Home Color Trends – These Aren’t Your Grandma’s Neutrals

Color Swatches and plans

Deciding which color to paint a wall, a room, or even the exterior of your home is personal and, to a degree, financial decision. The trends for 2015-16 are decidedly neutral in contrast to the bright colors that have been in vogue the past few years.

There are actually ‘color forecasters’ who determine the ‘it’ colors for a given year. It is an interesting combination of prediction, social psychology, and design savvy. Information is gathered from advertising and media, trade show displays, and even the nation’s mood and the cultural temperature. Neutrals seem to feel safe in a huge election year, an ongoing war, and an uncertain economy.

The New Neutrals

BUT, this does not mean boring. Not at all. The ‘new neutrals’ are more balanced between warm and cool tones, allowing the decorator/owner to really make a splash with strategic accent colors. In the past, neutral tended toward a warm, yellow-based undertone; the new neutrals mix warm grays and greens that work well with pretty much any color because they are, in fact, truly neutral. Used throughout a home, they lend a warm, inviting hue.

Olive Green and soft gray are two of the hottest neutrals this year according to Dubai Chronicle. These both offer an upbeat base, perfect to pair with neutrals like chocolate brown and grey or colorful.

Pure whites are also very popular. A neutral white allows a wide range of colors to blend nicely and give the space the personalization the owner desires. This also allows the furniture, materials, and accent pieces to stand out in defined contrast.  

Something Blue

Blues never go out of style and this year is no exception.  Mediterranean Blue and Seaport Blue – these two shades of blue predicted to be most popular – will balance wonderfully with the new neutral trend. Blue is a versatile color of calm and peace that will fit in virtually and room of a house.

How Do I Know this is THE Right Color?

The tiny paint sample cards hardware stores hand out may not accurately indicate how the colors would look on your walls. Colors generally look darker and more vibrant in larger quantities, and an entire wall full of paint is a much larger quantity than the little samples.

Here are two ideas:

Paint the walls of the room with a white primer if their current color is dark or distinctive. Testing your samples on a colorful wall will not give you an accurate idea of what the color will look like by itself, so start by creating a blank canvas for your tests. You are going to have to prime the walls before you paint anyhow, so make sure you love it!

Even easier – take a piece of foam board or even cardboard, paint it the potential color and adhere to a wall.

Either way, be sure to really look at the color throughout the day when the room receives different amounts and types of light to ensure that it is the perfect fit for your home. 

Ever chosen just the right color? Or a just awful color? Please share your painting tips and experiences!


Simple Tips to Reduce Moving Day Stress

Moving Image

Moving day! It inspires hope, thoughts of new beginnings, new arrangements…and, to be perfectly honest, dread. No one enjoys moving (and even fewer enjoy helping someone else move), so here are a few tips to make your next move as pain and stress-free as possible.

Update your address – this seemingly obvious task is necessary to avoid future headaches and save time and money. In addition to the USPS update make sure to update all regular correspondence with your new address.

Set up utilities in advance – there are few things as frustrating as successfully schlepping your belongings to your new abode only to find you overlooked a basic necessity. Once you have your move date, arrange for water, cable, Wi-Fi, the works. There is no penalty for being ahead of the ball here.

Take a photo of how your electronics are connected so you can remember how and where all the wires go.

Sandwich bags and markers – bag and tag all of the removable parts of items such as screws and mounting parts, to make re-assembly a cinch. Tape to the corresponding box or the item itself.

Recruit help in advance – if you aren’t using professional movers, make sure to make the task of helping as appealing as possible. Order pizza and beverages to celebrate the completed job and reward those wonderful people! Give them first dibs on items you were going to toss or donate – this is a great perk that is a win-win!

Overnight kit – Imagine a long day of moving, wearily but proudly ready to call it a day and then desperately digging through boxes for that toothbrush or comb.  Assign (and clearly mark) a box or bag to store your basic necessities – toiletries, a towel, a change of clothes.

Pack the necessities in a clear container – I love this one! This includes things like a box cutter, paper towels, trash bags, eating utensils, select cookware, power strips, phone chargers, toilet paper, tools, etc. The clear bin allows you to see inside; it also separates itself from the myriad of cardboard boxes.

