Interest in historic homes is on the rise again, says Bill Primavera, The Home Guru, here with Vicki Jimpson-Fludd, both antique home specialists, at The Ebenezer White House, adapted for business use, as are many historic structures.

Interest in historic homes is on the rise again, says Bill Primavera, The Home Guru, here with Vicki Jimpson-Fludd, both antique home specialists, at The Ebenezer White House, adapted for business use, as are many historic structures.

When I received the email from Vicki Jimpson-Fludd, a real estate agent with Better Homes & Gardens Rand in Briarcliff, to have my historic house listing in Ossining join a group of other historic houses in Westchester and Putnam Counties for a joint Open House tour on a Sunday in July, I thought it was an inspired idea. “Hey, wait a minute, I wrote back, “I’m the realtor with the PR background! Why didn’t I think of that?”

I immediately offered to volunteer my PR company to help promote the event and, working together, Vicki and I scored a huge public turnout for 18 different brokerage houses showing 40 historic houses on one day.

At my open house at 81 Glendale Road in Ossining, a 15-acre estate contiguous to Teatown with a home started in the late 1700s and totally rebuilt over the past 30 years, I didn’t have a chance for a breather. There were as many as three visiting parties at a time from start to finish. I heard similar reports from realtors at the other open houses.

It was interesting that the common thread among normally competing brokerage firms was the antique home, at best a quirky category when it comes to marketing and selling a home. It is a narrow category both in terms of those that populate the inventory and buyers who seek them.

If a historic home is considered to be one that is at least 100 years old – those that have survived storm, fire and general neglect – it would be difficult to surmise the percentage of inventory that exists overall, but just to get a sense of it, I happen to know that in my hometown of Yorktown, there are approximately 13,000 residences and of those, 206 homes were identified as those of “historical significance” in a survey done a few years ago. At the same time, I once heard it said that only about one to two percent of the population is interested in living in antique homes, so that would seem to even things out.

But matching those people to the available homes can be difficult when you factor into the equation that only five percent of homes and people are players in the real estate market at any particular time. Considering those loose statistics, it’s a wonder that anyone ever finds their way into an antique home at all.

As an observer of real estate trends from personal experience for close to half a century and as a professional for nearly two decades, my personal opinion is that in recessionary times when the market is generally dead, the market for antique homes is really dead as a doornail. It would therefore make sense to me that our being slammed at the antique home open house event augurs very well for the near future of antique homes in this improving market.

Further proof that the scenario for antique homes is improving involves my own antique home in Yorktown Heights, The Ebenezer White House, now utilized as an office building. (As an aside, many historic structures, because of their size and locations are adapted for either mixed or commercial use.) My home was on the market two years ago as the recession was bottoming out and only after a full year did I finally get an offer, but it petered out after a jerk of an inspector discouraged the buyer when he discovered a sill with rot, which I quickly set out to correct. But, nonetheless, the buyer panicked and fled.

However, surprise, surprise, just last week, at a time when the home is not on the market, my doorbell rang and a man with that familiar look of stars in his eyes asked, “Do you want to sell this house? I’ve always loved it. If so, I’d like to buy it.” Oh, my, what do I do now? Am I ready to let go?

If you’d like to meet Vicki or me to discuss the possibility of your future as a proud antique home owner, call Vicki at 914-410-0151 or me at 914-522-2076. Vicki also has a great blog about antique homes at www.rivertownscountryhomes.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.

As told to me, it was a LMAO (to use the texting lingo of the day) kind of story that may get lost in translation when cleaned up, but I am assured first hand, it’s true. A woman who owned a condo locally was in bed for the very first time with a new boyfriend when suddenly the ceiling fan light disengaged from its mooring and plunged down, hitting the poor fellow squarely in the butt at the most critical moment you can imagine. He screamed out, and the woman, who must have been in her own world at that point, was uncertain whether the scream was in ecstasy or in pain.

But it seemed not to matter. She was impressed enough with his ability to soldier through the experience to continue the relationship to marriage. But that’s not the end of the story.

After the ceiling fan light had been removed from the bedroom, not to be replaced, within that same year, the couple was having dinner one evening when suddenly the tiffany-style light fixture above the table in the eat-in kitchen plummeted down, again hitting the woman’s husband, this time in the hand. What are the chances?

In the case of the bedroom ceiling fan, just the action of the fan had loosened the screws that held it to its ceiling box. With the kitchen fixture fell, it seems that the holding box itself was defective.

