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Tips For New Homeowners

At last, you've bought your dream home. Here's how to make move-in day and the days ahead run smoothly.

Move-In Makeovers
The boxes are unpacked, most of them anyway. The walls are freshened up. The fun stuff is just beginning. Below are more than a dozen simple projects that will make your home more stylish, comfortable, and eye-catching in no time flat. 

  • Give new wood aged patina.

  • Apply dark glaze or gel stain as instructed on the label. Let dry, then repeat with a lighter, warmer-toned stain. Once dry, top with a clear protective finish.

  • Hang shades with a natural look.

  • Neutral wood or woven grass window coverings easily blend in with most decor, and they screen out harsh sun, keeping the room cooler.

  • Make your shelved collections pop.

  • Highlight the inside of a bookcase or glass front cupboard by brushing on semigloss paint in a bold hue.

  • Install a vintage-look ceiling fan.

  • Add atmosphere and lower summer cooling costs. Reverse the blades' spin in winter to circulate warmed air.

  • Upgrade your address.

  • Draw curbside attention with bright, bold house numbers at least 3 inches high.

  • Dress up your entry door...
    with a handsome knocker that complements the style of your house.

  • Gussy up your breakfast bar.

  • Add carved corbels underneath an island counter top. Check salvage yards for Victorian-era ones with a warm patina.

  • Add a distinctive touch to your kitchen island.

  • To give it the look of custom furniture, change run-of-the-mill hardware for something more dazzling, like colored glass. Leave the existing pulls on wall cabinets to create a contrast.

  • Tuck a window seat into an alcove.

  • Support a 3/4-inch plywood seat on 2x6 hanging strips anchored into walls. Glue and nail in place plywood dividers to create cubbies. Face the assembly with 1x4 poplar, and paint.

  • Turn your sink into prep space.

  • Measure the length and width of the opening, adding 1/2-inch to each side. Trim a cutting board to size, and remove 1/2-inch of material around the edges to create an underside ip so that it rests securely on the counter top.

  • Paint your porch ceiling sky blue...
    to create a more spacious feeling.

  • Turn a closet into a home office.

  • The space's width and depth often offer a perfect fit for stock cabinets and a desk you have on hand. Trim the opening to match the molding in the rest of the room.

  • Put casters on a table... 
    for a dual-purpose dining and food-prep surface in a small kitchen.

  • Swap in a cross-handle faucet...
    to warm up a bathroom. A compact, center-set design - for basins with holes spaced 4 inches apart - preserves counter top space.

Simple Ways To Boost Curb Appeal

Welcome to your new home. Maybe it looks wonderful already. Or maybe you see some serious potential hidden beneath its faded facade. Either way, fixing up the exterior is a sure way to boost the appeal - and ultimately the value - of your house. Simply rolling on a fresh coat of paint can do wonders for its worth: Realtors have shown that the right colors can increase home value by as much as $10,000. Other upgrades, such as adding a front porch, require a bit more flexing of your DIY muscles. Here are 6 key exterior features to assess now, whether you're ready to tackle them right away or want to start planning for bigger improvements down the road.

  • Punch up the windows.

  • Highlight these architectural elements by painting their trim with colors that set them off from the rest of the house. Shutters or flower boxes also do the trick.

  • Dress up the yard.

  • Add color with ornamental grasses, flowers, decorative stones, and other landscaping materials; a good visual mix can even make small lots look larger. For easy maintenance, pt for native plants, which need less water and fertilizer.

  • Tend to the roof.

  • The roof can make or break the look of a facade, and that's doubly so if there's a porch. Make sure yours is in tip-top shape by replacing weathered or missing shingles.

  • Accentuate with paint.

  • Choose a color scheme that calls attention to key architectural details or unifies different siding materials.

  • Pass the entrance exam.

  • Consider adding a portico or porch. Either will frame the front door, and a porch can add extra living space for a fraction of the cost of an insulated addition.

  • Shape up the siding.

  • Check to see that shingles, clapboards, and masonry are in good condition. Spotless siding helps a house's details stand out, so patch or replace any area that's damaged or loose.

Smart Savers

During those first weeks of home-ownership you'll no doubt be getting to know your local home center well - really well. So while you're trolling the aisles, consider upgrades that come with built-in savings on your utility and water bills. The five products below conserve energy and resources, so they'll pay you back over time.

  • Low-impact Laundry

  • The Duet from Whirpool washes and dries a load in a mere 30 minutes and can save you $100-plus a year in energy costs. The front-laoding washer uses three-quarters less water and about 80% less energy than the average top loader, while the dryer can cut energy usage by 40%.

  • Savvy Power Strip

  • Stop costly "vampire" energy drains with a savvy power strip that can save up to 72% of wasted energy.

  • Energy-Saving Lightbulbs

  • A CFL can save around $30 in electricity costs over the bulb's lifetime.

  • Ultraefficient Fridge

  • Using less energy than a 60-watt bulb, the Resource Saver side-by-side refrigerator from Whirlpool exceeds federal energy efficiency standards by 30%. And it doesn't skimp on the extras. A FAST COOL button can handle hot leftovers, while an ice dispenser and removable bin on the freezer door maximize storage space.

  • Waterwise Showerhead

  • By law, low-flow shower-heads deliver a max of 2 1/2 gallons per minute. But Delta Faucets offers a start soaker that delivers an ultra conserving but still satisfying 1 1/2 gallons per minute. Four large nozzles deliver a steady, even spray while  a plastic chip gizmo borrowed from high-end windshield-washer nozzles "oscillates" the spray to make the drops seem fuller.

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