Sunday, January 3, 2016

How To Sell Your Home Fast and For More Money

So you're thinking about selling your home.  Every seller wants their home to sell fast and for more money than the house down the street.  I've been a Realtor® for more than 10 years now and this is pretty much a universal truth.  And I don't blame them at all.  That's what I want too.

So how do you make this happen?  Here are a few simple steps to selling fast and for the most money possible.

1.  Have realistic expectations.  You need to know what homes are selling for in your neighborhood and why they sold for that.  If your house hasn't been updated since 1978 and the guy across the street just did a total kitchen remodel, your home is not going to sell for his price.  ANY house will sell, no matter the condition.  The price it will fetch is based on condition, size, and location.

2.   De-clutter.  Now.  Actually, yesterday would be even better.  Clutter not only makes your home look smaller, it makes it REALLY hard for buyers to visualize themselves living there.  Get rid of anything that doesn't belong in this decade and box it up.  You're going to move it anyway so get a head start on the packing.  If you have photos on every flat surface, on every inch of wall space, and little knick knacks all around, box 'em up.

3. Consider minor improvements to update the house.  My husband and I just bought a great house that was built in the 90's.  The brass light fixtures made me cringe but the house had great bones and we could visualize how it would look with decor from the current decade.  Sadly for the sellers, no other buyers did.  We were the only offer after 90 days and we were able to negotiate a very good price.  The first thing we did was paint our formal dining room and replace this beauty.

Seriously, spend $100 on a new light fixture and the impact will be HUGE.  The one over the front door in your entryway is a big opportunity for some wow factor too.  If you aren't sure what to choose, go with either oil rubbed bronze or brushed nickel.  Go on Pinterest and search for "cool dining room chandeliers" or something along those lines and you'll get a ton of ideas.

There's a reason why you see these in every Goodwill store.  No one likes them anymore.

4.   Change out the knobs on your kitchen and bathroom cabinets for a fast, inexpensive, and easy update.  

1995 called.  They want their bathroom back.

 5. Clean, clean, clean!  Scrub your home top to bottom, get a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and get all the scuff marks off your walls, have the carpets cleaned, and have a friend tell you if your house smells like your pets.  Buyers will be immediately turned off if they walk in and it smells like a stinky dog or a litter box.  Put a dehumidifier in the basement if it smells damp and musty.

6.  Turn on every darned light in your house before buyers come through.  Open your blinds and curtains and let the sunshine in.  Turn off the TV unless it's playing soft music in the background.

7.  LEAVE the house for showings.  This is a big one.  When my buyers start visualizing where their furniture will go, this is a good sign.  They are imagining themselves living here.  I want them to start saying things like, "We could paint this room pink and put the crib over there."  But if the seller is home and follows us through the house, the buyers can't talk amongst themselves about the things they would change.  They can't say, "This is the ugliest carpet I've ever seen!  But wouldn't hardwood floors look gorgeous?" if you're standing right there.  You can be home when they arrive if you absolutely must, but then step outside or take a walk around the block.  Even go hang out in the garage.  Just don't make it so the buyers can't discuss the house in great detail.  This discussion is a crucial step in the offer process - make yourself scarce!

8.  Go check out your competition.  Have your Realtor make appointments to see some of the other homes for sale that directly compete against yours and go see them.  How does their kitchen compare to yours?  How about the master bathroom?  If their basement finished or unfinished?  What about the yard size?  Try to look at them though a buyer's eyes.  It's totally ok to steal some of their decorating ideas.

9.  Make your house smell good without going overboard.  Food smells or fresh laundry make your house smell homey and clean.  Nothing too overpowering please, but an air freshener right inside the front door is a great idea.  Freshly baked cookies or bread smells in your home are very appealing.

10.  Hire a Realtor who will give you an honest estimate of your home's value.  Be willing to make changes they might suggest, like some of the things listed above.  Trust me, I show homes to buyers several days a week and they all say the same things over and over again.  I know what buyers are looking for and faux wood paneling in every room is not it.  Help your agent help you by being open to suggestions and having realistic expectations.

