Monthly Archives: May 2014

Home of the Week: An Irish Countryside Castle

Our focus on our finest international properties enters its last week as we travel to Ardee, Ireland for a look at a castle that looks like it was plucked right off the set of Game of Thrones.

Located in the idyllic Irish countryside, Knockabbey Castle was originally built on over 30 acres way back in 1399. The $2,660,000 property was further extended in 1650 with a six bay, three story Queen Anne extension and once again remodeled in 1754 by the new owner Thomas Tenison (who was the Archbishop of Cantebury). The 11 bedroom estate may be over 600 years old, but the current owner has meticulously renovated and restored the residence and gardens to the highest of standards. The home now features modern aesthetic touches but maintains its signature 14th century look that you’d expect from an ancient European castle.

The estate wouldn’t be complete without phenomenal grounds, and this property certainly does not disappoint! The gardens have undergone major restoration and feature water gardens originally started as early as the 11th century by monks from the local abbey. The entire property is steeped in history and is the embodiment of the distinct eras during which it underwent modifications.

Click here if you’d like to learn more about this beautiful castle listed by Coldwell Banker Estates.

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Former Red Sox Outfielder Johnny Damon Invites Us Inside His Home

This week, we continue our Coldwell Banker Homefield Advantage series with MLB.com as we take a peek into the home of former Boston Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon.

A MLB star for 18 seasons, Johnny Damon always looks forward to coming home after his playing days wrap up. And rightfully so, Damon built his home with fun in mind. From the beach volleyball court to the ping pong table and the music room, this home has plenty to offer in the fun department.

One of just a few players to win World Series rings with both the Red Sox and the Yankees, Damon successfully bridged the most legendary rivalry in baseball. While baseball certainly has a special place in Damon’s life, there’s something that is more important to him. He puts it well when he says, “Home is forever.”

Take a peek into Damon’s fun-filled home in the video below or click here to see more video features of other ball players, including CC Sabathia, Neil Walker and Latroy Hawkins as part of the Coldwell Banker Homefield Advantage.

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Living in Lower Manhattan: Everything’s Great When You’re Downtown

Depending on who you ask, Lower Manhattan is defined as either the part of the city below Union Square, everything below Canal Street, or (for a few nitpicky geographers) the whole area below Chambers Street. Whichever marker you use, most of Lower Manhattan used to be a desolate, empty wasteland where very few people and even fewer merchants cared or dared to tread. Back then, if you were looking for a seedy but fun underground club, you could probably find 25 of them, but tracking down a cab was an epic feat. Today, you can hail a cab here at any time of the day or night, and shiny residential towers are popping up and changing the shape of the Lower Manhattan skyline faster than you can say “expansion.” Now people are finally able to live, work, and play in Lower Manhattan without stepping foot outside of its boundaries.

High-End Shopping

If having great places to shop right outside your door is important to you, Lower Manhattan is one of the best places to be in the city. If you’re not satisfied with a Chanel dress unless you get it for at least 60 percent off, you’ll love Century 21 department store on Cortlandt Street. A shopper’s mecca, it’s filled with everything from last season’s discount couture to tablecloths. It goes without saying that the shops in SoHo and Tribeca are, quite simply, the best in the world. Head to Jamin Puech on Prince Street before heading over to Anna Sui down on Greene Street to find a dress to go with that bag. There are plenty of stores in the area to fit every price point, so no one has to go home empty-handed.

Higher Learning

Among its many other treasures, this area is renowned for its schools. Lower Manhattan’s public schools are some of the most highly rated in the city. Parents who could easily afford to pay high five-figure preschool tuitions are choosing to enroll their little ones in one of the area’s top public schools, including the famed P.S. 234, P.S. 89, P.S. 150, and the relatively new Spruce Street School. Parents love the diversity and the sense of community these schools seem to foster. Parents who want to go the private school route instead have many amazing options, too, including the insanely popular Grace Church School and the uber-chic Avenues school.

