Coffee Table – Protecting the Renter Mon, 17 Jun 2013 16:15:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Giving Your Apartment a Zen Makeover Wed, 13 Mar 2013 13:00:54 +0000

Between work, school, social outings, commuting, and the general busyness of everyday life, things can get pretty stressful throughout the week. That’s when it’s nice to have a place to come home to that’s relaxing and helps to get your mind off of all the other things you have to do from week to week. To create this kind of space, it can be useful to apply some of the essential Zen design principles that will give your home a feeling of clarity, balance, and beauty that will erase any outside stressors that dog you throughout the week.

Here are the fundamentals you’ll want to address to get that perfect Zen space.

Asymmetry: Zen philosophy teaches that imperfection is a normal, expected part of life. In your own space, you can work to create beauty through balanced asymmetry, creating relationships between the objects in your space that are harmonious and engaging.

Austerity: While you don’t have to go for complete minimalism, this ruling principle of Zen focuses on reducing things to their essentials. In your space, this can mean paring down what you own and reducing clutter. This will help your space feel more open and give you a sense of relief, as you won’t have the task of caring for all of those things hanging over you at the end of each day.

Naturalness: This is generally taken to mean the absence of pretense or artificiality, but naturalness in design is somewhat ironic, as by nature it cannot be accidental; it is always man made. In this, the feeling that you’re going for is one that does not embrace raw nature so much as natural elements that are placed with purpose and intention. This can mean bringing in natural materials, plants, or other elements that draw on nature and using them in ways that are pleasing to the eyes and the mind.

Simplicity: To create a Zen-like space, consider furniture and decor that is simple and unembellished. This type of fresh and neat design, often focusing on harmonious colors and shapes, can still be comfortable without cluttering your visual space with too much information.

Subtlety: The ideal Zen room would suggest rather than reveal. This can mean creating a certain feeling without being literal about inspiration. This kind of subtlety requires an air of mystery, which can keep your space interesting even if it is pared down to largely functional elements.

Tranquility: This is the quality that most often comes to mind when people think of Zen, and with good reason as it will help you find the stillness and calm you need in your space in a chaotic world. While you might not be able to block out all the noise from the outside world, you can work to pare down the distractions and create spaces within your apartment that give you this feeling of tranquility. If you don’t know where to start, consider the bathroom where you can create a warm, comforting place to take a shower or bath that helps to relieve the stress of the day.

While you don’t have to incorporate every one of these elements into your space, embracing a few can help you to give your space a look and feel that will strip away your stress and let you relax when you’re not busy with work, school, and other obligations.

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Could You Live in a Micro-Apartment? Mon, 11 Mar 2013 14:57:23 +0000
Photo by Brent D. Payne.

If you think your place is small, you may want to learn about the latest trend in small apartment living: the micro-apartment. These tiny abodes range in size from 220 to 370 square feet and are taking root in some of the nation’s most in-demand and most expensive housing markets, specifically those of New York and San Francisco. Yet micro-apartments aren’t just your standard tiny, bland studio space.

The biggest difference is that these apartments have been designed by acclaimed architects and make use of every nook and cranny of the space with foldaway furniture and carefully planned storage solutions. As a result, they may be small but they’re highly functional, appealing spaces. Many even boast layouts that make it possible to entertain and use the apartment like a much larger one bedroom.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone will be rushing out to get one. While small, the spaces still costs a pretty penny, though they are considerably more affordable than the average space in their market. In New York, these tiny apartments rent out for around $1,000 to $1,800 a month while in San Francisco rents on micro-apartments start at $1,600 a month. That’s not what most people would consider cheap, even in places where average rents reach astronomical levels.

Still, with housing shortages in these cities and in other places around the globe (including Tokyo and Boston), many may find themselves renting out these small but well-appointed spaces. Do you think you could hack it in a shoebox sized apartment? How about living with a roommate or a friend? Having shared a tiny apartment myself (though not micro-sized) for a number of years, I’m not sure I’d find the setup to be incredibly desirable, but for others who don’t mind living in tight quarters, it could be a way to spend less and do more in these fun and vibrant cities.

