Anthony Viverito, owner of Niles Floors & Blinds in Mohegan Lake, where he waxes enthusiastically about the technology and sexiness of new Hunter Douglas window products.

Anthony Viverito, owner of Niles Floors & Blinds in Mohegan Lake, where he waxes enthusiastically about the technology and sexiness of new Hunter Douglas window products.

You might expect that a column about window shades and blinds would be somewhat ordinary and, honestly, when I set out with the assignment, that’s what I thought I’d deliver to you. But, that’s before I got to know Anthony Viverito, owner of Niles Floors & Blinds in Mohegan Lake, a virtual sunburst of a personality who led me on an adventure of education that went far beyond achieving privacy or blocking light through your windows.

I walked into his store as a recent convert to “naked windows” in my new condo, having spent all my years in historic homes with windows heavily draped with either side panels or swags and jabots or both, and sheers in between.

“I want to breathe free and see forever from my big new windows from my fifth floor perch,” my wife told me, and so far, our windows are completely unadorned. We undress for bed with confidence that no one is driving by looking into our windows that high up, unlike our last home where we had less privacy from the road below.

So a column about the art of window dressing was going to be for “other people,” not me. But once under the spell of Viverito’s tutelage and the influence of some amazing new products from Hunter Douglas, displayed gorgeously as the main focus of Viverito’s showroom, I caved with nary a whimper. I learned in short order that the function of dressing your windows can address such practical matters as better insulating your home, as well as subtle and psychological issues such as filtering your perception of the outside world and even altering your environment to suit or change your mood.

Yes, of course, I thought! If I’m spending effort and money for artificial lighting in my new pad, why don’t I think about the control of natural light as well? For instance, while our bedroom in our former home faced north, there was no problem with the rising sun. Now that our bedroom faces east, the rising winter sun hits us square in the eye, awakening us in our bed. Why deal with that discomfort, I thought?

“Just look at the difference in the mood here!” Viverito beamed as he pressed a button and the blinds to his store window opened fully and the sunlight streamed in; then he adjusted them to different levels, commenting on the subtle difference in light with each setting.

“It’s amazing the technology that Hunter Douglas has put into its products,” he continued as he walked me through his highly styled showroom on Route 6.   “Not only in terms of materials but automation,” he continued. “You mean, I can operate shades and blinds now by just pushing a button like my TV remote?” I asked? “Right,” he said, “Or, from a special App with settings called ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Good Night’ that adjusts your blinds or shades just as you want them without getting out of bed.” Great, I thought, another reason for me to not get off my butt.

Viverito also reminded me that the blinds industry is heading toward cordless technology as a child safety factor. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, chords on blinds are on the commission’s list of the top five “hidden hazards” in the home.

Next we moved on to the wide range of materials and colors now available in window fashions, and the broad selection of opacities that offer varying degrees of privacy and light control. What surprised me most was learning that the sheers and opaques serve a much more important function than just looking pretty: they provide ultraviolet (UV) protection to help counter the harmful effects of sunlight. So, who knew?

He also also pointed out that, with as much as 50 percent of a home’s heating and cooling energy lost through windows, shades can provide varying levels of insulation as well.

Now I ask you, with all the fresh takes, creative ideas and smart solutions for dressing windows that Anthony Viverito puts forth through his line of Hunter Douglas products, who would want to have their windows go naked? Is this me talking? You can consult personally with this encyclopedic source of information at Niles Floors & Blinds, 1821 East Main Street (Route 6), Mohegan Lake. Tel: 914-737-6780. Web: www.NilesFloorsandBlinds.com.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is: www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and his blog is: www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

Left to right, Tom Schassler and Valerie Maziarz of Oxygen Sanitizing Systems, which remediates mold and offers other environmental services with Bill Primavera, The Home Guru.

Left to right, Tom Schassler and Valerie Maziarz of Oxygen Sanitizing Systems, which remediates mold and offers other environmental services with Bill Primavera, The Home Guru.

More than a dozen years ago, Ed McMahon, the famous pitch man and announcer for Johnny Carson, brought to the public’s attention the health problems that can result from living with toxic mold in the home.

After a long legal battle, McMahon was awarded $7.2 million from several companies who were negligent in allowing toxic mold into his home resulting from a broken pipe, sickening him and his wife and killing their dog.

As it happens, I had been aware for some years that I had a mold problem in my home, but not being sensitive to it, I thought it was a minor situation and let it go without remediating it.

Last week, however, I learned that this was a mistake and my health has probably been affected to some degree by my procrastination.

It started on Christmas Eve three years ago, before my living room in my antique house was converted to the office of my public relations business. At that time, my daughter said she could no longer sit in that room because she was having an allergic reaction to something there.