High Line

You may or may not be lucky enough to score a terrace or outdoor space with your apartment, but you’ve got some of the world’s greatest outdoor spaces right outside your door. There are few things as magical as running down the West Side Highway toward Battery Park at sunset. If you take a detour through Hudson Street, stop in at Health & Harmony for a carrot-apple-ginger juice with extra ginger. If you’re looking for more of a chill-out outdoor space, you just can’t beat the High Line. Have a glass of wine at the Biergarten at the Standard after a crazy day, and you’ll remember why you chose this city.

Image Source: Flickr

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DFW’s Top Bedroom Interior Design Ideas

Bedroom interior design ideas help Dallas homeowners create a master retreat where they can withdraw from the hustle and bustle of life. These days, interior designers are increasingly focusing on the idea of transforming a bedroom into a quiet escape.

Serenity Is Key

A top trend in bedroom interior design ideas is creating a sense of serenity. After a stressful day, the prospect of relaxing in the soft comfort of a tranquil bedroom appeals to many Dallas homeowners.

Dallas-based Traci Connell Interiors, which won Houzz’s “Best of Houzz” award in 2013 and 2014, embraced this trend by designing a “Serene Master Bedroom” suite filled with soft blue-grays and whites and dark woods to create a calm, soothing palette. Light window treatments give the room a sunny ambiance.

Create a Multipurpose Space

Master suites aren’t just places to sleep anymore. One of the hottest bedroom interior design ideas is creating spaces for work, reading, or relaxing in the master retreat. Flower Mound–based firm Halo Design even applied this idea to a gigantic master suite closet, adding a bright orange sofa to give the homeowner a comfortable place to relax while getting ready in the morning.

To create this feeling of sanctuary, most Dallas-area designers are making sure to include a pair of chairs, a small sofa, or a chaise lounge in their master retreats, along with a table and a good reading lamp. Add a small refrigerator and a coffeemaker, and homeowners can enjoy that first cup of coffee while catching the news before they even leave their bedrooms. Writing desks allow homeowners to get a little work done, too.

Add Interest with Textures and Patterns

The upholstered headboard trend is here to stay in Dallas design. Many styles are custom-designed with luxurious fabrics, which frequently cost less than wood or metal alternatives. Neutral colors that coordinate with the wood in the furniture — like cream, chocolate brown, or soft gray — are popular colors with Dallas designers.

Wallpapers in mid-20th-century styles and updated damasks make for striking accent walls in a Dallas master suite. Floral prints in muted colors are making a comeback as well. The most popular location for wallpaper in Dallas-area master suites is behind the bed, which helps make it the focal point of the room. Some designers are using wallpaper in master baths, too.

Every homeowner has their own idea of what recharges their batteries. When choosing furniture, bedding, light fixtures, rugs, and accents for your master suite, go for elements that make you feel serene and relaxed.

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Window Air Conditioner Vs. Central Air: What’s the Better Pick?

Thought this past winter was harsh? Get ready for summer. The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts this summer in Philadelphia will be hotter than average. If your home doesn’t already have air conditioning, this might be the year you finally decide to take the plunge. When choosing air conditioning, you can decide between a central unit or a window air conditioner. Your budget and cooling needs will determine which is the better option.

Cost Factors

One of the major differences between a window air conditioner and a central air conditioning system is the upfront cost. You can head down to any hardware store or big box store and pick up a window unit for less than $200. If you want to have a central air conditioning system installed, the average cost in Philadelphia starts at $4,500, according to HomeAdvisor.

Beyond the initial investment, when it comes to choosing an air conditioner, you should also factor in the cost of cooling your home. Generally speaking, the bigger your house, the more power required to cool it, and the higher your energy bills will be for the summer. Choosing an ill-suited unit — for example, if you get a tiny 12,000-BTU-per-hour window unit to cool a 1,000-square-foot space — will hike up costs.