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Location, Location, Location: Why Where You Live Matters So Much Fri, 01 Mar 2013 14:00:21 +0000

It’s perhaps the most well-known real estate mantra: location, location, location. It’s not just a meaningless saying, however. Location really does play a huge role in choosing where to live, whether you’re buying or just renting. In fact, choosing a great location can save you time and money, keep you safer, and make your everyday life easier and perhaps even better. How? I’ll explain.

A good location will reduce your commute. Not only will you have an easier time getting to work if you choose a location that’s close to highways or public transportation, but you’ll also have easier access when you need to go shopping, meet up with friends, or run some errands. This isn’t a small detail. Even a 15 minute difference each way during the week adds up to a whopping two and a half hours by the weekend.

You may be safer. While crimes can happen anywhere at anytime, some areas are simply less crime prone than others. Choosing a place to live where you don’t have to constantly worry about having your car broken into or walking down the block at night can take a load off of your mind. Rents may be higher in these areas, but you won’t have to invest in a security system for your car or a watchdog for your home.

You’ll be near things to do. If you’ve chosen a great location, that probably means that you can walk or take a short drive to nearly everything you need on a daily basis, from banks to grocery stores to restaurants. In urban areas this can be especially important as part of the thrill of living in a big city is being close to the amenities it has to offer.

You’ll enjoy where you live. When you have a shorter commute, you have more free time, and when you live close to things to do, you can use that free time to take advantage of those activities. Smart locations capitalize on both of these things and can make the experience of living in a city or town a much more enjoyable one. When it’s easier to socialize and complete tasks, you’ll have a better quality of life, and there’s not much of a bigger benefit a location can offer than that.

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The Dirtiest Places in Your Home Tue, 19 Feb 2013 22:28:23 +0000

Your home might look clean, but is it really? There are certain parts of most homes that remain dirty, germy, or downright disgusting, often without the residents even being the wiser. While general cleaning can do a lot of good, paying special attention to these danger zones will help ensure that your place stays safe and pest-free while you live there.

Computers and other gadgets. As it turns out, your high-tech tools can be some of the germiest and dirtiest things in your home. This shouldn’t be surprising with as much as they get handled, eaten over, and put in random locations (yes, even the bathroom), but many don’t realize just how dirty their portable tech really gets. Make it a habit to give your devices a good weekly wipedown to help disinfect computers, tablets, and even remote controls to ensure they stay clean and in working order.

Toothbrush holder. Mold and other buildup can drip down your toothbrush and pool in your toothbrush holder, putting you in contact with it every time you touch your toothbrush. If dishwasher safe, simply run your toothbrush holder through a cycle to sterilize it. Other areas you may be neglecting in your bathroom are the toilet paper roll holder and the toilet flush handle, both of which can get sprayed with germs each flush but don’t often get cleaned.

The top of cabinets and appliances. If you’re like many people, you’ve never even looked at the top of your cabinets or appliances. Yet they accumulate dust just like anything else in your home, providing a home for allergens and other airborne irritants to settle into your place. Once you’re done with the higher up cleaning, don’t forget to tackle sweeping and cleaning underneath the appliances, too.

Ceiling fans. Ceiling fans are magnets for dust and whatever else is floating around in the air, and when loaded up with them can spread allergens all over your room. You don’t want that, so make sure to wipe down the blades on your ceiling fans at least once a month to prevent that dusty buildup.

Light switches. You put your hands on the light switches in your place countless times every week, but how often do you clean them? Contact with hands can not only spread germs, it can also leave them grimy and just plain dirty if your hands aren’t clean when you flip the switch. Give them a wipe down one a week to freshen things up. Another danger zone? Your door knobs, which also see a lot of use but not a lot of cleaning.

Handles, knobs, and switches in the kitchen. Your refrigerator door handle and cabinet knobs get touched several times a day, sometimes after you’ve been handling raw or unwashed food. This can leave them laden with germs and bacteria, some of which can be potentially harmful so you want to make sure to disinfect when you clean your kitchen. Another place to make sure to clean is your faucet, which can get riddled with food-borne bacteria when you touch it to wash your hands.

Sponges. Research has shown that sponges hold up to 250,000 bacteria per square inch. While not all of that bacteria may be harmful, it only takes a small amount of the bad stuff to make you sick. Keep sponges sterile by replacing them often and giving them a run through the microwave and the dishwasher to keep bacteria at bay.

