Making your Home a Cozy Place

By: Cara Greenberg

Published: February 4, 2013 on houselogic.com

Give your home some love, and it will love you back.

Creating a stress-free and soothing home environment can mean hiring a contractor to install serious soundproofing or a spa-worthy steam shower — pricey upgrades that are likely to add property value. But just as often, it’s about simple things you can do without laying out a cent.

Start by remembering to take advantage of features your home already has, suggests Gretchen Rubin, author of Happier at Home.

“Take time to light a fire in the fireplace, have coffee on the patio, take a bath,” says Rubin.

Ready to boost your home’s relaxation quotient? Here are some easy ways to do it:

Clear the Decks

One of Rubin’s “secrets of adulthood” is that outer order contributes to inner calm. She advises clearing open surfaces of extraneous stuff, cleaning out closets, and generally straightening up. “These may seem trivial,” says Rubin, “but this kind of orderliness really helps people feel more energetic and cheerful.”

Go on a TV Diet

Here’s a radical notion: Take the TV out of the main living space. There’s nothing tranquility-inducing about blaring commercials or the evening news. Consider eliminating all but one TV for the household. Put it out of the way, where flicking it on won’t be an automatic gesture, and feel your home’s peace vibe rise.

Listen to Music

Music soothes you. Of course, it depends on the music. Find a commercial-free radio station you like and keep it at low volume. You’ll be surprised at how the strains of cool jazz and classical music in the background soothe jangled nerves. A whole-house sound system costs as little as $400 for a wireless unit.

Muffle Irritating Noises

If you’re serious about blocking out noise — such as traffic noise — you can soundproof walls and ceilings by doubling up on drywall and caulking gaps where sound enters. Check out more soundproofing tips at Soundproof Panda.

Carpets, drapes, and other soft materials help absorb sound. For walls, a quick, cheap, sound-muffling solution is Homasote, a recycled cardboard material that costs about $25 for a 4-by-8-ft. sheet. It doubles as a pinboard, making it especially suited for children’s rooms and home offices, and takes paint like a dream.

Soak Out the Stress

A prefab steam shower can run you $5,000 or more, but there are less pricey ways to take your bathroom in a spa-like direction. Hot baths have been used for frayed nerves and sore muscles since Cleopatra’s day. If your existing tub isn’t deep enough, a 30-inch-deep soaking tub starts at around $500 (plus installation, of course). Don’t forget the bath salts.

Color Yourself Calm

Blue is considered a restful paint color, which is why decorators often choose it for bedrooms. Followers of the Chinese art of feng shui believe pink calm a room, while green — because it symbolizes nature — is serene and refreshing. As luck would have it, emerald is the color for 2013.

Light it Right

Overhead lighting can be glary and unflattering, whereas light at lower levels creates warmth and intimacy. Balance an overhead fixture with wall sconces and decorative table lamps — and be sure to put that ceiling fixture on a dimmer, especially over a dining table. Furthermore, a glamorous chandelier can add a much-needed touch of retro elegance. Just remember to reach out to a chandelier fitter such as chandelierprofessionals.com to ensure your new lighting is fitted correctly. It can also help to see the pieces in a similar setting before choosing which one to install. After all, knowing how it could fit into your mis en place can really ease any worries you may have about clashing, size, etc. Hinkleys Lighting has two Arizona lighting showrooms located in Phoenix and Scottsdale for lamps, specialized lighting, custom lighting fixtures and ceiling fans. This, and similar options, can ease those concerns for you.

Flickering Flames

Sitting by a crackling fire has nurtured souls from time immemorial. If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace, use it to create a relaxing ambiance.

No fireplace? Make the most of candlelight for a mid-winter mood boost. Plain, long-burning candles from the supermarket are so inexpensive ($7 for a box of 72), you’ll feel free to use them in abundance.

Flower Power

Freshly cut flowers provide measurable uplift, a new behavioral research study shows.

“People who live with flowers report fewer episodes of anxiety and depressed feeings,” says Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D., a psychologist who conducted the study.

Chrysanthemums last longest; they can go up to three weeks in a vase, with alstroemeria, roses, and lilies a close second.

September 2013 Market Action Report

Portland Metro real estate activity has tapered seasonally from this summer’s hot activity, but September numbers continue to be very strong compared to the same month a year ago. New listings increased 19.3% from September 2012, although this represents a 14.5% decreased from the listings posted last month in August 2013. This was the best September market for the Portland area since 2006, when RMLS counted 2,506 closings. This September was also the best since 2009 for pending sales.

Inventory has increased slightly to 3.7 months, and total market time is currently 72 days.

The average sales price so far this year is $310,000, up 13.9% from the same period in 2012, when the average was $272,200. In the same comparison, the median price increased 15.0% from $230,400 last year to $265,000 thus far in 2013.

Read or download the full report here.