Dear Jill, I’ve seen a lot of designers on TV using wallpaper on accent walls and now I’m thinking about covering a couple of walls in my house. The only problem is my house was built in the 1920’s and the walls are plastered with a kind of textured surface. I’m not sure whether they can be wallpapered, do you have any ideas? Sandra
Sandra, Considering the age of your house and your description of its walls, you may want to think twice about wallpapering them since they may be Venetian plaster walls, which many people consider very desirable. Venetian plaster is a technique involving the application of many fine textured layers of plaster that include marble or lime dust. It is a difficult technique to master and is very time-consuming, therefore, you tend to find it only in Oakwood homes built in the 1920’s or 30’s. Recently, the Venetian plaster look has exploded in popularity with faux painters attempting to replicate the beautiful depth of Venetian plaster walls by layering darker and lighter shades of paint (some of the major paint manufacturers are even offering “Venetian plaster finish”paint lines.) I know if I were selling your house, I would consider your Venetian plaster walls a major selling point and would be sure to point them out to potential buyers. Therefore, I think it would be kind of a shame to wallpaper over them, especially considering most buyers are turned off by wallpaper in general since it can be such a hassle to remove.
Dear Jill, Last year our neighbors spent tens of thousands of dollars on a landscaping makeover and the results were fantastic. Now we are considering spending $50k or more on renovating our yard but I’m a little nervous about spending that much money. Do you think that sort of major investment in landscaping pays off home value wise? Janice
Janice, You’ve probably heard me say that, before doing any renovations, homeowners should take into account the average home value in their neighborhood so that they don’t “over improve” their homes. Similarly, before spending tens of thousands of dollars on landscaping, homeowners should take into account the value of their particular house in order to avoid over improving their yards. According to the American Society of Landscape Architects’ website, a good rule of thumb is to spend between 5 to 10 percent of your home’s value on landscaping. The ASLA also claims that homeowners should see a return of 100 to 200 percent of the cost of the landscaping when their house is sold. Another thing to keep in mind is that hardscaping, such as brick and stone patios, terraces, pergolas, and especially brick grills and ovens, can transform your backyard into outdoor living space that can be used for six or more months out of the year. Many potential homebuyers will consider such hardscaping a huge bonus since it opens up outdoor entertaining possibilities and is basically like adding square footage to a house. One last thing to keep in mind if you are planning ambitious landscaping is that you should hire an experienced professional. In my years as a house flipper, I have seen many basement foundation problems and severe mold outbreaks due to drainage problems caused by poor landscape design.
Dear Jill, I am getting ready to renovate my kitchen and I’ve noticed a lot of high end homes in magazines are using Carrera marble for kitchen countertops. I absolutely love the way Carrera marble looks but I’ve heard that they make terrible kitchen countertops. Is this true? Kerry
Kerry, You’re right, it does seem as if a lot of designers are choosing to go with Carrera marble for kitchen counters these days. On the pro side, Carrera marble is actually one of the cheaper stones that can be used for countertops and its signature snow white surface can certainly add drama to a kitchen. However, on the con side, Carrera marble is very porous and dark or acidic liquids can leave permanent stains; also, the surface tends to scratch easily, so unless you don’t mind your counters having a “lived in” look, Carrera may not be for you. You may want to look into some of the white and gray granite and quartz alternatives that are now available and look similar to Carrara but are much more stain and scratch resistant; especially if you have children who love to drink fruit juice!