To accommodate her discomfort, we moved our holiday get-together into our family room, but at the end of the evening I checked around and found that, indeed, in a corner in an 18th century glass door-enclosed bookcase-on-chest, there was mold forming on my collection of antique books. I simply closed the doors and let the situation just sit.

A month ago, I was curious about a certain book, wondered whether it was in that that bookcase, opened the doors and was shocked to find that the mold had spread from the books onto the shelves. The smell had become somewhat noxious.

By coincidence that very week, I received a call from Valerie Maziarz of Oxygen Sanitizing Systems, who had read one of my articles, to tell me about her environmental services, which included mold remediation. Wow, I thought, how synchronistic. Come right over, I told her.

In short order she was in my living room-turned-office, opened the cabinet, and just from a visual check and the smell, she was aware that the problem was severe.

“You’ve got a green mold forest growing in there. It’s a regular party!” she proclaimed. It seems that the antique books, with its cellulose in the pages, had provided a perfect growing environment for the mold.

The next Friday evening, when the room would be empty for the weekend, Maziarz arrived with her partner, Tom Schassler, and her equipment in tow to literally replace the air in my office.

Here is how the system works. The room was sealed off and generators with ultraviolet light and electric static discharge, produced converted oxygen in industrial-level concentration and quantities treating all surfaces and permeating all cracks, crevices, killing all microorganisms.

The process is 100 percent green, chemical-free and EPA and FDA approved. Besides mold, it eradicates  odors, allergens, bacteria and viruses, restoring the environment and improving health.

After 24 hours, Maziarz and Schassler returned with commercial grade HEPA equipment specifically designed to remove all remaining particulates from the air and surfaces. Lastly, the office was treated with an antimicrobial surface protectant.

When I returned the following Monday, I could feel that the air was “cleaner” and wasn’t aware that there was a problem until the problem was gone. This process restored my office environment and salvaged my antique book collection dating to the 1880s.

According to tests taken before and after the process, Maziarz showed me that I had four different mold types in my office, one of which, Penicillium Aspergillus, was highly toxic and there in high levels.

“Does this mean that my years of living with toxic mold in the environment could have affected my health without my knowing it?” I asked.

Yes, I was told, it could have affected my health.

Perhaps my experience, scary as it was, can be an alert to someone reading this. If you know of or suspect that you may have a mold problem in your home, please don’t procrastinate as I did only to wonder to what degree it may have affected your health. Take action immediately and have the problem addressed. Your health is the single most important thing to you.

To reach Oxygen Sanitizing Systems, call 877-244-3080 or visit www.newindoorair.com. God speed.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is: www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and his blog is: www.TheHomeGuru.com.  To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

The gleaming surface of The Home Guru’s nightstand, a satisfying quick and easy one-afternoon refinishing project that opted for a polyurethane finish rather than varnish or shellac because of its quicker drying time.

The gleaming surface of The Home Guru’s nightstand, a satisfying quick and easy one-afternoon refinishing project that opted for a polyurethane finish rather than varnish or shellac because of its quicker drying time.

When I was younger and forced by the lack of money to be a do-it-yourselfer around the house and in the garden, I dreamed of the day when I could employ others to do all that sweat labor to maintain and upgrade everything that needed to be done. That day came a long time ago, and I considered myself lucky that I had more time available to pursue other dreams like a satisfying second career, and even a third career. At an age when many people are retired, I have the opportunity to work long, happy hours every day.

But just last weekend, surprisingly, I found myself with a free Saturday for the first time in several years where I was caught up on all my assignments and just itching for something to do around the house. More than just itching. Starving.

As it happens, my wife and I were in the process of furnishing a new room that was able to make use of a small Shaker-like pine night table that was stored in our attic years ago and forgotten, but it seemed to fit our need perfectly. The only problem was that its surface was badly worn and needed to be refinished.

It had been more than 30 years since I had refinished furniture, and in those days, I was a purist, insisting on the method of refinishing known as French Polish, where the old surface would be stripped with paint remover, and after being sanded, the surface grain would be “filled” with a filler and sanded again with fine sandpaper to make it perfectly smooth. Then, it would be coated with several coats of either shellac or varnish that required a long time to dry, again being sanded with fine sandpaper between each coat to remove imperfections and to create a better bond for the next coat. After three coats, I would finish the surface with two layers of Butcher’s Wax, buffed to perfection. The process took forever to accomplish because of the drying time between each coat and also because of the sanding required to remove the imperfections caused by the brush and dust. Shellac can take up to 36 hours to dry and, if you do the math, a project of refinishing would take forever. Who has that kind of time anymore?

With this method, a small tabletop could take me a couple of weeks of part-time effort to accomplish. I don’t have that kind of time anymore, so my first decision was to think about whether I wanted to make that leap to use polyurethane for a surface. Let me explain the difference. Polyurethane is a thermoplastic that combines the best features of plastic and rubber. It has gained popularity due to its ability to form a thicker and stronger film than coatings like varnish and shellac. It requires less coats, time and effort. Oil based polyurethane typically dries in 24 hours, while water-based only takes six or less. I’ll take the water-based, thank you.

