14699611_sIt was evident from our first week living together after we returned from our honeymoon that I had married a real “neatnik.” That meant everything in its place, bed made in the morning, dishes washed after every meal, and nary a speck of dust ever in evidence.

I always thought that I was pretty neat as a bachelor and I was always pleased to show my place whenever I invited a friend in, but wasn’t sure that I passed muster when I invited my then-girlfriend, future wife, over for the first time. She noticed that dust bunny under my sofa, then looked in my underwear drawer (imagine?) and saw that my whites were not properly whitened as they should be. Obviously I needed a woman’s touch to take me to the next level of super clean.

When we had our first couple of apartments, we always did our own cleaning and bought an arsenal of cleaning supplies to help us, but once we bought our first home, we employed a cleaning service which we maintained through the years. But since moving recently to a condo, we’ve been doing the job ourselves again, because it’s so manageable and enjoyable. Yes, enjoyable. Therapeutic, actually.

Research maintains that a clean house makes people feel happy, satisfied, comfortable and healthy. According to Carol Nemeroff, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, spring cleaning may have been in existence for ages.

“This psychological boost may be derived from an urge to clean out our nests, a trait that is biologically programmed into us,” says Nemeroff. “And, because we know that good hygiene leads to good health, cleaning may ultimately be related to a basic survival instinct.”

A recent survey done by a cleaning product company revealed that a good way to keep your house cleaner was to become more sociable and invite friends over more frequently, and I thought that was a cute idea. After all, it’s for guests that we really want to shine.

That led me to research an entire spat of surveys that reveal all kinds of information about the benefits of cleaning our homes. And that in turn led to scores of advice columns about how exactly to keep our houses in tip top shape.

By taking a close look at 1,000 different homes, Indiana University’s Physical Activity department found a direct correlation between the cleanliness of a home and the owners’ level of physical activity. Associate professor Nicole Keith, who led the study concluded, “The interior condition of their house seemed to be the only thing affecting their physical activity”

Indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and the average person will spend 90% of their day indoors. This makes the cleanliness of your home that much more important, because it will have a huge impact on what you breathe in.

According to the American Cleaning Institute, 38% of women and 24% of men say they suffer real stress when they feel they are living in a messy environment and that cleaning relaxes them. Psychologists have found that there’s a marked difference in mood before and after cleaning chores, just as with a therapy session.

Actually, you can even quantify and qualify just how happy you can be by which cleaning chore you do around the house. Seriously. In a study done by the Soap and Detergent Association that examined household cleaning habits and behaviors, 1,013 American adults (507 men and 506 women) were asked which chores made them the happiest or gave them the most satisfaction.

The results of the survey showed that respondents felt most satisfied and happiest about shiny floors (21%), which tied with a tidy toilet (21%), followed by clean countertops (20%), a sparkling shower (15%) and a spotless sink (7%).

Another survey done by the same association revealed the interesting statistic that, nationally, only 12% of us use a regular cleaning person or service, but 18% of us would consider doing so, while 8% of us get help only for spring cleaning. Fifty-three percent of us say that we don’t use a cleaning service and never would consider doing so.

But whether we do it ourselves or have someone else do it for us, it seems that the benefits of a clean home hold firm.

So if you’re at home feeling a bit down, may I suggest that you give yourself a boost by shining up that floor or cleaning the toilet?

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.

Anna Maroselli, with husband Bob, says “train hard, fight easy” in preparing for sale of home.

Anna Maroselli, with husband Bob, says “train hard, fight easy” in preparing for sale of home.

Anna Maroselli could write the definitive book or teach a master class on preparing a home for sale.

While normally it is a matter of a month or two from the time a seller and realtor engage in the process of listing a home, there was a gestation of more than two years from the time I was called by Anna for a comparative market analysis until last week when her six-bedroom, raised ranch in Yorktown Heights was listed.

In the intervening months, there was a methodical system of activity that might have been ordered by a drill sergeant. “One of my favorite expressions is ‘train hard, fight easy,’” she told me early in the game, noting the origin of the quote aptly as Alexander Suvorov, an 19th century military leader in the Imperial Russian Army.

From the first of my two interviews with her, along with invitations she extended to two other realtors for consideration, her journey to listing her home has been painstaking. Only after the fact did I learn that, before retirement, Maroselli had been a legal secretary for a major multi-national corporation and was responsible for communications with foreign diplomats, government officials and top business executives. “I was always detail oriented, always made check lists and everything had to be perfect,” she said.

