Making Sound Decisions

It is strangely satisfying to be served a sandwich on a slab of stone. A chunk of slate. The nature-lover in me rejoices!

Friends were in from out of town and I met them at Blue Dahlia Bistro in Westlake. I did enjoy my egg salad tartine on homemade bread served on a rock, but this is not going to be a post about food. This is a post about the features of designing a room with conversation in mind.

Here is the owner of Blue Dahlia, Amy, who was serving customers alongside a multitude of completely professional waitstaff and a trainee.

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You see those brown cushions hanging from the ceiling above Amy’s head? Those baffles are for sound absorption. She said that before those were installed and the art canvases hung, you couldn’t carry on a conversation across the table, because of the noise.

How does this relate to your home? Popcorn ceilings.

Did you know that the main reason popcorn ceilings were invented in the 40’s was because of their sound-absorptive qualities? Because echoes get trapped in the lumps and bumps of the ceiling surface, they don’t get reflected back down to the original source; YOU. The more sound-absorptive surfaces there are in a room, including a lumpy-bumpy ceiling, heavy draperies, upholstered furniture, paintings, books, and shaggy carpets, the more muted is the ambient noise level. And the easier it is to carry on conversation without shouting.

Now, in a restaurant, it is important for patrons to be able to converse with their companions, but it is also important to have enough noise in the room so that eaves-dropping becomes more difficult. Think about how creepy it is to carry on a conversation with your table mates, yet realize that every stranger in the room can hear what you say. Yeah, that’s the environment restauranteurs like to avoid creating.

You have a similar challenge in your own home. Clean lines and hard surfaces are stylish for a variety of reasons, including cleanliness and its close relative, allergy-avoidance, but the homeowner has to solve the problem of overly-live rooms in which echoes prevail, making normal conversation a trial. Also, when you have a party in your home, your guests really don’t want to feel that everyone in the room can hear everything they say at all times, so you want just the right amount of ambient noise to make conversation more private.

Some solutions are using window draperies, embracing upholstery, or at least, lots of sofa cushions, and putting area rugs on the floor. Of course, if you have pets like we do, the area rugs can get dirty quickly, so maybe that’s out of the question for you. We are starting to solve our own domestic echo-chamber problem by planning lots of built-in bookshelves and open cabinets to break up the hard walls into lots of little sound-trapping cubbyholes of space.

I am even starting to see drapery walls come back in bedrooms, if you can believe Pinterest. You know those walls that are hung ceiling-to-floor in a curtain for coziness and elegance? That would make a quiet room, for sure.

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View from Westbank Drive

Thanks for the great lunch and the amazing service, Blue Dahlia Bistro, and a big thanks for the lesson in sound planning!

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It snowed overnight in Texas! Here is my back yard view at dawn’s early light.

You need me to help you sell your home? I am at 512-970-9121. You have a real estate question? I am at 512-970-9121. Also, if you want my search app for your phone which updates from the local multiple listing service every 12 minutes, you can download it: Lynn’s mobile search app

It’s For the Birds

So, in the pursuit of a more perfect Xmas present, I visited our new Dripping Springs version of Wild Birds Unlimited. It’s super-easy for me because it shares a parking lot with our Keller Williams office.

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I talked with Manuel and Anna Peña, the owners, and shortly we were joined by their daughter, Amanda, and her daughter.

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Anna is a retired pharmacist and she and Manuel are truly nature-lovers, so they are glad they opened this franchise of Wild Birds Unlimited in September. Amanda is their manager.

As you can see, they have really squirrel-proof bird feeders. They have all kinds of seed formulated for the central Texas birdies. They have various sizes of locally-made wind chimes tuned to a pentatonic chord. They have more styles of bird feeders than you even knew existed, including the kind that suction-cups onto window glass; perfect for bird-viewing by your grandma, your toddler, and your pets. They can repair their sturdy squirrel-proof bird feeder, should a gorilla take hold of it. You can also find books, cards, and attractive gift items here.

