Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Well, Hello, Cody Cloud and Julia Galdo!

Continuing with the theme of dynamic duos, I've had the happy fortune of stumbling across the amazing photography team of Cody Cloud and Julia Galdo based out of Santa Monica, California. If I had to use one word to describe their work it would be… crazy beautiful. Yes, that is one word in House of Slappy vernacular. You can see more of Galdo's work here and about how they roll here.

All of Cloud and Galdo's images have such an amazing and distinct point of view and a dreamy quality to them which make me wish I could just walk inside of the pictures, but what really struck me most were the interiors and colors...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dynamic Design Duo...and an Exciting Announcement!

With the phenomenal weather lately and my mind focused on getting out of town for some R&R this weekend, all I've been thinking about is bright, bold and vibrant colors. Coincidentally, I've been contemplating posting some of my favorite photos of amazing design duo Pal + Smith that I fell in love with a few short months ago and when I learned via Design Milk they've recently realeased a new line of furniture...I knew I had to get to typing.

Designers Melissa Palazzo and Toni Smith, of Pal + Smith, once again strike design gold with their debut collection of bright and bold pieces mixed with darker graphic takes on Baroque inspired furniture, which seem to be their signature style in interior design and now furniture design.

...and here is where my stalking, I mean, apprecation, began:

Ok, I know the faux leopard print coat and patent leather sandals 'casually' strewn across the bed is the result of a blatant attempt at styling, but come on - it's the perfect eye candy and goes great with the room, right?

Oh my gosh, this dining room feels so easy breezy beautiful. I just love the light color palette and that light fixture? Fuggedabout it!

...and how incredible is this living room? I absolutely love it.

Finally! Last but not least, I'm so excited to announce this Friday Jeff Kirk, proprietor of the one and only eponymously named Kirk Gallery, will be filling in as my first official guest blogger. This past weekend, Kirk served on a panel at the Blanton Museum of Art where he discussed modernism and how it relates to Austin and since I was not able to attend to report on it, he is doing me the honor of sharing his musings and the highlights here at House of Slappy.

If you've been living under a rock lately, Kirk Gallery is located in the 2nd Street District and showcases an stunning array of 20th-century vintage furniture and design-driven accessories. His gallery has been written about numerous times in Tribeza and Austin Monthly and is quickly becoming the go-to source for unique home furnishings and accessories among design enthusiasts. Although, Jeff - I have to know...why isn't the gold gnome which resulted in near white-elephant party bloodshed available for sale on your website?!?! I had the fortune of attending the gallery's opening in September 2008 and let me tell you, the bathroom alone is a conversation piece. Thanks Jeff, and we look forward to your visit this week!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Austin Energy Audits...How Green is Your Stylish Pad?

Earlier this week I attended a seminar regarding City of Austin ORDINANCE NO. 20081106-047, better known as Austin's new Energy Audit Ordinance and wanted to share some of the information I learned with you. The Energy Audit ordinance was signed into compliance in November 2008 and by June 1, 2009, will require "all residential properties within the city limits, 10 years or older, who receive services from the Austin Electric Utility and that are on the market for sale to have an energy audit completed by a certified auditor prior to the property being sold and closed", according to the Texas Green Energy Audits website.

The purpose of the new ordinance? The city wants to encourage Austin homeowners to voluntarily participate in energy efficiency programs through Austin Energy. “The goals of this program are to lower energy consumption by driving the market towards demanding higher standards of home energy efficiency. Reduced demand for electricity will benefit us all in the following ways; lower monthly bills; lower taxes because the City will not have to construct additional power plants and better air quality due to reduced CO2 emissions” says Susan Marler, founder of Energy Action.

It is important to note that there is still a lot of work going on behind the scenes up until June 1, 2009. A whole lot. Without getting too technical and boring you all to tears, the biggest challenge seems to be that currently, there are roughly 11,000 homes for sale listed on the MLS, not to mention the 388,000 customers
Austin Energy services. Granted, the latter figure does not comprise single homes entirely but also includes commercial buildings and multi-family dwellings such as apartment complexes and condos. Consider that there are just a fraction of those numbers of inspectors who belong to the Texas Association of Real Estate Inspectors (TARI), guess how many of them are actually BPI certified to audit this new energy compliance? Exactly.

