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Staging and Style

Why You Should Stage a Cozy Fire Pit Area

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Fire features, like outdoor fire pits and fire tables, are in demand. The National Association of Landscape Professionals calls it one of the hottest landscape trends for the fall, based on a recent survey of 5,000 of its member landscapers.

These hot-spots can be a great way to show off the entertaining potential of your outdoor space. Set up a fire pit with a few outdoor chairs around it. You can even drape a blanket over one chair and add ingredients to s’mores on a table to finish off this perfect cozy fall scene.

Consider, taking a picture of your fire pit with the flames at dusk to even add to your listing photos to highlight as a selling point too. (A professional photographer may be best to get this picture so that the lighting is perfect.)

Check out these chic fire pit areas featured by designers at Houzz.


Fieldings Rooster

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The latest in the trio of Fieldings restaurants to open in The Woodlands might be my favorite.  It is Fieldings Rooster, and as you can tell by the name, it is all about chicken. They have some excellent non  chicken items on the menu, but the chicken excels.  I will likely never eat another grocery store rotisserie chicken again.  They have fried chicken, rotisserie chicken, and wood grilled chicken.  The piri piri wood grill and the chimichurri wood grill are outstanding.  The piri piri has just the right amount of heat to give the flavor some depth.  The chimichurri is an amazing blend of garlic and basil and perfectly complements the chicken. The Tennessee red fried chicken is the best fried chicken I have ever tasted.  It has a some heat and spice; making you want to eat more and more.    The chicken is served a la carte so order some of the amazing sides.  The brussels sprouts are my number one favorite.  They are served pad thai style and stand alone in flavor.  I could eat them as a meal. The mac n cheese is amazing too.  It is gooey and creamy and will fill your tummy and your soul. The duck fat potatoes are as comforting and filling as anything Grandma every cooked.  The drinks menu is as amazing as any fancy bar I have ever been to.  They have a very talented mixologist who has created some very interesting and creative drinks.  I cant wait to try them all if they are as good as the few I’ve been able to sample so far.  It is a good goal to have!  Try Fieldings Rooster and enjoy some of their amazing chicken.

Staging and Style

What to Do if Your Home Doesn’t Sell

By Patti Stern, PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Has your property been on the market for months with little buyer interest? With a competitive fall market ahead, it may help to reassess the condition of your home, make necessary updates, then
re-list a new and improved staged property to generate new buzz and buyer interest. Here are some questions sellers should ask themselves to get their home on top of the list and ahead of the competition.


Family Room Staging by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Does it Make the Best First Impression?

The key is to look at your home from the perspective of the buyer. With more than 97 percent of homes sold on the internet, the first point of engagement for buyers today is the online listing. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to feature professional quality photos using the best lighting to encourage buyers to schedule a showing. Once they arrive, be sure that your curb appeal and front entry are well maintained, tidy and welcoming by trimming bushes, cleaning walkways, making repairs and adding seasonal touches to the front porch.


Kitchen Staging by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Does it Appeal to The Target Market?

According to a National Association of Realtors recent trends report, 66 percent of today’s first-time buyers are Millennials and they are looking for a home that is in move-in ready condition. These buyers will turn away instantly if the home is dated and gives the impression that it’s in need of renovation. They will, however, ultimately pay more for a home that looks fresh and inviting. Be sure that necessary repairs and cosmetic updates are made such as freshening walls and cabinets with a coat of neutral paint, polishing hardwood floors, replacing lighting, hardware, appliances, etc.


Dining Room Staging by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Can Buyers Visualize Living in This Home?

Whether selling an occupied or vacant home, keep in mind that If buyers can’t emotionally connect, it won’t be memorable. Consider renting furniture for vacant properties to show buyers how they can use their own furnishings in the space.  For occupied properties make sure there are no distractions such as personal items on walls, shelves and tables. Showcase every key room from the entry to the basement with a clean look and minimal accessories such as colorful pillows, wall art and simple vignettes.


Family Room Staging by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Are Key Features Highlighted?

