BLACKSMITHS WORK WITH ARCHITECTS AND DESIGNERS, CUSTOM HOME BUILDERS AND PRIVATE CLIENTS TO BUILD one-of-a-kind functional art and heirloom quality pieces that will likely outlast us all.

Iron gates, grills, railings, light fixtures, furniture, sculpture, tools are among the many items in your house or garden that might be craft- ed or eventually need repair by a blacksmith. Think about custom chandeliers and wine racks, fireplace tools and table bases, home address numbers, cabinet hardware, outdoor lanterns, and ornate backyard trellises.

It’s a pretty intimidating subject to most homeowners! But once you get past your fears, the art of blacksmithing is quite fascinating.

And you might be surprised to learn how much of it is within your own grasp. The basic tools (forge, an anvil, a hammer, tongs and a vice) needed to do your own blacksmithing cost as little as just a few hundred dollars.

OF COURSE, YOU WILL ALSO NEED THE GUIDANCE OF A PROFESSIONAL BLACKSMITH. CJ Forge, in Hazel Park, is a modern day blacksmith shop that focuses on custom ironwork for the home and garden. They actually host classes private welding lessons now and are happy to talk to you about your project or whatever inspires you.

These blacksmiths are true artists and craftsman and ready to help anybody interested in ironwork. They’re hoping to revive a dying art and they are reaching out to the community for your support. The shop is open full time to anyone interested in commission work and getting their hands dirty.

The most recent project, a mix of beauty and ruggedness was a large outdoor, botanical style sculpture for Seven Ponds Nature Center in Dryden, Michigan. It has hundreds of hand-forged chiseled leaves, flowers and vines, small bugs and whimsical birds, all wrapped around the entryway to their naturescape.

A nine-foot-tall tall garden gate was another recent, private commission comprised of life-like steel vines, leaves and brass coated flowers located next to a beautiful lake setting near Waterford.

A handcrafted, copper mailbox now adorns one of the most prominent homes in Palmer Woods and is sure to patina over time, only getting more beautiful with age.

ANOTHER GORGEOUS ESTATE NEARBY IS HOME TO AN ELEGANT FORMAL GARDEN and contains multiple works of art forged by the smiths in hazel park. Striving to create a real sanctuary, an antique gate restoration surrounds their custom fountain and hopefully more is yet to come.

A unique sunflower shepard’s hook was a fun local project for creative clients in Pleasant Ridge. The last custom piece recently shipped off in a solid wood crate destined for North Carolina: A custom made pot rack designed for a custom-made home.

To learn more about blacksmithing or if you need help with a project, contact CJ Forge at

By Lisa Howard

DURING HER 25 YEARS REHABBING PROPERTIES, Timika Keathley has transformed a lot of ugly ducklings into swans.

“The before-and-after is what drives me,” Timika says. “When I walk into a place that’s unattractive, in my mind, I can picture what I’m going to do with it—I can see what it will look like when my work is done.” Her passion for decorating and seeing possibilities has led her to rehab over 100 homes in Detroit, Southfield, and Inkster, and now she’s added a commercial property in Ferndale to that list. The Ivy Salon opened in October of last year and the elegant space offers a full menu of hairstyling, lash and makeup services.

Timika first got into real estate after a conversation with a broker who was the parent of one of her daughter’s schoolmates. The other parent suggested Timika get into real estate, telling her she thought she’d have a knack for it.

SHE RAN WITH THAT IDEA AND BOUGHT SIX HOUSES SIGHT UNSEEN but found they were in horrible shape. “I thought, ‘Okay, let me make them beautiful,” she says. “I believe that any property you buy, you should rehab it to the point where you’d want to live there yourself.”

Her commitment to high-level renovating led to an award from the Land Bank in Rosedale Park about four years ago, for increasing home values in Rosedale Park with her flips.

Last summer, she was only halfway through an intense rehab of a completely gutted home when a realtor insisted on showing the home to a prospective buyer. The realtor was so impressed with Timika’s vision for the house that she bought it for herself.

THAT KIND OF POSITIVE FORESIGHT IS WHAT PROMPTED TIMIKA to acquire the Ferndale property that she turned into The Ivy Salon. Timika used to frequent as a customer, when it had a different owner. Whenever she was having her hair done, she’d think, “Wow, this place could really use a makeover!”