Energy Efficiency

Both window units and central air conditioning are rated by their energy efficiency ratio (EER). The ratio is the cooling output (in BTUs) of the unit divided by the power used in watt hours. The higher the EER, the more efficient the unit, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. For a central air conditioning system, the lowest recommended EER is 12, while the lowest recommended EER for a window unit is 11.

Even though central air conditioning systems have a higher EER than window units, window air conditioners can be more energy efficient than central units, according to Green Building Advisor. In a lot of cases, it comes down to how the air conditioning is used. Central air conditioners often waste a lot of energy by cooling rooms no one’s in, and if a home isn’t insulated, cool air can seep out of the ducts, wasting a lot of energy in the process.

How Much Do You Want to Cool?

Deciding how much of your home you need to or want to cool at any given time determines the type of unit that’s best for you. If you only need to cool a single bedroom at night, a window unit in the bedroom makes more financial sense. To cool multiple rooms, however, you might want to spring for central air.

Portability

Another thing to consider when choosing between central air or a window unit is whether you own or rent. If you’re renting, a window unit might be your best option, as you can take it with you. If you’re a homeowner, central air can be the better pick — especially since, as an attractive feature for potential buyers, it can increase your home’s value.

Image Source: Flickr

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Billy Crystal on What His Childhood Home Means to Him

A few weeks ago Victoria Lee wrote about an experience that is almost always met with a profound sense of sadness: “Saying Goodbye to Your Childhood Home“. Saying goodbye to any place we once called home can be difficult, but there’s something doubly hard about leaving the home where we grew up. No matter where life may take us, our childhood home always holds a special place in our hearts.

As I spent a lazy Sunday at my grandparents’ house last weekend (ironically, across the street from my childhood home), we began watching a new comedy special on HBO from one of my favorite actors and comedians, Billy Crystal. In his autobiographical one man show named 700 Sundays, he spends about 2 hours talking about his memories of childhood and the eventual road he took to comedy and acting.

It was a joy to watch Billy Crystal’s love letter to his family and past, but the closing monologue about how he felt about finally leaving his childhood home struck a strong chord with me.

“It was so hard to leave this house
There are so many stories in this house
We grew up here. We ate great food here. We laughed here.
We made people laugh here.
I was a Yankee here. i saw Roger Maris’s 61st home run right here.
I saw Johnny Carson’s first Tonight Show ever right here.
I saw The Beatles here. I saw men walk on the moon here!
I fell in love here. I became a father here.
I mourned here.
It was my house. A lot of stories.”

- Billy Crystal

As Tom Selleck says in our “Your Home” television ad, houses are held together by nails and brick, but homes are made by the life the people within the walls give it. It’s about those “infinite memories” we create within them.

I’m sure we’re all creating amazing new memories wherever we call home now, but there’s something extra special about the homes we grew up in. Here’s to our childhoods, and the wonderful people in our lives that made growing up in our homes a joy.

Cheers.

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Manhattan Neighborhoods That Have It All

People don’t move to Manhattan because they crave uniformity. Manhattan is the wildly diverse cultural mecca that so many people dream of. The great thing about Manhattan neighborhoods is that they each have their own distinct style: Chelsea’s a little bit sassy but has a lot of flair, while Greenwich Village has always been the rebellious but much-loved wild child. Read on for the lowdown on three Manhattan neighborhoods with a healthy dose of what makes New York City fabulous.

Koreatown

If you’re not going to make it to Seoul this year, heading over to Koreatown (or K-Town) would make a terrific backup plan. More of a street than a town, this little stretch of 32nd Street between Broadway and Fifth in the heart of Midtown is a bustling mix of commercial buildings, small Korean businesses, and authentic Korean restaurants. Korean cuisine aficionados and wannabees alike can chow down on some spicy bibimbap or some galbitang at the ever-popular (and Gilt-approved) Miss Korea Sun restaurant, overseen by chef Sun Kyu Lee. Get coiffed at the Kim Young Sun salon, get eyelashes out to here from G-Lash, and get your groove on at the 5 Bar Karaoke Lounge. Sure, some of 5 Bar’s songs may have mismatched audio and video tracks, but the place is popular with the locals.