Thinking of selling your metro Atlanta area home?  Let me give you an idea of what it's worth.  It's free and there's no obligation.

Karin Carr is a Realtor® with Weichert, Realtors® - Preferred in Marietta, Georgia.  She has listed and sold more than 150 homes since 2005.  Karin's team services the entire Atlanta metro area.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ikea Rast Hack - Use a $35 nightstand to make a copycat $600 Pottery Barn Nightstand

This was my inspiration.  This beautiful nightstand that looks like an old steamer trunk from Pottery Barn.  That costs $600.  And I need two.  Hmm, what's a girl to do?

 Grab an Ikea Rast dresser for $35! (Question - for what human is that a dresser?  A toddler?  Please, let's be real.  It's a nightstand.)

Here's why it works:

a) It's cheap
b) It's roughly the same size as the Pottery Barn piece
c) It's just a box with no fancy, ornate legs or rounded corners - just like the inspiration piece
d) It's cheap

I managed to find a very gently used one on Craigslist for $25.  Even better!  Now I only have to buy one more at regular price.  If you have a different dresser to use, just try to find one that's shaped like a cardboard box without curves along the edges.

Here's what you'll need:

1)  Stain, paint, or fabric to cover the body of the nightstand  
2) Approximately 103" worth of metal L shaped aluminum that's 1/2" wide on one edge and 3/4" wide on the other (Find it at Home Depot or Lowe's in the section called angle iron and steel rods)
3) Decorative nails
4) 8 corner brackets
5) A piece of thin plywood that's at least 2'x3' and less than 1/4" thick
6) An old leather belt (real leather, not vinyl please)
7) 6 bolts for attaching the new handles (aka the belt)

You'll also need screwdrivers, a hacksaw, possibly a table saw, paintbrushes, and other general tools.

Step One

(I'm assuming your nightstand is already assembled.) Begin by removing the knobs and the drawers.  Ikea uses these little plastic screws inside the drawers that keep the drawers from falling out when you open them.  Unscrew those to remove the drawers.  I used pieces of painters tape to pull the drawers open because once the knobs are removed, it's reeeeeeeeally hard to open the drawers.  Tape works perfectly.  Use wood filler to fill up the holes from the previous knobs.

Next, we want to remove the horizontal board across the bottom front of the nightstand.  It's recessed too much and we want it to be flush with the front of the dresser.  Unscrew the two screws holding it in place and also the two screws at the top of the dresser on either side of the top drawer.

The nightstand is upside down.  You can see how that kick plate board is set back about an inch .  Gotta remedy that.

There are little dowels holding that board in place and if you don't remove the screws at the top of each side, you can't get that board out.  I had to put a flat screwdriver down inside the tiny little gap and tap it with a hammer to widen the gap enough to remove the board.

So now we've removed all the drawers and the bottom kick plate board.  You'll notice that the sides of the dresser are about 1/4" taller than the top of the dresser.  We don't want that, we want it to be level and flush.  You can either cut a thin board to size and attach it on top, or just cut a tiny bit of length off the sides.  That's what we chose to do (Hubby said it was easier this way and he's the guy with the power tools so I defer to his opinion when it comes to construction.)

Here's a close up of the top and side.

That's the edge we're going to cut off.

Here's what the back looks like when you bring it home.  This is why it's only $35.  Not exactly super solid construction but at least the rest isn't veneer.

So we also picked up a sheet of very thin plywood to cover the back.  The luan sheets (hardwood plywood that's stain grade and looks pretty) at Home Depot come in a 2'x3' size for about $6 and guess what?  That nightstand is 2' wide!  All we need to do is make one cut to make it the right height and attach it to the back.

It's the perfect width so all I have to do is make one cut and attach it with some wood glue and a few screws .

Here's Hubby and his beloved Shopsmith. ;)  He ended up taking each side off the dresser, cut off that top lip, and used a belt sander to make it smooth and perfectly flush across the top.

And here he is cutting the plywood.  

Now just put it back together.  That's it for the prep work.  Yay!

