New home or first home – it doesn’t matter. Decorating can be a challenge for us all, even the professionals. One technique I have appropriated in my nearly 20 years in real estate and construction is to find something you love and let it inspire you. I’m not sure if I learned it from a designer, architect, or a combination of perspectives, but it helps me refine my thinking when it comes to every design choice.
Perhaps you have a blouse with colors that speak to you. Maybe it’s a rug you found with a unique design that is the epitome of “your style.” In my current home, I took inspiration from a silk batik banner adorned with comical fish. Years ago, I admired it in a small art gallery on Martha’s Vineyard where I once lived. I have always been drawn to textile art and I loved the colors and the humor. My husband remembered that I liked it and bought it for me for Christmas.
When we moved to Charleston 14 years ago, I decided that banner had the perfect tropical vibe for my new home in the south and that it would be the inspiration for transforming my “stuff” from my New England saltbox to suit my contemporary home on Johns Island.
My new living room was cavernous with 18 foot ceilings and low light. I chose a shade of yellow from the fish body somewhere between Citrine and old gold for the living room, dining room, and hallways. It was warm and bright without adding “heat” as it is at the “cooler” end of the color wheel’s warmest tones.
All the wet areas – kitchen and bathrooms are the same turquoise on the lightest shade of the fish gills. Tropical and fun, the turquoise shade worked well with the cabinets in those rooms because they were all the same wood and they had an orange undertone. Bedrooms and my very bright Four Seasons room are a dark stone grey with a lot of blue from the darkest part of the fish. It’s cool and restful in rooms with lots of light or bright white plantation shutters.
My favorite fish have giant orangey-red kissy lips and I generously sprinkle oranges and reds around the house in accents. I chose wooden fish decorated with red and gold mirror tiles for the mantle in the gold living room and added a turquoise throw on the gold sofa. There’s a small red cabinet for the dog’s leash and toys next to the front door with a turquoise shell plate for keys and such. The area rugs are all in different patterns but in the same family of turquoise, orangey reds, and golds. Because I loved the tropical theme, I have also collected artwork with palm trees and sea life.
I did not go and buy all new things. The “beige-ish” sofa in the sunroom in bad need of recovering after 20 years came from Massachusetts but the beige color is accented with nubs of reds and blues that work fine with the grey walls. The rug that came with it, and would not work anywhere else in this house, remains with the sofa. The print of Vineyard Haven Harbor, classically New England, is not tropical, but I love it and it still feels coastal. I kept the down comforter covered in hydrangeas (I bought it in the 90’s and it was cute then) and have since recovered it with a grey and gold duvet.
When showing homes, clients frequently comment that the decorating is all over the place. Too many different colors and accents in different rooms that are not harmonious can make a house feel disjointed. One purple bedroom, one pink, one green and not in the same hue or intensity can make it hard to envision “your stuff” in the space. Over 11 years some things were retired and replaced, but having a concept helped me wade through the gazillions of choices and gives the house a certain continuity. Having an inspiration helps me focus on the choices, but it never prevents me from finding a treasure that deviates from the palette but gives me joy.
Literally, just off the beaten path on the way to Johns Island is my favorite newish furniture store – but don’t tell anybody. Once you see the unique and just plain fun items at the Old Charleston Trading Company, you’ll understand why I want to keep this between you and I. Their slogan is “Interesting Furniture for Interesting People.” The thing is, you have to want to find it. There are no permanent signs for this place, there are barriers in the road to prevent a left turn from Main Road, and even the street sign is missing. It’s downright hard to find on the Old Charleston Road that veers off Savannah Highway to the right as you approach the light at Bees Ferry and Rt 17. Coming from Charleston, it is literally behind the Walgreens at Main and Rt 17. But, if you like the idea of an out of the way place with items you won’t see in a big box store, this is a great destination.
It’s a quirky old building that tilts a bit and the loading dock has marvelous views of the marsh. Once inside, there is clearly a story to be told. The story is, that my friends Warren and Jim were facing a cancer diagnosis. As so many stories with cancer as the catalyst someone says something like this:
Jim: “Let’s not put things off.”
