Testing mandate creates ‘a huge logistical challenge’: TPG readers react to new CDC policy

Testing mandate creates ‘a huge logistical challenge’: TPG readers react to new CDC policy

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Source: thepointsguy.com

Early Career Archives – MintLife Blog

Source: mint.intuit.com

This School Bus Is a Tiny Home … to a Family of 6!

With bunk beds for the kids, a master bedroom for the adults and a rooftop deck for all, one family is redefining the term “on the go.”

The wheels on the bus go round and round — and then might stop for family dinner, if you’re Gabriel and Debbie Mayes.

It may not be the dream for every family, but it’s the one Debbie envisioned after seeing a video on Facebook a few years ago. It featured a couple who had converted a school bus and spent all their time on the open road, exploring the country.

“I immediately thought, ‘Hey, we can totally do this with our kids. Why not?’” she recalled. “And so I brought the idea to Gabriel. It took a while to convince him.”

“Definitely took a while,” Gabriel chimed in.

But the more the duo thought about the idea, the more it made sense. They felt disconnected as a family in a 5,000-square-foot home; downsizing would bring the family closer.

4,752 square feet closer, to be precise. 

“We were talking about that disconnection in our marriage, in our family as a whole, and just thought if we’re gonna do anything adventurous, now would be the time,” Gabriel said. “We were looking to reconnect, to do something crazy exciting with our kids, and just to take life and flip it upside down.”

So they bought a school bus to live in.

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The family of six — two adults, four kids — sought the help of an outside company when it came to finding the bus and designing the features.

Photo by Marcus Ricci.
Photo by The Mayes Team.

Their priorities: separate sleeping areas for the kids and the adults (the master bedroom has a door that closes), space to entertain guests, and a kitchen with ample countertops. (They pulled that off by installing an under-the-counter fridge. It holds enough food for a week!)

Photo by Marcus Ricci.

“We even went and taped out the design on the floor so we could walk through and see,” Debbie said. “We did things like reduce the depth of the couch, reduce the depth of the [kids’] bunk beds. We knew aisle space would be way more important than them having that extra bed space. I was very intentional in designing all of the little areas to be functional. It’s down to the inches.”

Gabriel’s only ask: a rooftop deck.

“I just had this vision of taking the bus, backing it up against the lake, opening up the skylight out of my bedroom, going up to the roof deck, and then sitting in my chair and just chilling,” he said. “I just wanted this place where I’m secluded from the rest of the world and I’m overlooking just beautiful scenery.”

Photo by Marcus Ricci.

Buying and renovating the bus cost about $38,000 and took about five months. During that time, the family sold or donated much of what they owned and put the rest in storage. They hit the road in August 2017.

Photo by The Mayes Team.

On their first trip, the road hit back.

“I remember the day that I got in the bus. We had spent the whole day packing. Last thing goes on, the kids get on, we close the door, and I put it in drive and our home starts moving. I can’t fully explain how exhilarating that feeling was,” Gabriel said.

“It was amazing but also did not go exactly how we had planned,” Debbie added. “We got 300 miles into the journey, and the bus broke down on the side of the road. It was like, ‘Wah-wah.’”

Photo by Marcus Ricci.

The school bus — which they affectionately call “the Skoolie” — picked a patch of desert land in Oklahoma to break down.

Turns out it was also a piece of private land.

“We fed the kids lunch and tried to figure out what the heck we were gonna do, and a random stranger pulls up after we’d been there for a few hours, and he was like, ‘You’re actually on my land.’” Debbie said. “But he had been a diesel mechanic.”

The stranger ended up building a part to get the bus moving. It’s been pretty much smooth sailing ever since, from the mountains of Wyoming to the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah.

Photo by Jen Hammer.

Their biggest advice for others considering a home on wheels: Do the research. Find a builder or designer you can trust. In retrospect, they probably would’ve chosen a washer and dryer over installing a shower, but they have few other regrets.

And yes, of course, there are seat belts for all. The family designed the living space to hide the seat belts under the couch cushions when the bus is parked. The baby rides in a car seat. “They are able to buckle up safely,” Debbie said, about her kids. Anything that’s breakable gets packed away for when the bus moves.

Photo by Marcus Ricci.

