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Breaking the Rules of Home Decorating

by Scott Darling


Decorating is the most personal way to express yourself in your home, and sometimes, when you want to try something different--something that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere on the list of design rules--it may be tempting to go with the flow, despite
 what you want to do.  Get design-rebellious with these tips: 

 

Color 

  • - Small room?  It doesn’t have to be a neutral color!  Go bold but create balance with open shelving or smaller furnishings. 

  • - We’re told not to stick with one color in a room, but going monochrome creates a bold, dramatic statement. 

  • - Your ceilings can be considered another wall when it comes to color.  Just remember to keep the walls a neutral color and get samples to paint on the ceiling before you commit to it. 

  • - Trim doesn’t have to be white!  Use high-gloss black for drama, stain that complements wood flooring, or neutrals for a modern twist on a traditional look. 

 

Finishes 

  • - If the metal finish on your kitchen light fixture doesn’t match the drawer pulls, it’s fine!  Mixing metals is perfectly acceptable, and check out this article from the Invaluable blog for inspiration! 

  • - Wood finishes don’t have to be the same throughout the house; create dimension with different stain colors, adding depth to a room or the whole house. 

  • - Who said tile is only for kitchens and bathrooms? Create an accent wall with tile in any room.  Be inspired by using the HGTV photo library search for whatever room you have in mind and add “wile tall” to the search term.   

  • - Speaking of kitchen tile, why not use wallpaper for your backsplash?  Protect it from splashes and oils with mounted plexiglass or a sealant made especially for sealing wallpaper. 

 

Furnishings and Accessories 

  • - Furniture stores have us fooled into thinking that our furniture sets must match, and this logic applies to even pieces like dining chairs. Mixing styles adds interest. 

  • - Mixing more than two patterns can be scary, so start small with accessories in bold patterns that are easily changed.  Staying in the same color family with your patterns will made this decision less daunting. 

  • - If you’d like to add some natural pieces to your space but don’t have a green thumb, then don’t be ashamed to use artificial plants!   

  • - It’s tempting to just scoot furniture to the wall and leave it because you want to follow symmetry.  Go diagonal!  Check out the difference a rearrangement can make by placing the sofa at a slant and give it a try in your living room! 

 

Not all rules of design should be broken, and there are likely rules that tell us why going against the norm with our personal decorating has a great result.  If you want to do something different, try it--you may like it! 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: apartmenttherapy.com

Attracting Wildlife To Your Landscape

by Scott Darling


Most homeowners landscape their property for aesthetic reasons, and there’s not a thing wrong with wanting your home’s outdoor areas to look beautiful.  Not only can your gardening be pleasing to the eye, you can attract beneficial insects and small mammal
s to your plantings.  Follow these tips if you’d like to create a mini-habitat oasis in your yard. 

 

  • - If you’re not sure where to begin, contact your local USDA Extension office, and they offer a wealth of information to educate you and get your started on your way to attracting wildlife. 
     

  • - Using native plants is the first step in attracting birds and butterflies, and most of these are perennials that have a short blooming season.  Don’t be afraid of losing color; you can intersperse the native plantings with colorful annuals. 
     

  • - Purchase or build housing to attract birds, making sure dimensions are correct for certain types of birds, and be sure birdhouse placement is where it will be most attractive to the birds. 
     

  • - Other man-made shelters can be made or bought to attract wild things:  houses for bats, butterflies, carpenter bees and ladybugs will not only add charm to the landscape, you will be bringing insects that will help you fight the bad bugs. 
     

  • - To invite frogs to take up residence, take any old clay pot, use ceramic tile cutters to make a doorway around the top edge, and turn the pot upside down on the ground for a frog house. 
     

  • - Besides placing feeders in different areas, clean water is essential for wildlife, and having small shallow dishes with clean water scattered about (under cover of plantings) will keep little animals coming back to your yard again and again. 
     

