Archive for the ‘interior decorating’ Category

How to Make a Bathroom Show Better Without a Renovation

June 19, 2012

Are there inexpensive ways to make a bathroom show better when you are selling your home, without a renovation?

The answer is a resounding YES!

In fact, when someone is selling their apartment or house, I don’t recommend a renovation as the buyers would more likely want to renovate for their own tastes and preferences.

So the objective becomes removing the “ick” factor.  What can we do to spruce up and update this space so that the condition and datedness don’t turn off a buyer?  We want to get past the buyer turn-off and at least get the bathroom to a condition where the buyer can move in and live with the way it looks for a few months before they tackle the renovation.

First of all, bathrooms should be CLEAN.  I always tell my sellers to envision a hotel bathroom:  it should be sparkling clean and free of any personal toiletries, shampoos, children’s bath toys, etc. when showing the home.

The biggest impact in updating a bathroom but at a reasonable cost is changing out outdated and/or poor condition:

  • Lighting fixtures
  • Faucets and, if possible, tub and shower fixtures (a friend of mine spray painted her brass fixtures a brushed silver and they looked great and are still holding up two years later)
  • Cabinet door and drawer handles (this same friend spray painted these, including the hinges on the doors)

You don’t have to shop at high-end specialty stores for these items.  Try a Home Depot or Lowe’s.


Bathroom Before Updating


 Bathroom After Updating

(tiles regrouted, tub recaulked, walls painted, new accessories added)

The next biggest impact is to paint the walls.  Paint always freshens up any space.  But if the tiles are white, don’t paint the wall white. Choose a color that will add some contrast but is neutral such as pale gray or warm beige. And it there is wallpaper, remove it.

And if you are going to paint the walls, consider removing those large, frameless mirrors that span the length of the vanity.  These are dated, and smaller framed mirrors are more in fashion these days.

And if you’re not painting the walls and don’t want to remove the mirror, it can be updated by placing trim around it to give the appearance of being framed.

Then tackle the tub area.  If the tub is in poor condition, or of a dated color, it can be re-glazed by a professional for $400 to $500, much cheaper than removing and replacing the tub.  Often the grout between the tiles surrounding the tub is mildewed or crumbling.  A re-grouting can do wonders and make this area look like you just had new tile installed.  Also, removing old and moldy caulking at the top of the tub where it meets the tile, as well as where it meets the floor and re-caulking can give a fresh and clean appearance.

The sink, vanity and vanity top are additional areas to consider having a big impact if they are dated.  Depending upon the price point of the home you are selling, at the low end you can replace the entire unit for about $500 by buying one at the big box home improvement stores.

Or if you have an outdated oak vanity, painting it in a darker color with a semi-gloss finish, and affixing new hardware will go miles towards an updated look. 

Bathroom Before Updating


 Bathroom After Updating

(outdated wallpaper and brass towel bar removed, walls painted, new accessories added)

You can also just replace the vanity top, some of which come with a sink, for a few hundred dollars.

No need to replace the toilet usually, however replacing a well-worn toilet seat is a must!

In some cases where towel bars and toilet paper holders are affixed to drywall, rather than to the tile, these can be changed out as well.

Then of course there are the finishing touches:  new shower curtain and hooks, bath rug, and fluffy bath towels; artwork; matching accessories such as soap dishes and wastebasket; bath oils and soaps placed strategically in a tray or basket with rolled up towels and a loofah or back brush; and a potted fake orchid.  You want buyers to feel like they’ve walked into the closest thing to a spa and imagine themselves enjoying that space.

And before the open house or other showings, make sure:

  • Toiletries, shampoos, used bars of soap are stored away
  • Wastebasket is emptied
  • Toilet seat lid is down
  • Fluffy new towels are out and used towels are in the laundry

© Copyright 2012 Designed to Appeal, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.

About the Author: Donna Dazzo is president and owner of Designed to Appeal, a home staging company serving New York City and the Hamptons. Designed to Appeal helps homeowners and real estate agents sell homes quickly and profitably, by expertly creating an environment that buyers want to live in. Designed to Appeal also helps homeowners not looking to sell with interior redesign, which involves using mostly what the homeowner already has. Donna writes frequently on home staging and interior decorating and design topics.

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Area Rugs: Tips for Selection and Placement

August 28, 2011

Area rug When I am staging a home for sale, area rugs serve many functions in a room:

  • Defining the area, for example, a seating or dining area in a large room
  • Adding pops of color to an otherwise neutral room
  • Toning down a room that has strong and bright colored furniture
  • Adding texture to a neutral colored space

When I am doing an interior redesign, in addition to the above, area rugs also:

  • Provide comfort underfoot
  • Provide physical warmth underfoot
  • Absorb the sound in a room

Area rugs come in these common sizes:

  • 5′ x 8′
  • 6′ x 9′
  • 8′ x 10′, 8′ x 11′
  • 9′ x 12′
  • 12′ x 15′

Here are some tips when buying an area rug:

  • If you anticipate lots of traffic and wear and tear, select a patterned rug which will show stains less than a solid rug.
  • Also, a wool rug is easier to clean than a non-wool rug.
  • The shape of the rug should mirror the furniture or the room size.  For example, a rectangular dining table should have a rectangular rug underneath.  But a round dining table should have a round rug under it.

Round rug

  • In a very large room, you can have multiple area rugs, but make sure they complement and coordinate with each other. They don’t have to be identical, and ideally, we wouldn’t want them to be.
  • The area rug should take up 2/3 to 3/4 of the floor space of an area with no furniture on the rug, for example, the foyer pictured below.  Otherwise the rug will look lost.  However, a small rug right in front of the entry door would be acceptable.

Foyer Rug

  • Don’t cover the entire floor with an area rug – leave 9 to 12 inches of the floor around the edges of the rug exposed.
  • While some designers feel that area rugs on a carpet are a no-no, others say it’s okay to do so.
  • I prefer to start with the color of the sofa before choosing a rug to complement it.  Others start with the rug first, and then choose the sofa.
  • Don’t use busy rugs with large patterns with a sofa or bedding that has large patterns.
  • Use non-skid pads when needed to prevent slips and accidents.  The pad should be a few inches smaller than the rug.