So what did I take away from the seminar? Well - just generalize with me for a minute here - it seems this whole "change" thing always seems to get people up in arms. From what I gather, there has been a considerable amount of dialogue on this topic amongst the Austin Real Estate Salesperson and Austin Real Estate Inspector communities. No matter how you roll the dice, change just freaks some people out. There are people who learn about the change, accept it and embrace it. On the other hand, others are always going to see the glass as half empty no matter how much tea and organic Sugar in the Raw you put inside of it.

So what does this mean to you? According to Krisstina Wise from The Good Life Team, "for Sellers: This means that the cost of selling Austin homes after June 1st, 2009 will increase. You may also have a harder time selling your home if your energy audit report is unsatisfactory to prospective Buyers. The good news is that you will have a greater understanding of your home’s level of energy efficiency and you’ll be participating in a collective effort to lower Austin’s energy usage, create green jobs, and take better care of our environment.

Buyers: This means that after June 1st, 2009 the seller(s) of a non-exempt property within the city of Austin will be required to complete a mandatory energy audit and disclose the findings of that report to you prior to closing. This will offer you a better understanding of the home’s energy efficiency so that you can make a more informed buying decision.

Next steps?
Take action now before your home gets audited and improve your home’s energy efficiency for better audit results. For example, air seal and insulate your home, improve your heating and cooling efficiency, and when replacing appliances choose energy star appliances.
Participate in one of Austin Energy’s designated utility programs and you may be exempt from the mandatory audit.

Contact Energy Action today for more information or to schedule your energy audit online. They give 25% of their annual profits to local charities."

Honestly, I think a lot of the controversy regarding this energy ordinance has to do with the fact that few facts and details are known. How often will the sophisticated equipment need to be calibrated in order to remain accurate? What happens when a house is scheduled to close on a Thursday and a certified energy auditor is not available until the following Wednesday? (Keep in mind, too, that this energy audit is completely separate from a regular house inspection.) Will every single unit in a condo or an apartment be required to undergo an audit or will just a sample of a few units be sufficient? And most importantly, how will the findings of the audit influence what upgrades the Buyers will want or expect to be covered by the Seller before they sign the sales contract? The repairs are going to be called ‘upgrades’ or something similar with the idea being the value that will be gained once the upgrade is performed. There is still a lot to learn and as new information is released I feel it will alleviate a lot of worries and concern.

Being a Libra and therefore very diplomatic, I see both sides of the argument as to why this is and is not a good idea. First, there is the concern over “Who are they to tell me what I can and can’t do with MY property?” Then there is the concern of, “What? I’m required to do yet another thing before I can sell my house? Are you kidding me?” I get it.

However, all of this hoopla boils down to these main two things. First and foremost, 30% of our (and your) energy bill goes to heat and cool the attic unless you've done something to improve it, this is huge cause for concern in my opinion. Early on I learned from my Science/Gym Teacher that energy cannot be created nor destroyed. I’m not best buds with Mr. Bernacke, but I do know according to the law of supply and demand, the scarcer something is, the more expensive it becomes. All of the energy in Austin which is currently being wasted due to improper insulation and outdated systems creates a surplus of energy and since it cannot be recreated or mass-produced to bring the cost down, it is eventually going to cost everyone a lot more money unless we take steps now to fix this problem.

Depending on how you look it, yes – an energy audit is an additional expense (expected to cost somewhere in the range of $200-$400 depending on the size of the house) and an extra step (which typically takes about 1 hour per square foot) a seller needs to take before selling their home. Just as with a Seller's Disclosure Notice which is required of the seller to complete regarding the condition of their home, the energy audit report will simply be a disclosure summary for how efficient or inefficient a home is before the contract is executed - and the sale will not close unless the title company has a record of the audit. Contrary to popular belief, the home does not have to receive a 'Pass' or meet a minimum score in order to be sold. In addition, the 'upgrades' do not even have to be completed in order for the house to be sold; audit simply needs to be performed. At this time I do not know how long the upgrades need to be completed after having the audit performed.

