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Local Designer Talks DIY and the Best Decor Stores

We recently spoke with local interior designer Whitney Jones about how to create a space – even when you’re renting! – that truly feels like home. Jones believes that a beautiful apartment isn’t just attainable; it’s also affordable. How? Three simple letters: D I Y. Check out our conversation with Jones below.

1LP: Your blog features a lot of DIY projects, and it seems like something you’re very passionate about. Why is it so important?

DIY orange vinyl chairs. (Photo courtesy Whitney Jones)

DIY orange vinyl chairs. (Photo courtesy Whitney Jones)

WJ: In my apartment, I actually pretty much did everything custom, which really can be code for DIY. You don’t want to go into your friend’s house or post a picture online and have someone say, “I have that! And I have that!”

If you try to do custom, you always have a unique space that will get you compliments. When you love décor and love for your home to look good, it feels good for someone to feel welcomed into a really nice space.

1LP: Can you recommend some examples of DIY projects?

WJ: Of course! I have some chairs I purchased at Target for $26 on clearance. They’re metal chairs with gray and teal upholstered fabric – they didn’t match, but I bought them anyway because I knew they had potential. I went to a fabric store and purchased some orange vinyl, and I upholstered both of them in the vinyl [using a staple gun]. They look like a totally custom chair for under $75.

Then, there are my curtains that I purchased from Pier 1. I bought two matching curtains and then a third in a contrasting color and fabric. Then, I used parts of the third curtain to add to the bottom of the matching pair to create a custom look. It also added length, which meant I could suspend them from higher on my ceiling – that’s a great trick to add a feeling of height to a space. I also make pillows and sell them on my website.

I also DIY’d a wood bench I purchased at a flea market. I painted the bench white and recovered with faux fur that I purchased at a fabric store. There are so many different options!

DIY faux fur bench. (Photo courtesy Whitney Jones)

DIY faux fur bench. (Photo courtesy Whitney Jones)

1LP: What, in your opinion, is the easiest kind of DIY?

WJ: Before you purchase or do anything else, I suggest going with pillows first. They shape your sofa, they can even reinvent your sofa, and they’re your source of inspiration for the rest of the room. If you decide to make DIY pillows, you have hundreds of different selections that inspire you that you can use to have as a jumpstart for the rest of the room. They’re really easy to make – just search for a tutorial whether you prefer to hand sew, use a sewing machine, or even use hot glue!

I also love DIY art because it’s easy and affordable. I have a DIY canvas board with some song lyrics that I painted – really simple.

diy art board

DIY canvas with song lyrics. (Photo courtesy Whitney Jones)

1LP: What if someone is feeling stuck once they start decorating? Or maybe they’re too overwhelmed to even get started! What advice do you have?

WJ: ALWAYS PLAN before you do anything. Don’t start buying stuff without a plan. You have to pick something that’s your starting point. If you find something you love or just have to have, make it your jumping point so you can plan your room around it. If you choose art, choose a color out of your artwork that you can use in your pillows; another color can be your curtains; another color can inform your accessories.

My other best piece of advice is to start with the room where you spend the most time. People see pictures of my living room and they think I have it going on. And then you look to the right and it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s a disaster over there!’ My dining room functions as my office! I had so much energy to do my living room and then I wasn’t sure if I was ready to start on something else. For me, I started with the room that I spend the most time in; the room that means the most to me. If your bedroom is your sanctuary or if you want to feel more comfortable there, that’s where you should start. If you cook a lot, you should start in the kitchen. Because if you start somewhere where you don’t spend a lot of time, you’ll get burned out fast. You’ll have the energy and the spirit to start in other rooms if you begin a project in a room you enjoy being in the most. It’ll have a domino effect.

1LP: Where are some of your favorite places to find furniture and accessories in New Orleans?

WJ: My favorite place to shop in the city is Target. They’re really trendy – they’re on the mark on what’s hot in decor. I’m not a trendy decorator, per se, but I like to see what they have. If you’re not really good at decorating or don’t know what you like, Target allows you to do it on a budget. Pillows, linens, living chairs, lounge chairs, and all for good quality and price.

Nadeau has really good price points and unique items, so I’d definitely say Nadeau for furniture. TJ Maxx for accessories and Pier 1 for glamorous accessories – they’re pricier but they’re not outrageous, and you can have a really glamorous look for a lot less than you’d expect. 

