Coronavirus Mortgage Relief: What You Need To Know

Coronavirus Mortgage Relief: What You Need To Know

Mortgage lenders, and the federal agencies that regulate lenders, are putting coronavirus mortgage relief measures in place to ensure homeowners have options if they’re unable to make payments.

Your first stop in the face of financial hardship is your lender or bank.

Just keep in mind lenders are working to figure out and implement the new mortgage relief polices outlined by the regulatory agencies. So you might read one thing from the FHFA, a federal regulator, but your bank might be doing something else.

In addition, due to the number of homeowners affected by the pandemic, lenders are dealing with a crush of calls and online queries. Be patient, persistent, and prepared to spend time on hold.  

Here are the resources you need now.

Your Mortgage

Federally Backed Mortgages
If you have a mortgage backed by Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Veteran’s Administration (VA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac, your loan servicer must offer you deferred or reduced mortgage payment options – called forbearance — for up to six months. This means you don’t have to pay your mortgage and you won’t be charged late fees, penalties, or interest while you can’t pay.

Loan servicers for FHA, Freddie, and Fannie must provide an additional six months of forbearance if you request it. 

Not sure who backs your own loan? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have loan look-up sites where you can find out who owns it, and how to get in touch with them.

In addition, here are direct links to some lenders and banks’ Covid-19 resources:

Mortgages Not Federally Backed
If your mortgage is one of the 5 million in the United States not backed by a federal entity, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which includes a coronavirus mortgage relief mandate, doesn’t apply. But regulators have encouraged those lenders to work with borrowers who can’t pay their mortgages, and most banks and other lenders are suspending mortgage payments or offering forbearance.

The level of relief you get will depend on who owns your loan. Contact your lender to find out what’s available.

Regardless of the type of loan you have, you must apply for coronavirus mortgage relief through their mortgage servicer. That’s the entity that collects your monthly payments and decides how long the assistance will last. When you reach your mortgage servicer, you’ll need to explain your situation and provide information about your income, expenses, and assets. 

TIP: If you’re an at-risk homeowner, this downloadable PDF will help you understand the sources you can approach for help.

Foreclosure and Evictions

Federal officials have imposed a nationwide halt to foreclosures and evictions for more than 36 million Americans with home mortgages backed by the FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.

The moratorium only affects borrowers with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA, and RHS (Rural Housing Service loans through the USDA). This doesn’t apply to the roughly 35% of mortgages held in bank portfolios and private label securities. But some individual lenders are offering relief.

Some cities, counties, and states, including Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Texas, have placed a moratorium on foreclosures. Check with your city, county, and state governments. Find state-by-state tallies online.

Housing Counselors

Another tool in your relief toolbox are housing counselors. Counselors can provide independent advice on buying a home, renting, defaults, foreclosures, and credit issues. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s look-up tool lets you can find counselors in your state.

Your Credit

The CARES Act forbids lenders from dinging your credit score for missed payments on federally backed mortgages and student loans during your forbearance period. The federal government is also encouraging private lenders to suspend reporting late payments on eligible mortgages. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has more advice about protecting your credit.

To keep close tabs on your credit, you can now obtain a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, every week for the next year through April 20, 2020. The companies ratcheted up their once-a-year allowance to help consumers “protect their financial health during the sudden and unprecedented hardship caused by COVID-19.”

Get all three reports in one spot: annualcreditreport.com.

Your Student Loan

The CARES Act includes immediate relief for those who can’t make their monthly payments on federally held loans due to coronavirus. All loan payments (both principal and interest) are suspended through Sept. 30, 2020, with no penalty. You don’t need to apply for this program or contact your lender. It’s automatic.

If you keep making payments, they’ll be applied entirely toward the principal. These suspended payments will count towards any student loan forgiveness already in effect.

Here’s a list of servicers — and their phone numbers — for loans backed by the U.S. Department of Education.

Some loans under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program and some Perkins Loans not owned by the Department of Education aren’t eligible for suspended payments. Nor are private student loans owned by banks, credit unions, schools, or other private entities. If you can’t make payments, contact your loan servicer to find out what options are available. Many are offering ways, like forbearance, to postpone payments.

Not sure who your servicer is? Look on your most recent statement and contact the servicer immediately.

If your student loan is already in default, the relief act immediately suspends wage garnishments or tax refund deductions. They’ll resume after the suspension ends.

Find out more about student loan relief at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Your Taxes

The IRS has pushed back the deadline for filing and payment of federal taxes to July 15, 2020. Many states are following suit. Check with your state tax agency, or see this list from the American Institute of CPAs for details on deadlines.

Related: Tips to Get Filing Ready for (Delayed) Tax Deadline

Your Real Estate Transaction

If you’re going to be buying or selling a home in the near future, find out if your county recording office can complete the deal online.

In addition, more than half of states, many under emergency state directive, allow for remote online notarization of documents. This makes it safe and easy to complete real estate transactions under social distancing orders. The number of states allowing remote notarization could grow as pandemic legislation expands.

Your Appraisal

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have provided detailed appraisal alternative guidelines, so homeowners and appraisers can practice social distancing on Freddie and Fannie loans through May 17, 2020.

FHA, VA, and RHS are also allowing variations on the usual appraisal protocol. Check with your servicer for details.

Look Out For Scams

Fear breeds scams. And scammers are out in full force during the pandemic. Beware of third parties offering mortgage assistance and other help. Seek help from your lender directly.

