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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A sampling of handmade Christmas tree ornaments created by Mr. and Mrs. Home Guru from their first Christmas together, almost half a century ago.

A sampling of handmade Christmas tree ornaments created by Mr. and Mrs. Home Guru from their first Christmas together, almost half a century ago.

Christmas has always been an important holiday to my wife Margaret and me. Never did we think, that after so many years of being ensconced in the same house where year after year we decorated our tree in the same living room in the same corner with the same decorations, that we would be moving the week before Christmas. We wanted to uphold the tradition of having a tree but hadn’t even half unpacked.

However, inveterate holiday revelers that we are, we committed to having a traditional Christmas Eve family celebration with a decorated tree as always no matter what. Last week, as the movers were unloading boxes from their truck, I spotted that battered six-foot-long oblong box that I’ve re-taped for years and retrieved it before it was transported to storage.

So here we are with all our linens still packed in boxes in the front hall and our pots and pans in similar straits on the kitchen floor, but the very first item to be released from the bounds of its cardboard restraints is that faker-than-fake greenery that somehow springs to life every year with the help of sparkling lights and handmade ornaments.

I dragged the box to the Palladian-like window at the end of our fifth-story great room and plopped it down. Like a 10-year-old child eager to open his first gift, I ripped open the box and pulled out the stand with its spindly legs, which I’m always convinced will never hold the tree steadily enough. Then came the bottom bulkier section of greenery, then the diminished third section, followed by the slimmer second portion and finally the top that brings the tree to a point.

I fluffed out the branches, plugged in the lights and, naturally, another string of them had died during the hot summer months. Margaret supplied another three sets of 100 each to fill in the dead spaces but even one of those didn’t work.

A day later and after another exchange, the tree is fully bright once again as I tangle the new lights with the old, then together we start the yearly ritual of unwrapping the handmade ornaments made from Styrofoam balls covered with fancy ribbons, beads, pearls, rhinestones, feathers, buttons and all kinds of ingenious materials we gathered from Manhattan’s hat district.

Our original plan was to make one elaborate tree ornament each year throughout our marriage, but we got so much into our new hobby when we first married that it became an obsession the first year. The balls became more and more elaborate as we practiced our skills, many with themes and their own names.

One ball, completely covered in pink ribbon ruching, was named our Baby Girl ball, even though we didn’t have a baby yet. There was the Grace Kelly ball with pale blue and yellow ribbons and pearls; the Swan Lake ball with white ribbons, white feathers and crystals; the Can-Can Girl ball with black and red ribbons, beads and a black feather plume on top; and our real piece de resistance, a large Faberge ball with semiprecious gems taken from old pieces of jewelry.

The tips of our thumbs had developed calluses from pushing in the pins until we got smart and used thimbles to aid our obsession.

We decided it would be safer to buy a large artificial tree so that there would be no threat of sap staining the balls. We kept producing our little gems until we ran out of space on the tree. We had become Christmas ball addicts.

Since our first year’s attempt we haven’t made a single ball since. I guess that’s the kind of stuff newly-married couples do together, projects that can be appreciated later in life when there’s time to do so. And, come what may, including living out of boxes during a downsizing move, we’ve never celebrated a holiday without both appreciating and showing off our collection from that first year of our half-century of connubial bliss.

And for my Jewish friends, I just found out about a couple who has collected hundreds of dreidels for Hanukkah, so I know my wife and I are not alone in this passion for collections associated with the holidays.

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

The Home Guru’s “miracle” moving team from Advantage Moving, led by Dmitry Gogin, far right.

The Home Guru’s “miracle” moving team from Advantage Moving, led by Dmitry Gogin, far right.

After death of a loved one and divorce, moving is the third greatest stress producer in life. Certainly by this age, I should be able to recognize diversionary tactics when applied to myself, but I failed completely on the very morning that our movers were scheduled to arrive, and there I was at my bathroom mirror with a sudden urge to fashion a new hairstyle for myself.

The night before, weary from packing to the point where I was mixing china with a hammer and a canister vacuum cleaner in the same box, I glanced up at the television and noticed a sportscaster with his hair slicked straight back attractively and wondered how that style might look on me.

After shaving, I tried to duplicate that style by wetting my hair and dousing it with baby oil that must have been in the medicine cabinet since my grown daughter was an infant, and slicking my hair back in the same way as the sportscaster. I then sought out my wife Margaret for an opinion, asking if I might not have taken too much a styling risk. “Does it make me look like Bela Legosi when he played ‘Dracula?’” I asked, trying to cut the tension of the situation upon us.