1LP: What are some of your favorite websites for that same purpose?

WJ: Ballard Design – they’re not the most inexpensive but they have beautiful items. I really love Wayfair so there are hundreds of thousands of times so you could shop all day! Sometimes it’s way too much stuff to look through, but in a good way. I like Wayfair for the options. Home Decorators Collection – it’s actually Home Depot’s home line. They don’t tell people that, but it is! They have really good stuff for really great prices. 

Find Whitney on Instagram at @whitneyjdecor or visit http://whitneyjdecor.com to connect with this amazing local designer!

 

 


Working from Home 101: Succeed with These Tips

Doesn’t the idea of working from home sound absolutely incredible? Lounging in your pajamas, working with your favorite daytime television blasting in the background? Well, working from home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Because you really, truly are working. And sometimes, when you’re not in a traditional office setting, it can be hard to stay focused. We love that some of our properties feature dedicated home office spaces (or spare bedrooms that you can convert into a home office), so with that in mind, we’re sharing a few tips on how to create a beautiful, functional home office – plus how to stay focused when you’re at home.

home office

Staying productive and focused at home isn’t always easy, but these tips can help. (Photo via Flickr user David Martyn Hunt)

How to Stay Focused When You Work from Home

Treat it like a normal office day. One of the ways you’re able to be so productive at the office is the natural structure that the office environment creates. Try to mimic it at home by setting specific times for your breakfast and lunch rather than grazing in front of your computer all day.

Keep your family and friends in the loop. Your family and friends might be tempted to chat or plan to get together while you’re working from home. Of course, it makes sense to take advantage of work-from-home flexibility, but you can gently remind people that even though you’re at home, you’re still working.

Get to know your computer. When you’re working from home, you’ll likely be on your computer most of the day and can’t rely on coworkers at the office to help you out if you’re having an issue. Make sure you understand all pertinent programs on your computer before you plan to work from home.

Have a backup plan. Perhaps the Internet goes out or you find that you’re just too distracted at home. Try working in one of our common areas or even going to a local coffee shop for a change of scenery that might spur productivity.

Creating the Right Home Office Environment

Get organized! Organization is perhaps the largest component to working from home successfully. Make sure your home office is stocked with all the things you’ll need throughout the day – pens, paper, Post-Its… whatever works best for you.

Invest in a good chair. Rather than balancing your computer on your lap as you sit on the couch (sound familiar?) look into finding an office chair with proper ergonomic support. Your back – and productivity – will thank you.

Prioritize good lighting. Working from home means you can choose an area of your home that offers a good balance of natural light. Adding attractive desk or table lamps creates a sense of ambience while also helping you to avoid straining your eyes.


Renting on the Rise: Renters are Set to Surpass Homeowners

“The housing bust taught us to be wary,” says the Washington Post in a recent article about falling homeownership rates – rates that are expected to continue to fall until the amount of renters exceeds the amount of homeowners in the United States.

“Viewed another way,” the article continues, “a big surge in renters is coming.” As a premier apartment company with communities throughout Greater New Orleans and the Gulf South, we’re excited to accommodate the expected uptick in renters. We believe renting is a worthwhile long-term option for a multitude of reasons (check out a recent post here).

Renting has all the comforts of homeownership, plus some surprising benefits. Our Clearwater Creek community truly feels like home.

Renting has all the comforts of homeownership, plus some surprising benefits. Our Clearwater Creek community truly feels like home.

The National Apartment Association notes that by the year 2030, a majority of the estimated 22 million new U.S. households will be renters, not buyers. These combined articles suggest that perhaps the future is dim for homeownership but, as the old adage goes, where one door closes, another opens.

We’re constantly improving at 1st Lake Properties, from updating apartment communities to adding seasonal landscaping and so much more. We’ve recently built new communities, too, like our Bella Ridge property in Elmwood with luxury units that have all the comforts (and more) of any standalone home. An on-site dog park, gorgeous pool, and state-of-the-art fitness facility are all worthwhile additions we’re so pleased to be able to deliver to our residents.

What’s more, our improvements aren’t limited to actual buildings – we’ve added helpful assets on our website like our apartment moving checklist designed aid residents during transitions from one 1st Lake Community to the next.


