Decorating tips for your apartment patio

Most renters, and even some homeowners, dream of the wrap-around porches and spacious lawns of our grandparents. Today, conjested metro areas and ever-rising building and land costs make outdoor space much reduced.

Transforming a small patio or balcony area can be a fun activity

Picture by Amelia Shay

and as challenging as dealing with a large porch. Smaller spaces can be wonderful for private reflection or more intimate gatherings, and of course, the smaller the space, the smaller the investment.

Decide on the purpose of your space

In small spaces it is essential that you limit the purpose of your space to reflect the aspect most important to you. It can be a private retreat or a room for the kids to play; you can use the small patio for entertaining or lounging, or perhaps you with to use it as dining area.


Before you buy that majestic armchair, make sure it will actually fit on your balcony or patio. Furnishings that are large or overstuffed will rapidly devour a small space. Better search for furniture without arms with simple lines and low backs. For additional seating consider benches as you can use them along one or more sides of your patio.

Be clever and choose furnishings that can serve a double purpose: ottomans can also be used as storage or cocktail tables. Furthermore, furnishings that folds works very well in small spaces as you can put it away when not in use. There are those pieces of furniture that tend to “disappear”: acrylic or glass tables and thin-line metal chairs occupy less of the visual space.

Know your green friends

Container gardens give wonderful accents to any space, regardless if it’s small or spacious, indoor or outdoor. Moreover, they can enhance privacy and shade. But to get to that level, you need to know your plants. The cute little trailing plant in the store might not be so little on your small balcony.

Opt for plants that will add color, texture and height, not bulk to your small patio. Plants with beautiful scents are also a wonderful addition to any outdoor area, but avoid those with extremely strong aromas.

Balcony Image Via Pinterest

Balcony Image Via Pinterest

Décor pieces

Follow the ‘Less is more’ rule here. A large pot (with or without flowers in it) will have a greater impact that several smaller one. Actually, the smaller one might give that cluttered feeling. The interior rules apply here as well: diffuse, natural light, as well as light colors, will open up the space and make it feel larger. If your balcony is shady, consider adding string lights or other electrical lighting. Use dark colors only as accents, otherwise stick with light colors or neutrals in furnishings.

You can opt to hang prints on your patio’s walls, but do so sparingly. Or choose stripes as they can be used to create the illusion of height or length.

Last, but not least, you can add audio effects to your small patio. A tiny water feature or wind chimes will mask, to some degree, unappealing background noises like neighbors or traffic.

Swinging into spring

I know that in some parts of the country winter is still floating in the air, making it hard to believe that spring is just around the corner. But spring is about to sprung, just as it did every year until now. Where does your mind fly when you think ‘spring’?


My focus lands on the terrace; I am determined to get outside as quickly as the weather will welcome me. This means a touch-up of the whole space – furniture and plants alike. Clean, reorganize, revitalize.

For a little while now I’ve been fantasizing about the right sized hanging bed or swing, to add one to the side of the front porch. Perfect for relaxing with a good book or even as an outdoor movie seating area.

The existing set of chairs, bench, and table will benefit from a fresh lacquer finish, as the weather’s caprices left minor marks here and there. We’ve been discussing bringing in a tool cabinet that might just make everything more organized, while the new hanging bed/sofa will add more room dedicated to relaxation.

The plants living outdoor are in need of seasonal preparations. So sharpen your tools and start cleaning your garden – get rid of weeds, rocks, and any debris that made its way in during the winter.

Next, till your soil. Depending on the size of your garden, you can do it by hand or you can find help at the home improvement store. Then mix compost materials with soil and let the mixture settle for about three weeks before you dump in onto your garden.

For your indoor plants this is the beginning of the season when you can take them out to play. A ladder rack doesn’t take up on too much space, it looks good to have all your indoor plants grouped, and it’s really practical.


Not everyone’s favorite spring activity, but it sure is rewarding once it’s over. To make the redecorating process a whole lot easier, a thorough clean-up is necessary. Start de-cluttering your apartment, remove all unused/unneeded stuff that might stand in your way, and surprise your family and friends with a refreshed living space.

Take rooms one by one and replace the heavy winter style with the fresh, airy style of spring. Switch the cold season throw pillows and blankets with lighter ones, reposition the lamps and replace the winter themed candles and Christmas décor pieces with flowers and sunshine.