Then opportunity knocked in March 2020. She threw herself into the role of designing and decorating, alongside her husband, Michael Green. Green has his own construction company and has done quite a bit of the remodeling for Timika’s projects. Together, they made the salon more state-of-the-art and updated it for the new generation.

AS IVY NEARS ITS FIRST ANNIVERSARY, Timika continues to grow the salon’s services and staff organically, approaching local cosmetology and esthetician schools to recruit licensed hair stylists, estheticians, makeup artists, and massage therapists. Although some stylists are looking for individual suites, Timika hopes her well-appointed, bright space will attract beauty industry professionals who prefer to work in a collegial atmosphere. In June, the salon will host a pop-up shop featuring a smorgasbord of beauty and haircare products, with more events to come in the future.

Timika would also like to expand her overall presence in Ferndale, both in terms of residential and commercial properties. “I want to make our state more beautiful,” she says. “It’s already a beautiful place, so why not take places that need some extra care and rehab them to make them even more beautiful locations where people can gather and visit?”

The Ivy Salon / 22446 Woodward Ave, Ferndale

By Lisa Howard

MANY PEOPLE DREAM ABOUT MAKING A LIVING AS AN ARTIST, but Michelle Ouellette and Chad Thompson know exactly what it’s like. They created their animation studio, Yeah Haus, back in 2013 and have been artist-ing ever since.

“We thought, ‘We’ll just do this until we run out of jobs.’ And we still have jobs,” says Michelle. She and Chad were both working at ad agencies but wanted to forge their own path that would allow them to earn income as creatives and pursue their own artistic projects. “I’m most proud of our short films because you can watch them years later and they hold up,” Chad says. “They aren’t based on trends the way commercial work is.” Besides, purely personal projects are a chance to go outside of their usual lanes and learn something new.

Of course, building a successful small business – especially a creative studio takes time and determination. As Michelle and Chad point out, it’s easy to look at a finished product like a film or a book and not see all of the work that went into creating it. And it is work, even when it’s driven by passion and even when you can be choosy about who you work with. “I think a lot of being a creative comes down to how to not talk yourself out of continuing,” Chad says.

FORTUNATELY, HE AND MICHELLE HAVE ESTABLISHED A SOLID ROSTER of clients and also a go-to list of partners they can call whenever they need to work with a collaborator. In many cases, those clients and collaborators go back years. Likewise, Michelle and Chad are not only business partners but have been married for ten years, with two kids under the age of six. They know the nuances of how to best balance their personal and professional lives.

Michelle is the illustrator; in her previous life at the ad agency, she worked as a designer and 3D artist. Chad is the creative director. In BYH times (Before Yeah Haus), he worked in post-production doing motion graphics and editing.

Together, they’ve created mixed media projects, 2D and 3D animations, a swath of commercial works, and their own short films. “I love to draw! That’s all I want to do,” Michelle says. “If I can’t ever draw for myself, then what’s the point?” Chad agrees — every artist, he says, has “back-burner stuff,” the kind of projects that keep the fires of creativity burning bright. That’s why they purposely leave some space in their schedules to accommodate their filmmaking.

ONE OF THEIR SHORTS MADE IT INTO A FILM FESTIVAL IN CANNES! (Yes, they were able to see it screened live.) They count that along with their work for Adult Swim, Disney, and various LA film festivals as some of the highlights of their joint career.

Their tidy studio includes an audio room with all the tools Chad needs to do his sound design and editing while Michelle is busily sketching and illustrating in the adjoining room. They also tackle soundtracks – not only is Chad a musician, his brother was a touring musician and joins in the music-making.

Living in an inherently creative community like Ferndale also helps. “It’s easy to find a wizard guitarist on the other side of Woodward who’ll come over to record,” Chad says. But at the end of the day, what they treasure most is being able to collaborate and create with friendly, talented, and reciprocal partners. “It’s important to us that when we finish something, people are happy,” Michelle says. “We’ve found our little niche and we’re not stopping.” | 248.835.0153 |

By Lisa Howard

BEING FASHIONABLE HAS ALWAYS BEEN IN VOGUE. But with the advent of fast fashion, being fashionable unfortunately also sometimes means being unfriendly to the environment. Jess Minnick and Dy-man Johnson, cofounders of Not Sorry Goods, aim to change that.

