Gunning Daily News

5 Tips from Project Runway’s Interior Designer

October 16, 2012 6:16 pm

In honor of Project Runway’s Season 10 Finale, Project Runway interior designer Katherine De Luca is offering her exclusive tips to get the Project Runway look in your own home.

1. Try D.I.Y.

The Project Runway apartments’ wall art can be easily achieved: simply use a staple gun to wrap frames with inexpensive fabric, or purchase blank canvases and paint to achieve a custom color.

2. Emphasize lighting and wall décor
These are my favorite go-to home accessories that can instantly dress up a room for the better.

3. Learn to flea!
If you’re in NYC, I highly recommend renting a Zipcar on the weekend to check out flea markets, antique shops, and furniture consignment shops in New Jersey, Connecticut, and upstate NY. Their inventory is generally less expensive, better quality, and unique.

4. Do save…
On linens, kitchenware, and even carpeting.

5. Do splurge…

On a good sofa. You get what you pay for, and if you splurge on a sofa you will find that it is well made, lasts longer, and will be the perfect focal point in any apartment.

Word of the Day

October 16, 2012 6:16 pm

Write-off. Depreciation or amortization an owner takes on a commercial property.

Q: Should I Sell My Home First or Wait until I Have Bought Another Home?

October 16, 2012 6:16 pm

A: This is a tough decision, but the answer will depend on your personal situation, as well as the condition of the local housing market.

If you put your home on the market first, you may have to scramble to find another one before settlement, which could cause you to buy a home that does not meet all your requirements. If you cannot find another home, you may need to move twice, temporarily staying with relatives or in a hotel.

On the other hand, if you make an offer to buy first, you may be tempted to sell your existing home quickly, even at a lower price.

The advantage of buying first is you can shop carefully for the right home and feel comfortable with your decision before putting the existing home on the market.

On the flip side, the advantage of selling your existing home first is that it maximizes your negotiating position because you are under no pressure to sell quickly. It also eliminates the need to carry two mortgages at once.

Talk with your agent for advice. Discuss the pros and of each and whether certain contingencies written into the contract can ease some of the pressures.

Supermarket Super foods: 12 Foods That Should Be Staples in Your Kitchen

October 15, 2012 5:38 pm

You don’t have to go to the health food store to be sure your fridge and pantry are well-stocked with super-foods that boost energy, make you feel better, and can help you lose pounds or maintain a healthy weight.

Registered dietician Karen Ansel, writing for Woman’s Day, suggests 12 super-foods you can find in any market – and some of the best ways to use them every day:

Nonfat ricotta cheese – It has three times the calcium of cottage cheese. Mix it with pasta, add a big spoonful to pancake or waffle mix or use it instead of mayo in your lunchtime sandwich.

Peanut butter – It has 30 essential vitamins and minerals and a combination of healthy fats and fiber. Stuff it into celery sticks or spread it on multigrain toast.

Canned salmon - One 3.5-oz can has 1,100 mg of brain- and heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Mix with light mayo and chopped celery or carrots for sandwiches, or toss into a salad with sliced grapes, strawberries and romaine.

Oatmeal – Oats are filled with iron and heart-healthy fiber. Enjoy a bowlful for breakfast or add oats to your fruit and yogurt smoothie.

Cabbage – Red and green cabbage have bone-building vitamin K and compounds that may help fight breast cancer. Shred into slaw or any green salad, or munch a wedge out of hand.

Canned tomatoes – Loaded with lycopene and vitamin C, they pair well with any veggies in soups or tomato sauce for pasta.

Whole grain pasta –
Boil up this heart-healthy food for a hot pasta dinner or a cold pasta salad mixed with veggies, leftover chicken, and light vinaigrette.

Strawberries or blueberries – Full of antioxidants, these juicy treats are great by themselves or mixed into cereals or salads.

Edamame – A great source of protein, cooked edamame can be munched hot or cold or added to salads, rice or pasta dishes.