This time around, devoid of any materials needed, I marched myself down to Home Depot and bought my small arsenal of products for an afternoon’s pleasurable pursuit: a pint of paint remover; a half pint of Minwax Wood Finish (in Colonial Maple); a half pint of water based, fast drying polyurethane; two 3M Sandblaster sandpaper blocks, one medium grade and one fine; a cheap two-inch brush to apply the stripper and a good one-and-a-half inch brush to apply the polyurethane, and in one small bag, I was a weekend project warrior.

At home, I spread an old sheet on the floor, and with my cheap brush covered the table top, legs and drawer front with the stripper, let it do its thing for just 15 minutes , then wiped it off with old rags. After sanding with first the medium grade Sandblaster, then the smooth, I stained the wood with Minwax, and let it dry for an hour. Then I simply applied the polyurethane and, after less the four hours, I found that it was completely dry. With the fine Sandblaster, I rubbed down the imperfections which did a pretty good job on all the flat surfaces. For the turns on the legs, I used fine steel wool.

The end product looked so good that I thought I could be ready for the finishing wax coat but, I realized that I had forgotten to buy Butcher’s Wax. However, did I tell you my favorite secret weapon around the house for repairing scratches is also a wonderful final refinishing coat too? That is Kiwi Shoe Polish! I lathered on brown wax in two coats, and the results were deep and luxurious.

Now I have a very sweet, shiny end table with an all but impervious surface, but more than that, I’ve enjoyed an almost Zen-like, lazy afternoon exercise that scratched a long-held itch to do a project around the house once again.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is: www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and his blog is: www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

Blow-up clipping of a New York Times article about Margaret and Bill Primavera, discovered in a trunk, forgotten and locked away for over 45 years in The Home Guru’s attic.

Blow-up clipping of a New York Times article about Margaret and Bill Primavera, discovered in a trunk, forgotten and locked away for over 45 years in The Home Guru’s attic.

With my recent move, I learned that hanging on to keys and identifying which key is for which lock is important because it was necessary for me to call my local Locksmith-on-Wheels in Yorktown Heights, owned by Eugene and Carl Camia, to open two locked file cabinets with long lost keys.

And there was also an unexpected mystery that unfolded before me. Buried deep in the eaves of my attic was a footlocker that I had placed there over 43 years ago when I moved into the house and totally forgot about. It was an item my parents had purchased for me when I was 13 years old and being shipped off to military school. It was to hold all my clothes and other possessions for that experience. Afterwards, as an adult, I used it for moving from one place to another and storage. As I lugged it from its hiding place, I found that it was locked, extremely heavy, and had no key. I had no earthy idea what might be in it. My wife guessed that it might be cobblestones, remembering that I used to collect interesting stones for walkways and patios. “Oh, right,” I said, “that makes sense, that I’m going to save stones under lock and key.”

On that fateful day for the unveiling of its secret contents, I called together my staff for a “happening” much like that famous non-event that Geraldo Rivera staged for the opening of the Al Capone vaults in Chicago. I didn’t remember any skeletons, figuratively speaking, from my past. When the trunk lid was slowly opened, we found only dense stacks of newspapers, periodicals and manuscripts — packed tight, much like the famous hoarder Collyer brothers — dating from 1962 to 1968, obviously the latter year being the date the trunk was closed and locked. I quickly realized that this was my public relations “clipping file” — every publicity placement I made from the beginning of my career, including a blowup of a New York Times clip of my wife and me from our own 15 minutes of fame that had gone missing, I thought, forever. I had forgotten how much space was required before paperless storage. But I digress.

The experience did give me the opportunity to think about the importance of keys and locks and to meet Carl Camia who told me that his call for lost keys has greatly decreased since the age of keypunch locks and automatic openers. All I have to do now, for instance, is stand near my car with my key in my pocket and my car door opens automatically. Then I just push a button to start it without a key.

Carl told me something interesting, even a little frightening, about home security among us people who move from more urban locations where we usually have more than one deadbolt lock. We want the same thing here in the country, and when we do, it can be a dangerous thing in case of a fire. “If a fire breaks out in a house and the second deadbolt lock is in place, the homeowners can panic and not be able to find the key and not be able to get out of the house. It’s happened,” he said.

Locksmithing has always been about keeping us secure and others from stealing our possessions. It began nearly 4000 years ago in Assyria with the wooden pin lock. Although those locks are the most primitive examples of the trade, they were actually the basis for the modern tumbler locks today. Combination locks and padlocks were also used in antiquity, with the earliest examples found in ancient Roman sites. Wealthy landowners and nobles used wooden lockboxes to store and protect their valuables from thieves. At that time, locks were hand-crafted and costly to produce. In Roman culture, citizens used keys as rings to keep them safe from theft.

