Your May Home Checklist

With Mother’s Day and Memorial Day coming up this month, there is plenty of incentive to get those outdoor spaces ready to entertain. From scheduling house painting to organizing your outdoor cooking tools, tick these items off your to-do list so you can get to the good stuff: hanging out around the grill, kicking back on the porch and savoring the season. Let the countdown to summer begin!

Paint or stain your home’s exterior. Longer days and generally milder weather makes May a good month to schedule house painting. If your home has a wood-shingled exterior, replace any damaged shingles and have a fresh coat of stain applied if needed.

Check exterior lighting. Make sure all outdoor lights are in working order, including porch lights, landscape lighting, and motion-sensing security lights. Replace bulbs or schedule repairs as needed.

Get ready for grilling season. Giving your grill a deep cleaning before the start of the season will help it work more efficiently and prevent flare-ups. Clean the grates and interior with a grill brush and wash the exterior with warm, soapy water. Clean and organize your grill tools (tongs, spatula, skewers) and pick up charcoal or propane if needed.

If you have a gas grill, be sure to check the fuel line for cracks, and clean out any clogged burner holes.

Inspect kitchen and bath fixtures. Keeping an eye on these areas can help prevent costly water damage and repairs later on. Regrout or caulk around counters and tile as needed. If you come across any slow leaks, have these repaired as well.

Check safety devices. Test smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors; replace batteries as needed. Check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher and replace it if necessary.

Get walls dust-free and touch up paint. Use a dusting attachment on your vacuum or an electrostatic duster to clean away dust from walls, paying special attention to corners and baseboards. For a deeper clean, wipe down walls with warm, soapy water after dusting. Rinse with clean water, using a lint-free cloth. Touch up paint as needed on interior walls and trim.

Refresh bedrooms. Rotate the mattresses on all beds and flip over if possible.

Dust nightstands, lamps, headboard, blinds and decor.

Swap heavy duvets for lighter weight bedding for the warmer months.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in the Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Mission Viejo, Tustin, Irvine area of Orange County, California. 

How to Wash Your House

Avoid damage to siding and plants while getting your home’s exterior shining clean, with this guide to using pressure washers and hoses.
If you want to give your home more curb appeal, one great way to start is by giving the exterior a thorough cleaning. An exterior that sparkles in the sun can make a world of difference. But if you’re about to reach for a pressure washer, stop right there. Not all surfaces can handle the intense spray of a pressure washer; some, like brick, can be damaged by the wrong tools. Here you’ll find out which method is best for your home, along with more know-how you’ll need to get the job done right.

When to pressure wash. Vinyl or wood siding, or a hybrid material, is typically strong enough to withstand pressure washing. But before you head to the home improvement store, consider just how dirty your house is. It’s best to start with the lightest, gentlest cleaning method that is effective and work your way up from there.

Don’t reach for the pressure washer unless you have some serious grime to contend with — a light layer of dirt and road dust can be easily cleaned using a plain old garden hose. If your home has sturdy siding and needs more power than a garden hose can muster, a pressure washer can be heaven sent.

Get prepared to pressure wash. If you own your home and plan to use a pressure washer at least once each year, it could be worth it to buy your own. They are not cheap … but they are not cheap to rent, either. If you cannot reach the upper floors of your home on a ladder, consider hiring a pro to do the job. If you are doing it yourself, follow these steps:
Soap or no soap? Water alone is enough to get most exteriors clean. If you have mold or mildew, use a specialty house cleaner designed to kill mildew in the pressure washer’s detergent compartment.
Choose the right nozzle. Pressure washer nozzles are measured in degrees — those that shoot water in a very narrow area have the strongest spray (zero is the strongest) and should be used very cautiously. For most homes a nozzle with a 40-degree spray should suffice, so start there and work your way down to a 25-degree nozzle if necessary.
Secure windows, doors and pets. Make sure dogs (who could be curious about the spray) and children are inside, and close all the windows and doors before getting started. Also put on a pair of safety goggles to protect your eyes from dirt and debris.
Pressure washing safety. Treat your pressure washer with respect and common sense, the same as you would any other power tool — because it is potentially just as dangerous. The spray that comes out of the tip of the power washer is so concentrated, it can slice through skin, so keep children and pets away while you are working, and never direct the pressure washer at a person.

