Avoid These 4 Design Mistakes in Your New Home

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So you just bought the prettiest home on the block and you’re moving in and getting settled? Congrats! Now it’s time for the best part … the decorating!

It’s the furniture and home decor that really brings a space to life and tells the story of the people who live there.

4 Design No-Nos We See All The Time

But there are some big design no-nos that we see a lot of people make in their new homes. Even if you just bought the most beautiful house, you can instantly bring it down a notch if you commit any of the following 4 design mistakes.

Don’t worry, all of these have easy fixes (and we even included pretty pictures of the right way to do it!), giving you have a clear visual for avoiding these commonly made mistakes.

1. The “Too-Small-Rug”

Bigger is always better when it comes to rugs!

This design mistake just might be the most common one we ever see: the “too-small-rug”. If you’ve purchased a 5-by-8 or 6-by-9 rug in your lifetime, chances are it was not the correct size for your room.

And we get it, large rugs can be expensive. But using an 8-by-10 or 9-by-12 rug in your room is going to make your space look much, much more high-end.

To make your rug shopping a bit easier, here are the design rules you can follow to ensure you buy the correct size.

  • In a family room, find a rug that is large enough for the front legs of all the furniture to sit on the rug. Even better if all pieces of furniture can rest on top of the rug!
  • Avoid the “floating” rug look when a rug is just sitting in front of a sofa.
  • In dining rooms, rugs should be large enough to fit all chairs (even when they are pulled out) on the rug. This means at least 24-36 inches out from the table.
  • In the bedroom, your rug should extend 18-24 inches on each side of your bed. If you have a queen size bed, an 8×10 should work. If you have a king size bed, try a 9-by-12 rug.

For more tips buying the perfect rug, check out this blog post.

2. The Matching Bedroom Set

So you just moved into a new home and you need furniture, stat! Why not head over to the discount furniture and buy an entire bedroom set for a low low price?

Eek … please don’t do that. Yes, it may sound like a good deal, but we promise you can create a good looking bedroom (on a budget!) without going the matchy-matchy route.

And don’t get us wrong, having some matching furniture is not a bad thing. But you probably don’t want your loveseat, couch, coffee table, and side table to all match. Some of them can match to keep a cohesive look, but if everything is the exact same, you’re going to end up with a cookie-cutter look that lacks personality.

Completely matching rooms you buy as a package are very out of vogue.

Take this bedroom above, for example. It has an upholstered headboard, a leather bench, white nightstands, and a wood dresser. This creates an interesting and layered look!

If you do have matching furniture all over your house, we’re certainly not telling you to get rid of everything. Instead, think about moving things around. Bring a dresser from one room into another or swap your night stands.

You just might love all of your gorgeous furniture a bit more when it doesn’t get lost in a sea of it all being too samey.

3. The Flooded Curtains

Hanging window treatments is an intimidating task. Of course, their main objective is to be functional, but you also want them to look good. And let us tell you, most people are hanging their curtains all wrong!

High and wide. Repeat after us: high and wide. (Check out the image above.)

That’s generally how you need to hang your curtains. Many people opt to install their curtain rod directly above the window and a couple of inches outside of it, which isn’t doing your home any favors. Why? Curtains are the key to making your ceilings appear much taller and the room bigger.

Here are things to consider when hanging.

  • Mount the rod up to a foot on the outside of the window. This allows the curtains to drape down without interfering with the light when they’re open.
  • Hang your rod almost to the ceiling. Go about 4-6 inches below the ceiling and that’s how high they should be.
  • Once you have your curtain rod hung, you can figure out how tall your curtains should be. You will probably have to purchase XL curtains. They’re harder to find, but they’re out there (IKEA sells them on a budget!).
  • Your curtains should “kiss” the floor or you can have them puddle (about 1-2 inches longer than the floor). Make sure your curtains are not too short! For no-sew hemming tips, check out this blog post.

4. The “Too-High-Art”

When you’ve just moved in, you probably have a lot to hang on your walls to really make it feel like home. But please read these tips first. Most people hang art way too high! The last thing you want is for your guests to have to crane their necks to see your gorgeous pieces. 

Follow these tips for perfect hanging every time.

  • Don’t go with eye level (if you’re tall, that will make things way too high!). Instead, the center of your piece should be 57-60 inches off the ground.
  • When hanging a gallery wall, think of the entire collection as one piece of art. Therefore, the very top and bottom shouldn’t be hung too high or too low.
  • When hanging above a couch or dresser, go 4-8 inches above the piece of furniture. If you go higher than that, it will look disjointed.
  • For gallery walls, 2-3 inches in between pieces is plenty! No more than that. If you’re nervous about hanging a gallery wall, check out this foolproof way to do it!

Believe in us and avoid these design mistakes whenever possible. With the right furniture, art placement, curtains and rugs, you are well on your way to a great looking new home!

Why Art Handlers Are Starting to Demand More Rights

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Movers and art handlers are somewhat similar but very different.

As movers, we all face the occasional big challenge, some in the form of carrying something heavy, huge, fragile, crazy-expensive, or maybe all of the above. My personal recurring nightmares involve a baby grand piano that had to be lifted by crane from a third-story balcony and a chandelier that, in the words of the customer, “Cost more than your truck.”