“We have a big emphasis on using recycled materials,” says Jess. “We remix them and put our own twist on them. Sometimes we use an item for parts or sometimes we make something completely new with those materials. Creating zero-waste fashion really forces us to be creative and push ourselves in different ways to make different things.”

JESS AND DY-MAN SELL SUSTAINABLE APPAREL, ACCESSORIES, HOME GOODS, and gift items in their retail shop. Some of it they make themselves; some is made by small-batch brands and artists across the U.S. and in Metro Detroit. All of the creators, however, identify as social enterprise brands and are ecologically-minded.

And none sell on Amazon, because their items are one-of-a-kind. Don’t be surprised when an item is listed on the store’s website as being one of only one available. That uniqueness is a big part of the appeal for many customers.

So is the upcycled aspect of the items at Not Sorry Goods. Upcycling goes beyond recycling – it means enhancing what’s leftover and creating something new with it. Maybe a turtleneck gets turned into a halter top (with the scraps being made into pet toys), or maybe several scarves become a skirt. No matter the result, it’s wearable art!

ALTHOUGH NOT SORRY GOODS JUST OPENED ITS RETAIL LOCATION LAST AUGUST, Jess and Dy-man have been crafting their goods since 2016, when they first snagged a space at the Rust Belt Market. Having a mini store there gave the duo a chance to test their product, develop their customer base and learn more about visual merchandising.

“You want proof of concept before you go to being brick-and-mortar,” Jess explains. “Plus it’s a cool way to be a part of the community.”

Once the two women had a solid following, it made sense to open a full-service retail shop. It was clear that their shared passions for thrifting and fashion had turned them into ideal business partners.

And, besides, they’d become close friends ever since meeting in a fateful kickboxing class back in 2015. At the time, they both had a Group-on to use and were feeling a bit adrift after having entered the post-college phase of their lives. One kick and punch led to another…and then to realizing how much they had in common. Including, as Jess puts it, a “crazy energy” that keeps them happy and inspired.

“I’M REALLY HAPPY WITH HOW WE GOT HERE, IT’S BEEN VERY ORGANIC,” Jess says. Not only that, but she and Dy-man have found the community to be incredibly helpful and sweet, with everyone wanting to see each other be successful. While Dy-man is originally from Michigan, Jess is a Florida transplant who now considers herself a Michigander, in no small part because of how supportive the community has been.

“It’s a community through-and-through, professionally and personally,” she says, adding that she’s blown away by how many talented people live in the area. Although she and her husband had originally considered moving to other locations before they came here, she’s thrilled they wound up in Ferndale. She’d always wanted to open her own creative business, and this was the perfect place to do that.

“Making funky stuff with art scraps never gets old,” Jess says. “I feel so very lucky and blessed to get to do this as my full-time job.”

22963 Woodward Ave, Ferndale

By Lisa Howard

THIS ISN’T INKJET OR LASER PRINTING. IT ISN’T EVEN PICKING UP FULL-COLOR PHOTOS FROM CVS. This is meticulously rendered, high-end digital printing, the kind coveted by visual artists who want to fully showcase their work.

“Printing digital media is a high art,” says Karen Sanders. “It’s a combination of science and art, and it’s not easy to find a good printer anymore—somebody who truly knows what they’re doing is very rare. Larry is that person.”

The Larry she’s talking about is Larry Melkus of Fine Art Printing. He attended the Center for Creative Studies back when it was still called the Detroit Society of Arts & Crafts, studying photography with a focus on art.

Upon graduating, he went on to open his own photography studio and worked with commercial advertising clients, creating prints for trade shows, automotive companies, and other commercial entities. But, after about 30 years of commercial work, Larry decided to shift his specialty to the art world; nowadays, he works almost exclusively with visual artists.

“I can digitally scan anything I can get through the door and create a high-definition, color-corrected digital reproduction of that art and then make a print of it, whether the artwork is a sculpture or a 6’x10’ canvas,” says Larry.