Step Two

You'll notice on the Pottery Barn piece the dresser is covered with linen.  I thought about attaching linen to the wood doing a decoupage kind of thing…  till I read the cleaning instructions.  On the PB web site it says to dust with a dry cloth.  I have a giant, slobbery English Mastiff.  The first time she flings slobber all over the room by shaking her head, that'll be the end of my nightstand.  But if you choose to do this I think you just use Modge Podge or something to make the fabric adhere to each area.  I have NO experience decoupaging fabric onto furniture but there are a million tutorials on Pinterest so if you're brave enough to make a piece of furniture you pretty much can't ever clean, knock yourself out. ;)

Or you can just stain the wood your color of choice.

But what I chose to do was a faux linen paint technique.  You need latex paint, primer, clear glaze, and a brush that's made for this sort of application.  I got all these at Lowe's.

MONEY SAVING TIP:  I bought the Sherwin Williams brand of paint.  This "sample" size is only 1/16th of a quart less than a full quart.  It cost less than $4.  A regular quart is about $16.  They will custom mix the sample color for you and it has a screw top and a handle!  WIN WIN WIN!  The only caveat is that it comes in eggshell and that's it, no flat, satin, gloss, or semi-gloss.  So if you paint your furniture with this eggshell paint just use a clear gloss topcoat if you prefer a shiny finish.  One sample size will cover the entire nightstand and you might even have enough for two if you go heavy on the primer first.

Sorry this is sideways.  I uploaded it and cannot figure out how to rotate it!  Must mean I need more coffee.

I decided to paint my nightstand green for a pop of color in the room.  My bed looks like this and my next project will be a faux printer's chest in a dark gray/black so bits of green here and there look amazing (in my head, anyway!  Hopefully I won't regret this decision.)

P.S.  Want to make this barn door headboard for less than $200?  See it here!

First I tried out my technique on the leftover plywood.  I rolled on a coat of green, then mixed 4 parts clear glaze in a tray with 1 part green paint.  I rolled it on, used the dry brush to drag vertical lines through the paint.  Wiped off the brush, did the next section, until the whole thing was covered with vertical lines.  Let dry.  Then do it again but horizontally this time.  Sadly, I just couldn't see the pattern.

Then I bought another sample of a lighter green.  I tried various combinations of dark with the light color glaze on top, light with the dark glaze on top, mixing in white, etc.  Here are a few of my mockups.

You can KIND of see the linen grain in this closeup but from two feet away it's not visible at all.
For me, the winning combination was:  dark green base coat, glaze mixed with a tiny bit of white latex paint (something like 1/2 cup glaze with one spoonful of white paint.)  I must have tried 20 combinations before I found the look I wanted so don't get discouraged.  Take a break, drink some wine, and try again in the morning.  Worked for me.

Here's what it looked like once it was painted and sprayed with a clear gloss topcoat.

I think the faux linen treatment worked out really well!  It's very subtle but by finishing with a gloss topcoat it will be easy to wipe down and clean.

Now that the paint is dry we're going to start wrapping metal around all the edges.  Here's a reminder of what the inspiration looks like.  (I love that my other tabs are open in this screen shot!  I was trying to find a DIY cleaner using vinegar to clean leather.  That black leather armchair in my bedroom came from Goodwill for all of $20 but it smelled like an old lady's attic.  Phew, it was stinky.  And in case you're curious, vinegar cleaned it beautifully and a bag of activated charcoal under the seat got rid of the smelliness.)

Our metal pieces won't be quite that wide because otherwise they'll overlap the edges of the drawers and you won't be able to open them.  But if you're not using a Rast piece and have something else, feel free to use a wider piece of aluminum.

You're going to measure each edge of the nightstand and cut the metal to fit using a hacksaw.  (You can use an electric saw if you have a blade for cutting metal, but I didn't.  Man, that was quite the arm workout, let me tell ya!)  The corner brackets with cover the seams so don't worry if it's not too pretty right now.

Here's a good close-up of how we had them meet at the corners.

BE SURE TO HAVE THE THIN EDGE ALONG THE FRONT OF THE NIGHTSTAND.  I can't reiterate this enough.  Otherwise the drawers won't open.

