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9 Easy Tips to Avoid Holiday Stress and Distractions

9 Easy Tips to Avoid Holiday Stress and Distractions

Have you ever wondered why, as soon as Halloween is over, to-do lists get longer, the days get shorter, and holiday stress creeps into our lives?  The holiday season has arrived, and with it comes some stress and a lot of distractions.

If you’re anything like me, the holidays are meant to be a fun time celebrating with family and friends.  I love finding the perfect gifts and tying them up with a beautiful bow.  I love getting Christmas cards from friends and family, and sending out our own.  (Though sometimes at our house they become New Year’s greetings!)  We love hosting parties.

But thinking about all the things that need to be done to make the perfect holiday a reality can be overwhelming.    Every little distraction pulls us away from “the List”.   We fall behind and begin to panic and stress out.   What a holiday buzz kill…for us and everyone in the house when it happens!

With all the craziness, and sometimes chaos, we all need some coping skills to get out of overwhelm and into fun!  That’s where some easy tips to avoid holiday stress and distractions comes in!

Start small with this list.  Choose one or two that seem easiest for you right now.  They’re here to help you avoid the holiday stress and distractions that are creeping into your life.

 

Tip #1:  Ease Holiday Stress by planning ahead and setting goals

Remember the vision you had in your head for the perfect holiday?  Now is the time to get it out of your head and onto paper.  Then you can start the action plan.

  • Get organized with your decorations.  Pull out everything  you have and decide what you need to freshen it up a bit for this year.
  • Plan your tabletop and table settings.  If you need some ideas, you can find a few on this blog post (Fall Tabletops That Set the Mood).
  • Plan your menu and your guest list
  • Start your gift list
  • Set a goal for when you want these things completed. Be realistic about these goals, give yourself enough time to finish…and then add a few hours or days.  It always seems that most things take longer than we think they will.
  • Make sure that the spaces you’ll be using for prep, meals, and guests are clean and orderly, especially your prep areas. Remember that it’s hard to get things done when the space you’re working in is a cluttered mess.  If not, be prepared for chaos, a lot of setbacks, and…STRESS!

 

fall to-do and checklist

Tip #2:  Decide what your holiday budget will be

  •  Make a budget and stick to it
  • Have the right tools and resources before you start, and list the cost.
  • What do you need to buy?
  • What can you re-use or repurpose?

Tip #3:  Say NO when you need to.   Don’t feel guilty

  • Make it your “best NO”. You don’t always have to say NO to requests from friends or family.  And you don’t always need to decline a party invitation.  But when the pressure of completing your own holiday plans is getting to you,  a gentle “NO” to the request that doesn’t make you excited  is your “best NO”.
  • Delegate your to-do list between family members
  • Your “best YES” is similar to your best NO. Use it after you’ve considered the time it will take away from your own priorities.  And you need to be excited about it.
  • Busyness is not a virtue, and it is NOT a sign of productivity. If you are taking on too much, the truth is, you’ll probably focus on none of it and risk the chance of doing a horrible job at what you manage to complete.
holiday table setting

 #4:  Set boundaries to avoid distractions

  • Ask family to stay away during specific stressful times or tasks (In my case, it was wrapping our stair railings with garland)
  • Take a break to be with them later
  • When holiday overwhelm is stressing you out, remember that you don’t have to do it all
  • You don’t have to see everyone or do all the things
  • If you’re not excited about going to an event, or if it drains your energy when you think about it….don’t do it!

Tip #5:  Create relaxing surroundings/environment

  • Have a supportive environment to keep you motivated and excited. Play holiday music to get you in the spirit.  Light scented candles.  Open the windows on a nice day for some fresh air.
  • Organize your work space to make each task you need to do simple and easy. That means having all the tools you need ready and waiting so you don’t have to stop and run to the store for a glue gun or a bag of sugar at the last minute.
  • Clear your work spaces and de-clutter you home.  Knowing that you have a calm space around you will definitely calm the chaos of the holiday season.
Christmas helpers

  Tip #6:  Maintain your healthy habits

  • Don’t skip out on your workout or walks with friends
  • Make sure you get enough sleep
  • It’s tempting to “test” all the cookies and desserts, but remember your veggies!