Warren: “You’re right. Let’s buy a boat.”
Jim: “Let’s open a furniture store.”
Warren: “Are you nuts? I’m gonna retire.”
Warren shared this exchange with a friend over lunch who replied, “Well, if you think of it as an adventure, it will be easier.” It had always been Jim’s dream to do reclaimed wood and re-purposed pieces, and the next thing you know they found themselves driving around Johns Island looking for an old barn or warehouse for the business.
In September of 2015, a tornado struck Johns Island and their friend’s office building was badly damaged. The building had served several purposes since the 40s including a feed store and furniture store. The current incarnation was a suite of small offices. The tornado took the roof and the water poured in. Sheetrock ceilings and had collapsed throughout, and the carpet was just as bad. All the tenants had to leave and when Warren and Jim stopped by to lend some support and encouragement, they saw the exposed rafters and duct work, expansive space bereft of walls, and islands of the original wood flooring through the soggy mess. “This could work” Jim whispered, and they began a conversation about a single tenant situation that did not include replacing the sheet rock and fluorescent lighting.
It took some time, but by Memorial Day the stubborn glued-down carpet was removed to reveal the gorgeous floors. The roof was repaired and the exposed rafters were now home to ceiling fans with incandescent lights. Inventory had arrived and been displayed and they were ready, however the building department was not. They did not yet have their certificate of occupancy (CO) and needed more as-built drawings. July brought a temporary business license and temporary CO and at least they were in business.
In his full-time job as a customs broker, Jim had developed relationships over the years with three furniture store owners. He had worked with them on the imports and they encouraged him and gave him advice along the way. He also learned from those exporting to them, some of what he needed to know on the other side of the transaction as neither he nor Warren had ever been entrepreneurs.
They found the earliest sales hard to part with at first. “That’s my furniture – I don’t want to see a space there. I had it staged just perfectly.” They were surprised to feel such ownership but delighted to make people happy. They have had such a great response and interest in seeing the inventory expand that they have already extended the space.
The clientele is now building. People seem to love the pride of discovery and that’s only half the fun. I’ve been in several times and it’s always a social thing and customers interact about the unusual items they find. There is one couple that comes from Mt. Pleasant just about every weekend to see what’s new on their way to lunch at the Tomato Shed down the road. Dogs are welcome, kids too – and if Jim sees a husband itching to go, he offers him a beer to help him linger. “It’s more fun than I thought it would be. We laugh with people all day long and tell them don’t worry about making marks on this stuff – it’s not new. It’s already got a story and you are just adding to the story.” said Warren. On our first visit, my husband and I both suggested they could charge slightly higher prices for the quality of the merchandise. When we told Warren the prices were too low, he chuckled and declared “I never want to sell anything I couldn’t afford myself.”
That brings me to their unique business model. They had dinner with those three furniture store owners who have coached them along the way back in April. They were all in Highpoint, NC for the accessories show and talked about the business. Jim and Warren talked about how they don’t pay commissions to their staff, they all make the same hourly rate and it’s a living wage. There’s no one to “close” a sale and if they are working through lunch or dinner the company brings it in and pays. They eat together like a family. They are overly accommodating to their customers, keeping the prices low, stopping by to deliver a piece on the way home and cheerfully replacing the mercury glass light fixture that broke when I lifted it from the box, I swear, with no hesitation. One store owner told them “your business model is horrible. You are never going to make money that way.”
That’s precisely why we need to keep this our little secret. After all, they have already expanded once to meet demand. How are interesting people like you and I going to find our treasures if everyone in town learns about this? Ssssshhhhh.
- “What are you, some kind of pagan?!” These were the first words from my husband’s mouth when I told him I purchased a black Christmas tree.