Treat your bedroom royally and invest in high-quality bed linen. Keep the décor in a minimalist scheme, it will give your bedroom a chic, elegant air; if you wish to add some dramatic effects, play with the bedside lights, lights are always a welcome addition to any space.

Walls, even though seem like the most daunting part to deal with while living in a rental, can be a fun part to decorate. If your landlord doesn’t allow you to repaint them or partitions of them, you can experiment with wall art or wall decals instead. An even simpler option is experiment with photo frames: it’s inexpensive, mobile, and good for the heart.

Shield against misfortunes. Spring is also a bright time to review and renew contracts, such as your renter’s insurance. Take all the little steps to make sure that you have everything you need to sit relaxed on your redecorated terrace/patio/balcony and enjoy the sunlight.

How to throw the perfect St. Patrick’s Day party

Everybody loves a good Saint Patrick’s Day celebration, regardless of their Irish decent or not –although after a few green-tinted beers, many a reveler suddenly “remembers” a great-great- grandfather from across the pond. There are many elements that go into throwing a great party, especially a theme party. To help host a truly memorable Saint Patty’s  Day, we have a few tips for you.

  • One of the most essential parts of Paddy’s Day is the “wearing of the green,” which refers to the custom of wearing shamrocks and/or green clothing and accessories on March 17th. Ask you guests to wear head-to-toe green. This means that even the laziest guest will at least wear a green t-shirt or scarf. Just to have all your bases covered, head over to your local costume shop by March 10th at the latest, and pick up some green accessories such as top hats, scarves, and even some green feathery boas and wigs, just to give it to party some sass. Place these by the entrance and ask everybody who hasn’t arrived in full St. Patty’s regalia to wear an item.
  • Wearing the green should extend to your home as well. Green throw pillows, rugs, table cloths, plates and cups with shamrock motives, green candles, green and shamrock-shaped balloons, green light bulbs, garlands, silly-string, shamrock decals on your windows and walls should be front and center. Don’t forget to put out green towels and soap in the bathroom. Kudos if you can get your hands on some green toilet paper as well. Hey, you might as well go all out!
  • Speaking of going all out, your food should definitely fit the atmosphere as well.  Safe food coloring is widely available, so getting your hands on edible green food dye should be not problem. Serve green cookies, cakes, sweets and treats or if you have a bit more time on your hands considering making rainbow cakes and cookies. If you’re Paddy’s day celebrations include dinner, go all out and cook Irish-inspired or traditional Irish foods such as Guinness Braided Brisket, Sheppard’s Pie, Potato-Leek Soup, Bailey’s Coffee Truffles, etc. The web is chock-full of mouthwatering recipes.
  • Of course, no St. Patrick’s Day party would be complete with spirits. Even Lenten restrictions are lifted on this day, so you’d better stock up your liqueur cabinet. Green beer, original Irish beers and Irish whiskeys are a must, but there’s plenty of other option out there. Would you fancy a Spicy Clover, a Shamrock-arita or a Pot of Gold?
  • Compile a playlist of true Irish music. Be sure to have a few slow ones, including some beautiful Irish love songs, and plenty of Irish jigs and true Irish pub music to complete your Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations. If you’re more of a rock fan, there plenty of Irish songs with a rock twist out there.
  • Although everybody’s hoping to get a bit of the old Irish luck on their side, especially on this quintessentially Irish holiday, you never know when a leprechaun or a naughty fairy will play a trick on you or your guests. Be sure that your renters insurance is up to date and covers events that include, fire, theft, vandalism and personal liability, like Resident Shield does.
  • Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!


Dog walking tips for renters

You’ve just moved out from your parents’ house in the ‘burbs into your very own city apartment and you’re loving it. The only thing you truly miss is the family pooch. Since you know your folks will never let you move Ezra Hound into the city, you decided to adopt a dog. But having a house pet and an apartment pet is not the same thing. For example, your furry best friend can’t get her exercise in the backyard, so you need to get used to regularly walking her.

