Wednesday, June 15, 2016

5 Tips for Selling a Home From Out of State

Trying to sell a house is challenging enough, and if you’re selling a home from out of state, it can be positively intimidating.

Property and maintenance costs can add up quickly on an empty home, and you don’t want to have to buy special vacant-home insurance.

Whether you’ve had to relocate because of a new job, are selling a second home, or are trying to settle the estate of a former relative, a few simple steps can help you to sell quickly and avoid carrying charges for property that you’re not living in.

Remember, when you’re selling a home from out of state, your goal is to get the best price for your property in a reasonable period.

If you take the time to address these crucial areas before you carry on with your life in another state, you’re likely to secure a sale quickly—so you’re not carrying multiple mortgages or paying for upkeep on an empty home.

1. Choose a Realtor Carefully

Much of the success of the sale of your home is going to hinge on using a realtor, who will be responsible for showing and marketing the home, checking on it in your absence, possibly hiring contractors to handle upgrades and repairs, and ensuring there is a smooth sales transaction.

With so much riding on your selected real estate agent, interview a few recommended agents and determine which one you can rely on the most. You’ll want to find someone to partner with who is readily available, even if you’re calling from another time zone, and responsive to potential buyers.

2. Pick the Right Price

Because you’re trying to sell the home quickly, it’s important to price the home accurately rather than test the market with a high figure and take price cuts later.

Your for-sale listing will have the most impact as soon as it is published. That’s when you’re most likely to get fair market value for the home—before people start questioning why your house has sat on the market for so long.

Rely on your agent to look at the home and advise you on how best to price it after looking at comparable home sales. Ask him or her to predict how long the home will remain on the market at that price compared to other price points.

Also be sure to determine in advance the highest and lowest price you’d want to accept for the home. When multiple people have an interest in a property—for example, when siblings are selling a deceased parent’s property—you don’t want to get into last-minute squabbles about what the property is worth and possibly let a sale fall through.

3. De-Clutter

Buyers want a home that looks move-in ready. That means you’ll need to make sure the place is clean and free of clutter.

If you need to clear out a deceased relative’s belongings, first remove important documents and heirlooms—and then consider using an auction company and professional cleaner to get the most value from the former belongings and to dispose of what is left over.

Be sure to make any necessary home repairs and don’t ignore cosmetic upgrades. Although you don’t need to renovate the entire home, it’ll help to fix major problems, have the home professionally cleaned and repainted, and show off the hardwood floors.

With that in mind, before you skip town, you might want to hire an on-call handyman to address last-minute repairs who can accept online payments.

4. Set the Stage

Because you’re probably taking most of your belongings with you when you move out of state—or are trying to get rid of a relative’s belongings if you’re clearing out a home—it’s probably in your best interest to hire a professional stager who can help your home look its best.

Homes that are staged and are appropriately priced consistently sell faster than non-staged properties.

5. Take Professional Photos

Once you have everything in its place and are ready to show off your home, do so with professional photos.

A professional photographer will know how to best capture your home’s best features. Especially now that many potential home buyers start shopping online, professional photos can enhance your listing.

You’d be surprised how many potential home buyers are turned off by something as trivial as having the toilet seat up in the photo of the bathroom.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

6 Renovations You Should Never Do Yourself


When it comes to home improvements, it’s difficult to know when to do it yourself and when to hire a professional. We have the low down on when to draw the line – it usually involves things like plumbing, electricity, expensive materials and renovations that are downright dangerous. So before you try to get handy with a hammer, consult this list to see what you should never attempt yourself.
When it comes to making electrical adjustments, there are too many technicalities to do it on your own. Electrical standards have to be met so that wires aren’t over-heated, circuit breakers aren’t overworked, and someone needs to make sure that everything is wired correctly throughout the house. You need advanced electrical knowledge to do this job so it’s best to hire a certified electrician.
Breaking Down Walls
If you want to break down walls to open up your space, don’t do it yourself. Walls support the structure of the house, so weight-bearing and support walls have to be dealt with accordingly. A professional will have an in-depth understanding of the structure of the house, and they’ll be able to identify a cosmetic wall versus a support wall to get the job done right.
Building or Renovating the Bathroom
Bathroom renovations that don’t involve moving the plumbing pipes can be done on your own, but you should hire a plumber for anything more complicated. If the job isn’t done correctly, it will cause a lot more headaches than it’s worth. Poorly done pipe installations could lead to leaks that drip through the drywall and could cause water damage throughout the house.
Finishing the Basement
When it comes to renovating the basement, there’s a lot of room for error. Before you put up new walls and flooring, you need a professional to make sure the insulation is correct and that there are no cracks or leaks in the foundation or on the floor. You’ll also need someone to take care of the electrical.
Window Renovations
There is no shortage of professional window companies who can replace windows at a low price. For the low cost of this renovation, hire a professional – if it’s not done properly, it could lead to air leakages that let hot and cold air escape, ultimately raking up your hydro bill.
Working with Granite or Marble
Whether you’re installing new countertops or tiles, when working with such expensive materials like granite or marble it’s best to hire a professional to do the measurements and installation. If you make a mistake, the cost is too high to make it worth doing it yourself.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Chimney Tips to Keep You Warm And Safe

Chimney maintenance and proper cleaning are key steps to keeping your family safe and warm as the temperatures drop. Neglected chimneys accumulate creosote, a combustible byproduct of charred wood, along their walls. Add to that a high internal flue temperature and you've got a potentially dangerous chimney fire on your hands.

The best way to avoid a house fire caused by the fireplace or chimney is to hire a professional chimney sweep to inspect for cracks and loose bricks. He'll also clean your chimney. Chimney inspections are typically broken down into three categories.

Level 1 is a standard, annual inspection for chimneys that have no major changes to investigate. The chimney inspector will examine the interior and exterior, as well as the chimney connection. The general soundness of the chimney will be examined, and any obstructions will be noted.

Level 2 is an inspection that follows a change in fuel type or changes to the shape or materials in the flue.

Level 3 is rare. These inspections are conducted when a hazard is suspected. Typically, part of the building or chimney is removed to examine the chimney thoroughly.

Once your chimney gets the all-clear, you should follow some basic safety tactics when it comes to your chimney and the vicinity of the fireplace or wood stove:

• Keep the area in front of the fireplace clear of paper and debris. It can be tempting during the holidays to place decorations close to the fireplace, but keep them at a safe distance.

• If your fireplace doesn't have a glass door, use a wire mesh screen.

• Use seasoned hardwoods that have been split for six months to a year. "Green" wood creates more creosote. Don't burn your Christmas tree (pine creates more creosote) or be tempted to throw wrapping paper, boxes, or trash into the fireplace.

• Keep the area near the chimney clear. If you have trees that hang over the house near the chimney, make sure branches and leaves are at least 15 feet away.

• Cap your chimney. A top that has wire mesh along the sides will keep out rain and snow, birds, and other critters that might be running around on the roof.

• Think small. If you try to burn too much wood, the chimney can crack and you run the risk of creosote build-up. Burn wood on a grate placed near the back of the fireplace.