  • - Attracting wildlife can be wonderful and educational, but having deer devour your landscaping isn’t wonderful at all. Keep them at a distance by using this list of plants that don’t appeal to deer from Old Farmer’s Almanac. 

 

One of the first things you need to commit yourself to if you’d like all sorts of beneficial animals to visit and even live in your landscaping is going non-chemical for bad insects and weed control.  Education is the key, so do a lot of reading and learning before you begin this venture.  Landscaping that incorporates plants and animals is landscaping that benefits everyone. 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: notjustcute.com

Collections and Home Decor

by Scott Darling


A collection of antique furniture is easily incorporated into your home’s decor.  But what if you collect memorabilia from a favorite movie, vintage kitchenware, or clown figurines?  No need to cram everything into one room on shelves along one wall (thoug
h that can make an impact for some collectibles).  Let’s look at some ways you can show off your prized possessions: 

 

  • - Consider displaying a few pieces at the time in a prominent place in your home:  mantel, a buffet or sideboard, or coffee table.  Keep the others stored safely away and switch them out every few months. 

  • - Vintage or antique glass items should be displayed near natural light so they will sparkle.  Open shelves on a wall opposite a sunny window will show off these treasures in a dramatic way. 

  • - An art collection doesn’t have to be displayed as a gallery wall;  negative space is very appealing, and the St. Mawes Gallery shares some tips on how to make your pieces stand out. 

  • - Make a collection of items on built-in shelves stand out by painting the insides of the shelves a complementary or contrasting color, especially if the items are the same color, or in the same color family. 

  • - Small items can be tucked away on a corner shelf, adding interest in a smaller room where there isn’t a lot of space.   

  • - Plate collectors don’t always display them in cabinets with glass doors; purchase plate hangers that will hold them securely to a wall and create an artful display on a dining room wall or over the soffits in the kitchen. 

  • - Collecting quilts or other textiles can create a dilemma, because just leaving them folded on a shelf doesn’t always do them justice.  Displaying them on a wall can be done with a little work, and they can be changed out to avoid any damage from the sun.  Check out these quilt-hanging ideas from Suzy Quilts. 

  • - Shadow boxes are inexpensive ways to display several small things at once, especially vintage toys!  If the items are made of plastic, you can place them all in the frame in a jumble, making it a fun conversation piece, sending people on a toy hunt. 

  • - Can’t get rid of those vinyl LP’s from high school?  Don’t keep them in a box--album frames are available from most craft stores and online, and you can take your favorites and display them as the art that only album covers can be! 

 

A collection doesn’t have to look like a hoard or be piled up in a jumble--treat them like treasures and decor items.  Learn some designer tips from Veranda magazine for displaying your prized possessions, and turn your treasures into a photo-worthy display! 

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: pinterest

Keeping Your Packages Safe

by Scott Darling


With online shopping having become so popular, this time of year brings stories on the news about package thieves, as well as new gadgets to help deter someone from walking away with packages delivered while someone isn’t home.  There are several options w
e have that can help keep our deliveries secure, as well as help from online retailers.   

 

  • - Talk to neighbors that may be home during the days you’re expecting a package, and ask them to be on the lookout for a delivery to your home so they can hold it for you or stash it somewhere out of sight. 

  • - There are simple ways to hide an unattended package: have a large plant to hide boxes behind, or use a lockbox at your doorstep, with key instructions for the carrier in your delivery details. 

  • - Most large retailers will give you a “ship to store” option, and all you have to do is pick it up at the Customer Service desk.   

  • - If your package is coming via USPS, there are several ways to divert package delivery, as well as ask a carrier to leave it somewhere out of sight. 

  • - When you place your order, if you know you’re going to be at work, make sure your boss doesn’t mind if you have your items delivered to your workplace, and use that address for shipping. 

  • - Your local pack-and-ship store will receive deliveries for you for a fee.  

  • - Installing a visible security camera at your front door can deter some thieves, and some cameras come with motion-sensor options to set off a siren or other alert if someone gets too close to your front door. 