For information on circulating scams, and guidance on identifying them, visit the Federal Trade Commission website.  

With additional reporting by Christina Hoffmann

Published at Tue, 07 Apr 2020 13:23:42 +0000

Daydream Destinations – Villa Kuro

Daydream Destinations – Villa Kuro

For years, our Gotta Getaway series has been a staple on this blog. Travel is one of my main forms of therapy. I use it to clear my head, get perspective and be re-inspired. Even during the times when I didn’t travel much, like when I’d just had a baby, I was constantly thinking about travel, planning it, wishing for it. While we might all watch our 2020 travel plans slip away and wonder when we might get to enjoy safe travel again, I do think it’s important to continue to dream, wish and plan – even if it’s for an unknown future.

So at the risk of torturing you (and myself!) I’m starting a new series – Daydream Destinations, basically as a way to bank a list of all the places that will be atop my travel wishlist once the world comes out the other side of this pandemic.

And I’m starting with a relatively attainable option – a stunning Airbnb tucked away in Joshua Tree – Villa Kuro.

Villa Kuro on apartment 34Villa Kuro on apartment 34

Set in the beautifully remote hills of Joshua Tree National Park, Villa Kuro is a much needed reprieve from your typical Palm Springs vacation rental. No swinging 60’s decor, no bright colors, no manicured lawns. Instead, this space is subdued. It is serene. It feels like you’ve been completely transported. Oh what I wouldn’t give to be transported right about now.

This stunning, tranquil space was actually on my radar before this all started. I’m kicking myself for not getting there when I had the opportunity last fall.

I love the white appliances in this kitchen – I think they’re making a comeback! The built-in niches also offer a laid-back, yet architectural storage solution. Wood beams in the ceiling warm up all of the hard surfaces.

Villa Kuro on apartment 34

Renovated with a nod to wabi-sabi, what was a 60’s ranch style house now features natural materials and textures, highlighted by oodles of natural light flooding through the oversized doors that connect you directly the desert landscape beyond.

Villa Kuro on apartment 34

I spy foraged branches! You see – the trend really does work no matter where you are.

Villa Kuro on apartment 34 Villa Kuro on apartment 34

A perfect mix of both custom, collected and vintage furniture add to the highly curated vibe of the home (the TV also comes pre-packaged with all your Netflix binging needs – but we may have watched everything that’s ever existed by the time we get here).

Villa Kuro on apartment 34Villa Kuro on apartment 34

But the piece de resistance of this vacation rental has to be the tea room – seen in the first image in this post. The designers realized the original garage had the property’s best views so they converted it into a tea room / meditation space, complete with a low slung table, woven mats for sitting and a desert zen garden. What I wouldn’t give for a little more zen right now.

I love the mix of woven elements  used throughout this house – lampshades, baskets, rugs – they juxtapose with the smooth plaster walls so beautifully. Also is anyone else noticing that backlight mirror in this bathroom? Genius move.

Being home is showing us how little we truly need to survive – food, family, a comforting environment – but I do think stepping outside the confines of our world offers points of view you really can’t acquire from your couch.

And I love Villa Kuro’s point of view.

While I’m certainly no medical expert, I’m beginning to consider staying in a vacation rental sometime over the summer. Vacation rentals in California are starting to become available again now. Maybe we won’t have to leave Villa Kuro in the day-dream category for too long.

images courtesy of villa kuro

Published at Wed, 27 May 2020 05:44:43 +0000

Home Buying and Selling During the Pandemic: What You Need to Know

Home Buying and Selling During the Pandemic: What You Need to Know

Technology and good-old-fashioned creativity are helping agents, buyers, and sellers abide by COVID-19 health and safety practices while getting deals done.

Some buyers are touring houses virtually. Others visit in person while remaining at least six feet from their agent. Sellers are hosting open houses on Facebook Live. Appraisers are doing drive-by valuations. Buyers are watching inspections via video call. Masked and gloved notaries are getting signatures on doorsteps.

“We have had to make some adjustments, for sure,” says Brian K. Henson, a REALTOR® with Atlanta Fine Homes / Sotheby’s International Realty in Alpharetta, Ga. “Everyone is trying to minimize face-to-face interactions. There have been some delays, but mostly, deals are getting done, just with tweaks.”

Here’s what home buying and selling during the pandemic looks like.

Showings Go Virtual

The rules around in-person showings vary by city, county, and state. Some allow them and some ban them. Check with your state, county, and local government to get the latest on business closures and shut-down rules.

Agents have conducted home tours via FaceTime and other similar tools for years. But these platforms have proven invaluable for home buying and selling during the pandemic. Real estate sites report a surge in the creation of 3D home tours. Redfin, a real estate brokerage, saw a 494% increase in requests for video home tours in March.

“I’ve done several FaceTime showings,” says Henson. He conducted virtual showings before COVID-19, too. He recently closed a deal on a home the buyers only saw on video, he says, but hasn’t yet done so during the pandemic.

In places where in-person showings are allowed, agents wipe down door handles, spray the lockbox with disinfectant, and open up the house, closets, everything for a client. “We leave all the lights on so no one touches switches, and we don’t touch cabinets or doors during showings,” Henson says.

Safe-Showing Guidelines

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, which produces HouseLogic, recommends only one buyer enter a home at a time, with 6 feet between each guest. NAR also recommends agents have potential buyers wash their hands, or use hand sanitizer when they come in the door. They should also remove their shoes. No children should be present at showings, either.