Pack your drawers like a box – you put your clothes in their respective drawers for a reason, right? Why pack, unpack, and refold when you can simply remove the drawers with the clothes intact and cover with Saran Wrap.

Save receipts – “In many cases, moving expenses are deductible from federal income taxes,” says Rachmany of Dumbo Moving + Storage. “If you’re moving because of a change in employment, you may be able to claim this deduction even if you do not itemize.” Try to keep track of all moving costs for your accountant.

Please share your moving tips!

Putting Down Roots: Helping Hands in Charlottesville


The United States offers safety and freedom to thousands of refugees from across the globe. Whether fleeing conflict or persecution, these hopeful people come to the U.S. packed, sometimes quite literally, with only their hope and determination for a better life.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people to survive and rebuild their lives. IRC works in over 40 countries and 22 U.S. cities. IRC teams provide health care, infrastructure, learning and economic support to people in 40 countries, with special programs designed for women and children.

I am so proud to say that Charlottesville, Virginia now joins the cities in the U.S. that offer sanctuary for these refugees fleeing circumstance most of us are lucky enough to have only read about.

This year, the IRC staff and volunteers built 11 raised garden plots for refugee families in Charlottesville. Refugees from Burma, Bhutan, and Iraq are growing lettuce, mustard greens, radish, peas, okra, squash, tomato, eggplant, basil, pepper, and Swiss chard. The food grown in the city will help feed  the families, as well as give them a sense of community and home.

The IRC  ensures that newly arrived refugees receive a furnished home, help with rent, health care, affordable food, English language classes, help building job and financial skills, education, social services and community support, and legal services toward residency and citizenship.

The IRC website offers heart-warming and heart-breaking stories of refugees who have fled their native countries for the safety and support that the IRC offers right here in Charlottesville.  There you will also find opportunities to donate, advocate, and get IRC news.

I encourage you to watch this short, powerful video “New Roots: Growing Good for Refugees in Charlottesville,” to see exactly how IRC is making an incredible impact in the lives of refugees who now call Charlottesville home.

Please feel free to share your comments about this organization and local effort, as well as other groups in that are making a positive difference.






Make the Most of Home Ownership Tax Breaks

Tax Pic

The simplest financial reason to buy a home is that it is a better investment, in the long run, than renting. You have to live somewhere, so why not pay your own mortgage and not your landlord’s? But don’t forget to reap the not insignificant financial benefits of home ownership along the way.

The tax benefits listed below apply to multiple types of residences, including town houses, single family homes, mobile homes, condominiums, and co-ops.

Mortgage deduction

This is the biggest cost saver. Homeowners are able to deduct their mortgage from their taxes. For many people this is a substantial deduction, since interest payments can be the largest component of your mortgage payment in the early years of owning a home.

Closing cost deductions

Regardless of whether closing costs were paid for by you or the seller, you are able to claim the points, or origination fees, on your loan.

Property tax is deductible

Real estate property taxes paid on your primary residence home are fully tax deductible. This also includes one vacation home.

Tax deductions on home equity lines

If you have taken out a home equity loan, the interest is tax deductible. This is also an opportunity to move high interest credit card debts to home equity loans, allowing for additional savings.  

Capital gains exclusions

If you have lived in your home for more than two years and decide to sell, up to $250,000 of the profits are excluded from capital gains taxes. This goes to up to $500,000 if you are married. Even if you need to move in three years, while you may not have much (if any equity) and you’re able to sell for what you paid for it, essentially break even, it’s like you rented from yourself!

Always be sure to consult with a tax professional.

Feel free to add your home-ownership financial tips!



Staying Cool without Sweating the Bill


With temperatures soaring and the cost of electricity on the rise, it is important to ensure that your next bill doesn’t knock you for a loop.

The United States Energy Information Administration forecasts that the average U.S. residential electricity customer will spend 4.8% (15.3% in New England) more during the upcoming summer months than during the same period last year. Air conditioning is expected to account for up to 43% of your monthly utility bill.

Here are a few ways to cut down on your bill this season

Plant leafy trees   

Most heat that accumulates inside a house comes directly from the sun shining onto the roof or through windows. Planting leafy trees around the building’s exterior will stop the sun from reaching inside your home.

