Spring

7 (Inexpensive) Ways to Add a Splash of Spring to Your Home

Today is officially the first day of spring (we’ll see what mother nature does), and it’s the perfect time to add some new style to your home…without breaking the bank! Here are seven ways to spruce up your interior as we welcome longer days, warmer weather and all that the season brings!

1. Update your accent pillows. Regardless of season, changing the throw pillows on your sofa or bed, is an easy way to update a space on a dime. If you have lots of neutrals, consider adding contrasting hues; if you have a more finite color palette, swap a geometric pattern for a modern floral or a solid for something with texture. I always recommend investing in down or high-quality synthetic inserts in standard sizes, so you can just wash your covers and swap them easily.

ZZ Plant I Welcomed Into My Home Last Year (Shooting Off New Growth)

ZZ Plant I Welcomed Into My Home Last Year (Shooting Off New Growth)

2. Treat yourself to fresh flowers or a new houseplant. Greenery is the best way to add some life (literally) to your home and, if you don’t think a plant is too much of a commitment, consider adding a decorative planter and a low-maintenance addition, like a ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia). As a bonus, plants can improve your indoor air quality! However, if that’s too big a step or your four-legged friends won’t stand for it, stop by a local store and buy a few stems to arrange yourself. I’m a big fan of the hydrangeas from Trader Joe’s (about $6 for three stems) as they easily fill out a low vase and can last up to two weeks (with regular trimming and water changes). I also find the act of arranging flowers to be relaxing and a great way to de-stress….another bonus!

Add Life to Your Front Door with a Pop of Color (Image: Southern Living)

Add Life to Your Front Door with a Pop of Color (Image: Southern Living)

3. Add some color and decor to your door(s). A fresh coat of paint (and a new color) can do wonders for your walls but even updating your doors can create a stylish impact (and take a lot less time). If you have a street-facing front door, consider an accent color that coordinates with your exterior….and add a new doormat, wreath or planter while you’re at it. If you live in a condo, simply painting the interior (if you have restrictions) with a bold color adds tons of style. Need more tips? Southern Living has you covered.

4. Edit your kitchen countertops & dining room table. We’re all familiar with spring cleaning but have you taken inventory of what’s on your kitchen counters or dining table? Now’s the time to edit what’s out on your kitchen surfaces (what do you use daily and what can go in the cabinets or pantry) and perhaps add a functional accent piece, like a colorful bowl you can fill with fresh fruit and veggies from your local farmers market or a bright canister to store frequently used cooking tools. Similarly, refresh your dining room by adding a colorful runner to your table and simple accessories (maybe even those flowers you brought home earlier).

5. Let the sun shine in. Take advantage of more hours of natural light by updating your window treatments. If you have curtains, consider swapping them for a lighter linen option, like the West Elm ones here. If you have blinds or shades, keep them open and add some sheers to frame and soften your window. Now’s the time to give your windows a good clean inside and out…you’ll be amazed at the difference!

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6. Bring the outside in with photography. One of my favorite DIY decorating hacks is to use photography and gallery frames to create inexpensive, meaningful and impactful wall art. Take your camera and grab some shots of the cherry blossoms and other flowers in bloom or find a talented friend and ask if you can print some of their shots you’ve hearted on Instagram. If you already have frames, just swap out the photos. If you don’t, head to Michaels for great deals on gallery-style frames (think narrow edges, modern lines and exaggerated white mats).

7. Re-style your shelves. If you have built-in bookshelves or a freestanding set, add some flower power with a removable wallpaper in the back (like this modern floral project from Top Shelf DIY). If you aren’t ready for wallpaper, simply start by removing all items from your shelves (and other flat surfaces) and carefully select pieces to add back in. Mix books with objects, framed items and other meaningful pieces. Less is always more.

Happy Spring!

Amber Harris is the owner of At Home DC, an interior decorator and a licensed real estate agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties working with clients in DC, Maryland and Virginia. 

Get Ready for Spring & Summer with Upcoming Free Workshop!

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In February, I had the pleasure of presenting an interactive session on designing for small spaces in conjunction with the DC Public Library. With more than 20 in attendance and positive feedback, I am excited to share that I'll be returning to the Petworth Library in May...this time with a superstar of landscape design!

Edamarie Mattei and I met more than 10 years ago by chance in a tennis class, and we connected over the sport, our shared alma mater (Georgetown University) and our interests in potentially pursuing careers beyond our current (at the time) lines of work in education and media, respectively. Since then Edamarie has built a thriving landscape design company, Backyard Bounty

That brings us to today as we both run our own businesses and decided why not tackle the topic of entertaining during warm weather months from both our areas of expertise! We hope you'll join us on May 15th:

Indoor & Outdoor Entertaining: Making Your Spaces Function & Flow
Tuesday, May 15 | 7-8:30pm
Petworth Library (4200 Kansas Avenue NW) | Lower Level Meeting Room

Amber Harris is the owner of At Home DC, an interior decorator and a licensed real estate agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties working with clients in DC, Maryland and Virginia. 