“We’re living in extraordinary times and unusual circumstances. If you have the ability to work, you have to be creative,” Mabél Guzmán, a Chicago real estate agent, told NBC News. Guzmán, who is also vice president of association affairs for NAR, has put together a video offering tips and strategies for virtual showings during the pandemic.

Down Payment Help

Many organizations offering down payment assistance to first-time home buyers have temporarily suspended the programs or changed the rules. You can check the status of programs in your area at the Down Payment Assistance Resource site.

Desktop, Drive-By Appraisals

Appraisers are essential workers in many areas, so home valuations are continuing. But often remotely. New, temporary rules from the Federal Housing Finance Authority allow drive-by and desktop appraisals for loans backed by the federal government.

In a desktop appraisal, the appraiser comes up with a home estimate based on tax records and multiple listing service information, without an in-person visit. For a drive-by, the appraiser only looks at the home’s exterior, in combination with a desktop appraisal. The Appraisal Foundation has put out guidelines for handling appraisals during the pandemic. Here’s the FAQ.

And here are specific new appraisal guidelines by agency:

On the other hand, some private lenders still require in-person appraisals, which are allowed even in areas with shutdown orders. Private lenders hold about 35% of first-lien mortgages, according to the Urban Institute

When appraisers come to your home, they should adhere to Centers for Disease Control guidelines, including wearing gloves and a face mask, keeping at least 6 feet apart from anyone in the home, and asking if the homeowners have been sick or traveled recently to a COVID-19 hotspot.

Inspections Via Live Video

Inspectors are now often working alone, no buyers in tow, and using hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes. The National Association of Certified Home Inspectors advises inspectors to videotape their inspection so clients can watch it at home later, or to use FaceTime or other live video chat apps to take their clients along on the inspection, virtually. They can also call clients with their findings after they’re done.

The American Society of Home Inspectors has also issued guidelines for inspectors so they keep themselves and the homeowners safe while providing an accurate assessment of a home’s condition.

Mortgage Rates and Locks

With mortgage rates fluctuating quickly and closing times taking longer than usual, some lenders are extending mortgage rate lock periods. You can grab a good rate and hang on to it even if your lender takes longer than usual to process your loan.

But the protocol depends on the lender and the loan. Some lenders are offering this for all loans; others for refis. Check with your lender about its policy.

Related: How to Get Home Financing

Employment Verification

An important step in getting a mortgage is proving the borrower has a job. In pre-coronavirus days, lenders called the borrower’s employer for a verbal verification.

The Federal Housing Finance Authority, which oversees Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and federal home loan banks, has relaxed the rules for loans backed by the federal government because so many businesses are closed.

Lenders for federally backed loans now accept an email from an employer, a recent year-to-date paystub, or a bank statement showing a recent payroll deposit as proof of employment.

Walk-throughs

Home buying and selling during the pandemic means real estate agents can conduct the final walk-through via video with their clients. Or they can just open the home and have buyers walk through on their own. Henson says he still accompanies his clients, but stays six feet away and has them wash their hands when entering and exiting the house. Everyone’s wearing masks, too.

And, of course, when the buyers take possession, they should disinfect.

Remote Notarization Depends On Where You Live

About one-half of states have permanent remote online notarization (RON) policies. These allow a notary and signer in different locations to sign electronic document, usually by use of video apps like Zoom or FaceTime. Notaries will watch you sign either a paper document or do an electronic signature on an e-doc, via camera.

Some states have rolled out temporary rules allowing RON. Here’s a state-by-state list of notary law updates, and the type of remote notarizations allowed. The number of states allowing remote notarization could grow as federal and state pandemic legislation expands.

Closings Get Creative

Traditional closings, where everybody gathered around a big table to sign the final papers, are no longer possible. Title companies and banks are getting super creative in dealing with the limitations.

A Minnesota company, Legacy Title, rolled out a drive-thru closing service at one of its offices in an old bank branch building. The title company rep sits in a bank teller window and handles the closing papers while the customer sits in their car. Legacy completed 14 closings in the first week it offered drive-thru service.

Then there are drive-by closings, where the entire transaction takes place in cars. Masked and gloved notaries meet buyers in parking lots and pass documents through car windows.

“I had a closing where the buyer sat in her car the whole time. The attorney came out to her car, gave her paperwork, had her sign in her car, and my buyer never got out of her car,” Birmingham, Ala., agent Isaac McDow told WBRC television.

Says Georgia-based agent Henson, “I’ve had closings the last three weeks [that] I’ve been asked not to attend. There was one where the seller signed two days before buyer. Then the seller came back two days later and signed.”

Henson, who is also licensed in New York, has had to extend closing dates on two sales there since. Co-op boards won’t let non-residents into buildings ­­­– not even an electrician who needs to make repairs as part of an issue that came up in the inspection. He left the closing with an open-ended date.

“It’s all about being really flexible right now,” he says.

TIP: Find out if your county recording office can complete the deal online.

Student Loan Relief

Finally, if you’re also trying to swing your student loan payments, know that federal student loan borrowers get an automatic six-month break in loan payments from April 10, 2020, through Sept. 3, 2020. Thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, they also won’t be charged a dime of interest in that time.

Learn more at the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s site.

Keep in mind that payment suspension only applies to federal loans owned by the Department of Education. Some help may be available to borrowers with private student loans and other loans (like Perkins Loans and Federal Family Education Loans) that aren’t covered. But it’s not automatic. Reach out to your student loan servicer for information.