“To be able to have everything that you own as a family of six inside 248 square feet, knowing everything that you own is where it’s supposed to be — the amount of stress and anxiety really goes out the window,” Gabriel said.

“Whenever you rid yourself of this desire to have things, it’s not that the desire goes away, it’s just that you just don’t have the space for it anymore,” he continued. “It causes you to start thinking on different levels. Now I just want to be intentional with my wife and be intentional with my kids. This massive weight is just gone.”

Photo by Marcus Ricci.

Eventually, the Mayes plan to park the bus and turn it into a short-term rental. They hope to find a forever home and allow others to explore their tiny home on wheels.

“The kids feel like they’re on this massive adventure. Whenever you pull up to a location that’s surrounded by mountains or there’s a new waterfall to go explore or some trail just to go run down, you put the bus in park, and you open the door,” Gabriel said. “Just to see their excitement … I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

Photo by Marcus Ricci.

Top featured image by Jen Hammer.


Originally published July 2018.

Source: zillow.com

These Savings Accounts Give You a Chance to Win Cash

When Wesley Villafane, a health care worker from San Francisco, decided to open a prize-linked savings account, he was just trying to find a better way to get his money to work for him.

“I wanted to try another aspect of banking out because my normal bank interest rates were not giving me any significant returns,” he said.

2020’s low bank rates meant he wasn’t earning much interest on his regular accounts, so Villafane decided to go with a lottery-style savings app called Yotta. The app enters its customers into weekly cash prize drawings in exchange for saving money and referring others to the app.

For a while Villafane only won very small amounts — less than a dollar — in the drawings. Then, the Monday before Thanksgiving, he got the news. He had won $2,500.

While not everyone will win big, prize-linked savings accounts can be an opportunity for consumers to win money simply by saving it.

Tara Krejcarek, a spokesperson for one such program called Saver’s Sweepstakes, says prize-linked accounts help consumers improve their financial well-being.

“There are zero risks. Participants earn entries to win cash prizes by depositing a minimal amount each month. It’s a no-lose proposition,” she says.  “Even those who don’t win cash prizes still win because they are saving money to help secure their financial future.”

Here’s how these accounts work and what to know about them.

Prize-linked savings accounts: How they work

A prize-linked savings account works like a lottery or a sweepstakes, in which consumers open a savings account and enter to win sums of money ranging from less than a dollar to millions. After an initial period during which people can join the contest, sign-ups close and a winner or winners are selected. Here are some examples of these accounts from around the country.

  • Save to Win. Save to Win is a program offered by a nationwide selection of participating credit unions. Credit union members can open a 12-month Save to Win share certificate (the credit union equivalent of a certificate of deposit) with a minimum of $25, and if they continue to add to their balance for the next 12 months, they’re entered into drawings for either monthly, quarterly or annual prizes.

  • Walmart’s Prize Savings. Walmart does a monthly cash sweepstakes for consumers who either transfer money from their Walmart MoneyCard account to their MoneyCard savings account or who mail in an entry (no purchase necessary in either case).

  • WINcentive Savings. This prize program is open to members at participating credit unions in Minnesota. For every $25 a customer saves, they are entered into a prize drawing that either occurs monthly, quarterly or annually.

  • Saver’s Sweepstakes. This sweepstakes is offered by certain credit unions in Wisconsin and for every $25 that a member grows their monthly balance, they are entered into a monthly, quarterly and annual cash drawing.

  • Yotta Savings. Yotta Savings — an app that you can link to a regular savings account — incentivizes customers to save by offering entries into weekly drawings with the chance to win up to $10 million. Every $25 saved gives a customer another entry into the lottery, and the account itself has no minimum deposit requirements or monthly fees. Yotta users can also refer potential customers to earn extra entries.

Pros of opening prize-linked savings accounts

The opportunity to win cash. It’s an obvious pro: a chance to win money with little effort.

It encourages saving. Some prize-linked accounts give people more chances to win money the longer they contribute to a savings account. So even if the customer doesn’t win a prize, they’ll beef up their savings account in the process.