  • There’s always been a debate about furniture on and off the rug, but here is some guidance:
    • At least the front legs of the furniture should be on the rug
    • All of the furniture’s legs should be on the rug, ideally, if the rug is large enough.
  • Avoid placing the rug so that the traffic pattern would have people walking with one foot on the rug and the other foot on the bare floor. And avoid placing the corner of a rug in front of a door as people may trip.
  • In a dining room, make sure that the rug is large enough that, when a person is backing out of their chair, the back legs of the chair are still on the rug.  You can use 24 inches from the edge of the table to the edge of the rug as a guide.

Dining Room Rug

  • Be aware that in rooms with direct sunlight and hardwood floors, the area rug will create an outline when the floor color changes as a result of the sunlight.  Also, sunlight can fade a rug, particularly oriental rugs.
  • Also be aware of electrical outlets and vents in floors as well as the placement of rugs near doors which may not clear the rug.
  • In a bedroom, at least two sides of the bed should have the same amount of rug showing.

Bedroom with area rug

If you have any other tips about the purchase, placement or care of area rugs, please share them.

© Copyright 2011 Designed to Appeal, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.

About the AuthorDonna Dazzo is president and owner of Designed to Appeal, a home staging company serving New York City and the Hamptons.  Designed to Appeal helps homeowners and real estate agents sell homes quickly and profitably, by expertly creating an environment that buyers want to live in. Designed to Appeal also helps homeowners not looking to sell with interior redesign, which involves using mostly what the homeowner already has.  Donna writes frequently on home staging and interior decorating and design topics.

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How High Should Artwork Be Hung and Other Tips on Hanging Artwork

May 30, 2011

Many of us like to be surrounded by photos of our family and beautiful pieces of artwork, but are afraid we are going to “make a mistake” when hanging them on the wall. Or worse, some of us don’t even know that the pictures are not hung properly. For you and others to get the most appreciation out of your pictures, here are some helpful tips on how high a picture should be hung to how to hang a group of pictures: 

  • Generally, pictures should be hung at eye level, but whose eye level? Hang it so that the center of the picture is at 5’8″ to 5’10”.

  • The height at which it should be hung should relate to the height of the furniture (and the objects on it) and not be hung too high. Otherwise the artwork will look as if it’s floating. Hanging artwork too high is one of the most common mistakes made.

  • The width of a piece of art or group of pictures should be a minimum of 2/3 the length of the piece of furniture it is hanging over, and should not be wider than the width of the furniture it is hanging over.

  • The size of the piece of art or group of artwork should relate to the size of the wall on which it is hung.

  • If hanging two or more pictures next to each other, the ideal spacing is 3 to 4 inches between them but no more than 8 inches.
  • Use a laser level to make it easier to hang pieces side by side evenly. A laser level, which can be found in national chains such as Home Depot or Lowe’s, is placed against the wall. It emits a red laser beam along the wall so that you can find the spot to place your hook or nail, once the liquid in the bubble is at its level position.
  • While a laser level makes things easier, make sure that the pair of same-sized frames have their hooks and/or wires in the same spot. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. If they don’t, then use the laser level to make sure the top of the frames are aligned, then measure down from the top of each frame to determine where you should place the nail or hook.

  • If hanging a group of pictures of different sizes, lay them out on the floor first for the optimal arrangement. There aren’t any rules here, but the arrangement should appear cohesive and balanced. You can also trace the arrangement on a very large piece of paper and then hang the paper on the wall as a guide for placement.
  • Use the proper hardware for the type of wall (e.g., sheetrock vs plaster) and the weight of the picture.
  • Use adhesive anchors like ZotsTM on the back of each corner of the frame to ensure that the picture doesn’t move.
  • If you are staging your home for sale, it is best to stay away from nudes or other artwork that might offend a potential buyer in the target market.

  • Use art to bring some color into an otherwise neutral room. Or if you are afraid to use too much of a bold color in larger pieces in the room such as bedding or the fabric of a sofa, you can still add this bold color to the room through artwork.
  • If hanging art on a wall with busy wallpaper, make sure they art you have chosen has a simple pattern and/or lots of white.
  • The pictures in a room should relate to one another in style. For example, traditional botanical prints and abstract paintings don’t really go well in the same room.
  • Placing art vertically can add the illusion of height to a room. Same with placing art horizontally: it can serve to widen the room.

  • A single large piece of art can have more impact and draw your eye to the focal point of a room more than a grouping of pictures.
  • When hanging a group of pictures on the wall of a staircase, hang them diagonally next to each other. Once you find the optimal placement for one of them, increase/decrease the height of the next one by the height of the step.

Note:  All photos are from Designd to Appeal’s stagings of homes for sale.

© Copyright 2011 Designed to Appeal, LLC.  All Rights Reserved. 

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 About the AuthorDonna Dazzo is president and owner of Designed to Appeal, a home staging company serving New York City and the Hamptons.  Designed to Appeal helps homeowners and real estate agents sell homes quickly and profitably, by expertly creating an environment that buyers want to live in. Designed to Appeal also helps homeowners not looking to sell with interior redesign, which involves using mostly what the homeowner already has.  Donna writes frequently on home staging and interior decorating and design topics.

Follow DonnaDazzo on Twitter 

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Paint Color and Lighting: Tips and Information

March 27, 2011

Recently I attended a Color and Lighting seminar for the trade at the Benjamin Moore showroom here in New York City.   As a home stager and interior redesigner, I often recommend paint colors to homeowners looking to “stage to sell” or “stage to dwell”. 

The two speakers were a Color Engineer and the Associate Manager of Color Design. 

Here are some interesting tips I learned from their presentations: 

  • When choosing a color, paint a small swatch against a gray surface.
  • Look at a color vertically against the wall, not horizontally in your hand.
  • Two colors that may appear to match in one light source may not match under another light source. This is known as metamerism.
  • Look for a Light Reflective Value (LRV) of 50% or more in paint to be used for residential interiors.  LRV is the amount of light reflected from a painted surface (0% is the blackest black and 100% is the whitest white).  The LRV for Benjamin Moore paint colors is listed in the index at the back of the Benjamin Moore “fan decks” (available through your paint store or design professional).
  • When choosing a light bulb, try to get a Color Ranking Index (CRI) of 80% to 85% in order to show true and saturated colors.
  • Incandescent light bulbs have a CRI of 100% but unfortunately will be phased out of production by 2014.
  • Halogen light bulbs have the next highest CRI but they too will probably go the way of incandescent bulbs.
  • Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs have a lower quality of CRI – 75%.
  • LEDs are the newest form of lighting but have a very low CRI.  However, they are great for outdoor lighting.