So, Should You Buy or Sell?

The real estate industry is creatively and safely responding to the situation, and mortgage rates remain low. Your agent is a great source of information about home buying and selling during the pandemic to help you feel comfortable. But, ultimately, it’s a question only you can answer.

Related: 5 Questions to Ask Your Agent When Buying a House

Published at Fri, 01 May 2020 21:31:14 +0000

A Gorgeous Charleston Townhouse’s Even More Charming After a Modern Kitchen Reno

A Gorgeous Charleston Townhouse’s Even More Charming After a Modern Kitchen Reno

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.

Name: Taylor DeBartola, Will Shalosky, Lady + Trish (both English bulldogs)
Location: Downtown Charleston, South Carolina
Size: 1,400 square feet
Years lived in: 2.5 years, owned

Designer Taylor DeBartola first fell in love with this Charleston home’s plaster walls, soaring ceilings, tall windows, original hardwoods, and cast-iron fireplace mantels when he and his partner Will bought it. After spending almost a year adding their personality with color, wallpaper, and fun art, Apartment Therapy toured the inspiring townhouse in 2018. A home full of history—and updated through the decades—Taylor and Will are back to show off this home’s newest changes. “We thought we really loved our home before, but after taking a second phase of renovations on, we’ve been able to dial up on some of our favorite things: hosting more dinners, parties and impromptu get togethers and continuing to use the space as a rotating gallery,” explains Taylor.

Though it’s a townhome without any windows on the sides, there’s still a ton of light, something Taylor has harnessed in the room’s designs and updates. From maximizing the light in the kitchen, to contrasting with it using dark colors on the living room’s walls, the entire home is a mix of incredible details and modern additions.

“The place gets a extraordinary amount of light and I treasure the look of light pouring in through lead glass windows. I’m a sucker for the old details, the squeaky floorboards, and the weird quirks,” Taylor describes. “There simply aren’t many apartment spaces in Charleston with this kind of scale and a real grand outdoor space that opens directly onto the kitchen and living areas. Most of the time, whether working or relaxing, you can find us in that outdoor space with the door to the kitchen open and dogs running inside and out chasing the sun and then laying on the cold wood floors inside.”

Alas, Taylor and Will have already moved on to their next home adventure: They just moved, selling this townhome entirely furnished! They’re already remodeling a house from 1870 (actually just down the block) and Taylor reports he’s added designing and selling homes turn key to his design business.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Inspiration: The inspiration for this house came from Julianne Moore’s townhouse, which was on the cover of Architectural Digest in October of 2017. Over time, and with travels to Italy, Spain, and back and forth to NYC for projects and art shows, the space began to take on a well-traveled, layered, and “internationally eclectic” feel.

Favorite Element: The kitchen. Even though it’s a galley kitchen, its proportions really allow for gathering and many cooks in the kitchen at once. Particularly, I love the light fixture from Trueing Co. and the way the green ceiling looks morning, noon, and night.

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge was to fit all of the elements of a kitchen, plus a washer and dryer and hot water heater into the space, while still making things functional, quiet, and hidden!

Proudest DIY: DIY and I have a hard time together, but I did, with the help of a friend, transform the hallway space by removing interior windows that opened to a shared hallway, wallpapered it in seagrass, and then hung a rotating gallery of art across this 16-foot stretch. I also fabric dyed the chairs in the living room!

Biggest Indulgence: The built-in Miele coffee machine in the kitchen.

Best Advice: Get creative with your surfaces, shop the stone other people don’t want (because it costs less), and give yourself permission to get the best possible appliances you can afford.

What’s your best home secret? I live and BREATHE for a dehumidifier (pun intended). There’s nothing to maintain the freshness of a space and keep upholstered items at their best than a dehumidifier. The 100% linen drapes in the bedroom can grow by up to 3” when humidity is higher, but a couple of days running the dehumidifier in there and they snap back to normal.

Published at Fri, 22 May 2020 16:00:00 +0000

Sneak Peek – My Yard Makeover Reveal

Sneak Peek – My Yard Makeover Reveal

yard makeover on apartment 34

If you followed this little ole’ blog nearly eight months ago, you may recall that I started yet another project at This Old Victorian. This time it was tackling a major yard makeover. Thankfully, the massive project’s (near!) completion came in the nick of time. Since shelter-in-place began, we’ve relied on our yard daily. I’m hoping to give you a detailed tour of the entire space and a recap of our whole design process very very soon. The transformation is just as dramatic as our interiors. If you’re feeling impatient – or need something to fill up your SIP hours – definitely check out the before tour of the yard on my IGTV.

Obviously our outdoor spaces are critical now more than ever. No matter if you have a postage-stamp-sized patio or an expansive backyard oasis, you want to make sure it’s living up to its full potential. Since I’m not at liberty fully reveal our yard design juuussst yet, I thought I’d at least offer some inspiration in the form of all my favorite pieces for outdoor spaces. From seating and long-lasting outdoor cushions, to accessories like fire pits and planters, outdoor pizza ovens and lawn games, now is the time to invest in getting your yard in tip top shape.

I have a feeling we’re in for a loooong summer friends. Let’s make the best of it, shall we?

What yard projects are you currently working on??