When the couple decided it was time to buy another dwelling, this time a single family home, the one they selected, they note, didn’t offer a single chandelier as an amenity!

My wife Margaret and I have had our own experience with falling missiles from the ceiling when her mother had her 50th wedding anniversary, and it affected us for the rest of our lives. We were in the ballroom where the event took place and Margaret was seated on a raised dais with the family. Without warning, a large, recessed high hat fixture almost directly above her head plunged down and landed on the table between her and her uncle with a horrible, ear-splitting crash. It certainly did put a damper on the evening.

Ever since that time, wherever we go together, we look above and see if we are seated under any kind of fixture and, if we are, we either move if we can or make a mental notation just in case we have to make a dash for it. It’s neurotic I know, or is it?

For the less threatening creative things that we can hang from our ceilings at home (just think you don’t have to dust under such things), make sure that you’re securing them properly!

To hang things securely, here are the basic rules:

The first rule of thumb is to always check your walls and ceiling for electrical wires or pipes that can be damaged by drilling and can cost you money in repairs.

There are two basic types of mechanisms to secure objects safely to a ceiling or wall:

A plaster anchor is an insert designed for hanging objects from walls, either plaster or drywall, by using pressure to keep the screw in place. To install, you simply drill a hole into the wall based on the size of the anchor, and push the anchor into the hole. Next you take a screw, and drill it into the hole in the anchor, allowing it to hang out slightly to hang your desired object. Plastic anchors are effective because they expand once inside the wall and hold everything in place with pressure.

A toggle/snap bolt is used to hang objects from plaster /drywall safely using pressure. The bolt works by having two spring-loaded arms that go onto the screw. After drilling a hole where you want the bolt to go, you slide it in and once inside, the arms will spring open and allow you to pull on the screw. You then take a screwdriver or drill gun and tighten the bolt until it locks in place.

Once you have a secure anchor in place, the sky’s the limit in how creatively you can approach hanging either utilitarian fixtures or art. Typically we go for lighting fixtures or plants, tapestries, mobiles, stabiles or mirrors attached directly to the ceiling. I remember once visiting a home where the owner was a stained glass artist and there were pieces of her work hung in front of most of her windows. Or, how about statuary, perhaps supported by more than one wire?

Having had both my home and office feng shui’d recently, it was suggested that I hang crystals from certain corners in both. Margaret would have none of it at home, but I did sneak one now hanging from the ceiling of my home office, concealed by an apron facing into my great room. I suppose I’m busted here by the revelation, but good sport that she is, Margaret has always let me get away with little things she might not agree with. I make up for it where I can, like bringing home to her and arranging that weekly bouquet of fresh flowers, romantic devil that I am.

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.

The Home Guru enjoys his brick patio, laid in a bond pattern which requires little cutting, the easiest do-it-yourself installation over leveled gravel and sand.

The Home Guru enjoys his brick patio, laid in a bond pattern which requires little cutting, the easiest do-it-yourself installation over leveled gravel and sand.

When we moved to Westchester in the early 1970s, our home had a curious architectural twist: the front and the back were switched, as is frequently the case with 18th century farmhouses. At some point, the previous owners opted for privacy over curb appeal and hid the grand front porch and expansive lawn behind a tall hedge and took to parking their cars in an unpaved half-circle in the rear of the house, entering through the back door beneath a towering maple tree.

We chose to continue to embrace the back of the house as our entrance, and we spiffed it up accordingly. I dressed the driveway with fresh 3/8” crushed bluestone and built up low flower beds on either side from stone. The sloping walkway leading to the front door was replaced by broad, bluestone steps. The largest project of all, however, was replacing the patchy shaded lawn underneath the tree with a large patio.

The paving material of course would have to be brick, for two reasons: it’s the easiest material for a do-it-yourselfer to accommodate; and, I believe it offers the warmest and most informal texture to a country landscape. Personally, I have favored brick as a surface since my days at The College of William and Mary in Colonial Williamburg and I traversed the uneven brick-lined walkways there daily.

For those of us who live in regions that get below freezing during the winter, a brick patio laid on sand can be an excellent choice for an outdoor living space. The small gaps between the bricks and the grains of sand allow for slight movement when any moisture in the ground expands or contracts with the change in temperature, unlike a more rigid surface which may crack.

The first step was to cut away the old lawn, which was hardly a lawn at all in the deep shade of the maple, and dig a level space into the ground, deep enough to hit the more soil clay-like layer below. The step I didn’t take, but perhaps should have, was to rent a compactor to make this base truly level. Indeed, my patio would always have a mild undulation because of it, but to my eyes this has been part of its hand-hewn charm.