Stay tuned, I’ll post more new information in the near future

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hyde Park Haven

I really, really love this time of year. Can someone please tell me what there is not to love about Spring? First of all, you don't need an oven glove to put your car key in the ignition - much less open your car door, you don't have that embarassing leg sweat when you are sitting on a plastic patio chair with your legs crossed at an outdoor cocktail party and best of all, Mother Nature gives free A.C!

Case in point, this charming and serene home in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Austin, Texas which was showcased in a Summer 2008 edition of Austin Monthly Home. I fell in love with this home the first time I saw it and feel it depicts Spring beautifully. I've been holding onto it dearly in my manilla folder fun bag ever since I layed eyes on it. All photos are by the uber-talented Ryann Ford - who, as Jill from The Real Housewives of New York would say, "I just died" when I saw her work, so be sure to take a look at her stunning portfolio.

Now this is what I call indoor/outdoor living!

Personally, I think I would have been too afraid to combine these bad-ass flourescent chairs with an orange table but with this beautiful flower arrangement, everything just works, especially with a neutral interior with light floors and a nude brick fireplace.

There's my cute little table and chairs saying hello to me from afar. Sometimes you feel like dining al fresco, sometimes you don't.

Okay. I have to get something of the way. I really dislike those barstools. I can appreciate what is attempted to be accomplished here, but they are way too match-y match-y, don't you think?? Why not just some simple and minimalist metal wire stools or if you really want to get zany with contrast...natural wood. Ahhh, I feel better now. Moving forward, I do love me some white kitchen - especially with subtle pops of bright bold color.

Every so often on Sunday afternoons I love to open all windows in the bedroom and curl up with my cats, a good book which I've attempted to get past the second chapter a million times before falling asleep and a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc. I love to listen to the birds and relish the fact we are no longer living in Washington, D.C. but rather in our homestead in good ol' Austin, Texas. If this were real life in my world, on the other hand, I would be praying my neighbors weren't staring at me in my PJ pants and that would probably be a Mimosa by the bedside. I'm just sayin'...

Remember what I said above with regards to all-white kitchens with bright bold spalshes of color? I love the same thing about bathrooms.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Is this Heaven?

It is not, my friends, but very close...it is Trendir, the most fresh and spectacular modern design and decorating website I have encountered in a really loooooong time.

Look! An indoor lap pool with pretty colors.

One dreamy living area, coming right up! I love everything about this space - the sprawling open-ness, the spiral staircase, ahhh...the red patio chair on the right has my name all over it.

Is it just me or does this bathroom look like it could belong to Lenny Kravitz? I'm so digging the paisley wallpaper, vanity mirror and laquered walls! It just looks so cozy and relaxing this could quite possibly be my lady cave.

What do we have here? Hmmmm? I have to admit I really dislike the shell-fish inspired sinks and the tacky mirror frames, but this is where we get to use our imagination and visualize something way cooler...such as two Francois Ghost Mirrors by Philippe Stark in black and equally hip sinks. What really got me in this photo, though, are those gorgeous white sink stands juxtaposed against the deep plum wall and floors. Are those crystals I see on the sink stands? Ka-ching!

Awwww, yeah. Not only are these tufted leather babies quite lovley, I'm sure my cats wouldn't jump on them in a heartbeat to make biscuits. Yeah, right!

First-Time Home Buyer Credit Information

A lot of information has been circulated over the past few months regarding President Obama's stimulus package with regards to housing. Many people are aware there is a tax credit of up to $8,000 but what about all of the other nitty gritty details? What does this all mean? The article below, by Jonathan Boatwright of Realty Austin, is a great summary of everything you need to know if you are interested in purchasing your first home between now and December 1, 2009.

First-Time Home buyer Credit of Up to $8,000
Qualified first-time home buyers who purchase a home in 2009 before December 1, 2009 will receive a tax credit of up to 10% of the purchase price (up to $8,000). Home buyers can claim the credit on their income taxes and receive money back in excess of taxes. For example, if you are owed a refund of $1,000, you could now receive up to $9,000 back.

