Anastasia Kaufman - ABR, SFR, GRI, CDPE - RE/MAX Town & Country | Lincoln, RI Real Estate

As the season stretches on, it’s time to think hygge thoughts and turn your home into a warm and cozy sanctuary.

Credit...Trisha Krauss

There comes a moment every winter when reality sinks in that the cold, dark days and long nights are nowhere near over. You can hardly remember a time when your apartment did not feel tropical, the unfortunate result of an overly ambitious radiator. And your relationship with that Amazon coat, which seemed so on-trend last winter, has definitely soured. That moment, reader, is upon us.

But rather than grind through the dreariness, perhaps it’s time to celebrate it — or, at the very least, surrender to it, and turn your space into a cozy cabin. Winter enthusiasts insist that with the right mix of candles, mirrors, alpaca blankets and hot tea, hunkering down can feel downright blissful. You’re not a recluse, you’re embracing hygge, the Danish cultural outlook that likens life to a favorite woolen sweater, minus the itchy collar.

“There is no getting around winter. The only natural resource we have in abundance here is darkness,” said Meik Wiking, the author of “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living” and the chief executive of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, a city where the sun currently sets at around 4:40 in the afternoon. “So it’s just something you have to embrace.”

Coziness is as much a state of mind as it is a collection of soft throw blankets. There’s an art to it, at least among those who do it with gusto. It’s about creating a space where your friends show up long before the stew has finished cooking, polish off a bottle of wine while it simmers, and leave well after the pot is empty.“No matter what we’re going through politically, socially, culturally or economically,” Laura Weir, the author of “Cosy: The British Art of Comfort,” told me from her home in London, where she’d just lit a fire, “the fundamental cornerstones of the British Isles are literally putting the kettle on, putting on the fire, or having a bowl of stew.”

While minimalism may be the design trend du jour, coziness is the antidote. Call it the anti-Kondo method. Why recycle the newspapers when you can stack two weeks’ worth by the fireplace and read them until you use them as kindling?

“The good thing about the cozy trend is it gives us permission to have possessions and clutter,” Ms. Weir said. “It’s almost like an easy out. I don’t want to be a super organized person because I’m super cozy.”

You’re not a pack rat — you’re a trendsetter!

But face it, there’s a fine line between cozy and chaotic. To find that happy place, be intentional about what items you lay out and where you put them. A pile of books stacked by your favorite chair signals that this is a reading nook. But once the stack teeters, or worse, begins to collect dust, it’s time to return the books to the shelf.

To do cozy right, be willing to “use your space differently,” said Liz Caan, an interior designer in Newton, Mass. “Sometimes, when I know we’re going to get a snowstorm, I take all the things I’ve wanted to read and put them near the fireplace.”

Designate the coffee table or a side table for board games and puzzles. If everyone knows where to go to play Scrabble, a quick round or two just might happen. Add comfort where you might not naturally think of it. Drape a sheepskin throw over a wooden chair to soften the seating. Toss a scarf over a lampshade to add a bohemian atmosphere to a room. Place a sisal rug in the mudroom or entryway so your bare feet land on a warmer texture as soon as you’ve taken off your shoes — and make sure your slippers are waiting in a basket for you. “Instead of creating a perfect night out, it’s an attempt to create the perfect night in,” Mr. Wiking said.

Just as you layer clothes to go outside on a cold day, a home should be layered, too, so it feels like a space that might envelope you. The types of fabrics and materials you choose matter. Natural fibers and fabrics like mohair, leather, wool and wood are inviting. Synthetics, not so much.

“You can immediately look at something synthetic and it’s not going to hug you back because it’s made of plastic,” Ms. Caan said. Natural materials tend to age well, gaining character over time.

A space need not feel dark, heavy or kitsch to seem cozy. Ms. Caan recently designed a house for a client near Boston who wanted a cozy space. But the house had high ceilings and large windows, and the client preferred a light-gray color palette — not necessarily an ideal recipe for what might be homey. To achieve the look, “we used wood, we used cashmere, we used alpaca,” Ms. Caan sad. “All these things are light, but you want to just dive into this house.”

Area rugs can be layered, too. Ms. Caan often uses a sisal rug as a bottom layer with a wool one on top. A rug need not be the star of the show — it’s often better if it isn’t, but when aiming for cozy, look for materials that feel good underfoot and invite you into the room.

