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Have you spotted new home design trends for 2013?

Have you spotted new home design trends for 2013?

home design trends

Home design trends come and go — that’s why they’re called trends — and it can be fun to see how quickly you recognize their arrival.

Here are a few home design trends that author, Barbara Ballinger, believes will be coming into vogue this year.

  1. Automated control systems for the various electronics in your home. Systems are becoming easier to use and more affordable all the time. You can remotely turn on your furnace, security system, lights, media, etc. with a press of a button or two.
  2. Outdoor living spaces such as kitchens and living rooms. In days gone by, screened porches were quite common. Then they went out of style in favor of decks and patios. Now they are having a come-back and are much more comfortable and versatile. The outdoor bbq grill is getting an upgrade, too, often under cover or screened in with comfortable tables and seating.
  3. While not exactly a home design trend (more like a backyard design trend), home farming gives new accessibility to organic foods. Small, raised backyard garden beds require less stooping and bending, are more manageable with limited time, and are often more attractive than traditional gardens. Watch for the emergence of backyard ponds, as well, for raising fish fit for the dinner table. (I’m not sure what animal rights activists will have to say about this, however.)
  4. As fewer homebuyers see a need for formal living rooms, “TV rooms” are re-emerging. Less dark and less stark than the media rooms of recent years, this newer style of “family room” provides comfortable, casual space for a variety of activities.
  5. Tinted neutral paint shades are replacing whites and beiges. Accent walls are more muted, while still providing a pop of color.
  6. Dual-purpose furnishings are becoming popular both for economic and space reasons. As MacMansions become less common and baby boomers start downsizing, use of living space becomes a bigger priority. Sofa beds, ottomans that double as storage space, tables with drop leaves and kitchen islands on wheels can all save space and money. Clunky, chunky, overstuffed furnishings are likely to be disappearing as well.
  7. Remodeling has become more common than room additions since the economic downturn of the past few years. Kitchens and bathrooms remain the favorite spaces for updates and face lifts. When planning the remodel, homeowners are more likely than ever to favor the use of sustainable products and materials for countertops and flooring. Low VOC paint products are also in demand, as they emit fewer harmful fumes and are considered less harmful to the environment. The website can be a helpful resource in this regard.
  8. Efficient systems for managing water and energy are also on the top of many lists as a means of stretching the household budget. Low-flow shower heads, dual-flush toilets, solar panels and gray-water systems can all translate into worthy investments.
  9. Lastly, architectural designs are beginning to take into account a wider age-range of homeowners. Forward-thinking home designs incorporate wider doorways for wheelchairs and walkers, low counter heights in some bathrooms and higher counter tops in others, grab bars that double as towel racks, and even elevators in multi-level homes. All are features that will help homes remain suitable for occupants of varying generations.

How many of these home design trends appeal to you? Have you spotted some we’ve missed?

New homes rising in West Seattle’s Westwood neighborhood

New homes rising in West Seattle’s Westwood neighborhood

Reprinted from my December newsletter:

Another sign that we are easing out of the housing crisis is the spate of new homes being offered by Seattle-area builders. As lenders make more money available to builders, builders are more willing to speculate.  • You may have noticed that many older homes in Westwood are being purchased by developers who “scrape” the dilapidated structures and replace them with new construction. Most of the new homes are much larger than the older homes. As a result, we are seeing sale prices in the $400K-$500k range in our neighborhood. The average existing-home sale price in Westwood (homes built before 1950) is closer to $320K. Over time, this is likely to change the demographics of our neighborhood. It is also an indication that West Seattle’s  “east of 35th” vs. “west of 35th” mindset may be diminishing. Whether or not that has a positive impact on Westwood, remains to be seen. • Do you have an opinion about this? If so, please comment below.

I recently created a new Pinterest Board dedicated to home sales in the Westwood Neighborhood. Each month I will post info about the latest sales. You can access the board here:  The board is titled (not surprisingly) Westwood Home Sales.

This home at 7541 31st Ave SW sold for $535K on 10/30/12
This home at 7541 31st Ave SW sold for $535K on 10/30/12


Urban farmers and surplus fruit in Seattle

Urban farmers and surplus fruit in Seattle

 Attention urban farmers (intentional, or not)! Since yesterday’s post about how to donate the surplus fruit from your trees, I came across another option. Barter!

