“Behind the Curtin” provides an inside look at local homeowners’ beautifully-crafted houses, giving insight into what it takes to renovate, upgrade, and style the most coveted parts of their dream homes. In this video series, industry expert and business owner Joanne Curtin explores local homes while interviewing their owners along the way to better understand their thought processes when making important decisions. Join Joanne to get a look into the world of luxurious real estate one wonderful home at a time.
“Behind the Curtin” Episode 1 – A Wine Room & Kitchen in Milton, Georgia
Katie and Dave Smith live in Milton, Georgia with their two children. Recently, Katie and Dave sold their house in Milton’s Highland Manor that they called home for 14 years to move into a brand-new build in the Sweet Apple neighborhood that they helped design. Prior to moving to Milton in 2008, they lived in Miami, Florida for two years.
Joanne: Why did you pick this area?
Katie: We’re from up north where the seasons change. We didn’t like living somewhere where it was hot all year. My husband Dave’s job, at the time, was such that he could live in Greater Atlanta or South Florida, and we just felt like greater Atlanta was an area that we felt we could relate to more and would be better to raise a family. We didn’t have any kids yet when we moved here and that’s part of why we did.
Joanne: As far as your house that you’re in now, what made you choose your house?
Katie: We were so excited to build and get to start from scratch. We really liked how it’s quiet here, but it’s still close to everything. We’re closer now than we were in Highland Manor to Downtown Crabapple, Downtown Roswell, and GA-400. But we’re tucked back in this quiet little country road type situation. We felt like it was very unique, and when we signed to build this house, they hadn’t even cleared the street yet. We were able to see the other homes and see the big picture of the community with the walking trails and green space built into the development.
Joanne: What do you feel like you did to really improve the value of the house that you built? What do you feel adds value to your house the most?
Katie: We love having the master on Main and it’s kind of in its own little wing. It’s tucked away. I can sleep through noise, and I was never able to do that in the old house. The lot itself, how we’re on a cul-de-sac and it’s at the end of the street. The layout of the house provides nice privacy for the backyard, helping with what we’re trying to achieve with the pool and creating a great little hangout area. The kids have their own space upstairs. They have a lot of space. At their current ages of 10 and 13, they don’t want to be around us all the time. They have their own space which makes them feel like they have independence.
Joanne: Alright, so in this home you did not have a keeping room and in place of that, because you want to use your house wisely, you did a wine room where normally an office or dining room could be. So did you use a designer for that?
Katie: I would say we kind of used a designer overall, that helped us in designing the layout of our home and picking the finishes. She did help us a little bit with the wine room. Dave would tell you that he’s the designer. She worked with another couple a few years ago who did the wine room at a house over on Sibley lane. We had seen these pictures, and knew she had worked on a project like this before. That got it going in Dave’s mind, and then we knew we wanted to have a sitting room like a keeping room. We were going back and forth on whether or not to do the wine wall because it was of course an added expense. Dave, in his mind with the numbers, was like, “Is this too frivolous? Like, can we really do this?” And then, he finally said that if he didn’t do it, he would be mad at himself in a couple of years. It costs more money to do after the fact versus if you do it while you’re building the house, it’s easier.
Joanne: What does that wine room have that you needed?
Katie: It’s a quiet getaway. A quiet space. The wine wall itself is a piece of art. It’s very cozy. We painted it a different color from the color that most of the main living area is painted. We did the wine room and Dave’s office a dark gray that really separates it from the rest of the home. It’s right off the kitchen, but it feels like you’re tucked away and it has a door that goes onto the front porch from one wall. So, you could be sitting in there enjoying a glass of wine or having your morning coffee and then go right outside to the front porch.
Joanne: What was the splurge in your wine room that you said Dave was like, “I don’t know if I want to spend the money. But if I don’t do it, I’ll regret it?”
