground? It happens, and it’s not pretty. But that doesn’t mean you have to forego all your decor. Swap your glass-covered art for frameless canvas prints, and your glass vases for acrylic or wood models. They’re still pretty, and they won’t have you worrying about Junior smashing them on the ground into a million tiny pieces.

Use Baby Gates That Complement Your Current Decor

Ever see those baby gates at department stores or in fellow parents’ homes? They’re hideous.

Sure, they prevent curious little kids from falling down stairs or accessing dangerous items, but they do nothing for your decor.

Thankfully, there are ways that you can still keep your child safe without turning your home into a prison. A simple solution is to have a gate made to match the decor you’ve already got in the room you plan on using it in. Got mahogany in the living room? Make your gate out of the same material. White birch in the kitchen? Do the same to match. Chic baby gate designs can go a long way at maintaining some level of style while serving a purpose at the same time.

Use Slide-Over Electric Outlets

Everyone knows the potential hazard that electric outlets pose to toddlers who like to stick their fingers into absolutely everything. That’s why parents are quick to plug those things up with plastic covers. But seriously – they look terrible, and stand out like a sore thumb.

The solution? Slide-over outlet covers that look exactly like typical covers. These had gadgets feature an extra piece of plastic where the opening would typically be. It then slides over the plugs to hide the outlet and keep hands out, then slides back up when you need to use them.

Add a Decorative Slip Cover to Your Sofa

Good luck not getting any spit-up or grimy hand prints on your white couch. And unless you cover it in clear plastic (please don’t), expect that white hue to quickly turn yellow or brown. If you’re head-over-heels in love with your light-colored couch and can’t bear to part with it, consider adding a slip cover over top that you can quickly and easily remove and wash as needed. And while this is not exactly a safety precaution, it can do wonders to keep your home fingerprint-free.

So there you have it. You CAN still have your cake and eat it too, at least when it comes to having a stylish and child-proofed home. Put these tips to work and you can have the best of both worlds.

Here’s the Scoop on High-Efficiency LED Lighting For Your Home

Remember back in the day when LED lights first came out on the market?

People were slow to adopt them because they gave off sort of a bluish-white tint, which didn’t exactly match the bright-light incandescent lightbulb variations. So unless homeowners were willing to replace every bulb in the house, LED lights were sort of a dud when they first emerged.

But we’re a lot smarter now, and technology is much more innovative these days. Now, LEDs (light-emitting diodes) produce a nice, warm, yellow light that many homeowners prefer to light up their living areas with.

Even the cost has dropped significantly since LEDs first came out. In fact, the average price of a 40W replacement LED light bulb has now dropped down to about $10. Compare that to the hefty price tag of upwards of $40 when they were first introduced.

Sure, they’re pricier than your traditional incandescent bulbs upfront, but there’s no denying their awesome return on investment. LED lights are a lot cheaper to run (75% cheaper to be exact), give off better light, and last up to 25,000 hours – that’s a lot longer than the old-fashioned stuff.

And if you thought the energy savings was amazing, perhaps the best part of LEDs is how flexible they are. You can vary up the ambience in your space. From cozy and soft to sharp and cool, LED lights come in all sorts of variations that let you create the exact lighting aura you’re looking for. And they don’t just come in your run-of-the-mill bulbs, either.

You can get LEDs in ropes, tape, strips and pucks – in addition to bulbs. Use them for your main lighting, accent lighting, uplighting, and so on.

Speaking of which, let’s take a closer gander at each of the aforementioned LED versions, shall we?

LED Rope Lighting

Want to decorate your palm trees? Light up your outdoor walkways? Run some lights across the crevices on your staircase? Or how about edge your landscaping? There’s no easier and more convenient way to do this than with LED rope lighting.

Rope lighting is exactly what it sounds like – it’s literally rope (usually made out of plastic or rubber) that encases tiny LED chips. While they’re not necessarily as bright as other LED variations, they’re perfect for giving off just enough light to illuminate a space in a subtle manner, and creating a warm ambience.