HE CAN MAKE PRINTS OF DRAWINGS, PAINTINGS, SCULPTURES, collages, sketches – you name it. He can even transform relatively low-quality digital files into striking images, which is why he encourages anyone with beloved digital photos to let him work with those files. “As far as how the image can be presented and how big it can get, the limitations are more about the skills of the person making the prints rather than the size of the digital file itself,” he says, pointing out that today’s advanced digital tools allow him to capitalize on an image’s best features.

“Making prints sometimes seems to be of a thing of a past, yet it isn’t. When people see a completed print from a digital file, they get pretty excited about it,” Karen adds. She’s also a grad of CCS, although she eventually moved away from Michigan to Texas, where she taught digital media at the University of Texas for 15 years. About six years ago, she moved back to Detroit and reconnected with the art community here.

Then in November of 2021, she heard that Larry was looking for an assistant. As a one-man shop with a sterling reputation among artists, he was slammed with work. She applied for the job and landed her dream opportunity.

“I’ve had more engagement with the artist community in six months of working here than I had during the entire six years I’d been back in Detroit,” she says. “That’s because Larry takes the time to talk to people individually and helps them understand the process of making their art into a print. He educates people about what’s possible.”

That desire to help artists and the art-interested realize the potential of digital media attracts both local talent and artists from other states—Larry regularly works with clients from New York, Boston, and Texas as well as Metro Detroit artists. The materials he uses are durable, heavyweight canvases and art paper, the kind of archival material you see in galleries and museums. But whether he’s collaborating with a painter looking to document their work in the form of a book or a casual photographer who wants to make a cherished photo into a print, his goal remains the same: To create a compelling work of art.

732 Hilton Road, Ferndale | 248.571.0111

By Lisa Howard

COMIC BOOKS HAVE COME A LONG WAY SINCE SUPERMAN first flew into the American consciousness in 1938; nowadays, graphic novels and mangas are flying off the shelves, and a large swath of comics are available in digital formats.

Evan Derian

And while the Big Two (DC and Marvel) still publish books galore, many creators are taking the independent route. “I decided to just do it,” says Evan Derian, creator of Miserable Americans. “I wanted to write and draw and do what’s fun about comics, not wait for someone to give me that opportunity.”

As a kid, he was an avid collector, and that love of comics never went away, not during his college years when he was studying graphic design and not during his years of designing mostly corporate projects.

He still does that kind of work (and ongoing graphic design side gigs) in addition to creating his own comics. Initially, he tried to break into the commercial comic industry as an illustrator, but he quickly found himself trapped in a byzantine world of insider connections and inscrutable editorial decisions.

RATHER THAN CONTINUING TO SWIM UPSTREAM, EVAN STARTED CONCEIVING the idea for his first story back in 1999. It turned into a 150-page graphic novel called Insignificant Gods, He self-published it and started taking it to comic book conventions (known by geeks as “Cons”). Ultimately, though, the con scene was a wash; the cost of having a table and how much he made in sales were pretty much even. He decided to move on to the next project.

Miserable Americans

“That was a learning process,” he says of his first year’s foray into creating comics. “I found out that it was harder to put together pages and layouts in certain ways, plus I realized that I needed to write more detailed scripts so that I’d know how much dialogue would be in each panel.” Not only that, but the process of world-building chewed up too much page space.

Hence he decided to center his next title on well-established figures rather than all-original ones. Enter Lincoln and JFK as the protagonists of Miserable Americans. “In the world of comic books, everything is possible, so I decided to clone the two most popular presidents in pop culture and write about them,” Evan explains. “Once I did that, then I was off-and-running. The books just about write themselves because there’s so much to mine when I drop Lincoln and JFK into various situations in modern America.”

UNLIKE THE WAY THE VAST MAJORITY OF COMICS ARE PRODUCED, Evan does everything himself: he’s the writer, penciller, inker, colorist, letterer, interior and cover artist, and marketer. Creating a book entirely on his own is such a labor-intensive process that sometimes it takes him a year to get a title out.

No Sympathy: Mick Jagger Portrait (Digital Illustration)

He loves being his own kit-and-caboodle production team though, and being able to embrace his own cinematically influenced style of art. His books are more realistic and darker than mainstream superhero titles. He says he draws far more inspiration from films than from other comics, with a style that’s reminiscent of Thelma & Louise colliding with a Coen Brothers movie.