Crop Swap is a new website that facilitates trading between “urban farmers” and it’s not just limited to fruit. Trades can involve things such as eggs, flower bulbs, vegetables, etc.

Here is a link to a story about Crop Swap on the website.

41 Legs Urban Farm in Seattle’s Madison Valley neighborhood is a somewhat similar venture. I haven’t been able to locate much information about 41 Legs — including whether they strictly sell or also barter — but it is a group of at least 3 urban farmers who grow vegetables, raise chickens, ducks, rabbits and a pig! They have a page on Facebook, but not their own website (yet).

On a related note, has anyone else noticed how common it is becoming to find that your neighbors are raising chickens? Recently I have detected at least 3 new coops within a half mile radius of my house. (Roosters are not allowed, by the way, for obvious reasons, but I don’t think that message is being heeded much.)

Perhaps the increase started in August of 2010, when the Seattle Municipal Code was revised to allow city residents to raise up to 8 chickens per household. For a layman’s translation of the ordinance visit the website. Seattle Tilth is another local organization with a mission to “inspire and educate people to grow food organically.”

Here’s a link to another story on a site called, about a young woman by the name of Nina Finley, who turned her early interest in farming into a reality in her city home.

Whether it is fueled by a desire for eating healthier foods or a need to stretch the shrinking dollar, it seems there is an ever-increasing interest in urban agriculture. Or perhaps farming is just in our nature and we find ways to get back to it even when living in the city.

What about you? Any desire to grow vegetables or raise chickens?


Got fruit? Donate surplus fruit from your trees

Got fruit? Donate surplus fruit from your trees

Wild blackberries

Do you have fruit trees in your yard that produce more than your family can use? Consider donating the surplus fruit to one of the local organizations that will distribute it to needy families. Not only will they distribute the surplus fruit, they will come to your home and harvest it for you! How great is that?

Here is a link to a feature story on that tells you all about once such group called Community Fruit Tree Harvest Projects.

Need more incentive? For a small donation, another non-profit called City Fruit will check your tree to see if it’s healthy and prune it free of charge!

Community Fruit Tree Harvest is another gleaning project sponsored by the anti-poverty group Solid Ground. In their own words, “Solid Ground works to end poverty and undo racism and other oppressions that are root causes of poverty.”

City Fruit is another local organization dedicated to making use of surplus fruit. They urge us to join them in “reclaiming urban fruit!”

The mission of City Fruit is to “promote the cultivation of urban fruit in order to nourish people, build community and protect the climate. We help tree owners grow healthy fruit, provide assistance in harvesting and preserving fruit, promote the sharing of extra fruit, and work to protect urban fruit trees.”

Although the Rotary Club does not harvest fruit and vegetable directly, their Harvest Against Hunger program is dedicated to “Connecting farms, food banks and volunteers for statewide hunger relief.”  The project’s mission is “to secure fresh produce for distribution to thousands of hungry families and individuals throughout Washington State.”

Two more well-known local organizations that work tirelessly to end hunger are Northwest Harvest and Food Lifeline. Again, they do not collect perishable food, but have many other ways you can help your neighbors in need.

If you are a professional educator, here is an organization whose website you should explore. Facing the Future. According to the website, “Facing the Future creates tools for educators that equip and motivate students to develop critical thinking skills, build global awareness and engage in positive solutions for a sustainable future.”

So the next time you step out into your yard and tiptoe around the fruit that is lying on the ground, spoiling, pick up your phone and call one of the groups listed here. Everyone benefits.

Know of other groups such as these? Please mention them in the comments section below.

Here’s why house numbers need to be visible

Here’s why house numbers need to be visible

Have you ever noticed how few homes have their house numbers posted prominently so they are easily visible from the street?

I can’t give you any hard-and-fast statistics, but just from personal observation I’m guessing the number is about 30%. And that’s during the light of day. The percentage is even lower for numbers that are visible at night.

Why so few? I suspect it is because home owners rarely stop to think about why it might be important for their house numbers to be visible. After all, the mail carrier certainly knows your address, who else needs to know?

Emergency Responders do, that’s who!

