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Nine Interior Design Rules To Break



A white living room with white ceilings and wood floors

We’ve been given so many rules about designing our homes, such as always painting the walls white and that your dresser, bed, and nightstands must match. But following the rules of interior design often leads to visually uninteresting spaces. So, do we need to listen to everything we’ve been told? After all, they say that rules are meant to be broken.

But if you’re going to break the rules, you need to do it well. So I spoke with some of the top interior designers and experts to learn how to break some of the most common interior design rules we’ve all heard over the years.

Rule: Matching Everything

Do the drapes need to match the rug? Absolutely not. No matter what type of room you’re trying to decorate, it’s best to mix things up. According to Roxy Te Owens, founder and creative director of Society Social, “Matchy matchy may feel right but the design magic is in the mix,” she explains. “Don’t be afraid to mix metals, neutrals (clients have been terrified to mix white and cream!), textures, prints, and old collected pieces with the new!”

Owens isn’t the only proponent of mixing it up. Andrea DeRosa, principal of Avenue Interior Design notes matching furniture throughout a room hasn’t been on trend for quite a while. “Think the matching nightstand/headboard/dresser suite,” she says. “But we’ve seen a trend in recent years where the design of an interior has become overly homogenized, almost too carefully curated. Your living room shouldn’t look and feel like your master bedroom. And your master bedroom shouldn’t look and feel like your home office. We’re big believers in having an overarching design throughout a space, but leave room to mix it up.”

So if you can’t decide between two or three things, why not go for all of them?

Rule: White Paint Everywhere

Along the same lines of overly matching furniture, DeRosa says too much white isn’t a good thing. “Whether renovating or building from the ground up, our instinct is to keep walls and ceilings white. But while we will forever love the fresh, timeless look of a crisp white interior, fewer things bring instant joy than color.” 

The use of color doesn’t need to be overly bold. Sandy terracotta, dusty sage, or a cheery, sun-washed yellow are great alternative options. “As a result, these colors infuse a serene, yet energetic warmth to an interior,” she explains.

However, DeRosa insists it’s important to resist the urge to paint every room a wildly different color. “Select two to three hues with tones that complement each other to create a sense of unity.”

Rule: Minimalist Art Framing

If your art is interesting, it deserves an eye-catching frame. So, whether you are framing a piece for a gallery wall or just as an accent— artist, and designer Elizabeth Sutton believes that going for a basic black, white, or metal frame is a rule meant to be broken. “I feel like people don’t have enough fun playing around with framing. I love matching a very modern print with a traditional frame,” she says. “Most people match the art style to the frame, but I love mixing and matching. Like one of my geometric florals, with a mat and a gold traditional baroque style frame. Super chic and unexpected. Or using a pop of color in the frame. Like taking a black and white print and framing it with hot pink lacquer. Fun stuff like that.”

Rule: Art Is Only For Walls

Art is all about breaking the rules, so why not break the rules of art and stop limiting its use to walls? “Not only can you hang frames on the face of a bookshelf, closet door, or even on a bulletin board, but you can and should lean them pretty much anywhere they fit,” Tessa Wolf, creative director at Framebridge tells me. “We like to layer huge frames on a long empty wall like a hallway or next to a unique chair or piece of furniture in an alcove. And you can tuck small frames on bookshelves, mantels, or dressers for a really personal detail. This is our favorite way to sneak small family photos into a room. Leaning frames have a casual quality that can keep a space from feeling too formal or finished.”

Rule: Only Using Light Colors In A Small Room

Using only light colors in a small room is a rule that many people think they need to follow because they’re under the impression that dark colors make a room feel smaller, but according to Barbara Karpf, CEO & Founder of DecoratorsBest, that’s simply untrue. “A dark color can conceal the boundaries and corners so that the room appears larger. The deep color camouflages the smallness and creates the perception of depth. Add a dark-colored grasscloth for texture and the tiny room turns into a gem,” she says. 

Beth Diana Smith, interior Designer and HomeGoods Style Expert is also a proponent of breaking this rule. “Painting a room a dark color can actually give the room more depth, creating the perfect dramatic and sophisticated backdrop to layer in color, texture, and pattern through furniture and décor.”