Like fire, carbon monoxide can be a deadly threat. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, invisible toxic gas that kills about 400 people per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and sickens many more.

While carbon monoxide poisoning can result from poorly functioning home appliances and heating systems, it can also come from poorly maintained chimneys. The chimney and chimney connector serve as a furnace's exhaust system. If debris is blocking the chimney, carbon monoxide can accumulate inside the house.

Perhaps the most important rule of all when it comes to chimney maintenance is to install and maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors inside and outside of bedrooms. Replace the batteries each season and test the detectors regularly. If the detector is more than 10 years old, replace it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

7 Energy Saving Tips for Improving Indoor Temperatures As Summer Draws Near

Your home can become quite uncomfortable as the weather warms up in spring and summer, making an air conditioner something you just can’t do without. Unfortunately, with the increase in comfort can come a drastic increase in energy bills. Luckily, there are some simple and inexpensive energy saving measures to help bring your utility bills down, without sacrificing your comfort!

How Can You Make Your Thermostat More Efficient? 

Using your thermostat efficiently is a key step to reducing the monthly bill. Here are the top 7 ways to make the most of your HVAC unit in the warmer months:

1. Pick the Right Temperature – It may be tempting to set your thermostat at the lowest setting, but this is guaranteed to guzzle energy. The greater the difference between outside and inside temperatures, the harder your HVAC unit needs to work.

Pick the highest temperature you can tolerate (and preferably no more than 68°F for heating in winter), since the ideal thermostat setting is 78°F.

2. Change the Temperature Slowly – If you’re used to a lower temperature setting, drastically heating it up will make you uncomfortable. Instead, try raising it by one degree a day, giving your body time to adjust to the difference.

Also, putting it on a very low setting when you switch it on doesn’t help cool the house faster, this only raises your bills.

3. Keep Hot Air Out – Sunlight entering through windows during the day can raise indoor temperatures. This leads to wasted energy as your air conditioner tries to cool the house down.

Window coverings and treatments like blackout curtains and blinds can help keep hot air from leaking in. Be sure to seal any gaps that let warm drafts in.

4. Let Cool Air In – If nights are cool in the area where you live, open the windows and turn off the air conditioner before you sleep (or earlier in the evening when outside temperatures drop).

Close the windows, blinds and curtains in the morning, and then turn on your cooling unit. This seals the cool air inside and reduces the impact on the air conditioner.

5. Minimize Lighting and Appliances – Warm lights look nice, but they generate heat that your AC has to battle. Use energy efficient lighting that runs cooler. Household appliances also generate heat, so use them as sparingly as possible.

Don’t place appliances or lighting close to thermostats, since the heat from them can affect the settings and make your HVAC system run for longer.

6. Invest in Smart Thermostats – Smart or programmable thermostats are a great way to bring down your cooling (and heating) bills. These devices let you select different temperature settings for certain times of the day, which can be automated or even controlled through your smartphone.

This way, your HVAC won’t be running at full capacity when you’re at work, but will kick on before you get home.

7. Upgrade Your Ventilation – Proper ventilation can help cool air move through your house more effectively, keeping temperatures stable everywhere. Installing ceiling fans can also help with energy saving, as they circulate the air in the room.

With effective movement of cool air, you can actually set your thermostat higher and keep your home comfortable at a fraction of the cost!

You don’t need to place comfort on the back bench when you want to reduce electricity consumption. Just follow the tips listed above, learn to use the thermostat efficiently, and make sure to schedule regular summer maintenance for cooling units.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

10 Tips for Choosing Carpet

Nothing compares to the soft, luxurious feeling of carpet under your feet. Carpeting provides a safe, comfortable spot for kids to play and may even reduce the risk of injury during a fall. Sure, carpet requires a bit of extra maintenance compared to vinyl or tile, but there's simply no substitute in terms of sound absorption, warmth and overall comfort.

With so many different colors, materials and designs available, it can be difficult to choose the best carpet for your home. Some materials may require frequent cleanings that simply won't fit into your busy schedule, others come with a high price tag and some may even have an effect on your health. The wrong carpet may wear out quickly, fade or show stains that stubbornly resist your best cleaning efforts. Protect your investment and choose the best carpeting for your home with these 10 carpet-buying tips.
1) Pick the Perfect Padding

Don't be tempted to skimp on carpet padding to save a few dollars. Just as a building needs a solid foundation, carpeting relies on a layer of padding for support, strength and a bit of extra cushioning. You can't see the padding, but you'll definitely spot the extra wear and tear on your new carpet if you pick an inadequate padding material.

Made from rubber or foam materials, carpet padding conceals subfloor imperfections to improve the appearance of the finished floor. It also acts as insulation to help control the temperature of your home, and it even absorbs sound to protect your privacy and eliminate neighbor noise. Most importantly, padding supports your carpet through years of use, since it prevents carpet backing and fibers from coming apart over time.

Consult your carpet manufacturer for padding recommendations and advice. Typically, high-traffic areas require firm, dense padding, while guest bedrooms and other light-traffic rooms may need less protection.

It's also important to match the padding to the type of carpet you plan to use. The Carpet and Rug Institute recommends a 7/16-inch padding with 6 pounds of density per cubic feet to support cut pile or cut loop carpeting. For Berber or thin loop rugs, look for a 3/8-inch pad or thinner, with 8 pounds of density per cubic foot.

2) Consider Various Carpet Styles

Carpet comes in many styles, including plush, Saxony, Berber, textured and frieze. These terms apply to its pile, which is the surface you see, created from yarn tufts that are either folded over into loops, cut straight across or both. While each style has a distinctive look, that shouldn't be your main consideration. Instead, look at how well your lifestyle meshes with a particular carpet style. Plush carpeting, for example, is made from tightly twisted pile, and is thick, soft and inviting. But it also shows footprints and vacuum tracks, and can develop something called "pooling," or areas that appear shaded because the normal direction of the carpet fibers has been reversed. Saxony, the most common type of carpeting, is similar to plush. These carpet styles work best in low-traffic areas like formal living rooms and master bedrooms.

Berber carpeting, in contrast, is crafted from continuous fiber loops and is flat and dense. It can have a level loop, cut-and-loop or multi-level loop design. All of these attributes mean Berber is extremely durable and doesn't show tracks, soil and stains -- perfect for high-traffic areas, or places frequented by kids.

Textured carpeting is made from fibers cut to different heights, which causes them to reflect light. This makes it difficult to see tracks and dirt. So this type of carpeting is also great for high-traffic areas. Some Berbers are textured.

Friezes are a cut-pile carpet made from slightly twisted fibers. The look is less formal than plush, but fancier than many textured pieces or Berber. The carpet feels soft on your feet, yet its fuzziness hides footprints and dirt well.

3) Don't Blow Your Budget
Even the most luxurious carpet doesn't have to cost a fortune. Shop around to find carpet that fits your lifestyle and budget. Always request separate pricing for materials and installation so you can make an "apples-to-apples" comparison among different suppliers.