Two things made tackling such challenges bearable: they don’t come by every day, and two, if the worst should happen, these items could ultimately be repaired or replaced. 

For our art handling colleagues, neither of these is the case.

Art handlers work for individuals, private entities and publicly-funded institutions, usually museums. What that name doesn’t suggest is all the associated tasks that come with moving one or five or five hundred pieces of art onto and off of a truck; Routine art handling tasks include things like removal and installation, tons of paperwork, patching and painting walls, working with electrical and electronic equipment and building custom crates.

“Sounds cool,” you say?

Maybe. Maybe not. As art handler Chris Kasper says in his influential 2011 Open Letter to Labor Servicing the Culture Industry, whether you are freelancing or full-time, being an art handler involves the constant threat of losing one’s job if any mistakes are made or if you show any hesitation to accommodate what is expected.

In other words, working for high-flaunting, high society buyers and sellers of art can come with its own nightmares.

“Doesn’t that go against some kind of labor law,” you might ask?

The Life of the Art Handler

Sure, we can manage that baby grand or that chandelier, maybe even slap together a few crates for a customer’s prize wall hangings if we really need to. Moving art, however, is a totally different trade. It requires intimate knowledge of floorplans, authentification, documentation of things being touched, and much more.

As we see in New Zealand, moving art can take a lot more than our common sense and an ability to keep count of things.

“We had to enlist the expertise of specialists…”

The Bath House of Rotorua, on New Zealand’s north island, was built to take advantage of the geothermal hot springs that bubble and boil beneath the surface of the land. Unfortunately, besides hot springs, this subterranean activity also includes earthquakes, making renovations necessary to preserve this 109-year-old building. Today, this historic structure today houses the Rotorua Museum, and some of the bath house’s original décor remains, including ten statues made of Italian marble. The heaviest one weighed around two tons – a bit much for even the sturdiest of hand trucks.

How did they get all that moved?

As the Waikato Times explains, “specialist sculpture and artwork moving company Rich Riggers from Auckland were contracted to assess the weight and dimensions of each sculpture and to determine the most appropriate machinery to move each one, based on maximum loading in that area.” But this is just one aspect of a successful art move. Engineering specialists had to also come in to evaluate the building’s capacity to withstand the weight of these statues as they moved over the floors.

Expert art conservators put together detailed plans for the extraction and crating process for each statue, then builders spent several weeks making these custom crates and preparing the floor for move day.

In the end, we are told, the job went off “without any hitches.”

We assume, then, statues weren’t tied up in the back of a U-Haul or placed on top of any freight elevators.

We’re also guessing that, with all their methods and machinery, the Rich Riggers company has a group of skilled people, trained to get the job done right. Considering Mr. Kasper’s claim that art handlers in New York can lose their jobs for making even one mistake, these people need to be pros at what they do as well.

Pros That Can Be Fired for Any Reason – or None at All

The crux of Kasper’s open letter, through all the colorful examples of what it’s like to be standing on the bottom rungs of the art world ladder, was the sad reality of laboring in the culture industry. Despite high levels of expertise, art handlers are often paid by the gig. You scraped and scrambled for work. You put in long, arduous days. You got treated like a sub-human by the wealthy and you took it and kept going because you didn’t want to do anything to lose what work you could find.

Some art handlers, Kasper explains, are often aspiring artists, slaving away as a mover in the art world to pay for a roof and some food until they can make a living off their own creative work. Others, however, simply find themselves in the trade for good, making a career as an art handler because that’s what they’ve come to know.

A few find full-time employment, while others spent years playing the freelance game. But they all have one thing in common: they were at the absolute mercy of their employers. Employers who, without running afoul of any employment laws, can technically pay them whatever minimum wage the state had set while offering little or nothing in terms of health benefits, sick leave or severance.

Ironically, the art handlers themselves play some part in all of this since, as Kasper described it,

“Everyone needed the job they had. Everyone had to hustle and struggle to get it, and they were all aware of how many people were hustling and struggling, waiting to move into their spot.”

Kasper knew exactly what was happening. He also knew what had to be done.

A Movement for Art Handlers to Unionize

In 2011, this seemed like a far-off reality, if not an outright dream. But Kasper wasn’t the only one with his mind on a union for the laborers of the culture industry.

Another art handler, Neal Vandenburg, found himself in the same tough spot in Chicago in 2014. The Creative Arts Advocate spoke of a familiar story:

“As an art handler, (Vandenburg) moved and installed art pieces into homes or other spaces, working demanding hours with no employment contract to protect him. He could be fired at any time for any reason, and he had no severance benefits if something happened. Yet his employers, whom he says he has a good personal relationship with, weren’t technically breaking any labor laws, or violating any OSHA regulations.”

Vandenburg, who holds a Master’s in Fine Arts from the University of Illinois, was working as an art handler for the Chicago art handling company Mana-Terry Dowd when he found himself suddenly spearheading a unionization effort. “I think we found ourselves in a place where (the) law doesn’t properly represent us or our interests as individuals in the workforce,” he states.