“It’s not always easy to save,” said Krejcarek. “Saving is like dieting; you have good intentions, you know it’s good for you, but you keep putting it off because it’s not fun or you are not motivated. Prizes motivate savings. Prize-linked accounts tie the thrill of winning to saving.“

If it’s a sweepstakes, you can typically enter without opening a savings account. Sweepstakes in general usually have a stipulation in the fine print that no purchase is necessary to enter. In the case of a prize-linked savings account, you may be able to enter a sweepstakes without opening an account, such as by mailing in an entry or emailing your contact information to the sweepstakes organizer.

Drawbacks to prize-linked savings accounts

The account might not be the best fit for your needs. Potential prizes aren’t the only thing to consider. Make sure the account has low or no fees and that its services are accessible to you via branches, ATMs or online services. You also may want to check how easy it is to close your account if you decide you no longer want it.

There’s a good chance you might not win cash. Depending on the number of other entrants and the size of the prize, your chances of winning may be pretty low.

Alternatives to prize-linked savings accounts

There are some other types of accounts out there that can reliably help boost savings, too.

Bank bonuses. Some banks offer sign-up bonuses and promotions for opening various accounts. Chase, for example, offers $150 to customers who open a savings account and deposit at least $10,000 in money that’s new to Chase within 20 days of opening the account, maintain a $10,000 balance for 90 days and keep the account open for six months. Note that with bank bonuses generally, you’ll have to pay taxes on the bonus.

High-yield savings accounts. Though you might not get quite the payday that you would from a big cash prize, a high-yield savings account is a solid option to steadily grow an emergency fund or cash for other short- to medium-term goals.

Though not everyone can be a prize winner, Krejcarek says that for those who do win, the money can be life-changing. One winner, she remembers, was able to put a down payment on a new home, while another used the money to help fund their grandchild’s college education.

“One of our winners had $5 in her checking account when she received the call that she had won $5,000,” she said. “The money she won enabled her to get back on her feet.”

Source: nerdwallet.com

5 Surefire Solutions to Help You Stick With Your Budget

How to Stick to Your budget

This post is the first post in a three-part underwritten series of posts I’ll be writing on behalf of the Visa Clear Prepaid program and the Walmart MoneyCard.

Struggling to follow through with that budget you’ve set? Here are 5 tried and true tips, tricks, and tools to help you actually stick with your budget:

1. Create Motivational Goals

Want to have more momentum when it comes to saving more and spending less? Set some realistic but inspirational goals.

Goals give you purpose, passion, and drive. They make short-term sacrifices more worth it, because you know you have long-term benefits in mind.

Wishing you could pay cash for Christmas, pay down your credit card debt, save for a piece of furniture, or even pay off your mortgage faster? Sit down and look at your current budget. See if there are areas you could streamline or cut back in.

Do the math on how much you could save or put toward your debt if you were to cut back $10 or $30 or even $50 every week. Knowing that these cuts are going to propel you toward your end game more quickly will inspire you to follow through with them over the long haul.

5 Surefire Solutions to Help You Stick With Your Budget

2. Focus on the Bite-Sized Chunks

If you want to discourage yourself, look at your savings goal or debt left to pay off as a whole. It probably looks mammoth and insurmountable. And you’ll want to quit saving or paying down debt immediately because it feels so overwhelming.

This is why I’m a big fan of breaking your big goals down into small pieces. If you want to save up $500 to pay cash for Christmas this year, don’t think about the $500 amount as a whole. Cut it down into the amount you’d need to save each month (about $42) and then the amount you’d need to save each week (about $10.50).

When you look at the weekly amount, it feels much more doable. And you can start to get creative to come up with simple and outside-the-box ways to shave that $10.50/week off your current budget.

In addition, you’ll be much more apt to stick with your budget if you feel encouraged from the get-go and like pulling off your goal is actually a reality, not some far-fetched, pie-in-the-sky dream idea.

5 Surefire Solutions to Help You Stick With Your Budget

3. Pay With Cash or a Prepaid Card

You all well know that I’m a big advocate of using cash. The beauty of cash is that it gives you instant self-discipline: when the money’s gone, the money’s gone.

You can’t go over-budget when you only use cash. Well, I mean, you can, but you’ll be robbing another budget category to do so.

You also can’t spend more money than you actually have when you only use cash. It’s a very visual way to be able to track how much money you have to spend.