Avocados – With 65 percent of its fat coming from heart-healthy monounsaturates, mashed avocadoes are an ingenious swap for butter or mayo on your morning toast or afternoon sandwich.

Sweet potatoes – They pack more vitamin A and beta-carotene than carrots and enough fiber to help you stay full. Bake or mash as you prefer.

Cocoa – Contains flavanols, which are powerful antioxidants. Enjoy a hot cupful mixed with fat-free milk.

TechTools: Must-Have Free Apps That Save Money

October 15, 2012 5:38 pm

Nearly everyone thinks that saving money is a good idea. But hunting down deals and finding the best stuff to buy can sometimes feel like a hassle. However, now that mobile technology is here to stay, these days, shoppers can easily find what they are looking for at a great price. The November 2012 issue of ShopSmart, from Consumer Reports, features ten must-have, free apps that can help shoppers score some of the best deals.

ShopSmart's feature story on sites and apps that can save shoppers big also identifies 17 must-see sites and 10 fun new ones for smart beauty picks, comfy home items, kids' gifts and more; plus an update on new offerings from old standbys like Amazon, eBay, Google and Walmart.

"The Web is filled with tons of deals and finding the best bargain can take time," says Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. "These apps can save shoppers time and money, possibly scoring them even better deals than they may find on their own."

Here's five free apps from ShopSmart's list of must-haves--the entire list can be found in the November issue:

Amazon mobile is a great tool for shopping on a smartphone. Users can buy almost anything, anywhere with this app. Quick barcode scanning and picture search make it easy for users to find what they're looking for (or to check prices against those in-store) and checkout is a breeze, especially with the one-click option. Amazon mobile is available for Android, Apple and BlackBerry.

CardStar is best for organizing loyalty cards. Shoppers can get rid of all those bulky cards and grimy key chain tags--CardStar puts all of this info neatly into one app. To save, users show their phone to the cashier in stores and local deals may pop up on the app (if it's open) while they are there. CardStar is available for Android, Apple and BlackBerry.

Coupon Sherpa helps users grab hundreds of coupons for dozens of stores. Users have a good chance of finding a deal on this app for the store they're heading to and cashiers can scan directly from a phone. Grocery coupons, available for several chains, can be applied directly to loyalty cards, so the savings automatically comes off the bill. Coupon Sherpa is available for Android and Apple.

RedLaser is an eBay-owned barcode-scanner app that locates great deals. Users can scan items and find the best price locally and online or buy stuff and arrange for pickup at participating retailers. It also searches using images and voice commands to give product details, reviews and nutrition info. Redlaser can help users take advantage of price-matching policies at stores like Target and Walmart and is available for Android, Apple and Windows.

Shopkick automates rewards. Users can earn points (called kicks) just for entering participating stores. The kicks can be redeemed for a reward such as a free drink at Starbucks or a Coach bag. Users can link credit or debit cards to earn even more kicks. Nationwide partners include ExxonMobile, Macy's, and Target. Open the app when walking in or by a participating retailer to claim available rewards. Shopkick is available for Android and Apple.

For more information, visit www.ShopSmartmag.org.

Home Staging for a Modern World

October 11, 2012 5:36 pm

A recent visit to the Academy of Home Staging (theacademyofhomestaging.com) revealed some of the latest home-staging trends and how they could translate into selling your home faster.

The academy blog about 2012 design trends reveals a couple of key points about color and accessories.

According to the site, 2012 interior design trends regarding furnishings will favor seating that is much lower to the ground. Home furniture manufactures are debuting chairs and sofas that offer lower seating arrangements than standard products.

There is also a growing trend to incorporate the industrial look into furnishings, not just kitchen and bathroom spaces. With all shades of grey remaining favorable within interior design, it can be expected to see more yellow integrated into furniture to enhance this color pairing.

Also, rustic wooden furnishings will be popular this year, the academy advises.

We touched on this earlier this year, but it bears repeating - the accent color of 2012 is bright, bold and orange. The Pantone Color Institute recommends the reddish orange Tangerine Tango to replace last year’s pink Honeysuckle.