The bathtub. You use your bathtub and shower to help you get clean, but what you might not realize is that the tub is one of the germiest, dirtiest places in most homes. A recent study found that while only 6% of trash cans carried staph aureus a whopping 26% of bathtubs did. The wet, warm environment of the tub makes it the perfect place for any germs you wash off to thrive, so clean it regularly with a disinfecting product, making sure to get those cracks and crevices, too.

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How to Make Your Apartment Attractive to Subletters Thu, 10 Jan 2013 03:21:25 +0000

Whether you have to suddenly move because you’ve gotten a great job in another city, are moving in with a significant other, or just want to get out of your place, sometimes you need to sublet. Assuming it’s A-OK with your landlord (some states have laws mandating that subletting is allowed regardless, check up on yours), you want to get your new renter squared away as soon as possible so you can start worrying about things like packing and moving. While there’s no guaranteed way to get renters to bite, here are some tips that can help make your place a bit more attractive to anyone looking to find a new place of their own.

Clear out clutter. If you want your place to look roomy and appealing to potential subletters, then you need to do a good spring clean and get rid of any junk or clutter you have lying around. Remove items from countertops and go ahead and donate any furniture or other items you won’t need when you move. This will not only help your place look better, it will also make the process of moving a whole lot easier.

Freshen up. Been living in your place for quite some time? Chances are good that it needs a little freshening up. Touch up the paint, fix anything that is broken, and make sure everything looks as new and nice as possible.

Make sure it’s clean. No one wants to move into a place that’s dirty. Before listing your apartment, give it a cleaning from top to bottom, even addressing parts of the place that you may not regularly clean. You’ll make it more attractive to others and save yourself some grunt work when you move out.

Be savvy about advertising. Most landlords aren’t going to help you find a subletter, so you’re on your own for listing your place and finding someone to take over your lease. Most often, you’ll use a site like Craigslist to do this. In order to place an ad that will draw people in, you’ll need to figure out how to describe all of the positive aspects of your place, be honest about its shortcomings, and take photographs that make it look attractive enough to want to come see.

Offer a discount. Unless you live in an incredibly hot rental market, you’re probably not going to get the full price of your rent from a subletter. You can try asking, but you may need to offer a discount to the rent to make your place more competitive in the market.

Sell your space. Finally, when someone comes to see your place, show it like you’re a real estate agent. You want to sell your space, so show them all of the features of the apartment and before they leave, hand them a paper with the number of your landlord on it so that they can call if interested and sign the paperwork to sublet ASAP.

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10 Things You Need in Your Emergency Disaster Kit Thu, 29 Nov 2012 16:06:28 +0000

Winter is upon us, and in many parts of the country, the cold temperatures can yield all kinds of nasty weather, some of which may even knock out power, block roads, and make it nearly impossible to get to a store for days. Even warm parts of the country may see torrential rains and extreme weather, so it’s never too soon to prepare for any kind of disastrous weather, no matter where you call home. Apartment dwellers may not have much room for a huge stash of stuff, but a few essentials can help you make it through days without power, water, or other essential services without feeling too miserable.