If the trees or shrubs shade your air conditioner, you could boost your AC’s efficiency by up to 10%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Install Solar Screens 

Solar screens, or mesh-like window screens, intercept up to 70% of solar energy before it gets into the house. Window screens are particularly effective on east- and west-facing windows.

Raise the temperature setting while away from home

You can save 5 -15% on your air-conditioning bills by raising the temperature setting on your thermostat when you’re away and don’t need cooling.

Circulate the cool air     

Fans are a remarkably effective way to cool portions of the house your air conditioner may not effectively reach. While they don’t cool the air, but they do move it around. If you have ceiling fans, make sure they are running counter-clockwise to push hot air up and out.

Moving air also helps evaporate moisture on the skin, making you feel cooler.

Maintain or replace your AC    

If you have an AC in good working order, make sure to replace the air filters frequently to make it as efficient as possible and maintain proper air flow. Make sure to keep vents open and clean.

If you replace your older room air conditioner with a newer unit, you could cut your energy costs in half, according to the Department of Energy. Look for a high-energy-efficiency ratio (EER) or an Energy Star-qualified unit. Higher EER ratings mean a more efficient air conditioner.

How do you plan to beat the heat this summer without breaking the bank?




“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”


As those of us who are fortunate enough to live in Central Virginia know, the Shenandoah Valley boasts a rich history and heritage, as well as an amazingly scenic beauty that is home to a diverse animal population. The Wildlife Foundation of Virginia provides a much-needed healthcare service, often on an emergency basis, to the native wildlife residents.

Located in Waynesboro, the Wildlife Center of Virginia, an internationally acclaimed teaching and research hospital for wildlife and conservation medicine, has rehabilitated wildlife in the area for over thirty years.

Operating out of a 5,700 square-foot building, the Wildlife Center consists of the veterinary clinic, diagnostics laboratory, operating suite, and radiology room, as well as offices for administration and outreach staff. The Center also has an array of outdoor facilities for non-releasable education animals as well as recovering patients, including large flight pens, a bear enclosure, an aviary, deer fawn pens, and more.

Since 1982, the Center has:

Treated more than 65,000 wild animals, representing more than 200 species of native birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

Shared the lessons learned from these cases with some 1.5 million school-children and adults across Virginia.

Trained a corps of wildlife medicine practitioners, including veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and volunteer wildlife rehabilitators.

In 2007, the Wildlife Center received the National Conservation Achievement Award from the National Wildlife Federation as the Conservation Organization of the Year. To see the most recent stories or to donate to this wonderful organization, please visit them at http://wildlifecenter.org/about-center/press-room.

I am proud to say that The Wildlife Center of Virginia is one of the recipients of donated commissions from buyers and sellers I have represented and is a much-appreciated organization that I am proud to help my clients support.

Have you had the opportunity to help save an animal because of this organization? Your comments are always welcome.

Giving Back: Honoring Our Wounded Warriors this Independence Day


As some of you, and all of my clients, know I donate a portion of every commission to the charity of the buyer or seller’s choice. A recent buyer asked that I donate the commission from his new home to the Wounded Warriors Project (WWP).

My father proudly served 27 years in the U.S. Army and so it especially warms my heart to contribute to WWP. It is with great pride and honor that we were able to give back to this wonderful cause.

Wounded Warrior Project® serves veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound, co-incident to their military service on or after September 11, 2001 and their families.

In addition to the physical wounds, it is estimated as many as 400,000 service members live with the invisible wounds of war including combat-related stress, major depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Another 320,000 are believed to have experienced a traumatic brain injury while on deployment.

With the support of donors, Wounded Warriors has helped over 100,000 service members, secured $96 billion in entitlement benefits, put over 10,0000 of our wounded warriors back to work, and so much more.

In honor of all of our veterans this Independence Day, I encourage you help make this the most successful generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history. To learn more about this organization, please visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

Also, please be mindful that fireworks can trigger flashbacks, anxiety, and worse in for those who have served in combat and have PTSD. Suggestions include limiting fireworks to the day of the 4th and alerting service members in your neighborhood if you plan to use fireworks.

Military with PTSD offers free signs for veterans stating, ‘Combat Veteran Lives Here. Please be Courteous with Fireworks.’

I hope you all have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July! Feel free to leave your comments below.