“You want to create a pleasurable tactile experience for people,” said Catherine Connolly, the chief executive of Merida, a rug company in Boston. Will the rug feel soft beneath your feet? Soft and welcoming enough that you might want to sit on the floor and read or watch a show? That’s the goal.

Lighting sets the mood, and to achieve a sultry one, you need dimension. Use a mix of sources — floor lamps, table lamps, sconces and overheads. Set fixtures to dimmers and choose bulbs with warm hues. Avoid fixtures with exposed bulbs, as those can be harsh to the eye. Consider the shade cover, too. “A paper shade is really good,” said Michael Amato, the creative director of the Urban Electric Company, a lighting company in Charleston, South Carolina. “You can either do it so it’s opaque and allows light through or it’s completely blackened and it allows light from the top and bottom.”

Above all, don’t forget about the candles. Candles might as well be the mantra of the cozy aesthetic. Tapered ones on the dining table. Scented ones in the bedroom and bathrooms. Votives scattered on surfaces throughout. Set out the candelabra at dinner time, and you might be tempted to linger longer.

“I don’t think candles are going to change the world,” said Mr. Wiking, who is also the author of “The Art of Making Memories: How to Create and Remember Happy Moments.” “But it’s interesting how changing a little thing around the dinner table can change how people interact.”

Enjoy the moment long enough and there’s a chance you may even feel a tinge of regret when the season ends. Or maybe not.

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A version of this article appears in print on , Section RE, Page 8 of the New York edition with the headline: Tired of Winter? Time to Think Hygge Thoughts. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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Home security systems are becoming increasingly popular. According to a recent survey by, 38% of American households own a home security device. That percentage should increase as more people install DIY home security cameras and sensors in their homes.

The growth is partly due to the popularity of smart home technology and the simplicity of “plug-and-play” options for cameras, sensors, and remote door intercom systems.

Traditionally, security systems were installed by professionals and monitored 24/7 at remote service centers for a substantial monthly fee. Now, homeowners can set up many of today’s options in a few minutes and personally control the system with a smartphone app.

If you want to do it yourself, these questions can help you be sure you are purchasing the right system for your current and future needs.

1. Do you spend a lot of time away from home?

If you’re gone a lot, you may want to include a digital door lock in your security system so you can issue a temporary passcode or remotely unlock your door for a delivery or cleaning service, or someone who cares for your pets and plants.

You may want to include a video doorbell answering system to help give the appearance that you are home, even when you are miles away. Also, remote options for turning on lights can help your home to appear “lived in” while you’re gone.

2. Do you have pets?

Many pet owners like to “check-in” on their fur babies if they’re home alone. If you fall into that camp, decide if you want to be able to talk to your pet(s) or if a camera without audio will work just as well.

If you’re planning to use indoor security cameras that are activated by motion, you may prefer a system that disregards pets. Otherwise, you’ll need to position your cameras so your animals will not “trip” the motion detection alerts or alarms.

You may also want to include an automatic food or treat dispenser in your system for more convenience or interaction with your pets. Some dispensers operate on a timer, while others are controlled remotely.

3. How much coverage do you need?

If you want to monitor all areas inside and outside your home, you will need to select a system that can accommodate the total number of cameras required for complete coverage.

On the other hand, if your needs are less demanding, you may be able to get by with one or two easily portable and moveable cameras.

4. How do you want to use your system?

Make sure a security system includes a convenient app (and possibly a website) that delivers on all your top priorities. For example:

Do you want to receive alerts on your smartphone every time motion is detected? Do you want your system to include a loud, audible alarm? If yes, what will trip the alarm?

Do you want your system to be armed all the time, or only when you’re away, or while you’re sleeping?

Do you want to be able to view live camera feeds or recorded video from your computer as well as your phone?

If you want to be able to review video footage later, you’ll need to select between using an off-site cloud-based service or storing video footage at your home, on a hard drive or USB drive. Some systems offer free off-site storage, while others charge a monthly fee for this service.

5. Will you expand your system in the future?

If you are planning to start with a small system, but add more cameras and other detectors (like water, smoke, or window and door alarms), try to select a system that will grow as your needs grow.

It’s important to note that you can still purchase older DIY security systems that use old-school internet protocol (IP) cameras and complex web-only interfaces. However, unless you enjoy the challenge of setting up these less intuitive systems, you should opt for one that uses a simple smartphone app.