Be sure that your home’s best assets are not hidden. Is your stone fireplace covered with a cluttered mantle or distracting wall art? Are hardwood floors covered up with dated carpeting? Are floor to ceiling windows hidden behind heavy curtains? Are built-in shelves cluttered with old books and photos? If so, remove and simplify to show these features off, bring new life and increase perceived value to your home.

For more examples of interior decorating and home staging, visit


PattiABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patti Stern, principal, interior decorator and professional stager of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating, has been decorating and staging homes since 2005. She and her team provide turnkey, full service home staging and interior decorating to clients across Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. She also developed an award winning staging program for luxury homebuilder, Toll Brothers. Her company has received Houzz 2015 and 2016 Awards for Customer Service. Stern has been featured in Connecticut Magazine, the Hartford Courant, Danbury News-Times and on NBC Connecticut and FOX TV. She is a regular contributor to REALTOR® Magazine’s Styled, Staged and Sold. For more information, contact Patti Stern at 203-640-3762 or


Staging and Style

The Chocolate Chip Cookie Effect: Home Staging Tips to Spark Love at First Sight

By Phil Karp, guest contributor

Photo provided by Phil Karp

It’s no secret that a properly staged home can sell faster than an empty one. But how far do you need to go to inspire the “chocolate chip cookie effect,” where a buyer walks in the front door and immediately feels right at home? Sellers often look to their agent for home staging advice, which can be based on initial impressions and feedback from early showings.

Here are five tips for effectively staging a home before the next potential buyer walks in the door.

1. Create a Welcoming Entry Way

When it comes to selling a home, the importance of curb appeal can’t be stressed enough. Buyers need to fall in love at first sight — which happens around the time they pull up to the front of a property. For sellers who need to spruce up their yard, recommend inexpensive outdoor projects like a garage door replacement or an exterior power wash.

2. Enlist All Five Senses

Rather than focusing solely on how a home looks, give buyers a multisensory experience. Smells like fresh-baked cookies or scented candles can help create a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere. Calming music can also help to set the proper mood for open-house tours.

3. Encourage Decluttering

When a buyer walks into a home, they need to believe in the possibility that this house could belong to them. Seeing personal articles like photographs, kids’ artwork, or pet toys can detract from the appearance of a home that’s ready for move-in. Any loose papers and other stray items should be removed from countertops and tables to avoid distraction.

4. Turn on the Lights

To avoid a dark and dingy look, be sure to maximize the use of available lighting. Open curtains for natural light and turn on overhead lights in every room. If further accent light is needed, consider bringing LED candles or portable lights to showings.

5. Keep It Natural (and Neutral)

Neutral colors are still a favorite of house hunters looking to add their own style to a home’s decor. If you decide to add accessories for staging purposes, go for neutral accents such as throw rugs, shower curtains and towels or linens. If sellers are willing, replace window treatments or repaint rooms with dated color schemes. Natural touches like flowers and plants can also add a breath of fresh air to a home.

Home staging can range from simple decorative touches to repainting rooms or removing furniture. As buyers move through the house, they should have a clean, consistent experience designed to show off the home’s best features and make them want to move in immediately. 

Phil - headshot_1About the Author: Phil Karp is a 25-year real estate industry veteran and head of Brokerage Services at, where you can list or buy a home while saving money in the process. Phil loves offering staging advice on how to make your house feel like a home to potential buyers.


Staging and Style

7 Surprising Household Items You Can Use for DIY

By Jeffrey Ill, guest contributor

Scott Brothers_edited

The “Property Brothers” Drew and Jonathan Scott have teamed up with Esurance to create “DIY Ditties,” a series of humorous videos that offer tricks to fixing common household items.

Whether it’s a clogged shower drain, crayon-graffiti walls, or rusted chrome on your beloved ride, keeping up with maintenance can seem never-ending — not to mention, require a wide assortment of (sometimes pricey) products to remedy each mishap. But what you might not know is that in many cases a solution can be found in your pantry.