Next came deliveries of gravel and sand, three cubic yards of each for a 20 ft. by 20 ft. space, in separate mounds behind the garage. I then used my big red wheelbarrow to make what seemed to be hundreds of trips between the garage and patio site, first laying down gravel, two inches deep, and then sand at the same depth. I leveled and tamped down the surface carefully. Had plastic edging been available to me back then, I would certainly have installed it in a well-camouflaged fashion, but I settled instead for flat field stones to provide edging for the sand and brick to be laid within it.

When the sand was leveled and I was ready to lay the brick, I opted for a standard running bond pattern where the edges of two bricks meet under the center of the bricks above them. Had I wished, I could have opted for many other varieties of patterns instead, such as herringbone, basket weave, or radial designs. With a little ingenuity, a homeowner could even incorporate different sizes or colors of bricks to create a unique design. As for me, the contrast between the red of the brick and the gray of the field stone was intriguing enough, so I chose a more simple pattern to complement those colors. Besides, I didn’t want to get into the chore of complicated cuts in the brick. At the end I swept a fine layer of sand in between the bricks, and I was done.

For the most part, the patio was perfect. The only flaw in the design is that the patio was on the north side of the house, so we always had to shovel snow away cleanly from one end to the other as the sun would not melt it for us.

It took a summer’s worth of work for me to build the patio, but the end result was worth it. We had many years of outdoor dining and relaxing under the shade of that large maple, and when that old centenarian eventually succumbed to disease and had to be cut down, the patio still looked well-designed and front door-worthy under the direct light of the sun.

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.

Diane Darby, Vice President, Marketing & Sales at Absolute Flooring, says that research proves that carpeting rather than hardwood is a better flooring choice for those concerned about air quality issues.

Diane Darby, Vice President, Marketing & Sales at Absolute Flooring, says that research proves that carpeting rather than hardwood is a better flooring choice for those concerned about air quality issues.

For years, from a style perspective, we’ve preferred the clean sleek look of hardwood floors over wall-to-wall carpeting, especially since we figured out that the costs were comparable. And, from a health consideration, we’ve had the perception in the media that hard surface flooring holds advantages over carpeting for allergy and asthma sufferers. But, just recently, I learned from Diane Darby, vice president, marketing and sales at Absolute Flooring in Yorktown Heights, that the opposite is true.

Whenever I have a question about any aspect of flooring, Diane always “floors” me, if you’ll pardon the pun, with her encyclopedic knowledge in the business and her exceptional ability to communicate that expertise clearly and concisely. “How did you acquire such wealth of information?” I asked her. “When I got into the business, I just listened to everything the reps could tell me,” was all she said, but I suspect that she’s just plain smart on top of that process. Also, as I learned with this particular issue, she does independent research.

So, when I read that one in 10 children and one in 12 adults suffer from asthma, and that many people believe carpeting affected asthma sufferers, I knew with whom I should check.

“Although most people come in to remove carpet when a child or an elderly person has some respiratory issue, I tell them that’s not what they should do, based on my research,” Diane told me when we got together.

“I found that there had been some studies done, the first one in the 1970s in Sweden, where in commercial buildings they had stopped using carpeting and went to hard surfaces specifically because the incidence of respiratory distress had risen so high in the country and they felt this was a direct correlation to the use of carpeting,” she said. “But in fact, what they found was that carpeting was better for holding allergens and other properties at bay that would normally be airborne until such time that they could be cleaned away, while hard surfaces allowed those allergens to become airborne with foot traffic. Studies proved that, in fact, carpeting was better.”

“But what about getting the allergens out of the carpeting?” I asked.

“There is that disclaimer,” Diane responded. “The carpeting must be well maintained. It should be vacuumed at least once a week and should be professionally cleaned every 18 to 24 months. As a matter of fact, this should be done anyway to maintain the carpet’s warranty in case there’s ever a claim. The preferred method is steam cleaning, or hot water extraction as it’s called so that the moisture is also removed.”

Diane added that wools should be dry cleaned with a product called Capture, a powder manufactured by Milliken which is poured on the carpet and vacuumed away.

My last question about carpeting vs. hardwood flooring involved the concern about off-gassing. “That has been addressed in the past few years by the manufacturers,” Diane said, “and, further, once the carpet arrives in our warehouse, we unwrap it from the plastic and aerate it until it’s ready to be installed in the consumer’s home.

