Back in Business! And Demo Day!

Ok, I had a serious moment (truthfully, it was a long moment… like several days long) of panic last week.  I had heard that subscribers weren’t getting emails of my blog posts, so I set about trying to rectify this issue and found that all of the blog’s subscribers had vanished! Yikes!  I noticed a few other website issues too.  After lots of time on the phone and in chat with the help desk from my hosting company (who, um, weren’t so helpful), and then more time tinkering myself, I finally figured out how to fix it. Phew, HUGE sigh of relief!  So my fingers are crossed that all of my subscribers are reading this via the link sent to their email.  I “think” we’re back in business!

Anyway, I wanted to update you all on the progress here at my house renovation. I would technically not consider anything we’ve done so far as “renovation.”  Let’s be honest, it’s all still demo.  This will continue to be the case for a while.  It feels never-ending.   It’s definitely not as fast nor as fun as ‘ol Chip Gaines makes it look on Fixer Upper!  Every weekend we continue to tear out old paneling, mirrors, drywall, carpet and drop ceiling in the basement.  We are also trying desperately to track all the electrical and make sense of what had been done previously.  The entire drop ceiling is a mess of wires that we aim to nicely package in one existing soffit so we don’t have to do a drop ceiling again, cause let’s face it, drop ceilings in an already low basement are no bueno.

Ultimately, given the current state of the basement, we’d probably have been better off if the basement hadn’t been finished in the first place.  When the home was inspected we saw that the ceiling of the basement was insulated (which isn’t required) so we thought it was a real plus.  Well, now we have to rip it all out.  Why?  Because it’s made a nice cushion-y bed/ graveyard for mice.  As we pull out walls and ceiling and insulation we’ve come across 44 mice (all dead) so far and a TON of mouse poop.  We’ve also found some black mold on the western wall sheetrock so even though we weren’t planning on ripping that drywall out, now we must.  I’ve put out a few more traps in case there are any surviving mice and once demo is complete will probably have a pest control company come in to close up any possible points of entry. In the mean time we’ll keep the dead-mouse-tracker going and continue to be skeeved out.

This basement demo has been riddled with issues, but already it  looks so much better. It’s much more open and airy.  It feels like a larger and more usable space.  Here’s a few progress pics.  And if anyone has a surefire way to rid a house of mice once and for all I’m all ears.  And yes, I plan on dropping about a grand at the container store to finally get the Pinterest perfect pantry complete with pretty mouse-proof glass containers for all of my flour, cereal, pasta, et cetera.  For the peace of mind that I am certainly eating  mouse poop free Cheerios, I think it’s worth it.

demo day

open stairs

demo day

demo day

demo day

demo day






Party Time!

Primarily I design and decorate homes, and occasionally refinish or repurpose furniture.  But this week I branched out into somewhat new design territory.  I guess I’m sorta known among my friends for being the “creative” one (a compliment and certainly not the worst thing they could call me).  One friend decided to throw her daughter a huge sweet 16 birthday party and enlisted the help of her friends to do everything from catering to sweets to decorating … that’s where I came in. (Friend Colette provided catering and dessert with her company ColMoni’s Catering and it. was. fantastic!)

The party would be held in my friend’s very spacious home and host over 100 friends and family.   Much like designing any other room, we began with an inspiration piece to base the rest of the design on.  Our inspiration began with the gorgeous invitations which featured a watercolor floral motif with periwinkle as the feature color and splashes of other shades, deep and light pink, light and dark green and a range of blues and purples.   We decided to decorate the expansive basement dance floor with streamers of tulle and tissue paper pom-poms in this same range of hues.  Here are some of the material basics that we utilized.