However, I know that cash is not always practical in every situation. It’s impossible to pay with cash online and some people find that it burns a big hole in their pocket — causing them to spend more money than they would if they swipe a card.5 Surefire Tricks to Help You Stick With Your Budget

That’s why an alternative to cash you could consider would be using a prepaid card like the Walmart MoneyCard® Reloadable Prepaid Visa® Card, part of the Visa Clear Prepaid program. It works very similarly to cash in that you can’t overspend with it — once the money is gone off the card, you are done being able to swipe it (unless you refill it). So it gives you instant self-discipline, too.

Using a prepaid card is especially a great option if you’re wanting to stick with a specific budget in a specific budget category. For instance, if you set a budget for your Christmas gifts and you want to make sure that you don’t go over it, if you designate your budget amount as the amount on the card and you don’t use anything but the card for Christmas gift purchases, you’ll be guaranteed more likely to stick with your budget. Plus, you can use the card both online and offline.

4. Use a Money-Tracking App

Money-tracking apps and websites can not only help you set up your budget, but they can help you continue to stay on track with it. There are a variety of apps and sites out there — each with their pros and cons.

These apps and websites typically take you step-by-step through the process of creating your budget and will then give you real-time reports on how much you have to spend in each budget category. As you make purchases or deposits, you can update your budget in just a few seconds.

Used well and updated daily, it’s almost like a virtual cash envelope system — without having to mess with any cash or coins at all. Plus, the pie charts and information available at your fingertips will help you better know exactly what your current financial picture looks like and encourage you to continue to stay on track with your budget.

5 Surefire Solutions to Help You Stick With Your Budget

5. Get an Accountability Partner

I cannot stress the importance of having some built-in accountability when it comes to budgeting. You need people to help you stay the course, even when the going gets tough.

Accountability can be found in many different places. It could be monthly Budget Meetings with your spouse. It could be posting your financial goals on your refrigerator in graph form and updating your progress on saving or paying down debt as you gain momentum. It could be a goal app like Commit.

It could be reading books and blogs that inspire you to practice better money management. It could be joining an online group or online community of others who are seeking to get out of debt.

For best results, choose multiple accountability sources — some that are in-person and regularly check-in with you and some that are just motivational online or offline resources that serve as reminders to stick with your budget and keep going.

You don’t have to always feel like you’re falling off the Budget Bandwagon! Implement at least a few of these tips and tools and you are bound to experience much more budgeting success!

What helps YOU stick with your budget? Tell us in the comments!

This post is underwritten by the Visa Clear Prepaid Program. With the Visa Clear Prepaid program, there’s less stress in choosing and using a prepaid card. Cards meeting the Visa Clear Prepaid standards provide you with transparency and protection, resulting in more time to do the things you love.

With a card that meets the Visa Clear Prepaid standards, it means your day-to-day activities are covered by a clearly communicated fee plan, so you’ll know when you’ll pay a fee and when you won’t. Go to Visa.com to find the prepaid card that works for you.

And stay tuned for a 30-day Grocery Spending Challenge we’ll be running in partnership with the Visa Clear Prepaid program and the Walmart MoneyCard in the upcoming weeks to encourage you to stick with your budget, spend less, and save more!

photo credit; photo credit; photo credit

Source: moneysavingmom.com

What opportunities are out there in the bleak retail and hotel sectors?

In terms of valuation, the retail and hotel sectors have had a bleak year. REIT returns in both sectors dropped around 60% during the first half of 2020. Hotels make up a disproportionate percentage of the estimated $126 billion in distressed CRE assets and analysts are wondering if certain aspects of the retail sector can even survive. Within that overarching bleakness, however, there’s a great deal of variation.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is to blame for much of the valuation damage done to both sectors, it has worked differently at their underlying fundamentals. Many of the retail assets hit hardest by the pandemic were the same assets already struggling due to the rise of e-commerce, they became victims of COVID trend acceleration. Conversely, the pandemic has introduced new issues for the hotel sector as travel restrictions and the more widespread use of video conferencing technology pose risks to business travel. One expert explained the unique challenges and opportunities facing mortgage pros operating in these spaces.

“Right now for retail and for hotel, it’s very difficult to get financing,” said Brian Velky (pictured), managing director at SitusAMC. “In almost all cases, either short term or long term, it’s being done with some other guarantees or cross collateralization. In contrast, you can finance an industrial property or an apartment at pretty high LTVs and interest rates as low as 2.5%.”