LED Tape Lighting

As if rope wasn’t convenient enough, LED tape takes things to a new level. You literally take these strips and tape them onto whatever surface you want. There’s no need to fasten it with any tools – just peel and stick! You can even cut the strips to fit the precise length that you require.

LED tape strips are ideal for under-cabinet lighting to provide just the right amount of light to your kitchen countertops. The LED chips embedded in the strips are really close together, and tend to cast a whitish glow when they’re turned on underneath kitchen cabinets.

LED Panel (or Strip) Lights

You can use strip LED lighting to create a dramatic yet soft look by using the panels as backlights for things like mirrors and coffered ceilings. They’re perfect for rooms like bathrooms or kitchens because of their moisture-resistant properties.

LED panel lighting consists of multiple LED chips that are built right into a metal enclosure that’s then covered by an acrylic protectant. Since there are more chips in LED strips compared to LED tape, they’re usually brighter. LED strips come in lengths of 10, 20- and 40 inches, depending on where you’re installing them.

LED Puck Lighting

These are great for highlighting objects in cabinets, bookshelves, or anywhere that task lighting is warranted. They’re a much better option compared to other puck lighting that emits a ton of heat. You can get them either in battery-powered or plug-in pucks, which you can buy either as a set or individually.

Pucks are a good option if you want specific areas illuminated, rather than an even distribution of light that strips and rope lighting provide.

Wanna be thoroughly impressed?

How about Wi-Fi-connected LED bulbs, which you can operate from your mobile device! Next time you forget to shut the lights off before leaving the house, simply click a button from wherever you are rather than turn the car around half-way from work.

Take things one step further and get yourself LEDs featuring light combos that let you produce seemingly unlimited colors across the spectrum. Many systems even adjust the colors emitted based on the time of day, or even what the weather is like! And don’t assume it’s complicated to set up, either. It’s not. The majority of these variations come with plug-and-play functionality, so there’s no need to go out and buy a bigger connected system.

Lay those tired old incandescent light bulbs to rest already and make the switch to more versatile, energy-efficient LED lights for your home!

Incorporating Pantone’s Serenity & Rose Quartz Into Your Home Decor

Not one, but two colors have been chosen by Pantone as the ‘it’ shades of 2016.

The winners? Pantone 13-1520 TCX (Rose Quartz) and Pantone 14-3919-TCX (Serenity). In layman’s terms, that would be pastel pink and pastel blue (with a touch of lavender).

So what’s up with these specific color choices? According to Pantone, it all has to do with the blurred lines in the gender realm of our current times. That’s right – the colors of the year have been heavily influenced by cultural forces, and more specifically, the acceptance of gender fluidity in society.

No other two colors are more representative of gender – traditionally, pink for girls and blue for boys. And by choosing these two specific hues, Pantone hopes to help shatter the stereotype that each of these colors belongs exclusively to one gender over the other.

And if you thought these particular shades were stuck in the 80s, or could only work in a kid’s bedroom, think again. The softness of these colors provides designers and homeowners more flexibility when decorating a home’s interior. Not only can they be used on their own, they can also be used together within the same space to add luxury and refinement.

Incorporating these two blissful colors into your home can be done any number of ways without turning your home into an Easter egg.

Offset their demure side

These colors are naturally gentle. To bring in a little more drama, these hues can be combined with deeper, darker shades of the same color, such as navy blue or mauve. And to go modern and contemporary, use neutrals like off-white or cool gray coupled with Pantone’s choices.

Stick with their original effect

Serenity is the perfect color to use in bedrooms or other settings where a calm, serene effect is sought. The blue with a hint of soft purple is named accordingly, as it truly evokes a soothing, tranquil feeling, which is ideal for any space where you want a calming ambience.

Go subtle

If you’re sort of embracing these colors, but aren’t so bold as to lather them all over your walls, you can always start off small and infuse your space with Rose Quartz and Serenity via accessories. Whether it’s artwork, throw pillows, flowers or vases, you can easily use these winning shades of pink and blue without having to fully commit to them. Or else dedicate only one ‘accent’ wall to one of these colors, and complement it with a variety of neutral wall art.