Make the most of any budget by choosing the best carpet for each room. For example, stain-resistant products may be worth the splurge in your busy family room, but more affordable low-traffic carpeting may be just fine for your guest rooms.

Consider lifetime replacement and maintenance expenses to keep costs even lower. If you have kids or pets, try carpet tile instead of rolled carpeting. Rather than replacing the entire room after a few years of spills and stains, you can replace single tiles as needed to keep your carpet looking fresh and new.

Explore different material options before you buy to balance price and comfort. Wool represents the very best in carpet materials but also comes with the highest price tag. Nylon and other synthetics feel similar to wool but are available at lower prices. For moisture-prone areas like basements or stairways, try cut-rate options like Olefin or polyester.
4) Select Your Carpet Provider with Care
You can purchase carpet in a variety of places -- carpet showrooms, of course, but also flooring companies, furniture stores, large department stores and even online. While you can end up with beautiful carpet that's expertly installed using any of these options, your best bet is to select a reputable establishment that specializes in carpeting.

A quality carpet store will carry a large, varied carpet selection, including different fiber options such as wool, synthetics, blends, sisal, linen, jute, coir and woven vinyl. Staffers should be able to easily answer all of your questions and let you take samples home.

The quality of your carpet's installation is just as important as the quality of the carpet itself. A second-rate job can leave you with obvious seams, lumps, bumps and other issues, so look for stores that employ their own installers. This can be difficult, as most carpet dealers use subcontractors. While subcontracted carpet installers aren't necessarily inexperienced, they do tend to be less experienced and less skilled than full-time employees. If you can't find a good shop with its own installers, make sure your carpet dealer's subcontractors have worked with them for many years.

5) Understand Maintenance Requirements

One of the best ways to ensure you'll be satisfied with your new carpet is to stick with carpeting you can maintain easily. Homeowners with young children or dogs and cats may want to avoid hard-to-clean shag or high-end rugs. Stain-resistant carpets can eliminate the frustration associated with spills and may cut your cleaning time.

Always ask a salesperson about cleaning and maintenance requirements before you commit to buying. Find out how often you'll need to clean and what special equipment or products the manufacturer recommends. Skip carpets with extensive maintenance requirements unless you have the extra time to perform these tasks.

The type of material and carpet style you choose can also have a major impact on maintenance. Pick textured rugs to conceal footprints and vacuum cleaner tracks. In high traffic areas, look for textured Saxony, level loop or high-density loop carpets to resist dirt and make cleaning easier. You should only install cut pile and multilevel loop carpets in low- to medium-traffic areas, as both of these designs tend to trap dirt and resist cleaning efforts.

6) A Word on Warranties

Carpeting carries an insane number of possible warranties, including five- and 10-year options, matting and crushing warranties, and guarantees against stains, wear and even overall appearance. In general, the better quality the carpet, the more coverage you're offered via warranties, stain protection and the like. However, never purchase a particular carpet solely because the warranty seems really great -- because most warranties actually offer little true coverage.

For example, the most common warranty is a "wear" warranty. Manufacturers offering these typically define "wear" as a bald spot, while many homeowners consider a carpet to be worn as soon as it loses its original appearance. Similarly, a crushing warranty may state that if the pile height can be restored to a certain degree, there's no issue. But most carpets' pile can be restored through hot water extraction and a pile rake (even though it will be crushed again once you walk on it), so manufacturers will say the warranty doesn't apply.

The most common carpet complaints aren't for manufacturing defects, anyway, but rather for improper installation. These complaints should generally be taken to the retailer; before you purchase a carpet, inquire what recourse you have if you're unhappy with the installation.

7) Compare Color and Patterns
With so many colors and designs available, selecting the right finish just might be the most difficult part of your carpet-buying decision. Narrow your search by choosing shades that match the overall mood or tone you want to set for each room. Try cool blues or greens to create a calm, peaceful setting, and warm reds or golden shades to make a large space feel cozier. Light colors can make small rooms feel larger and more open, so try cream or tan if you're feeling claustrophobic.

Before settling on a neutral shade, decide whether you want your carpet to serve as a focal point or fade into the background. Only go neutral if your walls, furnishings or artwork serve as focal points, as this can help you avoid a plain, monotone design.

Dark shades or patterns can hide stains, as can tweed or textured carpet designs. To make patterned rugs work with other patterns in a room, stick to designs within the same color family. For maximum versatility, use carpet tiles to create your own patterns and designs or to add a border around the perimeter of the room.

Always ask for carpet samples of each color you're considering. Try to get the biggest samples available, and take them home to examine them in natural light before you buy. Keep in mind that sun exposure can fade colored carpeting, so choose fade-resistant products if your carpet will be in direct sunlight.

8) Treat Stairs Carefully
It's critical to select the right carpeting for your stairs, since stairs get a lot of wear, plus the carpeting has to be bent over the edges of each step. A cut-pile carpet is a better choice than a looped pile, as the spaces between the loops will tend to open up where the carpet curls over the stairs in an effect called "grinning." Looped carpets can also snag, especially at any seams or transition areas.
Density is another factor to consider. If the carpet isn't that thick, you may end up seeing the unsightly backing when the carpet is curved over the steps. One test of the density is to stick your fingers deeply into a carpet sample. If you can easily separate the fibers and feel the backing, it's probably not the best choice for your stairs.

The ideal choice, actually, is a woven wool carpet. Woolen carpets are the most durable, and their woven backing helps keep each piece of yarn in place, which is especially important for stairs. Unfortunately, wool carpets are pricey.

9) Go Green

Many people are shocked to learn just how much carpet, padding and adhesives can impact air quality and health. If you've ever been around brand-new carpet or other building materials, you probably remember that distinctive "new" smell. That odor is caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs, such as formaldehyde, cause poor indoor air quality and can contribute to a host of health problems, including asthma and allergies. Protect your family by choosing carpet made from natural products, including wool, jute and other organic materials. Also, look for organic or chemical-free dyes to keep toxic fumes out of your home.

In addition to impacting your health, your choice of carpet can also affect the environment. Reduce your impact with recycled materials, such as carpets made from recycled water bottles. Many manufacturers also use recycled carpeting to produce new rugs, so check the recycled-content percentage before you buy. Keep in mind that nylon and other synthetics are made primarily from fossil fuel byproducts, so choose renewable or recycled products for maximum sustainability.

If you want to go green but feel overwhelmed by your options, consider eco-friendly carpet labeling programs sponsored by independent reviews. The Carpet and Rug Institute's Green Label Plus program or the Green Seal certification program can each provide valuable information on how different carpet options will impact the environment and your family's health.

10) Carpeting vs. Area Rugs

It's possible you'd be better served with an area rug and not wall-to-wall carpeting. How do you know? Consider the two. Carpeting's main advantages are that it's soft and warm underfoot, muffles sound and provides cushioning if you fall. It's also affordable. However, carpet holds dust, mites and other allergens, so if members of your household have allergies or asthma, it can be a problem. Carpet can also be difficult to clean, holds odors like pet urine and typically wears out within about 10 years, so you'll need to re-carpet -- and sometimes not just the one room with the really worn carpet, but the entire house, depending on where the carpet runs.