When Smith is working with dark walls, she likes to use brightly patterned area rugs so color radiates from the floor, as well as style lighter wood furniture with woven texture to pop against the darker wall. “For rugs and accent furniture pieces, HomeGoods is my go-to place. They have the brands I love, with quality pieces that fit my maximalist aesthetic, which allows me to experiment with all the fun colors and textures without breaking the bank,” she says.

Rule: Painting Ceilings A Neutral Color

White and eggshell ceilings are boring, so why not use this space as an opportunity to do something bold? “Ceilings are often referred to as the fifth dimension and can be an integral part of the design,” explains Karpf. “Striped wallpaper [for example] creates a tent-like look and an allover strong pattern adds character. [You can also] visually improve a room’s proportions with metallic wallpaper and hide awkward angles with scenic design.”

Rule: Faux plants have no place outside

Outdoors is for real plants only, right? Wrong. According to Jenny Reimold, lifestyle expert and HomeGoods Style Expert, one of her best outdoor styling hacks is mixing up real and faux plants.For a front porch, I like to use artificial trees and faux plants from a store like HomeGoods. When I’m there, I know the faux plants are high quality and budget-friendly, which means I can get as many as I want in a variety of sizes and types. I style them in woven, ceramic, or clay planters where they can live amongst the natural greenery to add fullness.”

Rule: Only Use Matching Metals

Many people think that they can’t mix metals, but that’s simply untrue. Interior designer Liz Caan, says this is a rule to break. “Go ahead and mix silver, nickel, brass, bronze, and iron.”

Rule: Opt For A Neutral Rug With A Simple Pattern

Rugs are a great way to tie together a room, but that doesn’t mean they need to remain neutral. “Area rugs give you an opportunity to add playfulness, creativity, and a unique aesthetic into the room,” Samantha Gallacher, founder of IG Workshop and Art + Loom tells me. “It is often hard to think of the floor as ‘art’ as many often think of carpet as a functional piece vs. design. However, a bright-colored carpet or fun pattern can add liveliness to any room. There are endless possibilities today, with varying materials, fabrics, and sizes, and shapes, go crazy!”

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Real Estate

Three Keys Of Commercial Communications



Businesswoman talking on phone in office

Kyle Crown is the President of Crown Commercial PM. He holds a B.S. in business from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

In commercial property management, no two portfolios are alike, so there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy you can apply to every client you serve. Each owner has their own unique investment style and set of expectations for your work on their property. Therefore, your only hope for success is that elusive thing experts say is essential to every relationship: communication. I think of our main communications with property owners as falling into three categories. Covering all three has served us well, and it can do the same for you.

Communicate about the owner’s desired level of involvement.

By definition, a property manager should be perfectly capable of taking all operational responsibility for a property off the owner’s hands, and many owners want exactly that — to receive only the most essential updates and think about their property as seldomly as possible. We typically aim to send nothing more to our clients than a monthly owner statement packet and an owner distribution payment that matches it. But that’s not what every client wants.

Some owners want to remain highly involved in the management of their property, and it’s up to you to give them that opportunity. Make it clear that you’re ready to accommodate them whether they want nothing to do with the day-to-day or they want to choose the color of every floor tile. More likely, they fall somewhere on the broad spectrum in between, so go out of your way to ask them what they want their involvement to look like.

Communicate about the owner’s goals for the property.

This might seem like a silly thing to ask your clients about, because they’ll all share the goal of making their commercial investment more profitable. But they might have ideas about the future of their property that you won’t know unless you frequently check in with them and ask. Even if nothing has changed since the last time you spoke with them, they’ll appreciate you inquiring about their level of satisfaction with the work you’ve done.

Certain owners have highly specific goals and intentions for the spaces they own, and even in some cases have emotional attachments to them. For instance, one of our clients is an architect who designed a building specifically to house a restaurant. When the original tenant went out of business, he was willing to accept a lower rental rate in order to make sure the new tenant was also a restaurant. Without knowing his full story, we would have disappointed him by leasing it as a high-end retail space at a higher rental rate.