Katie: It’s a built-in refrigerated unit. It has its own thermostat, it has its own separate unit down in the basement. That’s like the ultimate splurge. In our old home, we had a freestanding wine fridge that you purchase. If we ever move, it stays. It’s part of the house. That was definitely a splurge. I mean, gosh, it’s all splurge. A new house is a splurge. Those sliders, the sliding doors, instead of just a door they go into the wall. Not accordion style – they slide like pockets doors into the wall.
Joanne: Would you say that the wine room is your favorite room? What’s your favorite room in your new house? Dave’s?
Katie: Dave would say it’s the wine room. I love the kitchen.
Joanne: Why would you say that?
Katie: It has a lot of storage and it’s bright. I’m looking at my kitchen right now, and I think it just flows easily. We designed it to flow easily.
Joanne: Anything that you feel like someone should not skimp on?
Katie: I would not skimp on lighting. At least, in the main areas,
Joanne: Lighting meaning expensive fixtures or just more lights?
Katie: The fixtures themselves. If you put a cheap light over the table in your kitchen or something that you don’t like, it is no good. We got to the point where the lighting budget was getting out of control. We did cans in other areas. We’d rather fix the main fixtures in a year than get something cheap and not like it, you know? What else… Appliances! We didn’t skimp on our fridge. We got the nicer fridge. How many times do you use your fridge a day? A lot, right? So I think that for us, it was like let’s not skimp on things in our main living area. I’m fine skimping on my 10-year-old son’s bathroom tile, or the guest room lighting. Those are rooms that get used a small handful of times a year. But when it came to our main living space, I didn’t want to cheap out and then regret it. We didn’t go crazy, but like we made it nice.
Joanne: So what kind of fridge Do you have?
Katie: Oh, it’s a Thermador fridge. But it’s not so much the brand. It’s just this size. It’s the bigger side by side fridge.
Joanne: Are there any materials that you used that you felt like were not trendy, but just worth it, and were non-negotiables?
Katie: We used quartz for all of our tops, even in the bathrooms, which I’m really happy with. Even in the laundry room – it just makes a difference. One other splurge that I forgot to mention from earlier was in our master bath, we have the doors that come all the way down to the floor without the step with the special drain on the sides. So it’s very clean looking and beautiful. We have the engineered hardwood, the wider planks, which I really love throughout the home. And it’s a lighter-color wood. We had darker wood at the old house, which I thought looked pretty. But on these floors, you can’t see the dirt as much and the paw prints from the dog. So when you have an active family, it’s nice to be able to hide dirt and dog hair better. I’m just keeping it real because I don’t feel like cleaning floors every day!
Katie and Dave’s experience in deciding to move, finding the right location to build, and hand-crafting their forever home is something that countless families do every year. That doesn’t mean it’s not special – building a new home is one of the most special things a family can do together. Their openness and great insight into their thought process during the whole experience helps us learn what to look for and what to avoid when it’s our time to upgrade our own living spaces. These helpful homeowners, along with Joanne, help give you a peek Behind the Curtin into the world of luxury real estate. If this insight interests you, subscribe for more video and interview content at www.youtube.com/@curtinteam.
There are endless possibilities of what you can spend money on to improve your home. From simple upgrades to massive renovations, it can be overwhelming deciding where to start. To help, we’ve put together a list of priorities as we see it from a Realtor’s perspective. It’s important to start with what you love and enjoy (especially if you plan to be in your home for at least 4 more years) and prioritize the area of your home that you know you’ll get the most enjoyment out of first. On the other end, if there’s something in your home that causes you stress every time you see it, change it. Renovating can be a challenge, but assessing your wants, needs, and budget is a great first step.
Up To $5,000 Budget
1. Interior Paint – Fresh paint gives you the best bang for your buck. Depending on the size of your home, you may be able to get most of your main living area painted for under $5,000.