“So, bottom line, when we have a flooring customer talking about air quality issues in the home, we do recommend carpeting over hardwood,” Diane concluded.

No matter your question about flooring, it’s likely that Diane Darby of Absolute Flooring will have the answer. She can be reached at 914-245-0225. The website address is www.absoluteflooring.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.

Jimmy of P&K Electric in Yorktown Heights, project manager, and as much an artist as an electrician when installing the dramatic lighting system at The Home Guru’s home.

Jimmy of P&K Electric in Yorktown Heights, project manager, and as much an artist as an electrician when installing the dramatic lighting system at The Home Guru’s home.

When I was in college, I appeared in a play called The Madwoman of Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux with the actress Linda Lavin, who would later go on to achieve fame as “Alice” on television. The most stunning thing about that production as I recall was the amazing effects achieved by its lighting director, on staff in the theater department, who was an incredible talent.

I remember that when the curtain rose for the second act, the stage was completely dark and slowly a small pin spotlight illuminated only the face of the madwoman in the center of the stage. Just that lighting effect alone brought applause from the audience. Every scene of the play was an arresting study in shadow and light where brightness drew the viewer’s attention where it needed to be while other areas of the stage receded. I was mesmerized as I observed how light created movement and mood by playing off stationary surfaces.

Many years later I was reminded of my interest in stage lighting when Barry Liebman, director of Yorktown Stage in Yorktown Heights, shared with me his feeling that a production really doesn’t come to life until the lighting director does his job with a show, going so far to say that seeing a set dramatically lit for the first time has brought him to tears.

His saying that convinced me that someday I should have a home where its lighting would be as dramatic as a stage set, and that would require a custom designed lighting system. But, having always lived in antique homes, my lighting was primarily from traditional lamps. When I moved recently to a new condo at Trump Park Residences, however, my dream for dramatic lighting presented itself. I arranged with management to have electrical contractors work with me to install a system to light my great room which I had designed basically as an art gallery for my collection of portraits and landscapes. The lighting system I planned was to highlight the paintings on three walls: portraits on the “living room” side, pastorals on the “dining room” side and a large abstract on the third wall in between.

At first I was planning to hire a lighting designer, but I was lucky to find an electrician with sensitivity to my ideas and needs, P&K Electric – a father (Pete) and son (Ken) team in Yorktown Heights – and working in tandem with an electric supply company, Mid-County Lighting & Electric in Mahopac, we all worked wonders together.

There were many technical challenges to overcome working on a top fifth floor condo with 10-foot high ceilings, installing high hats in a soffit with insulation material. The casing for the high hat units I originally wanted turned out to be too large to be accommodated in the soffit, but I had the good fortune to be assigned a job manager named Jimmy who was as much an artist as he was an electrician. Jimmy guided me every step of the way in terms of which product to use – we sourced a small LED light at Mid-County whose imprint on the ceiling is only two inches square – as well as the appropriate spacing and angles of light to employ. And, he cut such clean holes that nary a speck of spackle was needed for patching the plasterboard.

Now completed, the overhead pin spots illuminate my great room/gallery in a warm and inviting way. Rather than being surrounded by flat walls with two-dimensional shapes on them, the lighted paintings create great depth and richness to our space. While we have other traditional lighting sources in the room, it really requires no light other than that resting on the faces of the portraits and on the landscapes of the pastorals. The effect takes us to other acquaintances and distant places beyond the space we occupy. It’s transporting.

For a great electrician, ask for Pete at P&K Electric in Yorktown at (914) 962-3581. For supplies, ask for Steve at Mid-County Lighting & Electric in Mahopac at (845) 621-7128.

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.

John Fitzpatrick of Fitz Landscaping plants honeysuckle vines to conceal weathered fencing on The Home Guru’s property.

John Fitzpatrick of Fitz Landscaping plants honeysuckle vines to conceal weathered fencing on The Home Guru’s property.

When my family moved to the south when I was at the impressionable age of eight, I was amazed with some of the colloquialisms I heard that were so foreign to my ear transplanted from South Philadelphia, like one from my our next door neighbor Ethel who liked to say how much she loved her husband even though he was as “ugly as a mud fence.”