Few Easy Answers

These are just some of the factors to consider when purchasing a DIY home security system. Plus, new features like face recognition and innovative third-party integrations are on the horizon, which will provide more options (and complexity) to your decision.

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The number of American employees who work from home, at least part of the time, is increasing year after year. Some 38% of Americans say they’re currently able to work from home at least one day a week, and that number is set to continue increasing.

Working from home can pose a few problems, however. Notably, trying to find a place within your home where you can sit down in peace and get to work.

In today’s article, we’re going to talk about home office design. So, whether you’re working from home full-time, part-time, or just want a quiet place to go over the bills in the evening, so can ensure you have the best possible environment to be productive in.

The balance between focused and comfortable

Ideally, a home office is a place that is well-lit, distraction-free, and minimal in decor. However, each of us has our own process when it comes to being productive.

So, when planning your office, it’s important to choose a style that will help you work but will also make you want to spend time in the room.

Lighting conditions

Another trait of a home office that is largely dependent on your work-preferences is the lighting quality. This covers anything from the lights you use to the windows, curtains, and even the color of your walls.

If you’re the type of person who could easily fall asleep in a dimly-lit room, it’s probably a good idea to choose a bright paint color and ample lighting. This is especially true for people who find themselves spending long hours in the evening.

Decorating your office

Now that you’ve determined what type of home office you need, let’s think about how you’re going to furnish it.

The key here is to minimize distractions. A television is probably a bad idea. But, quiet music playing on your laptop or headphones could help you focus.

In terms of decorations, a good design principle to go by is that you should decorate with a few large items rather than several small items. This will help you prevent the room from feeling cluttered.

Set yourself up for organizational success

When you envision an office, you probably picture file organizers, paper clip holders, notepads, and countless other office-related tool and accessories.

However, if you tend to do most of your work on your computer, odds are those things will just get in your way.

Instead of filling up your cart at Staples, think about the type of work you’ll be doing in your home office and purchase only what you need. This will help you stay organized and help you from losing documents and losing time trying to find those documents.

With these tips in mind, you’re ready to start creating your home office haven of productivity. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips and advice.

Neutral colors and engineered quartz reign in kitchen remodels, according to the 2020 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study

Homeowners are continuing to choose neutral tones for their remodeled kitchens. In addition to white, wood or gray cabinets, they’re often selecting countertops and backsplashes in white and gray, according to the latest research out from Houzz.

The 2020 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study gathered information from nearly 2,600 Houzz users who had completed a kitchen remodel or addition in the previous 12 months, were working on one or were planning to start one in the next three months. Here are six kitchen design trends for counters, backsplashes and walls based on what homeowners are choosing now.
Bianca Ecklund Design
White is the top color choice for upgraded countertops in remodeled kitchens.
Erin Carlyle
1. White Is the Most Popular Countertop Color

White is the No. 1 choice (31%) for upgraded countertops in renovated kitchens, with multicolored the second-most popular option (25%), followed by gray (15%).

Twenty-nine percent of added or upgraded kitchen islands feature a contrasting counter color in relation to the perimeter counters, with wood tones the most popular contrasting choice. Read our story on what’s trending for kitchen islands to find out which other colors are popular when homeowners choose contrasting island countertops.
This Indianapolis kitchen features engineered quartz countertops, the material chosen by just over half of renovating homeowners who are upgrading their counters.
Erin Carlyle
2. Engineered Quartz Is the Top Countertop Material

More than half of upgraded countertops in renovated kitchens are engineered quartz, making it the No. 1 choice for upgraded counters. Engineered quartz was also the top material for upgraded countertops in last year’s report.

However, the growth in popularity of this material (5% year over year) was slower this year compared with the 11% clip of recent years (2016 to 2018). The slower growth is likely due to the dramatic increase in the price of engineered quartz imported from China, the report says.

“Homeowners are dealing with increasing product prices by substituting materials, as indicated by a slowed growth in engineered quartz and a decline in the popularity of engineered flooring materials, highly impacted by tariffs on imported materials from China,” says Nino Sitchinava, Houzz principal economist.