  1. Flashlights, candles, or lanterns. Without power you’re going to need some kind of light so you can actually see what you’re doing. There are a variety of options, but flashlights, candles, and battery-powered lanterns are the standards.
  2. Water. According to the Red Cross, you should at a minimum have one gallon per person, per day of water stored in your home, just in case.
  3. Non-perishable food. Just to be safe, stock your pantry with an assortment of non-perishable and easy-to-prepare foods. They can see you through times without power or gas, and even in non-emergency situations can help you whip up a quick meal. If you have pets, make sure to keep extra pet food for them on hand too, so your furry friends won’t go hungry.
  4. Important documents. While you don’t have to throw all of your important documents into an emergency kit, it is critical to be able to find these kinds of things quickly and easily if you need to. Be able to pull up contact numbers, insurance information, personal documentation, and other information without having to hunt around for it– you might really need it in an emergency.
  5. First aid kit and extra medications. If you take medications, make sure you have enough to last you a week or more around the house. You may want to refill your prescriptions as early as possible to make sure you always have enough on hand to last you. Keeping essentials like band-aids, antiseptics, pain medications, and other first-aid basics is also smart as you never know when you’ll need them.
  6. Hand crank radio. While you may be able to keep up with news on your phone, cell batteries don’t last forever. You can ensure that you’ll have a link to the rest of the world through a battery or hank-crank powered radio that will let you hear weather, emergency notices, and news about when your services will be restored.
  7. Cash. While credit cards and ATMs are great most of the time, they become much harder to use when the power is out. Always keep backup cash in your home in a secure but accessible location so you can buy essentials no matter what the situation in your neighborhood is.
  8. Toilet paper and other personal care items. You don’t want to run out of then essentials mid-blizzard and have to resort to using things that are less than ideal (newspaper isn’t a great substitute for toilet paper, nor is dishwashing soap for shampoo). If you won’t be able to shower, a few cleaning wipes should help you make it through a couple of days without hot water.
  9. Warm stuff. Even in the warmer parts of the country, it can get pretty chilly at night. That’s why its essential to make sure to have extra blankets on hand that can help you get and stay warm. If you live in a colder area, hand and foot warming packets (usually sold to skiers and winter weather enthusiasts) are also a really great idea.
  10. Batteries. If you’re relying on battery powered devices for light, information, and entertainment, then it’s smart to keep extras on hand so you won’t be left, quite literally, in the dark.
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How to Make Your Apartment More Kid-Friendly Fri, 16 Nov 2012 21:25:33 +0000

Whether you have kids at your place regularly or are just expecting some pint-sized visitors for a few days this holiday season, there’s no doubt that having kids in a space requires some special design choices. You might need to put away some super breakable items (or stow them somewhere out of reach) or for the long term, create spaces that are functional and comfortable for kids, not just grownups. While each kid will have his or her own interests and likes, here are some general tips to help you create a space that’s welcoming to kids.

Put away things that can easily be broken. Whether the delicate items in your home are expensive or just have sentimental value, they might not be best left where little hands can reach them. Older kids might be fine around some breakables, but younger ones would be safer and you happier with the fragile items put out of the main living areas.

Provide some entertainment. Many kids are easily bored, but heading to a new space with new things to play with and read can keep them entertained for quite some time. Round up some toys and books that are age appropriate for your smaller guests, or even just some crayons and coloring books, to make things more enjoyable for them, too.

Tackle the dangerous stuff. Sharp corners, outlets, and cabinets full of cleaning supplies can all pose a danger to small kids. While you can’t totally kid-proof your place (especially if the kids will only be there for a few days), you can try to eliminate some of the most dangerous aspects of your place so that you and their parents can worry less.

Ask what the kids like. As you would with any guest in your house, if you’re trying to make kids comfy, just ask what they like or need. That way, you can tailor your approach to the individual kid and make everything much more fun for all of you. Plus, the little ones will feel special and everyone deserves a little special attention now and then.

Set boundaries. If you have places you don’t want kids to go or things they shouldn’t get into, let them know from the get-go. It’s not a guarantee they’ll comply, but at least there will be ground rules to work with that are clear and well-defined.

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The Best Time to Look for an Apartment Sat, 27 Oct 2012 17:17:06 +0000

Finding the perfect place to live can be hard when trying to balance cost with location, safety, and proximity to neighborhood amenities. Yet it’s not all just luck. Recent research from RentHop shows that there is a science to getting your hands on an amazing apartment. Want to get a leg up in your apartment search? Seek out a place during these times when you can get the best apartments for the lowest prices.

Best Month: November

If you’re looking to score a super deal on an apartment, don’t go looking in the summer. According to RentHop’s data, summer prices are the highest of the year and apartments are the most in demand so there is a lot of competition. By November, the rental market has cooled off making it easier to find a place that’s within your budget and meets your needs. While November is the best month for apartment hunting by far, it’s closely followed by February and December.

Best Time of Month: The beginning or the end

Looking for a place at the very beginning or end of the month can help you in different ways, depending on which end of the month you choose. If you begin your search in the early days of a new month, you can call dibs on some of the best places that are just coming up for lease as old tenants move out. If you decide to wait (or are forced to by other circumstances) until the end of the month, you are more likely to score a deal as landlords don’t want to lose out on multiple months’ worth of rent. So, if you want choice, look early, deals, look late.