Fall Is the Perfect Time to Start Getting Ready for the Spring Market

As the leaves are just starting to turn, spring may seem ages away...but not when you are considering selling and/or buying a home.

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Whether you are a first-time buyer or a veteran property owner, now is the time to start making your to-do list so you can be prepared when April and May arrive and so you have a head start on the competition.

Below are a some key tasks and tips for both buyers and sellers to get you going, but please reach out if you'd like to discuss your needs in more depth. I am already holding appointments with spring clients, and I'd love to meet with you!

Selling Your Home

  1. Forget spring cleaning, fall is the time! We've all been there when moving day is around the corner and your plans to organize and purge are thrown out the window in favor of dumping a drawer at a time into a box labeled "stuff." Take advantage of the cooler days to sort through everything from books and clothes to those dusty bins under beds and in closets. If you have't used it in the past year, if you have multiples or if it doesn't fit, it's likely time to find it a new home. By paring down your belongings (including furniture), you'll be a step ahead when staging your home (where less is always more) and when it's time to ultimately pack and move.
     
  2. Make those fixes you've been putting off. When you live in a home, you tend to overlook little imperfections -- from a cracked tile or two to a window that sticks. However, it's the little things that often catch the eye of potential buyers and leads them to assume they could be an indicator of bigger problems. Walk through your home with a critical eye and identify the fixes, big and small, that need attention and then tackle one a week.
     
  3. Interview and select your REALTOR®. Most agents, including me, are already looking toward spring and filling their books with clients. Partnering with an agent now allows you to develop a rapport and prepare a detailed marketing plan to maximize the potential return on your sale. 
     
  4. Identify smart upgrades that can help your house stand out with buyers. If you've done #3, this is something your agent will happily do with you, walking your home and identifying updates that will likely yield a faster sale and higher sales price. Upgrades may be painting woodwork white, upgrading a kitchen counter or even replacing light switches that are yellowed and showing their age. Together you can prioritize based on level of effort/expense and potential return.
     
  5. Follow the market! While spring undoubtedly starts the busiest time of year in real estate, there are lots of dynamics at play that can affect a market, such as rising interest rates and changes to consumer confidence. Your real estate agent will be your guide, but you should be engaged as well...especially if you are planning to buy!

Buying Your Home

  1. Check your credit. If you don't do so regularly and have not done so recently, get your free credit report from all three bureaus and make sure all the information is accurate (if not, you have time to try to remove incorrect information). You also can look for ways you can improve your credit score, such as lowering or eliminating credit card balances. 
     
  2. Interview and select your REALTOR®. While there is usually less lead time in getting ready if you are just buying, having an agent take you through the current market dynamics and home buying process (especially if you are a first-time buyer or someone who hasn't bought in many years) is essential.
     
  3. Understand your buying power and define your budget. You may already have a lender but, if you don't, your real estate agent can recommend trusted lenders...and you always should shop around. While you may have used an online calculator or app to approximate what you would be approved for, an experienced lender can give you the best idea of your buying power and what to expect in the coming months. This means you'll go into the spring market with clear expectations of what's attainable and ready for pre-approval.
     
  4. Start to research and explore neighborhoods. While you might have a good idea of where you want to live, now is the time to expand your consideration set (for example, if your budget means your ideal location may not be in reach). Read hyperlocal blogs, like Petworth News or Brookland Bridge, grab drinks or dinner at new-to-you restaurants and talk to friends about their communities. In the end, your new home may be where you least expected!
     
  5. Mind your finances. Even if your credit is stellar and you have a healthy amount in the bank, pay close attention to your spending habits to avoid penny pinching and stress closer to when you buy (and after). Most everyone is aware that there are closing costs associated with purchasing a home, but also remember you may need to hire movers, buy new furniture and more.

To set up a time for your free listing or buyer consultation, contact me today

Amber Harris is the owner of At Home DC and a licensed real estate agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties working with clients in DC, Maryland and Virginia. 

Simplify for Spring: Tricks to Gain Control of Your Space & Stuff

With spring officially here, we find ourselves spending more time outdoors (rightfully so) but there's always that unspoken obligation to "spring clean." While I'm no Marie Kondo and there are seemingly unlimited books and articles devoted to the topic, I thought I'd share a few tips that have served me well. These nuggets also are great if you are looking to get your property into shape before selling or paring down before making a move to (or starting the search for) a new home.