Area rugs are a popular flooring choice because they come in a larger variety of colors and designs, can be switched among rooms and are quite affordable. It’s also easier to make a statement with a fun or colorful area rug than it is with wall-to-wall carpeting, and you can take your rug with you every time you move. The main drawback to an area rug is that it requires you to have reasonably nice flooring underneath it, since some of your floor will almost certainly show. If you’ve got a beautiful hardwood floor, perfect. If you don’t, you’ll at least need a floor that’s in reasonably good shape. The other negatives to area rugs are that they can slip and/or be a tripping hazard if you stumble on an edge. But you can often remedy those issues with a rug pad or double-sided tape.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

House-Cleaning Secrets

Look Down... And Then Slightly Up

It happens all the time: a client walks into a home that is beautifully decorated and looks magnificent at eye level -- and the floors have clearly been Swiffered -- but the baseboards are covered in dust. It's not just people who are shopping for homes who register this, but anyone who comes to your house. Little things can go a very long way toward making a buyer, a visitor or even yourself fall in love with a home. Use a damp cloth on your baseboards to remove unwanted dust; you could also try a microfiber rag dipped in warm, soapy water and wrung almost dry. And if your baseboards are scuffed, keep a touch-up kit handy so you can touch up scrapes as you clean.

Keep Flowers Looking (And Smelling) Like Flowers
Everyone loves fresh flowers, but droopy blooms or a something's-not-right bouquet? Not so much. To get arrangements to stay fresh, start with a really clean, clear glass vase. The one you grabbed out of the cabinet and quickly rinsed out before filling with water might look fine in the morning, but once afternoon sunlight is streaming in, you may notice it's not sparkling -- and that cloudiness (which often is a sign of bacteria) can accelerate the flowers' decay. So wash the container with a few drops of bleach and hot water first. Longest-lasting blossoms are sunflowers in warm weather and mums in cooler seasons.
Upgrade Your Bathroom For Less Than $65
Aside from keeping the bathroom clean, there's another foolproof way to make this space look fresh and inviting, Sloane says: white towels, a white shower curtain and a white bathmat. The only caveat: Nothing looks worse than those accessories appearing dirty or stained. So every season, machine wash them with detergent and hot water. If they aren't pristine, replace them.
Beware The Sheet Avalanche
We've all shoved things in the hall closet when guests are coming over, just wanting to get the clutter out of sight... and who's going to look in there, anyway? Actually, people searching for powder rooms do open doors -- and linen closets are a typical target. The last thing you want them to see is an avalanche of towels and sheets, so be advised to keep everything in neat stacks. (An added benefit is that you won't later be the victim of a linen shower.) The right distance between shelves can make a big difference: Towel shelves should be about 14 inches high; for sheets, about 10 inches should be sufficient.  You can also leave a bar of your favorite soap or a sachet in the closet to lightly perfume linens.

Don't Just Wipe The Front Of The Fridge
Just as people like to peek inside closets, they also open refrigerators -- and you would be amazed at how many clean homes have dirty fridges. Spills that have become thick and sticky, funky smells, and food piled every which way are some of the biggest problems. Before you put ketchup, mustard or jelly away, wipe off the rim and bottom. Every few days, do a sweep for food that's past its prime. And give the fridge itself a good scrub regularly: Empty the contents, store them in a cooler, turn off the power, and let the shelves and drawers come to room temperature before you wash them, since glass and ceramic parts could crack if they come into contact with hot water when they are cold.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

How to Choose a Wall Color

“Color is a powerful tool,” says interior designer and author Kerrie Kelly. “It can accentuate architectural details as well as direct traffic and create flow in your home.” But how do you choose the color that’s right for a given room?

Spend some time with a color wheel to see what you like. You remember this tool from high school art class; it shows all the colors of the spectrum arranged in a circle and highlights the relationships between them. You may find yourself naturally gravitating to one side of the circle (say, cool blues and greens) or the other (warm reds and oranges). “Blues are all about tranquility and relaxation,” Kelly says. “Reds and rich earth tones are social-gathering colors. Choose according to how you’re going to use the room and the mood you want to create.”
Check in with trends. Some perennial combinations never lose their charm, Kelly says, like crisp blue-and-white kitchens or calming green bedrooms. But new ideas are exciting, too:

A strong movement toward natural, eco-friendly materials has put granite tones, greens, browns, and whites in the spotlight.

Whether you go neutral or bold on the wall, try accenting with metallic paints on furniture, lighting, plumbing, and accessories. “Silver, gold, bronze, copper, and pearl add elegance without being too heavy,” Kelly says. “In daylight, these colors appear neutral; in the light of evening, they impart a welcoming glow.”

If you want to make a statement, strong color palettes derived from Russian, Indian, and Latin design are on trend; blend them with traditional colors or neutrals for a thoroughly modern look.

Technology-inspired saturated colors like lime green, royal blue, apple red, sunshine yellow, and tangerine radiate energy and lend a sense of richness to a room.

Use color relationships as your guide, but be willing to experiment. Complementary colors are those that lie opposite each other on the color wheel — that means they’re visually balanced, although the high contrast may be more drama than you want in a room. “Approximately opposite colors work well, too,” Kelly says. “For example, sage green (a yellow-green) pairs beautifully with violet. Sometimes combinations are more interesting when the colors aren’t direct opposites.” You may also like the look of an analogous color scheme, which pairs colors that lie directly next to each other on the wheel; these combinations are common in nature, so we tend to find them pleasing.

Layer tone on tone for a sophisticated effect. “A monochromatic color combination uses shades of a single color,” Kelly says, “to create an effect that’s serene and elegant. The key to success with this approach, because it’s so subtle, is to add texture and use varying scales of pattern in the materials you choose.”

Go for a test drive. Paint swatches won’t tell you everything you need to know. Buy the manufacturer’s test size in your new color and brush some on the wall (preferably where you can hide it with a picture later). “Look at your paint sample in the morning, at noon and at night,” Kelly advises, so that you can see how the color changes as the light quality changes. 

Don’t hold back. If you’re looking to inject some personality into a humdrum space, don’t be afraid to slather on a big, expressive color for the walls. You can always combine that bold wall color with neutral furnishings to make a statement without creating a headache. “There’s really no reason not to experiment with paint on walls, because it doesn’t represent a big investment to do it or to change it later,” Kelly says. “Color is undoubtedly the shortest route to a dramatic setting.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Planning Your Front-Yard Landscape

The front yard is the place most people fix first -- and for good reason. Often, it's what others see, and that the family sees most often.

Plan a Walkway that Flows

  • Follow natural access patterns when laying out walks. If you don't, children or dogs will carve their own paths right through your prize petunias. A straight path, though less charming, is the shortest and least expensive, and sometimes the most sensible.
  • Use curves, jogs, or steps only where there is a reason, not just to meander. Combine practicality with visual appeal by making walks at least 36 inches wide. If scale permits, 42 to 54 inches is better so two people can walk together. For an illusion of greater or lesser distance, widen one end. Extra width at curves is pleasant.
  • Make walls, fences, or hedges near walks less than 2 feet so people can swing their arms or carry packages without feeling crowded. Between the walk and taller verticals, a buffer zone of ground cover, lawn, flowers, or mulch at least 2 feet wide gives more room for movement.