Renting Vs. Buying: Why Renting Wins

“The housing bust taught us to be wary,” says the Washington Post in a recent article about falling homeownership rates – rates that are expected to continue to fall until the amount of renters exceeds the amount of homeowners in the United States. “Viewed another way,” the article continues, “a big surge in renters is coming.”

With the housing market still in a state of flux, many Americans have chosen to forego a mortgage and take solace in the ease of renting a place to live.

Renting has all the comforts of homeownership, plus some surprising benefits. Our Clearwater Creek community truly feels like home.

Renting has all the comforts of homeownership, plus some surprising benefits. Our Clearwater Creek community truly feels like home.

The National Apartment Association notes that by the year 2030, a majority of the estimated 22 million new U.S. households will be renters, not buyers. These combined articles suggest that perhaps the future is dim for homeownership but, as the old adage goes, where one door closes, another opens.

Home lending regulations have become much more restricted since the collapse of the housing market, and many people don’t want to deal with the hassle and red tape involved in taking on a new mortgage. In addition, young people are increasingly wary of laying down roots in a particular area. Because of this, the flexibility of renting has become more attractive due to the short term options of a lease.

If renting and buying battled it out in a boxing ring, they’d be well matched. There are many benefits to buying a home, of course, but recent research shows that renting is a viable option that can leave you with more money in your wallet – money you can put toward retirement, stocks and bonds, and more.

More People Choosing To Rent

In 2014, CBS News honed in on an obvious misconception. According to their article, “the vast majority of homebuyers say thought bought because they thought their home was a great investment. But, in many cases, they could have done far better investing in a diversified portfolio.”

One study performed by Hart Research Associates found that 57% of adults believe buying a home is less appealing, 54% prefer apartment renting to home ownership and 45% of surveyed homeowners expressed interest in returning to apartment renting.

Among the key findings in the National Apartment Association survey:

  • Leasing rental property perceived as more favorable to holding a mortgage: 76 percent of adults feel that there are advantages to renting vs. owning in the current real estate market, an increase of 5 percent from 2008. 64 percent cited having no responsibility for major repairs or maintenance as the primary reason, followed by 50 percent who cited financial reasons such as not being impacted by an unpredictable real estate market(33 percent – an increase of 1 percent from 2008), and not being susceptible to foreclosure (tied at 33 percent).
  • Renters are not eager to make a change this year: 60 percent of renters plan to continue renting their current residence or rent new residences within the next year. 12 percent of renters said they have plans to buy a new home this year and only 14 percent believe that buying a house is preferable to renting given the current state of the market.
  • Homeowners tied down and staying put: 71 percent of homeowners will stay in their current home over the next year, mirroring almost exactly the response from 2008 (72 percent).
  • Adults continue to experience economic backlash from the foreclosure crisis: 93 percent of adults feel that the financial security of homeowners is more or equally affected by the current state of the housing market – no change from 2008 – illustrating that the economic impact of the foreclosure crisis has not shifted or improved.
park oaks pool

Lush landscaping and sparkling pools are just a few of the many benefits of renting vs. buying.

Renting Means Extra Money You Can Invest

Putting your hard-earned money toward a hefty mortgage means you won’t have anything left over to invest in the stock market even IRAs. Renting gives you the option to upsize or downsize based on your needs and financial position in accordance with your budget: if you choose a company like 1st Lake Properties, your options for renting are practically endless, meaning you can rent an apartment home that’s right for you and use your extra income more wisely.

Renting Offers Flexibility

Moreover, HelloWallet found that the average homeowner moves within 9 years. That sounds like a long time, but when you’re tied to a 30-year mortgage, you end up paying more of the money to interest rather than principal. On average, “households would build 50 percent more wealth over a 10-year period by renting,” according to HelloWallet.

The takeaway? Renting and investing the difference helps you stay comfortable in the present – thanks to lush amenities like pools, gyms, and balconies or home offices – while also contributing to your future.

Here are a few other reasons to rent:

Credit

A home mortgage is sometimes not an option for those of us with less than great credit.  It’s interesting that apartment renting can actually build up poor credit and should be considered an investment in your credit rating.

Location, Location, Location

Purchasing a home in a city like New Orleans is incredibly pricey, but renters get the advantage of unbeatable proximity without the high monthly mortgage and insurance. Many of our properties are just a quick drive to sought-after areas like the French Quarter and the Central Business District without the high price tag.