Through the years, locks became wood/metal hybrids, but around 900 AD, they became all-metal, typically made of brass and iron, making them exclusive to blacksmiths, thus the title of Locksmith was born.

The industrial revolution drastically changed locksmithing, with machines making it possible for advanced components to be produced with ease. In the United Kingdom, Robert Barron’s Double-Acting Tumbler introduced the five lever system, and Jeremiah Chubbs’ Detector Lock utilized automatic jamming mechanisms, inspired by demand for a new lock by the British government in 1818. Barron’s design is one of the few that is still used today.

The most commonly used lock now is the Double-Acting Pin Tumbler Lock, modeled after the wooden locks of Assyria. It was first patented by American physician Abraham Stansbury in 1805 and later modernized by Linus Yale of Connecticut in 1848. In the early 20th century, Hungarian immigrant John Junkunc revolutionized the craft with his dial combination locks and went on to make American Lock Company one of the biggest manufacturers of locks in the nation. Since then, locksmiths have gone on to add features ranging from magnets to electronic sensors and digital keys.

If you get locked out, or something you want gets locked in, or if you move into a new house, absolutely be sure to change the lock for obvious reasons and call Locksmiths-on-Wheels at 914-245-0048

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is: www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and his blog is: www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of Bill Primavera and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

courtesy_fold_332wThe bathroom. When you think about it, while it may not be the room you spend the most time in, it’s probably the room you visit most times during the course of the day and, if you’re in my age group, you probably visit it a little more frequently than when you were younger.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the bathroom lately, forced by an unexpected experience I had the first day I was in my new digs at the gorgeous Trump Park Residences in the Shrub Oak hamlet of Yorktown. This joint is outrageous outfitted with the finest materials and fixtures you might imagine: granite, marble and brushed steel everywhere you look. So when it was time for me to visit the bathroom for the more serious function for which one visits the bathroom, and I started that slow descend, I realized that I wasn’t reaching my destination when I usually do. I kept bending lower and lower, convinced that I would be in a full Lotus position before I would finally come to rest. Why I wondered with all this luxury in a place originally built for the 55 plus crowd would my new friend Louis Cappelli, the builder, have spec’d such low-rise toilets? As soon as I finished my business, I went online to www.HomeAdvisor.com to find a plumber to install high-rise toilets in all three of my bathrooms.

As circumstance would have it, the next day, I had another bathroom experience, this time with a real estate listing client. When I visited the home to make my presentation and sign a contract, I was greeted at the door by the husband, a big guy with a hearty laugh. His wife had not yet arrived home from some errands, but his two sons were with him, both I would guess in either their late teens or early 20s, both strapping young men, well over six feet tall. When the mother arrived home, I was surprised to see that she was very petite, barely over five feet tall, and I commented how surprised I was by her small stature compared to how big her boys were. I was equally surprised by her response, “Well they weren’t that big coming out of me!”

The first thing I do when I go for a listing is ask for a tour of the house, and this one had three full baths. Each time we entered one, the wife would walk in and, seeing that the toilet seat was up, would immediately walk over, lower the seat and shut the lid. The first time she did it, she lowered them gently. In the second bathroom, she did it with less patience, and by the time we arrived at the third bathroom, she slammed down the lid in frustration, almost in meltdown mode, exclaiming, “Oh these guys, why won’t they ever learn to lower the seat and shut the lid!” I suspect this is her biggest frustration at home every day.

It’s important to pay attention to the toilet’s seat being down and the lid closed, not only so that women won’t fall into the bowl but also for health reasons. According to scientists at Leeds University, when a toilet is flushed with the lid open, bacteria sprays into the air around the toilet. And some of those germs could pass along symptoms of diarrhea or vomiting. Yuck!

But the best reason for closing the lid is that it prevents anything and everything from falling in. Haven’t you had the experience of not hearing from friends for several days, only to hear that their cell phones have taken the plunge?

There are other rules that should be considered concerning bathroom etiquette and manners, and it’s not only because of airborne germs or the differences in plumbing between the sexes and actual plumbing.

For instance, not to get too personal, but while I’ll do one bodily function in someone else’s presence, I won’t do the other. Is everybody else the same or am I just too Victorian? Wasn’t it on Seinfeld where Elaine talked about going to the McDonald’s bathroom when in a relationship, rather than fowling up the apartment john? I was quite impressed when, years ago, I first saw a bathroom where the toilet bowl was separated out from the rest of the room and you could do your more private business in, well, private.

And what about something as simple as replacing the toilet paper roll when it’s depleted? I am always in such a rush, I’m guilty of just grabbing a new roll and leaving it on top, rather than going to the trouble of actually inserting it on the cylinder. Shame.