  • To add interest to walks, choose brick patterns or exposed-aggregate textures. If you have plain concrete walks, cover them with brick pavers, slate, or tile. Loose materials like tanbark or wood chips are fine for natural garden paths farther away from the house, but they result in too much tracking in if used for the front yard.

Assess Your House from the Outside

Standard plantings fora one-story house often lack design. Here the small shrubs make the house look drab and out of place.

The builder's bit of lawn, two trees, and few foundation shrubs fall far short of the existing possibilities. Street-scaping is an excellent investment in both present enjoyment and future value. A pleasant view from the street gives a sense of individual pride and accomplishment. And it adds greatly to your property's value by setting the yard apart and making it beautiful.

The first thing to do when planning a new front yard is to recognize your bias. The satisfaction of returning home and that you see your front yard from inside the house can skew your feelings about how your yard looks to the public. For a more honest assessment, walk down the street, then turn back. Do the same from the other direction. Also, get in your car and approach your house slowly from each direction.
Shorter shrubs, a planter, and better-placed trees frame the facade, soften its lines, and wed the house to the site.

Does your house blend with those nearby? Is it appealing? Distinctive? Does it sit well on the site or look out of place? Does it need stronger horizontal or vertical lines? Does it nestle among the trees? List all its virtues and shortcomings.

When you go to other houses, take note of the convenience of their entryways. Can you easily see where to turn into the drive? Is the drive wide enough for you to open your car door and get out without stepping on plants or grass? Can you easily tell which door to approach? Are walks and steps easily negotiated?

Take what you learn during these studies and carefully weigh your front yard's planting needs -- street trees, trees and shrub for framing and accent, flowers, lawn, and ground covers -- and its structural needs -- walks, steps, drive, stoop, edgings, and fences.

Plants and Structures

  • The architectural features of your yard will be the most expensive and permanent. You may want to plan them in stages: the driveway first, good steps and walks next, porch or fence the next year. Select materials that will add to your landscape, not ruin its harmony.
  • Plantings are easier to install and change, but you'll want to be sure to put them in the right places so they can quickly play a role.
  • Trees, shrubs, and ground covers are permanent purchases that increase in size and value and take little maintenance. You can even use many edible plants in place of or along with ornamental plants. They present little extra work except for harvesting.
  • Flowers take care and often require replanting, but they can fill in the gaps until your woody plants gain enough size to stand alone. Annuals -- like kochia, four-o'clock, strawflower, impatiens, datura, and angel's-trumpet -- and perennials -- like peony, bee balm, and hosta -- can substitute for shrubs the first year or two.
  • Lawns take the most resources, work, and equipment of any aspect of landscaping. To conserve both fossil and human energy, consider alternatives to lawn, especially in regions where rainfall is inadequate.
  • If your front yard is too large for constant mowing and watering, use mulch or ground covers for islands around trees and shrubs. Fence or mark off an area for turf and use the rest for meadow, pasture, or woodland. Don't let your front yard make you a slave to more work than you enjoy.

 Plan a Functional Entryway

Pay particular attention when planning your front yard to making your home's entrance clear and inviting. Use plants and structures to lead people where you can greet them most gracefully. Dramatize the front door with a lamppost, an accent shrub, a trellis to block the rain or wind, or pots of geraniums.

Be sure knockers and bells are evident, at a convenient height, and not hidden behind a locked screen door. The best stoops are large enough for two people to stand on with some cover from the elements and for doors to swing open. A bench here is a great help.

Driveways, too, should be readily visible. A simple, low planting can mark the turn. If trees or shrubs obstruct the view, remove them for safety's sake. Where curves or slopes are involved, the placement of the driveway on one side of the yard or another can make a marked increase in visibility.

For night arrivals, lighting should mark the turn from the road to the drive, from the drive to the walk, any curves or steps, and the front door.


Make steps as wide as the walks they connect. Steps should be emphatic and noticeable. A plant accent can help. So can a change of texture. Never use just one step. If the slope is that slight, use a ramp. Three steps are the ideal minimum, though two are acceptable.

Check regularly that your steps are safe and not slick in snow or rain. Try to create at least one step-less entrance into your house for wheelchair visitors or possible future or emergency use. Or make conditional plans for a ramp, avoiding any plantings that would interfere.

Edgings and Borders

Lily-of-the-valley works great for edging walkways.

Edgings give an important and neat outline to your yard, as well as dramatic contrasts of form, texture, and color. For permanent neatness, build in small concrete curbs; set bricks on edge, on end, or diagonally; lay landscape timbers; stand flagstones or tiles on edge; or install one of the ready-made edgings available in garden centers. Metal or rubber strips are less lovely, but they are inexpensive and serviceable.

Borders of flowers, bulbs, or ground covers can be used with, or instead of, other edgings. Use the plants with the proper ultimate spread and good year-round appearance. Don't set the plants so close to the walk that they overgrow it.

Creating an Attractive Front

Every house facade and site have visual assets and liabilities. The well-done front yard highlights the pleasing points and masks the poor ones.

All the elements of good design come into play as you arrange your component parts for the ideal front yard. But don't be put off by the aesthetic terms -- balance, scale, unity, and the like -- used by designers. All are largely a matter of common sense. If a scene pleases your eye, then it's probably well designed.

If your house needs or will adapt to your desire for a special theme garden like colonial, cottage, Oriental, or Spanish, the look must begin in the front yard. Themes are successful only if you unify all the garden aspects carefully.

You'll also need to determine if your preference is for, and your site demands, a formal or informal landscape. Formal settings include strong geometric lines and architectural features, clipped hedges, and uniformly shaped plants and beds. Informal designs are marked by free-flowing, natural-looking elements. Generally, informal home styles and sloping land require less rigid landscapes. Formal houses and flat land can be treated either way.

To achieve balance in a landscape, try to position elements so they give equal weight -- through size, color, texture, or other aspects -- to each side of a scene. How formal this weighting should be again is dictated by style of house and personal preference. Symmetrical houses often look best when each feature and plant is duplicated on the opposite side of a front walk (as long as the walk isn't too long or too narrow). Most houses, though, are asymmetrical, since they have only one garage or drive. In this case, balance is more subtle. Perhaps a tall tree belongs on the side opposite the driveway.
Achieving pleasant scale -- or, keeping elements in proportion to each other -- is also subtle, since plants must grow before you can be sure. Choose plants that will complement your home's size at maturity, as well as some plants that will grow fast enough to quickly make a mark. Don't let anything dwarf your house.

The design principles of unity and simplicity often go together. Several plants of the same color and kind have more effect and give greater pleasure in a landscape than one each of several types. Use only enough variety for sustaining bloom and adding visual interest.

