Holiday Home Improvements
Your Do-Now Guide to a Better Home before Thanksgiving
November, 2008 - Issue #49
Family is coming. The foot traffic is going to be insane. What are we going to do about the kitchen? Oh, and that awful family room. Then there's the Cheetos-colored carpet. Don't get me started on the carpet. No, the shutters aren't brown. They're white. That's dirt.

Oh, boy. Stop the panic right there. You still have time to make a good impression by Thanksgiving. There are a number of improvements you can make in a three-to-six-week time frame that can turn your home from a shame-fest to a shining star.

Where to Start
First impressions are everything, so we'll begin with the exterior of the house. Is your paint flaked, gashed or chipped? Joshua Abramson of A.Allbright Painting has a few suggestions.

While there's plenty of time to paint the entire exterior, consider sprucing up just the front for a thriftier option and avoid HOA drama by using only approved shades, if applicable.

Another "first impression" location: the front door. How many folks will stand in front of yours this holiday season? Make a positive impression by replacing your beat-up standard door with one that gorgeously coordinates with so much of Santa Clarita's architecture by choosing an Old World, Spanish-style, handcrafted number. Order one from DeMejico now so that it's installed by Turkey Day.

Just Say No to Clutter
Sometimes you'll need to move furniture and clutter into storage to make room for guests. Or, you need to move them so that you can walk through your house without spraining something. Perhaps your goodies have to go just long enough to install new flooring.

Casey Kirkman of Affordable Quality Moving & Storage deals with these issues every day. Give him a little notice and his crew can plan for your stress-free moving experience. His company boasts a 40,000 square-foot storage facility, complete with video cameras.

Improvement from the Ground Up
Let's start with carpet. Don't worry if gravy glops onto your new threads; this type of flooring technology has become majorly stain resistant. If it's durability you're looking for, Ben Griffiths of Brent's Carpet One recommends the highly-stain-resistant carpeting known as Lees.

If there's a need for a quick fix, or you really don't want to dig too deeply into your wallet, how about just taking care of the primary-use spots? Those would be the family room/living room, kitchen and bathrooms.

Marty Downen of Marty's Floor Covering has an interesting suggestion. Because this work will be done in the fall/winter, people's moods will be geared towards warmth. A more versatile, comfort-inspired flooring option is wood. Wood has another plus; it's easier to clean and take care of than carpet.

Victor Pena of The Flooring Connection suggests laminate flooring, which would give your home or rooms a wood look at a fraction of the cost of real wood. Vinyl flooring is another option, especially in the kitchen and bathrooms.

If you really want to impress, Advantage Tile Stone Design offers many different "wow-worthy" materials, from travertine to ceramic and porcelain tile, all able to provide a melded ancient/contemporary ambience.

Reconvene in the Kitchen
The most popular room in the house probably needs some TLC. Dannick Design offers top-to-bottom flooring services like tile, countertops, new plumbing/fixture installation, demolition, cabinets, moulding and electrical. Big jobs can be complete in time for Thanksgiving, too.

If you need to play it safe, an alternative to a complete remodel is kitchen refinishing, says Fabian Varela of American Fine Finishing. Those old oak kitchen cabinets can be reborn after they are refinished with an antique white with glaze and some new knobs; a simple, less-expensive solution.

"Cleaning Up" the Bathroom
It's surprising what a new bathroom can add to your home - whether you're replacing a shower or expanding the whole room. Greg Aliano of Top Construction says his company can handle all those tasks and more, on time and on budget. In fact, Top Construction can remodel the kitchen, family room and bathroom in roughly six weeks, though each job will vary.

Pay Attention to Details
Tami Smight of Tami Smight Interiors knows the value of unclouded scenery. A good window cleaning is on the top of her must-do list; after all, dirty windows mask views to the outdoors.

Holiday Seating, No Floor Pillows Required
Kathy Goldstein of Suburban Chateau suggests replacing too-small or outdated dining tables for a practical and aesthetic improvement. The same goes for sofas or sectionals. Increase seating options and decrease embarrassment with custom-made or floor-purchased items that can be in your home before Thanksgiving for a fraction of the "popular" home-store price.

There are even more options. "The quickest and most affordable way to freshen up your house for the holidays is to get new slipcovers for your sofa, love seat or dining room chairs," says Kamila Sedek of Euro-Chic Living. With thousands of fabrics to choose from you can add a touch of holiday color or change the entire look of your furniture. Slipcovers are very practical too: they're easy to take off and put on, and if you have little kids or are expecting a big family gathering, they're also washable. Elegant dining room chair slipcovers made from a rich velvet or chenille can add a touch of class and sophistication to that already special holiday celebration.