  • - Amazon is offering several delivery options:  Amazon LockerKey Smart Lock KitKey In-Car Delivery, and Hub by Amazon. 

  • - UPS offers My Choice to customize your deliveries. For FedEx deliveries, go to their Delivery Manager, create and account, and manage your deliveries. 

 

The best way to prevent “package Grinches” from stealing your deliveries is to be proactive.  Use text message and email alerts, as well as specific delivery company smartphone apps to notify you when a package is left at your door. 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: huffingtonpost

Creating a Restful Bedroom

by Scott Darling

Ah, rest--it is probably one thing that many people will say that they don’t get enough of.  Something we may not realize that’s vital to a good night’s sleep is a calm atmosphere in the bedroom.  Let’s look at what we can do to create a restful bedroom. 
 

  • - Keep the room free of clutter: use storage containers under the bed for clothes you may not have room for, keep jewelry neatly hanging or in a jewelry box, have a hamper tucked away for clothing that needs to be washed, and shoes should be tucked away. 

  • - Some smaller homes don’t have a designated room for an office, and it’s important to keep the two separate, even in the same room.  Face the work area away from the bed and use a screen if you like.  Keep the desk tidy, so you’re not looking at work that needs to be done while you’re preparing to go to bed.  Turn off any electronics that can disturb the quiet of the room when you’re not using them. 

  • - Low lighting is important, so use a low-wattage bulb in the bedside lamp and add a timer for it to come one just before bedtime so you won’t have to turn on the bright ceiling light when it’s time to get ready for sleep. 

  • - Sleep experts will tell you that the bedroom is no place for a television!  If sleep is an issue for you, keep the tv in the family room, as the light and noise will keep you from truly resting.  

  • - On that note, if you need some sort of noise to help you sleep, there are many white noise machines and smartphone apps, as well as playlists on many music streaming services that have a variety of relaxing background noise.  Ditch the tv and use white or “pink” noise to help you drift off. 

  • - Room-darkening shades can be very helpful in blocking city lights and help those who must work at night sleep during the day.   

  • - Pets are like family for most of us but allowing them to sleep in bed with you may not be such a good idea.   Have a special bed or crate for Spot to sleep in, so their nighttime movements won’t disturb your deep sleep cycles.  

  • - Room temperature is very important to rest.  If it’s in the budget, have a separate heating and cooling system for the bedroom, and keep it between 60° and 67°, and if that’s not possible, use a fan to keep you cool. 

  • - Choosing the color for decorating is important, as colors influence us when it comes to different activities.  Most of us know that blues, greens and grays are relaxing colors, but if you like to make a bold statement, light colors won’t work.  Royal blue, shades of teal, and browns can still make a room feel calm and add bright style to the room. 

  • - Obviously, your bedding is one of the most vital parts of getting a good night’s rest.  Have a comfortable mattress with good pillows and bedding appropriate for keeping you comfortable.   

 

Sleeping well is so important to many aspects of life, not to mention your health, and if your bedroom isn’t helping you get a good night’s sleep, it’s time to make some changes.  The Better Sleep Foundation has some other tips and information on how your bedroom can help you get the rest you need. 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: ballarddesigns.com

Carve, Drill or Sculpt a Pumpkin!

by Scott Darling

Gone are the days of using Mom’s best kitchen knife to carve a simple jack o’ lantern with triangle-shaped eyes and a toothy grin.  Pumpkin carving is an art for many, but even those who aren’t so talented in that department can create original and fun lanterns to light our front steps for Halloween! 

 

  • - Cleaning out the pumpkin is messy, and best done on a paper-covered table or done outside.  Once the inside is clean of seeds and pulp, use a spray bleach cleaner such as Clorox Clean Up to spray the inside of the pumpkin to help stop it from molding quickly.
     

  • - Pumpkin carving kits can be bought for just a few dollars, and they usually contain a utility saw, hand “drill,” and scraper.  Some kits offer templates to choose from. 