If you want more types of plants, say for continual harvests of many kinds of fruit, try combining plants with similar or at least compatible shapes, textures, and foliage or bloom colors.

Trees for Impact

Here, the tree in front frames rather than interrupts the scene, is in better scale, and makes the house seem farther from the street.

Trees (and larger shrubs) are the first components to consider in front-yard design. Because a framed view often is much more attractive than a completely revealed view, give serious thought to planting taller trees on either side of your house and at least one behind it. Trees here give the yard and house a look of permanence, and soften the second story or roofline against the sky. If you can afford only one or two more-mature trees, than plant them here.

Besides providing framing, trees and larger shrubs, along with the buildings, make up the masses in the landscape. Choose and place them for interest of outline, texture, and color in all seasons and for shade and energy control. Harmonize the shapes of the plants -- round, pyramidal, weeping -- with each other and the structures. Give visual relief by judiciously varying leaf size and shape and the textures of structural materials.

Trees and shrubs also are good for marking boundaries and separating functional areas.

Accent Trees


To add beauty and perhaps additional shade to a front yard, carefully situate very choice -- or accent -- trees between the street and the house. Accent trees make such a lasting impression, you may well identify certain houses by the dogwood or Japanese maple in the front yard. When selecting accent -- also called specimen or ornamental -- trees, use reliable native types with good habits and few pest problems.

In the past, plants were set where house meets ground to hide foundations and first-floor basements. Today, these so-called foundation plantings are often inappropriate and widely abused. Builders put in plants with enough size but little character, and they can soon outgrow their usefulness. Many houses come with a surrounding cloud or a border of stiffly spotted evergreens that destroy a house's style.
Plants near the house are essential only to soften its angles and help it blend in with its surroundings. Concentrate on the complete setting, not just the foundation line. Your plantings here should be simple and dignified. They should be in careful scale so they enhance rather than hide the house. You won't see these plants from inside except for perhaps a little by the windowsill, so don't waste your beauties here.

Raised Planting Beds

Raised planting beds are often used instead of or together with foundation plantings. Build them deep enough to provide ample soil for root growth and bottomless so the bedding soil mixes with the soil below.

Because soil in raised beds dries out more quickly than in the ground (and because few plants can withstand full sun plus the heat reflected from house walls), place beds in spots that receive shade for part of the day.

Plants here have star billing. Be sure they are hardy, are of appropriate ultimate size, and have neat, season-long appearance. Choose dwarf evergreens, flowering shrubs, fruit trees, perennials, or bulbs. For the most profusion and longest season of bloom, rely on annuals. Cascading petunia, vinca, and asparagus fern look lovely hanging over a bed's edges. Leave some edges clear, though, for sit-down gardening or just sitting down.

The old rule that the front yard is for the public and the backyard is for fun and family is sometimes better broken. Is your front yard the sunniest in a cool climate? The coolest in summer? On the south side where tender plants and fruit can best survive the cold? The largest part of your yard? Then reclaim some or all of it for private family use. A wall, fence, or sometimes only a small screen can give you the privacy you need.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How to Inspect Your Home for Termites

Termites are unwanted visitors that can cause extreme damage to homes and other structures. If you live in an area where termites are common, beware that the insects could raid your home. Attracted by moisture, wood and the steady temperature of a house, termites need only the tiniest cracks to begin infesting the home. If you suspect or fear that you have termites in your home, check for tell-tale signs or call a professional termite inspector.

Signs of Termite Infestation

Some of the following is taken from the NPCA Field Guide to Structural Pests, available through the NPCA (National Pest Control Association) Resource Center.

How termites enter home
Termite wood damage

The following list indicates common signs of a subterranean termite infestation. It is recommended that you have your house thoroughly inspected by a pest control professional trained to detect the sometimes subtle signs of termites at least once a year.
  • The presence of mud-like material that lines the galleries in an irregular pattern. 
  • Termites may excavate the wood so that only a very thin layer of wood is left on the surface of the cavity and the outside. Then this layer is broken; they will cover the holes with mud like material, used to make the tubes. This is a mixture of soil, feces, and saliva. 
  • Swarmers: The appearance of a swarm of what you would call "flying ants",especially near light sources This indicates a nest may be near. A "swarm" is a group of adult male and female reproductive termitess that leave their nest to establish a new colony. Swarming occurs when a colony reaches a certain size. Swarming is most common in the spring (March, April, May, and June) and occasionally autumn (September and October). 
  • Most swarmers emerge during the day, most frequently on warm days after rain. Swarmers found outdoors near tree stumps, railroad ties, etc., are not an indication that your house is infested but are present on the outside only. On the other hand, finding swarmers indoors often means that you have a termite infestation within your house. At first glance, swarmers and ants look similar, but can be distinguished by certain physical features. At Differences between ants and termites, there is a picture and list of differences. 
  • Mud Tunnels: Subterranean termites maintain their headquarters in the ground and build "mud tubes", pencil-size, that connect the nest (moisture) to the food source (wood).The tunnels may contain broken mud particles with fecal materials. Mud tubes or shelter tubes are proof of termite infestation, but their absence does not necessarily mean that a structure is free of termites. The insects may reach sills and other wood members through cracks or voids in the foundation wall, under the outside stucco, or from earth-filled porches, steps, terraces, or patios. You can break open tubes to determine if termites are still active inside. Termites often rebuild damaged tubes, another indication of continued activity. Old tubes are dry and will crumble easily. 
  • Subterranean termites construct four types of tubes or tunnels. Working tubes (left) are constructed from nests in the soil to wooden structures; they may travel up concrete or stone foundations. Exploratory and migratory tubes (center) arise from the soil but do not connect to wood structures. Drop tubes (right) extend from wooden structures back to the soil.

  • Piles of wings: The shed wings of swarmers indicate termites have entered their next phase of development.

  • Live termites: Reproductive kings and queens are 1/2" long, winged and black or brown in color. Workers are sterile and usually hidden within infested wood. They are 1/4" long, wingless and white. However, the absence of finding live termites does not mean that they are not present in the structure. 
  • Buckling paint or tiny holes on the wood. 
  • Damaged wood: Wood may appear crushed at structural bearing points. Termite damaged wood resonates with a dull thud (hollow sound)when tapped with a hammer. Pick and probe the surface of an infested piece of wood with a pen knife and you will find tunnels running parallel to the wood's grain. 
  • Finding termites in a structure does not mean you have an immediate emergency because the rate at which damage occurs is relatively slow.

How to Inspect for Termite Activity

You will need a good flashlight, screwdriver or pocketknife and coveralls. Look at possible trouble spots closely. Often this means crawling in crawl spaces. The presence of swarmers or their shed wings almost always indicates termite activity. A complete termite inspection would mean locating exposed shelter tubes and damaged wood.

Generally speaking, Subterranean termites are found at or near ground level. However, in warmer areas of the country they occasionally occur above the first floor level.

Termite damage may be located by probing wood with a screwdriver, ice pick or knife. Inspection should be concerned with the exterior and interior surfaces of the foundation, particularly construction where wood is on or near the soil.