I thought of that phrase recently when I pondered an ugly fence confronting me upon removing a row of sickly hemlocks, stricken years ago by a thrip infestation, pulled out by their roots, revealing a weather beaten stockade fence that separates the back of my property from another. It had fallen into disrepair with slats cracked and pieces missing here and there. Rather than replacing it at considerable expense, I thought of a more creative approach: that of hiding it with a fast-growing vine. I called in John Fitzpatrick of Fritz Landscaping to help me make the choice of which would be fastest growing. He suggested honeysuckle.

Fast-growing vines give flexibility of form and function to the home landscaper: they can be directed to grow into unique, arching flights of design fancy, or they can sprout into a quick, concealing blanket to cover up any unsightly structure or serve as a privacy screen. On a steep slope they can even spread out into a groundcover to slow down erosion.

If you want to use vines creatively in the garden, it helps to become familiar with the growing patterns of the varieties available: tendril climbers, twining vines, scrambling plants and clinging climbers.

Tendril climbers shoot out thin shoots from the main stem of the plant, and these twist around any narrow support. This variety of vine grows very well on trellises and heavy gauge wire netting.

Twining vines climb by wrapped their main stems directly around a support. These vines usually need to be gently trained to grow in the direction you want. Whatever structure you use to support a twining or tendril climbers, be sure that it does not lie flush against a wall or other surface. Not only does the vine need space behind the structure to grip it, but the ventilation will help keep the vines and any wooden support dry and healthy.

Scrambling plants don’t wrap themselves around any support. Instead they grow out long shoots that climb over whatever they encounter. These vines serve as excellent groundcovers or “cascading” plants, but it’s best if their dead stems are pruned out regularly.

Clinging climbers grip surfaces with small, adhesive aerial rootlets, which hang on even after the stem dies. These should only be grown on stone or very solid masonry as the grips can dig into and damage wood and brittle surfaces.

An additional concern with vines is keeping them from taking over the yard. In a worst-case scenario, the vines can completely smother trees and other plants in the landscape, as can be seen with the infestations of Asiatic Bittersweet along some roads in the metro New York area. (My local readers can visit vinecutter.com to join groups that cut these vines down.)

On my own, smaller scale, I find that planting vines in pots or plastic pails set into the ground keeps the growth well under control. I used this method successfully with bugleweed that has the unfortunate habit of taking over a lawn.

You can grow vines for fruit, flowers or shade, but what I investigated for hiding my ugly fence were the following vines that grow quickly:

Honeysuckle, a twining vine, can grow from 7 to 30 feet in a single summer, depending on the variety and growing conditions. Give them a support to grow on if you don’t want them to become shrubby. These fragrant blooms attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

Virginia Creeper, a climbing vine, can grow up to 50 feet. It is identified by its leaves, which have five leaflets, are green, but are tinted with red when they first grow. In the fall, all the leaves turn deep red.

Clematis Etoile Violette grow 8 to12 feet in a summer and sport profuse purple blossoms in July and September. They are good on posts, fences or wire frames.

Wisteria needs training in the beginning, but will eventually develop woody stems that in themselves are beautiful year-round. The cascading blossoms are spectacular, but take care that the vine doesn’t spread past where you want it.

Evergreen clematis grows by tendrils, and its downward-drooping leaves give it a “weeping” effect. This white-blossomed vine is an excellent choice for quickly covering a mailbox or wire fence.

For any garden advice or landscaping needs, call John Fitzpatrick at 914-618-1549.

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.

Deanna Trust and Home Guru Bill Primavera in his home office, being feng shui’ed.

Deanna Trust and Home Guru Bill Primavera in his home office, being feng shui’ed.

After a year of great upheaval in my personal and professional domains, having moved to a new residence and expanded my space in my office building, I was feeling off kilter everywhere, a little uncomfortable in my own skin, not sleeping well at home and working in a tangle of misplaced folders, temporary filing boxes and a jumble of crossed wires.

Six months ago, I moved from my large historic property that for over 40 years had housed my public relations business and domicile to make way for an ever expanding enterprise after my wife had declared, “Enough! I’ve lived ‘above the store’ my entire married life and now I’m living ‘INSIDE’ the store!” That’s when we purchased a new residence at Trump Park in Shrub Oak which we’ve been decorating madly while at our historic property, we converted our former living quarters into new offices.

The transition has involved a massive displacement of furnishings and fixtures as well as the addition of new office equipment to accommodate a doubling of staff, all of which had left me in a state of anxiety. Perhaps it was not totally accidental that I received a call from the fabulous Deanna Trust, feng shui consultant extraordinaire about whom I had done a column a while back. Yes! That’s it, I thought. The universe has responded to my need to be feng shui’ed both at home and the office to make sure that I hadn’t bollixed up my environments with all this moving about!

