The holidays are quickly approaching, which means it’s time to get your home ready for the season. This issue of Good to Be Home is here to help make your holiday home prep a little easier with tips for sustainably decorating your living spaces, a guide for hosting the perfect holiday party, countertop upgrades to help your kitchen make a grand statement, and housing market trends to look out for in the new year.
One of the best parts of the holiday season is decking the halls. From adding greenery to your mantel to picking the perfect tree to hanging lights along the exterior of your house, there’s a lot that goes into it. Inside you’ll find some tips on how to festively and sustainably decorate this time of year.
The holidays are also a great time to welcome friends and family to your home, but it’s often challenging hosting people of all ages. The tips in this issue can help you create a holiday party that everyone is sure to love.
Kitchen and bathroom counters are key features that can make or break the design of a space. A simple way of bringing everything together is to update the countertops to a new material. Inside you’ll find a list of countertop options perfect for all design styles and budgets.
2022 brought many changes to the housing market, leaving homebuyers and sellers to wonder what’s to come in future. If you’re looking to buy or sell in the new year, be sure to read the housing market predictions in this issue for a better idea of what to expect.
Here’s to a wonderful holiday season! As always, it’s a pleasure to send you this magazine.
The holidays are a great time for hosting family and friends and showing off your best holiday decorations. But while you may be tempted to buy new and trendy decor at your local home goods store, it’s important to take a moment to consider the environmental impact of your purchase. These tips can make your house festive and trendy while keeping your decor eco-friendly.
There’s much debate about the sustainability of real and fake trees, but according to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), authentic trees are far more sustainable than artificial ones. The NCTA says that, on average, fake trees are used for six to nine years before they’re thrown out and replaced. They’re also made from metal, plastic, and often polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a nonrecyclable material that contains harmful phthalates.
On the other hand, real trees release oxygen and are completely recyclable and renewable since farmers typically plant up to three trees for every one they harvest. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of recycling a real tree after the holidays, check if companies near you rent them out. They will drop off, pick up, and replant your tree, letting you enjoy it for the holidays without any of the hassle.
Nature is one of the greatest assets for holiday decorations, and the options are virtually endless when it comes to incorporating natural decor into your home. Fresh garland, which you can purchase from a local farm or garden store, will bring a wonderful holiday scent into your home. Dried citrus is another great option. You can use dried citrus in your decor since the material is recyclable and can be used to create sustainable ornaments that will add a pop of color to your tree and garland. You can also search around your yard for pine cones that you can add to your tree, mantel, or dinner-table centerpiece.
Shopping at antique stores and thrift stores is one of the best ways to find new-to-you items without accumulating brand-new products. When you shop secondhand, you actively reduce your carbon footprint since these are existing products to which you’re giving a new life. These stores tend to have large numbers of holiday decorations, and you never know what unique and trendy pieces you’ll find. You’re bound to see items that you can’t find anywhere else, so it’s a fun treasure hunt worth going on.
If you have a specific idea for a holiday decoration, see if you can make it yourself before you buy something new. For example, if you need new stockings, try cutting the sleeves off an old sweater and stitching one end shut. If you have old holiday decor that no longer matches your home’s aesthetic, consider freshening it up with a coat of paint. If you need new ornaments, make them yourself with photos and yarn or ribbons that you might have on hand. Homemade pieces are also great conversation starters since they give you the opportunity to tell your loved ones how you made them yourself.
LED holiday lights are the best option for all your festive lighting needs. According to the US Department of Energy, LED lights are the most energy-efficient lighting option available, using at least 75 percent less energy while lasting up to twenty-five times longer than incandescent lights. They are also safer since they’re cooler than incandescent lights and don’t break as easily due to their epoxy-covered bulbs. If you don’t already have LED holiday lights, consider making the switch when your current lights start to go out—just be sure to properly recycle your old ones.