To set up an appointment for a Paint Color Consultation, contact me at

© Copyright 2011 Designed to Appeal, LLC.  All Rights Reserved. 

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About the AuthorDonna Dazzo is president and owner of Designed to Appeal, a home staging company serving New York City and the Hamptons.  Designed to Appeal helps homeowners and real estate agents sell homes quickly and profitably, by expertly creating an environment that buyers want to live in. Designed to Appeal also helps homeowners not looking to sell with interior redesign, which involves using mostly what the homeowner already has.  Donna writes frequently on home staging and interior decorating and design topics.

Follow DonnaDazzo on Twitter

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Home Staging New York: Benjamin Moore’s 2011 Paint Colors of the Year

December 2, 2010

In home staging, we like to stick to a neutral color palette so that we can make the home that’s for sale appeal to the broadest range of buyers.  However neutral does not have to mean boring.

I love to use pops of color (red, turquoise, orange, greens, blues) in throw pillows, artwork and decorative objects against the more neutral background colors (beige, grays, whites) in the furniture, bedding and walls.

Even so, I love to see what colors the major paint companies forecast to be THE colors for the upcoming year.

Benjamin Moore’s color designers are forecasting vintage wine  as their Envision Color 2011’s Color of the Year

Benjamin Moore Vintage Wine

Vintage Wine


According to Benjamin Moore’s website: 

“First seen on the fashion runways of New York, Paris, and Milan, this rich hue with a deep brown base and a hint of smoky violet is just as magnificent in the home.

As an undertone in many of the latest wood finishes, leathers, and other textiles, vintage wine, and its lighter variations, will make a great paint color pick for many applications over the coming years.

From deep smoky wine to wildly pumped up fuchsia, purple promises to be a predominant color in home décor in 2011.”

Forecasted Colors for 2011

In addition to their Color of the Year, the Benjamin Moore color team also comes up with a palette of colors they are forecasting for the coming year.  The color team reviews cultural, social, and political conditions and looks at how they affect fashion and design trends. Their analysis led to a central Balance theme with three related “style movements”—Soulful, Spirited and Dreamy.  Each of these style movements were then defined by six Benjamin Moore colors.


Communications technology has drawn the global cultures closer.  What may have seemed strange now appears familiar to us.  On the style front, this is visible in ethnic designs, pattern-on-pattern, and handmade decoration such as beading and embroidery. Colors that reflect this include Benjamin Moore’s:

  • Vintage Wine 2116-20
  • Wasabi AF-430
  • Amulet AF-365
  • Casco Bay 2051-30
  • Hush AF-95
  • Etruscan AF – 355


By spirited, this means anything that makes you feel happy, joyful, playful. In fashion and furnishings it’s reflected in designs featuring geometrics, stripes and cubes,  and dots and curlicues. Loud and bright colors are  balanced with gray, black and white. Benjamin Moore colors comprising this palette are:

  • Royal Flush 2076-20
  • Grape Green 2027-40
  • Wrought Iron 2124-10
  • Paper Mache AF-25
  • Storm AF-700
  • Lucerne AF-350


From a design perspective, dreamy means transparency, sheerness, blurriness and softness.  The Benjamin Moore colors that reflect this style or mood are:

  • Gray Mirage 2142-50
  • Genesis White 2134-70
  • Porcelain 2113-60
  • Etiquette AF-50
  • Kendall Charcoal HC-166
  • Smoke 2122-40

Each year Benjamin Moore announces their predictions for the upcoming year in a booklet that’s free and available through the company’s extensive network of stores.  The booklet contains decorating ideas, photo illustrations, plus the forecasted palette of 18 colors for 2011.

© Copyright 2010 Designed to Appeal, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.

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Home Staging New York: Hampton Designer Showhouse 2010 – My Favorite Rooms

September 3, 2010

Much better than last year! 

That’s what I have to say about this year’s Designer Showhouse in the Hamptons. This year it is being held at 129 Stoney Hill Road off Brick Kiln Road in Sag Harbor. Sunday, September 5, is the last day, so hurry and get over there.

This year the room decor in 95% of the house is MUCH more down to earth than last year, which frankly, I found to be over the top.

Here are some of my favorite rooms:

Living Room Designed by HB Home

[I love the classic look of this room]


Bedroom Designed by Brady Design, Inc.

[I love the pops of orange]


Bedroom Designed by Arden Interior Architecture & Design

[I love the yellow and blue palette]


Master Bathroom Designed by Suzanne Kelly of Bakes and Company

Faux Finish Walls by Gerri Wilson of Faux Real

[I love the soothing blue walls and feminine decor]


Outdoor Shower Designed By diSalvo Interiors

[I love the luxury of this shower transported into the fresh air]

© Copyright 2010 Designed to Appeal, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.

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Home Staging New York: The Top 10 Home Improvements that Could Devalue Your Home

August 7, 2010
Sometimes, making an improvement to your home could actually hurt you when you try to sell it. 

Here are the top 10 home improvements that can make your home harder to sell: 

1. Kitchen Renovation. Any renovation of a kitchen that is too taste-specific or extreme in design. For example, a kitchen equipped with a restaurant-level stove or multiple refrigerators may not appeal to the buyer who is a simple cook. You want to appeal to the broadest range of buyers when selling a home, and if a buyer thinks they need to spend money re-doing what you’ve done, they will offer less. 

2. Bathroom Renovations. The same can be said for bathroom renovations. Any design that is over the top could detract from the value of the home. It’s best to avoid garish sinks, faucets, and tiles.  And skip the heart-shaped bathtub!