Also, wear work gloves.  The metal isn't thick but it's still sharp and pointy.  You'll also have to drill pilot holes for all the screws and nails so mark those using a Sharpie.  Any extra marks will come right off with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or some steel wool.

Laying out the aluminum and imagining how it will all fit together.

We were thrilled to find aluminum at Home Depot and Lowe's that's 1/2" wide along one side and 3/4" wide on the other.  This is perfect for our project.  Skinny side toward the front, thicker side wrapping over the top and sides.

See how it's wider on one side?

Then came a bit of a snag.  We went to Rockler Hardware over the weekend and found a whole section of steamer trunk hardware.  The corner brackets were perfect and they were only $5 for 4.  Nice!  But when I tried fitting them in place over the aluminum…. Houston, we have a problem.  (Yes, that's my coffee cup in the photo, holding the piece of metal to keep it from falling off for the 15th time.)

That one little flap in the front overlaps the drawer by mere millimeters.  Arrgh!  This is turning out to be more work than I'd thought it would be.

I also bought these corner brackets at Home Depot and spray painted them antique bronze.  They look good, but not as much like a steamer trunk.

Here are the two different brackets I got.

Hubby said he can cut off the one little flap on the two brackets that will cover the top drawer.  The rest of the brackets won't be a problem.  But they also don't lie flat against the wood like the other ones do because of the thickness of the aluminum.  Decisions, decisions…

But for a bit of good news, I was going to buy the leather handles at Rockler to be the new drawer pulls.  They're 10" long, and they look like the handles on our inspiration but they'd have been $10-15 each.  So as I was pissing and moaning about the accessory hardware costing three times as much as the dresser itself, Hubby said, "Why don't we buy an old leather belt at Goodwill and cut it up?"  See, that's why I love him.  He has such great ideas!

We stopped at Goodwill on the way home and picked up a brown leather man's belt for $3.  It's nice and broken in with all those creases and folds and looks vintage, which it is.  It's wide so I cut it into 10" pieces first and then I'll cut each one in half lengthwise to get 6 drawers out of it (remember, I'm going to make two nightstands.)  I'm thinking of rounding the ends too.  We'll see how well I can cut a half circle.

Instead of buying mounting brackets for each side we'll just use a carriage bolt on each end to attach them to the drawers.

After attaching all the metal, we put on the corner brackets (which I had sprayed with a combination of bronze, black, and silver spray paints to make them look aged), attached the new handles, and ta da!

How'd we do moneywise?

Nightstand  $25 on Craigslist (it was less than a year old an in perfect condition - score!)
Belt:  $3 at Goodwill
Aluminum strips - $36
Corner brackets - $12
Bolts and decorative nails - $6
Paint - $4 (I already had the white paint and glaze)
Spray on clear finish - $5
Total:  $91

I still have the old nightstand on the other side.  It's brown and matches nothing so now I've got
to make another one of these babies!

The photo above shows my Master Bedroom Makeover in progress.  To date I've spent less than $300 for that barn door headboard, complete with lights, about $120 for the apothecary chest/printer's cabinet dresser, and about $90 for the nightstand.  That's three major pieces of furniture for just above $500.  That's less than one Pottery Barn nightstand.  Not bad!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Ikea Tarva Hack - Turn This Plain Dresser into a Faux Printer's Cabinet / Apothecary Chest!

I'm on a mission - a master bedroom makeover mission.  My husband built us this amazing new bed (see the details here) and now NONE of our super traditional honey brown furniture goes with the new rustic industrial (or as I like to call it, farmhouse warehouse) theme.

I could go out and buy a new bedroom set but I'm not going to.  The look I want from Restoration Hardware would probably cost me upwards of $5000 for nightstands, a dresser and mirror, and a dresser for my husband.  Instead, I'm going to make our new room look awesome on a shoestring!

Take this modest little chest of drawers.  It's from Ikea, it's called the Tarva chest, and it's $99.  It's pretty tall and it's not veneered wood, it's wood.  The modern lines do not fit in with my rustic industrial vision, but the bones are perfect for a faux apothecary chest or printer's cabinet!