You might be surprised by how much you already have around the house that could be used as holiday decorations. Look at your living spaces, and picture what you can do with the pieces you already own. For example, do you have a large, clear vase and a bag of holiday ball ornaments? Fill the vase with the ornaments, and sit it out on your dining room table for a beautiful centerpiece. With just a little creativity, you can find ways to mix your year-round decor with holiday decorations, giving you a new purpose for practically anything this season.
It’s always fun to get your home ready for the holidays, but it’s also your chance to show some love for the environment by making your decorating more sustainable. With these tips, you can reduce your carbon footprint while making your home festive for the holidays.
The holidays are a wonderful time to get family and friends together, but it can be difficult to plan an event that everyone can enjoy. Follow these tips to throw the perfect get-together for everybody on your guest list.
Try to select a date and time that’s suitable for most people on your invite list. For instance, you may need to end your gathering earlier so young children can make their bedtimes, so starting the festivities at 5:00 p.m. might be a good option for a two-to-three-hour party. Avoid times that may clash with your guests’ schedules, such as late in the evening on weeknights.
Composing your guest list well is key. Make sure little ones will have others to play with and that partygoers will meet people with similar interests. You could plan an icebreaker activity to kick off your bash, such as a holiday trivia game or craft. Make introductions to get everyone acquainted, and regularly check that everyone feels comfortable and included. Encourage your guests to congregate by serving dinner buffet style so they can eat and mingle simultaneously.
Parties are best when everyone present joins in, so pick food, activities, and music that most of your guests will appreciate. A charcuterie board with fresh veggies, nuts, chips, dips, meats, and cheeses will cater to a variety of tastes and allow everyone to find something they’ll like. (Just make sure to ask about allergies beforehand.) Put together a holiday music playlist for the party that includes popular tunes and nostalgic songs, and choose an activity that all ages can play together, such as a white elephant gift-exchange game. When you do, ask each person to bring a wrapped gift that’s suitable for both kids and adults.
While it’s fun to get different generations together, you might also want to give adults and children their own spaces at your party. If you set up a children’s table, it will give grown-ups a chance to talk and provide some fun for the kids too. Check in on the younger ones from time to time to make sure they are safe and happy, or enlist a young adult to keep a watchful eye on them.
It’s also a good idea to encourage people to form smaller groups during your party. Designate a different activity for each room, such as a room for games, one for eating, and another for conversation. A large space can accommodate group activities like a game of darts, and a smaller one can be perfect for a place to relax and chat.
It’s helpful to provide a separate area for when a little one needs a nap or when an older adult could use some rest. For example, you could make a bed with clean sheets in an extra room, or, if the weather outside is pleasant, you could provide seating on your patio or deck away from the main activity.
Finally, set a time for when to conclude the party so parents with young kids or guests who might want to retire early don’t feel pressured to stay longer. One way to do this is by putting the start and end times for your get-together on your invitations. Or, after everyone has eaten dessert at your party, start cleaning up, turn down the music, and point out where guests can pick up any parting gifts.
Countertops are more than just work surfaces. They should also be elegant features that tie your kitchen and bathroom designs together.
If you’re interested in upgrading your kitchen or bathroom countertops, make sure you choose materials that match your budget—just keep in mind that the best countertops are as sturdy and long-lasting as they are beautiful. Here are the top countertop upgrades that homeowners should consider this year.
This material is one of the most reliable and beautiful countertop upgrades you can buy. While most people may associate quartz with watches or decorative crystals, the shiny, multicolored, semitranslucent stone is what makes quartz countertops so decorative. (Pro Tip: don’t confuse quartz with quartzite, which is a completely different type of countertop made from naturally strong quartzite stone.)
However, there’s more to quartz than just quartz—meaning that this material is actually an engineered or composite stone. Quartz countertops are made from a mixture of many different materials and can contain crushed silica, glass, or even granite powder.