The Peñas have enjoyed getting to know customers from Driftwood, Buda, Wimberley, Dripping Springs, Johnson City, and Blanco- people who not only enjoy birds, but appreciate conserving the natural world. If this sounds like you, stop by the store on 290, right in the heart of town.

 

Cat Client

I enjoy talking with clients and future clients about their pets and the process of moving. For many people, the pets are an afterthought, but for me, they are an integral part of your family. Their comfort has a direct impact on your comfort, that’s for sure!

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For cat’s moving day, I recommend a healthy dose of either cat pheromone spray (happy spray) on their cat carrier and bedding, or a few sprays of catnip on the same. Both of these are available at any pet supply, and you might want to think about using them on a regular basis for stressful times in the life of your cat.

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Today is moving day for this happy client. She has discovered stairs and I think she is gonna love them. Cats are so satisfied with themselves when they can race up and down carpeted stairs at top speed. And these stairs change direction at the landing- even better!

Her service-human will close the cat and her litter box and bedding securely in the bathroom when the moving truck arrives.

Christmas Shopping in a Lil’ Town

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Fresh Native is an extremely charming old house-turned-boutique on Ranch Road 12. People who are 20 definitely shop here, but so does my mom.

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Starrs on Mercer is also a great place for men and women, as well as folks who need clothing to wear to Dripping Springs Tigers games. Lots of jewelry and accessories, and locally-sourced cleverness here. Also, if you have eaten more party foods than you might have intended, the sisters can cover you in style.

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Lone Star Gifts has been around for more than a decade (The building has been here since the 1800’s) and the owner says she has a three-year waiting list for new vendors in the booths. It’ll take you awhile to browse this place.

Food and Atmosphere

Really, I just needed to show you one of Dripping Springs’ favorite destinations. It’s Thyme and Dough, for short, and it is perfect for breakfast and lunch and mid-morning snack and catered events. And sometimes, for evening music and dining.

All the cool people go here, as well as many of us who are not cool. I am almost chewing on my pencil just thinking about the croissants.

Interior Color

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Paint color trends from The Spruce

The photo above is one of the photos used in the linked article above. The deep color on the walls looks luxurious, but is not overwhelming because of the white rug, trim, furniture, and ample natural light falling on the room.

Two personal stories for you:

  1. When we had three young children at home, I was always dreaming up ways of making our home more appealing (to me), and more usable for the family. After adding on a master bedroom and doing a lot of the work ourselves, we were down to the wall-painting part of the deal. I had chosen what I call “1940’s lawn furniture green”, which was a rich color. The room could support it, though, because it was lined with windows and plenty of white woodwork. I was standing in the other end of the house when I heard our eldest daughter say, “Daddy, why are you painting the room that color?” I laughed at my husband’s serious answer, “Because your mother went to art school.”
  2. Years later, different house. I had been contemplating our front room/entry hall for some time. I think it was designed to be a living room, but it was quite small for a home that was 4000 square feet. We used it for various purposes throughout our years in that home, and at this point, it was an office, with a cherry-finished L-shaped desk and credenza. I needed some excitement in that room, so one day when my husband came home from the office, I said, “Can you help me move this desk, please? I have decided to paint this wall purple.” And you know what he said? “Let me go get a phillips screwdriver to take apart the desk.” That was all!  By the way, in that same house, we went through 5 different paint colors in the dining room, including mustard yellow, before my friend landed on a soft green for us.

What paint stories do you have?

 

Number

Mark Sprague, of Independence Title in Texas, forecasts that the cost of labor will rise as much as 25% in the next year or so. Let’s think about it: the entire Texas coast and inland for 75 miles or more, was damaged/destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. All those homes and buildings need repair and replacement. That requires lots and lots of workers, right? More need for workers= rise in wages to lure those workers to the task at hand. This also means that more people will have money to buy stuff. Perhaps goods and services that you and I provide?

Already, the cost of building a new house is rising because of labor cost. I am thinking that if you, or someone you know, were planning to buy a new home anyway, now is the time.

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Kitchen in a Lennar home that a client and I were looking at this weekend.