While breaking into comics is the polar opposite of easy, Evan loves it. Yes, marketing is a challenge, he admits. It would be nice if a PR professional handled that part. But, at the end of the day, he has a passion for telling stories.

“I love the idea that I can write and draw stories and share them with people,” he says. “I love it when someone picks up my book and wants to read more. That’s when you know your story is working.” |

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By Lisa Howard

YOUR HOME SAYS A LOT ABOUT YOU, from the way it’s decorated to what kinds of amenities you prefer. But maybe the most important factor about any house is its style — how the house is structured is a fundamental consideration. Whether it’s your first or third home, you want to know what you’re looking at when you start scouring home listings.

Fortunately, buyers in Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge, Berkley, Ferndale and Oak Park have several popular styles to choose from.

“The interesting thing about both Huntington Woods and Pleasant Ridge is that the majority of the homes there are different,” says Tim Murad, a realtor with Keller Williams who lives in Berkley. “‘Eclectic’ is the word I’d use. Both of those communities are higher-end, with custom-designed homes.”

In Berkley and Ferndale, the most prevalent home style is a BUNGALOW, also called a “ story-and-a-half” because the upstairs is only half a floor, due to the roof slope. Bungalows usually have two bedrooms, a bath, a kitchen and a living space on the first floor plus an additional bedroom/ office upstairs. (Most bungalows were built during the post-WWII years and might not have a fully-finished second floor.) These homes are more affordable and are especially popular with first-time buyers. Then again, most bungalows lack a bathroom on the second level, which can be a dealbreaker for some buyers.

IN CONTRAST, A COLONIAL IS CONSIDERED TO BE A FULL TWO-STORY HOME. Found throughout the five cities, colonials traditionally have a kitchen and living space on the first floor and bedrooms and a full bath (or two) upstairs. SPLIT-LEVEL HOMES are multi-story: A bi-level has two stories, a tri-level has three, and a quad-level has four. One side of the house is lowered or raised to half of the floor height and short runs of stairs are placed in the middle of the house to facilitate getting to the other levels. While some buyers won’t consider a bi- or tri-level home due to lack of storage space, quad-levels usually have basements. And some buyers explicitly seek out split-level homes because of their mid-century vibe. Oak Park in particular is a very diverse community, Tim points out, with mid-century modern homes nestled into neighborhoods featuring bungalows, colonials, and ranches.

RANCH homes are single-story homes where a family can live and parents can age in place,” Tim says. “We’re finding that baby boomers are looking to sell their colonial or bungalow and downsize to a ranch, especially a ranch with a basement.” However, ranches do tend to require bigger lots, so you usually have a larger yard to care for. If you’re a gardener, that’s a plus! If you hate mowing and shoveling, that might be unattractive.

One way to get maximum interior space with minimal exterior upkeep is to look for a large-footprint colonial built on a lot formerly occupied by a bungalow — then you’ll have more house and less yard. But most importantly, think about which style would best suit your needs and your budget.

By Lisa Howard

AS SOON AS YOU HEAR THE FIRST BIRD CHIRP IN SPRING, you might think – “Garden!” And, then you might wonder how to go about creating one. While the kamikaze approach of wandering through a plant store and buying whatever strikes your fancy might work, you’re more likely to be successful if you think about some basic considerations first.

• If you’d like to let your inner floral designer bloom and arrange DIY bouquets to your heart’s content, look for showy, hardy flowers and accent plants that are clearly marked as “excellent to use in bouquets/as cut flowers.”

• If you’re a first-time food grower, choose plants that are easy to maintain and that quickly produce, like bush beans, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and herbs. Bear in mind that pole beans (and peas) need structures to climb on and that bigger tomatoes and peppers will take much longer to grow and ripen than will smaller versions.

Zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkins and other squash grow well as long as they don’t get waterlogged — if their broad, cupping leaves spend too much time being wet, they’ll likely wind up attracting opportunistic molds like powdery mildew. Ditto for melons. Corn typically needs to be planted somewhat in quantity in order to be cross-pollinated and produce sizeable ears. Planning is key!

MSU’s Gardening in Michigan website has oodles of information about how to best map out your veggies in an article titled Planning a Smart Vegetable Garden.