The Academy of Home Staging explains that this color has a lot of depth, being dramatic and simultaneously seductive and sophisticated. It’s important to be conservative in the use of a vibrant color, however, otherwise it can overpower the surroundings.

Selecting patterned trimmings that incorporate this color will give an edge to pillows, bedspreads, or tabletop accessories. For a more bold approach, painting an accent wall in a hallway, kitchen or entrance can create a dynamic burst of energy, the academy advises.

Finally, never as well overlook ‘dynamizing’ - giving the room in your house that special look. Make sure that each room clearly conveys its function and purpose.

For the bathrooms or toilets, the academy advises displaying fresh towels and toiletries like they do in hotels. For the living room, put a vase of fresh flowers on the coffee table.

3 Tips for Taking Advantage of This Year’s Lower Tax Rates

October 11, 2012 5:36 pm

Income taxes are going up next year, and not just for those who earn more than $200,000 a year.
“Taxes are likely to be higher for everyone” says financial planner Rick Rodgers, author of The New Three-Legged Stool: A Tax Efficient Approach To Retirement Planning.

“We all know about the expiring Bush tax cuts, which may or may not be extended for everyone or just some,” he says. “There are also new taxes that were part of the healthcare reform law passed in 2010; the expiring payroll tax cut; the alternative minimum tax that already expired in 2011, and many other provisions that have expired or will expire at year end.”

Nearly everyone should prepare to pay more, Rodgers says.

The good news is you still have time to take advantage of 2012 tax rates, which may turn out to be the lowest we will see in some time. Rodgers offers these strategies that can be implemented before the end of 2012:

• Roth Conversion - No one knows for sure what will happen to the tax code next year, which is why a Roth conversion is one of the best tax-planning strategies available. Converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA creates a taxable event in 2012. All future earnings in the account will be tax-free, as long as you wait five years and are age 59½ or older when you take withdrawals. The biggest advantage to the Roth conversion strategy is the ability to “undo” the transaction as late as Oct. 15, 2013. Should the new Congress pass a major tax reform bill next year that lowers tax rates across the board, you can put the money back into your IRA. It will be like the transaction never happened.

• Harvest capital gains - Harvesting gains is similar to harvesting losses. Sell appreciated securities that you’ve held for at least 12 months to realize the long-term gain for tax purposes. You can immediately repurchase the same asset because there is no wash sale rule for realizing gains. This allows you to pay tax on the gain in 2012, when rates are low, and establish a new cost basis in the asset to minimize increased gains that may be taxed at higher rates. This strategy should appeal to anyone in the 15-percent tax bracket because capital gains are taxed at zero and may jump to 8 to 10 percent in 2013 if the tax cuts expire. The strategy is also appealing to anyone subject to the Medicare surtax. If the current tax laws expire, the tax rate on long-term capital gains will jump from 15 percent to 23.8 percent (21.8 percent for assets held more than five years).

• Pay medical expenses - Anyone who normally itemizes medical expenses on their tax return should accelerate those expenses into 2012 if they can. Medical expenses are deductible only if they exceed 7½ percent of adjusted gross income (AGI). This means if your AGI is $50,000, you can deduct only medical expenses over $3,750. Next year the threshold jumps to 10 percent of AGI. Pay your January medical insurance premium in December to move this deduction to 2012. Any routine eye exams or dental visits should be moved up to December. Paying with a credit card would give you the deduction this year and delay the actual payment until 2013.

Rodgers warns that a common mistake is to wait and see what happens. It has not been uncommon for Congress to make significant changes to the tax code late in December, leaving taxpayers little time to react. He advises a diversified approach to tax planning. Make a partial Roth conversion, harvest some capital gains but don’t wait until it’s too late to do anything about rising taxes.

Take a proactive approach to tax planning this year to cushion any fall from the fiscal cliff.

Certified Financial Planner Rick Rodgers is president of Rodgers & Associates, “The Retirement Specialists,” in Lancaster, Pa. He’s a Certified Retirement Counselor and member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisers.