  1. Always use a leash. No matter how well-trained your furry companion is. No matter how much she hates it in the beginning. Even if local ordinances don’t require it. Even if she’s never aggressive.  You can never know what might scare her into running run off or snapping at someone. Always use a leash. It’s the best way to keep your dog and yourself safe. If you’re afraid of a leash hurting your dog, simply attach it to a harness instead of a collar.
  2. Speaking of leashes, have you heard about The Yellow Dog Project? It’s an international initiative that protects pets, their owners and the general public, by the means of a simple, yellow ribbon tied on a leash. The yellow ribbon (or anything yellow on the leash) signifies that the dog in question needs space and should not be approached.  If you have an easily scared, infirmed, unsocial, elderly or traumatized dog or you simply dislike random people or their pets approaching your fantastic duo, tie something yellow on the leash. Although according to care2 the initiative has made it into at least 45 countries, it’s always a good idea to spread the word. Put up some fliers around your community.
  3. Know your route and keep it varied. Using at least three alternative routes in no particular order keeps the activity interesting for the both of you and prevents unwanted people from predicting your moves. It also allows you to avoid potential puppy hazards such as loud playgrounds or construction sites.
  4. Stay safe.  Don’t walk in poorly lit, dangerous or heavily wooded areas or in the dark hours.  Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t listen to music, talk on the phone or wonder around aimlessly. Trust you instinct. If you feel uneasy somewhere, even if you don’t know why, leave. You might be unconsciously picking up some danger signals. Trust your dog’s instincts. Remember that his senses are superior. There might be smells and sounds he’s registering, but you’re not. If your dog acts uneasy, leave.
  5.  Don’t approach unknown people and their pets. You can’t predict the behavior.
  6. Get renter’s insurance. It covers you in case of theft, fire, windstorm and personal liability, which includes a liability provision for dog bites. You can also opt for Pet Damage Coverage, which has your back in the event of pet damage to the apartment.

Do seniors need renter’s insurance?

If you have a grandparent that lives in a rented house or apartment, pay them a visit and ensure they have insurance protection. Not only will it be a wonderful gesture for a dear one, but you’ll also be at peace knowing they are safe.

Many seniors are retired and live on fixed incomes. If an accident or incident were to happen, it could be extremely difficult for them to get back on their feet. Even though they might say they don’t have much, it is known that older adults have valuable jewelry and family heirlooms they’ve collected throughout the years. It doesn’t matter that these items have a greater sentimental value than a financial one, it is still worth it to protect them with a basic policy.

If your parent or grandparent decided to sell or rent their home and move to an assisted living center, make them aware that they’re losing an important insurance protection – the personal liability insurance (the policy that protects the holders from financial losses when someone is hurt on their property or has personal property damaged). Most people have personal liability insurance through their renter’s or homeowner’s insurance policies, but it disappears when someone moves into an assisted living center.

The assisted living center has or should have its own liability insurance, it usually only cover the common areas. This means that if a visitor falls and gets injured in a resident’s room or apartment the resident could be forced to pay for medical expenses.

Let’s not forget about the pet bites protection that falls under personal liability coverage as well. Many assisted living centers allow and in fact encourage residents to keep small pets. Without liability insurance, they can be responsible for any medical expenses if a dog bites a visitor or if a cat scratches an employee.

Avoiding renter’s regret

Take your time when choosing an apartment. Especially when demand is high and availability is limited, some apartment-seekers may feel the need to sign a lease as soon as possible so that a moderately acceptable unit doesn’t vanish. Not all end up in the apartment that satisfies all of their needs – some feel regret a few days after the move in, and some concerns may be more serious than a carpet stain or dishwasher leak.

Experienced renters know it: the best strategy to avoid renter’s regret is taking the time to make a wise decision. Time is needed for prospective renters to shop around, look, ask questions, understand, test and contemplate before signing the lease. So, start early, don’t rush into things, and be sure to address the following:

Parking – the landlord may say that each tenant has one parking spot reserved, but might forget to mention anything about guest parking. Ask of the guest allocated spots and of the penalties for parking in another tenant’s space. If no penalties are enforced and tenants are forced to park in fire lanes, towing could follow, in which case the tenant will be held financially responsible for reclaiming his/her vehicle.

Laundry – learn if each apartment unit is equipped with connections for a washer and dryer, or if there’s an on-site facility.