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in the Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Irvine, Tustin, of Orange County, California. 

How to Start a Decorating Project

Congratulations. You’ve decided to decorate your home. Now what?

Whether you’re furnishing your first place or redoing the house you’ve owned for decades, decorating can be a challenging task, filled with costly decisions whose outcomes could haunt you for years. How do you figure out what style is right for you? Should you tackle the job yourself or hire a pro? How much should you spend? And what steps can you take to ensure you’ll be happy with the results?

I’ll take you through the entire decorating process, from initial inspirations to floor plans. We’ll talk about choosing colors, shopping for furniture, arranging furniture, where you should scrimp and where you should spend.

But before you do any of that, look around you.

Take a critical look at your current home. What do you like about it? What do you dislike? Are your feelings prompted by the aesthetics of the decor? The comfort? The fabrics? The colors?

Write your list for Santa. Create a wish list — your Santa Claus list. Write down everything you would like to do if money were no object. Then figure out which things you can do, which things you can’t do, which things have to be done now and which things can wait.

Collect photos. Start collecting pictures of rooms you like. Even if you’re going to hire an interior designer, this will help him or her get a sense of your taste.

Get your better half involved. For many couples there’s often one person who’s more interested in decorating than the other. The other person might say, “Do whatever you want.”

Alternatively, you can each collect a file of images independently, then sit down and compare what you’ve chosen. This way your initial selections won’t be swayed by the other person. As you review your selections together, your differences and similarities will immediately become apparent.

Take another look around. Now that you’ve started to zero in on the look you want your interior to have, make a list of all your significant pieces and figure out which items should stay and which should go.

Keep in mind that if you love a piece of upholstered furniture but hate its fabric, it can be reupholstered. Wood pieces can be painted or stained. Objects can be repurposed. And if there’s an inherited piece that has great sentimental value but you can’t stand to look at it … well, life’s too short to live with things you don’t love.

All at once or in stages? If you have the budget to do everything at once, by all means go for it. If you want everything done at once but can’t afford that now, save your money and do it all at once later.

If you can’t afford to do it all at once and don’t care if everything is done at the same time, then you’ll be better off doing the project in phases. Complete one room before moving on to the next one, rather than doing a little bit in one room and a little bit in another.

“Living in a half-finished space isn’t going to make most people happy,” “I think it’s better to wait and do your project in phases.”

The living room is a good place to start, as it will leave you with something you can be proud of and can share with friends — a good launching point for the other work ahead.

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in the Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Irvine, Tustin, Mission Viejo,and Orange County, California area. 

Ways to Bring Earth Day Home

April 22 is Earth Day, and while your community probably has some sort of event planned, there are plenty of ways you can celebrate at home.

Plant a tree. Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors of all time, famously said this: “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.“ While his area of expertise is investing, the literal meaning of this quote also holds true.

 Start a compost pile. Soil is a living, life-giving thing. Without it, we’d have nothing to eat. In light of that, Earth Day is the perfect excuse to start a backyard compost pile. Composting your food scraps and yard trimmings instead of landfilling them reduces methane emissions. It also leaves you with a wonderful soil amendment for your garden, or even your houseplants. If you already have a compost bin, today’s a great day to tend your pile: Turn it, water it or harvest your compost, if it’s ready.
If starting your own pile is not possible, be sure you’re taking full advantage of your curbside organics collection program by looking at your city’s or garbage hauler’s web page. Your provider usually has a hotline with an operator who can tell you which items are accepted. Many programs now accept food and food-soiled paper as well as leaves and grass clippings.

Encourage pollinators. Bees and other pollinating species play an essential role in any garden but especially ones with fruit trees, berries or squash. Bees have been having a rough time the last few years, with some species’ populations crashing dramatically. You can do the bees and your garden a favor by adding plants they find especially attractive. Lavender, white clover, heather, bellflower and yellow mustard are among the many options.

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in the Newport Beach, Irvine, Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, and Tustin area of Orange County, California.