As beautiful as natural quartz looks, it’s unsuitable for kitchen or bathroom countertops in its raw form. It’s far too fragile and would be exorbitantly expensive, adding up to a big risk and an even bigger waste of money. Another substance, known as a binder, is what makes quartz countertops so durable and long-lasting. Plastic or cement-based binders seal crushed pieces of real quartz stone and other ingredients into countertop slabs, preserving their beauty and optimizing their strength.
Once it’s mixed with other ingredients and formed into slabs, quartz becomes one of the most reliable materials you can buy. It’s resistant to heat, cold, and stains and is unlikely to show nicks and scratches. So, while you should always use cutting boards and trivets to protect your countertops, quartz may look just as pristine in several decades as it does when installed. And because they’re highly sought-after, quartz countertops are excellent options for those about to list their homes for sale.
The key word here is simple granite. Earthy, rocky tones are far more popular in contemporary homes, so look for varieties of granite countertops in gray, tan, and white. If you can find some with a simple, subdued texture, your kitchen and bathrooms will look even more stylish.
Granite is formed when quartz, mica, and other minerals are compressed and heated under the weight of the earth’s crust. Because of its composition, granite is incredibly strong, easily enduring the load of large appliances and fixtures without cracking. However, while granite is resilient, it also has its weaknesses. Harsh chemicals from foods like lemon juice and cleaning products like bleach can stain granite, destroying its natural beauty.
For these reasons, it’s essential to have granite sealed with a protective, nonporous solution after installation. You’ll also have to keep up with occasional resealing as well. The chemical sealant that protects granite countertops fades over time, so enlist the help of an expert to determine a proper maintenance schedule based on your needs. If you preserve and treat your granite countertops well, they will be a wise long-term investment.
Marble is one of the most beloved materials in human history—renowned for its intricacy, alluring textural notes, and often jewel-like luminescence. Marble has been mined and utilized for millennia, so it may seem like the obvious choice for any homeowner in search of the most beautiful countertop material.
However, design tastes have changed, leading to a general preference for neutral marble these days. Skip green, blue, and pink marble, and instead look for a variety like Crema Marfil marble from Spain, which is an elegant, sandy, off-white color. Another excellent option, Carrara Silver marble, is a steely gray variety of the ultrapopular White Carrara marble that has recently taken the design world by storm. If you want to try an adventurous variety, consider Rainforest Brown marble, which almost resembles petrified wood. It’s a surprising choice for certain, but it’s eye-catching and sure to lend unique texture to a dull kitchen or bathroom.
Marble, like granite, is weight resistant and strong, but it weakens under harsh chemicals, especially acids. Acids can leak through the protective sealant on marble and start deteriorating the stone itself, showing chalky stains known as etching. If you’ve ever seen marble countertops in a bar or restaurant with permanent water rings, that’s etching at work. Keep marble clean, and use a protective surface when handling red wine, nail polish remover, or other damaging chemicals. Also, be sure to have your countertops resealed regularly.
Do you want to mix things up and install an unexpected material? Sleek and dramatic, slate is an excellent choice for your new countertops. This wonderful stone is practically ready for installation the minute it’s quarried; it’s that ideal for home countertops. However, most slate purveyors surface-grind the slabs so they have a modern, matte appearance and smoother feel.
Slate tends to appear dark blue-gray or nearly black, often resembling sleek metal, but many varieties contain notes of white, red, or even green. For these reasons, slate is an excellent addition to a kitchen or bathroom in need of fresh, modern color. It’s bold and eye-catching but not the best option for soft, romantic design schemes. Also, be advised that its heavy, dark coloring can make a small room look even more crowded.
But should you invest in slate, you’ll take home a naturally nonporous and stain-resistant material. Easy to clean and sure to last, this is one of the best countertop options for your money. Best of all, slate is a more affordable material than others on this list—without appearing as low-cost as laminate and ceramic tile countertops often do.
Kitchen and bathroom designs have become more material-forward in recent years, so high-quality countertops are far more important to your design scheme than any fixtures or decor you place on them. Let the materials speak for themselves, and these rooms will impress.