Start inspection in the basement and use a bright flashlight. Look for mud tubes and the activity of swarmers.

You should inspect in the following areas as well:
  • Any wood construction in basement and crawl space (if present).
  • All sills, sub floors, joists, support posts, supporting piers, basement window frames, wood under porches.
  • Pay close attention to places where concrete: steps, porches, or slabs join the wooden structure.
  • All the hollow blocks, cracks in cement or brick construction and expansion joints.
  • Any scrap wood on the exterior, old tree stumps, fence posts and exterior frames of basement windows.


  • If any of your findings are inconclusive, but you still worry that you may have termites, call a professional. Their training helps them know what to look for, and they can put your mind at ease.
  • The first time you see a termite-like insect in your home, look at it thoroughly. Termites are often confused with ants.
  • Before you jump into any treatment plan, it is a good idea to get a second opinion and thoroughly research companies you are considering hiring. Termites work slowly, and your house won't be eaten to shreds if you take a couple days to figure out the best course of action.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Explore Pasadena

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Metro Gold Line Extends Beyond Pasadena

LA Metro recently added six new stations to the Gold Line. The addition spans from Pasadena to Azusa, adding 11 new miles to the line, and is great for venturing into (or from) the San Gabriel Valley. Before, you had no choice but to sit in traffic; now whiz past cars on the 210 freeway while being treated to breathtaking views of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Why Should I Visit Pasadena?

Pasadena is known for its prolific arts and culture scene, eye-catching architecture, and eclectic dining options. Most of the attractions are located within walking distance of the six Gold Line stations in the city.

DTLA to Pasadena by Train

It takes between 15 and 25 minutes to travel from Downtown Los Angeles to Pasadena, depending on where you detrain. In this article we will list the stations in order from south to northeast.

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First stop, Fillmore Station

As soon as you exit the train you’ll come upon Geologica 42, a 40-foot public art sculpture made of steel and bronze (pictured above).

Walk one block west towards Raymond Avenue, once you get to Raymond, walk north (towards the right) to Jones Coffee Roasters. Jones is a local favorite that uses beans sustainably sourced from the owner’s Guatemalan coffee farm, the coffee shop often features live music and open mic nights.
Pie Life Pizza is next door to Jones Coffee Roasters. It’s a nondescript, take-away window serving some of the best pizza in town. Daily pizza-by-the-slice selections like pesto and heirloom tomatoes change based on what’s in season.

Walk south on Raymond Avenue to ArtCenter College of Design's South Campus. ArtCenter is a prestigious art school that is open to the public. Housed in re-purposed, modern buildings, the school serves as a cultural resource for the community and supports progressive art. Once here set your gaze towards the metallic architectural skyline and spot a hidden Green Roof covered by native plants. Make your way up the stairs and keep your eyes open for outdoor installations by Kenny Scharf. There is a massive exterior wall covered in graffiti art; and a student art gallery (Wind Tunnel Gallery) that was formerly a supersonic jet-testing facility — they also present lectures there.

Walk back towards Fillmore Station, heading north on Raymond Avenue, make a right at Fillmore Street, then left at Arroyo parkway. Arrive at Lucky Boy, located at 640 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena, CA 91105. They make an amazing breakfast burrito stuffed with cheese, potatoes, and a generous portion of bacon.

Alternatives include Pitfire Pizza; or if you’re feeling fancy there are two Pasadena institutions nearby, Parkway Grill featuring classic French dishes, and Arroyo Chop House which is a modern steakhouse.

Get back on the train and continue traveling north to the next stop, Del Mar Station.

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Del Mar Station

Del Mar Station is a Spanish Revival style train depot built circa 1911; it served as a Santa Fe train depot that welcomed the arrival of celebrity legends like Will Rogers and Clark Gable as they made their way into Hollywood by way of Pasadena to avoid the hustle and bustle of Union Station. Today, the station has been re-purposed to house restaurants and bars including The Luggage Room Pizzeria (which occupies the station’s original luggage room), La Grande Orange Cafe, Sushi Kimagure, Otis Bar and Stone Company Store.

From Del Mar Station walk west to Raymond Avenue and you will immediately come upon Central Park, where twice a year (spring and fall) The Jackalope Art and Craft Fair sets up shop.

Continue walking north on Raymond Avenue and you’ll find yourself in the southern end of Old Pasadena. Arrive at the intersection of Green Street and Raymond Avenue, and take a coffee break at Cope Vida, it’s one of many great artisan coffee shops in town. Copa Vida offers brunch and lunch.

Across the street, cater-corner from Copa Vida, you’ll notice Castle Green, a meticulously restored historical monument. One of the oldest landmarks in L.A. County, Castle Green was an annex to Hotel Green, a lavish resort for Tinsletown’s elite that was demolished in the 1930s. Castle Green and the adjacent Wooster Block Building are the only standing remnants of the hotel. Today Castle Green is used frequently in films like The Sting. While Castle Green is currently a private residence and a special event venue, the stunning Moorish, Spanish and Victorian architecture can be toured once per year during the holidays.

Continue heading east on Green Street and you will stumble upon the Pasadena Convention Center; it is a campus style center that houses the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Pasadena Convention Center, Pasadena Ice Skating Center, and Pasadena Visitors Center.

Directly across the street from the convention center, at Paseo Colorado, a dinner theater venue called The Rose presents intimate musical performances. Talent here ranges from nostalgic acts like The Motels, Wilson Phillips, and Smokey Robinson, to tribute bands and rock bands. The Rose is one of few dinner theater venues in Los Angeles. That style of entertainment is uncommon in this area.
For alternatives at Del Mar Station, try Flour + Tea or the Congregation Ale House. Flour + Tea was featured on the Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and specializes in cakes, boba and poke. Congregation Ale House is directly across from Del Mar station on Raymond Avenue. Go there for craft beer and local brews. They also offer signature cocktails like Grapefruit Gimlet and Planters Punch.

Head back to Del Mar Station and take the train to the next top, Memorial Park Station.

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Memorial Park Station

This is the most popular station; many of the city’s attractions are concentrated here. As you emerge onto street level, look towards your left (east) and you’ll see Pasadena City Hall in the distance. If you’ve seen the TV show, Parks and Recreation, you may recognize the building as “Pawnee City Hall.” The exteriors were filmed for the show. City Hall encompasses Mediterranean Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival architectural styles, the structure features a six-story dome and cupola.

Visiting the legendary Rose Bowl Stadium is most convenient from Memorial Park Station. During most events a shuttle pick-up area is established two blocks away, at Parsons Corporation.

Some of the best shopping in town is just outside of this station. One block west (to the right), several independent boutiques line this stretch of Holly Street. Venture into Lula Mae, Homage, Therapy, Elisa B., and Maude Woods for souvenirs and keepsakes you will only find in Pasadena. One Colorado is another block in the same direction; it is an outdoor shopping district where you’ll find a well-curated collection of retailers, restaurants, a luxury movie theater experience; and a gorgeous courtyard where seasonal concerts and family events take place.