There are about a million tutorials out there for making tissue paper pom-poms and it really isn’t that hard but it IS time consuming.  We made over 125 tissue paper pom-poms of varying size and color.  To say it took a long time is an understatement, but the end results were all worth it.  We put pom-poms on the dance floor, we put them over the cake table, over tall drink tables, on the cake table, at the home entrance, and hanging from the balcony.  All of those same areas were also adorned with varying shaded swags of blue and purple tulle ribbon and fairy lights.  I think the overall effect was exactly what  we were going for, transforming a stately and elegant home into a fun and whimsical setting for a Sweet 16!  Here’s a few preparty shots in daylight.


These are a few evening pics during the party (please forgive poor cell phone quality).


As you may have noticed I have a love affair with flowers so I was very excited to also design and arrange four statement centerpieces.  We selected a tall vase filled with hydrangeas, curly willow, monstera leaves and purple statice accent.


While decorating parties isn’t the core of my business, I think I’d love to take on a few more and really perfect this design art!


Building a Dream: Our Vacation Rental Property Series #1

I envision this post to be the first in a series to describe our process for making the leap to purchasing a vacation property and ultimately building a beach home from the ground up.  It’s no doubt a scary venture, with a lot on the line. I figure reading about our successes and mistakes might help a few people venture into vacation home dreams of their own.

I had been half joking with my husband for several years, whenever he would ask me what I wanted for my Birthday, Christmas, etc. I’d always reply, “A beach house.” Hah, funny, right…. I knew I’d never wake up to a house with a big bow on it like those silly Lexus commercials (don’t you hate those people on those commercials even though you know it’s not real?)  Anyway, in saying that I wanted a beach house as a gift, I really meant that I wanted us to save money and forego trivial gifts and really sock away some savings so someday we really could buy that beach house.

On a (sort-of) whim, one winter, I started searching on  Initially our plan was NOT to build a brand-new house but find a home that needed a little bit of cosmetic work, which many beach rentals do, and fix it up.  Cause, ya know, we fancy ourselves pretty handy.  We had been traveling to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for several years and renting homes for a week for summer vacation.  Over the course of my childhood I had spent time in other beach locations like Virginia, Maryland and Delaware beaches and the Jersey shore …yes that’s really what it’s called, it’s not the “beach” it’s the “shore” and if you say it with a Jersey accent it’s even more accurate… and if you refer to OBX as the “shore” people look at you like you have three heads.   Of all of those places I loved OBX the most and it was a manageable 4 hour drive from our home in VA. So I found a house I liked and I promptly contacted the realtor.  This is the house that drove me to start our search in earnest – adorable, right?

initial coveted vacation home
Photo: Southern Shores Realty


Okay, here’s recommendation #1, don’t do what I did, and call the realtor who lists the house you may want to buy, because if you make this person your agent, they are then working for both sides.  We were lucky because in our case it worked out because the seller wasn’t willing to negotiate as much as we’d have liked and I was hell bent on getting a good deal (that was a high priority of ours) but we did find a good agent in the process and he showed us a number of places in a whirlwind rainy weekend).  Finding someone who is willing to roll up their sleeves and dedicate a whole weekend to you is a pretty big deal because if you’re looking for a vacation property that is several hours from your home you want to be efficient with your time and not do multiple trips back and forth.  Working with a realtor that is local to where you want to buy is really important.  They know the area, and will know what areas work best for rentals as well as what home elements will help return on investment potential.  And although your realtor will hopefully have lots of info for you don’t forget to do research on your own.  We did and it came in really handy when it came time to negotiate (more on that in a later installment).  In fact, when we started our vacation home search I was dead set on buying in the quaint town of Duck, pictured below.













Did I buy a home in Duck? Nope.  Based on our priorities, our agent turned us on to a neighboring town called Southern Shores, which was a much better fit for what we wanted in a property.  I still find new and interesting things about Southern Shores, NC and I just love, love, love it!  Every time I visit I say that I don’t want to go home to Virginia and just want to stay there forever.  Here’s the gorgeous dunes at Southern Shores.