 3. Painting. Painting the walls is a great way to freshen up a space prior to putting your home on the market, but painting with bold colors such as red, orange, purple or even black (I’ve seen this) is a sure way to turn off a potential buyer. Buyers want to feel like they can move right in and not have to re-paint the walls to match their own tastes and their existing furniture.  The same goes for painting the exterior of the home – no bright blues, yellows or greens please!

4. Water Features. Having an in-ground pool, hot tub, waterfall or pond can also devalue a home, as buyers may perceive these as extra maintenance expenses they don’t want to incur. Also, buyers with small children may be fearful of these as well. The only exception of an in-ground pool definitely adding value is if the home is an investment property in a resort area where renters find homes with a pool to be more desirable.

5. “Wasted” Square Footage. Taking valuable square footage in a house and using it for a specific, personalized purpose can make the house harder to sell and/or detract from its value, for example, turning a garage into a gym. Also, on the Bravo TV show, Nine By Design, the hosts of the show were trying to sell their NYC townhouse. The ground floor was taken up by a basketball/squash court because the owners liked to play these games. However, most buyers would see this as wasted space and an expensive project ahead to change.

6. Redecorating. Redecorating in a highly taste-specific style, such as Asian, country clutter or extreme modern can turn-off potential buyers. When selling your home, you want to appeal to the broadest range of buyers, so it’s important that the furniture and décor is neutral and broadly appealing.

7. Illegal home improvements.  Decks, driveways, expansions, etc.  not approved by the local town authorities  can devalue the home as you will probably be forced to correct the situation prior to selling which could result in something as extreme as actually removing it.

8. Laminated Wood Flooring.  Installing laminated wood flooring instead of solid wood in an upscale home can also cause a buyer to think “I’ve got to rip this out”!  Better to refinish existing hardwood floors, if any, or cover floors with new but inexpensive wall-to-wall carpeting.

9. DIY Home Repairs. While needed repairs and maintenance should be done to a home before putting it on the market, doing these yourself could end up costing you money in the end as buyers perceive your shoddy workmanship as something they have to spend money correcting, and therefore offering you a lower price.

10. Gardens and Landscaping. A high-maintenance garden and landscaping could also lower the value of a home. If buyers are not avid gardeners or don’t want to spend money watering or on hiring someone to constantly weed, trim and rotate your plantings, this could be a real turn-off.

So, before you decide to make that improvement to your home, stop and ask yourself: “Will most buyers find this desirable so that they would be willing to pay for it, or is it just to satisfy my own needs and tastes?”.

Do you know of any home improvements that could devalue a home?

For more information:

© Copyright 2010 Designed to Appeal, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.

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Home Staging New York: Creating a Comfortable Conversation Area

April 24, 2010

Creating a comfortable conversation area in the living room is important so that people can face each other and can speak without raising their voices.  

Also, everyone should be able to comfortably reach the coffee table, or at least have an accessible side table.   

A conversation area can also help to establish a focal point in a room such as a fireplace. 

The furniture set up of the conversation area should also eliminate traffic flow through it so that conversation is not interrupted. 

Here is a sample layout of a good conversation area: 

 As you can see above, the simple “ingredients” required are: 

1.  A sofa (or two loveseats)

2.  Two upholstered chairs

3.  A coffee table or large ottoman

4.  End tables

5.  Table lamps

 In the diagram above, you will also notice that: 

  1. The arrangement highlights the focal point, the fireplace.
  2. There is no traffic flow through the area since the entryways are to the top left and top right in the diagram. 

If you are lucky enough to have a large space: 

1.  Creating a conversation area frees up space in the room for other functions such as a separate reading area consisting of a club chair, ottoman, table and lamp or a working area consisting of a desk and chair. 

2.  Two sofas can be placed back-to-back with their own set of chairs and coffee table to create two distinct conversation areas.

Copyright  © 2010 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: Finding the Right Balance with Furniture

April 19, 2010

Imagine a boat where all of the weight was shifted to one side.  What would happen to the balance of that boat?

Balance in a room is the same thing. 

It’s affected by two things: 

  • The size of the furniture
  • The placement of the furniture 

If most of the furniture is either very tall, very short, top heavy or bottom heavy, the room will be off-balance vertically

If most of the furniture is on one side of the room, the room will be off-balance horizontally.  

While balance in a room is also determined by and affected by the color, texture and style of the furniture, as well as the use of and color and style of art and decorative accessories, we will limit this discussion to furniture size and placement in a living room. 

1.  Start with the big pieces first.  By this we mean sofas and loveseats.  Assuming you already have a sofa and/or loveseats, place these first in the room, near to the focal point so as to emphasize it and not block it.  A focal point can be a fireplace, an entertainment center, or a window with a view. 

If you don’t already have one, then a sofa and/or loveseat is the first item(s) to purchase since it will determine the style, color, and size of all of the other pieces in the room. Also, take measurements of the sofa in case you intend on purchasing chairs, rugs, artwork and cocktail, end and sofa tables. 

You should also be aware that the style of the sofa/loveseat will determine its visual weight.  For example, a sleek modern sofa with straight lines, legs instead of a skirt, and straight arms, will have less weight than a sofa with a curved back, rolled arms and a skirt along the bottom. 

2.  Add Chairs.  The simplest way to achieve balance is to add two matching or color-complementary chairs to the sofa or loveseat seating arrangement.

Upholstered chairs, whether club style or slipper style, provide better visual balance to a sofa than a pair of wooden chairs. 

But make sure that the height of the chairs is no more than 5 inches taller or shorter than the height of the back of the couch/loveseat. 

In the illustration below, the furniture arrangement highlights the fireplace, the focal point, and is also balanced.  The fireplace is balanced by the large picture window on the opposite wall.

3.  Add Tables:  The next items to add to the seating arrangement are the end tables and cocktail table. 

End tables should be no more than 2 ½ to 3 inches higher or lower than the arms of the sofa or chairs to provide balance.   

Also, if the couch has its legs exposed rather than being skirted, then this visual lightness can be balanced by an end table with small legs or one with no legs, such as a cube, a small chest with drawers or an end table with shelves.  

A cocktail table should take up 2/3 to ¾ the width of the couch. A sofa table behind the couch is optional, however it too should not exceed 2/3 to ¾ of the width of the couch nor be higher than the back of the couch. 