Bring it outside

You don’t have to confine these two colors to the interior only. In fact, Rose Quartz and Serenity were meant to be outside! Think about the colors of many of your favorite followers – from bluebells to peonies. Many of them are already sporting these colors, so it only makes sense to add a splash of Serenity or Rose Quartz to your garden fence or landscaping trim.

Go all out

If you’re head-over-heels in love with Pantone’s choices and aren’t scared of commitment, then cover all your walls in one of the shades and use the other in your sofas and chairs. And if that’s still not enough for you, throw in an area rug with one of these colors to really show your support of Pantone’s choices for 2016.

Regardless of the societal message behind these two particular colors, one thing is for sure: they really do look lovely together. They’re both beautifully pleasant shades that make great companions with each other, even without the political message behind them.

5 Affordable Decor Ideas that Always Impress

You might be taking the holiday season as an opportunity to add some ‘cheer’ to your interior decor. But the truth is, revamping your interior could probably use some refreshment at any point throughout the year.

And who says you need to blow the budget in the name of a decor facelift? With these affordable interior decorating ideas, you can impress your guests while still keeping your bank account intact.

  1. Create a Massive Gallery Wall

How can ‘gallery’ and ‘affordable’ be in the same sentence, you ask? Think second-hand stores or DIY projects instead of fine art to frame your wall. Even oddball paintings can look amazing when you cluster them altogether. You can even try your hand at art by painting something yourself with some canvas and paint from the dollar store, or wrap a canvas in some of your favorite leftover fabric.

A collage of art has a more impressive effect when you let it span from floor to ceiling, or wall to wall. Throw in a mirror or two as well if you’ve got a tight space – it’ll help visually ‘expand’ it.

  1. Layer Your Carpeting

Who ever thought that layering a rug on top of another carpet was a good idea? Well, it is, and it can be a real problem-solver when your flooring needs some serious TLC. Layering can have a great effect on the floor, and can be done a few ways.

If you’ve already got wall-to-wall carpeting, you can easily define a space and highlight a seating area by strategically placing an area rug where your sofa furniture or dining set is placed. You can also layer a small statement rug over a bigger, more neutral one. This will act to both cover a bigger floor area and frame a specialty rug to make it stand out, allowing you to spend a lot less on a smaller statement rug while still reaping the benefits of the rug coverage your space needs!

  1. Fudge Your Architectural Details

Fancy some depth and dimension to your space, but can’t afford the hefty price tag attached with professional architectural work? No problem. A little paint or molding can go a long way in creating the illusion of architectural detail without having to empty your wallet.

You can fake these details a few ways. For starters, use some painter’s tape to help you paint vertical or horizontal lines on your walls or the ceiling, which will make the space appear larger than it really is. You can even create geometrical shapes on the walls to frame your light sconces, artwork, or furniture. And with crown molding, you can add even more depth while adding a sense of style and class at the same time.

  1. Pick One Piece to Paint a Bright Color

This trick works especially well if your space is predominantly neutral. Pick one piece of furniture to act as a standout accent, such as a coffee table, hutch, or a chair. And just about any color can work, whether you’re a fan of fuchsia, blood orange, or peacock blue. That one bold-colored piece can add just enough vibrance to a space without the need for you and your guests to have to wear sunglasses indoors – and it’s a cheap DIY project, too!

  1. Hang Extra-Long Curtains on the Windows

Nothing says opulence more than window curtains that drag slightly on the ground. To maximize the effect, install the curtain rod right to the ceiling. Measure the distance from this rod to about 12 inches past the point of where the wall joins the floor.

You can then hit up your local fabric store or thrift shop to snag some spiffy fabric to use as the curtains. Or check out budget-friendly furniture stores like IKEA for cheap curtains that are specifically designed with this effect in mind. Voilà – a rich effect in your space without the rich price!

There’s no law that says impressive home decor has to come with a steep price tag. With these 5 ideas, you can impress your guests and create that highly coveted ‘wow’ factor without blowing your paycheck.