The process started with her taking my suggestions, some from my columns which she had carefully read and saved in a folder, and from our frequent conversations, first to update her kitchen with a granite countertop and new backsplash, to remove wallpaper there and from two bedrooms, and the need to paint her interior in neutral tones.

On her own, Anna needed to “re-purpose” some of the rooms of her home. The lower level of her raised ranch had been utilized for her daughter Adrienne’s family, her husband and son, in a three bedroom setup. Now that her daughter was leaving, the lower level would be reconfigured for the flexibility of a new owner.

Anna also hired a stager and decorator, Susan Atwell, whose function it was to help Anna declutter, depersonalize and rearrange furniture. For the painting, I recommended the stalwart “Fireman Joe” Pascarelli.

While Adrienne was leaving, she stayed on to help her mom accomplish her long checklist, including selection of interior colors. She chose different shades of grey, today’s favorite neutral which Anna says “seem to reflect and blend in with whatever color is near them, much as hazel eyes do.”

Adrienne also helped with paring down furnishings and simplifying window treatments by removing drapes and replacing them with plain valances with grosgrain ribbon trim.

There were a couple of stumbles, then corrections along the way. For instance, when Anna went to a large retailer to choose the granite kitchen counter top, she found it too complicated to coordinate selection of the granite with installation of the sink. Someone suggested to her a “one-stop” way to handle that by going to Westwood Stone and Granite in Cortlandt and asking for “Anthony” who deftly coordinated the whole job for her.

Frequently I would receive updates to learn, for instance, that all the hardwood floors had been refinished for the “wow” factor, or that the backsplash suggested for the kitchen would not be ivory subway tiles as originally planned, but rather beveled stone bricks, and dated lighting fixtures had been replaced with more contemporary ones.

In tow at our contract signing and final meetings before listing was Anna’s other daughter Christine, very real estate savvy, to help advise her parents. Then, Anna joined in the process editing copy for the descriptive remarks for the MLS listing and promotional materials, word by word, a first for me.

The figurative close-order drill continued to the week before listing when I was invited back to the house for viewing of Anna’s work which I was able to declare total perfection.

Within eight hours from the time the listing went live, there were seven showings requested, just from the way we were able to describe Anna’s hard work. Preparedness always pays off.

Anna’s suppliers were: Anthony Carraturo of Westwood Granite and Stone in Cortlandt Manor at 914-736-9100; Painter “Fireman Joe” Pascarelli at 914-330-3889; and stager and interior designer Susan Atwell at 914-525-0454.

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’s own property is on the market again, this time without “attachment issues.”

The Home Guru’s own property is on the market again, this time without “attachment issues.”

Do more people than not get attached to their homes to the point where they suffer a sense of loss when it’s time to move on? It’s a question I’ve been pondering lately and one that once again I’m facing myself.

My home is on the market for the second time in two and a half years. Last time, I had a problem detaching from it, surprising enough. But do I this time? Not at all. This time I’m ready.

One of my oldest but most vivid memories about attachments people might develop to a home happened on the day my best buddy from college was getting married.

I had travelled to his hometown and we were in the home where he had grown up from the time of his birth. He had invited me there to spend the night after his bachelors’ party and to dress in our tuxedos prior to the ceremony. As we were headed out the front door, he hesitated and said, “Wait, I want to look at my room one last time. I guess I’ll never be going in there again.”

When we went back and peeked into the room, surprisingly, hunk of an ex-Marine that he was, he wrapped his arms around my shoulders and burst into tears. Having never seen the man display even a glint of sentimentality, I was stunned.

I remember that all through the wedding ceremony I kept thinking, is there something wrong with me? The last time I saw the room I grew up in, I was taking off for college and, very honestly, I didn’t give a hoot for the house I was leaving.

From that time, after graduation, I moved from apartment to apartment with nary a thought about attachment to any living situation, never lingering longer than a year or two in any one place. Even after marriage, in short order, my wife and I moved five times in our first five years together.

By the time we moved to the suburbs to our current property, however, I guess we were worn down enough to declare, “only in a wooden box will we leave this place!” And pretty much that was the situation until two and a half years ago when, in the very doldrums of the recession, we decided that our large home no longer suited our purposes at this stage of our lives and placed our home on the market.