For those who do go through the trouble of replacing it, there’s the question of positioning the roll for “over” or “under” dispensing. My work associate Lorin tells me that it must be “over” so that the last sheet can be “folded” as in a hotel. “You FOLD your last toilet paper sheet?” I asked, astounded. “Yes,” she responds, not skipping a beat. “You never know when guests are going to stop by.” Oh, my God, where did I go wrong in learning good bathroom etiquette?

One other item I know about toilets. Did you notice that some are round and, in the past couple of decades, they are oblong in shape? Nobody mentions the obvious, but designers finally figured out that the male’s front anatomy had to be accommodated. Thanks, guys! I say, for guys, that’s the equivalent of going from jockeys to boxers.

And finally, did I mention that there should always, always be some kind of automatic air refreshener in the bathroom?

There’s so much going on in my head on this subject that might be categorized as “in the toilet” that there will probably be a Part II to these musings.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is: www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and his blog is: www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

21303075_sIn my many years as both a homeowner and homestyles journalist, I have observed that home repair and improvement projects tend to fall into three categories: the ones you need to do, the ones you want to do, and the ones you do solely to increase the value of your home.

The urgent projects you find in the first category, such as leaky pipes, cold furnaces or an invasion of termites, are the ones most likely to grab the dollars in the average home owner’s repairs budget. Postponing these repairs can not only make a home uncomfortable, but can also lead to a small problem getting worse and costing even more to repair.

Projects meant to boost a home’s value take on their own urgency when we first begin to anticipate moving. The scruffy front door that we learned to ignore or the outdated bathroom vanity suddenly stands out as a liability that could make our home harder to sell. We consult lists of which projects will give us the most bang for our buck, spruce up what we can, and when it’s all done we may sit back and think, “Gee, it wouldn’t be so bad to stay here now.”

The home improvements that are left “for later” are the ones that have no particular urgency or potential return on investment, but would please us personally. Now that I am finally ensconced in my new residence I can enjoy a few projects for pleasure, with the first major one being the installation of custom shelving. The past few years have certainly been a whirlwind of projects, repairs and contractors for me and Mrs. Home Guru, and it got me wondering what other homeowners were working on, and how much of it was a result of urgent need and how much was for personal expression.

To satisfy my curiosity, I first turned to Angie’s List, the well-known website where paid subscribers rate local businesses. On their home page (once you have subscribed) they list the top twenty most popular services under “Home, Yard, Auto, Pets & More,” and as might be expected, urgent situations made up nearly half of the list, with plumbing, heating & A/C and roofing making up the top three. Other practical and sensible services that were most needed included carpet cleaning, pest control, large appliance repair, housecleaning and general handyman services. The services on the list I could imagine being either for fun or for increasing value included interior and exterior painting, landscaping, and general and kitchen remodeling. I was amused to see “moving” at the bottom of the list, as though the beleaguered homeowner has finally said, “Enough!”

HomeAdvisor.com offers a similar service as Angie’s List, and their site gave me a little more data to explore. Their top projects are listed in order of popularity within each category (letting me know, for example, that people are more interested in home solar energy than geothermal energy), but I was most interested in their extensive list of most popular projects by city. At the risk of reading too much into things, but also acknowledging that The Home Guru can be allowed a few flights of fancy, I decided to compare New York with Tampa and Minneapolis.

Judging by the list, New York comes across as a city of serious builders. Two of the three top projects as of this writing involved architects/engineers and concrete, reminding me of the city’s well-known canyons of skyscrapers. The third project in the top three was heating and furnace systems, reflecting the brutal winters that often hit New York. Finally, although home security services made the list of top fifty projects in each of the three cities I viewed, nowhere did it rank as high as it did in New York, coming in at #6. Even with crime in New York at relatively low levels, the residents there still need to play it safe.

The next city I looked at was Tampa, Florida. The two top projects there were designers and decorators, and garages and garage doors, reflecting a population who can devote a little more time to the upkeep of their homes, as opposed to tending to urgent repairs. As befitting a location in a warm climate, swimming pools were in the top ten, as well as pest control. The cold weather here in New York may drive some pests indoors to live with us, but at least it also culls some of the population each year, so we have that working in our favor.

Finally, I perused the top projects in chilly Minneapolis, MN, and found that the top ten included insulation, windows and snow removal service. But it’s not always winter in Minnesota, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised to see decks made the top ten as well. I imagine that when the summers are short, you would want to be outside enjoying them as much as you can.

It seems that nationwide we are a diligent bunch, prioritizing our home projects by urgency first before turning to those that give us pleasure.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is: www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and his blog is: www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of Bill Primavera and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

The Home Guru’s dining room: well-hung as an art gallery.

The Home Guru’s dining room: well-hung as an art gallery.

As I recall the walls of my childhood home, a simple row home in Philadelphia owned by a first generation Italian family with limited means to decorate, I see only the large obligatory parlor mirror over the sofa and one brightly colored watercolor of gladioli dated 1940 by my Aunt Helen, a self-taught artist, that to this day I display in an honored place.

