Tips for Homeowners


Wallpaper 101

Wallpaper has fallen out of favor over the last few years but it’s starting to make a bit of resurgence. We’re excited to see that it’s making a comeback because it can bring dimension to a room that just paint can’t. When you’re trying to keep the authenticity of an older home, wallpaper makes a terrific option. In homes like Victorian or Queen Anne, you can bet they had wallpaper in their heyday.

There are people you can hire to hang wallpaper for you, but it’s not that difficult to do on your own. If you’re trying to save money, like DIY projects or are just feeling adventurous, here are some instructions to help get you started with hanging wallpaper.



Paste brush

Smoothing brush

Trimming knife

Seam roller


Plumb line and chalk or level


Work table

Water tub for pre-pasted paper

Drop cloth



Step stool


Things to Consider

Shape and dimensions of a room: For example, rooms with low ceilings can look higher with vertical patterns. Narrow rooms look wider with horizontal patterns. Lighter colors help make a room look larger while darker colors make rooms look smaller.

Image result for wallpaper vaulted ceiling

Preparing the Walls

If there is already wallpaper up, you’ll have to remove it. You can usually do this with steam or with a mixture of water and wallpaper remover. For the water and paper remover, dip a sponge into the mixture and then soak the spots you want to remove. Then scrape the paper off with a scraper or putty knife. After that, sanding rough spots on the walls helps too.

Image result for steam removing wallpaper


For most wall covering patterns, place the first strip wallpaper to the side (left or right) of a door and work toward the biggest unbroken section of the wall. There is an exception: With a large or very intricate pattern, start in the largest section of wall or the place where you want to draw focus, such as above a fireplace or couch.

Measure the wall, then cut the first strip with a little extra paper at the top and bottom, about 4 to 6 inches in total. Hold up the strip to the wall and find the correct placement. (You might want to mark lightly on the paper with pencil or chalk where the strip will hit the ceiling. You can also create a crease if you don’t want to mark the paper.) Lay the strip on the work table, pattern side up and then cut a second strip to match and/or correlate with the first one. Continue on until you have an entire wall’s worth of wall paper strips.

As you’re doing planning the paper for your wall, use the pattern to help guide what kind of seam you will use. There are two kinds of seams: “butt seams” in which two seams “butt” up against each other and the edges fit tightly next to each other. There are also overlap seams where the paper edges slightly overlap one another.


Matching and Aligning

Believe it or not, rooms are not always square or the walls perfectly straight. So you’ll need to ensure straight lines when hanging your paper. You can do with a plumb line. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is to hold a carpenter’s level vertically against the wall with the top of it flush against the ceiling. The bubble indicates when you are level so adjust accordingly. Once you’re sure you have a straight vertical line, mark the wall lightly with a pencil.

The second way is to use a plumb line, which is a weight (“plumb”) at the end of a chalked string. Some people make their own but you can also buy them. It’s your preference. Hold the string taut against the wall and let the weight hang, which will determine the vertical line. When you’re sure you have a straight line, snap the chalked string against the wall. You don’t need to do this for every strip of paper but do if for every wall.

Next, lay your cut pieces of wallpaper strips face down on the work table. Apply paste with your pasting brush just before you hang each strip. Be sure to spread the paste evenly and completely. Unpasted sections of the paper will bubble and not lie flat against the wall. (Leave the top inch or two that won’t go onto the wall unpasted so you can handle the paper without your fingers getting even more sticky than they need to be.) Don’t forget to spread the paste all the way to the paper edges—the seams will need all the support they can get. If you are using wallpaper that is already pasted, submerge the strip into the water tub to activate the paste. Be sure to use a drop cloth to prevent drips from hitting the floor.

Hang the strip on the wall with that inch or so of overlap on the ceiling and line up the vertical edge to the plumb line. Smooth from the top down with the smoothing brush and start gently smoothing down the entire strip, removing bubbles or air pockets. Go all the way to edges too.

Cut off the excess at the top and bottom.

After the strips have been in place for 10-15 minutes, gently press the seams with a seam roller. Wipe the seams of excess water or drips.

NOTE: Corners can be tricky because they are rarely exactly straight. It may very well be impossible to get ends to butt properly. There might be a slight overlap necessary but no one will likely notice. Sometimes you’ll need to end a strip at a corner, like when you’re only doing an accent wall. But if you’re doing an entire room you and it doesn’t make the pattern look wonky, you can probably crease the paper at the corner and keep going. It’s a case by case basis so as long as you keep a look out for it, you should be OK.