“Come visit me fast, at both places,” I implored, “I need to get organized for a feeling of calm.” Within the month (her schedule is tight counseling many celebrities whom she normally keeps confidential, but one she let slip is the entertainer Usher), she arrived, and I had my video production crew on hand to record the process. There was one snag which I hadn’t anticipated: my wife Margaret.

I should explain that a happy marriage of near half a century can be built on the attraction of opposites, and my wife just doesn’t go for this kind of stuff. When Deanna mentioned on the phone just the night before that she would be bringing with her many crystals to “paste to the ceiling” of our new home to energize it, I was able to say with full confidence that, knowing my wife, that wasn’t going to happen. We agreed that we could work around this issue and I promised that at my office, she could plaster the entire ceiling with crystals, like stalactites in a cave, if she liked.

At my residence, as soon as Deanna entered the front door, she told me that the house was “stable, a happy place, well designed for good fortune and happiness.” “Whew,” I said, “Donald Trump will be very happy to hear that!” While Trump didn’t actually build the building – that honor goes to Louis Cappelli who has built the White Plains skyline, Trump did attach his name to it and since he has a feng shui consultant for every one of his projects, I’m sure he wouldn’t have allowed that unless he were fully confident that the place represented him well.

Deanna cleansed and blessed my home in quick order, feeling that I had pretty much followed pointers she had given me from a consultation a year before at a class I attended at that time. I had made some errors in my bedroom with too much “water” representation in my paintings of seascapes – six of them – which all have to go in favor of “action” representation. There were other minor tweaks here and there, like having plants in two corners to stimulate good fortune and growth, but nothing that Margaret would consider too weird.

It was then on to the office building where I admitted unabashedly that I want to soar with success and, my goodness, after a full three hours, I was exhausted. There was the creation of an altar, then the most exacting interpretation of each room from our reception area, to my manager’s office, the others’ offices, conference room, my office, and our kitchen. There was much re-arrangement of wall art, wall color suggestions and a biggie, my office chair, which was not commanding enough it seems: it was suggested that I need a chair which comes up high enough to cover the back of my head, and wouldn’t you know, I had just bought an expensive one that didn’t have that feature.

There were also loads of crystals to be added in every room, some hanging directly from the ceiling, one directly at the entrance, others in corners, and some from chandeliers. Certainly prospective clients may wonder about that and may ask me if I really believe in it all. I’ll tell them, what the heck, I guess I’m like the people who say they decide to live a good life not knowing whether there’s a heaven or hell, but just in case …

If you feel you want to better your chances at happiness, good fortune and better health, call Deanna Trust at (973) 366-3570 or visit her online at www.trustfengshui.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.

Now is the time of year when you can enjoy evening meals outside, either on your patio or pool side. I enjoyed that for years before my recent move to a fifth floor condo, where I don’t have to worry about pool upkeep anymore. Maybe it’s the one and only thing I miss about single home dwelling.

I used to love evening dining, contented en plein air as the sun set behind the trees and the sky grew dark, but just when I would feel my most serene, my family and guests were eager to retreat back inside. “We’re getting eaten alive out here,” they would say. Then I knew that mosquitos had struck again.

Mosquitos can be the bane of the backyard, especially in an area rich in wetlands such as ours. I barely ever noticed the pests, however. Through some fluke of body chemistry, the worst of the biting insects never bothered me. My family and guests are not so lucky.

About one in ten people can be considered “highly attractive” to mosquitos, emitting a certain combination of carbon dioxide, lactic acid and cholesterol through their skin that the bugs find irresistible, as I understand it. People who become easy targets for mosquitos include pregnant women, people who have been exercising vigorously, and anyone with an appetizing genetic combination.

On behalf of those most susceptible to being bitten, I suggest an assault on these bloodsuckers every year, but with varying degrees of success. We could spray ourselves with clouds of DEET, and it would certainly be effective, but I would prefer to leave that option as a last resort. Even with all the evidence that chemical is safe when used properly, I dislike the smell of bug spray, especially if the occasion includes an outdoor meal.

For several years we had a bug zapper mounted on the side of our garage. When we installed it we were confident our yard would be insect-free at night. The results, however, were disappointing. First of all, it was depressing to hear one creature after another sizzling to its death. Second, the mosquitos continued to bite my guests as much as they ever had. Our instincts were correct. As it turns out, bug zappers target insects that are attracted to light, such as moths, and these helpful pollinators are exactly the kind of bugs you should not zap. Mosquitos ignore the light, finding their meals by scent from up to 50 yards away.