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  • - The amount of free printable templates are almost overwhelming, and you’ll probably end up with more than one jack o’ lantern if you go through this list of available templates from The Spruce Crafts! 

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  • - Find a template that compliments your skills, or find an easy one that children can help with, and print.  Tape it to your cleaned-out pumpkin, and use a pointy object to trace around the line drawing, poking through the paper and into the pumpkin. Cut the pattern using a small saw, and spray the newly cut areas with the bleach cleaner, and your piece of art should last for several days! 

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  • - Metal cookie cutters can also be used for a different look for your pumpkins:  using a mallet, gently tap the cookie cutter through the carved pumpkin shell.  Go around the pumpkin using this method, or place the cutter in random places for a less-structured look. 

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  • - A power drill can make creating a pumpkin lantern a breeze!  Use different bit sizes to make your pumpkin sparkle, like these from onelittleproject.com. 

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  • - For the more advanced pumpkin artist, grab a linoleum cutter at your local home center, and follow these directions from FromChinaVillage.com for a different approach to “carving.” 

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  • - Battery-operated tea lights are perfect for lighting your jack o’ lantern, and last for several hours, as well as being safer than a traditional candle.  Once you purchase an inexpensive pack, replace the batteries when the old ones die, as the LED bulbs inside last much longer than any wax tealight candle. 

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  • - For more festive and different approaches to decorating your porch with other members of the squash and vegetable family, check out these ideas from The Garden Glove. 

 

Keep the pumpkin-carving safe:  supervise younger children, and even help them when they want to use tools to cut the pumpkin’s new face.  Most children love cleaning out the “guts” of the pumpkin, so have them pick out some seeds for cleaning and roasting later for a healthy treat.  Most of all, have fun, and make memories!

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: dailynewsdig.com

Going from Summer to Fall in Your Outdoor Spaces

by Scott Darling

Hopefully, you’ve made good use and great memories this Summer in your outdoor space.  Just because we’re getting closer to Fall doesn’t mean we have to wrap it all up and put it away!  There’s plenty we can do to transition our porches, decks and patios for cooler weather use.  Let’s look at some simple ideas that will keep us outdoors a little longer. 

 

  • - Change pillow and cushion covers from their bright colors to more neutral tones, with a splash of soft red or orange here and there. 

  • - Once your potted plants’ Summer blooms fade, repot your containers with ornamental grasses, decorative kale, pansies, marigolds and chrysanthemums. 

  • - Drape light blankets over the backs and arms of your seating to use on chilly evenings. 

  • - If you don’t already have one, buying or creating a firepit is a great way to warm up cool nights.  If you’re not sure of your style or if the budget is tight, morningchores.com has photos and links to 57 different DIY firepits!  

  • - The days are getting shorter and adding lighting to your porch is important.  With so many choices for inexpensive and energy-saving LED lighting, you can add torches, candles and lanterns to a table for soft, relaxing lighting without spending a ton. 

  • - Add a cozy area rug to ward off cold feet and add texture to the space. 

  • - The cool breezes we long for in the heat of July are a little less desirable on a cool Autumn night.  Add some no-sew outdoor curtains using drop cloths, of all things, to block the wind, and use strong adhesive like E6000 to add heavy washers at the bottom to weight the curtains down. 

  • - Making the outdoors more inviting in Fall means adding warmth--literally.  Outdoor heaters come in many styles and price ranges and use electricity as well as propane to keep you and your guests’ toes warm. 

  • - Finally, when the pumpkin patches open, get a variety of pumpkins, gourds and other fall produce, and tuck them into your container plantings, or create a centerpiece or to make the outdoors an even more inviting space to enjoy.
     