4.  Tall bookcases, armoires, entertainment centers, wall units.  These are the items that can have a dramatic impact on the balance of the room, and because of their height and mass, must be balanced out. 

For example, an armoire or single large bookcase, both of which are taller than they are wide, can be balanced out if there is a fireplace with a piece of art or a mirror hung over the mantle on the opposite side of the room.  

A tall and wide entertainment center or a bank of bookshelves can be balanced out on the other side of the room by adding some vertical and horizontal weight to either side of the fireplace.  This can be accomplished by adding a chest and artwork hung over it to both sides of the fireplace.

In the picture below, the fireplace is balanced on the opposite side of the room by the console table with two lamps and a piece of art over it.  Further balance is achieved by adding chests and artwork to either side of the fireplace, rather than leaving these walls empty.

Copyright  © 2010 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: Interior Design vs Interior Decorating vs Home Staging vs Interior Redesign

March 30, 2010

The other day a real estate agent whose listings I stage for sale introduced me to someone as a “designer”.  I didn’t want to take the time to correct him, but I thought to myself, “This isn’t the first time I’ve heard people use ‘designer’ erroneously. It’s often used to label someone who’s an interior decorator.  So, why does everyone lump us all in one category, when we all clearly do something different?”

To put the differences succinctly:

  • Interior Design involves, among many other things, the preparation of documents often by a licensed professional for the construction of an interior space such as plans and elevations, and details and specifications, including lighting, power and communication locations, materials and finishes, and furniture layouts.
  • Interior Decorating involves the adornment of surfaces in the interior space, such as fabrics, wall coverings, furniture, decorative accessories, flooring, light fixtures etc., and takes into account the lifestyle, taste, needs and preferences of the user of the space.  While interior designers may decorate, interior decorators don’t design.
  • Home Staging is preparing the home for sale through updates and “decorating” so that it appeals to the broadest range of buyers for the market that the home is in.
  • Interior Redesign is often done by home stagers for homeowners not currently selling  because it employs many of the same principles that home stagers use, such as primarily using what furniture and decorative accessories the homeowner already has, with an eye towards the future sale of the home.

Now, let’s explore each one more in-depth.


Interior Design

According to the National Council for Interior Design Qualifications (NCIDQ):

  • Interior design is a multi-faceted profession in which creative and technical solutions are applied within a structure to achieve a built interior environment.
  • These solutions are functional, enhance the quality of life and culture of the occupants and are aesthetically attractive.
  • Designs are created in response to and coordinated with the building shell and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project.
  • Designs must adhere to code and regulatory requirements, and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability.
  • The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology, including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into the creative process, whereby the needs and resources of the client are satisfied to produce an interior space that fulfills the project goals.

The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) is the leading organization for interior design professionals.  Certain levels of its members must meet certain education, work experience and examination requirements administered by the NCIDQ.  Further, some states have licensing requirements for interior designers which include the passage of this exam.  ASID also has continuing education requirements for its members.

611504Interior Decorating

No wonder people often confuse Interior Decorating with Interior Design.  Even I had trouble finding a definition for Interior Decorating.  Often it said “see interior design”. 

Perhaps its best to understand interior decorating as it exists in contrast to interior design:

  • An interior decorator would select floor coverings based upon the tastes and lifestyle of the client, whereas the interior designer would take it a step further and look at usage, sound transference, flammability, etc.
  • An interior decorator would select lighting fixtures, whereas the interior designer would plan for the location of lighting and ensure that it is in compliance with building and safety codes.
  • An interior decorator does not need to have any formal education and/or work experience, testing or licensing , whereas an interior designer does.

Home Staging

Home staging is the art and science of preparing a home for sale so that it appeals to the broadest range of buyers in order to sell quickly and for top dollar.  The objective is to make the potential buyer fall in love with the home, envision themselves living there and aspire to the lifestyle the home portrays.

According to the Real Estate Staging Association’s Consumer’s Guide to Home Staging, it is a “systematic and coordinated methodology in which knowledge of real estate, home renovations and creative design principles are applied to attract a buyer.” 

Home staging involves any or all of the following: 

  • Evaluating what furniture and decorative accessories (throw pillows, artwork, decorative objects, lamps, knickknacks, etc.) the owner has, and: 
             – eliminating some of the furniture and/or decorative accessories, otherwise known as decluttering as well as depersonalizing (removal of family photos, trophies, collections etc. so the buyer can envision living there) 
             – arranging the furniture and accessories for optimal placement to enhance flow (the ability to walk freely through the room), focal point enhancement (e.g., emphasizing a fireplace or a beautiful view), balance (are there too many or too large pieces in the bookcase or on only one side of the room?) and the positive aspects of the home while downplaying the negatives 
  • Carefully selecting for purchase or rent, if necessary, the appropriate furniture and accessories for the style of the home and it’s market. 
  • Recommending, implementing and/or arranging for enhancements, updates and repairs such as painting, flooring, sink fixtures, lighting fixtures, window treatments, landscaping, etc.  

Interior Redesign

As stated above, interior redesign is like home staging, however it enhances the home for the homeowners rather than for potential buyers.  And it does so with an eye towards its future sale. It is like home staging in that it primarily uses the client’s existing furniture and decorative accessories to transform the space, and may also involve the purchase of additional furniture and accessories as well as updates to the wall colors, window treatments, lighting fixtures etc.


To summarize the differences:

  • Interior Design involves the planning  of all aspects of interior space often by a licensed professional.
  • Interior Decorating involves the adornment of surfaces in the interior space.  Interior designers may decorate, but interior decorators don’t design.
  • Home Staging is preparing the home for sale through updates and  showcasing so that it appeals to the broadest range of buyers for the market that the home is in.
  • Interior Redesign employs many of the same principles that home stagers use, such as primarily using what furniture and decorative accessories the homeowner already has, with an eye towards the future sale of the home.

Home Staging New York: The Art of Arranging a Bookcase

March 12, 2010
One might think that the arrangement of items in a bookcase is not art, but it is.