Far from being amused, Margaret upbraided me, astonished that I was fussing with my hair when we were less than 75 percent packed with the movers fast on our heels. I immediately hopped to the task at hand and tore into the boxes, wrapping paper, and bubble wrap that Phil D’Erasmo of Advantage Moving had left for us in copious amounts the week before.

Our situation was particularly challenging for any mover because not all the contents of our home was to be moved. Only about a third was to go to our new home, one third was staying in our current home and business setting, and the remainder was to be set aside for a big tag sale the week after the move. Picking and choosing what goes where would be enough to drive any homeowner nuts, much less the mover having to conduct such a separation of someone else’s treasures and junk.

When the moving crew from Advantage arrived, a team of four led by a young man named Dmitry Gogin, we apologized for not being quite ready for prime time and promised that we would continue packing alongside them. “No problem,” said Dmitry with great assurance and a big smile. To me, a good attitude in the midst of chaos is worth at least double any tip I had planned in advance.

And, indeed, Dmitry and each of his crew had the patience of saints as I careened from normal to neurotic, back and forth, changing my mind countless times about what stayed and what went. These four stalwarts got to work taping boxes, wrapping china, crystal, stemware, and paintings, protecting upholstered furniture and carting everything from the house to their truck from as far up as the attic, down two flights of steps, up again, down again, repeating the cycle again and again from 7:30 am to 1:30 pm, all the while accommodating my requests to add this or that to the items to be packed. Even after the truck was crammed to the brim and I found yet another chair and end table I had forgotten about that needed to go, Dmitry said, “Fine, we’ll fit them in somehow!” and he did.

At the new residence, the delivery was especially intense because there was a time limit on the part of the building management. We absolutely had to be wrapped up by 4:00 pm. It was like “Beat the Clock.”

Thank goodness the Advantage movers were in their 20s and 30s because only younger joints and sinew could sustain that kind of effort. As for me, after running back and forth between the two residences over forgotten items like paper towels and pillows until 1:00 am, I finally peeled off my clothes at the end of the ordeal, glancing in the mirror for the first time since early morning only to realize that, oh my God, I had spent the entire day in a new and most unbecoming hairstyle that might have given anyone the impression I was able to tell them, “I vaant to suck yer blood.”

If there’s a move in your future, for the best and most compassionate service imaginable, you don’t have to look further than Advantage Moving which can be reached at 800-444-0104.

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

DownsizingEventually most homeowners get to that stage in life when, after they’ve raised their families in a large home, full of stuff and memories, they find they have more space and more things than they need and decide it’s time to downsize. It’s finally happened to my wife Margaret and me.

When we moved to Westchester as mere young’uns more than 40 years ago, I was absolutely delighted. Both compulsive collectors at the time (we’ve since recovered), we moved from a duplex in Brooklyn Heights of about only 1500 sq. ft. (I’m only guesstimating because in those days, before I was a realtor, who knew?) to a 3900 sq. ft. farmhouse with a tremendous attic and full basement.

Our intention in buying such a big house, even though we had only one child, was to be at-home entrepreneurs, and we have conducted a number of businesses on site through the years. At the same time, a large home allowed us to have an accessory apartment for rental income and to indulge our passion for collecting things, both big and small.

Now the time of reckoning is here. We’re downsizing to only 1780 sq. ft. of space, less than half of what we currently have. Let me tell you, it’s quite a feat of planning to literally halve ourselves. Margaret is good at that kind of thing, but I am not and where I am normally the bossy one in our relationship, with this assignment at hand, she has morphed into the drill sergeant, and I, her buck private.

“Bring all the breakables to the dining room that we’re taking with us,” she orders. “Put in those boxes what we’re holding for the tag sale,” she commands. “Yes, SIR!” I say, snapping sharply to attention, but sensing I’ve carried the role play a bit too far.

In a couple of days, while the house looked in a shambles, everything seemed to be taking shape for the big move. By mid-afternoon, the day after Thanksgiving, we both had to take a nap. Our bones and will had given out.

Having written a number of times about the mechanics of downsizing, I can tell you that the emotions that go into “letting go” of “stuff” can be unsettling if you don’t prepare yourself for it. I’m such a softie, I guess I wasn’t prepared for some of it, like finding in an old box that I hadn’t opened since I was in college, originally containing gift pears from Florida, an envelope with the inscription in my mother’s handwriting: “From my son William’s first haircut at 2-1/2 years old,” and inside was a shock of auburn curls that perfectly match the color of my daughter’s hair when she was that age.