• If you’d like to support pollinators, check out MSU’s Michigan Pollinator Initiative. You’ll find thoughtful articles like Pollinator Lawns, Pollinator Gardens and Pollinator-Supportive Trees. They even have a free online course called Pollinator Champions, if you’d like to become an MSU-Certified Pollinator Champion. On a national scale, the National Wildlife Federation offers resources that enable your garden to become a Certified Wildlife Habitat®: Planting the kind of native plants that support pollinators also enriches your soil and regenerates the land.

• Aside from thinking about the overall shape and size of your garden, you’ll also need to map out how to get into it if you want to be able to walk through it to harvest food or flowers. Will you need to plan for a pathway? Make sure you’ll be able to easily water and tend to your plants and think about whether you want them to be permanent (perennials) or only last for one season (annuals).

• Stagger your plants! If you want to be able to view everything in your garden, put tall plants in the center/at the back and radiate outwards with progressively shorter plants. Not only will that maximize the aesthetic value of your garden, the shorter plants won’t be shaded into oblivion by their taller neighbors.

Perhaps most importantly, find out what your plants want and give it to them, whether that’s sun or shade, dry or moist soil, vining support or room to spread out or being generally warmer or cooler. If you make it easy for your garden to grow, you’ll be beautifully rewarded.

By Ryan R Ennis

YOU HAVE MADE THE DECISION TO SELL YOUR HOME. NATURALLY, THE DESIRE IS TO RECEIVE THE BEST PRICE. Your home has some impressive features. Yet, after scrutinizing the condition of the rooms and décor, you notice they could use a facelift. Some home-staging – readying the property for the market can improve your chances of selling it quickly and getting the offer you want.

As revealed by the National Association of Realtors (NAR referencing a 2017 report), 77 percent of agents state that home-staging helps potential buyers to envision a place for sale as their own. NAR points out that this same strategy helps 39 percent of sellers experience faster home sales and elevates their property values by 6 to 10 percent.

Working in the field for over 30 years, real estate agent Keith Weber of RE/MAX First in Royal Oak agrees that home staging has many benefits — if done the right way. Like most agents in his company, he believes that the proper design can enliven a space. “But, just as important,” he says, “are the background details.” Too often, sellers focus more on the aesthetics of furnishings in the rooms than on the appeal of their doors, walls, and windows.

FRONT DOORS SERVE AS MORE THAN AN ENTRANCE to a home. If they are clean and painted in an attractive color, they welcome and entice prospective buyers to cross the threshold. Once inside, the buyers should be greeted by newly-cleaned or painted walls, preferably in a neutral or timeless color, that complement the furniture and wall art. Adorning the windows should be spotless treatments that offer clear views of the yard and other surroundings from a variety of angles.

When it comes to preparing the sellers’ possessions for staging, Weber recommends following the “every other rule.” After taking an inventory of their belongings, sellers should “put every other thing away.” If they cannot be kept in the attic or basement, check into temporarily renting a storage unit. Too much bric-a-brac in the rooms distracts potential buyers from seeing themselves living in the property.

Another seasoned real estate agent who specializes in home staging is Judy Palmer of RE/MAX Showcase Homes in Birmingham. “For prospective buyers,” she says, “visualization is the key to make sure the house feels like home.” Observing the principle of “Less is better,” she frequently coaches her clients on how to “move around or move out certain furniture” to reduce distractions.

ANOTHER SUGGESTION PALMER OFTEN MAKES is for sellers to put away personal items. “You want people to look at your house, not at your things,” she says. Before the showings of a home begin, she often assists her clients with storing personal items such as family photos hanging on the walls or collections of memorabilia displayed on tables and shelves.

Like Weber, she knows that having the right color scheme matters. “Recently, I showed two bungalows to a client. They both had been updated and were similar size. In the first one, the walls and ceiling had been painted just white, no accent shades. The other used Pottery Barn colors throughout.” Even though the home renovated with Pottery Barn colors cost $10,000 more, the person still bought it.

Irenita Goedert of Red Door Realty in Royal Oak discusses the four “D”s with new clients before they list their house on the market. She advises them to DISCARD anything that is no longer in good condition or hasn’t been utilized in a long time. In this current market, homes can sell within days, so she encourages them to DISPLACE possessions not frequently used “by packing them early.” While homeowners discard and displace unnecessary belongings, she falls in line with Weber and Palmer in teaching her clients how to DE-PERSONALIZE in a way that allows potential buyers to “visualize themselves living there.”