Papering Around Features

Most walls aren’t big and blank. At some point you’ll encounter obstacles like a door, window or built-in bookshelf that you have maneuver around. When you reach something large, use a putty knife to create a crease, just like you did for the ceiling and floor. When you place the pasted wallpaper up, use the smoothing brush to bring the paper around, say, a corner bend. Then trim off the excess.

If you have a focal point in the room, like a fireplace, then you’ll probably want to centrally place a large patterned print over that spot. Trim the paper along the mantlepiece and cut away as much of the excess as possible. Then smooth the paper into place and cut it to fig snuggly around the molding (if any) and the sides. Take care because sometimes when the paper is cut into smaller pieces it can tear with the weight of the paste.

To work around an outlet, first turn off the power and then remove the cover plate. Paper over the opening and then trim away the paper over the hole.

These methods can also be used for light fixtures or just about anything. It might seem frustrating at first but you’ll get used to working around things soon enough.

Once you get the hang of wallpapering and open up to the idea of it, your decorating possibilities because nearly endless. The colors, the patterns and combining it with different features makes every room unique!


Cleaning Wood with Vinegar

Getting years of dirt and general gunk off hard wood can be a challenge. Some people might even consider giving older wood items away or throwing them out, but that is such a tragedy when it comes to vintage homes. Original wood touches add so much character and warmth. Cleaning up wood may take a little elbow grease, but it doesn’t have to be expensive or involve anything elaborate.

One of our favorite methods to clean wood is a combination of water and vinegar. It’s not fancy but it works! We used this method at a house in Redlands that was featured on season 2 of Vintage Flip. There was an amazing built-in that was in rough shape. We knew right away that it was worth saving and, as it turns out, it mainly just needed a good cleaning. We used a mixture of vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Then we SCRUBBED.

Although the example seen on the show was a built-in, this can also work for wood floors, baseboards, wood trim—you name it.

For a basic vinegar recipe, mix about 1 gallon of warm water to ½ cup of white vinegar. White vinegar works best because it doesn’t smell as strongly as the other types and is less likely to stain the wood. We like to funnel the mix into a spray bottle to make things easier but that part is up to you. (If you’re washing a floor, you might want to use a bucket or a refillable mop. Also, go in sections instead of tackling the entire thing at once.)

If there is a ton of dirt or dust just sitting on the wood feature or floor, go ahead and wipe or sweep it away before you start major cleaning. No need to risk scratches from the dirt. But after that, you’re set to wash with mops for floors or paper towels or cloths for detailed work. Some people like to wash with the wood grain in case of streaking. If it’s a first wash, though, just get it clean.

When you’re finished you can pretty much just let everything air dry. If there’s tons of pooled water or it looks especially wet, wipe up the excess with a towel.

And that’s pretty much it. This is a good option if you’re budget conscious or prefer natural cleaning products. It’s also safe to use around children and pets because it’s non-toxic.

By the way, this mixture isn’t just good for cleaning wood. You can also use it for spot cleaning around the kitchen when it comes to footprints, fingerprints, spills, grease spots around the stove. Just shake the bottle a little and spray onto the spot or into a towel and wipe!


Making a Coffee Table Look Cool

Have you ever wanted to spruce up your living room because you have people coming over and no budget? Chances are you have some cool finds in your own home that liven up a sitting area. Just little touches can make regular ol’ table look sophisticated. You just need a couple of books or magazines from your bookshelves and maybe some family mementos and you’re all set.

There are a million ways to dress up a coffee table but if that’s intimidating you can keep it simple. You can stack magazines or fan them out. They’re decoration, but it’s also nice if a guest actually wants to pick one up and flip through it. Who knows, it might even lead to conversation.

You can combine magazines with books or just have the books on their own. A couple of tips you can try are varying the heights of the books, magazines or other objects on the table. Try incorporating different textures, like flowers, candles, little trays, family photos, coasters or any other items that are meaningful to you. No one expects your house to look like a professional decorated it. Besides, it’s a backdrop and not a focal point.

One of the best ways to find inspiration is by going to your local furniture or home store. Their entire goal is to make everything look inviting so that you want to recreate that warm feeling in your own home. There is literally inspiration at every turn! Check out how they have done things and make note of what you can duplicate at home.

The important thing is to have fun, be a little creative and use things you already have to save a couple of bucks. Anyone can do it!