Traffic – with the intention to appeal to prospective tenants and their daily commuting time, many multifamily complexes chose the proximity to major highways and other well-traveled thoroughfares. This translates into noise, pollution, and in some cases sleep disruption.

Noise – probably it’s best to ask current tenants about noise – it can be from other neighbors, someone’s pet, the swimming pool, some nearby construction, or an airport in close proximity.

Penalties – terms for giving notice, being late with the rent payment, or breaking the lease should be given by the landlord in writing.

Maintenance – go see the apartment during the day and test all appliances before signing the lease. Moreover, ask what happens in the event an appliance breaks down: was the maintenance team fast, effective? Did they clean up once they’ve finished? Is their schedule different during weekend?

Closets – not enough space can make you rent storage space. Probably not something you want to go through.

Renter’s Insurance – in case of fire, lightning, burglary or some other misfortunate event, renter’s insurance brings you the much needed peace of mind. Don’t live with the impression that living in a rental means that your landlord takes care of everything around your apartment.

5 reasons why you need renters insurance on Valentine’s Day

Love it or hate it, but Valentine’s Day has grown into one of the top holidays of our times. Whether you’re enchanted by all the red hearts or annoyed by the rom-coms overrunning theaters this time of year, chances are you’ll mark the holiday by at least an e-card or by attending an anti-Valentine‘s day party. And while renter’s insurance might not be the most romantic Valentine’s gift for your significant other, it might just be the best V-day gift for yourself. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. You’ve planned the perfect stay-in Valentine’s date weeks ahead.  You’ve rented your favorite movies, made an exceptional romantic playlist, bought fancy French wine and put together a menu that would make even Gordon Ramsay proud. That is it would have, had you not forgot dinner in the oven, while making some last-minute tweaks to your romantic playlist. Now it’s not only dinner that is ruined, but the oven is charred along with the wall around it. Kitchen fires are some of the most common and hazardous there are, so never leave cooking food unattended.
  2. It’s not only the kitchen that is a significant fire source. No romantic date would be perfect without candlelight. While it’s easy to forget about putting out candles, you must definitely should always check if you’ve done so. Many of your household items are highly flammable, and it only takes  the tiniest of accidents to end up with serious damage to your home and property. While your landlord’s insurance will cover damage to the apartment, you need renters insurance to keep your property safe from financial distress.
  3. Although we’re finally getting close to spring, winter has yet to finish with us. Renters insurance will have your back in case a snowstorm hits and your apartment suffers damage. Nothing like a surprise snowstorm hurling a tree-branch through your windows and into your brand-new flat-screen to put a damper on a romantic mood.
  4. But it’s not only fires and the perils of Mother Nature that renters insurance covers. It will also come in handy if your apartment gets broken into while you’re away on a weekend ski getaway. Of course you always need to make sure your policy is up to date and includes as many of your belongings as possible.
  5. While you might be bananas about your girlfriend’s fashion-forward attitude, your dog might not recognize the red sole and designer name and just figure you’ve gotten him a fancy new chew toy. If you’ve got renter’s insurance with pet coverage, that won’t put a damper on Valentine’s celebrations.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

How to create the perfect pet resume

Although a growing number of apartment communities are becoming pet-friendly, pet owners are still faced with an uphill battle when it comes to finding rental housing. An emerging trend of the past few years that aids pet owners in landing their dream rentals is the pet resume. You can find below all the essential points you should include in your pet’s resume.

