1. Archive

Get a fresh start

Home design and remodeling author Barbara Buchholz has walked into many newly built or remodeled homes that look technically perfect, but something important is missing.

It's the feeling of home.

Little touches _ such as family photos on the walls or displayed collections of items like snow globes or vintage pitchers _ help enliven a home.

"The bones and the structure might be there, but your house won't come to life until it reflects who you are and who your family is," Buchholz says.

In the book Successful Homebuilding and Remodeling: Real-Life Advice for Getting the House You Want Without the Room (or Sky) Falling In (Real Estate Education Co./Dearborn Publishing, $22.95), Buchholz and co-author Margaret Crane offer 100 tips to make your newly built or remodeled house a home.

Many are also excellent tips for giving your existing house a fresh start for a new year. So, as the old year fades, here are suggestions to keep you busy this weekend and well into 2001.

+ Buy a mailbox that says something about one of your favorite interests _ a boat, a dog, a flag, a rose garden.

+ Order stationery with your name and new address.

+ Give your home a name and have a plaque made.

+ Host an indoor house-raising and ask your best friends to bring part of a potluck supper or a favorite tool or utensil. Eat on the floor on blankets if you don't yet have tables and chairs.

+ Line all kitchen cabinets with pretty shelf paper.

+ Buy new spices and line up the jars alphabetically. (The shelf life for ground spices is two to three years; for whole spices, three to four years. After that they've lost their zing.)

+ Buy a new doormat/welcome mat with a great design.

+ Hang some artwork and photographs in a new arrangement.

+ Buy pretty soaps, hand towels and potpourri for a powder room or "company" bathroom.

+ Treat yourself to fresh flowers for your front hall or a favorite table once a week or once a month.

+ Place a favorite chaise or ottoman, a good light and an afghan where you can curl up and read.

+ Reorganize your closets and throw out anything you haven't used in the last two years. Donate items to a favorite charity.

+ Plant a tree and watch it as the years tick by.

+ Dig and plant raised vegetable beds in your back yard, then make gazpacho soup or a great salad from what you've grown.

+ Put some topiary plants in large clay pots by your front door.

+ Host the family Thanksgiving, Christmas or Passover dinner and use all your best china, silver and serving dishes. Try to make at least one holiday an annual tradition.

+ Throw a block party to meet your neighbors.

+ Set out a table in the hall with a place for mail and a stand for umbrellas.

+ Order nice hangers with your monogram for a guest closet.

+ Have an artist do a drawing or painting of your house or a favorite room.

+ Paint one room a favorite color that you've never used before. Don't forget to paint the ceiling and bookshelves as well. You may want to make them different shades.

+ Hang a border around the ceiling.

+ Get a dog to protect your new house and add some life to it. You'll explore the neighborhood more often that way.

+ Needlepoint some pillows with scenes or pictures reminiscent of your childhood home. It will add character to your rooms.

+ Change the pillows on your main sofa and chairs periodically.

+ Periodically rearrange objects on your coffee and end tables.

+ Put a phone, pad, pretty jar with pencils and pens and some books in your living room so you can use the room rather than treat it as a museum or company room.

+ If you never use your dining room, consider turning it into a library or den by placing the table at one end and having some bookshelves or seating installed at the other end.

+ Put up a big bulletin board in the kitchen for everyone to leave messages and tack up mementos.

+ Try to have fresh aromas of cooking or baking emanate regularly from your kitchen so it smells like your mother's or grandmother's home.

+ Hang a gallery of family pictures in a long hallway or place you pass daily.

+ Order new monogrammed towels and sheets.

+ Buy a new set of everyday dishes, if you haven't done so in years or if yours are broken and chipped.

+ Buy photo albums and catalog old pictures of your former homes.

+ Put in an extra large bathtub or whirlpool for those stressful moments. Add an aromatic candle and plant on one edge, and be sure you have big fluffy towels and bathrobes. For a real splurge: add a heated towel rack.

+ Make a wish list for your home and buy one item each year.

+ Call your parents, grandparents, siblings or oldest friends and invite them for dinner to see your new home.

+ Re-cover a worn-out chair with an interesting finish or fabric rather than discarding it.

+ Erect a picket fence around the back yard where your dog may run, and add to it a wire basket with flowers.

+ Buy a new self-cleaning gas grill for outdoor cooking and entertaining. Purchase new cooking tools and a grill basket for fish.

+ Put up wind chimes for pleasant sounds and sights.

+ Build or buy a birdhouse, birdbath and/or fountain.

+ To dress up breakfast-nook chairs, add pretty pads with floppy ties.

+ Start a collection and group items together, such as baskets, inexpensive vintage pitchers or childhood marbles.

+ Put out jars of your favorite candies or nuts in attractive glass bowls so people tend to congregate in the rooms where they're located.

+ Light up your home with a greenhouse window in the kitchen and grow herbs there.

+ Throughout the house, display reminders of the past, such as some vintage crockery on shelves or hand-painted plates on the walls.

+ Buy a pedestal for the entrance hall on which you place artwork, a small tray for letters or a vase for flowers.

+ Keep a journal about your move or remodeling, with good notes, diagrams and photos. You might even videotape any renovation or building, showing it before and after.

+ Plant the wonderful garden you've always wanted, such as a rose garden or wildflower garden.

+ Set up an area for good, organized files. Buy new file cabinets, folders and tabs, and throw out any old paperwork you no longer need.

+ Have a good friend or family member to lunch on a Saturday or Sunday once a month or every other month. In nice weather, eat outdoors.

+ Take a walk in your neighborhood daily by yourself or with a family member. Make it a routine, no matter what.

+ Have a nice family dinner once a month, using your best china, silverware and crystal.

+ Stay home for a vacation and do all the things you never typically do _ sleep late, don't make your bed, watch a movie in the morning, start (and finish) a wonderful book, go for a walk or bike ride in your area, play Scrabble or Monopoly with everyone in the family and cook dinner together with everyone making a course.

+ Go away for a vacation. You'll be excited to come home again.