- You see, I had always been a natural Christmas tree snob. I would never have a “fake” tree, those are for people who are not willing to sacrifice as I was – I thought. That was until I arrived home after a week away, to discover that my cat had been nibbling on the tree all week and puked all over the hand cross-stitched, tree skirt and broken many of the balls for a mix of cat puke and glass that helped me make the decision. No more trees. We were traveling each year anyway from our home on Martha’s Vineyard to be with family in PA and did not really get to enjoy it much. I decorated the house, but used an ornament tree to enjoy a handful of cherished ornaments and dispensed with the live trees.
- After we moved to Charleston with the cat, who was still with us but slowing down (bless her, she died last year at 18) I thought again about a tree. Right after the holidays one day in January, I decided to rethink the tree situation. I was also 10 years older and began to think about an artificial tree. I went back and forth and wrestled with the idea and then finally thought, what if instead of looking for the most lifelike “fake” tree, I embraced the artificial by being transparently artificial. Don’t pretend it’s not fake – see the humor in it! I always ask buyers and sellers if something is not working, try thinking about the opposite position. If they only want to see brick homes on James Island, I sometimes send them West Ashley properties that might fit the bill. If their sofa is the wrong size for every home they see, perhaps a new sofa is cheaper than paying for more square footage.
- But, how best to do it? The answer of course, was Christmastreemarket.com. By now it was February, it took me a little while to make the journey to an artificial tree.
- Oh the colors! The all-white tree reminded me too much of the snow I had recently escaped. The silver trees were reminiscent of when my aunt had one (back in the day) and used a tree wheel projecting changing light colors. Pink was definitely not my style, and the upside down one made me dizzy. Then I saw the tuxedo black tree. I loved decorating for Christmas with blue, white, and silver trimmings, and typically avoided the traditional green and red. It occurred to me that those less traditional colors would be quite elegant on a black tree with white lights. And, since it was February – I got a bargain! Fedex delivered and I packed it away in the attic.
- In November, my mother-in-law came to visit for Thanksgiving. We had often gone shopping on Black Friday so Thanksgiving dinner seemed the perfect time to bring up the tree. I asked if there was anything in particular she would be looking for on our trip the next day. “Nothing special – so I don’t care where we go. Do you have something in mind?” she asked. I knew I wanted to get some special new decorations for the tree to set off the color, so I told them my story and my husband asked me the question at the beginning of this blog. While my husband found some words, Helen was speechless. All my in-laws find me to be quirky, but this black tree was outside the box even for me.
- The next day we found white and crystal beads for the garland, a super sparkly white wreath ornament, turquoise snowflakes, and several boxes of mixed silver, aqua and navy balls – some in matte and some glittery. After I picked up a few other glam items, I was still missing a tree topper. My former topper from the old tree was retired to the fireplace mantle to join the other blue and white angels. The tree was not quite as tall as I would have liked (because a 6’ black tree is so much less risky than the 9’ version) so I was thinking vertical. I found some crazy looking silver and white balls attached to long wires meant to be tucked into the branches. I combined three of them with some similar wires with dangly crystals I already had, to create what has essentially become sparkly head bonkers on my tree.
- Every year now, I delight in finding a new and unique ornament or two to add to the mix. I have since discovered that purple adds another interesting contrast and I make sure there’s a pop of it in every sight line. My only regret is that I did not get the 9’ version!
- Let me help you think outside the box in searching for your Lowcountry home.
- – Terry Bell-Aby, Realtor®
- Mobile 508-627-2988 | Terry@dunesproperties.com
Charleston is known for historic beauty and centuries old architecture, but we are excited to introduce Charleston’s newest condominium development right in the heart of the city. Old world charm meets modern luxury with this impressive project.
Only two flats remain in Historic Charleston’s new distinctive address, Harleston Gates. These boutique residences showcase the very best of elegant contemporary living in a classically inspired framework. Flats have private balconies and luxury appointments. Construction is underway and moving along quickly.
An exclusive partnership with Wentworth Mansion offers owners the option for concierge access, preferred reservations at Circa 1886, special inn, spa and restaurant pricing, in-home room service, housekeeping services, and even provisioning services. Harleston Gates also offers a gated entry with covered garage parking; two spaces per residence, electric vehicle charging stations, bicycle storage, a dog-washing station, and their very own doorman.