For more than 40 years, we had enjoyed our large multi-use historic home as a work horse – a place to raise our family, to build our business in-house with a special use permit and to have income from an accessory apartment as well – but after our family became just my wife and me, we wanted a different living kind of living environment. Despite the bad times of market, we did receive a good offer, having followed my own advice in preparing for the sale by updating and upgrading wherever needed, providing much fodder for this column.

When that offer came in, oddly, instead of rejoicing, I felt an inexplicable sadness, a sense of loss. When the inspection report came back with an issue, to that point unknown, and although quickly remedied, it ultimately killed the deal. Instead of being upset, frankly, I was relieved. We were just not ready. I guess that with all the life experience I enjoyed under that roof, I hadn’t properly prepared to detach.

But just last week, the house was placed on the market again. And this time, I know I will be pleased when the right buyer comes forward, either someone with a large family or a couple who are entrepreneurs who want to operate a business on the premise with a special use permit as we did successfully for many years, while perhaps deriving income from an accessory apartment at the same time.

What’s different this time? What makes it easier is that I’ve done a lot of “self-talk” about the benefits of a scaled-down responsibility of less space, and spent a lot of effort “de-personalizing” the premises of the many things we’ve collected through the years.

This is why the realtor “gurus” recommend removing personal items from view prior to placing a home on the market. Aside from helping to show a home in its best light, removing personal items begins to make a home feel more like a “product” for sale. It’s a subtle but important step toward detaching.

Also, when you think about it, gathering up all the personal items is the first step in packing up for the move!

If you find that you are the perfect buyer candidate for The Home Guru’s home, described here, give me a call at (914) 522-2076. Also, let’s talk if you are planning a move and worrying about detachment. After all, I’ve been through it, twice now!

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.

Trending: Blue houses, but not white. Red doors are in, too.

Trending: Blue houses, but not white. Red doors are in, too.

The caller was interested in an historic Sears-Roebuck Catalogue house I have listed in North White Plains, but he wanted to make sure that it was not “purple” as he said it appeared to him online. “If it’s purple, I’m not interested,” he said, “because to me, purple means ‘death!’”

“It’s a very nice blue-grey, and not purple, I can assure you,” I affirmed.

“It sure looks purple in the photograph,” he persisted.

Okay, this is not going to be a phone call based on objectivity, I thought, so why not go along with it and give the guy the kind of playful discourse he was obviously seeking. I continued the discussion by pointing out that some people consider purple the color of royalty, and I told him about a celebrated house in my hometown of Yorktown painted totally in shades of purple which is owned by a retired couple who are very lively indeed.

For years I’ve been wanting to get the inside story about the place, but the owners whom I see almost every day when I get my coffee at Panera Bread – the wife always dressed totally in lilac and lavender, including all her accessories, even her eyeglass frames – have always declined my request, saying they prefer enjoying their distinctive taste in private.

Again I thought of exterior colors for houses when I noted online a survey done by Sears Weatherbeater Paints that surprisingly revealed that 40 percent of those polled prefer white as an exterior house color. What? How could that be, I pondered, unless the survey were conducted in 1890? Either that, or it was skewed toward the deep South or the West Coast! Certainly, around here, that couldn’t be the case.

I confirmed my hunch with Miracle Home Improvements in Croton-on-Hudson which specializes in siding with vinyl and fiber cement products. Owner Mary Sniffen told me, “The most popular exterior colors trending for siding now are the deeper browns like a shade called Timber Bark and the grey blues. Very rarely has anyone asked for white. In fact, I can remember only one case in recent memory where white was chosen.”

The same goes for house painting. I called my painter Joe Pascarelli who estimates that he’s painted 25 house exteriors over the past year and not a single homeowner has asked for white. “There are two colors from Benjamin Moore I’ve been recommending lately that my clients really like,” he said. “A lighter color called Brandy Cream is a sort of tan and a deeper color is Charcoal Slate which I combine with a white trim called Chantilly Lace. It makes a terrific combination.”

The strongest impression this year for outdoor painting overall seems to be blue, chosen in a recent survey by House Beautiful as the favorite color of 29 percent of those polled by the magazine.

Interestingly 77 percent of the magazine’s readers say that they have are now painting, have just finished painting or are planning to paint something in the next six months. This makes sense considering that a paint job is the best fixer-upper project for the least amount of money.