However, powder rooms and guest baths allow you to be more adventurous. This is where wild wallpaper patterns, unique mirrors, and surprising metal fixture choices combine for playful, statement-making rooms. Just be sure that all your eclectic design elements are centered on your countertops. For stylish results, refer to the subtle color notes in the material you choose to inspire a powder room or guest bath’s overall color palette.
As for edge designs, intricate styles like beveled, bullnose, and ogee have fallen out of popularity. Straight or eased countertop edges have a clean, simple look that lets fine materials speak for themselves—so that’s definitely the way to go when you finalize your countertop order.
Investing in your countertops offers excellent returns if you choose materials that are as durable as they are attractive. So if you want the best return on your investment, stick to this list of stylish countertop upgrades.
The past several years have brought big changes to the real estate market, and predicting the future feels particularly challenging. However, there are some trends on the horizon and a few safe bets about what 2023 will bring for the housing market. Whether you’re planning to buy, sell, or simply stay on top of trends, these are the opportunities to keep a watchful eye on.
For individuals who can work remotely full time, settling down in one place may not be as attractive as it once was. Home-sharing options are becoming more popular, with Pacaso—a company that helps folks purchase shares in second homes and vacation homes—leading the way. The idea of shared homeownership has been around for a while among digital nomads and renters, and it allows people to move from place to place without giving up the comforts of home or the advantages of homeownership.
Property technology (or Proptech) is adding a more modern twist to the concept of renting to own. For example, investment companies like Divvy are making some of their inventory available as rent-to-own properties and then helping renters purchase those homes by setting aside part of their rent payments as down payment funds.
With record-high home prices and affordability struggles in every major market, innovative solutions can help buyers put together a financial strategy that works for them. If you’re not quite ready to dive headfirst into homeownership but want to dip your toes in, renting to own could be a good option for you.
Investing in real estate can be exciting, but not everyone has the financial means to balance a portfolio of homes. House hacking is a popular shortcut to real estate investment designed for those who are willing to put a little more personal time and effort into achieving their investment goals.
There are several ways to house hack, from purchasing a home to rent to buying a duplex, triplex, or quad and living in one unit while renting out the others. Some house hackers buy a home with an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), such as a garage apartment or pool house, and rent out the extra space. Or you could opt to live in the smaller space—you could rent out the larger space and live in the smaller one; As the owner, the choice is yours. Essentially, house hacking involves using OPM (Other People’s Money) to pay down the mortgage and then using the equity to buy another house (or houses) after that. You can continue to do this year after year until you’ve built up the portfolio you want to manage long term.
Although home price growth is expected to slow slightly in 2023, average home prices will still be high. Some older homeowners may be unable to resist the lure of selling their big family home at a premium and then buying a smaller home or a condo that’s easier to maintain. Downsizing could be especially tempting for people in preretirement whose careers were disrupted by the pandemic or for those who find themselves with insufficient income in retirement.
Multigenerational living has become increasingly popular over the last decade. Some extended families have decided to blend their households, helping them deal with the challenge of affordability and allowing older family members to retire in place.
You might need to make alterations to your home’s interior to improve accessibility by adding additional space on the main level, splitting up an open-concept home into discrete spaces, or adding a dedicated exterior entrance. Discuss the pros and cons of this setup together to ensure the changes you make are agreeable for everyone.
During the buyers’ market of the late 2000s and early 2010s, buyers came to expect that they would be able to demand turnkey homes in their neighborhoods of choice. They expected to get everything on their wish lists, including laundry lists of repairs following the home inspections. In most cases, those days are over, so buyers may now need to put in some work to maximize their options and create their dream homes in a low-inventory market.
If you’re thinking about buying a fixer-upper, talk to your trusted real estate professional to find a reliable contractor or reach out for a highly rated and well-reviewed gig worker on platforms like TaskRabbit. Whether you’re planning for your next move or are curious about the real estate year ahead, a real estate agent can help guide you through any market changes 2023 may bring.