5 Ways With an 8-by-5-Foot Bathroom

The most common bathroom size measures 8 by 5 feet — enough room for a single sink, a toilet and a shower or shower-bathtub combination. You may think there isn’t much you can do with an area of this size. But you’d be wrong. Here, five projects within these dimensions showcase clever ways to create virtual and literal space, and how to make big style statements on budgets small and large.

Continued12 Key Decorating Tips to Make Any Room Better

Create a Focal Point

There are leading roles and supporting cast members in any production. The same holds true in design. Choose your star and make it the focal point to anchor a room. Allow other items to take a secondary role. Don’t ask everything to have a leading role; it will just result in visual noise. 

Your focal point might be a dramatic hood in the kitchen, a mantel and art piece in the living room or a headboard in the bedroom. Whatever it is, choose something that will draw attention. In this room the fireplace and the lighting work together as a collective focal point, bringing your eye right to the center of the composition and anchoring it there.

Consider Sight Lines

Your focal point should be free and clear from one room to the next, so that it feels like you’re being drawn between them. That’s why the best spot for a focal point is usually directly across from the entrance to the room.

Edit your Collectables

 Don’t hang on to a piece that just doesn’t fit. I don’t care if your great-aunt Sally gave it to you. If it’s not working for you, then find a new home for it (maybe in a different room).

The unifying theme can be the use of black in the utilitarian pieces. The balance is almost perfect. It reminds me of something Coco Chanel said about accessorizing: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” In design, know when to stop.

To be Continued

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in the Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Irvine, Tustin, area of Orange County.


12 Key Decorating Tips to Make Any Room Better

Picking a Paint Color

I get calls all the time from homeowners who want to pick a paint color before they move in. I get the logic. Why not arrive to walls with a fresh coat of paint? Of course you can do it this way, but in my opinion it’s not ideal. 

There are thousands of paint colors with various tints, tones and shades. And each one looks different from home to home, because light sources vary, meaning what looks good in your current home might not in your new one. You want the color that best complements your upholstery, artwork, rug and whatever else. You can pick that color only if your stuff is actually inside your home.

Give Furniture Breathing Room

 Resist overcrowding a room. Gracious living means space to maneuver with ease. This is really great news if you are working with a tight budget. You don’t need to fill up a space with lots of furniture. Spend more of your budget on fewer but better-quality pieces, and your room will look better than if it’s stuffed to the gills with flea market finds. The high-backed chairs shown here, for example, stand out because they don’t have to fight for attention.

Hang Artwork at the right Height

 Galleries and museums hang artwork so that the midline (center) of each piece is 57 inches to 60 inches from the floor. (The average human eye level is 57 inches.) And you should do the same.  

In a room like this, where the ceilings soar, there might be a tendency to hang the art higher. But remember: It needs to relate to human scale, not the structure’s scale.

If you’re not sure, take a picture. It’s remarkable how much a photo can reveal. Print it out or use Photoshop or an app to draw on the photo. This can give you a sense of whether a larger or smaller piece of art is needed or a tall plant might be best to fill a vacant spot.

Know how to Arrange Furniture on a Rug

There are basically three ways you can arrange furniture on your rug. 

 The rug is large enough to place all of the furniture legs on top of it. This creates a more luxurious feel. For this, bigger is better. Just be sure to leave at least 12 to 18 inches of floor surface on all four sides of the rug’s borders. 

If you have a small room, keeping all legs off the rug is a great cost-effective choice. You don’t want to pick too small a rug, though, or it may look insignificant, like an afterthought. The rug should appear as though it could touch the front legs of each of the seating pieces. This approach is best suited when you’re layering a pattern over a larger solid or textured rug.

to be continued

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in the Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Tustin, Irvine, and Mission Viejo area of Orange County California.

Continued 7 Things to Make Room for in a Small Home

A Comfortable Place to Sit

 While it’s often tempting to try to stuff many compact pieces of furniture into a small home, you shouldn’t skimp on a full-sized place to sit.
Including a trulyGreat Lighting comfortable sofa or lounge chair, rather than many tight modern seats, will make the whole home much more satisfying. To fit in occasional extra guests, have compact side chairs on hand that are only meant for sitting in for a few hours while someone visits, or you can even use a plush ottoman.