Program details:

  • The credit does not have to be repaid, provided the home is owned for more than three years.
  • To be considered a first-time home buyer, the purchaser (and spouse) must not have owned a home for three years prior to home purchase.
  • The home must be the purchaser’s primary residence; only single family homes qualify.
  • Full credit will be issued to individuals with an adjusted gross income of no more than $75,000 ($150,000 on a joint return). Individuals with incomes over $95,000 ($170,000 on a joint return) will not receive the credit.
  • The new credit may be combined with state/local revenue bond money to help finance the home purchase.

Tax Credit for Energy Efficient Home Improvements:
The tax credit is now 30% of the cost of the improvements (up to $1,500). Eligible improvements include insulation, central A/C units, heat pumps, water heaters and energy efficient exterior doors and windows.

FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Loan Limits:
The new law reinstates 2008’s loan limits for FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac through December 31, 2009. The limits were equal to the greater of 125% of the local area median home price, or $271,050 for FHA and $417,000 for Fannie and Freddie (overall maximum cap of $729,750). In some areas where the limits were higher, the higher limits will apply.

Tax Relief and Benefits for Families:
A payroll tax credit will provide up to $400 per worker ($800 per couple filing jointly). The credit phases out at $200,000 for couples filing jointly and $100,000 for single taxpayers.

  • A new (partially refundable) tax credit offers a maximum of $2,500 toward college tuition and related expenses for 2009 and 2010.
  • Unemployed Americans can now claim up to 33 weeks of benefits through December 2009. Benefits will be increased by $25 a week, while the first $2,400 received will be exempt from federal taxes.
  • Laid-off workers who buy into their former employer’s health insurance through the COBRA program will receive a 65% subsidy on premiums for up to nine months.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Rise of the Sunken Living Room!

Although I don't know how accurate of a statement 'The Rise of the Sunken Living Room' truly is of making their big comebacks, what I do know about sunken living rooms is that I love them, have always loved them and really, really hope to see more of them in the near future. Regrettably, the resurgence ain't happening in MY living room. Let's take a step back in time for a brief second, kids...

I'm not sure what is going on here, folks, but if that really is a small cloud of smoke billowing under that paper lantern, I'll just say momma didn't raise a math whiz but I do know 4+4= good times on that floor. And don't try to tell me it's insence, either. I respect the elements of nature going on in this photo but it's a little too claustrophobic for my liking.

Ahhhh, Hello 2009! Much better. Although I do love the clean lines and open-ness of what we have going on here, I'm not sure marble floors, sharp edges and margarita parties go hand in hand. Furthermore, let's not forget the pefectly symmetrical and perfectly slippery wet pool that's beckoning my friends and I in the back yard. Next!

Indeed. We're getting warmer, kids. Non-slip surface? Check. Softer edges? Check. Me like-y but it's still missing a little somethin' somethin'...

Wait, what do we have here? Oh, we're in one of Jade Jagger's sunken rooms in Ibiza, are we? Sorry, I meant...I-bi-tha. Oooh, me really like-y this one. And it's a circular sunken room to boot!!! Not only with cushy seating, but a tufted chaise lounge, Roman shades, slick white painted foors AND a fireplace?? Woa.

Well this is a formidable little living room, isn't it? But let's just say, hypothetically, that one came home to this living room from spending a fabulous weekend with Jade in her loveley home in I-bi-tha after having copious amounts of Ouzo...hypothetically. How could one comfortably lay down with an amazingly cushiony down pillow and a bottle of Topo Chico and bitters to watch a Million Dollar Listing marathon? My point exactly!

Now we're talking!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hotel Saint Cecilia

I can't think of a better way to celebrate my very first post than by sharing these amazing photographs by Jackie Caradonio she took of one of Austin's newest and in my opinion, most bad-ass hotels, Hotel Saint Cecilia, located on South Congress Avenue. Let's begin at the pool, shall we?