Then one day I came across this amazing transformation on Pinterest and fell in love.  It's posted on the StorywoodDesigns web site and it's a simply gorgeous furniture redo.  I especially loved how each section of the piece had drawers of different sizes.  Please visit her site to see the before and after photos.  Even the before was pretty awesome because of how crazy fabulous the piece was to begin with!

This is obviously much larger than my Tarva dresser but the lines are similar and the color is perfect too.  My headboard is light gray and this is going to be Hubby's dresser, so the dark color and the masculine feel of this is just right for my project.

Supplies Needed

  • A very plain chest of drawers.  The Ikea Tarva chest I found gently used on Craigslist for $50.  They're $99 brand new.  It's not the sturdiest piece of furniture ever, so if you're going for longevity I'd pick something up from a thrift store if it's well made.
  • Chalk paint (latex paint mixed with plaster of paris - I'm too cheap to buy actual chalk paint)
  • Clear wax, dark wax, and metallic wax (or make your own like I did - more on that below.)
  • Label pulls and cup pulls for the new drawer hardware
  • Casters
  • A 1x8 board and a 2x2 board
  • A router, a sander, and other general tools

The first thing I did was remove all the knobs and grab my painter's tape to start making lines on the drawers where I wanted to subdivide them into smaller faux drawers.  I'm not going to actually make a bazillion small drawers, I'm just going to use the router to make grooves in the drawer fronts to simulate them.  I then found some drawer pulls on eBay, printed out a ton of pictures of them, and taped them to the dresser to visualize how it would look.

I'm digging it!  Although I think I'll rearrange the drawer configuration a bit.  Hmm, I wonder how casters would look on the bottom?

Ooh, me likey!  Now I just need Hubby to use his router to make grooves on the front of the drawers since I've never used his router before and have no idea what I'm doing.  (I'm leaving the bottom two drawers alone.)

I grabbed a square (basically a T shaped yardstick) and marked my lines so he knew where to cut, and he used his router to make thin grooves, like this.  They're not very deep, maybe 1/4" tops.

Forgot to take the picture until after I'd started painting.  Oops.

When that's done, it's time to paint.  I wanted to use chalk paint so that I wouldn't have to prime or sand, but ain't no way I'm paying $30 a quart for brand name chalk paint.  I mean, come on.  Does anyone besides me think that's insane?!  So I made my own.

I bought a sample size of a lovely warm dark gray Sherwin Williams brand paint at Lowe's.  It's less than $4 and it's about a quart of paint, which will be more than enough for this project.   An ACTUAL quart of this paint is $16, yet the sample is almost the same quantity and only costs $4 or so.  I feel kind of bad when the guy at Lowe's mixes me up a sample thinking I'm going to come back and get a quart later.  (Ha ha ha, no I don't!)  I then mix in a separate container:

  • 1 cup paint
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of plaster of paris
  • 1 tbsp water

I admit, I did a craptastic job of mixing the plaster of paris into the paint because when I rolled it on with my little sponge roller, I had chunks of white powder in my paint finish.  Then when I sanded lightly to get rid of the chunks after it dried, the chunk turned into chalk which then streaked across my paint finish, just like chalk on a chalkboard.  So I had to sand A LOT and keep remixing my paint.  Next time I'll mix the water and plaster of paris together first and then add the paint.

Then I needed to sand around all the edges for the worn, distressed look.  Hubby has a bazillion sanders but this little Dremmel one was triangular and perfect for getting into the grooves around the drawers.

I had seen a sample board at a local hardware store with ideas for paint combinations.  These are General Finishes brand milk paint and glaze.

Hubby was digging the dark chocolate with a coppery looking glaze.  So when I picked up my dark gray paint I also got another sample mixed of a coppery orange paint.  It's not metallic, just really coppery in color.  After the gray paint was dry, I distressed around the edges, sanded lightly to make it all smooth, and wiped with a damp rag to remove any dust.  Now it was time for the glaze.  I usually dip a rag in the glaze mixture, wipe it along the distressed edges where the wood is bare, and wipe it back off almost immediately.  But this paint dried very light and I needed multiple coats.