West Village

When it comes to rating Manhattan neighborhoods, it’s impossible to overstate the West Village’s role as cultural arbiter for the city. This slice of downtown Manhattan is a swirly-whirl mix of tiny, cobblestoned streets and commercial thoroughfares filled with creatives and hedge-fund-money types, with a close-knit sense of community that manages to keep it all feeling sane. Dreamers from Oshkosh to Rio flock to this idyllic part of town every day to replicate the stylish West Village lifestyle they’d seen captured so perfectly on shows like Friends and Sex and the City. The area’s beauty and style can almost be a little overwhelming, with the hushed, green beauty of streets like Bank Street intoxicating the senses and the hot-spot-filled Gansevoort Street beckoning with supermodels and swank hotels. Cuisine from every corner of the world can be sampled here, whether it’s New Zealand snapper sashimi from Jean-Georges’ Perry Street or fish tacos from Mary’s Fish Camp so good they’ll make Californians wave the fish taco white flag in defeat.

NoHo

NoHo (short for “north of Houston Street”) is an area that some would say is just as cool as, if not even a little bit cooler than, its more famous siblings, SoHo and Tribeca. If everyone around you looks like they’ve stepped out of a magazine — well, they probably have. Modeling agencies, advertising agencies, and tons of other creative businesses call NoHo home. This neighborhood’s also got culture in spades, with NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and the Joseph Papp Public Theater being just some of the area’s smartsy-artsy venues. Hungry? Head to Balthazar. Who cares if it’s considered touristy to order the streak frites and the onion soup? They’re delicious. Good luck getting a table, but if you’re willing to go there on at 11pm on a Friday night, it’ll be worth it. And if not, there are tons of other restaurants ready to quench your thirst and satiate your appetite. If loft living is your thing, NoHo’s your place — but you’ll find brand-new luxury high rises dotting the landscape here, too.

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Uptown Dallas Apartments: An Urban Lifestyle

Boasting multi-family homes, high-rise office buildings, and luxury apartment lofts, Uptown Dallas offers a live-work-play approach to urban living. Uptown Dallas apartments are often centered on common areas like greenbelts and parks, along with retail centers and restaurants. The area is home to some of the finest restaurants and pubs in DFW and is in close proximity to many of the area’s largest employers.

Situated just a few blocks from Downtown Dallas, the Uptown community is nestled between major highways and toll roads, including the I-75 corridor, Woodall Rodgers Freeway, and the beginning of Dallas North Tollway.

Uptown Dallas Apartments: Amenities and Features

Many of the area’s apartments are located in newly constructed or newly renovated high-rise buildings. These residences are conveniently located, whether you’re looking for easy access to business parks, retail, and the I-75 corridor, or you want something within walking distance of the Arts District for quick trips to the Dallas Museum of Art and the AT&T Performing Arts Center.

Offering impressive views of Dallas, some of the most popular luxury high-rises include resort-like accommodations, concierge services, and valet parking. For more traditional-style apartment living, Uptown boasts a number of three- and four-story complexes with community amenities like fitness centers, swimming pools, and outdoor grilling/picnic areas. Looking for a pet-friendly and eco-conscious community? You can find that in Uptown, too.

Public Transit and Sustainable Transportation in Uptown

The entire Uptown community is served by Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) bus lines, which offer routes throughout the city of Dallas and some of the outlying suburbs. Uptown is also within close proximity to the M-Line Trolley, which provides free transportation along McKinney Avenue — a major street that expands through the Uptown and Downtown areas.

Locals also have eco-friendly, sustainable transportation options such as bike paths, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and intersections, and (most recently) pedicab services. Dallas Pedicabs launched in 2011 with a mission to provide environmentally conscious transportation throughout the city. Pedicab drivers are available throughout Uptown and Downtown near restaurants, pubs, and nightclubs.