If you’re a fan of the Coastal California style, sophisticated boutiques like Mohawk General Store, Joie and Vince are within walking distance.

Each Sunday, the Old Pasadena Farmers Market pops up on Holly Street. During this event vehicle traffic is rerouted and visitors can walk along the street tasting organic produce grown in California, and can shop for artisanal products.

The station is named after Memorial Park which sits above the station. The park features a band shell in the center of the park, called Levitt Pavilion. Throughout the summer, visitors are treated to a series of 50 free concerts and everyone is encouraged to picnic.

Wine lovers take note. Across the street from Levitt Pavilion you will find Everson Royce, a wine and spirits shop that puts on weekly wine tastings. Everson Royce invites winemakers to personally present their wines at these tastings, and their knowledgeable staff is on hand to help you find great, small batch wines from all over the world.

Architecture enthusiasts can get an insider’s perspective on the history of Old Pasadena by taking the Old Pasadena Walking Tour. These tours are produced by Pasadena Heritage, a non-profit conservancy group dedicated to preserving and protecting Pasadena’s rich and storied past. On the tour, visit reclaimed alleyways, spot ghost signs, and learn about one of the nation’s most successful revitalizations. An expert docent leads the way; reservation and tickets are required.

There are so many restaurants in this neighborhood that it can be overwhelming for some people. There is literally something for every palate in Old Pasadena. If you are in the mood for a memorable dinner and great wine, make a reservation at Union Restaurant, it consistently ranks well on “Best Restaurants in LA” roundups. While the menu changes frequently, based on what’s in season, their culinary approach is consistent — a Californian interpretation on Northern Italian dishes. A couple dishes that are often on the menu are steelhead trout with orzo, sunchokes and maitake mushrooms; and Niman Ranch beef short ribs with salt pork, barley risotto and gremola.

Aficionados of the arts are also well represented here, Armory Center for the Arts, Norton Science Museum, The Gamble House, Pasadena Museum of History, Pasadena Museum of California Art, the Pasadena Central Library, and the USC Pacific Asia Museum are all easily accessible from this stop.

Head back to Memorial Park Station and get on the train continuing your trip in the northeast direction. There are two platforms at this station, use the platform on the right. Signs mounted on the trains will read Pasadena / Sierra Madre Villa or Asuza / Citrus.

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Lake Station

At this point in the route, the train merges in between the 210 freeway and follows it to the end of the line. Lake Avenue Station is a short, five-block walk to the South Lake Avenue District and the Playhouse District.

South Lake Avenue is a shopper’s paradise. Those who enjoy retail therapy and pampering will spend a lot of time here. This charming, European-style boulevard is lined with beautiful trees and features several promenades for visitors to walk and shop. The shopping district is anchored by Macy’s and discount shopping chains Ross and TJ Maxx. Locals favor gems like Olive and June, a lovely neighborhood nail salon; Drybar, a blow-dry-only salon; SoulCycle, a spin studio with a cult following; and Sugarfish, offering high quality sushi.

Burlington Arcade, is modeled after London’s Burlington Arcade. Its whimsical indoor-outdoor setting and the creative retailers will leave you feeling inspired. Wander into Float, a unique sweets shop complete with a craft soda-based make-your-own float menu; Kimono No Kobe, a traditional Japanese Beauty Store; and Contessa Chocolate Collection, a gourmet chocolate and espresso bar.
South Lake Avenue offers dining options on the healthier side, like Real Food Daily, Lemonade, Abricott, Bengees Ice Cream Crafters (dairy-free). Fine dining options abound here too, like Celestino, SECO, Del Frisco's Grill, and Smitty's Grill.

Caltech, one of the world’s greatest research universities is located just blocks away, adding a collegiate flair to the neighborhood. Take a look at their public events calendar for performances like the Caltech Players’ Star Trek musical parody.

The Playhouse District is a commercial and residential neighborhood that surrounds its namesake, the Pasadena Playhouse — it is the city’s performing arts hub. The Pasadena Playhouse is the official state theater of California, and for good reason. The theater’s programming is quite incredible. They feature culturally diverse and innovative productions like Casa Valentina, A Night with Janice Joplin, Fly, and Real Women Have Curves. Complimentary behind-the-scene tours of the theater are available by appointment.

The Playhouse District is also home to Boston Court Performing Arts Center, Ice House Comedy Club, and Laemmle’s Playhouse 7.

Southern California’s oldest and largest independent bookstore, Vroman’s Bookstore is a 7,000 square-foot treasure trove of handpicked literature and unique gifts. Special programming includes children’s story time, free summer jazz concerts, and public book signings by well-known authors.
The vibrant neighborhood is sprinkled with coffee bars like Urth Caffe, Le Muse Coffee & Wine, Next Chapter, and Zona Rosa; and a jazz bar called Red, White and Bluezz.

Return to Lake Station and travel to Allen Station.

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Allen Station

This portion of the guide is great for the more curious traveler who likes to “do as the Romans do.” While this area is mostly residential, there are some real gems that most visitors will never come across.

Before we get started at Allen Station, if you need another coffee, Jameson Brown Coffee Roasters is popular with the locals, try their Vienna Latte with Hemp Milk.

Next, make your way to East Washington Village, an eclectic neighborhood in the northeastern end of Pasadena, home to a longstanding Armenian community. Board the Pasadena Transit Bus 687/686 (northbound) and travel for seven minutes to Washington Boulevard where you will get off the bus.
Pulitzer Prize winner and L.A. Times food critic, Jonathan Gold is partial to Garni Meat Market, a butcher shop where you can find for spicy chicken wings, pork kabobs and marinated quail — all grilled to order and served with house made dips; Armenian sandwich shop Torino serves crusty French bread stuffed with Lebanese sausage; and Aladdin Nuts is a quaint shop that offers a smorgasbord of flavored pistachios, almonds and hazelnuts.

Continue west on Washington Boulevard to Burrito Express, a Mexican restaurant that has been catering to locals since 1978; Connal’s is a family-owned burger joint; or my personal favorite, a sandwich deli called Lavender & Honey, which also happens to be one of the most Instagramed cafes in town.

When you’re ready for dessert, walk east for about a mile to Carmela. They serve artisan ice cream flavors like salted caramel, brown sugar vanilla bean and brown butter sage.

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Sierra Madre Villa Station

This is the final stop on the Pasadena tour. Nature lovers will enjoy the urban hiking trails of Eaton Canyon, a 190-acre nature preserve featuring equestrian trails, seasonal streams and a cascading waterfall. Stop by the Eaton Canyon Nature Center and grab maps of the hiking trails. On Saturdays at 9 AM, folks meet at the nature center for a guided family hike that’s suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

If hiking is not your thing, around the corner from Sierra Madre Villa Station you will find A Noise Within, a repertory theater housed in a beautiful mid-century modern venue where a rotating company performs classic theatrical productions like Romeo and Juliet and All My Sons. Across the street from A Noise Within, you will find a chain Mexican restaurant called El Torito which is credited for popularizing the margarita and enchiladas in the United States.