Unfortunately, the management at Mana-Terry Dowd didn’t like this union idea one bit and told their union-minded employees that there would be “repercussions” from forming a union. This, not surprisingly, landed Mana-Terry in a bit of legal hot water as their actions were clearly in violation of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.

Vandenburg and his art-moving colleagues were able to improve their collective professional lot through their subsequent unionization. But as a general practice is the concept ready to take off?

In 2010-11, a group of art handlers protested their treatment by the New York auction house Sotheby’s. This led to New York Teamsters Local 814 to successfully demand that organized labor be used to construct the venue for the 2014 edition of the Frieze art fair. But only in the last year have art handlers in New York begun to enjoy the benefits of being part of a union, in large part through the efforts of Hazel Molina, owner of a small art handling firm, and the Art Handlers Alliance of New York (AHA-NY).

The Unionization Process Plods Along

This goes for the moving industry as well. Just last year employees for a moving and storage company in Skokie, Ill. won their first-ever union contract after allegedly suffering a variety of abuses at the hands of their employer. A few Boston moving companies have joined forces with the Teamsters Local 25, and of course, the Teamsters of New York’s Local 814 continue to represent members of our industry there.

Sadly, unionization and the work of the Teamsters can be a detriment to some. This HireAHelper post from April 2016 lays out the story of the Teamsters trying to block non-union moving companies from getting certain jobs – or any jobs – in New York City.

The road to fair and equal employment can be riddled with potholes. But really, if you treat your employees right you can avoid those obstacles and keep rolling forward.

Prioritize These Things for Your Rental, They’ll Be Following You to Your Future Home

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We often get questions from readers who are renters and they’re ready to upgrade their hand-me-down furniture pieces for “grown-up” ones. They’re usually hesitant to spend too much money out of fear that it won’t fit or go with the look of their next home.

While we don’t suggest that everyone go out and buy a ginormous sectional, there really are pieces you can buy now! Here are home decor items that you can (and should) invest in now, because they’ll most likely be able to find a place in your next pad. (more…)

The Man Who Paints With Packing Tape

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Scour the internet long enough and you’ll feel like there’s nothing you haven’t already seen. And yet, there’s always something that comes along that makes you throw your arms up in disbelief. So with that in mind, let’s meet the latest from that arm-throwing tradition.

(more…)

Packing an Oil Painting: Slick Tips

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[Synopsis: Packing higher-end art calls for special materials and top-notch techniques.]

We come across large picture frames and mirrors often enough to know how to pack them. Wrap them in newsprint – or better yet, large sheets of kraft paper or that brown paper the big guys always have on hand. Grab a mirror carton or custom-size a box and pack the corners with packing paper and tape it up well.

Nothing to it, right?

But the day may come (if it hasn’t already) when we come face to face with an oil painting. We may use the same brown paper process and come away unscathed, but there are a few tips and tricks we can employ to keep that piece of art in prime shape, maybe even impressing our customer in the process.

Our Weapons of Choice

For the specialized packing we are about to attack upon we’ll need a few things we might not normally have on hand:

  • Bubble wrap
  • A mini roll of plastic wrap (on a handy-dandy dispenser)
  • A locking tape measure
  • Some large sheets of foam board
  • A knife to cut them to size

For that ultimate professional touch, we’ll arm ourselves with a couple of new weapons, namely artist tape and a type of water-resistant, grease-resistant paper called Glassine. And, as the guys in the following two videos prove, the ability to wield a tape gun can really come in handy.

Food For Thought: Video #1

In this first videoour host tackles his oil painting pack job by using foam board and a mini roll of shrink wrap to make what he calls a painting sandwich. Pretty slick, ay? (Start at the 2:35 mark. It goes to about 3:50.)

Note: Our painting sandwich maker uses peanuts for protection – and makes a decent mess of things. We suggest sticking with packing paper.

Mega-Supplies: Video #2

The host of our second video is a real stickler for protection. But so are his customers. First, he breaks out his Glassine at about the 1:23 mark. To keep it in place he uses artist tape rather than packing tape or even masking tape. Watch from the 1:43 mark to hear the (probably obvious) reasons why.

Done with the Glassine, he turns to his massive stash of bubble wrap, keeping the flat side against the surface of the painting. And he uses PLENTY of the stuff, in two different bubble sizes! We may not need to go nearly as crazy – unless our customers want us to. Ask them ahead of time.

For glass frameworks of art, our hero puts strips of artist tape right on the glass, to prevent damage to the art should the glass crack or break in transit.

Finally, at about 14:50 he talks about putting cardboard corners on before the bubble wrap. He also ensures the safety of the piece by placing a piece of cardboard over the front/glass side.

Note: He does admit that not all of us will have mountains of the stuff on hand, and suggests at the 6:25 mark using sheets of Styrofoam. Again, this is an option – but so is our packing paper.

Wrapping Up

We may or may not encounter a customer with fine artwork. But they do exist, and what if those people are looking for someone who knows how to handle their oil paintings or other expensive paintings? If you have that skill on your list of offered services, you may just get the call over someone else.

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