Interior design and life lessons learned in 2020 – Lake County Record-Bee - Jonathan Cartu Industrial & Residential Real Estate Firm
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Interior design and life lessons learned in 2020 – Lake County Record-Bee

Interior design and life lessons learned in 2020 – Lake County Record-Bee

Normally at this time of year — and what a year this has been — we reflect back on what we’ve learned on our journey toward better living. So here are my top takeaways from 2020:

In January, sick of the mud our three dogs kept tracking in from the yard where the lawn wouldn’t grow, because the trees were overgrown, my husband and I got professional help.

Lesson: Don’t ignore your yard. In the past, I’ve always prioritized interior design over outdoor. I now believe that is a mistake.

In February, we opened our door to a stranger. A family friend asked if we had a spare room to house a student, Jessica, who needed a place to stay for 12 weeks while she completed her last internship on the way to getting her doctorate in physical therapy.

Lesson: Believe in humanity. If you can be a port in a storm or a temporary haven for someone in transition, open your door. Your heart might open up, too.

In March, I reconnected with the ideas of the late architect and designer Michael Graves by previewing a line of 100 new kitchen items, from cookware to canister, as his namesake design firm, Michael Graves Design, rolled them out.

Lesson: I rediscovered how applicable the Graves method is when confronting any creative act. Whether approaching a recipe, a room or a relationship — or in Graves’ case, a city library or a toaster — ask how can I make it a better experience?

In April, we hunkered in place, beginning a chapter of unknown length and unfathomable darkness.

Lesson: I found a new appreciation for my home. When the world is a troubled place, our homes are where we turn for support, comfort, safety and now just about everything else.

In May, DC and I engaged in the great pool debate. The landscape design for our yard came in two versions, with pool and without. We had to choose.

The cost of putting in a pool, plus maintenance, heating, insurance and repairs over 10 years, divided by 20 swims a year, came down to $400 a dip. No number of poolside margaritas would help me wash that down.

Lesson: The most cost-effective way to get a pool is to buy a house that has one.

In June, I met a young couple who put a new spin on the tiny house trend. Motivated by the desire to own their home outright and travel with ease, Hannah and Ian Hernandez bought a school bus and converted it into a tiny house, or “skoolie” as they’re called by a growing group of bus converters.

Lesson: “Living small doesn’t mean doing without,” Hannah said. “It means forcing yourself to look at everything you own and asking whether it can serve more than one purpose.” Regardless of the size of your space, that’s a good mantra for all of us.

In July, I downsized the family jewels with the help of a jewelry expert who works with clients in their homes. I wanted to streamline my jewelry collection, to keep what I loved and cash in or donate what I didn’t, but I had little idea what anything was worth.

Lesson: Like most of our belongings, jewelry isn’t usually worth what we think it is.

In August, when the nights were so hot, we slept like starfish. So I went looking for ways to make a cool bed for summer nights.

Lesson: Come summer, we need to change more than our thermostat. If your bed in August is the same as it is in January, lighten up.

In September, I fell into a no-win situation. My stepson and his wife had bought a new house, and needed to sell their current place, which was, candidly, a cluttered, toys-everywhere mess.

The transformed house sold the first day on the market for full price to the first buyer who saw it.

Lesson: Showing beats telling. Although the quick sale was rewarding, far more gratifying were the texts and comments from the kids.

In October, just when I thought I’d seen it all, I came across the King-of-Beers condo. When his condo went on the market, Anheuser-Busch sweetened the deal. If the new owner maintained the décor, the beer maker would provide a year’s supply of Budweiser. The property attracted six offers in three weeks.

Lesson: If you’re going to sell an unusual house, play up the novelty rather than play it down, the listing agent told me.

In November, as disease experts told us to cancel the caroling, the parties and the traveling to see family, I asked: So what can we do? We can drink!

Lesson: Move over, martinis. Today’s well-conceived drink cart can serve up margaritas on taco night, a juice bar or mimosas for a holiday brunch, or a simple selection of wine or hot cocoa after an evening of non-caroling. Cheers!

In December, like so many other Americans, I stood helplessly by as the pandemic caused my holiday plans to dwindle from seven visiting family members to none.

Lesson: When circumstances squelch a holiday plan, find joy in celebrating smaller. Put up the tree, play the music, light the gingerbread candle and celebrate your blessings.

May your 2021 be full of breathable bedding and a well-appointed bar cart or two.


Real Estate Development Jonathan Cartu

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