Color, balance, and space all play a big part.
Here are some hints to arranging a bookcase, whether built-in or free- standing, whether you’re staging to sell or not:
  1. First, remove all of the items from the bookcase.
  2. Discard or pack away paperback books (especially when staging as they can be sloppy-looking).
  3. Remove the dust jackets from the hardcover books, except coffee-table books to give the shelves a neater appearance (when staging).
  4. Group books and accessories separately so you can more easily see what to work with.  
  5. Group hardcover books by color of the spine.  I personally like to group books on the shelves by the spine color, but it’s really a matter of personal taste.
  6. Begin to stack groups of books (say 5 to 8 depending upon the widthof the books and the width of the shelf) vertically on either the right or the left of the shelf.
  7. Then, on the shelf underneath this one, group them towards the opposite end.  So if you grouped them on the right on the shelf above, group these ones on the left.
  8. In order to fill up more visual space on these shelves, you can append a short stack (2 to 3) of books laid down horizontally and acting as a bookend to keep the vertical books from falling down.
  9. You can also place a small object on top of these horizontal books, such as a glass paperweight or anything that’s not too large relative to the height of the vertical books.
  10. Balance the other side of these shelves with a taller decorative object, so that there’s height on one side with the books and height on the other side with a decorative object.
  11. Continue this pattern of books right and left on alternating shelves, and intersperse some of the shelves with the horizontal books.
  12. Also continue to intersperse the decorative objects on the shelves so that there is balance on each shelf and in the bookcase as a whole.
  13. Just as an artist steps back from his painting, keep taking a step or two back to look at the visual you are creating – it should be uncluttered, but not too empty, and should be balanced.
Look at these before and after photos and you will see the difference.  Which one is more pleasing to the eye?

bookcase before

 Bookcase After


Copyright  © 2010 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: Creating Good Flow

February 10, 2010

What exactly is flow, and more specifically, traffic flow, in a house or a room? 

Simply, it’s the ability to walk easily from room to room in a house as well as through the room without bumping into furniture or coming upon an empty space.

Studies show that homes that have a good traffic flow sell faster than those that do not.

But even if your home is not on the market, you still want to maximize flow.

A couple of important “rules”: 

1.   You should be able to walk freely between rooms such as the dining room and kitchen, for example.  This rule wouldn’t apply to private spaces, like a bedroom.

2.   You should be able to walk from an entryway into a room without bumping into or having to walk around something

3.   You should be able to walk freely around and in front of furniture, except traffic should not flow through a conversation area

4.   Having too much furniture in a room will inhibit flow

Here’s an example of improper flow.  In order to walk to the patio doors from the doorway, you would have to walk through the conversation area by maneuvering between the coffee table and the couch, and then around a chair.

In the layout below, you can walk from the doorway to the patio doors without going through the conversation area.


What furniture layout situations have you encountered, good or bad?

Copyright  © 2010 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: Paint Colors Can Affect Your Perception and Your Mood

December 2, 2009

Did you realize that over 90 percent of the information we receive is through our eyes?  Did you know that the paint color of a room can affect your perception of that room?   

  • RED makes a room appear smaller, but it comes into its own when set against cool colors (blue and green). 
  • ORANGE also makes a room appear smaller but it is less oppressive than red.  Best used to decorate welcoming parts of the home.
  • YELLOW can brighten small rooms, however a bright yellow is not recommended for children’s rooms as it has a vibrating intensity.
  • GREEN does well when used with contrasting colors or several shades of green, rather than all one shade.  It is a good color for a bedroom as it promotes relaxation.
  • BLUE that is pale will make a space feel light and airy. Darker tones make the space more relaxing, as in a bedroom, but if too dark, it can make the room depressing. Bright blues are good for children’s rooms.
  • VIOLET or PURPLE should be used sparingly to maintain its effect of mystery, elegance and luxury.
  • WHITE used on all walls can be stark, cold and reflects too much light and glare.  It is best to use an off-white, pale cream or beige. 
Did you realize that color can also drastically affect your mood? 
  • RED stimulates our appetite and energizes us.
  • ORANGE inspires fun and laughter and lifts the spirit.
  • YELLOW stimulates and energizes the mind, benefits our memories, and maintains our positive frame of mind.
  • GREEN makes us feel tranquil, relaxed and rested.
  • BLUE calms us, helps us meditate, and fosters clear thinking.
  • VIOLET or PURPLE stimulates our senses and minds, promotes creativity and romance, but also can sedate us.
  • WHITE used on all walls can overstimulate the nervous system, making us feel tired and irritable.

Do you have any experiences of how paint color changed your perception of a room or your mood?

Copyright  © 2009 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York – Paint: One of the most effective home staging tools

November 17, 2009

When your home is for sale, it is now a product that needs to appeal to the greatest number of buyers.  Walls, along with the floors, are the bones of a home and they need to be in good condition and neutral in appearance so that they do appeal to the greatest number of buyers.

  • People are heavily influenced by color, and it is difficult for buyers to look past the dark purple or other strong colors on the walls.
  • Paint is an inexpensive but effective way to re-decorate a room. It can update a kitchen or bathroom, make a small room seem to be larger, and make architectural details like molding or built-ins pop. 
  • Dirty and scratched walls and peeling paint turn off buyers. 
  • Potential buyers will be thinking about how they have to take the time and spend the money to repaint; or even worse, thinking ‘I don’t want to buy this place”. 
  • Painting does cost money for both labor and materials, but its benefits far exceed its cost.  Even if the buyer is willing to make an offer, you can bet it will be less than asking to compensate for the paint job they will have to do.

Paint Sheens (all Benjamin Moore Regal)

 Follow these guidelines for choosing paint finishes:

  • Flat – good for ceilings (use Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White).  Can also be used for walls if the walls have a lot of imperfections as these would be more noticeable when painted with a sheen or gloss.  However, flat paint is more difficult to clean than paint with a sheen or gloss.
  • Eggshell – good for bedrooms and living and dining rooms.  Highly washable, durable and stain resistant.
  • Matte – good for busy areas like hallways and kids’ rooms as it is a flat paint but highly stain resistant and durable.
  • Pearl – good for hallways, bathroom and kitchen walls, and kids’ rooms as it is highly durable and can withstand repeated washings.
  • Semi-Gloss – good for trim and doors, and also kitchen and bathrooms. It is highly durable, scrubbable and washable.  Use a color in the white family to make trim pop.

