Get the Look: 3 Ideas for Turning Your Home Into a Winter Haven

What better time to turn your home into a warm and welcoming den than during the chilly winter months? With just a little investment and some ingenuity, you can bring a distinctive winter-friendly look into your home.

Here are three concepts to inspire you – and some tips to get you started.

Look 1: The British study

The vibe

This look is a perfect fit for a snowy winter day. Filled with shelves of leather-bound tomes, tufted chesterfield sofas and focused lighting from brass sconces, the study is the perfect spot to curl up with a favorite novel, enjoy a cup of tea or nap away the afternoon.

Get the look

Built-in bookcases may run up a tab, but two or three flat-pack units arranged tightly in a row can nearly fill a wall without breaking the budget.

Pack them with as many books you can find – the fuller the better. Check out garage sales, thrift shops and library clearance sales for additional hardback books if you’re short.

Sure, you may not have a tufted leather sofa on hand, but any love seat positioned in front of the bookcases will look dramatic. Instead of square throw pillows, try round bolsters in the corners for a more formal style.

A vintage rug is ideal underneath, but convincing reproductions can be found online for a fraction of the price.

For the coziest of lighting in the evenings, add sconces to your bookcases. Inexpensive clip-on downlights work perfectly in a pinch. If possible, flank the love seat with a pair of floor reading lamps, swiveled low over the arms of the sofa.

Look 2: The Scandinavian chalet

The vibe

Crisp white paint, whitewashed wood and neutral furnishings make even the gloomiest of days feel bright.

This aesthetic is definitely modern, yet it’s touched with woodsy rusticity and directly connected to nature. Winter-friendly accessories bring in a bit more comfort and prevent the space from feeling cold.

Get the look

Compatible with the popular all-white color scheme, the Scandinavian chalet look can be achieved with a few tweaks – some more involved than others.

For an amazing yet affordable chalet transformation, consider covering one wall (ideally around a fireplace) in inexpensive pine boards. You can run them horizontally or vertically, and you may choose to either paint them to match your other walls or seal them with a whitewash or light gray stain.

Embrace irregularities and small gaps between the boards – they’ll give you the modern, woodsy touch that makes these spaces memorable.

Define a seating area using a generously scaled jute rug. Build on this surface’s natural color and texture with pieces of upholstery. If your furniture isn’t neutral, try slipcovering it or even tossing a large canvas dropcloth over it.

A stack of substantial floor pillows encourages a more relaxed gathering beside the fire or around a board game. And a faux sheepskin throw or two will further warm the space.

For accessories, try hanging a white papier-mache deer mount over your hearth and stacking paper birch logs beside the fireplace.

For lighting, overscale paper lanterns affixed to a simple plug-in pendant light make a big 1970s Scandinavian statement at minimal cost.

Look 3: The boho nest

The vibe

Longing for the warm colors of summer? This look brings them indoors using tapestries, artwork and an abundance of houseplants.

Layering is the name of the game, with floors covered by an arrangement of inexpensive flat-weave rugs, upholstery draped in throws and embroidered pillows, and groupings of mixed-media art on the walls.

Get the look

While many seeking the boho style focus on white walls as a backdrop, you can create a warmer space with a bold color or dark earth tone. Paint one or more of your living room walls to invite contrast.

Start building your nest from the floor up. Instead of purchasing one large expensive rug, try layering a mixture of smaller and more affordable rugs of varying styles and colors for an eclectic and relaxed feel.

If you have walls that feel a little barren, consider draping them with floor-to-ceiling curtains. This will envelop and soften the edges of the room.

If premade ones aren’t in the budget, you can easily make your own perfectly fitted drapes with fabric. Create a simple hem around the edges with a quick pass through the sewing machine or a little bit of ironing with hem tape. Use ring clips to attach the fabric panels to curtain rods.

A gallery wall can also give your living room a warmer feel. While typical galleries consisting solely of framed art tend to be the decorating norm, you can keep the look fresh and more bohemian by integrating a broader spectrum of art types.

Hang clay or wood pieces, textile art, paper sculptures and even wall-clinging plants – like staghorn ferns – to give your gallery wall life and personality.

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Originally published January 2018.

5 Things to Look for in a Rental Listing

Whether you’re looking for an apartment, single-family house or townhome – and whether you’re in a city, the suburbs or a small town – be prepared to spend a lot of time online and even more time driving around to tour the most promising places in person.

If you want to save time and avoid headaches, make sure that every rental listing you consider has all the information you need. High-quality listings help you weed out the places that don’t fit your criteria (wait, Fido’s not welcome?), but they also indicate an organized, communicative and professional landlord – something every renter wants.

As you begin your search, consider these five important things every good rental listing should contain:

1. Detailed details

Front and center should be the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, storage space and a floor plan to help you visualize the layout.

Avoid listings with vague terms like “junior one bedroom” or “open one bedroom.” According to Zillow research, 65 percent of renters require their preferred number of bedrooms. Landlords know this, so they get creative with descriptions to attract more tenants.

Another need-to-know detail is how safe the property is. Zillow research reports that 75 percent of renters said that a safe neighborhood is a must-have. Most landlords will say that the neighborhood is safe, so do your own research, especially if you’re new to the area.

Speaking of being new – if you’re moving to a new part of town or an entirely new city, look for listings with important facts about the neighborhood, including proximity to transit or major freeways, convenient shopping centers, and nearby recreation and entertainment options.

2. Amenities – all of them

Beyond basics like heating and kitchen appliances, every renter has different amenities that they consider must-haves.

The most popular amenities renters look for include air conditioning, in-unit laundry, ample storage and private outdoor space. Watch for other nice-to-have in-unit amenities, like recent renovations, hardwood floors, plenty of windows and upgraded kitchens.

Shared amenities should be included in the listing too – things like parking, rooftop decks, fitness areas, outdoor space, swimming pools and bike storage.

3. Major (and potentially problematic) policies

The listing should disclose any policies that could be a deal breaker for you. Examples include rules around pets (including specific breeds), the maximum number of people who can live in the unit, smoking, parking, noise and – most importantly – lease terms and length.

Additionally, see if you can tell if the landlord lives on-site or if a local property management company manages things. If the landlord is nearby, they’ll likely handle repair requests quickly, along with general building upkeep and maintenance.

4. Clearly described costs

Make sure the landlord is exceptionally clear about the dollars and cents:

  • What is the monthly rent?
  • How much of a deposit is required, and is any of it refundable?
  • Are there any one-time fees?
  • Is there a pet fee or monthly charge?
  • Does parking cost extra?
  • Who pays for utilities?

These additional charges can quickly move a listing from feasible to fruitless, so make sure you have all the info you need to do the math ahead of time.

5. High-quality photos

Focus on listings that have not only good photos but also recent photos – and lots of them.

Look for listings that include both interior and exterior shots, plus photos of all shared amenities. But renter beware: If the landlord says the photos are of a similar unit – not the one that’s actually for rent – you may find yourself in a bait-and-switch situation.

Once you find a few listings that include these details, you’re off to a great start. You can more easily compare properties side by side, identify deal breakers and find areas where a landlord might be open to compromising.

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Originally published June 2018. Statistics updated January 2019.