For more information, visit www.RodgersSpeaks.com.

Turn Great Art into Great Home Decor

October 11, 2012 5:36 pm

(ARA) - From the moment the first cave dweller marked the wall of his home with a bit of charcoal, art has been a home decor must that has stood the test of time. Whether it's the vibrant colors of a van Gogh, the almost-mystical perfection of a da Vinci or the dreamily diffused light of a Monet, great art speaks to the soul.

The works of master artists have inspired home decor for centuries, and technological advances have made it easier than ever to incorporate their genius into your own home. It's no longer necessary to visit the Louvre in Paris to view the “Mona Lisa” or to travel to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to savor van Gogh's “Starry Night.”

You can easily incorporate great artwork into your home decor.

Reproductions are the most obvious - and accessible - way to enjoy great masterpieces in your home. Fortunately, you have a variety of options when looking for a quality reproduction. From simple paper prints purchased at your local home decor store to actual paintings digitally reproduced with the aid of a computer program, you can find reproductions for virtually every price point.

You can use your reproduction to enhance your home decor in a number of ways. A small print tucked into a discrete spot on the wall can add a pleasant, surprising pop of color in a room. Or, a larger reproduction can be a focal point for a room's decor, and even provide color inspiration for the rest of the room, from walls to upholstery and accessories.

Another versatile option that can be bold and striking is a wall mural. When you think of inspiring murals, does Michaelangelo's famous work from the Sistine Chapel come to mind? With easy-to-install wallpaper murals, you can recreate the world's most-recognizable ceiling in your own home.

A mural can fit into the decor in virtually every room of your home. Imagine the whimsical delight of Katsushika Hokusai's “The Great Wave of Kanagawa” as an accent in your master bath. Or, van Gogh's “Cafe Terrace at Night” can impart a distinctive Old World flavor to the decor in your breakfast nook. You can even incorporate a masterpiece mural in your outdoor design. Website MuralsYourWay.com offers wallpaper murals in SmartStick, a peel-and-stick material that can be used indoors or out and adheres to most smooth wall surfaces (including glass) and is easily removable and repositionable. No paste is needed and you can use the mural over and over again.

Your foray into great art doesn't have to be limited to paintings, however. While reproductions of renowned sculptures are easy to come by, and an obvious choice, you can also find a variety of accessories and even furniture that draw their inspiration from famous works of art.

Looking for something thought-provoking and edgy for your home decor? Consider items - from wall clocks to furniture - inspired by the work of Salvador Dali. Is modern and abstract more to your taste? Fabrics that draw on the colors and design of Picasso's works may fit your vision.

Great art speaks to the soul, and whatever genre you prefer - impressionist, Renaissance, modern or abstract - you can find a place for it in your home. Thanks to modern technology, it's easier than ever to enjoy great art and incorporate it into your decor.

Word of the Day

October 11, 2012 5:36 pm

Warranty deed. A deed in which the grantor guarantees that he or she is giving the grantee good title free of encumbrances. Considered to be the best deed a grantee can receive.

Q: When Is the Best Time to Sell a Home?

October 11, 2012 5:36 pm

A: The best time to sell is when you are ready, or when you must. That is, when you have outgrown the space in your current home, or you prefer to trade down to something smaller. Perhaps your martial status has changed, which necessitates a move, or you need to relocate for a job.

Market conditions also play a role, as do seasonal conditions. For example, your chances of getting top dollar for your home are more likely in a seller’s market, when demand outweighs supply, than in a buyer’s market.

Local and national economic factors also may dictate when to sell. If a major employer in your area is laying off workers, it may not be a good time to put your home up for sale. People will be cautious about buying when the future seems so unpredictable or bleak.

Most agents agree the best time to sell is in the spring. This is when the largest number of potential buyers hit the market. Your home is likely to sell faster and at a higher price, although sales begin to pick up as early as February and start to slack off in July, the slowest month for real estate transactions.