Tip #7:  Seek a fresh perspective

  • Take a break when you’re feeling overwhelmed
  • Make a change.  I like to call it a mind-flip.  Instead of thinking of the project you “have to do”, tell yourself that you “get to bake cookies today”.
  • Take one task that drives you crazy during the holidays and tackle it in a new way.  A fresh approach just might make a difference. For example, if you dread having to send out holiday cards, enlist your spouse or your kids and split the list.

Tip #8:  Be OK with Good Enough

  • Be willing to focus on what’s most important
  • Be willing to modify family traditions. Decorating our stair railings to the hilt always looked beautiful.  My family begged me to do it every year.  Since I couldn’t compromise by letting them help (It’s a designer/perfection thing!) I finally used my best “NO”.  Holiday decorating is much nicer with that stressful task no longer on my list.
  • Don’t always go for bigger and better, when planning your holiday. Do you really need the 10’ Christmas tree when you’re going to be away for most of the holiday?
cookie helpers

Tip #9:  Remember to Have Fun Along the Way

  • Let’s face it.  It’s a lot more fun to be with people when you’re not stressed to the max, or so exhausted from working yourself to the bone that you just want to sleep.
  • Turn off the devices and start building positive memories.  When you think back over your life, you’re not going to remember that you didn’t get everything finished or you missed a text message.   Though everyone might  still be talking about the turkey that was burned, or the time your pies were eaten by the neighbor’s dog.   But that’s just part of the cherished memories created in your home during the holidays.  And isn’t that what life is all about?
Thinking about a home renovation or makeover project, but don’t know where to start?  Now is the time to get those ideas out of your head and onto paper, so your plans are finished when you’re ready to start!  And the best place to begin is with this free guide.
Time For a Countertop Makeover?  Follow These Top 10 Designer Do’s and Don’ts For A Stress-Free Project

Time For a Countertop Makeover? Follow These Top 10 Designer Do’s and Don’ts For A Stress-Free Project

When you’re dreaming of a beautiful kitchen, and know that buying new cabinets is more than your budget will allow, maybe it’s time to consider a makeover that includes new countertops.  If your cabinets are in good condition and the the space plan works well for you this might be your perfect solution!

There was a time, in my old EXPO Design Center days, when I was known as the Queen of Countertop Remodels because I helped so many clients with them. And because of that, I learned exactly what to do, so that stress was kept to a minimum.

Let’s take a look at my list of Designer do’s and don’ts that will help you with your own countertop remodel.

Do:  One of your first decisions to make is what material do you want to use, because you have a few options.  There are natural stone products (granite, marble, quartzite) and there are quartz composite products (Cambria, Caesarstone, Silestone, etc.)

Do: Know what “look” you want to achieve in the space. The material you choose will help you get there.

Do: Decide if you want a lot of movement (veining) in your countertop material.

 

quartzite mont blanc

Quartzite Mont Blanc

Don’t buy a slab that has a lot of movement and imperfections if you think it will drive you crazy. Stone is a gift of nature, and definitely not perfect.  Also, if you need to have a seam because of a large area to be covered, the veins will not match.  If that is a problem for you, then choose a slab/pattern that has less movement and a quiet pattern.

Do: Decide on your fabricator (the person who will template, cut and install). They often display granite, marble, and quartzite slabs in their warehouse. But sometimes they’ll send you to look at a larger showroom that has more to offer.  These showrooms typically do not sell directly to you, the consumer.  So this means they won’t be able to quote you a price.  They’ll give the price to your fabricator who will then factor in the additional labor costs before giving you a quote.

Granite Colonial White

Granite Colonial White

Don’t visit a granite showroom without a designer, contractor, or fabricator name. They can call ahead to let the showroom know you’re coming, or they can go with you to help you select. Sometimes a showroom will recommend a fabricator if you don’t know who to use.  A few showrooms/warehouses will let consumers come in to look without an appointment.  Your fabricator will contact them for pricing.