For more outdoor space inspiration, CLICK HERE.

landscape design and construction by Beth Mullins of Grows Green Landscape Design, photo by moi

Published at Mon, 18 May 2020 23:16:21 +0000

Expert Interview: Keeping Kids Happy and Healthy While in Quarantine

Expert Interview: Keeping Kids Happy and Healthy While in Quarantine

Isolating at home with kids is a task that requires constant creativity. Thinking of ways to keep them active and engaged and coming up with activities and games they enjoy is no simple endeavor; parents need to adapt and overcome these situations. Luckily, there are many sources for inspiration online, as well as free tools and advice.

If you’re in need of extra help, we’ve asked some expert parenting bloggers what their tips for dealing with this new situation are. From ways to keep kids active to discussing the much feared screen time, here’s what these parents shared with us:

Julie, founder of Fab Working Mom Life 

parenting blogger“Living in a small space — especially during this time when parks are closed — is a challenge. Try to go on family walks around the neighborhood, and find some options for good exercise for the entire family.

My son loves doing silly minute-to-win-it type games and arts and crafts. Those are great ways to keep him motivated and having fun (and off his tablet). He’s in Pre-K so the amount of homeschooling we need to do is minimal, but I try to do a few letters and early reading activities with him daily to continue preparing him for kindergarten. If parents in a similar situation are able to take family walks along their neighborhood streets, do so daily. Parks might be closed but the outdoors is still available for a healthy lifestyle.

cooking with kids

Try to make any activity meaningful. For example, during the walks, point out specific flowers and have your kids count the different types you see. Parents living in an area where long family walks are not as easy to accomplish can have fun, active time with their kids by following along an online video, such as Cosmic Kids Yoga. Break out the board games if kids are older, and even make clean-up a fun competition. This is the time to simplify and focus on the few things that matter so we don’t get overwhelmed with it all.”

Tara, founder of Feels Like Home

parenting blogger“First of all, don’t panic about screen time. Accept that your kids are going to have more screen time than usual during this weird and difficult time. Just like you are feeling the need to be more connected to the outside world, they are feeling the same need, and getting on social media or YouTube helps. More screen time also helps to keep them engaged and out of parents’ hair during work from home time. It’s not ideal, but it works.

Every kid has passions. Help yours cultivate their unique passions, even if it means more screen time or making messes. One of my daughters is in love with Minecraft. She plays Minecraft on the phone and watches endless Minecraft YouTube videos. When I lamented about this infatuation to an educator whom I really respect, she reminded me of all the things my daughter is learning while she plays and that problem solving and creativity are just as important and valuable as math and reading skills. It was an eye-opening moment for me as I realized that Minecraft is not time wasted but a valuable activity because she’s pursuing something she loves.

kids activities

Finally, encourage independence in your kids. Allow them to self-monitor their activities and switch when they want. Remind them to clean up after themselves, and help a little if they need it. Show them where the (healthy) snacks are and allow them to feed themselves throughout the day. Prepare enticing “stations” where there are interesting activities or games, and give your kids the freedom to wander into and out of the stations. Don’t harass them to do what you think they should do; let them guide themselves.

My favorite thing to say to my kids is this: “Boredom is good for your brain.” I say it anytime someone tells me that she’s bored, because it’s true. Boredom sparks creativity and passion. Let your kids be, even when they’re bored. Feel free to use my line, tell them that you know they’ll come up with something good to do, and let them do it.”

Vicki, founder of Honest Mum and author of Mum Boss

parenting blogger“Parents like myself have a challenging job right now, as we juggle homeschooling duties with work during the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s crucial that parents make time for self-care so they can be strong and well for their families. This means taking some time off, eating well and exercising once a day (getting the heart rate up to burn off stress).

What you can do is head out once a day for exercise, kids in tow, wracking up a minimum of steps each time, following the social distancing rules. Use this time as an extra-curricular educational moment, exploring nature trails, logging birds, insects and flowers, using these findings during home-school activities, researching what you’ve discovered on your trips out, and illustrating the observations.

Another good activity is cooking as a family more at home. Parents tend to focus on baking with kids, but I’ve decided to teach my sons more about healthy snacks and main meals to help them slowly become more independent. You can do the same with more detailed chores. Give your kids more of a chance to skill up and learn about the daily chores of maintaining a home.”

There’s no right recipe for caring for your kids, and as such you should follow your instinct and listen to their needs and requests. Everyone is different, but we hope these other perspectives helped you out in understanding what others are also going through. Take it easy and stay safe!

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Published at Sun, 03 May 2020 09:50:41 +0000

Expert Interview: Avoiding Aesthetic Monotony in Your Rental during Quarantine

Expert Interview: Avoiding Aesthetic Monotony in Your Rental during Quarantine

If you’ve lived in your apartment for a while now, it is sure to carry your unique style with it. However, being indoors all the time can make the apartment feel a bit too flat, since you’ve probably gotten used to the layout and the overall look of your design. That’s why it is a good idea to look for design tips and implement some creative solutions for avoiding aesthetic monotony in your rental.

These solutions can range from rethinking your layout and moving the furniture around, to painting your walls or adding some accents. Depending on your lease and your level of commitment, there are different options for you to try. Below, you will find some tips from interior designers on how to do just that.

add art colors

Also, as more and more people start working from home, another innovation is likely to pop up in your apartment: a home office or a workspace. Although many people think it takes a whole lot of space, that mustn’t always be the case. Check out what practical tips these experts have about creating a productive workspace.

Beth Diana Smith, owner of Beth Diana Smith Interior Design

interior design advice“Art and décor are both quick and simple ways to transform a space; plus, they’re easy to take with you when you move. If you’re not ready to make a large art investment, prints and digital prints are budget-friendly especially when you use places such as Etsy, Minted, and Juniper Print Shop. As far as retail décor goes, CB2, Jung Lee NY, and West Elm are great online choices.