If, heaven forbid, your home catches fire or a loved one has a heart attack, Emergency Response personnel need to be able to find your home quickly. A missing or nearly-invisible house number can cost precious time in the event of an emergency. It can literally mean the difference between life and death for you or your loved ones.

Here are some guidelines for maximizing the visibility of your house numbers.

~ Numbers should be posted near the front door, above eye level and within an area illuminated by a porch light. This is preferable to less obvious places such as above the garage door.

~ Posting house numbers on the mail box is fine, but this should be in addition to near the front door.

~ Numbers should be visible from both directions of travel. Check periodically to make sure that trees, bushes or shrubbery haven’t grown up and obscured your house numbers.

~ Numbers should be a color that contrasts with the background. E.g. if your house is painted a dark color, the numbers should be a light color. They should not blend with the background. Brass and bronze numbers tend to be difficult to see on many backgrounds.

~ Numbers should be at least 4″ high. The bigger and bolder, the better.

~ It is not necessary to include the street name on your house or mail box, especially if it forces a reduction in the physical size of the house numbers.

You can buy house numbers at any hardware store, with prices starting at about $2/numeral. That’s about the cheapest form of insurance you can find to help safeguard your home.

Are your house numbers visible?




Not so good.


Have you requested your free credit report this year?

Have you requested your free credit report this year?

Did you know that you are entitled to request and receive a free copy of your personal credit report from the 3 national consumer credit reporting agencies once each year? This valuable service began in 2005 in response to a law passed by Congress, known as the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA). The reporting service is accessed via the website, which is  a run as a collaborative effort among the 3 nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.

What exactly is a credit report and why should you care about yours?

According to the FAQ’s on the website,  “A credit file disclosure, commonly called a credit report, provides you with all of the information in your credit file maintained by a consumer reporting company that could be provided by the consumer reporting company in a consumer report about you to a third party, such as a lender.”

In other words, the report contains information about how you have handled bill payment in the past and gives it to companies that are considering giving you credit with them. This can be especially important if you are thinking of buying a home.

This information, whether accurate or inaccurate, can positively or negatively impact your ability to qualify for home and auto loans, credit cards and other sources of credit. Given the large volume of information that flows through these credit reporting agencies, it is not surprising to find that errors occur. The sooner any errors are discovered, the easier it is to correct them and minimize any negative impact on you and your credit rating. Monitoring your records regularly via these free annual reports helps accomplish this goal.

If you are new to this process, here are a few tips worth noting.

First, although you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report, the report does NOT include your credit score. Again, according to the FAQ’s at,  “A credit score is a complex mathematical model that evaluates many types of information in a credit file. A credit score is used by a lender to help determine whether a person qualifies for a particular credit card, loan, or service.”

In other words, a credit score is similar to the grades you got in school. It is based on how you have handled credit in the past.

When you request your reports from one, two or all three of the reporting agencies, you will be given an opportunity to purchase your credit score. You are NOT required to purchase your credit score information in order to receive your report.The price and conditions to purchase your score vary with each agency; you should read the information very carefully before providing credit card information. You might be required to sign up for a credit monitoring service with a monthly fee that renews automatically each month or year, unless and until you cancel the service.

Another important thing to note before you pay for a report of your credit score is that the rating is NOT ordinarily your FICO® score, and the FICO® score is the one most lenders use to determine your credit-worthiness. Although the credit scores you can purchase from TransUnion, Experian and Equifax can give you a general idea of your current standing, they are not the same scores lenders see when they pull up your scores.

A third caution is to watch out for websites that may try to make you believe you are ordering a free credit report when you are not. Several websites have names very similar to, but are NOT associated with it. The services they offer may or may not be free. Examples include:, and

Lastly, if you have concerns about keeping your credit information private online, here is one more resource you may find helpful. The website is According to the website, it “provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against phishing and internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your personal information.”

If you have other tips related to this topic, please share them in the comments box below.

How easy is that?

How easy is that?

What do the following things have in common?

> Flipping a light switch

> Closing a cabinet door

> Stepping on the car brake

> Clicking a mouse

> Turning on/off a faucet

Give up? For most of us, they are all incredibly easy tasks to perform, requiring very little personal energy, yet we often regard them as too much work.