In college, when first exposed to the world of art, I vowed one day to become a collector to the extent that I could afford. And, when as a newcomer to New York City, visiting the home of a cultured gentleman, I was impressed to find that all the walls of his home were covered from floor to ceiling with paintings, prints and other objets d’art, much like an art gallery. Those two experiences created in me a lifelong obsession to have my home’s walls serve as the canvass for a rich visual experience where I could view, ponder and lose myself into other worlds of artistic expression.

Actually, you don’t have to be as obsessive as I to accomplish, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg…just a trip to a store like Home Goods or T. J. Maxx. I am amazed at the art these stores can offer for very little money. Go there and splurge on collections of stretched canvasses that don’t require frames to look great in wall groupings. Such stores didn’t exist when I was young and collecting art in antiques shops and, yes, junk shops.

When I lived in my first small house, I achieved the gallery effect by collecting within a few short years. When I moved to a large colonial home in the country with 14 rooms, it took many years to appoint each room like a gallery. My problem within the past month, however, has been paring down my collection to an 1800 sq. ft. condo with a living room/dining room combination, office/den, and two bedrooms. In this case, my wife and I had to be very selective about which paintings and prints we selected – only our most favored pieces would come with us – and we agreed that, living in smaller space, we didn’t want to close ourselves in by filling every inch of wall space with art. We wanted to leave more open wall space between groups of wall art, thereby making the groupings – their sizes and arrangements – more considered.

Also, the groupings themselves needed to be well hung, literally, because for the first time in many years I was dealing with hollow, plasterboard walls. My heavier frames had to be secured in the plasterboard with anchors which expand with pressure when screws are screwed into them or have “toggles” which release on the inside of the wall once pushed. I must confess I hate that chore as somewhat tedious and, this time around, I prevailed upon my friend and expert painter Joe Pascarelli, who doubles as my handyman when needed for such tasks.

For the lighter paintings and prints, I don’t bother with the anchors but use small nails. Rather than nailing them straight in horizontally, however, I nail them in at a 45 degree angle so that the weight of the piece is less likely to pull the nail from the wall.

In my groupings, I like to create harmony and balance, either through content or the type of frames. In my dining area, for instance, the entire wall is dedicated to landscapes, while my living room features portraiture of the 1700s and 1800s. I just love all those eyes staring back at me. Sometimes I just sit on my sofa, looking into the eyes of those women, men and children, wondering why their descendants didn’t hold on to their portraits, cherishing them as family heirlooms, but very glad that I was able to adopt them, welcoming them as family members.

When I arrange these paintings into groups, I first lay the frames out on the floor directly in front of the wall on which they are to be placed and arrange and re-arrange them until I have a pleasing pattern. Then I take a digital photo which I follow as I hammer them up, one by one. After I hang them, I “eyeball” them straight (some people are fanatics and use a leveler) and once I have them perfect, I roll some masking tape into a tube and stick it behind one corner of the frame to make sure that vibrations or dusting doesn’t dislodge its horizontal pitch.

I’m nearing the end of creating my new art gallery at home, ready to welcome guests to come look and learn more about me by considering how I choose to enrich my living environment.

By the way, if you want my friend Joe Pascarelli’s help in hanging art or any other chores around the house that require skilled assistance, you can call him directly at 914-330-3889.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is: www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and his blog is: www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of Bill Primavera and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

Michael Feldman, owner of Redi-Cut Carpets, the largest carpet and flooring store in Westchester, located in Port Chester.

Michael Feldman, owner of Redi-Cut Carpets, the largest carpet and flooring store in Westchester, located in Port Chester.

More than 25 years ago, my friend John Carr was the first person I knew who built his own home, and he was the first who taught me that installing hardwood floors cost pretty much the same as installing subflooring and wall-to-wall carpeting. And naturally, I thought, who would ever want carpeting when they could have hardwood flooring at the same price?

And it seems that for the past three decades, everyone else has had the same preference, with the addition of an area rug here and there, or so I thought until I visited my seller client at his place of business which happens to be Redi-Cut Carpets, the largest floor surfacing store in Westchester, located in Port Chester, offering wall-to-wall carpeting, hardwood flooring and area rugs.

“Yes, actually, wall-to-wall carpeting is very much back,” says Michael Feldman, second generation owner of Redi-Cut, ensconced in 5500 sq. ft of space on Main Street right next store to Tarry Market and Tarry Wine operated by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich of television fame. After having ripped out all of my wall-to-wall in two rooms, about to be new office space, remembering that I had beautiful hardwood flooring underneath, now suddenly I’m reordering new carpeting because, who knew, it’s back!