Created by the Lowcountry’s finest luxury development company, Bennett-Hofford Construction, designed by prominent architectural firm, Evans & Schmidt, and featuring renowned landscape architect, Sheila Wertimer, Harleston Gates offers an unparalleled opportunity to experience the essence of Charleston living. Located in Harleston Village, a vibrant and tranquil neighborhood, it is favorably situated a few blocks west of the nationally-acclaimed King Street shopping and restaurant districts.
Granny-flat, mother-in-law-suite, tiny house, laneway house, carriage house- they go by many names. But whatever you want to call them, “Accessory Dwellings” are becoming more and more common in the Charleston area. Accessory Dwellings are typically small habitable structures on the same property as (or attached to) single family homes. There are many types but the most popular is an adorable tiny house that sits in your backyard. Other types include a small apartment over your garage or even a basement apartment, although basements are not typical to our area. No matter the physical form of your Accessory Dwelling, the structure is legally the same property as the main home. This means it cannot be bought or sold separately, like a condominium or a dwelling on wheels could be.
In some cases, homeowners want an Accessory Dwelling for the obvious reason – extra income. You could rent out the space to a young professional, a college student, or even your own adult children that just won’t leave home! Accessory Dwellings could also allow parents to live smaller after their children leave the nest or let an elderly couple live without navigating stairs or maneuvering around a large floor plan.
If you plan on building one that is one story and less than 120 square feet, then you do not need a permit in Charleston County. A zoning permit is required for a structure larger than 120 square feet, and if you are in a residential district, all Accessory Dwellings (besides garages and carports) must be in the rear of the property behind the main home or office. The space of your parcel must also be at least twice the size of the Accessory Dwelling. The Post & Courier recently wrote an article on the rules and regulations of Accessory Dwellings. Make sure you check with your local authorities about specific zoning laws in your neighborhood. For all the details and requirements on Accessory Dwelling Units in Charleston, click here.
Jamme Construction, of Mount Pleasant has erected several Accessory Dwellings in Mount Pleasant. Paul Jamme has been specializing in custom home building in the Lowcountry since 1994 and wants to make sure that the public knows that the construction of an Accessory Dwelling is hard work and a serious construction job. Just because they are small doesn’t mean they are easy! Think about it for a moment. Accessory Dwellings are so small yet so functional. That is mainly because of innovative solutions to things like storage and floor space, which is why you will often see dining tables that fold down from the wall, Murphy beds, and cabinets or drawers under seating. For more information on building an Accessory Dwelling in Charleston, contact Paul Jamme.
Market Stats- Since the opening of The Real Estate Studio in historic Charleston in 2007, dunes properties has had a stronger focus in sales on the peninsula. Our downtown office is comprised of a group of agents that are experts in the downtown market, including the upper and lower peninsula. With this expertise combined with the strength of our other three offices, we have seen significant growth in the downtown market.
In the third quarter of 2014, dunes properties has sold $17,186,650 with over 40 sides. Closing out 2013 with $16,527,350 in sales, which was more than double the previous year, we have already surpassed last year’s total!
Compared to July 2013, the median sales price is up 21% and the number of days on the market has decreased almost 30% in historic Charleston. North of the crosstown, the median sales price is $304,500, which is 6% higher than this time last year.
Along with increased sales on the peninsula with dunes properties, the Lowcountry has continued to see growth in home sales and prices. July was the fifth month in a row that the Charleston area has seen inventory growth, opening up new opportunities for buyers who may not have found what they were looking for last Spring. Compared to July 2013, residential sales have increased from 7,417 homes sold at a median price of $200,834 to 8,016 homes sold at a median price of $216,250.
Despite the government shutdown last month, October showed more promising numbers for the Charleston Market. According to the Charleston Trident Association of REALTORS® (CTAR), 1,020 homes sold at a median price of $190,000, which is up from 920 homes sold at a median price of $185,000 in October 2012.