Best Time of Day: Morning

There is no real hidden magic to searching for apartments in the morning. It’s as simple as the old adage "the early bird gets the worm." If apartments are listed in the morning, those who are first to pounce on them obviously have an edge. If you’re in a highly competitive market, always give Craigslist or other rental sites a look first thing in the morning to make sure you’re not missing out.

While there is an element of luck to finding an amazing place in any city, you can also maximize your chances of scoring a great apartment for less by using these stats to guide your search. And if you have the option, shop for places at the beginning of the month, in November, early in the morning.

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How to Prep Your Apartment for Winter Weather Thu, 18 Oct 2012 19:02:16 +0000

As much as many of us would like to extend summer (or fall) for another couple of months, winter is well on its way and the cold weather that comes with it soon will be too. Before the first winter storms hit, make sure your place is ready to handle all the wind, snow, and sleet they have to throw at it by following these basic apartment winterization tips.

Make or buy draft dodgers. You can limit the impact a cold breeze has on your space by blocking it with a simple draft dodger. They’re easy to make but if you don’t have the time or the inclination, they’re not expensive to buy either. Use them to stop cold air flows around windows and doors.

Test your heating system. Before cold weather hits, make sure your heating system is working like it should. If not, talk to your landlord and get things fixed before you actually need the heat.

Reverse your ceiling fan. In the summer, ceiling fan blades cool a room by pushing cold air down. In the winter, you want the opposite to happen. Most ceiling fans come complete with a switch that allows you to reverse the direction the blades spin. Flip it to get a little help with keeping warm air near the part of the room you’re living in.

Consider smaller heaters. Space heaters and electric blankets are just two ways that you can add extra warmth to parts of your apartment that you use the most. Focus on these and you could save big on heating costs.

Inspect windows. Look over your windows and determine if they have leaks or are drafty. You can ask you landlord to repair or replace them, but if that’s not an option you’re not doomed to a chilly winter. You can shrink wrap your windows, block off drafty portions, or invest in heavy draperies that will stop the bulk of the drafts.

Learn to use your thermostat. If you have a programmable thermostat, you can save big by programming it to warm the house when you’re there and cool it when you’re not. If you don’t have one, consider adding one to you place or simply putting the heat up or down when you leave and come home.

Check your smoke detectors. Between holiday lights, candles, space heaters, and other devices, there are plenty of fire hazards in the winter. Make sure your smoke alarms are in good working order so you’ll be alerted of any hazards with enough time to get out of the house.

Invest in warm bedding. You’ll keep yourself from shivering at night when you’re sleeping by getting flannel sheets, a down comforter, or other types of super warm bedding.

Stock up on essentials. A crazy snowstorm could make it hard to get out of your place to get food or other essentials. Keep water, pet food, and canned items on hand to carry you through times when you can’t get out.

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4 Must-Read Quick Furniture Fixes Fri, 21 Sep 2012 13:00:33 +0000 Even the most careful of us can sometimes stain, nick, or scratch furniture; it's just part of owning it. While not every "oops" has an easy fix, there are many ways to deal with minor issues that can keep your furniture looking good without having to invest in costly refinishing. Curious? Read on to learn some quick and inexpensive furniture fixes you can use around the house.

Cover up scratches with a walnut. Walnuts aren't just delicious; they're also amazing at covering up scratches in your wood furniture (and floors, too). Simply take a shelled nut and rub it on the affected area. The oil in the nut will help to disguise the scratch.

Remove water stains with an iron. Water stains are a result of the liquid seeping into the wood and getting caught between the layers. To drive out the water, place a cotton cloth over the stain and use a dry (make sure there is NO steam) iron to press down on it for several seconds. Simply repeat until the stain is gone.

Fill in shallow chips with nail polish. Did you ding the table and cause it to loose a bit of its varnish? Not to worry. Simply fill it in with a few drops of clear nail polish and sand lightly with a fine grit paper when dry.

Use furniture markers. Furniture markers come in a wide range of colors so there's one out there that matches virtually every piece of furniture. Use these felt-tipped tools to fill in large scratches or to touch up edges where the stain has worn away.

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