Thank goodness we have the help of a wonderful mover I discovered named Phil D’Erasmo of Advantage Movers who is giving us very personalized attention. He has personally stopped by the house several times to counsel me, hand deliver boxes and what he calls “contractor bags” to get rid of my tax records for shredding that go back to 1972 (I’m not kidding. Imagine?)

He also brought me three different sizes of boxes and bubble wrap and consulted with us about whether we wanted to pack our own breakables. We decided to have him do that, however.

The most heart wrenching part of our job was to decide what to let go of. That involves going through every item of clothing, every stick of furniture, every file, even every photograph taken before the days of digital photography! The time involved is almost overwhelming.

I won some points in the romance department for having saved some items my wife didn’t know about, like the scrap of paper on which I jotted down her name and home phone number (no cells in those days) when I first met her on the job, and all the love notes I saved when we were going together. “Ahhhh,” she cooed.

Funny, but having moved five times in our first five years of marriage, we vowed when we moved into this beloved house that “they’ll have to carry us out of here in a pine box before we’ll ever move again!” But times and circumstances change and it seems we’ll be moving happily to new wonderful digs with a concierge, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and a gorgeous gym that will allay any excuses for my not getting back to my long lost 34 inch waist, and I can throw away that snow shovel. So what’s to complain about?

If there’s a move in your future, be sure to check in first with Phil D’Erasmo at 800-444-0104.

And here’s something else to know about. Once we’re packed and moved, look for our ad for the neatest tag sale we’ll throw here at the Ebenezer White Homestead for all the antiques and bric-a-brac that we’ve decided to let go of. It will be one humdinger of a sale! It will take place about mid-December.

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

caulkingwindowIsn’t it funny how we each perceive situations differently depending on our circumstances?

One of the ways I ease out from a hectic schedule is watching classic movies on TCM or viewing reruns of only a very few favorite television series on Netflix. My absolute favorite is Breaking Bad.

Remember the episode where they “tent” a house, totally sealing it off to presumably fumigate it, while concealing the fact and noxious odor from the neighborhood that they’re cooking crystal meth? As I watched the episode just the other night, I was sitting by my bedroom window in a T-shirt and I was very aware that the late fall wind was kicking up outside, because I was very much feeling the draft inside.

Looking at the tented house on my iPad, and as the owner of an historic, drafty house, all I could think was, “Well, at least no drafts can get in there!”

Like the shoemaker who needs to mend his own shoes, The Home Guru needs to start thinking more seriously about caulking and its practical use on the exterior of my home, especially as the winter approaches.

Applying caulk to seal the cracks and openings in a home’s exterior helps keep the air you pay to heat and cool inside your home and the outside air out — and that can lower your utility bill.

It’s a good thing to take inventory of the condition of your caulking around all windows and doors of your home. Begin with a walk-around inspection of your home’s exterior. Make a list of cracks, gaps or holes – especially where different surfaces meet, or where pipes and vents penetrate the walls and roof.

If the old caulk is cracked or separated from the surrounding surface, these are the areas that are energy sieves. Every last bit of it needs to be removed with a scraper or putty knife. Then, the adjacent surfaces need to be cleaned and sanded smooth. If there are any areas where bare wood is showing, they need to be primed so that the new caulk adheres properly and creates a weather-tight seal.

I have always been confused about which type of caulk to buy because there are several on the shelves. The type people are most familiar with is silicone caulk but it is challenging to apply and needs to be cleaned up using a solvent which can become messy. Latex caulk is becoming more popular and because of its durability can last up to 20 years, and can be better painted over. Also there is a type of hybrid acrylic, latex and silicone caulk which is easier to apply.

I have never had any luck with the application guns. They always seem to get jammed up on me. I tend to go either for the ropes or the plain tubes where I apply a generous bead and then wet my finger with a sponge and run it the full length of the bead, using a slight amount of pressure. By “tooling” the caulk in this way, I ensure it adheres to the surrounding surface and tightly seals the space.

Mind you, it’s been some years since I did this little exercise and I did only my first floor windows and doors. I employed a handyman who was more adventuresome on a ladder than I am to do the second floor windows, and unless you’re more acrobatic than I, I suggest you might consider the same.