So my next step was to remove their nesting sites. Mosquitos lay eggs in still water, so any wading pools, rain gutters or bird baths must be removed, drained or agitated. Man-made puddles are even more dangerous to our health than any pond out in the woods because mosquitos that hatch in our midst are more likely to pick up and spread diseases among people. I was particularly concerned about an iron fountain I had in the corner of my patio. It turns out that as long as I kept the small motor running, which in turn circulated the water through the fountain, no eggs would be laid there.

Once you have prevented mosquitos from hatching on your property, you can repel the ones flying in from elsewhere through some creative gardening. Basil, lemongrass and rosemary are all considered effective insect repellents, while being quite delicious to us. Catnip is also a good bug deterrent, although it may make your yard a little too attractive for any outdoor cats. Marigolds deter all sorts of pests, included some of the warm-blooded ones, and they are frequently used in garden beds for this reason.

Citronella candles drive away many bugs, but sometimes the flame or the melted wax can pose a hazard. In that case, you can substitute citronella oil mixed with coconut oil in a jar, or even a live citronella plant. A jar of apple cider vinegar covered with a lid or layer of plastic wrap with holes in it also drives away many bugs.

Shiny objects are rumored to confuse some bugs, who mistake the rippling light for the surface of moving water. Hanging an unwanted CD or two from a branch might scare mosquitos away during a sunny day. You can also experiment with a Ziploc bag filled with water plus a few pennies, also hanging from a branch.

Finally, before you spray yourself, take a few scented dryer sheets and rub them on your skin and hair. This can mask your scent and make you invisible to mosquitos, especially if they contain the fragrance additive Linalool. At worst, this will prevent static cling and fly-away hair!

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.

Dan Potter, first responder on 9/11, with a photo of himself that appeared worldwide, captured at a moment when, after hours of searching for his wife, shows him dealing with the possibility that she may not have managed to escape from the 81st floor of Tower One (later he found that she had).

Dan Potter, first responder on 9/11, with a photo of himself that appeared worldwide, captured at a moment when, after hours of searching for his wife, shows him dealing with the possibility that she may not have managed to escape from the 81st floor of Tower One (later he found that she had).

Soon after I moved into my new residence at Trump Park in Yorktown, a neighbor named Dan Potter introduced himself to me as a retired fireman from New York City and said that he had read my column about Fireman Joe who instructed school children about fire safety in the home. Dan told me not to forget about seniors who have a much higher risk of dying from fire in their own homes than the general population and that he had done educational programs for them on the subject. I told him that I wanted to know more.

This week we got together and I learned number of new things, some surprising, including his personal history.

Dan had been at the World Trade Center on 9/11 as one of the first responders, arriving between the times the first and second planes hit the towers. His wife Jean was working in Tower One on the 81st floor and for some hours, he didn’t know whether she had made it out of the building. After searching both at the site and at his apartment just a block away and not finding her, he collapsed on a bench in despair and a passing photographer captured the moment. That photograph appeared “around the world” and now is featured in the 9/11 Memorial Museum next to Dan’s helmet with his ladder number “31” which he wore that day.

We started our interview with a pop quiz: “Do you know why Fire Prevention Week is the first week in October?” he asked. When I confessed that I had no idea, he informed me that it was enacted by Congress after the Great Fire in Chicago which had happened at that time of year. “So tell me more that I don’t know about fire safety,” I asked.

“While most people have smoke detectors in their homes, the batteries are frequently dead,” Dan said. “Or they can be cooking, the alarm goes off, they might take them down, take the batteries out and not put them back,” he continued.

But some really surprising information followed. “Citizens over 65 are twice as likely to die in a fire than the general population,” Dan said. “And once they reach 85, they are five times as likely to die in a fire as the general population, and in the same room in which the fire starts. By that age, a senior’s mobility is slower, they don’t have the same sense of smell, they may be on medication and are not as alert, they may smoke in bed, they may be careless in their dress, be cooking and their clothes catch on fire…”

Dan’s next question caught me off guard. “Have you ever been in a fire?” “No,” I responded. “Do you think you really know what fire is? Do you think it has sound? Do you know how fast it is? How hot it is?” I didn’t have answers for him. He took out his computer and showed me a controlled demonstration of a sofa catching fire in a monitored situation. Within 30 seconds, there was intense heat. Within one minute there was no way that a person could stand. He would be down. Within two minutes, the room was engulfed in flame and within three minutes, there was total conflagration. All the while, there was silence, not the crackling of wood and the roar we would expect from a romantic fire.