The “gurus” of real estate like me recommend thinking one way about exterior house paint if you plan to “stay put” and another way if you plan to market your home for sale. If you want to make a bold statement with a rich, deep color like red or plum, which might be quite daring if you’re in an Arts and Crafts or Victorian house, it is fine to express your individuality to your heart’s content. But such a strong statement can thwart your chances at attracting a buyer who may be put off with so personalized a statement.

It is recommended that your color choice be more neutral when it’s time to paint for resale with lighter tones of tan, clay, cream, gray or beige, with shades of white best used on the trim. You can incorporate a splash of color by painting the door a contrasting, deeper tone, like red or deep blue.

Some years ago, I made a proclamation that every front door should be painted red for its feng shui benefits, even going so far as to recommend a particular color, Benjamin Moore Burgundy. Since then, I’ve received the most flattering feedback from readers who have followed my advice. And many times when I am called to list a house and find that its front door has been painted red, I know that I’ve found a true believer like me.

For more information about vinyl or fiber cement siding, ask for Mary Sniffen at Miracle Home Improvement at (914) 271-9119. For information about house painting, call Joe Pascarelli 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). 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.

Detail from the living room of The Home Guru, showing “cove” crown molding in white on white.

Detail from the living room of The Home Guru, showing “cove” crown molding in white on white.

When I sat down with my lawyer Dan Tota of Durante, Bock & Tota PLLC in Yorktown Heights, it was to discuss his project of installing crown molding in his home but, after we talked for a while, I was as interested in the “why” of his project as the “how.”

“After working all day in a high pressure job, dealing with intangibles, it’s a welcome change to come home and make something that’s tangible with my hands,” he said. “There’s a lot of enjoyment in doing the job and, if you do it well, it gives you continued satisfaction again and again whenever you look at it,” he continued. “Of course, if you botch the job, nobody wants to be reminded of it afterwards!”

“Would you consider yourself a handy person?” I asked him. “While I’m an attorney now, I actually grew up working as a mechanic, so I know how to work with my hands. At the same time, I’m realistic about those projects I know I can do and respectful of those I can’t. Also I’m fortunate to have friends who are contractors who can advise me when I need help.”

Besides personal satisfaction, Tota pointed out the marketing value that improvement projects add to the house looking forward to the time when he chooses to upgrade to a larger home. His most recent project was adding crown molding to his entrance hall, living room and dining room. In my opinion, crown molding is the most immediate “dress-up” upgrade an interior can give itself at the least expense.

Crown molding is literally the crowning touch in that it draws the eye upward in much the same way curtains hung at ceiling height do, while providing that smooth transitioning from vertical to horizontal. I would say that good proportions are magnified with moldings and, in effect, it’s the finishing touch. In fashion, it might be compared to the collar on a shirt or the cuff on a sleeve.

When I first visited the condos at Trump Park Residences in Shrub Oak, the first upgrade detail I noticed in the hallways and units themselves, one of which I ended up buying, was the generous crown molding, in this case a big simple cove molding, a full seven inches wide for ceilings that are almost nine feet high. Cove molding features one big dramatic curve that makes a much bolder statement and avoids the busyness a more complicated crown can add, and that impressed me.

But not all crown molding has to knock you over in size to be dramatic. A simple eight-foot ceiling room can become much more dynamic with a simple but strong four to five-inch crown molding, and adding a five-inch base molding. By emphasizing both the base and ceiling, the room has much more character and strength. Of course, you can always get a good carpenter to do the job for you and I recommend mine at the end of this piece, but if you’re a DIY enthusiast, the two basic pieces of equipment your need are a miter box and coping saw, coupled with a lot of patience in calculating the amount of molding you need and angles at which to cut it.

All of that can be found on line with graphics that easily demonstrate the process better than I can describe it in the limited space here, but let me share a couple of tips from Dan’s experience to save you some grief: “I chose a molding that wasn’t too thick, four inches, so that the saw didn’t have to be as big, and if your ceilings are the standard height of eight feet or a little more, that serves very well,” he advised. “Another good tip: instead of choosing a natural finish, go with the molding that is primed white. That forgives a lot of sins if you’re not perfect with your cuts. If you’re working in white, mistakes can be better concealed with putty or caulking until you get the hang of it.”

If you need a good carpenter to do the job for you, my guy is Michael Lavelle who can be reached at (914) 482-7178.

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.

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.