If you prefer to choose one finish for walls in all rooms, then Eggshell is recommended.

Paint Colors

Before purchasing any paint, test a sample on the wall.  Benjamin Moore now sells small jars of the most popular colors, or invest in purchasing a quart.  If the wall has a dark color on it, hold a white piece of paper next to your sample.  Look at your sample painted swatch at different times of the day to see if it changes color with the lighting.

When painting a home that is for sale, it is best to stick with neutral colors.  And that doesn’t mean white, as it is very stark and cold.  It also doesn’t mean it has to be some variation of off-white or beige, but can be a certain shade of green, blue, brown, gold or earth-toned red.

If you wish to “play it safe”, the following is a list of colors that are in the off-white or beige category.

Recommended Neutral Paint Colors For Walls 

Below are color swatches of my recommended netural paint colors, as well as a list of the colors.  Keep in mind that the appearance of the color on the swatch may not reflect it’s true color as it depends upon the monitor settings with which you are viewing them.

  • Natural Wicker (OC-1)
  • Elephant Tusk (OC-8)
  • Muslin (OC-12)
  • Cedar Key (OC-16)
  • Collingwood (OC-28)
  • Tapestry Beige (OC-32)
  • Misty Air (OC-44)
  • Hazy Skies (OC-48)
  • Gentle Cream (OC-96)
  • Pale Celery (OC-116)
  • Celery Salt (OC-136)
  • Shelburne Buff (HC-28)
  • Edgecombe Gray (HC-173)
  • Manchester Tan (HC-81)
  • Rich Cream (2153-60)

 Note:  All Benjamin Moore

Do you have any favorite neutral colors you use or recommend?  I’d love to add them to my list.

Copyright  © 2009 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: Top 10 Mistakes Sellers Make When Presenting Their Homes for Sale – Part II

October 30, 2009

Last week I shared with you the first five of the Top 10 Mistakes home sellers make when they present their home to prospective buyers.

To recap they were:

  1. Paint problems
  2. Dirty and/or worn carpeting and floors
  3. Pets and their accoutrement
  4. Personalized decor
  5. Dated or worn hardware and fixtures

This week I focus on the remainder of the Top 10 Mistakes.

Manfredi bathroom bef6.  Dirty, Cluttered or Untidy Interior or Exterior – Despite what sellers might think, buyers cannot see past dirt and clutter.  It’s extremely important that both the interior and exterior of the home, including the yard, be clean and tidy.  Kitchens and bathrooms need to be whistle-clean.

 IMG_1571 - cropped7.  Dated or Inappropriate Window Treatments – Anything dated in a home is a turn-off to a potential buyer and window treatments are one of them. If the drapes are from the early to mid-90s, chances are they are too heavy and too dated.  Remove them and replace them with panel drapes on a rod – inexpensive ones can be found at Target and JC Penney.

8. Bad Furniture Arrangements – Furniture that doesn’t highlight the room’s best features are doing the seller a disservice.  For example, a fireplace is usually THE focal point in a room, and the furniture should be arranged around it so that the eye is drawn to the fireplace.  Also, furniture should not block the flow of being able to walk through the room. It should not block being able to open a door.  Lastly, the furniture in the room should define the purpose of the room.  In the picture below, is this a guest room, an office or a game room?

pool table

 blocked windows9.  Blocked Lighting/Dirty Windows – Buyers treasure natural light and sellers need to do everything to maximize it.  Trim back or remove overgrown bushes and trees that are blocking the windows, clean the windows, open up the drapes, and even remove the screens while the home is on the market to let in more natural light.  For more tips to lighten and brighten a home, click here.

10.  Too Much or Too Large Furniture – Think LESS IS MORE!  Remember that the purpose of furniture when selling a home is to define the purpose of the room (e.g., dining room, not home office or children’s playroom) and to show what will fit where (e.g., king size bed).  It is not meant to show that you can provide seating for 15 in your living room and every seat has a side table to rest drinks on and the bedroom is large enough to hold 3 dressers. Also, the size of the furniture needs to be in balance with the scale of the room and the other furniture in it.

 cahn dining room

Also, check out HGTV’s 10 Best Kept Secrets When Selling a Home.

Copyright  © 2009 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: Top 10 Mistakes Sellers Make When Presenting Their Homes for Sale – Part I

October 24, 2009

Do you know the Top 10 Mistakes home sellers make about how they present their homes to prospective buyers?  And most home sellers also make the overriding mistake of believing that buyers “can see past this”. 

Well, it’s simply not true.  Only 10% of prospective buyers can visualize the potential of your home.  

This week I focus on the first Top 5 Mistakes.  I will share the remaining five with you next week.  And as you will see, ameliorating these mistakes costs little or none. 

yellow cabinets1.  Paint Problems – too often prospective buyers can’t get past the ugly shade of green that the house is painted or the purple in the bedroom. For both the exterior and interior it is best to stick to neutral colors, EXCEPT 1) you can use a bright contrasting color like red for a front door, and 2) DON’T use white on the interior walls as it’s stark and cold (it’s fine for trim and ceilings).  Paint issues involve both color and the condition of the paint. Paint is one of the most inexpensive ways to freshen up any space.  Walls and floors are the “bones” of any interior space and both should be in good condition.

dirty rug

2.  Dirty or worn carpet and/or floors – .as just stated, walls and floors are the “bones” of the house or apartment and should be in good condition.  If carpets are old, outdated and badly stained, it’s best to remove them.  Sometimes a beautiful hardwood floor awaits underneath. If not, replace with inexpensive wall to wall carpeting.  Hardwood floors in bad condition should be refinished.  You don’t want to give your buyer a mental checklist of repairs they need to do so that they either walk away or bid lower. 

dog3.  Pets and their “accoutrement” –  you may love your pets, but not every buyer will.  Leaving your pets in the house while it’s being shown is a BIG mistake.  Removing them but leaving behind pet bowls, kitty litter boxes, leashes and dog cages is also a BIG mistake.  Remove all traces of your pets including hair and odor. 

