Your Favorite Sofa Material?

Posted on July 5, 2013


Not only is this question about understanding consumer preferences and trends, it’s also admittedly a plea for help…. Over the years, I have always bought upholstered sofas – those you would find at Calico Corners, Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn, for example.  But now I have three cats (and a dog too) who claw, claw my couches to kingdom come, and I’m at my wit’s end. It’s not the hair I mind, it’s the destruction of the couches. What can I do about this? Or maybe even better – what kind of couches can I buy that my cats won’t destroy? Suede? Leather? Microfiber? Other materials?

I have heard that leather can be more scratch-resistant, and I know that they are also great for kids with allergies. But I’ve never had a leather sofa, and so I am not used to the look. And isn’t suede super expensive? I certainly love the look of it though. I’m hearing that microfiber could be the solution to the problem, and yet it seems that the options are limited in terms of the couch’s look and design (think solid colors or basic patterns).

What are your thoughts on the subject? What is your favorite sofa material without adding in the complications of pets, children, allergies, etc.? And what do you recommend if you do have those complications? For example, if you are living in a jungle with animals that love nothing more than to scratch, scratch, scratch (like I am)? Is there a sofa option that is practical and beautiful at the same time? Or when it comes right down to it, do you ultimately have to sacrifice one for the other (beauty for practicality)? I can’t wait to hear….

For more information on this or on the real estate market in Weston, Wellesley, Wayland and the surrounding towns, please contact me, Lisa Curlett (781-267-2844 or www.homesalesbylisa.com), to answer any questions or for a complimentary home appraisal.

Outdoor Fire Pit or Fireplace?

Posted on April 26, 2013

Outdoor entertaining space has become more and more popular over the years and for more and more months of the year. Especially in our chilly New England towns of Weston, Wellesley and Wayland, for example, it is now commonplace to convene outside into the late hours of the evening in front of an outdoor fire pit or fireplace. In fact, many of the higher-end, newly constructed homes feature the option of having an outdoor fire pit or fireplace. Given all this, it begs the question – which outdoor fire choice would be your preference?

Just for a brief background, a fire pit, as defined by Wikipedia, “can vary from a pit dug in the ground to an elaborate gas burning structure of stone, brick, and metal. The common feature of fire pits is that they are designed to contain a fire and prevent it from spreading.” Generally fire pits are low-lying so they don’t impede a particular view of the property, and sometimes they can be portable units…. We are all fairly familiar with the concept of an outdoor fireplace, but to quote Wikipedia, “An outdoor fireplace is a place for building fires outside of the home. Similar in construction to an indoor fireplace, an outdoor fireplace is usually added to a stone, brick, or concrete patio. It often consists of a firebox and a chimney. As with indoor fireplaces, an outdoor fireplace requires cleaning and maintenance to keep it looking and working at its best.” Furthermore, an outdoor fireplace is generally much more of a sizable structure than the fire pit and definitely cannot be moved.

Cost is a consideration when it comes to which method of outdoor fires you choose. To give you some perspective, when I searched fire pits online, Home Depot had them starting at less than $100. Outdoor fireplaces, on the other hand, started at almost $2,000.  I know for me, the choice is simple. While the outdoor fireplaces can be gorgeous works of stone and masonry, I would always opt for the less expensive, low-lying, smaller-sized and often portable fire pit option. The fire pit is less of an investment in more ways than one, especially from a price and structure perspective, with a similar fabulous effect. But that’s just me….

What are your thoughts? Do you have a preference when it comes to outdoor fire pits and fireplaces? If so, which do you prefer and why? I can’t wait to hear….

For more information on this or on the real estate market in Weston, Wellesley, Wayland and the surrounding towns, please contact me, Lisa Curlett (781-267-2844 or www.homesalesbylisa.com), to answer any questions or for a complimentary home appraisal.

A Finished Lower Level or Third Floor?

Posted on April 7, 2013

A finished lower level or third floor – which is your preference? These days, many homeowners have finished areas beyond the traditional first and second floors of their home. And in our neck of the woods, most people and builders tend to finish the lower level rather than the third floor or attic space. That being said, some homes don’t have basements. And older homes, for example, often have small basements with large areas of crawl space. On the other hand, some homes don’t have much in the way of third floor or attic space and/or the roof line doesn’t allow for third floor space to be finished. But if you didn’t have any restrictions, and you could equally finish both spaces, which would you finish – your lower level or your third floor?

From my perspective, there are several pros to finishing your lower level. First, there is often more workable space on the lower level than on the third floor which can be plagued with a lower ceiling height and roof line restrictions. The lower level is also closer to the living areas of the house where we spend the majority of our time, and so it can be more accessible than a third floor. And because lower levels are usually underground with less natural light, they are ideal for media rooms, which are quite in vogue these days. Not only this, but think about the “man cave.” These are just not conducive to being located on the lighter and brighter upper levels of the house. Same with the temperature-regulated wine cellars of today – they are perfectly housed on the lower level. The other factor is that finishing the lower level doesn’t add to a home’s square footage (unless the lower level is walkout), and so many builders will finish this space and not run into problems with the town vis-a-vis square footage restrictions. That’s why almost all of the newly-constructed homes feature finished space on the lower level rather than the third floor.

And now looking at it from the other side, there are also advantages to finishing your third floor and attic space. Probably the biggest pro is the amount of natural light on the higher level. You can have full windows with loads of sunlight streaming in. The third floor is, without a doubt, lighter and brighter. Another appealing factor is that the third floor doesn’t usually have the water issues that lower levels can have. And if your teens or others are looking for a way to be slightly removed from the hustle and bustle of the house, the third floor space is the perfect choice. And think of the gorgeous views and heightened perspective that a finished attic can offer – absolutely breathtaking….