For DIY aficionados and novices alike, check out these 7 household remedies for common home mishaps.

1. Unclog Showerheads with Vinegar

Mineral deposits from hard water are known to get wedged into showerheads, causing the sprayer to go helter-skelter, or reduce water pressure. Luckily, vinegar can dislodge them.

Just remove the showerhead, soak it in a bowl of warm vinegar for about an hour, and most of the deposits should dissolve. Any remaining gunk can be gently removed with a brush. After you’ve demineralized your showerhead, top it off with a good rinse and re-attach it. Fast-flowing water — and a fresh start to your day — should be restored.

2. Baking Soda — The Be All, End All

While primarily used as a leavening agent, baking soda has prodigious amounts of applications — from putting out small grease fires, to pest control, to pyrotechnics, to teeth whitening and much more.

That said, baking soda also can be a wondrous cleaning agent. Using a damp sponge or gently bristled brush, it can help remove mold from shower curtains, clean gunk out of kitchen and bathroom sinks, and remove crayon art from the walls. Plus, baking soda’s a decent mustiness-remover and is often employed to rid the malodorous effect of used books. Simply sprinkle a little baking soda in a container or bag, place the book inside, seal it up for a few hours, and – presto — the baking soda should absorb the odor. It’s kind of like magic.

3. Cleaning Chrome with Cola

You can use Coca-cola not to just quench your thirst but also as a cleaning product too. It actually does fairly well as a chrome cleaner for tarnished, old car bumpers. Simply take some regular (or diet) Coke, a piece of foil, and scrub the chrome—what you should get is a gleaming luster.

There is a caveat, though. Coke’s combination of carbonation and low pH levels can help remove rust from brass, copper and other metal alloys but may be corrosive to iron, tin and steel.

4. Substituting a Phillips Head Screw Driver

If your Phillips Head is ever stripped or missing when you need to remove a screw pronto, you might have everything you need in your kitchen drawers (or junk drawer).

First, check the kitchen drawers for a butter knife or potato peeler (of course, the duller the better in this instance). Insert the flat edge of the butter knife or the top of the peeler into the screw head’s groove and turn it counterclockwise (remember, “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey”). Just be careful when you’re dealing with a stubborn screw since it can bend and damage either utensil.

If cutlery isn’t available, check your junk drawer for loose change or even an old club card, and see if either will do the trick.

5. Remove Car Scratches with Toothpaste

The Scott Brothers showed us how to clean headlights with toothpaste. But amazingly, toothpaste — particularly brands labeled with “tartar control” — can also help remove minor scratches from your ride. That’s because tartar control has grittiness, which can effectively buff out the edges of scratches.

Before applying toothpaste to the damage, be sure to clean the area first. Then, apply a liberal amount to a paper towel and spread it over damaged area. Leave it on for about ten minutes and then buff it out with a towel. Most, if not all, the damage should be gone. But if some remains, just repeat the process.

6. Deodorize the Microwave with White Vinegar

Got a foul-smelling microwave? The solution, once again, may already be in your pantry. Mix a half cup of water with a half cup of white vinegar in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave it on high to bring it to a boil. Odors will likely be vanquished and congealed food splatter should be loosened, making it easier to clean.

7. Repair Wall Cracks with Super Glue and Baking Soda

In lieu of wall spackle, the marriage of super glue and baking soda makes for a pretty strong sealant. Simply add a little baking soda to a drop of super glue, apply it to the damaged portion of the wall, and then — voila. What you get is much like a pliable, plastic surface that you can sand down to evenness.

Next time you need a quick fix around the house, save yourself some time and money by heading for your cupboards before you head to the store. You might find you already have everything you need.

And now that you’ve whet your DIY appetite, check out DIY Ditties with Drew and Jonathan Scott of HGTV’s “Property Brothers” for a few more surprising DIY tips and tricks.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeffrey Ill is the vice president of product at Esurance where he leads the homeowner insurance program. Being a 33-year veteran of the insurance business, he has held numerous leadership roles at major insurance companies and has been involved in a wide array of product implementations.