2. New Kitchen Backsplash / Updated Light Fixtures – An eat-in kitchen, dining room, or foyer chandelier provide a fresh, updated look without breaking the bank. If you have the builder-standard fluorescent rectangle in your kitchen: get rid of it! Replace with a new modern handing light or recessed lights.
3. New Bathroom Vanities – If you have any bathrooms that have laminate counters, this signals that the vanity is dated, too. You can purchase a new vanity that also has a built-in stone counter and new sink all together. You’ll just need to purchase a matching upgraded fixture to go with it.
4. New Front Door/ Refinishing Wood Doors – A new front door adds great curb appeal. Front doors make such an important first impression! When you’re selling your home, you always want the entrance way to be in top shape. Picture this: the buyers and their realtor approach your home, the buyers are eagerly looking around to assess the entrance, and the Realtor is trying to open the lockbox. Entry is not immediate — it can take a minute or two to get the lockbox open and enter the home. If you have rotten wood or an old pealing door, this will set the stage for a buyer’s negative impression of your home.
5. Exterior Cleaning – Power washing can be a surprisingly affordable way to make your exterior look new again. Your house, driveway, walkways, and roof can all be power washed for a fresh look. Add professional window cleaning and you’ll be looking great!
Up To $25,000 Budget
1. Flooring – Wood floors in main living areas and new carpet in bedrooms make a big difference. Real hardwood flooring is a timeless style and will never be an outdated choice. Color choices can vary and add personality but try to avoid extremes. And, you can refinish hardwood and change the look if needed.
2. Kitchen Appliance Upgrades / New Kitchen Counters – If your home is in a luxury price point, buyers will expect high-end appliances. The stove or cook top is the center piece, so consider this first.
3. Bathroom Vanities – We covered this in the $5,000 budget section, but if you have multiple bathrooms to upgrade, you’ll easily spend more than that. If your primary bathroom doesn’t have a dual vanity and you can find a way to add one, that will be a great investment. Pro-tip: This may also save you from arguments with your significant other if you’ve been sharing a sink.
4. Retiling – Primary shower and floors can often use new tiling, along with adding a standalone tub. Avoid trendy or colorful tile. Remember, light and bright is timeless.
5. Cabinet Makeover – Painting or refacing cabinets and changing out hardware is a simple but effective project.
Budget up to $100,000
1. Full Kitchen Update – New appliances, quartz or quartzite counters, backsplash, fresh paint; depending on size of kitchen, you may or may not be able to fully replace cabinets with this budget. Style and trends in kitchens change frequently. If you’re worried about making the right design choices, it’s always best to go light and bright, aiming for a timeless look that will last. The average cost of a full kitchen renovation in our area now averages over $150,000, so to stay on budget, consider hiring a professional designer who can help you find cost savings and make the right design choices.
2. Finished Basement – Adding additional finished space is a big bang for your buck. Adding a media room, an exercise room, office space, an additional bathroom, or an additional entertainment area will add huge value to a home.
3. Outdoor Living Space – An exterior gathering area like an outdoor fireplace, a new porch, or an upgraded deck are great additions. Consider high performance composite decking, a common brand is Trex, for great quality and value.
4. Exterior Upgrade – Fresh paint, a new roof, and new landscaping can transform the look of your home completely and even make your neighbors jealous with this project. Maybe they will follow your lead and paint their houses, too!
5. New Cement Siding / Windows – Many homes in our area built between the 1980s-90s were built using a siding referred to as OSB, or Orient Strand Board. One of the common brands that was used is called “LP” siding. This siding is a wood fiber glued together that deteriorates over time and is susceptible to moisture and other weather damage. New cement board siding, one of the popular brands is “Hardie Plank,” is made from a cement fiber that can withstand moisture and weather damage. If your home was built using OSB siding, it is also likely to have wooden single-pane windows. A major upgrade that will pay off when selling your home is replacing all of the siding and windows. Upgrading your windows to new dual-pane windows will enhance the curb appeal of your home and you’ll realize energy savings + noise reduction.