“Yes, people have been into hardwood floors as a preference because they found them cleaner and antiallergenic and didn’t collect dust and, certainly we sell wood floors and refinish them,” Feldman said, “but the carpet industry realized what was happening and responded to it. Now they make carpeting that is non-allergenic and guaranteed for life not to stain. It’s actually coated with Teflon!”

“Teflon?? You, mean, like the stuff on frying pans?” I ask. “Yes, like on frying pans,” Feldman responds. “Son of a gun, that’s some protection!” I exclaim.

It seems that this kind of technology has been available for three years. Feldman, who goes every year to a surface flooring convention in Las Vegas to keep abreast with all that’s trending in carpeting, estimates that as much as 70 percent of his market prefers wall-to-wall carpeting over hardwood flooring. That came as a real surprise to me, that the long term trend toward hardwood flooring has suddenly reversed itself.

Further, Feldman noted that the preference in neutral shades toward the warmer beiges had cooled markedly toward the greys. “Grey is definitely the big choice today in both lighter and darker shades,” he confirmed. That pronouncement did not surprise me because I can see many benefits for choosing grey as a cooler shade that tends to make a room look larger and, further, provides a better neutral background to allow other colors to “pop.” (And, as an aside, I wonder if the runaway success last year of the erotic novel “50 Shades of Grey” subliminally had anything to do with the rise in preference for that color in our surroundings? Nah, I must be reaching here!)

When asked about the choice between wool and artificial fiber, Feldman said that those who seek the more expensive options will go for wool, which is the more luxurious, but is more difficult to keep clean and doesn’t last as long. “Tremendous improvements have been made with nylon, which can look very much like wool, doesn’t stain and is virtually indestructible!” he said, “and yet, look how soft the texture can feel,” he continued, demonstrating with the soft pile from one of his samples.

The price range for purchasing wall-to-wall carpeting is as broad as the income range of the marketplace. Feldman’s more upscale clientele might spend $22 a sq. ft. while the average purchaser, i.e., me, would spend from $6 to $ 8 per sq. ft.

Other technology advances include production plants having the capability of customizing carpeting colors to the customers’ specifications to match colors of upholstery or draperies.

So, now that I’ve stripped my floors bare to reveal the hardwood beneath, I’ve just ordered wall-to-wall to recover them and, you’ve got it, the color I’ve selected is a subtly patterned blueish grey.

If you want to update your wall-to-wall carpeting, the pro to guide you is Michael Feldman of Redi-Cut Flooring who can be reached at: 914-873-0811. His store is located at 173 N. Main Street in Port Chester. The website is: www.redicutny.com.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is: www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and his blog is: www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of Bill Primavera and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

flower arrangementEver since our first year of marriage, there’s always been something special to my wife and me about adding fresh cut flowers to our home decorating scheme and, to this day, mostly every week when I stop off at the A&P to pick up my copy of The Examiner, I look for the special bargains in the flower section.

If I hadn’t become a reporter, then a PR guy and realtor, I know I would have been perfectly happy as a florist because I love coming home, choosing one of the many vases we keep under the sink and making a new and large floral arrangement, challenging myself to have each one look very different from any I’ve made before. Then I place it in the center of our kitchen island that has an overhead light that beams down directly on it where it will be sure to catch my wife’s attention when she returns home from work.

What is it, I wondered, beyond their beauty that makes fresh flowers so much a desirable a part of our interior decor?

I remembered reading about a study that had been done that answered this question and, looking it up, I found the answer.

Sponsored by the Society of American Florists and conducted by Dr. Nancy Etcoff of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, that study considered the immediate effects flowers have on mood in comparison to a generic piece of home décor over a period of a week. Those who lived with fresh cut flowers during that period felt an increase in feelings of compassion and kindness and felt less negative. They most frequently placed flowers in their kitchens (my wife’s and my favorite spot), dining rooms and living rooms where they spend most of their time at home. It was also found that having flowers at home had a positive carry-over impact on their mood at work.

Presenting flowers at home doesn’t seem to hurt in the romance department either. According to a 2012 study reported in the Journal of Social Psychology, men who sought to engage women (vernacularly speaking, pick them up) in a shopping mall scored more successfully near a flower shop than they did near a cake shop or shoe store. Flowers are proven scientifically to convey emotion, from our early prom date to that final funereal spray.

I especially enjoy the creative “hunt” aspect to decorating with flowers when I come across special “buys” at the A&P that look exotic – beyond the roses, carnations, daisies and mums that you would expect to find – perhaps a variety of lily that I might never have seen before, laden with buds that haven’t quite opened, full of promise for the beauty that awaits me in the days ahead.

We take special delight in using unusual conveyances for the flowers. We don’t settle for just ordinary vases, but look for other vessels not normally considered for flowers such as antique pitchers, mixing bowls, canisters and vintage milk bottles.