4.  Personalized Decor – displaying family photos, children’s artwork, trophies, awards, collections and your prized deer head on the wall does NOT allow the buyer to imagine living in your space.  Plus these items are also a distraction.  You want the buyers to look at your house, not your children’s baby photos.


outdated fixtures5.  Dated or worn hardware and fixtures – if floors and walls are the bones of the house, then hardware and fixtures are the “jewelry”.  Outdated or tarnished door handles on kitchen and bathroom cabinets, and outdated lighting fixtures and faucets are a turn-off to prospective buyers.  Replacing these can update the look of a bathroom or kitchen very inexpensively.  And don’t forget to replace scratched doorknobs on doors and broken or non-matching lightswitch plates. 



Stay tuned next week for the remaining five mistakes home sellers make when presenting their homes.

 Also, check out HGTV’s top 25 Real Estate Mistakes when buying and selling a home.

Copyright  © 2009 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York – Pictures, Chandeliers, End Tables, Lamps, etc.: How High?

September 27, 2009

How high should a picture be hung?

How low should a chandelier hang over a dining room table? 

What’s the appropriate height for an end table?

Here are some useful guidelines:

Hanging Pictures – generally, pictures should be hung at eye level, but whose eye level? Hang it so that the center is at 5’8″ to 5’10”.  But it should relate to the height of the furniture (and the objects on it) and not be hung too high. Also, the width of a piece of art or group of art should be a minimum of 2/3 the length of the piece of furniture it is hanging over.  If hanging two or more pictures next to each other, the ideal spacing is 3 to 4 inches between them but no more than 8 inches. IMG_3038 - croppedIMG_3606_cropped


Dining Table  Chandelier – the bottom of the chandelier should be 30 to 36 inches from the tabletop.

Davis 013Dazzo - kitchen after - wide angle1 - cropped


Cocktail/Coffee Table –should be 2/3 to 3/4 the size of the couch or loveseat they are in front of and should be placed 12 to 16 inches from the edge of the seat to allow for legroom.

IMG_1823 - cropped

IMG_1066 - cropped


End Tables – for comfort (and so not to knock things over), the height of an end table next to a sofa or chair should be within 3 inches of the height of the arm of the sofa or chair.

IMG_3522_1 - cropped


Table Lamps – the bottom of the shade should be within 2 to 4 inches of your eye level.

IMG_1914 -cropped

Copyright  © 2009 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: Free Peek at Hamptons Designer Showhouse

September 11, 2009

Last Sunday I toured the Hamptons Designer Showhouse in Water Mill, Long Island, New York.  It was sponsored by Traditional Home Magazine and the admission fees benefited Southampton Hospital.

Thirty-five designers got the opportunity to strut their stuff.  Some of it was over the top and other rooms were inspiring to me.  Here are some pics I took (unfortunately without my wide angle lens camera).

Judge for yourself.

Copyright  © 2009 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: Does Your Home Have Architectural Features that Pose Problems? Here are Some Solutions

September 4, 2009

Does your home have architectural features in the interior that pose problems? 

For example, the ceilings are so high that it just doesn’t feel comfortable when walking into or being in that room? Or a room is so narrow, it feels claustrophobic?

See below for some common problems and how to “fool the eye” to make them just disappear:

  • Long Rooms – divide the space into two or three separate areas (e.g., in a living room, have several seating areas as pictured below) and anchor each with an area rug. Use dark colors on the end walls to visually advance the wall towards you.

Edge of Woods 022

  • Edge of Woods 162
  • Narrow Spaces – put the bed in a bedroom or a couch in a living room on a diagonal.  Use square area rugs to visually widen the space. Use a dramatic color on the short wall to advance the wall towards you and keep long walls free from wall hangings to minimize advancement.
  • Narrow Windows – hang the window treatments beyond the sides of the windows so that it appears there is more window under the drapes but in reality it’s just the wall
  • Low Ceilings – paint the ceilings white, hang draperies as high as possible (as pictured below), use tall pieces or art to create a sense of height, lighten upward using can lights or torchiere floor lamps.

2 HM Ln - vacant 031


  • High Ceilings – paint the ceilings a warm, deep and rich color to visually bring the ceiling down, hang window treatments higher than the windows, hang artwork at eye level, choose furnishings and lighting carefully so they don’t seem dwarfed by the space, and warm up the room with area rugs.

Copyright  © 2009 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Home Staging New York: Five Decorative Accessories to Perk Up Any Space

August 19, 2009

Recently I was contacted by a writer for a real estate magazine and she asked me what are the five decorative items I use most often when staging a home for sale and why I use them.

After giving it some thought, I came up with the following, which can also be used to perk up any space even if you’re not selling your home:

1.   Throw Pillows – do wonders for both the living room and bedroom.  Use pillows in bright contrasting colors to the couch, chair or bedding color.  Because it’s important to use neutral colors on the walls and in furniture when staging a home for sale so that it appeals to the broad range of buyers, throw pillows are your opportunity to add punches of color to a room without overwhelming the space.

IMG_2244 reduced

 Inventory 249

 2.   Throws – are also an opportunity to add a punch of color to a neutral-colored room, however more importantly, it allows the buyer to envision curling up on the couch or chair with a good book or a glass of wine,  and relaxing.


3.   Colorful Fruit – whether real or fake, can also add pops of color to the kitchen, and make it enticing to a prospective buyer.  I use red apples, green apples, oranges, or anything with a bright color.  You can place them in a clear glass jar, in a bowl, or on a fruit stand.

Inventory 285 - cropped

Inventory 136

4.   Orchids – whether real or a good fake, add a touch of elegance to any room.  You want buyers to aspire to a certain lifestyle when they view your home, and orchids portray a luxurious lifestyle.  I particularly like using them in bathrooms, either on the tub surround (see below left) or the vanity. They also look great on a console table in the foyer.



 5. Decorative Balls – of any texture, such as glass or twigs, in a bowl placed on a cocktail table or as a centerpiece on a dining room table, add pop and interest.

dining rm centerpiece 

What are your favorite decorative accessories?

Copyright  © 2009 Designed to Appeal, LLC – All Rights Reserved