Making Peace with Cats and Plants

Plants and flowers are a terrific and easy way to brighten up a house and add a splash of color. If you have cats, though, you may want to check into whether or not certain plants or flowers are safe for your feline friends. Some cats have no interest in them and that’s great. But a lot of cats inspect everything that comes into “their” home and you know what they say—curiosity killed the cat. No one wants that, but they are indeed curious little creatures. It’s also part of their DNA. Before they were domesticated, cats caught their own food and supplemented their meat with leafy greens from the wild. High-quality diets now contain everything they need to stay healthy but the cats don’t know that. They can still feel that innate desire to hunt and find food. (Also, plants with a lot of dirt in a pot or a garden may also be seen by cats as a luxurious litter box.)

Ferns, holly, ivy, tulips, lilies, azaleas, chrysanthemums, mistletoe, oleander and poinsettias are just a few of the plants to avoid both inside and outside. When in doubt, it’s better to be safe than sorry and just remove a plant. You can easily substitute fake plants (there are some really nice looking ones!) and you can also put out plants that you know cats like. Specifically, you can’t go wrong with cat grass or catnip plants! It fills their need to find their own veggies and it does add some greenery to the house!

For a more complete list of plants toxic to cats, click here or consult with your veterinarian.  


8 Tips for Finding a Real Estate Agent

The world of buying and selling real estate has changed in recent decades. It used to be that prospective homebuyers would find an open house in their target neighborhood or go down to their local real estate office to meet with an agent. Those methods are still good practice, but technology has added a lot to the entire process of shopping for a house. Here are some tips for finding the right real estate agent for you.


  1. References: Prospective employers often call references when deciding on whether or not to hire someone for a job. It’s the same thing with finding a real estate agent. Ask for the phone numbers or emails of former clients who can tell you about their working experience with the agent. Also, take advantage of technology and read reviews about the agent online to see if they match up with what the references said or if they differ in any way. Don’t be afraid to ask friends or relatives if they have recommendations about agents they’ve worked with recently. Friends and family are a great source of information, but still meet with the agent to see you’re on the same page. Just because an agent was perfect for your best friend doesn’t mean he or she will be right for you.


  1. Interview: This sounds a little formal, but really you just want to meet with an agent first before any work starts. Meet with more than one agent. Agent Number 1 might seem like the right fit until you meet Agent Number 3, who, it turns out, knows your target neighborhood even better than the other options. Ask a lot of questions about what you’re looking for in a home or neighborhood. The prospective agent should be able to answer your questions thoroughly and to your satisfaction.


  1. Research an Agent’s License: Agents are required to have a license so check with your state’s real estate board to make sure he or she is licensed. Make sure there aren’t any legal issues or disciplinary actions either.


  1. Specialties: Most prospective homebuyers have a list of requirements or wishes. Some of those requirements might take an agent who specializes in specific things. A lot of agents focus their attention on specific areas, so if you’re looking into a neighborhood you can find someone who knows it well. Some people like certain types of architecture or vintage houses (and we love you, by the way!) and there are agents who can also help with that.


  1. Networking and Connections: Top real estate agents are usually pretty dialed into their communities. They have good working relationships with other agents, lenders, escrow companies—you name it. It’s a sign that they work well with others. It also means that they can give you a referral if you need one. A real estate agent probably won’t be an expert in all of these fields but that’s OK if they know people who are.


  1. Tech Savvy: This has been one of the biggest game changers in buying and selling homes. Real estate agents are now online. You can look through their listings, read about their successes and learn if they have specialties. It makes the process of finding a real estate agent a little easier. Tech-savvy agents also gain access to new listings and trends quickly. That said, still meet personally with an agent before agreeing to work with him or her. Computers are great tools but they’re not a substitute for a personal connection.


  1. Listening: This might seem obvious, but it’s so important that an agent really understands your needs, wants, budget and boundaries. If you’re buying or selling a home, it can be big endeavor and the right real estate agent can help make the process easier and less stressful. Is your agent gathering information that will help the process? Do you they understand why you have specific requirements? For example, how many kids you have, how many bedrooms you’ll need or what the school district is like? Do you want a backyard for your dogs? Do you need to be close to public transportation for your job? Is the agent keeping these things in mind when looking for properties? A good agent wants to find the best property possible for your family.


  1. Contact: The best real estate agents are good at keeping in touch and returning messages. Agents usually keep their clients in the loop of whatever they’re doing, what they’ve found, what they’re looking for and what their next stop is. They’ll also get back to you in a timely manner. (Although give them a reasonable amount of time to respond in case they’re in the field with another client or having dinner with the family. Not to worry. A good agent will get back to you.)


At the end of the day, remember that you’re making a big financial investment and you’ll likely live in a house for years to come. Don’t settle for a house that doesn’t work for you or an agent that can’t help get you the right home. When making a commitment this big, you deserve to get exactly what you want.