Throughout all the seasons, I like to match colors to the holidays at hand, sticking to the yellows and pinks of spring, the oranges and purples of fall, and the reds, greens and whites of winter, all etherealized with lots of baby’s breath which I always use as the finishing halo to most arrangements I do.

There are times when I’m feeling particularly elaborate, such as this past holiday season when I found bargain bunches of flowers as cheaply as $4.99 and bought a dozen of them for a massive and thick Christmas display. I followed that up during New Year’s week with one that was quite delicate, open and loose, with generous spacing between stems, standing straight with the use of a frog at the bottom of the container.

By the way, my favorite trick for having tulips stand straight as a stick in the vase in the spring, and I was surprised when I had a co-worker who didn’t know about it, was to place a few pennies in the bottom of the vase. The copper in the pennies make them stand straight…but look for older pennies which have more copper in them.

I’ve just purchased a condo where I have a Juliette balcony high above ground level with no way to just swing open the doors and step outside to enjoy a flower garden. But I have a fabulous idea to have fresh flowers indoors all year long. I’m taking an antique iron urn from the garden of my country home and placing it just inside my balcony windows and, from spring through fall, I will plant a profusion of geraniums in it and, during winter months, I will fill it with a large bowl of fresh cut flowers. It will be my way of always having the color and mood-lifting energy of fresh flowers indoors all year long.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is: www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and his blog is: www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of Bill Primavera and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

crystal ball with houseEach New Year’s I gaze into my crystal ball (I really have one, but let’s be real here) to predict what will happen in terms of market conditions and trends for the year ahead and I do it quite jauntily for two reasons. For one thing, I cheat and look at the crib sheets of what various experts of the housing industry have to say; then, at the end of the year, if I’m found to be way off in my predictions, I can blame them. Also, I figure, you’ll probably forget what I say a full year from now. Even I can’t remember what I said this time last year.

Actually, many times I take a different position from what the experts say anyway, mainly because they speak globally and I speak locally, especially in terms of buying and selling forecasts. The New York metropolitan region is a different animal from, let’s say, the Midwest and the West Coast and certainly New York City is as different from our glorious Hudson River Valley as it can be as well. And then, there are two totally unscientific factors I add to the mix: my “gut” feeling and my cell phone. Does my “gut” tell me things will be better or worse? And, is my cell phone ringing with people calling to ask me to come and list their homes in greater number? Let me tell you, what I’ve heard ringing these days just before and after Christmas Day are not sleigh bells!

Mix all these factors together as we gather round to sing Auld Lang Syne, and here’s what to expect in the year ahead.

The value of your home will continue to increase. The experts say ever so slowly, like this year, but did they fail to consider the news announced just this week that in the last quarter our overall economy grew at its fastest rate in over a decade? I believe that augurs well for what we can expect in good news for the year ahead in the housing market. Especially in the Metropolitan area, I believe we’ll see a gain of at least five percent to six percent in the value of our homes. Maybe that isn’t the rapid appreciation we rhapsodized about in 2013 as a kickback from the Great Recession, but it’s pretty good as we move out of the rapid recovery phase to the “new normal” of the housing market.

Finally credit will loosen a bit, making it easier for first-time buyers to enter the market and as more homes come on the market, buyers will have more choices, sellers will face more competitive pressure, and that will create a more balanced market for everyone. Oh, yes, and mortgage rates will rise, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, to five percent, by the end of 2015.

Those who observe national trends say that builders will shift to building less expensive homes, concentrating in such states as Texas, Georgia and Florida where there is still a lot of buildable land. However, in our area, with land as scarce as it is, I predict that the price of new homes will continue to escalate and more people will continue to upgrade older homes.   And as the year progresses, foreclosures basically will go away.

Let’s now consider what will be trending most in home improvement jobs in 2015. The various sites that track the business of home improvement seem to disagree about which jobs are most important to homeowners and which pull the most interest. But let’s face it. When homeowners invest in home improvement, they do it not only for pride of ownership, but also for that sneaking feeling that someday they’ll get payback when it comes time to sell. So I suspect that they’ll be investing in those things that give the biggest bang for the buck in terms of recouping expenditure.

Top on the list in that regard is a new front door which recoups 96.6 percent of its cost. In descending order, we’ll be investing in new decks or patios (recoups 87 percent of the cost), adding space or converting attics into living space (an 84% recoup), replacing windows (79 percent), replacing siding (78 percent), basement remodeling (78 percent), or redoing the bathroom ( some sources say it recoups as much as 100 percent of the cost), a major kitchen remodel (over 90 percent) and of course, landscaping will be very big in 2015 with over 100 percent recouped because curb appeal becomes every important as we run faster to keep up with the Joneses.

Happy New Year, all, and take heart about the year ahead. Keep your eye on this column for encouraging news about your home’s value and market conditions as 2015 unfolds.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is: www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and his blog is: www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of Bill Primavera and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.