There’s no need to stop going outside just because the days are shorter, and nights are cooler.  Being outside is proven to help alleviate stress, make us feel happier, and may help us sleep better, especially if we can catch the sunset.  So, don’t neglect your much-loved outdoor space this Fall; you created it to be used, and Fall is the perfect time to enjoy it. 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: http://telano.info

Internet Security, Passwords & 2FA

by Scott Darling

Internet security continues to concern more and more users, especially after one of the largest identity-theft protection companies in the US, LifeLock, discovered that they may have left customers’ email addresses exposed, making them vulnerable to phishing and other spam-related attacks.  Many apps, email providers, and websites now offer second-factor authentication (2FA) to help avoid identity theft.  Here’s a brief rundown about using 2FA, as well as other ways to keep our accounts safe. 


  • - Many internet security experts suggest that you change your passwords frequently. Yes, it can be a pain, but someone hacking into your online banking account would be even more painful.  Use upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols, or try a “passphrase,” a brief phrase usually limited to fifteen characters. 

  • - Change your security questions often if you have that option.  Most account profile settings will allow you to choose different questions. 

  • - Hackers are becoming more inept at stealing mobile phone numbers and hijacking SIM cards, as well as social media accounts that are associated with the numbers.  Motherboard writes that we should set up a special password with our cellular providers to make it more difficult for these thieves to pretend to be the account owner when they call the phone company.  

  • - Almost everyone uses a computer at work these days, and you may occasionally use it for personal things.  The best advice:  don’t use your work computer for anything personal.  If you need to handle something during the day with your child’s teacher, handle it in phone conversation or use your smartphone’s email app.  Internet acceptable-use policies are in place in most business and organizations, so it would be best to re-familiarize yourself with that section in your personnel handbook. 

  • PCMag lists many popular websites that have the option of 2FA, it’s just hiding in the settings.  The article also gives us directions for different websites. 

  • - If you must write down passwords for multiple accounts, make sure whatever you have them written on is in a locked and secure place. 

  • - Our smartphone’s software is becoming so advanced that they can recognize our fingerprints and faces, but our pc’s and laptops continue to use passwords as the most common way for logging in.  There are several ways to provide additional information for the apps and websites we log in to, and PCWorld’s website gives us a rundown of the best apps available. 

 

The best protection we can give our personal info is to not get slack.  We must be proactive and stay one step ahead of ourselves, as well as anyone who’d like access to our personal information.  As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and that certainly applies to keeping our own data secure and out of the wrong people’s hands. 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: blog.internetcreations.com

Pet Summertime Safety

by Scott Darling

When we’re enjoying the warm weather, our pets usually are, too.  When we’re spending time outdoors with family and friends, we usually include our pets.  Keeping our furry family members safe should always be a priority, and these tips may be a refresher course for some, but it never hurts to make sure all our loved ones are kept out of harm’s way. 

 

In the Backyard 

- Fencing should be examined to make sure there are no gaps at the bottom, and that all materials are in place and secure.  You don’t want Fluffy taking a neighborhood excursion by himself. 

- The garden and landscaping bring us great satisfaction, and animals like to take a bite of growing things occasionally.  Check these lists for cats and dogs from ASPCA to make sure you keep your pets from chewing on them. 

- Keep any swimming pool chemicals and mechanical lawn tools sealed and out of your pets’ way.  Some of these products have a scent that is enticing to animals, and they wouldn’t hesitate to give them a try.   

- It may sound sensational, but if you have an animal that is a toy breed, or weighs five pounds or less, keep an eye and ear out for any predatory birds.  Owls, hawks, and eagles have been known to attack small pets, mistaking them for a wild meal. 

- Sometimes it’s necessary to leave your dog or cat outside while you’re gone for a while.  Make sure they have adequate shelter to keep them cool, and plenty of cool water to prevent heat stroke or dehydration. 

- Allowing your cat to roam in the yard is great for them, as they are natural hunters, and they find great pleasure in all the sights and sounds.  Keep an eye on them in case they see a bird they’d like to get to know better, or find a snake in the flower bed.  Protecting wildlife and your feline friend go hand-in-hand. 