When it comes to creating a workspace, keep it clean and create storage for the items that you want easy access to such as pens, scissors, AirPods, and charging cords. And you could easily do that now by using items you have around the house; for example you could use a mug for pens and scissors, a simple binder clip to help you keep the cords at bay, etc.”

Kesha Franklin, principle designer of Halden Interiors

interior design advice“With the standard restrictions that come along with renting an apartment, renters can sometimes feel like it’s not worth investing in decorating their home. But, there are ways to add interest in the space. One of my go-to recommendations is hanging art on the walls. A gallery wall in particular can make a great statement and show off your personal interests. Another cool visual option is removable wallpaper which has a big impact; it’s easy to install and won’t cost you anything to bring the apartment back to its original state when it’s time to move on to bigger and better things!

Let’s discuss the home office situation. Typically, a rental apartment means there is limited space. So, having a designated area to work from home during times like this can be a challenge. A few tips that I would offer are to find a spot near a window to pull on the outdoor energy to feel productive. You can also purchase a folding screen to create a work area with a small desk and chair, that you can use and keep visually separate from the rest of your living space. Lastly, a C-Table is a great option to easily use at your sofa where you can place your laptop, phone and notebook. They come in a variety of heights, widths and finishes and are aesthetically pleasing to compliment your existing décor!”

Mally Skok, founder of Mally Skok Design

interior design advice“I am an Etsy fiend. Nothing warms up a space like a fun Turkish or Morrocan vintage rug. The Etsy shipping is usually free, the vendors are reliable, and there’s a whole lot of bang for your buck. Also you can roll the rug up and take it with you when you need to move.

Colorful pillows are a way to make your space feel distinctly yours. John Robshaw has ready-made pillows that are gorgeous; if these are too pricey, you can always find some cheery ones on West Elm or Crate and Barrel.

There are some clever new ways of hanging pictures on the walls without a nail. I am all for piling up the things you have hanging around in your life — old posters, old photos or postcards. Buy ready-made frames off Amazon and go bananas on your walls.

Another great idea for a quick improvement is plants. Do some research on plants that do well with limited water and sunlight. There are many! Having another living thing in your space — even though it won’t talk back — will make your apartment a whole lot homier.”

Stacey Sheppard, founder of The Design Sheppard

interior design advice“When you live in a rented property it is often difficult to put your own stamp on it. Many landlords are not particularly flexible with what they allow you to do to a property, but there are plenty of creative ways in which you can adapt your home to avoid aesthetic monotony. Changing up your textiles is a great way to make a space look different. Adding new cushions, blankets, rugs or curtains/blinds is very simple. You can change them with the seasons and — by switching to a new color palette — you can give a room a whole new look.

Repainting is a cheap and easy option that has the ability to completely transform the look and feel of a room. You don’t necessarily even need to paint entire walls. Making a feature by painting geometric shapes in different colors can work wonders. Wall art is also a great way to add visual interest. If you aren’t allowed to hang pictures, consider investing in larger framed pieces and simply lean them against the walls. And don’t forget the power of plants. Plants are not only good for our well-being and our health, but they can really bring a room to life. Move them round to change things up, buy new ones to fill empty spaces or — even better — propagate your existing plants to breed new ones.

add plants

To comfortably work from home, you should design a space for your home office. You don’t need a huge amount of room to set up a productive workspace. There are plenty of space-saving desks on the market that will fit into narrow spaces, unused corners or even that fold away when not in use. Make the most of the space you have available by putting wall shelves up above the desk to store all your office supplies. If your landlord won’t allow you to drill into the walls, consider buying a freestanding shelving unit that has a small desk shelf built-in. It is extremely important to invest in a good office chair that supports your back and provides maximum comfort. Whatever your desk space is like, try to ensure you position it in an area of your home that gets plenty of natural light, is quiet and comfortable. You’ll be most productive when you enjoy spending time in a space.”

We hope these tips proved useful and you’re ready to embrace a bit of change. Even the simplest details can wake up your apartment, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Start small and build your way up to refresh your home.

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Published at Wed, 06 May 2020 11:51:30 +0000

Watch Diane Keaton KonMari Her Closet on Instagram

Watch Diane Keaton KonMari Her Closet on Instagram

Just when you thought Diane Keaton couldn’t get any more Diane Keaton-y, the iconic actress hits a new high. Sporting head-to-toe black and a hat that reads “KOOK” across the front, the legendary actress posted a video on Instagram of herself cleaning out her closet. And clearly, trying to KonMari her belongings is just as stressful for Keaton as it is for us normals. 

“It’s been a long time. I mean, I have a lot of clothing, and it’s time for me to let it go,” says Keaton, standing in her hallway, a sea of neutral tones with a lineup of her trademark hats in front of her. “And I’m going to give it to the Goodwill, because this is ridiculous.”

Captioned “Diane By Design: Diane Goes To Goodwill” (now that’s an HGTV show we’d definitely watch), Keaton writes that she’s lived in her home for three years, and her closet is overwhelmed with clothing. 

“It’s time for me to get over myself and let it go! I don’t need all of this,” she tells the camera. 

Leading us into her accessories closet, Keaton opens up drawers and begins to pull out her designer goods. 