Do: Find out your fabricator’s price levels before you visit a granite showroom. Since most of them don’t sell directly to the consumer, they won’t give you a price. But they can point you to the slabs that will be in your approximate price point.  Many large fabrication companies have enough space to have countertop slabs on display.  In that instance, they’ll be able to give you a quote.

Don’t:  Assume that the initial quote is the final one.  Your fabricator will send someone to make a template, and that will determine the final cost.  But before they schedule you, they will need a countertop plan with the shape of all your counters, and the dimensions.

Do: Make sure that you have your sink, and sometimes faucet, when they come to make your template. They will take it with them back to their shop.

Do: Know that some fabricators require you to purchase an entire slab, and some will only charge you for what you use.  Be sure to check this out in advance.  Quartz composite products seem to require purchase of an entire slab.  But this is also at the discretion of the fabricator.

Don’t: Ordering less than 25 square feet is not acceptable to most fabricators. Sometimes they have a scrap yard to choose those pieces.  If they do, it’s your luck day!!!

Don’t: Order countertops when you’re in a rush to have it installed. From the time they make the template, until the time it is installed could take anywhere from 5-15 business days.

Don’t: Have your heart set on a slab too early in the process unless you’re prepared to make a deposit so they will hold it.  Also, make sure that your fabricator is going to hold onto the unused part of your slab.  I have had slab “scraps” sold before projects were installed, only to be upset when they made a mistake cutting.  Time was lost while they waited to find another slab to match.

Don’t hang on to a sample that you love and expect it to look the same in 6 months.  The look of natural stone is determined by where it’s mined in a mountain.  Even though it has the same color name, it can look completely different in pattern and color. 

Granite sells quickly in certain markets and new shipments aren’t always cut from the same area of a mountain.  Always inspect your slab before purchasing!  If you need more than one slab for your countertop, make sure that there are more in the stack.  Sometimes they’ll be labeled by the order they’ve been cut.

granite slabs in order

Do: Know that there are options to choose from for your countertop edges. Standard edges are included in your quote.  Non-standard edges are sold by the linear foot.

granite edge profiles

There are a lot of things to think about when making your countertop selection.  And it probably seems like a lot to remember.  But Do’s and Don’ts are meant to guide us in the right direction and keep us from making painful or costly mistakes.

If you’re still confused and unsure of what to do next, feel free to leave a comment below, or email me at Randi@RandiDestefano.com with your questions.  I’m here to help!

Time For A Home Makeover?  Here’s A Transformed Master Bedroom Gone Sleek and Modern

Time For A Home Makeover? Here’s A Transformed Master Bedroom Gone Sleek and Modern

Finding the perfect house for your family can be fun and exciting, especially when you’re moving from the “burbs” into town.  But many times the houses available to you aren’t exactly your style.  When that happens, it’s time for a home makeover!  I know because I’ve been there a time or two.

Since most homeowners want to move in and get settled before tackling any major renovations, it gives them a chance to get a feel for their new home.  And it also lets them take their time and put some thought into what’s most important to them.  This is exactly the path my client travelled when she hired me to transform her classic white master bedroom into a room that was sleek and modern.

Design Dilemma:

My client purchased this existing home and was never happy with the dental molding throughout the house. Since she preferred clean lines and darker wood, replacing the traditional white bookcases with flutes and rosettes was the number one change to be made.

The open shelves had become a clutter magnet, when what this couple really needed was more storage for clothing and linens.

Because the wet bar was never used, they also wanted it removed and replaced with cabinetry.

                                    cabinets with wet bar

What I noticed immediately in the space, and was anxious to change, was the soffit and cove built around the room.   It was used to house recessed can lighting, but it also made the ceilings seem lower and the room smaller.

 

                                    cove molding image

The last design change my client wanted was a more contemporary fireplace with a TV that blended into the wall.