Uptown Dining and Entertainment

Locals and visitors enjoy an abundance of entertainment and dining opportunities. From ethnic eateries to fine dining establishments, Uptown offers something for everyone. Furthermore, the area’s location is perfect for fans of the fine arts because of Uptown’s numerous galleries, museums, and theaters. For a complete list of entertainment and dining options, along with information on houses of worship and community organizations, visit uptowndallas.net.

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Keep Cool with Easy Home Insulation Tips

When spring arrives in Philadelphia, it’s time to start thinking about how to keep cool as temperatures rise. If you live in an older home, weatherproofing for both hot and cold weather can be challenging and expensive, but there are many relatively easy, low-cost home insulation tips you can try first.

Plant Shade Trees

Shade trees not only add beauty to your yard — they can also block the sun’s rays during warm days and help your home maintain a cooler temperature. Strategically shading the area around your central air conditioning unit helps prevent overheating and allows the system to run more efficiently. According to PECO’s seasonal tips guide, a shaded air conditioner uses as much as 10 percent less electricity than one exposed to sun. If you’re unsure what to plant and where, a landscape designer can assist you.

Insulate Your Windows

When choosing window treatments, look for those with insulating properties. For example, double cellular shades block out a greater percentage of sun rays than single cells and may be worth the higher price. To maximize natural light while minimizing heat, window films or the newer low-e window coatings are great choices. Films block solar heat but are not typically insulating, while low-e coating provides some insulation properties for year-round efficiency.

Sealing is also important. Make sure windows close tightly. For larger openings around window frames, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers Guide recommends foam sealant (also known as foam-in-place insulation, available in small pressurized spray cans). In fact, your entire house may benefit from additional sealing to prevent air leaks. Caulk around cracks and small openings and install weather strips to seal around doorways.

Size Up Your Attic

Don’t overlook your attic: Warm or cold air circulating up there can drastically affect the temperature of the rest of the house. Invest in proper ventilation (such as attic fans to blow out hot air) and insulation. If you have a finished attic, make sure it’s properly sealed and insulated behind kneewalls.

Replace Your HVAC Filter

One of the easiest, most affordable home insulation tips is to replace your HVAC filter regularly. Replacement HVAC filters can cost less than $5 at home improvement stores, but changing them frequently removes clogged dirt from your air conditioning unit and allows the system to run more efficiently. Reusable HVAC filters are more expensive, but you can simply rinse them off, rather than throwing them out and buying new ones.

Generate Less Heat Indoors

Another way to keep your house cool when Philadelphia temperatures rise is to avoid using appliances that emit heat. Air dry dishes rather than running the dishwasher. Hang your laundry on drying racks or clotheslines instead of using your dryer. Grill outside rather than heating up your oven.

By following these home insulation tips, not only will you benefit from cooler interior temperatures during the hot summer months, you’ll also decrease your utility bills and overall energy consumption.

Image Source: Flickr/Orin Zebest

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Real Estate Headlines Featuring Y-Cube, Mistakes and Concrete Houses

Graduation season is here. Caps and gowns. Degrees and diplomas. Checks and more checks. Soon we will flock to backyards and homes across the country to celebrate the season of graduating from high school and college. As you sit there reflecting on your own glory days, here is your weekly dose of real estate headlines to start your week:

Our friends at Coldwell Banker Previews International take you inside some amazing mansions in Newport, Rhode Island.

Marketplace.org asks, where have all the first time home buyers gone?

A lot of people in India think the next 30 days are the best time to buy real estate.

What is Y-Cube Housing?

Here are 3 mistakes to avoid when buying a home.

A home in Philadelphia had an elaborate funeral now that the home has become abandoned.

Would you live in a concrete house if it meant your energy bill was $0?

Can access to affordable housing curb corruption in Nigeria?

And finally, I’m all in if the rumor is true that Apple is prepping a smart home platform for its upcoming developer conference.

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