A few other things I learned and I recommend as you start looking for that vacation rental property: know what your priorities are. Do you want maximum ROI in rentals?  Proximity to the beach and amenities? Peace and serenity?  A place for boating? Low maintenance? (Hint, you may want to scratch this last one off your list if you’re going to rent your beach home out, but we’ll talk about that more later).   We knew (or thought we knew) our primary priorities going in. Here’s our list:

  • Within a 5-minute walk to the beach
  • In an “X” flood zone (see more on this below)
  • A good deal (and preferably below our budget of 550K)
  • Have consistent summer rental history (or potential)
  • Not along a main road with a lot of audible traffic
  • At least 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms or one that could sleep about 10 or more people
  • A pool or room to add pool
  • Not in a commercialized area (no views of stores, restaurants)
  • A water view

I’ll let you know which of these we actually accomplished at the end.  But these all sorta make sense except, why wouldn’t you want a house RIGHT smack dab on the beach if you’re buying a beach house?  Ok, well admittedly, that would be lovely and would probably help a ton with rental potential, right?  Only I’m at least somewhat risk adverse and wasn’t willing to push those limits on our first foray into rental properties.  Houses on the beach are exponentially more expensive in terms of sale price.  But consequently, you could rent it for more, which is true, but there are other expenses you incur with a house ON the beach.  Maintenance is one; you will have higher overall maintenance costs for things like painting, rusting metal that needs to be replaced, and storm damage, which brings me to our #2 priority, an “X” flood zone.  FEMA has mapped all coastal areas and assigned different letter codes to designate potential risk for flood based on historical events and geography and probably all other sorts of scientific stuff.  More info on all of this is available at FEMA’s flood risk website.  Here’s a pictorial simplification of FEMA’s flood risk lettering.

FEMA Flood Zone lettering
Image: FEMA


What is important to know if you are buying a coastal property is that these letter codes affect how much or how little flood insurance you have to carry and ultimately, how much you’ll pay.  Being in an X zone doesn’t mean that our home is invulnerable to weather, not at all, but it is at a lower risk for flood devastation.  For us, it wasn’t just about the money but not having to worry about having to board up our little vacation abode every time a hurricane threatened the east coast or worse worry about having to rebuild it or worse yet, worry about being so severely impacted that our entire property was rendered unusable….. and it happens….  These homes are along the beach in South Nags Head, NC, just a few miles south of ours that had been condemned after a storm.

Photo: Steve Earley, The Virginia Pilot


Are you considering buying a vacation rental property?  What are your thoughts or dilemnas?  We’d love to hear them! Share in the comments.

Next installment coming in a week or so – continuing the house hunt and expanding it to a “land hunt”…


The Season for Giving

So often, at this time of year we get wrapped around the gift buying, the decorating, the food, the family, the overall excess and attempting to make it a “perfect” Holiday.  I am guilty of this myself.  There are so many people deserving of our charity and kindness this season and so many who could just use a little boost.  There are a ton of organizations to choose from to give your time or a small donation to that would make such a difference, everything from supporting your local food pantry to helping refugees from Aleppo or supporting our troops.  Definitely do your research and ensure that you are supporting a reputable organization or choose one that you have worked with before.  Most significant organizations, like the USO, have websites where you can make a charitable gift in less than a minute.

Over the Holidays I’m taking a short break from the blog, Happy Holidays to all and a Safe and Healthy New Year!  Talk to you in early January!!


Welcome to Village and Coast’s Blog!


Well, here goes… something!   I’ve loved designing home interiors for a long time, whether it’s my own home or that of a friend or a family member.  I decided recently that I love it so much I’m making it my full time career, even if it meant leaving behind a pretty successful corporate career.  You only live once, right?  It’s been fun getting the business started and now I’m excited to add the blog as a part of Village and Coast.  Here in Northern Virginia summer is officially over since today was the first day of school.  I thought I’d begin my “academics” by starting my blog today.  My goal on this blog will be to share ideas and images of great design ideas, what’s trending in design, some DIY tips and help, great before and afters, or anything else that happens to be on my mind.