Year-to-date, sales numbers and prices aren’t showing any sign of decline. Compared to last year, the Charleston Region Real Estate Sales are up 23%, with an 8.5% increase in median sales prices. At this time in 2012, homes were selling at a median price of $187,894 and there were 8,842 sales. A total of 10,897 homes have sold at a median price of $203,947 so far this year. Homes are also closing in less than 90 days.
In Charleston County 566 homes were sold last month, which is up by almost 14%.
A common trend in the markets both locally and nationally is low inventory. In the Charleston Region, inventory is down by 11%. In it’s latest report on existing-home sales, the National Association of REALTORS® states that this tight inventory is a contributor to the rising home prices. The NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, attributes low inventory to “holding back sales while at the same time pushing up home prices in most of the country.”
If you’ve read magazines, blogs, websites, or listened to a real estate agent discussing staging your home you have been told you should bake cookies, put out flowers, clear clutter, and depersonalize as much as possible. That is great advice. However, in the most recent edition of Realtor® magazine, there is some advice from a few California agents. Myra Nourmand, a Beverly Hills real estate pro who has a list of A-list celebrity clients including Hilary Swank and Sheryl Crow. Nourmand has some ideas I hadn’t heard before that may benefit you if you are or plan to sell your home. Anything that make your house or condo stand out for the better is a good thing!
Nourmand advises sellers to think of their home as a movie set that needs to be camera and buyer ready. LA agent Brett Baer adds “Home buying is very aspirational, so play to the buyers’ aspirations.” And they’ve both got ideas on how to do play to buyers’ aspirations.
- Create vignettes. Define how the spaces in your home are to be used. They recommend setting up a game of chess or playing cards in an area that could be a game room or corner, in an exercise area put out bottles of water and towels on a table. You are selling a lifestyle, not just a home.
- Go big. Push spaces to the max. “If a dining room can fit twelve, don’t just put in eight seats.” Go big but be mindful of the room’s scale. And if you have large rooms, enhance their multifunctionality- add a small desk in a large living room for example.
- Add pops of color. The staging trend right now is modern, minimalist style with lighter more neutral colors with color added through accessories (pillows, vases, art). Provide buyers with a clean slate.
- Create a scene stealer. It’s mentioned the master bedroom is the perfect place to showcase this idea. Create an “elegant Four-Seasons tpe of space.” Use high end linens,textured pillows, and if you can, add a sitting area so it will feel like a suite. And add a spa like feeling to the bath with upscale soaps, fluffy white towels, a candle, and even a single flower in a vase (think a rose).
- If baking homemade or ready-to-bake cookies doesn’t interest you, Nourmand likes to slice four apples in half, sprinkle them with brown sugar and bake them at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.
- Add color pops with seasonal fruits in the kitchen, living, and dining rooms (apples, oranges, pomengranites, strawberries, or lemons).
- Play soft classical music in the background.
- Encourage the Buyer to sit down and stay awhile- set out cookies on a pretty plate, brew some tea and coffee, and put out a few bottles of water.
Nourmand says sellers should think of reaching the buyers’ five senses (sight, sound, taste, smell, and feel) when prepping your home for a showing. Create an inviting and enticing space that will suprise the buyer as well as enourage him/her to relax and take in the scenes.
If you would like to read the original article from the REALTOR magazine March/April 2013 edition, click here.
A whole heck of a lot. That’s what. The Upper Peninsula is defined as the area North of the Crosstown (Highway 17) and South of Heriot Street (basically) and includes the neighborhoods of the Westside, Hampton Park Terrace, Wagener Terrace, North Central, Longborough, Lowndes Pointe and parts of the Eastside. Home sales in this area recently have been out of this world – so much so, that I have started skulking around at homes under renovation to see if I can help my clients get a jump on them before they even come on the market.
So if you are looking for a mostly renovated, completely renovated, or a new construction home under $500,000 here, you better be ready to jump. Here are the numbers for your statistical enjoyment.
10 homes sold in the past month.
22 homes on the market.
22 homes under contract.
2 months of housing inventory = Sellers Market
So you ask – what do I think is driving all this activity??