Think about it. It’s a lot easier to flip on a light switch than to build a fire, or even light a candle! Equally easy to flip a switch off, but how often do we leave a room without doing it?

If you’re like me, you often fail to close the cabinet doors in your kitchen? Why? How much personal energy does it really take to shut them? (And if I don’t mind showing the mess inside the cabinets, why have doors on them at all?)

I don’t know how much the average car weighs these days, but let’s say 1,000 pounds. Can you believe you can stop the forward motion of that much weight just by pressing your foot on a pedal? So why are so many pedestrians left in the dust at crosswalks?

What about the effort required to click a computer mouse? It’s easier than turning a page (which doesn’t take much effort either). Marketing researchers can tell you exactly how many clicks the average person will perform before deserting one website for another. It isn’t very many.

Next time you turn on a faucet, ask yourself when is the last time you had to draw your water from a well? Now that takes personal energy! (No, I’ve never had to do it either.)

So what’s my point? Well, it’s really nothing very profound. I just find it interesting that we have come to regard many simple tasks to be annoyances unworthy of expending our time and energy.

It’s so easy to become complacent and take modern-day conveniences for granted. Especially when we are still healthy and able-bodied.

Sometimes it’s good to step back and take a little reality check. At least it is for me.

Any thoughts on the subject?


Westwood Bungalow for Sale

Westwood Bungalow for Sale

Just listed this week! Cute, cute, cute 2 bedroom/1 bath 1928 home in the under-appreciated Westwood neighborhood of West Seattle! 8139 30th Ave SW, 98126. $259,500  MLS# 368850

This small and adorable home has been lovingly cared for and is in great condition. Crown molding, muted, designer colors, hardwood floors, granite countertops, low-maintenance landscaping… it’s all here. 720 sq. ft of living space, plus another 220 unfinished space in the basement for storage and doing laundry. Huge 7,860 sq. ft. lot with a poured foundation for a 2+ car garage or MIL unit. Plenty of room for an RV or boat or both, with easy alley access.

AND it’s in Westwood! If you don’t know about the Westwood neighborhood, you should. One of the best-kept-secrets in West Seattle, Westwood has nearly every amenity you could want. AND you will likely pay at least $20K LESS than you would for a comparable home on “the other side” of 35th! Ignoring outdated perceptions of the east side of 35th Ave can save you big bucks and provide you a great quality of life.

Here’s some of what you will find within a 2 mile radius of this great home.

Westwood Village Shopping Center; US Post Office; 4 public parks (including Lincoln Park on Lowman Beach and one brand new park one block south of the home); 1 indoor and 1 outdoor public pool; numerous restaurants; 2 community centers; brand new public tennis courts; health club; bus lines to downtown; public and private schools; South Seattle Community College; Longfellow Creek Trail; and more!

Questions? Call me at 206-708-9800.

Tree trimming mystery in Westwood

Tree trimming mystery in Westwood

I live in the Westwood neighborhood of West Seattle and absolutely love it! The people are friendly without being nosey, they walk a lot, they maintain their homes, and they are very pet-friendly, among other attributes. But Westwood apparently has a mystery tree trimmer in its midst.

On a recent walk with my dog, I was puzzled to see some small tree branches had been clipped off and left lying on the sidewalk. A few houses down, I saw the same thing. It seemed very strange that two homeowners would have done this same thing. I kept walking and soon discovered the same phenomenon repeated over and over again all the way from SW Thistle Street to SW Myrtle Street (approximately one mile)!

As I continued my walk around Westwood neighborhood, I saw that this mystery hacker had continued his self-appointed mission on several other streets in the neighborhood.

I can only assume that someone has taken it upon himself (yes, I’m choosing to brand this person as a male) to trim any branches that he perceives to be invading the public sidewalk! That’s a pretty gutsy move, if you ask me. I might feel differently if he picked up the clippings and hauled them away but, no, he just left them along the sidewalk for others to deal with.

A couple of days later, I saw a notice on a telephone poll, apparently written and posted by an irritated Westwood neighborhood resident, declaring this tree trimming to be a cowardly and despicable act. I tend to agree.

What do you think?

Can anyone identify this mystery hacker?