Closet Cleanup
I'm an unabashed clothes horse and, while I did install California Closets to help maximize my (in my opinion) limited space, there are a few rules I have in place to help out:

  • Slim Down: I can't say enough about leveraging slim-style hangers to maximize storage (and sleakness). I love these hangers from Bed, Bath & Beyond not only because they are slim but also because they have great rubber grips that work well in the closet and when hanging items to dry. While replacing all your hangers can seem excessive, it makes a huge difference (and you can donate the old hangers to a local charity).
  • To Every Season Turn, Turn, Turn: It's all to easy to talk yourself into keeping a dress or blouse that in reality you haven't worn in a few years. To help keep me honest, I turn the hangers on items I have worn. While it may look a little less neat than the alternative, this makes it easy to go through your closet at the end of a season and remove the pieces you haven't worn so you can donate or sell them. The feeling when you end up with a pile of empty hangers on your bed, a bag full of clothes to donate and a less crammed closet is among the best around. Seriously.

Shop Your Home
We've all done it. Seen a great deal on deodorant at the store or bought an item because we couldn't find it at home or thought we were out. If you are like me, you then end up with three half-used deodorants and multiples of too many products. To keep toiletry sprawl at bay:

  • Group Like Items: If we've learned anything from Kondo, it's all about pooling your stuff to really assess what you have. I do this with toiletries - from shampoos from hotels and free samples from Sephora to full-size items I have bought. Use easy-to-clean plastic bins to organize items by type (makeup and facial care, hair products, body products, etc.) under your sink or in your linen closet.
  • Check Before Buying: Before adding an item to your shopping list, check your stash to see if you have it - even if it's a travel size version. Use what you have at home and deplete your supply before buying more. I am currently working on a supply of body washes from travels that I will never get through otherwise. Not only does this help you save money but it will create space!

These are just a few ideas to get you going (and the toiletries tips also can apply to your pantry - and encourage you to find and/or create new recipes in the kitchen). With April 15 around the corner, take advantage of donating items to a local charity (and taking the write-off) or perhaps sell higher-value items by consigning with a local store, organizing a neighborhood yard sale (a great way to meet your neighbors, too) or scheduling a clothing/book/etc. swap with friends (with food and drink, naturally). 

So much in life is complicated, so why not simplify what you can? Happy decluttering!

Amber Harris is the owner of At Home DC, an interior decorator and a licensed real estate agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties working with clients in DC, Maryland and Virginia. 

5 Tips to Land Your Dream Home This Spring

Spring. The time of year when tulips, daffodils and cherry blossoms bloom (even if they are delayed)...and when homebuyers are ready to move! While market activity picks up across the country with the warming weather, it also means more competition - which can be a problem when there are inventory shortages.

U Street

U Street

According to Bright MLS, the Washington market has seen declines in year-over-year inventory for nine months (as of January 2017). This is great news for sellers, but it can lead to greater frustrations for buyers - especially first-time homebuyers who have not yet experienced the process. Of course, this doesn't mean you should throw your hands up in the air and stay put in a less-than-ideal home. Here are five tips to help put you in a better position to land your dream home in the DC area:

1. Enlist the help of a Realtor® now. Finding the perfect home is a stressful process for any buyer, so add a licensed real estate agent to your team. They'll shepherd you through the process, put your interests first and allow you to focus more on all the joys of homebuying and, eventually, homeownership. Even if you're not sure if now is the right time to buy, having an agent on your side can help you make that determination and be ready when your dream home hits the market.

2. Spring clean...your credit! If you haven't already, take a close look at your credit and take steps to bolster your credit score and increase your ability to get approved for a mortgage at the most favorable rates. This may mean reducing existing credit card debt and paying extra close attention to avoid late payments on any bills (more tips from MyFICO.com). 

3. Have your list of must-haves and nice-to-haves, but be open. Most of us have pictured our ideal home for years but they almost always are out of reach. The homebuying process is rooted in trade-offs but talk to your real estate agent about options you may not have considered, such as a fixer upper (and a 203k loan), alternate neighborhoods and properties with income potential (such as a basement unit you can rent out).

4. Be the early bird and catch the worm. In a market with low inventory, preparation and timing is key. In addition to being pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage, take advantage of your Realtor®'s access to information not yet available through the many online real estate search portals. Agents - through relationships and their tools - often know about inventory three weeks or more before it hits the market (allowing you to see properties first and, if it's a fit, make an offer).

5. Choose an agent who knows your target neighborhood(s). DC and its neighborhoods are unique and diverse (part of what makes our region so great), so find an agent who knows (or, better yet, lives in) the neighborhoods you are honing in on. Google and public records can only tell you so much, so tap into the knowledge and expertise of your agent.

Here's wishing you luck on your homebuying journey this spring. If you are looking in DC area - and especially if you are interested in Petworth, Columbia Heights and Brightwood - I'd love to meet you and discuss your needs

Amber Harris is the owner of At Home DC, an interior decorator and a licensed real estate agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties working with clients in DC, Maryland and Virginia.