Great Lighting

In a small space, the lighting is often inadequate, as it tends to be assumed that a single fixture can properly light each area. In reality, good lighting can never come from just one source, so it’s always important to include a diverse palette of fixtures.

To save room while adding a lot of light, choose a plug-in sconce with multiple bulbs, like the one here. It will brighten the walls in a rich way without taking up any square footage from your floor plan or table surfaces.

A Living Plant

Speaking of your floor plan, now that you’ve saved a little space with a great sconce, why not use that square footage for a healthy living plant? Including an element of living greenery will make the space feel more human and welcoming, bringing a sense of the outdoors in.

Space to Breath

 Lastly, when decorating your small home, don’t forget to leave room for one very important thing: empty space. Filling every square inch of your walls and flooring with decorative baubles and unneeded furniture leaves the space feeling cluttered and cramped. Let some walls remain empty, and keep lots of circulation space open so you can move about freely and really enjoy the great pieces you have.

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in the Newport Coast, Newport Beach, Irvine, and Tustin area of Orange County, California.

7 Things to Make Room for in a Small Home

Advice for decorating a small home is often about eliminating and deciding what to compromise on. But there are some things every home should have. Here are seven essentials that are always worth making room for.

A Landing Pad

You may not have a grand foyer, but you deserve somewhere to decompress for a moment when you arrive home. 
Take a little bit of space by the front door to include somewhere to drop your coat and keys, as well as a seat for quick moments such as when tying a shoe. A mirror and a glass table will open up the look of the space, and a bouquet of flowers will provide a welcoming touch.

Color & Pattern

 Sure, using lots of white and neutrals will make a small space look as big and breezy as possible. That doesn’t mean that all color and pattern should be strictly forbidden. Embracing some drama will make the look personal and inviting.

Try using a fun paint color on your ceiling, or go for a low-slung sofa or other piece of furniture, so it pops without overtaking the natural field of vision.

A Real Dinning Surface

 In a small home, you rarely find a dedicated dining room. That doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate somewhere for a proper sit-down meal that isn’t at your desk or in your lap. Try pushing a small dining table up against a wall or window to seat just two diners.

To be continued.

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in Newport Beach, Mission Viejo, Laguna Hills, Tustin, and Irvine, area in Orange County, California. 

Continued 10 Timeless Pieces of Decorating Advice

Size it Up

“Measure twice, cut once” is timeless advice. An often-neglected measurement is the arm height of dining chairs: Don’t buy chairs without it. Check the height against your tabletop if space is tight and chairs have to be tucked under when not in use. Having them protruding into a high-traffic space impedes movement around the table. In this situation, the best option may be going with armless ones.

A single inch can makes the difference between a perfect fit and a disastrous overspend. If you’ve had an architect or a draftsperson draw up plans for a renovation, keep the drawings for later reference, as their measurements are precise. Keep a tape measure in your bag to use whenever you shop; you never know when it will come in handy for spot-checking.

Face Facts about DIY

DIY delusion is a common ailment. Be realistic about your capabilities. “If I sanded that back and painted it and changed the knobs and shortened the legs, it would be just perfect,” you might say. But maybe you won’t. Maybe it will just sit in the garage because you realize you don’t have the skills — or tools — for the job. Unless you are handy at serious alterations, keep looking and practice patience until that ideal piece comes along.

Get Lights Right 

Don’t detract from a fabulous pendant light or chandelier with an awkward hanging height. It’s easy to get it wrong over a dining table: Allow a minimum of 32 inches between the light base and the tabletop, or it will visually intrude between diners. A general rule is about 5 feet between the light base and the floor. To avoid errors, consult a lighting designer, as other factors like ceiling height, strength of light sources, size of shades and chain length affect calculations. 

Guarantee Success

 In the excitement of unwrapping and setting up a new appliance or piece of furniture, most of us have all been guilty of discarding warranty details. Things break. Keep a warranty file and receipts. Clarify warranty details for big-ticket items. Is the construction covered but not the fabric? Are there special conditions? What’s the claim procedure?

Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in Newport Coast, Laguna Beach Irvine, Tustin, Laguna Hills, area of Orange County California.