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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.