“There’s a few little small items in here I’m going to show you, okay?” she says, opening drawers and pulling out everything from belts to jackets that probably cost more than the contents of our bank accounts. Yanking shoes off the top row, she grabs a pair of tan boots (“These I can’t wear at all because my feet have gotten bigger”) and platform leather boots with giant orange and red flames cascading up the sides (“Who was I kidding when I bought these?”).

“This is a lot of work,” says Keaton, giggling to herself. “This is a really fantastic experience.” Adding that she used to go to Goodwill shopping with her mother all the time, Keaton shoves shoes and accessories into a white garbage bag. “This is pile one!”

Soon, we see her crossing 26th Street in Santa Monica toting several handfuls of white garbage bags filled with goodies as she heads to Goodwill. With her mask on, she walks up to the storefront only to discover that it’s closed due to coronavirus. “Oh damn! Hello? This is insane,” she says. Hey, at least vintage fanatics will know where to hunt for Diane’s duds after the quarantine is over.

Published at Thu, 07 May 2020 20:45:00 +0000

This Bath Towel Looks Like a Throw Blanket, But It’s One of the Most Absorbent Towels I’ve Ever Used

This Bath Towel Looks Like a Throw Blanket, But It’s One of the Most Absorbent Towels I’ve Ever Used

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Some things that I repeat a lot on this site: “I’m a hot sleeper”; “I love linen”; and “I prefer a textured bath towel”. I am a Virgo, and I am nothing if not predicable. Because I write about products and shopping for Apartment Therapy, I’m lucky enough to get to try new products all the time, and I feel especially fortunate when I find a product that genuinely thrills me. It doesn’t happen often, and when it does I immediately tell you all about it—which is why I’m here today, letting you know that I’ve found another textured bath towel that I’ve fallen in love with.

My first foray into waffle weave bath towel territory was Snowe’s Honeycomb Towel, and since then I’ve taken a particular interest in testing out more waffle weave bath products. Because of their construction, waffle weave towels tend to be lighter weight and more absorbent than typical terry cloth towels, plus they’re known to dry quicker. And of course, they’re also more textured, which is a personal preference I haven’t been able to shake. I recently got my paws on Allswell’s Stonewashed Waffle Towels, and let me tell you: They’re a game changer.

When they arrived, I gotta be honest: I felt a little doubtful. This towel looks and feels much more like a throw blanket than a bath towel, with a thicker feel than most waffle weave options. It’s also… really pretty. Thanks to the very on-trend waffle design, pretty color (it comes in white, silver gray, and blush), and fringed ends, this towel could be draped over a bed or sofa and seriously no one would know the difference. When hung up in a bathroom, well, it’s capable of changing the entire vibe of the space. But how well does it work?

Again, first time I tried it out I felt skeptical. Would it be weird to wrap myself in a throw blanket after stepping out of the shower? As it turns out, this towel is just as functional as it is beautiful. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it absorbed water absurdly fast, and when I hung it up it dried in record timing. I was floored! It’s like all the best things about waffle towels combined with all the best things about terry cotton towels. The only downside is that it’s not quite as soft as those extra thick, fluffy towels you’re probably used to, but I will say that it’s much softer than other waffle towels I’ve tried. And personally, I’ll take better absorption and quick drying properties over an ultra soft feel any day.

Allswell is known for its budget-friendly bedding and bath products (I also have their mattress and love it), but their waffle towel is on the expensive end at $25 per towel. Right now though, the brand is running a Mother’s Day promo: 25 percent off with code PAMPERMOM, through May 10. If you’d like to go all in on these beauties, you can save by purchasing a bundle: 2 bath towels, 2 hand towels, and 2 washcloths, all for $81 plus an extra 25 percent off right now.

Published at Tue, 05 May 2020 18:00:00 +0000

12 Important Things People Should Learn About Colorado Springs Before Moving There

12 Important Things People Should Learn About Colorado Springs Before Moving There

Colorado Springs is a famously attractive destination for people seeking to relocate. The rental market is cheaper than in most big cities, while the job market is thriving. Also, there’s a generally laid-back feel to the town, which some might even describe as bohemian, and of course a myriad of opportunities for outdoor activity.

If you’re considering Colorado Springs for your next move, here are some funny, quirky, interesting and very useful things to learn about this city.

1. How much do apartments and self storage cost in Colorado Springs?

Renting an apartment in Colorado Springs will cost you around $1,200 per month, well below the national average of $1,468, according to Yardi Matrix. You might want to look into self storage as well, as you’ll probably require a home away from home for all those things needed for enjoying the outdoors, including hiking gear and a bike, winter clothes and gardening equipment. The city is not short of good self storage options, with the street rates for a self-storage unit in Colorado Springs hovering around $108 per month for a standard 10X10 unit, under the national average rent of $114.

2. You get to witness the majestic beauty of Pikes Peak each and every day

The 14,115-feet high Pikes Peak towers over Colorado Springs with all its picture-perfect beauty – one more reason for the social-media obsessed Millennials to love this city. Basically, most pics you take around Colorado Springs are Instagram-worthy. “Pike’s Peak provides the backdrop for the city.  Almost every day you can see it on the west side of the city. It’s gorgeous,” David and Lisa Wolf, long-time residents of Colorado Springs, told us.

American writer Katherine Lee Bates, who visited the area in 1893, was so impressed by its beauty that she wrote the famous poem “America the Beautiful.”