Velky emphasized the unique sub-sectoral breakdown within hotels and retail. Retail valuations, in particular, are extremely type and tenant specific. A crucial bright spot in retail real estate has been the grocery-anchored category, he noted, as well as some standalone drug stores and other essential retail outlets. Those retail assets have seen their valuations fall only slightly – Velky estimates around 5% or less. Class B and C malls have seen their valuations fall by about 20% as the pandemic has exacerbated longstanding trends.

The biggest losers in retail, according to Velky, are actually the regional and super-regional malls that had enjoyed a resurgence in recent years with a focus on entertainment, experience, and attraction as a shopping destination. COVID restrictions and individual aversion to gathering places have derailed that particular business model, but Velky believes that as we get past the pandemic, those entertainment-focused retail assets will regain some of their value.

While hotels have been huge value losers in the pandemic so far, some observers have predicted a quicker bounce back due to pent-up travel demand. While Velky acknowledges that there is likely some pent up demand for recreational travel, the hotel sector has historically been slow to recover from major shocks. After the great financial crisis, hotels took about five years to recover their value and Velky believes there are fundamental changes brought on by this downturn that could make any bounce back slower – primarily, the impact both anxiety around the pandemic and the rise of videoconferencing will have on business travel.

Conferences, he noted, have been a consistent driver for hotels. With so many events and conferences shifting online, as well as the ease of transcontinental business meetings facilitated by Zoom or Teams, Velky believes a strong driver for the hotel industry might be fundamentally altered in a post-pandemic world. He does not think business travel will be gone, noting a widespread acknowledgement among business leaders of how crucial in-person meetings can be. However, Velky predicts a world where key businesspeople spend weeks on end travelling may not come back anytime soon.

Ultimately, he suggests that some aspects of travel real estate will recover, especially those that serve the salaried, higher-income earners who have actually managed to save money as the US experiences a ‘K-shaped’ recovery. As vaccine uptake becomes more widespread, Velky expects to see differentiation in the hotels that appeal to those travellers and those that might still be reliant on a slower business travel sector.

While the outlooks aren’t rosy for the value of hotel or retail assets, Velky believes there is opportunity for new origination in these spaces. The key for originators, in his mind, will be in ameliorating structural risk as best as possible.

“At some point, do you say ‘look, I’d rather be a lender on a well-leased, solid credit, quality retail property and get one and a half times the interest rate with much greater protection associated with the loan?’,” Velky asked. “I think we’re seeing that start to happen for solid, sponsored deals with sub 50% LTVs for repriced real estate at even sub-four interest rates and from a risk adjusted perspective that might actually be a pretty decent deal relative to what you will get for other property types that are the flavour of choice today.” 

Source: mpamag.com

Interview | Collections in Assam to see short-term challenges, says Bandhan Bank MD Chandra Shekhar Ghosh – The Financial Express

Chandra Shekhar Ghosh bandhan bankChandra Shekhar Ghosh bandhan bankChandra Shekhar Ghosh (File image)

Bandhan Bank expects there would be challenges in the next two-three months in Assam after the lender witnessed a very sharp dip in the collection efficiency in January, says managing director and CEO Chandra Shekhar Ghosh. In an interview with Mithun Dasgupta, Ghosh says the bank’s gross NPA ratio is not likely to rise further. Excerpts:

In Assam, Bandhan Bank’s collection efficiency in the micro credit segment had stood at 88% at the end of December. But it fell to 78% during the first 16 days of January following the state govt passing the Assam Micro Finance Institutions (Regulation of Money Lending) Bill, 2020, and talks of a possible waiver of micro loans by political parties ahead of the Assembly elections later this year. What is your exposure in the state and what is the outlook on the asset quality going ahead?

Related News

In Assam, the collection efficiency came down in the first 16 days of January. Now, it is stabilising a little bit. It shows that borrowers are willing to repay. We think there will be challenges in the next two-three months.

Total microcredit group loan in the state is around Rs 6,917 crore, which is around 8% of the bank’s total advances. The repayment rate for businessmen, who had taken loans during this pandemic, is higher in the state. We are now very conservative with regard to fresh lending.

During the third quarter, the bank’s total advances grew 22.6% year-on-year. What kind of credit growth you are expecting in the fourth quarter?