An incurable “history of things” buff, I couldn’t resist wanting to know how caulking came about and did a little research. The first use of a substance that can be considered caulk was pitch discovered by Sir Walter Raleigh on the island of Trinidad in 1498. He used it to seal his ships. Then, early Americans were sealing dugout canoes with amber or pitch. Later, in the 1500s, sealing wax was invented mainly to seal letters but was used also for canning.

The DAP Company, which had been producing sealing wax for food canning since the 1860s, starting producing putty and caulk in large quantities in the early 1900s, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that caulk was introduced in disposable cartridges like the ones we see today. In 1964, the company developed latex caulk and then acrylic latex caulk. These were the advances that made caulk more pliable to work with and once hardened, easy to paint.

The point is, here is the perfect product to seal you into the comfort of a winter that is predicted to be a particularly cold one. So caulk now and stay warm in the months ahead.

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

Welcome to the 300th article written by The Home Guru for The Examiner over a six-year period. Actually the Guru gestated more than a dozen years ago, first for the former North County News, as a way to promote the start-up business of a fledgling real estate agent. You may find it of interest to reminisce with me about what has transpired for all of us as homeowners during that time and for me as a realtor sharing my observations of the housing industry with you.

It was the tragedy of 9/11 that prompted me to take on a second job as a realtor as an adjunct to my public relations business. As a specialist in restaurant promotion, my business had taken a hit as had fine restaurants at that time. Also, not knowing how safe travel would be after the terrorist attacks, my wife and I made a conscious decision that I should stay home for a while, rather than keep up the coast-to-coast travel schedule that I had maintained for some years.

That decision signaled panic time for me, a stranger in my own town where I spent maybe only 20 percent of my time. As I look back now, after a period of some adjustment, it was the best decision I ever made. For the first time in my married life, I became June Cleaver’s husband, Ward (I had to look up his name. I was never square enough, even as a child, to actually watch the show).

In switching gears to make a living locally I relied on two basic skills I utilized in public relations: salesmanship and writing. I decided to get into real estate because I had always had an interest in it and because I could arrange my time around what odd PR jobs I could pick up regionally. I got my real estate license and, at the same time, to promote my practice, I asked the North County News if I could start writing articles about what I was learning from my real estate courses, which I found no one else was doing.

But, to be candid, most of the stuff I was learning was not exactly Peyton Place in terms of interest, so when it came time to report to my readers, I decided to personalize it more as journaling, to humanize it with personal experience, and the feedback I received was encouraging. Over the years, The Home Guru developed a life of its own.

Last year when I collected an anthology of my columns from this paper into my book, “Musings of the Home Guru: Armchair Observations and Advice about Buying, Selling and Fixing Homes, both Practical and Absurd,” Adam Stone, the Publisher of Examiner Media, flatteringly wrote in his Forward, “When Examiner Media launched The Home Guru column I remember feeling somewhat skeptical that a real estate column could remain vibrant in a community newspaper week after week. Boy was I wrong.”

I had every advantage in keeping my column about homes and real estate vibrant week after week, and I expect to be able to continue to do so for another 300 columns and beyond when one considers that my subject matter involves where we are born, where we grow up, discover our sexuality, fall in love, marry, raise our children, experience great joy and sorrow, grow old and finally die. It is the very setting for our life’s experience, all the while filling one of our basic needs, that of shelter. How can it not be a vibrant component of our lives each and every day?

And, especially during the past dozen years, our life’s major investment has engaged us like never before. If you are old enough like me to have purchased a home, let’s say, 30 or even 40 years ago, you experienced some normal ups and downs in the market and the value of your home, but what you saw in the giddy years of the Great Bubble (2002 to 2007) and the Great Recession (2007 to 2009) gave you a roller-coaster ride that your parents and grandparents had never experienced since the Great Depression. Most of us weathered it through together, and I had the opportunity to report on those years, both exultant and desperate, for you, always writing from my personal perspective.

During these years, I witnessed great joy, great sadness, challenge, opportunity, and yes, even prejudice and discrimination, despite all the federal, state and local laws we have in place to protect us against it.

On the joyful side, I have most enjoyed working in the field with young couples buying their first homes, like Jennifer and Tim Nelson, who found their dream home with me and, when they had their first baby, brought her by my home to introduce her to me. On the sad side, I’ve gone through the deaths of spouses, helping widows and widowers downsize their homes and possessions, trying not to shed tears with them in the process, and not succeeding very well.