3. Visit the Garden of the Gods

The Garden of the Gods, located at the base of Pikes Peak, only a few miles from downtown Colorado Springs, is a national park featuring stunning geological formations. The iconic deep red, pink and white rocks formed millions of years ago due to erosion and upheavals in the earth’s surface.

The park, with its 21 miles of trails, is very popular for hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking and horseback riding, and it attracts almost six million visitors annually.

4. Money has its own museum in Colorado Springs

It shouldn’t be assumed that Colorado Springs’ residents are materialistic – on the contrary, the city is well known for its unpretentious, relaxed lifestyle. But the Money Museum in the city, part of the American Numismatic Association, is a very cool place to visit, especially with your young ones. You get to explore the power that money has had throughout history and how it influenced culture, art, science and people’s lifestyles. Look at the fascinating exhibits about the evolution of currency worldwide and enjoy one the most extensive US gold coin collections ever assembled. The museum also organizes numismatics seminars and workshops.

5. Giraffes seem to be thriving at high altitude

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is the highest in terms of altitude in the United States, and it has one of the largest herds of giraffes in captivity worldwide. About 200 giraffes have been born in Colorado Springs since the first one was brought here in 1954. The giraffes, obviously thriving at over 6,000 feet above sea level, are part of the zoo’s renowned breeding program that supports conservation efforts.

There are plenty more habitats and animals to admire at this high-flying zoo, including African tigers, several different species of bear, apes, bald eagles, and many more. In addition, an open-air ski lift allows you to admire the entire zoo from above.

6. Check out the one-of-a-kind museum of World War II aviation

As you have already noticed, Colorado Springs is a pretty unique place, so no wonder you can find an amazing, one-of-a-kind museum right here. The National Museum of World War II Aviation, opened in 2012, is the only one in the world to focus exclusively on the role of aviation during WWII.

You’ll be able to admire dozens of airplanes and other vehicles that were used in WWII. The museum also includes a state-of-the-art restoration facility, where old airplanes are brought back to life for the public to enjoy.

7. Take a stroll through Manitou Springs

As most Manitou Springs residents will let you now, their small town is not technically part of Colorado Springs. However, as it’s located just a few miles from downtown Colorado Springs, it has become a de facto neighborhood of the larger town. Manitou Springs is a National Historic District, scattered with art galleries, restaurants, cafes and boutiques. All in all, it’s the perfect spot to spend a relaxed afternoon with your family, or a fun weekend, making the most of the area’s many sunny days.

8. Get used to living near Olympians

The US Olympic Training Center has been located in Colorado Springs since 1978, and the reason why the city was selected to host the training center has to do, once again, with the altitude. Experts agree that training at high altitudes drastically improves athletes’ performance.

And not only might you casually meet your favorite Olympian while standing in line to get coffee, but you can also tour the facility and understand all the hard work and dedication behind getting those shiny medals.

9. Cross America’s highest suspension bridge

Located about an hour away from Colorado Springs, the Royal Gorge Bridge is the highest suspension bridge in the country, crossing the gorge at almost 1,000 feet above the Arkansas River. The bridge itself is 1,260 feet long, 18 feet wide, and its towers are 150 feet high – a impressive structure that offers breathtaking views. The bridge is part of the Royal Gorge Park, which also includes aerial gondolas, zip lines, hiking trails, a children’s playland and photo lookout areas.

10. Are you ready to track Santa?

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)’s famous Santa tracking program started in 1955, and Colorado Springs is the origin of this beloved tradition. It appears that in 1955 a child trying to reach Santa Claus on a hotline provided by Sears misdialed and instead reached Colorado Springs’ Continental Air Defense Command Center.

The call was answered by Colonel Harry Shoup, who provided Santa’s “current location” for the young caller. From there, the Santa tracker exploded in popularity, and today NORAD, who took over this huge and extremely important mission, relies on hundreds of volunteers to answer the approximately 100,000 phone calls and 12,000 emails coming in each Christmas.

11. Colorado Springs is a favorite destination for Millennials

According to research done by the Brookings Institution, the city registered a 15% growth of its Millennial population between 2010 and 2015, the highest nationally. The proportion of Millennials among the entire population of the town is over 26%, the same research says. This obviously indicates that Colorado Springs is a young and thriving place, with plenty of amazing food and entertainment options available.

12. Learn the good and the bad about Colorado Springs: there’s plenty of sun but a little less oxygen

Due to the high altitude of its geographical location and the dry weather in the area, Colorado Springs benefits from about 300 days of sunshine per year, making it one of the sunniest places in the United States. However, there are some downsides regarding the weather in Colorado Springs.

“With the elevation comes crazy weather — it can be really warm, almost hot one day, and the next day snow,”  added David and Lisa Wolf. “Last year we had a horrible blizzard May 20 that wiped out so many trees. The earliest we have had snow since we’ve lived here was September 8…then everything went brown and dead.  Very short growing season! We usually have thunderstorms every afternoon in summer and unfortunately really bad hail frequently.”

The elevation of over 6,000 feet also means that Colorado Springs only has about two-thirds of the oxygen concentration found at sea level. For some people, the exposure to low amounts of oxygen and the changes in air pressure can lead to altitude sickness, characterized by symptoms such as headache, nausea, and tiredness. “It takes about a year to get used to living at this altitude. Some people cannot – especially if they have heart issues,” explained our Colorado Springs couple.

Are you already living in Colorado Springs? Let us know in the comments what your favorite things about the city are and what else a person planning to relocate there should know about.

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Published at Thu, 30 Apr 2020 06:42:23 +0000