 

Out and About 

- Does your dog go with you for exercise while you’re biking or jogging?  Some active pet owners take a water bowl with them, so they can offer a cool drink to their pet, and you can train them to drink directly from the bottle using an adaptor created especially for dogs. 

- Going fishing or water skiing?  Make sure you have a life jacket for them, as well as an overboard plan.  If you think Fido would enjoy jumping into the water, maybe you should leave them at home or at the kennel for their safety as well as your own. 

- vetSTREET offers some great tips for taking your dog to the beach.  Heat, waves, and hot sand can all play a role in just how much fun everyone will have--or not. 

- It’s vacation time, and you’d like to bring your pet with you, so call ahead for information on pet-friendly lodging, and where they can stay for events where pets aren’t welcome. Make sure you have a vehicle safety harness or seat belt for them or their carrier while you’re traveling. 

 

Summertime brings water fun, cookouts, and don’t forget the insects!  Keep your pets safe from biting insects, and be sure they get a flea and tick repellent treatment and heartworm prevention to avoid any diseases these insects can cause down the road. Pets need to be kept as safe as small children, so take preventive measures so you can have a fun and healthy Summer with the whole family.   

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: allpetnews.com

Let Kids Grow - In The Garden!

by Scott Darling

Taking time to work in the garden can be turned into family fun when you get the kids involved.  Children are usually fascinated with how things grow, and being a part of the process may even get them to try some new foods!  Try some of these projects to get them interested, and not to mention, free help in the garden! 

 

  • - A bean teepee is a fun and relatively easy project.  Assemble three 8-foot poles in a tepee shape, make sure you give them a good push several inches into the soil, and tie the poles together at the top with jute twine.  Continue using the twine to make a loose net so the vines will have support, just make sure you leave one section open for a doorway.  Plant pole bean seeds at the “base” of the poles and webbing, and watch them grow, and the kids will soon have a little hideaway with fresh beans close by for a snack. 

  • - Once your garden is planted, have the kids paint rocks as decorative row markers. 

  • - Hummingbird feeders are a common sight, but how about butterfly feeders?  Make this one from PBS Parents with a clean ketchup bottle, fake flowers and a few other household items.   

  • - If you don’t have room for a full garden, try a few plants that can be grown in clean five-gallon buckets.  Make sure there’s a drain hole in the bottom, add about an inch of gravel, broken old clay pots or old bricks, and add a good potting soil/compost mix.  Plant cherry tomatoes, bush beans, cucumbers, or zucchini, following the planting guidelines. 

  • - Plant recipe-specific plants:  have a spaghetti sauce or pizza row with tomatoes, oregano, basil and bell pepper; a salsa row can have tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, peppers and onions; plant chamomile, any type of mint, or lavender and make tea! 

  • - Sunflowers are always an amazement to children because they grow so tall.  These beautiful giants can be grown in many layouts using a garden hose to make the design, leaving room for a path if you’re planting a mini-maze, then planting the seeds along the way, and sunflowers can even be trained to make a little house.   

  • - Grow flowers whose blossoms open at different times of the day:  morning glories, daylilies, four o’clock, evening primrose and moonflowers. 

  • - A garden based on favorite storybooks is another good way to get them to dig in the dirt.  Plants based on The Tales of Peter RabbitStone Soup, and Blueberries for Sal are just a few ways to engage children in growing and eating what they’ve grown. 

  • - Adding a water feature doesn’t have to mean a huge pond with waterfall--small pond containers are available at garden centers, as well as water plants.  Create a mini pond with this guide from Better Homes & GardensⓇ.  

 

There are so many benefits to your family while spending time together outside. Gardening encourages your children to try new things, and gives them a knowledge of where their food comes from, along with a little biology.  You may even be creating life-long gardeners.  Most importantly, you’re making memories. 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: gardenateaseshops.com

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Scott Darling
RE/MAX Action Associates
403 W. Lincoln Highway #101
Exton PA 19341
(610) 594-SCOT
610-363-2001
Fax: (610) 363-5275