                                    outdated fireplace wall

What we did:

  • The white traditional bookcases and bar were replaced by smooth, sleek Shaker doors
  • Polished nickel tubular cabinet pulls in sizes proportionate to the cabinets were installed.
  • A new fireplace wall was constructed so that everything is pulled forward and flush.
  • The lower section is stacked split-faced travertine.
  • The black horizontal firebox has a flame strip inside and uses ethanol to burn.
  • The homeowners wanted the fireplace to be high enough to see from the bed.
  • A sleek new mantel was created from cabinet material.
  • This same material was used to frame the new niche for the TV and equipment, keeping cords hidden from view.
  • New carpeting was installed
  • Paint colors were changed

                                master bedroom fireplace wall

Replacing the crown molding around the room became a problem when it came to matching angled corners.  So to stay with the contemporary feel, we all made a decision not add it to the new room.

 

Your Design Action Plan:

Does your home have a room or two that’s in need of a makeover?

Make a list of the features that you don’t like about the room.

Next make a list of the features you do like about the room.

Compare the lists, and start a new list of everything you would like to change.

Create an idea binder or folder where you keep photos from magazines or online sites.

7 Key Ingredients of a Summertime Porch

7 Key Ingredients of a Summertime Porch

Outdoor living spaces, are becoming more and more popular and are a wonderful way to enjoy nature, relax, and watch the world go by.  There was a time when a front porch was the place to greet your neighbors after dinner, or spend a lazy afternoon reading. 

Today the nostalgia of the front porch is showing up not only in new in-town homes and walk-able neighborhoods, but in the way we use our backyards, screened porches, patios, and decks.   What I’ve noticed is there are 7 key ingredients of a summertime porch that seem to show up again and again.  Maybe you’ve discovered this too.

Every spring, as soon as the pollen slows down, I’m craving some time on our porch.  You see, until a few years ago, none of the homes we lived in had a covered porch.  Now I’m making up for lost time by dreaming, planning, and shopping to make even small improvements to what we have.

The best way to get started is by taking an assessment of what you already have. Do you still love your existing colors or would you love to have a brighter color combination?  Ideas are everywhere, including photos of porches in magazines, social media, and websites.  And don’t forget visiting decorator show houses!

Ask yourself, “what do I really want”?  What do you want your porch to look like, feel like? And then let your imagination kick in.

Let’s get started!

porch with hydrangeas

Credit: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Southern Living Magazine

#1:  Seating  

No matter how large or small the space is, seating is the first thing to consider. Whether you prefer a sofa and chairs, or only chairs, it’s your choice.   Do you want a private space that’s just for your family? Do you want a cozy romantic area for two?   

 

#2:  Accent Tables 

We all need a table to place a drink or a book while we’re enjoying our outdoor space.  The size and number of tables you need is based on how many people will use the porch…and how much space you have.

 

pergola with outdoor seating

 

#3 Rugs 

Rugs are the anchoring point for any seating group.  They pull everything together and create a more inviting space.   An added bonus for using a rug is to cover up unsightly decking.

#4 Accessories to Make It Yours 

Adding your own accessories will truly make the space your own.  They also set the tone for how you want your porch to feel.  Pillows, outdoor draperies, and flowers all add to a room that says “Let’s relax here.”

#5 Plants 

Everyone knows that plants and flowers add beauty to our spaces.  But plants add a sense of calm to any space, and outdoor rooms are no exception.

 

porch with swing and plants

Credit: Laurey W, Glenn; Southern Living Magazine

#6 Dining Table and Chairs

 

porch dining table and chairs

 

#7 Lighting (and a ceiling fan)

 

Summers can be hot, humid, and stifling, with no breezes to cool you off.  When you include a ceiling fan into your porch design plans, comfort is always just a click away.

 

porch ceiling fan with light

 

Bonus: Fireplace

 

stone fireplace

 

If have a fireplace on your porch, consider yourself blessed!  Nothing says “cozy” like a roaring fire on a cool evening.