“When we hear stories about expecting a parent to run back into a house to rescue a child, sadly the heat is so intense, so much more than anyone has ever experienced,” Dan said, “it just doesn’t happen.” I remember thinking that that is what happened at the World Trade Center when those poor souls had the terrible choice to make of being burned alive or jumping to their deaths.

There was one last sobering thought that Dan conveyed to me. When the Avalon in New Jersey burned to the ground recently, it went very quickly. “Yes, that was a ‘combustible’ building, ‘stick-built’ of wood. In this day and age, it’s a wonder that multi-unit buildings of that type are still allowed.” “And my building? The Trump Residences, what type of building is that?” I asked, perhaps with a touch of anxiety. “It’s non-combustible, made of cement and steel,” he responded.

It’s scary to consider the number of people who live in multi-unit condos and apartments that are of combustible construction. I would urge readers to be aware of escape instructions and for those of you living in single family dwellings, listen to your children who learn fire safety tips at school. Check every smoke detector in the house and, again, be prepared in an emergency to get out! For more information about fire safety, go to www.nfpa.org.

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.

32308917_sWhenever I see a model home, I marvel at how a professional designer can throw together a beautiful living space with so many creative ideas so quickly. Some peoples’ minds are just wired that way, but obviously mine is not. In fact, the one course in college I ever dropped mid-term was Interior Design.

While I’ve frequently heard other people boast about how quickly they’ve “settled in” when they’ve purchased a new home or moved from one place to another, either working with a decorator or doing it themselves, as for me, I need to add the element of time to be fully happy with any design project I tackle.

I remember years ago when I invited one of the editors of Good Housekeeping to my home and she surveyed my garden, she asked how long I had lived at my property and when I responded “20 years,” she said, “It shows.” And truly, it wasn’t until another 10 years that I was really happy with what I had done there.

And, I know I’m not alone. When the question “How long did it take for you to decorate your home” is asked online, most people say things like “I’ve been in my house three years and I’m STILL not done.” Some will elaborate and share that they more enjoy the “process.” For instance, one response was: “I just kind of bought things here and there, changed them out, changed my mind, and now I am starting to fix it exactly how I want it.”

My wife’s theory is that when a decorator does a model home, it’s easier because the assignment is impersonal. “There are no personal memories attached to the things selected so it’s easier to bring the plan together,” she said. “But, there’s the danger there that the end result is going to lack any ‘soul,’” she added, “and that can happen if a decorator selects everything for you.”

With our current move, our biggest dilemma has been dealing with too much ‘soul’ in that our decades of collections had to be edited down from nearly 4,000 sq. ft. of space to less than half that. This time around, my wife wanted more open space than we ever had in our antique home, but after six months in our spanking new condo, slowly adding this and that from many things we had previously vowed to sell or give away, we’ve definitely missed that opportunity.

There was a second problem, a big one that the time element helped solve. I had always resisted the idea of having a television set in our living room, no matter where we lived. In our old historic home, we had a television set only in the master bedroom and a small one in our library. When our whole family visited, we all would pile into the bedroom if we wanted to watch a show together, and my wife always hated that.

She insisted that in our new home – a condo in Trump Residences in Shrub Oak – there must be a large television installed above the fireplace/mantel that we are having designed and installed by master cabinetmaker Jan Efraimsen of Woodtronics in Yorktown. I had been “angsting” about that for months. It was probably the biggest decorating conflict my wife and I had ever had in our long marriage. I have always hated visiting beautifully designed homes costing over a million dollars to find a big “black hole” of a television set over the fireplace in a living room. In a family room, fine.

Last week, Jan’s skilled workers arrived to install the magnificent mantel with its gorgeous Carrera marble inset and its rich baronial style design and inwardly I was balking at the idea of having the television plopped on top of it. I stayed awake thinking about it. I knew that once the new TV and sound system was installed by Ray Benza of Entertainment Technology in Mt. Kisco, I would be stuck looking at that big black screen, center stage, for the rest of my life.

With a lot of pleading, my wife gave me one last stay of execution. We are now planning to place the tube on the far side of the room above a bookcase in the corner. Thank goodness it took some months to plan, design and build the cabinetry for my living room because it helped me avoid the bullet of a lifetime eyesore. Once again, it was the element of time that came to my rescue.

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.