It’s More Affordable

In addition to providing money up front for a down payment, when you buy a home, you’re also responsible for a monthly mortgage, property taxes, insurance, and even the possibility of homeowner’s association fees. Plus, you’re responsible for maintenance and repairs, water, utilities, and trash. It adds up!

Apartment Amenities

It’s unlikely your home will include a full house of amenities like resort-style pools, an attached covered garage, backyard cabanas, and a state-of-the-art fitness facility – but these are all a reality when you rent from a 1st Lake Property (like Bella Ridge, for example).

Free Up Your Free Time

No yard work. No maintenance. When you rent, all these annoying chores are taken care of by professional staff at a moment’s notice. If something breaks in your apartment, just contact our main office. We’ll take care of the rest.

There’s no better time to make an apartment rental your first choice.

Even if you plan on eventually becoming a homeowner, renting is a great way to become acquainted with the responsibilities of living on your own and the flexibility of a lease can allow you to wait until the perfect time to buy a home of your own.

We’re constantly improving at 1st Lake Properties, from updating apartment communities to adding seasonal landscaping and so much more. We’ve recently built new communities, too, like our Bella Ridge property in Elmwood with luxury units that have all the comforts (and more) of any standalone home. An on-site dog park, gorgeous pool, and state-of-the-art fitness facility are all worthwhile additions we’re so pleased to be able to deliver to our residents.

What’s more, our improvements aren’t limited to actual buildings – we’ve added helpful assets on our website like our apartment moving checklist designed aid residents during transitions from one 1st Lake community to the next.

Consider being in that growing number of apartment renters and check out all of our New Orleans area apartments for rent.

If you found this article helpful, please share on Facebook or Twitter

Related posts:

First Apartment Essentials: Checklist and Guide To Finding and Moving Into Your First Apartment

Moving Tips: 5 Apartment Search Considerations

1st Lake Moving Tips: Renting a Moving Truck

Moving Tips: How to Save Money With A Moving Company


Prepare Your Pets for Hurricane Season

Hurricane season started June 1, which means if you haven’t prepared, it’s time! We know the basics: keeping our car serviced, creating a supply kit with stable food, water, and medical needs, and setting up a communications plan during the event of a storm. But what about your pets?

cats dogs

Remember to include your pets in hurricane preparation plans. (Photo courtesy FeederSupply.com)

As nola.gov/ready (the local resource for hurricane preparedness) puts it, “your pets’ survival during a disaster largely depends on advance emergency planning you do today.”

Take a look at how to prepare your pets for hurricane season below.

Include Your Furry Friends in Your Evacuation Plan

Remember that pets will be unable to fend for themselves if you leave them outdoors or even indoors in the event of flooding. During Hurricane Katrina, many residents made the difficult choice not to evacuate so that they could stay with their pets. Since then, city officials have now allowed residents in New Orleans to evacuate with their pets: it is the best choice for all parties involved. If you live in Jefferson Parish, visit their website for more information on evacuation plans with pets.

You’ll want to make sure you have suitable carriers available for all of your pets so that you can transport them easily and safely in the event of an evacuation.

Have Supplies Handy

We’ve been there: we let our pets’ food run out completely and then have to scramble to the grocery store. In the event of a hurricane, however, there will be no time for scrambling, which is why advance planning is so important. Just like you would gather an emergency supplies kit for yourself, plan to create a separate kit for your pets that will last at least three days. Nola.gov/ready’s sample supply kit includes:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Daily medicines, if applicable
  • De-worming or monthly pills, just in case
  • A litter box
  • Extra tags
  • A can opener for canned food
  • A couple of toys
  • Vet information
  • Vaccination records

Schedule a Vet Appointment

Pets will need to be up-to-date on all vaccinations in order to be boarded or stay at a pet-approved hotel. Plan a vet appointment to get your pet up to speed on any required vaccinations, and make copies of all immunization records. Keep the records in a safe spot, such as your pet’s emergency supply kit (see above) or even in your car’s glove compartment in the event of an evacuation.

If finances are a concern, Petco has special vaccination clinics on Saturdays where pet owners can bring their pets for simple vaccinations. Keep in mind that a full exam is not included – this is simply a way for pet owners to quickly and cost-effectively get their pets any required vaccinations for travel.