 

 TAKE ACTION:

1. Grab a pencil and note pad and make a list of what you have on your porch.  Then make a list of what you need.

2.  Are you using any of these 7 Essentials in your outdoor living spaces?

2.  Look for ways you can add some of these features to your own porch. 

 

 

 

 

 
Guest Rooms That Say “We’re Glad You’re Here”

Guest Rooms That Say “We’re Glad You’re Here”

Whenever vacation time and holidays draw near, it’s time to start thinking about the guests that might be staying with us for a night or two…or more.  I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I’m a little less thoughtful about the way our guest rooms look when I know family will be staying there.  Like the time last summer when our guests thought we had three extra bedrooms and we only have two.  Sadly, the very comfortable inflatable bed popped a seam and the bed collapsed in the middle of the night!  This was definitely NOT a guest room that said “I’m glad you’re here. 

Rule #1: Don’t be so busy that you forget to check out these things before you need them.  On the other hand, when I know that friends will be staying overnight, I might add a pretty new detail or two.  Can you relate to this?

Because I love to travel, I’ve spent many a night staying in hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and with friends.  While I’m there I always notice how I feel when I’m in the space.  Do I feel welcomed?  Does it feel creepy?  Is it adequate, but could use some work?

welcoming bedroom

I know that, as an interior designer, I’m more aware of my surroundings than most people.  And I truly believe that each space has it’s own energy.  But these stays have let me discover a thing or two about what the “perfect” guest bedroom could be.  And in the end, it comes down to these three questions:

  1. Is it Welcoming?
  2. Is it Comfortable?
  3. Is it Private?

A welcoming room will let your guests know that you really want them to be there.  It has little added touches like flowers, magazines, and good lighting.  One friend introduced me to the idea of Pillow Presents, which are gifts you place on your guest’s pillow before they arrive.  I loved this idea, and started doing it when our family comes to visit.  It doesn’t have to be expensive.  Sometimes I forget, and leave a little bag of candy.  Or completely forget and am reminded by my youngest granddaughter.  And now my daughters have started leaving them on our pillows when we visit!

luxury bedding

To feel comfortable, room size isn’t as important as the bed, the pillows, and the temperature in the room.  Everyone has their own comfort level when it comes to these three things. Giving options to your guests is so appreciated…especially aging parents, pregnant daughters, and “hot flashing” girlfriends!!!  We’ve rented a house in Florida for a few weeks, and I’m already wondering if the bed and pillows will give us a good night’s sleep.

Finding a private space for everyone when your home is overflowing with guest can sometimes be a challenge.  When this happens it’s helpful to think out of the box and have a plan before your guests arrive.  But, basically, guest appreciate a place to store their “stuff”, and maybe get away from the crowd for a minute or two.

Do you have a checklist of guest room favorites?  Here is my Top 10 list.   Some were borrowed from my friends, hotels, and inns.  Others were suggested to me by family.

  1.   A comfortable mattress with mattress pad
  2.   Tiny paper cups at the sink, stacked on a pretty plate
  3.   A full length mirror, or at least a mirror for makeup and hair
  4.   A folding screen or some type of room divider if other guests will be walking by or sharing the space
  5.   Bottled water or a small pitcher and glass
  6.   Down pillows, or at least nice fluffy ones (some people sleep with two pillows)
  7.   A throw to cuddle up with for an afternoon nap
  8.   A place to hang your clothes and open your suitcase…and empty hangers
  9.   Lamps tall enough to read in bed
  10.   Blinds or draperies to cover the window at night

Do I have each and every one of these in our guest room?  Not at all!  But I’m working on it with each and every guest.  And when I travel, the list grows as I discover some new little nicety that I hadn’t thought of before.

In the end, it’s all about enjoying your time with house guests, welcoming them into your home, and being together making memories that will last a lifetime!

Your Design Action Steps:

  • Look at your guest room from a visitor’s eye…objectively
  • Make a list of what you see that is welcoming, comfortable, and offers privacy
  • Now make a list of what could be added to the room that would add to your guest’s comfort, and make them feel really welcomed

Remember that it doesn’t have to be expensive or over the top in luxury.