- It’s an extra hot real estate market this year.
- People are realizing they don’t have to cross a bridge to live in a great neighborhood at a reasonable price. And there’s so much history!
- Hampton Park is pretty spectacular.
- Upper King Street is, well, moving on up. This makes these neighborhoods just a stroll or a quick bike ride away from some of the best restaurants and shops in town.
- Small local businesses are flocking to the area around Upper Meeting and North Morrison Drive (“NoMo” for short) for inexpensive commercial lease rates and short commutes. SIB just announced this morning that they are moving their headquarters to NoMo from Meeting St south of Calhoun St.
- Restaurants and bars are opening here slowly but surely. Bob Carter’s Rutledge Cab Co. at the corner of Rutledge and Mount Pleasant is packed – all the time. As is Santi’s and The Tattooed Moose.
- The schools are improving. Not only are they being rebuilt, but also they are being rethought. For example, the James Simons Elementary School will become partly Montessori.
- Overall, there’s a great sense of community, with community-driven change. People are passionate about this area and spend their time working together to improve it.
So let’s take a look at the homes under contract and how long they lasted before they had a contract. That will give you a good idea of demand for the Upper Peninsula! Note that some of them had been on and off the market for years, and as soon as they came back up recently and were priced right, they were under contract.
MLS# 1204829- 18 FRANCIS ST, CHARLESTON, SC – $209,000 – 109 Days.
1224717 -311 ST PHILIP ST, CHARLESTON, SC – $239,000 – 92 days. (This and the other St. Philip addresses are the new construction homes in the nook of the King Street off-ramp from 17)
1224796 -301 ST PHILIP ST, CHARLESTON, SC – $239,000 – 48 days.
1222925 – 75 SIMONS ST, CHARLESTON, SC – $259,000 – 145 days. (also new construction)
1224794 – 307 ST PHILIP ST, CHARLESTON, SC – $265,000 – 0 days.
1224795 – 305 ST PHILIP ST, CHARLESTON, SC – $265,000 – 20 days.
1224831 – 0 FISHBURNE ST, CHARLESTON, SC – $269,000 – 22 days. (Also part of King St off-ramp project)
1224829 – 302 ST PHILIP ST, CHARLESTON, SC – $269,000 – 1 day.
1304868 – 235 FISHBURNE ST, CHARLESTON, SC – $295,500 – 6 days. (Though it was on and off the market since July 2010)
1224792 – 309 ST PHILIP ST, CHARLESTON, SC – $299,000 – 0 days.
1224793 – 303 ST PHILIP ST, CHARLESTON, SC – $299,000 – 2 days.
1301297 – 1007 ASHLEY AVE, CHARLESTON, SC – $299,900 – 4 days. (Though on and off the market since July 2012)
1301171 – 81 GORDON ST, CHARLESTON, SC – $300,000 – 28 days.
1225650 – 203 SAINT MARGARET ST, CHARLESTON, SC – $306,900 – 90 days.
1300787 – 163 MAPLE ST, CHARLESTON, SC – $324,000 – 0 days.
1304620 – 31 DUNNEMANN AVE, CHARLESTON, SC – $369,000 – 7 days.
1304375 – 12 CLEVELAND LN, CHARLESTON, SC – $369,900 – 14 days.
1213573 – 368 ASHLEY AVE, CHARLESTON, SC – $379,000 – 250 days.
1304476 – 109 FISHBURNE ST, CHARLESTON, SC – $412,000 – 2 days.
1303548 – 101 SAINT MARGARET ST, CHARLESTON, SC – $424,000 – 21 days. (Though on and off the market since April 2010)
1303287 – 76 MAPLE ST, CHARLESTON, SC – $426,500 – 20 days.
1302095 – 176 SAN SOUCI ST, CHARLESTON, SC – $429,900 – 19 days.
And the sunset views over the Ashley River from the fishing dock at Longborough, aren’t too bad either…:)
You can find me at Charleston Inside Out or riding my bike all over downtown Charleston.
(843) 412-3333 | firstname.lastname@example.org