After that, it’s the time for the final D: Giving the place “a DEEP cleaning.”

AS YOU PONDER PUTTING YOUR HOME UP FOR SALE, you may be reluctant to consider staging because the process seems too costly or time-consuming. You may also feel that it carries little weight since the high demand for housing dictates that the market is on your side. However, most knowledgeable agents recognize that any seller can take advantage of staging no matter what the market is like. Staging can be done with little or no expense and empower you to achieve your goal of transitioning to a new home in good financial standing.

By Jenn Goeddeke

AS ALL HOMEOWNERS ARE AWARE, YOUR LIVING SPACE IS CONSTANTLY EVOLVING. Many aspects change over time, including the style and scope of decorations. An element that may be a focal point for a while can become unwanted or irrelevant later on.

Many if not most home areas seem easy, fun, and natural to make beautiful. However, there are those other spaces that somehow add a particular decorating challenge. This could be an entire area, such as a low-lit basement, a laundry room, or a mudroom. Perhaps it is a smaller area: A nook/cranny; alcove; stairway; hallway or foyer. There could be an odd-shaped room with a slanted or low ceiling. Regardless of the situation, a little creativity can go a long way in forming an attractive decor upgrade.

One of the first main aspects of planning new decor will be figuring out the form vs. function combination. For example, should the space be used more for display, or storage? Most likely, awkward spaces will serve both! The next key consideration will be setting a budget. Will this be a do-it-yourself project or will you be recruiting some help? It will be smart to pursue a few web sites, local hardware stores, and home decor retail places. Your design will likely incorporate several types of decorating elements and will be part of a theme that is meaningful for your household.

DARRIN ROBERTS (OF JIM SHAFFER & ASSOCIATES REALTORS) DESCRIBED HOW A CLIENT formed a solution to overall space restrictions. “A current client just bought a 580-square-foot home, and they needed to get creative with space options. This client is an avid reader, so she decided to build a small bookshelf using steel pipes and wooden beams to create an ultra-modern look.”

Roberts continued, “Smaller homes can include a ‘murphy bed’ which folds up against the wall when not in use. Fitness equipment can be selected to roll out of the way, to create a multi-functional/convertible space. Within the smaller bungalows, a popular option to maximize space is to install a ‘dual purpose’ bench for seating and use the underneath area for stowing small kitchen appliances. Additionally, bungalows may have cute bay windows, which can double up as a cozy seating area, next to a small table.”

You might be surprised what you can accomplish in a cumbersome area with a new color scheme, either through paint or wallpaper. Furniture choices can further enhance your project, including console tables; mirrors; cute organizers, and custom cabinetry. Find local companies that can help you plan storage options, such as Easy Glider Storage (see below for contact details). Chris Dempsey (owner) mentioned that “glide-out trays (also called roll-out trays and slide-out shelves) are the most popular storage improvement we provide. They provide more efficient storage while significantly improving accessibility. We specialize in creating solutions for awkward spaces. Under-stair storage; deep, narrow, or irregular spaces are no problem.”

OTHER ENHANCEMENTS MIGHT INCLUDE AN ART DISPLAY, shelves, rugs, lamps, potted plants or vertical gardening, hanging baskets and containers and water elements (such as a mini-waterfall). Saving space may involve swapping the existing swinging or bifold doors with barn-type doors that are flush with the wall.

Depending on your career, it might be worth creating a home office in a space you are currently not using. For example, a bay window could be a perfect locale for placing a small work desk, which may provide an engaging view. A motivational chalkboard hung nearby completes the constructive design.

Gathering notes on the latest decor trends will also be an entertaining and worthwhile endeavor. Many websites list current trends and provide lively suggestions on redesigning your home. Local libraries are also helpful and provide a diverse range of free books to check out. Consult with friends and family for a fresh, individualized perspective. Whichever way you decide to spruce up your home, let it add to the personality and ambiance that is unique to your household.

Dare to be different!

Darrin Roberts,  Jim Shaffer & Associates, 616.403.5710;

Chris Dempsey, Easy Glider Storage Solutions, 248.765.7576;;