The second-most popular choice for upgraded counters in renovated kitchens is granite (29%), followed by butcher block or wood slab (11%), quartzite (7%) and laminate (6%).
Erin Carlyle
3. White Is the Most Popular Backsplash Color

For backsplashes, white is also the most popular option (35%) among renovating homeowners upgrading their kitchens, followed by multicolored (20%) and gray (15%).
Impact Interior Design
This Boston kitchen features ceramic tile for the backsplash. Porcelain and ceramic tile together are the top choice among homeowners upgrading their kitchen backsplashes as part of their remodel.
Erin Carlyle
4. Ceramic or Porcelain Tile Is the Most Popular Backsplash Material

Ceramic or porcelain tile is the top material (57%) among those upgrading backsplashes as part of their kitchen remodel, followed by marble (10%), granite (6%) and engineered quartz (6%).

5. Backsplash Coverage Reaching Heights

Among homeowners who are upgrading the backsplash as part of their kitchen renovation, 63% are taking the backsplash all the way up to the cabinets or range hood, while 21% are taking it just part of the way up, ending the backsplash between the countertop and upper cabinets or range hood.

A smaller share of renovating homeowners upgrading their backsplashes are creating a full feature wall by taking the backsplash material all the way up to the ceiling (11%). Others take it part of the way to the ceiling (4%).

Where to Start and Stop Your Backsplash
Crystal Kitchen + Bath
This Minneapolis kitchen features beige walls (Alexandria Beige by Benjamin Moore), the third-most popular pick among renovating homeowners upgrading their walls as part of a kitchen renovation.
Erin Carlyle
6. Gray Is the Top Wall Color Choice

As mentioned, neutral tones have been popular for renovated kitchens in the last few years, and the most popular wall colors in this year’s study carry on that trend. Gray is the most popular color choice for walls (30%), followed by white (24%) and beige (20%). That said, some renovating homeowners are going bolder with their wall choice colors, with blue (7%) and green (5%) nabbing the next-most popular slots.

The 2020 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study gathered information from 2,598 Houzz users who had completed a kitchen remodel or addition in the previous 12 months, were working on one or were planning to start one in the next three months. The study was fielded between June 19 and July 2, 2019.

Download the full study

More on Houzz
The Most Popular Styles and Cabinet Choices in Kitchen Remodels
What’s Popular for Kitchen Islands in Remodeled Kitchens
Find a pro to help with your kitchen remodel
Shop for products on Houzz

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The seller just accepted your offer on the house. Congratulations!

Most buyers include a home inspection contingency in their offer. It’s a crucial step that will alert you to problems that may need to be addressed, like malfunctioning appliances or cracks in the foundation.

Inspection reports can be long and extensive. Your Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) can guide you through the findings and help you decide on your next steps with the seller.

What should you include in your repair requests? What’s asking too much?

As a general rule, problems with non-functioning systems and safety issues are legitimate negotiable repairs. Or, if you discover substantial structural defects or serious hazards, you may want to back out of the contract.

On the other hand, issues that have already been disclosed or a long list of nickel-and-dime requests will only generate ill will with the sellers and potentially derail the transaction.

If your goal is to reach the closing table, it may be best to pass on these requests:

1. Normal wear and tear.

Chipped paint on the baseboards. A cracked mirror. Scratches in hardwood flooring. Unless you’re buying new construction, most homes have a few cosmetic defects. Sellers are typically unwilling to negotiate on flaws that were visible when you made your offer.

2. Inexpensive repairs.

It would be nice if buyers could get sellers to take care of every small repair, from a torn window screen, or a cracked switch plate, to a burnt bulb in a ceiling fixture. However, common sense and intelligent compromise say it’s better to focus on big-picture items.

3. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Even though many municipalities have rules regarding these safety items, it may be preferable to pass on smoke and carbon monoxide detector requests. That way, instead of settling for cheap replacements, you can shop for a system that satisfies your long-term preferences while living in the home.

4. Landscaping modifications.

It’s unreasonable to expect sellers to trim foundation plantings, level out uneven walkway bricks, or repair a loose fence board. Again, these items were visible when you toured the home and will likely irritate the sellers, especially if extreme cold (or heat) makes it difficult to complete the requests.

5. Code updates.

In many locations, inspectors are obligated to list any item in the house that does not meet the current code requirements. That doesn’t necessarily mean the house needs to be brought up to code. Typically, these items are grandfathered into the purchase.

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