Renovating in today’s market requires patience and flexibility. The pandemic has caused price increases due to supply shortages and rising labor costs. Labor is hard to find, and you’ll need to plan ahead carefully with materials. We suggest that you make a plan and order supplies before you begin. Some appliances and fixtures can take weeks or months to come in, certain paints are hard to find, and the list goes on. In the end, it will be worth it! We hear it all the time: “I should have done this years ago!” Don’t delay and wait until you’re about to sell your home. Do it now and enjoy it without breaking the bank!
You’ve signed the listing agreement and now you’re getting ready to have your home photographed. As a Curtin Team client, you have the benefit of our Home Stylists who provide exceptional home staging services. But there is plenty that you can do to prepare your home before it hits the market.
We all know that staged homes sell for more money. But very few of us have the time or energy to clean and declutter every square inch of our homes. So, let’s focus on the rooms that will make the most impact and get those potential buyers excited to make a great offer on your home. Take a tour of your home as if you were a potential buyer. What stands out to you? It will probably get their attention as well.
Front Porches – staging means cleaning, decluttering, and depersonalizing. Does your front porch feel inviting? Does the front door need to be repaired or repainted? If you have enough room for a seating area, make sure it is clean with fresh cushions and some potted plants. Buyers will feel welcome before they even enter the home.
Living rooms – or whatever is the very first room you see when you walk in the front door. Get the carpets cleaned, dust and declutter shelves and tables, and paint it a neutral color, if necessary. Also, be sure to clean the windows (or have them professionally cleaned).
Kitchens – the number 1 staging rule is to clear those countertops! Time spent cleaning and organizing the kitchen will definitely pay off. Updates to lighting and paint color are worth it too. Something as simple as fresh hand towels can brighten up the space.
Bedrooms – specifically the owner’s bedroom. Minimizing the amount of furniture can help buyers imagine their own items in the space.
The best staging tip we’ve found is to clean, clean, clean. If you do nothing else, that will make your home feel fresh and welcoming.
Kanani Briggs, Realtor, and Cheri Bartlett, Space Strategist, discuss the ways you can start organizing your home in preparation of a Spring sale. Cheri offers tips on tackling difficult areas to organize as well as the services she offers homeowners to help them move items out of their homes.
For more information, contact Kanani Briggs at firstname.lastname@example.org or 678-287-4848.
If you couldn’t make it or just want to listen again for all those great tips and tricks, Organizing Made Easy – a Zoom Class with Joanne Curtin and professional organizer, Rebekah Lignugaris, is available for you to listen to at your convenience.
Zoom Class - Organizing Made Easy Recording Sign Up
Home Styling | How to “Undecorate”
As I was packing away decorations after the holidays it occurred to me how similar the task is to home styling. It’s what I like to call “undecorating”. Undecorating is the process of removing personal and specific decorations, leaving behind a more neutral palette. Having a clean palette is important to attract potential buyers. When the slate is clean, buyers can imagine themselves living in the space.
As new year resolutions are made and we vow to get more organized, this is a wonderful time to start preparing your home to beat the spring selling rush. When you’re packing away holiday decorations go ahead and pack up family photos, decor and personal items. Not only will you be de-cluttering, but you’ll also get a jump start on packing items that you’ll have to pack later anyway!
Where Do I Start?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so start off easy. Begin with your junk drawers, closets and pantry. Make three separate piles: one that you keep, one for donation, and one that goes straight to the trash.
Closets should be about one third full so that prospective buyers can see the amount storage is available. Pack away clothing that’s not in season. Use storage baskets and containers in drawers, cabinets and the pantry for a simple and tidy look. Once you have tackled the de-cluttering you can focus on larger projects. Keep in mind that as the spring market approaches, the busier contractors get and the longer it takes to get on their schedule.
Use these easy tips and you’ll be able to stick to your New Year’s resolution and be ahead of the spring market!