Communicate all financial information about the property.

Don’t just find out what exactly it is your client expects from you — show them exactly what they’re getting from you. I’ve found that taking the time to walk a new client through their first month’s packet of statements can do wonders for your professional relationship with them — and for their understanding of your service going forward. Transparency is essential to trust between an owner and a manager, so make sure that your clients have access to user-friendly statements that show and explain every transaction made in relation to their property. Some clients want a one- or two-page statement every month, and some want a 400-page statement. That’s not an exaggeration. Good property management software systems can easily accommodate both and anything in between.

Communication is what allows a property manager to do perhaps the most important thing they can for their clients: put themselves in their clients’ shoes. If I can’t do that, then how can I manage somebody’s property as if it were my own? A mutual understanding is crucial, and only communication can bring that about. So when you interact with the property owners who’ve hired you to look after their assets, don’t assume, or merely imply or try to infer. Communicate instead.

Forbes Real Estate Council is an invitation-only community for executives in the real estate industry. Do I qualify?

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Real Estate

Kimco Realty Adds Weingarten Realty To Its Shopping Cart



Empty shopping cart in the supermarket shopping mall

Today Kimco Realty
, one of the largest shopping center REITs in the US, announced it was merging with Weingarten Realty
for $5.9 billion in a mix of stock (90%) and cash (10%).  Each WRI share will be converted into 1.408 newly issued KIM stock plus $2.89 in cash per share and upon closing the combined entities will have an enterprise value of just under $20 billion.

Kimco and Weingarten are highly complementary as they own high-quality grocery anchored shopping centers, and the combined portfolio will consist of 559 properties in top MSAs.

One obvious benefit for Kimco is the fact that Weingarten’s portfolio is focused on coastal and Sunbelt markets that have performed relatively well during the pandemic. This merger creates significant synergies (around $30 million to $34 million) as the costs can now be spread across a $20 billion portfolio.

In addition Kimco expects to benefit from debt synergies, thanks in large part to the fact that Kimco is using most of its currency (90%) in stock and the balance in stock (10%).

I spoke with Kimco’s CEO, Conor Flynn and he explained that this merger will generate “lower leverage and enhance the long-term NOI profile” for the combined companies.

Kimco is currently rated BBB+ with S&P and Baa2 with Moody’s
and Flynn told me that the “next leg up is the A-rating” that the CEO is hoping to see in 2022 or 2023.

The cap rate on the Weingarten transaction should be immediately accretive and I view the 5.8%-ish cap rate to be extremely attractive and Flynn told me that “you can’t get that (cap rate) in the private market right now”.

According to Nareit data there are 18 shopping center REITs with a combined market capitalization of $52.5 billion. In 2020 the shopping center sector generated the second worst total return (-27.6%) behind regional malls (that returned -37.2%).

Although shares in shopping center REITs have rallied year-to-date (+26.1%) Kimco opted to purse Weingarten so it could use its cost of capital to transact the deal (purchase price was 90% in stock).

Another catalyst worth noting is Kimco’s  ability to drive NAV (net asset value) through a collection of mixed-use projects and redevelopment. The combined company has a potential of 41 projects that consist of 34 mixed-use and 7 master planned projects that include 1.7 million square feet in retail and 9,000 multi-family units.

Conor Flynn will remain the CEO of the combined company and Milton Cooper will remain as Executive Chairman. Weingarten will have one Kimco board seat. There is a break up fee of around 2.5% but I don’t anticipate another bid given the fact that it will take a large player like Kimco to execute on such a large transaction.

KIM closed up 2.31% and WRI closed +12.5%.

I own shares in KIM.

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Real Estate

Vacation Home Checklist: Keep Your Place in Perfect Shape



Vacation home checklist items to keep in mind

Everyone loves a good vacation, and the option of having a private retreat is one of the many perks of owning a vacation home. With the soaring demand and interest in vacation towns and affordable suburbs, there’s no better time to jump on the opportunity to own a vacation home than now.