In my two homes in Weston, MA, I have had finished space on the lower level mainly because it was pre-existing and because finishing the third floor wasn’t an option without doing major renovations to the houses. In my family’s house in Nantucket, MA (a.k.a. my dream house), the basement was an old, dark and dank space that was not ideal for finishing. But the third floor was beautifully completed with three bedrooms, a full bathroom and a ladder up to a phenomenal widow’s walk. And so I have personally experienced both kinds of finished space and can clearly see the pros and cons to both….

What are your thoughts on the subject? All things being equal, would you prefer to finish space on the lower level or third floor? And why is this your preference? I can’t wait to hear….

For more information on this or on the real estate market in Weston, Wellesley, Wayland and the surrounding towns, please contact me, Lisa Curlett (781-267-2844 or www.homesalesbylisa.com), to answer any questions or for a complimentary home appraisal.

Buying a House with a Pool: Keep it or Fill it in?

Posted on July 6, 2012

To keep the pool or fill it in – that is the question? And I can’t wait to hear from those of you who have faced this question – and ensuing decision – during the home-buying process. I’ve never been in this particular situation myself, and so I don’t have my own personal experience from which to draw. And even as a real estate agent, I have seen buyers vacillate on the answer to this question, and it seems to depend mainly on these four practical considerations….

1. The New England Weather - One of the first things that comes to mind in contemplating this question is our New England weather. Honestly, the most we can expect to realistically use a pool is for about four months of the year (June, July August, September) – maybe a bit longer if we have an early spring (less likely) or a late summer (more likely). We’re not living in Florida, Texas or California where the warm, sunny days far outnumber the cool, cloudy days and where the pool therefore could be used most of the days of the year. This point is well made by checking out the chart linked here detailing the average temperatures for my hometown of Weston, MA as an example.

2. Safety/Ages of the Children – This is probably the most compelling issue that buyers consider, especially those with younger children. Babies, toddlers and inexperienced swimmers are the biggest safety risk and need to be closely monitored when there is a pool on the premises. That being said, Massachusetts has incorporated laws and rules, including mandatory fencing, gates, alarms, etc., for swimming pools to make sure that safety is maximized for pool owners. For those who have older children, the safety matter becomes less of an issue but is still something to consider when entertaining friends and their potentially young children.

3. Preferences and Lifestyle – Do you as the buyer like to swim, sit in the sun, entertain by the pool, etc.? Or do you prefer other activities in the warm weather, thus having no use or need for a pool? Does the presence of a pool just translate to wasted backyard space or space that could be better utilized to satisfy your desires and preferences? If the pleasures of having a pool don’t appeal to you, this can be reason enough to fill it in.

4. Costs – The final consideration is the cost to maintain and operate a pool. Filling in a pool is an expense, but it is far less costly than the operation and maintenance of a pool year after year. Implementing and following the safety mandates is also another expense that should be considered when analyzing the costs of having a pool.

So what are your thoughts on this subject? If you were buying a house with a pool, would you keep it or have it filled in? Similarly if you were building a new home, would you elect to have a pool in the backyard? And how would these four (and any other) considerations weigh in on your decision? I can’t wait to hear….

For more information about the real estate market in Weston, Wellesley, Wayland and the surrounding towns or if you are considering selling your home, please contact me, Lisa Curlett (781-267-2844 or www.homesalesbylisa.com), to answer any questions or for a complimentary home appraisal.

Your Favorite Household Big-Time Item?

Posted on June 22, 2012

This is another just for fun topic that is similar but different from Your Favorite Home Purchase. In that blog, we were talking about smaller items – flowers, candles, pillows and the like – that you purchased for your home. Now we’re talking about the big kahuna – furniture, appliances, electronics, works of art, rugs – substantial items that add presence to your home. And these items may have been purchased, given as gifts or acquired some other way.

So back to the question at hand – what is your favorite household big-time item? Is it a sofa, armchair, flat-screened television, dishwasher drawer, lighting fixture or piece of art? And is it your favorite item in your house simply because you love the look or the way it adds to your home? Or does it have family significance or sentimentality? Or does it just make your life easier? And is your favorite household big-time item the most expensive purchase in your home – and therefore you love it in an extra special way? Or is it the opposite – something that you received as a gift or that was a real bargain?

When I ask myself this question, I vacillate between two things….  One is my “pair of men” andirons (one “man” is pictured here) that my father gave me from his Nantucket, MA home (my dream house as some of you may remember). These men are so unique and full of character; I love their proud stances and their one arm akimbo (remember learning that expression when you were growing up?).  Every time we have a fire in the winter, I smile when I look at them. They are so fun and serious at the same time.

The second is a gold, antique mirror (pictured here), also from my Dad’s Nantucket house, which now sits above my living room mantle. My Dad can’t be reached for comment at this time, so I don’t know all of the history of this item. (Honestly, he might not know either.) But I can tell you that this mirror has seen quite a bit of history in its long life; it has the markings of age in its gilded wood pieces, some of which are broken off, and in its mirror, which has that antiqued, somewhat worn reflective look.  The bottom line, though, is that it is gorgeous and adds tremendous presence to my living room. You can’t walk into this room and not take notice….

But at the end of the day, I think my “pair of men” really win the prize. I just love their stances and the uniqueness and flair that they add to my home, not to mention that they came from my Dad’s home in Nantucket and are therefore quite special to me…. What are your thoughts about your own big-time home items? Which one or several are your favorites? And why are they your favorites? I can’t wait to hear….

For more information about the real estate market in Weston, Wellesley, Wayland and the surrounding towns or if you are considering selling your home, please contact me, Lisa Curlett (781-267-2844 or www.homesalesbylisa.com), to answer any questions or for a complimentary home appraisal.