In the last quarter, the credit growth generally remains higher. Credit growth will not be less in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter. We hope similar credit growth in the March quarter as well as credit demand is returning.

The number of new customers coming to take loans was higher in the December quarter of FY21 compared with the year-ago period, especially in the micro-banking segment and partly in MSMEs.

What about the home loan demand?

The demand for home loans also improved compared to the September quarter.

The gross NPA ratio during the third quarter stood at 1.11%. What is the outlook on the asset quality going forward?

The gross NPA ratio is unlikely to rise further.

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Source: financialexpress.com

The Property Brothers’ Best Small-Space Renovations for 2021

Drew and Jonathan Scott of “Property Brothers” know that nearly all of us could use more space (particularly as the pandemic drags on and on). Now that the new year’s first episode of “Celebrity IOU” has arrived, they’ve broken out their top tricks for opening up a small house without breaking the bank.

In the Season 2 episode, “Rainn Wilson’s Surprise,” the Scotts meet the actor Rainn Wilson, of “The Office,” who wants to give his beloved nanny, Leslie, a living-room makeover.

Leslie’s Los Angeles home could definitely use it, given that the space is seriously dated and undeniably cramped. With her kids (and nieces and nephews) often running around the house, Wilson knows that this living space needs to be more kid-friendly, too.

Read on to find out how Drew and Jonathan open up this small living space, which might inspire some upgrades around your own home, too.

Remove kitchen cabinets to open up more space

Rainn Wilson shows Drew and Jonathan Scott how much work needs to be done in the kitchen.
Rainn Wilson shows Drew and Jonathan Scott how much work needs to be done in the kitchen.


When Wilson brings Drew and Jonathan to Leslie’s home, one of the first things the brothers notice is the kitchen’s cabinets.

The row of cabinets blocks sightlines to the living space and makes the kitchen feel separated from the rest of the house. Jonathan explains that the style is typical of the era the home was built in, but says it’s not a great feature for those who are making the meals.

“Whoever’s in there, all of a sudden, it feels like a cave,” Jonathan says.

This kitchen was so closed off that it wasn't functional for a house with kids.
This kitchen was so closed off that it wasn’t functional for a house with kids.


So, the brothers remove some cabinets and, to make up for the missing cabinet space, add smarter storage to the rest of the kitchen (like adding lots of drawers to the island).

In the end, the kitchen is beautiful, functional, and flows with the rest of the living space. Leslie will never miss those cabinets!

With the floating shelves out of the way, this kitchen is much more open.
With the floating shelves out of the way, this kitchen is much more open.


Create more storage with built-in benches and hutches

The brothers know that a house with kids needs plenty of storage.
The brothers know that a house with kids needs plenty of storage.


Wilson knows that Leslie and her children could always use more storage.

“One thing is, there’s a lot of kids bouncin’ around in here,” Wilson tells the Scott brothers when they first tour the house.

Luckily, the brothers have a solution to help this family organize its stuff: stylish built-ins.

This hutch created convenient storage, but it was too small.
This hutch created convenient storage, but it was too small.


Drew and Jonathan add some built-in benches under the living room window, providing plenty of storage space under the seats. Then, they expand on the built-in dining room hutch, making it twice as big, for holding twice as much.

These two built-in storage solutions are perfect, because they don’t take up space, as a bulky piece of furniture would, and they leave the whole room open as a kids’ play space. It’s a great workaround for this family’s storage issue.

This larger hutch is much more convenient.
This larger hutch is much more convenient.


Brighten beams to make a room seem taller

These beams were beautiful, but the brothers felt that they were too dark.
These beams were beautiful, but the brothers felt that they were too dark.


Jonathan and Drew like the wood beams in Leslie’s living room, but they worry that the dark color makes the room feel more closed in.

“From the moment we walked in, we noticed the dark beams and that high, recessed, rough-ridged ceiling. It was sucking the light out of the space,” Drew says.

But the color isn’t the only problem. The brothers notice that this room doesn’t have any ceiling lights, which makes this room even darker.

Painted white, the beams brighten the space.
Painted white, the beams brighten the space.


So Jonathan and Drew paint the beams white and add white shiplap-style ceiling panels.

“Not only do they add brightness,” Jonathan says of the panels, “but they’re also going to be dropped down to accommodate new recessed lighting.”