Here's how I make the glaze:  I mix my clear glaze with just a splash of paint.  It's very imprecise but it's probably a ratio of 6:1 or more.  So maybe 1/2 cup of clear glaze and a spoonful of paint.  I find that if I use too much paint it's hard to wipe back off and I didn't want an orange sheen over the gray.  Alternatively, I could have painted the edges orange first, then painted the whole thing gray, and then sanded the gray off and let the orange show through.

Here's a sequence of photos to show you my glazing process.  I'm sure there are a ton of other ways to do this, but this is how I do it and it works for me.

Step 1: dip

Step 2: Smear

Step 3: Wipe

Step 4: Use another rag to get into the crevices and remove any extra glaze

Once that's all dry, I used a clear wax to seal it.  You don't need a fancy chalk paint wax that's $900 a pint.  Minwax paste wax for furniture is just fine, comes in a huge can, and it's cheap.  Just put some on a rag, wipe it all on, wait 15 minutes, then buff it off with a clean rag.

Hmm, it's looking too…… flat and one dimensional to me.  I think I'll go over it all with a dark wax.  I made my own by scooping out some of the clear wax into a bowl, melted it a bit, and stirred in a spoonful of the darkest oil based stain that I had (Varathane Dark Walnut).

Then I went over the whole thing, waited 15, and buffed it again.  Still too boring.

So then I applied dark wax just to the center of each drawer, thinking that's where the drawer would get dirty from your hand always reaching for the drawer pulls.  I applied it, let it sit overnight, and buffed the next morning.  BAD MOVE!  It would NOT buff out and now I had very obvious brown stripes on the drawers.  So I had to add more clear wax to move the dark wax around, wait 15, then buff.  Damn, my arms are tired.

It's still missing something.  I know!  I have some gold metallic wax that I'm going to use to redo a bedroom mirror that's currently pink and white.  So let's mix a bit of gold into the dark wax and see what that does.

There we go, that's what I'm talking about!  It almost looks like brushed metal now, doesn't it?  This is with the wax applied and waiting to be buffed off.   It won't be so shiny when I buff it but now it has that bit of sheen that gives it some depth and character.  I buffed it with my husband's super wazoo electric buffing machine that he uses to wax his car.  It removed all the circular marks and left a subtle sheen without being oily or shiny.  Kind of the equivalent of a satin paint finish.

The Varathane and Minwax are from the hardware store and the metallic wax is from Hobby Lobby.

When using wax, you MUST let it cure two days before you put anything on it.  So don't move it into your bedroom and decorate it just yet or you'll get permanent marks in the surface.  The only way to remove them is to sand it all off and start over.  Don't do it!  If you live in the hot and humid south like I do, you may have to bring your piece in the house and let it cure in the air conditioning.  That baby just was not drying out in my garage.

Last, but not least, we wanted some casters on the bottom but those skinny little Ikea legs weren't wide enough.  So Hubby created a kind of apron to go around the opening at the bottom of the dresser using 1x8" boards.  He just cut them to length, fit them between the legs, and screwed them in from the back side.  He also had to add a piece for the casters to screw into.  The base of those 3" casters was too wide for the existing legs and needed something to screw into.

Here's what she looks like in her new home.  I love it!  Now I just need a great industrial lamp and I'll be all set.

Cost Breakdown:

Dresser: $50 on Craigslist (less than a year old - nice!)
Paint: $8 for two sample sizes
Plaster of Paris: $0 (I already had it but I bought a huge bucket at Michael's for $7 months ago and it will last me years.)
Clear glaze: $0 (already had it but it was $15 when I bought it)
Wax: $0 (I already had all those too)
Label pulls: $30 off eBay for 20
Cup pulls: $8 for 4 from Hobby Lobby during "50% off all drawer pulls" week
Four 3" casters: about $7 each from Home Depot.
a 1x8" board:  Around $7
Grand Total:  $120 for a new chest of drawers.  Not too shabby!

I think this would look great in an office or media room too.  What do you think?