And I have touched the lives of people in great trouble as well, such as the woman, reading a column I had written about the dangers of hoarding, who called me anonymously and in desperation, telling me that she was afraid that, eventually, she would not be able to get out of her own house in case of an emergency.   I made some calls, and from what I understand, she is now getting the help she needs.

Time and again, I’ve shared with my readers that I’m no expert as a handyman in providing maintenance tips around that house, but only a communicator of other artisans’ skills, and through my work, I’ve met scores of them who are some of the greatest men and women on the planet, and they’ve become my good friends.

And from an ego satisfying kind of thing, I just love it when I’m in town, in a drugstore or in a restaurant and someone I don’t know approaches me and tells me that they love my columns.

Nicely, both my PR and real estate businesses are keeping me busy nowadays, but my absolutely favorite job is writing this column for you every week. So, thank you, dear readers, for liking me, those who do, and anybody who would like to have my book, which people tell me is funny, can buy it at: www.TheHomeGuru.com.  And, here’s to the next 300 columns!

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

leavesAround this time of year, I start to see large paper bags filled with leaves parked by the roadside and I say to myself, what a waste! I just can’t understand why anyone would part with this rich resource in the life cycle of plant life. I love fallen leaves of red, brown and gold. I love their look, their smell, and the sound, if you listen carefully, as they fall gently from their branches to the ground.

If they are just left there as is, true, they can cause damage to your lawn by blocking light from reaching the grass and inhibiting the evaporation of water, particularly if you have a lot of oak trees whose leaves decompose slowly. They also encourage the growth of mold and/or fungus which isn’t very friendly to grass. If you have walnut trees, that’s another problem in that they have compounds in them that actually poison other plants.

I remember one year, before I had the money to have a lawn service (yes, as a self-employed person for most of my life, I’ve been downright broke many times and sometimes only my own brawn has kept my household going), I just left the leaves, figuring that one year wouldn’t hurt. Well, when the raining season came, the leaves turned into a wet, matted mess that flattened and melted into the grass. And when spring came and the weather dried up, I had dozens of wet, muddy holes in my formerly, fairly decent lawn. I spent the spring getting rid of the thatch and re-seeding. That was the last fall season that I was lazy!

Then for some years, I got into composting which became somewhat of a religion for me, but not a fanatical one. I have enough property where I was able to take a corner of it, not noticeable from either my front or back lawns, and create a pile of alternating grass and leaf layers, along with daily kitchen scraps. I’d just keep the pile growing until it reached about four feet, occasionally mixing it up with a pitch fork and letting it simmer and smoke throughout the year. And by the spring, when I was ready to do all my planting, it was ready to use as the richest compost you might imagine.

In the intervening years, my lifestyle has changed radically concerning my prodigious production of leaves on my property, which at one time, before the super storms Irene and Sandy hit, was mostly shady with huge trees. When I no longer had time to work on a layered compost pile, I started to mulch my leaves in place on the lawn itself with my lawn mower and found that to be a satisfactory solution. I suggest this to any homeowner, rather than bagging, because leaves decompose very quickly when shredded.

Organic Gardening Magazine suggests that the best technique for mulching leaves in place is this way: Your mower should be fitted with a blade that chops leaves and grass into small pieces, but a side-discharge mower works too. Set to shred by setting the mower height to three inches and remove the bag. It works best to shred leaves when you can still see some grass peeking through them, and that means you may need to mow several times during the fall.

Begin mowing on the outside edge of the lawn, shooting the leaves toward the center of the yard. Mowing in this pattern allows you to mow over the leaves more than once. If the leaves are still in large pieces after you pass over them the first time, go back over the lawn at a right angel to the first cut. Finely shredded leaves filter down through the grass and decompose easily by the following spring.

If there is an overabundance of leaves on your lawn and the layer of the shredded leaves seems too thick, you might want to suck up the extra leaves by making more than one pass over the lawn with the mower’s bag attached. You might also mow with the bag on if you want to collect leaves for the compost pile or to use as mulch in the garden beds. It’s best to have no more than a one inch layer of leaf mulch on lawns and a three-to-four-inch layer on garden beds.

Mulched leaves return valuable micronutrients to your lawn and gardens, especially when mixed with grass clippings, and feed the microorganisms and worms that keep your soil – and your grass – healthy.

So why would you want to throw all that good health away by bagging?

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