In the end, not only does the new color make the space feel brighter, but the added lights literally light up the room.

Large doors make a small house feel bigger

Wilson discusses new doors with Drew and Jonathan.
Wilson discusses new doors with Drew and Jonathan.


While Leslie’s living room is laid out well, the space is relatively small. Although the brothers can’t add to the square footage of the house, Jonathan has the idea to expand the living space by improving the flow into the back patio.

“We could do something really cool with these sliders,” Jonathan says of the existing doors. “We could swap them out for, like, collapsible glass panels. They could flow in and out. It would be great.”

All that natural light really brightens up the living room.
All that natural light really brightens up the living room.


The brothers open up the walls and install large, collapsible window doors from two sides, making both the family room and dining space open onto the backyard.

To complete the effect, they update the patio by adding new flooring and new furniture. In the end, the living space feels twice as big!

Two doors open up to the patio, making the living room seem far more open.
Two doors open up to the patio, making the living room seem far more open.


Don’t go overboard with too much white

This fireplace needed a new look.
This fireplace needed a new look.


While the Scotts know that it’s important to brighten up a space, they also know that with the walls, ceiling, and kitchen all in white, the space could use some contrast. So they redo the white fireplace with a unique brown finish.

“This is just made out of marble powder, lime, and sand,” Jonathan says, as he applies a clay mixture to the fireplace face.

Some techniques, he says, come from Italy, and from different regions of Europe, but this one, from Morocco, is called tadelakt.

With unique materials, the brothers turn this old fireplace into a modern feature.
With unique materials, the brothers turn this old fireplace into a modern feature.


The light-brown color looks perfect in the space. The finish adds dimension without darkening the area, and the modern fireplace shape is much better suited to children, because there’s no mantel to climb on or base to trip over.

Best of all, this modern fireplace looks clean and elegant.

“I love that it looks like a five-star hotel,” Drew says of the new finish. “That’s the kind of feature you want to have.”

When Wilson finally brings Leslie and her family back to the house, she’s amazed by how spacious and elegant her living room looks. Let this serve as a reminder that just a few small changes can make even small spaces feel huge.

Source: realtor.com

5 Instagram ‘micro trends’ that are perfect for a quick home refresh – Real Homes

There’s an explosion of micro trends on Instagram at the moment; there are so many, that we’re not sure which one to try out first. Micro trends allow you to make small but impactful changes to your home decor that don’t take much time to achieve and are not hugely expensive. Recent research* reveals the top 5 most popular ones rocking Instagram right now  – we’ll definitely be trying out at least a couple. 

Browse more interior design trends in our gallery. 

1. Lineart

resinart.fatima combines elegant line art with gorgeous metallix frames for a striking display. 

2. House plants

The explosion in popularity of this micro trend (over five million tags in Intagram) will surprise no one: house plants have been many people’s lifeline during lockdown, helping so many of us transform our homes into indoor gardens. Add just one house plant to your desk and feel better, or go all-out with dozens of them, like The Potted Jungle.

3. Polka dots

Search for polkadots on Instagram, and you’ll soon feel dizzy: there are polka dot bathrooms and polka dot skirts, polka dot dog beds and polka dot vases. Polka dots are fun and joyful, and they can be stencilled or applied as sticker onto just about any surface in the home, making them an easy decor update. And, as Instagramer Laura’s house proves, they can actually look quite classy as part of a neutral decorating scheme. 

4. Diffusers

Let’s face it: we’re all a bit starved of sensorial pleasures by now, so it’s hardly surprising that diffusers have risen in popularity recently. Whether it’s fragranced reed diffusers or essential oil diffusers, filling our rooms with beautiful scent is taking the edge off this never-ending Covid winter. And there are so many different types to choose from – we’ve never seen a diffuser quite like the one featured by Sydney Newsam. 

5. Dried flowers

Dried flowers make for a gorgeous semi-permanent display in any room; if preserved correctly, they will last ages and add a pretty, vintage vibe to an interior. Dried hydrangeas are an especially popular flower, and you can see why just by looking at this beautiful post by Chrissie Haim – so lovely and frothy, and just perfect for the room. 

*mini trend stats courtesy of HouseholdQuotes.co.uk

Source: realhomes.com