Whether you’re taking in the last snowy days at your retreat in Whistler, BC, or you’re looking to invest in a sunny escape in Fort Worth, TX, it’s critical to close up your vacation home properly at the end of the season to ensure your property is safe when you’re back at your permanent residence. To help you get started, this eight-point vacation home checklist will make it easier to maintain your vacant home while you’re away.

Vacation home checklist: what to keep in mind

A home away from home can be a great investment and a handy retreat for vacations. However, making sure you’re sustaining and securing your property during vacant months will help prevent potential problems while you’re away. These can include:

  • Frozen pipes and leaks
  • Downed wires
  • Fallen trees
  • Pests and animals
  • Mold
  • Theft and vandalism

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent these potential issues from becoming a vacation homeowner’s nightmare.

Secure your vacation home

1. Install a home security system

Leaving your home unoccupied for a season could leave it more vulnerable to burglaries or vandalism. A home security system is your first line of defense when you’re away, whether it’s your vacation home or full-time residence, and will allow you to monitor your home remotely. Some security systems can also include flood monitoring or smoke detection, giving you additional peace of mind. Depending on the system you choose, some may even come with an automation function that will allow you to schedule lights or turn a TV on and off, giving the appearance of an occupied home.

Have sufficient lighting in your vacation home checklist

2. Make sure you have sufficient lighting

To deter opportunists from approaching your vacation home at night, illuminate walkways, entryways, windows, and any dark corners with outdoor motion-sensor lights to startle would-be intruders. Indoor lighting is also critical in ensuring your home looks occupied from the outside as well. Simple outlet timers can help turn lamps on and off at intervals to make your vacant home look occupied. Keep in mind that when using outlet timers indoors that you ensure it’s visible from the outside, even through curtains or shades.

3. Consider smart locks

An essential step in your vacation home checklist is ensuring all windows, especially those on ground level, and doors have secure locks. Alternatively, you may also consider installing smart keyless locks that will allow you to grant remote access to neighbors or housekeepers. These locks provide additional control, security, and convenience, and may give you better peace of mind knowing you won’t need to keep track of any keys.

4. Adjust any blinds or shades and secure the windows

The key to deterring any surprises while you’re away is to make your vacation home look as if it’s being regularly visited, so be sure to include leaving any blinds or shades partially open in your vacation home checklist. Doing so gives the impression that your vacation home is occupied, and those passing by will see the lights through the blinds at night without being able to see fully into the house.

5. Ask your neighbors for help

Getting to know your neighbors can offer another line of defense while you’re away. Instead of leaving your key in a well-known hiding spot, give a spare set to a trusted neighbor so that they have access to the home in case of emergencies. Plus, it’ll ensure that you have another set of eyes watching over your home for suspicious activity.

Assemble a team of professionals

6. Consider hiring a landscaping service

Untidy hedges, overgrown grass, weed-infested gardens, or even overgrown shrubbery are dead giveaways of an unoccupied home. While a lakefront home in Seattle, WA might not need frequent upkeep compared to a beach house with a large lawn in Orlando, FL, investing in a routine landscaping service to maintain your property while you’re away will keep up the appearance of it being regularly visited. Plus, trimming trees and shrubs around the house will prevent them from blocking views of the house and removes any hiding spots for burglars.

Secure windows and adjust blinds in your vacation home checklist

7. Invest in a quality housekeeping service to maintain your home’s interior

If you’ll be leaving your vacation home unoccupied for an extended period, adding a regular cleaning service to your vacation home checklist will make returning even more welcoming. In fact, your housekeepers will be able to deep clean the hard-to-reach areas that are usually left out when your home is occupied for the season – like laundering the curtains, cleaning air conditioning vents, and shampooing the carpets. When you return to your vacation home, you won’t have to worry about dust build-up or stale odors from your home being left unoccupied.

8. Find a reputable property management company

The final item on your vacation home checklist is to find a property manager. If you lack a flexible schedule or don’t live locally, a property manager can relieve the everyday stress of maintaining a vacation home from afar. Property managers act as the point of contact to manage your home and can conduct regular walkthroughs to ensure your home is protected. Some companies may offer seasonal services such as preparing your home for winter.

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