A custom throw for your couch may be an even less expensive spruce-up choice. It seems like a quick fix, and it is, but Susie Mullenger of Macc Designs doesn't do the simple. She does custom throws and faux fur throws that will be a conversation starter. Mullenger says she's getting a lot of orders for Christmas gifts.

Organize in Style
Ambience Furniture Owner Bill Schneck is confident that his company can custom tailor an entertainment center or cabinet that fits your home perfectly. Once your wires, cables and TV are stashed, choose from the store's unusual accessories - like carved trunks and artwork - that will pique the interest of your guests to complete your room.

Dave West of David Bryan Woodworks knows that a built-in entertainment center can be the most important element in any family room. After all, it's where most folks will congregate for after-turkey football. West then leads to another possibility - the fireplace mantel. From top to bottom and based on the customer's liking, David Bryan Woodworks can create new cabinetry and a mantel.

Get that "Pow!" with Paint and Moulding
There are few easier ways to improve the look of a room than with a good coat of paint. For the holidays, there's no reason to redo the whole house. Focus on adding a little drama in your dining room by choosing a rich, saturated shade for just one wall. New paint in the guest room will increase the "vacation factor" for out of towners. A metallic glaze in the family room is super chic. What's better is that Mint Condition Painting & Moulding can also add a great, permanent decoration to any room. Crown moulding is an inexpensive and quick way to enhance your house.

Replace Outdated Shades
Alpine Shutters and Window Fashions, Shutterworld, Budget Blinds and Country View Shutters offer a wide variety of window dressings for different tastes.

Anita Buhtz of Shutterworld suggests custom wood shutters; they are the best insulators you can find in a window treatment. Plus, the exceptional durability make them the only window covering that adds real value to your home.

Krista Jaimes of Alpine Shutters knows first-hand that Plantation shutters can keep a house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Her clients have seen big drops in electricity bills (and bigger compliments from guests).
Roman shades are also a great option; they provide a romantic look that combines the soft draping of fabric with the detailed tailoring of shades. Roman shades come in a variety of styles from crisp and contemporary to bold and dramatic, and give any room polish and pizzazz. A Budget Blinds style consultant can show you how you can make your windows the center of attention.

Bob White of Country View Shutters reminds you that guests are greeted from the outside in, and Country View Shutters provide great curb appeal from the moment your family and friends step foot in the driveway. The shutters allow for privacy (particularly important during the busy holiday season), while simultaneously hinting at your knack for interior design.

Making a Case for Stairs
Scott Renolds of Legacy Stairs says with planning, ordering of materials and construction, a new staircase can be yours before Thanksgiving rolls around. A staircase, after all, is so often positioned right in the entryway of a home and will be one of the first sights for your guests.

"First sight" really is an important consideration when entertaining. Billie Hubbard of La Via Bella suggests making a dramatic statement with rich collections of raw-silk, velvet or tapestry pillows, adorned with details like feathers, beads or glimmering stones. Impressive groupings will draw the eye away from the room's possible shortcomings, too.

In contrast, a must-do out-of-sight change may involve your heating system. "Comfort is key when it comes to happy guests - and homeowners," says Johnie MacDonald of Mac Heating & Cooling. He suggests replacing your system's filters to ensure that it's operating at top efficiency (and not wasting costly energy). Plus, there are great new filters on the market that substantially reduce allergens and dust, and improve air quality.

The Great Garage
You have time to think about using that empty space in your garage, above your cars, to store spring and summer decorations, summer clothes and toys and luggage. By adding storage in the ceiling, you don't have to steal premium floor or closet space for those items you only seldom need access to throughout the year. Garage Envy solves this problem with the heavy-duty EZ-Loft. Maximizing unused ceiling space, the EZ-Loft allows homeowners to capture otherwise wasted storage space overhead. Made with square-frame galvanized steel, each industrial-grade loft holds 500 pounds of stuff. They are approximately 48 inches by 50 inches and are adjustable from 18 inches to 26 inches in depth. You'll gain up to 38 cubic feet of storage per unit. EZ-Lofts can easily be connected to create continuous storage and to store extra-long items overhead.

Don't forget the Outdoors
Amy Boswell of Oasis Garden & Patio knows that in Santa Clarita, our backyards are extensions of our home. That's why a fire pit can be the perfect cosmetic and functional outdoor accessory. The newer fire pits have a chat-height table surrounding the unit that make an ideal ledge for drinks and snacks - a real plus when it comes to entertaining.

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