  • Start off with a cute photo of your pet. A dog playing outside, especially with a child, will inadvertently send the message that your pet gets plenty of outdoor exercise and is great with kids.
  • Describe your pet, including what type of animal it is, breed, age, size. If he’s a mellow, laid-back pet, include it here. It can also prove very advantageous to include how long you’ve had your pet. A long-time ownership will make property managers more inclined to trust your knowledge and control over him.
  • Provide training info, such as whether or not he’s house-broken, leash-trained, obeys voice commands etc. Be sure to include any behavioral or obedience training he attended and include certificates of graduation.  If your dog has not attended obedience training, it might be smart to sign him up for classes at a local kennel club, SPCA chapter, animal rescue society or pet store.
  • Health and grooming. Be sure to mention if your pet is spayed/neutered and how this positively affects his or her behavior and overall health. Mention that your pets are up to date on their shots and provide your vet’s contact info.  Describe how you keep your pet clean and flea-free. Mention professional groomers you visit and the frequency of the sessions. It could be helpful to explain the grooming schedule. For example, a pug or shorthair Chihuahua won’t need to be shorn, whereas a poodle needs frequent professional grooming.
  • Activities. Describe how you provide the adequate amount of exercise for your pet, such as frequency of walks, visits to off leash parks, etc. This is also the place to disclose if you have a high-energy dog, such as a border collie, since you can offset that information by showing you provide plenty of activities to avoid your dog from running around and barking all day in your apartment. This is also the place to mention if you employ a dog walker and how often they will be visiting.
  • You will score major bonus points if you provide details of how your pets will be attended to when you are traveling or work very long hours regularly.
  • Mention how you always clean up after your pets and dispose pet waste in the safest way possible.
  • Include an About Us section at the end in which you detail why you or you and your roommates/significant other are good pet owners.  Mention if you are part of any animal protection organizations – this will elevate a landlord’s opinion on your capabilities to properly care for an animal. This is also the place to detail why your pet is so important to you, why you know your pet will be a good tenant and what your pet care history is (e.g. having grown up with pets around, having volunteered at a shelter, etc.). Be sure to include that you are happy to introduce your pet to any potential future landlords.
  • Mention that your renter’s insurance has pet liability coverage, such as Resident Shield’s dog bite provision. In fact, it might be smartest to opt for a pet insurance add-on , such as Resident Shield’s Pet Damage Coverage, that offers you $500 in liability in the event of Pet Damage to the apartment.
  • Include references. Attach your current landlord’s contact info and a letter of recommendation for your pet. Letters of recommendation from your groomer, dog trainer, neighbors, vet as well as a health certificate from your vet, will make both of you that more trustworthy and responsible. Don’t forget to include current phone numbers, so your potential new landlord can check your references easily.

4 storage ideas to keep your valuables out of sight

If you just moved into your first apartment and chose a hip, downtown location with limited square-footage, you probably know the struggle of having more stuff than fits your tiny new apartment.

While stacking cardboard boxes atop your closet or sliding them under your bed might (sort of) do the trick, there’s prettier, niftier and classier ways to organize the overflow of stuff: hidden storage. We can’t tell you how to build a Batcave in your 600-square-foot apartment to hide your valuables from prying eyes and sticky fingers, but we have gathered up a few neat hidden storage ideas for you:

-The bathroom can be made tidier by neatly tucking away all those beauty products that line your bath tub and sink. Create a sleek, oversized medicine cabinet: install a frame, add some narrow shelves and hinge your mirror. You can do this whether you have a small over-the-sink mirror or a full-length one.

-If your bathroom also doubles as a laundry room, you can easily create extra storage by lifting your washer/dryer off the floor with a simple frame and adding a few laundry baskets or some pretty, waterproof storage containers underneath. Use these to store laundry, detergent and other cleaning supplies

-While hiding important documents or rare jewelry in faux books is a murder mystery cliché, a new twist on the idea can actually prove very practical in saving space and hiding valuables. Pick up some old books from your local thrift store, remove the pages, glue the spines and two covers together so it looks like you have a tight stack of books. Use this to hide your perfume collection from your roommate’s nosy friend or, if you use old cookbooks, you can actually conceal some smaller kitchen appliances, like a toaster or blender.

-We all know how easily earrings, necklaces and all other jewelry get tangled up. An easy way to avoid that is by hanging them on a corkboard. However, you might not want to keep grandma’s heirloom pearl earrings or the necklace mom got you for graduation in sight of any who pass through your home, especially if you entertain often. An easy hack for this is to simply attach a picture the size of your corkboard with a few hinges to makeyour own personal safe. Of course, this or any other hidden storage area idea shouldn’t be your only line of defense against would-be burglars. If the worst does happen, and you are burglarized, having renter’s insurance will help cover the cost of your valuables.

Image courtesy of Mariana Esquivel Ortube via Pinterest


Four essentials for your best-ever Super Bowl party

Ah, Super Bowl Sunday. That holiest of the holy football happenings. An event that will lead to many a hangover and heated water cooler exchange on Monday. Weather you’re a diehard Seahawks fan or a Patriot, or just a regular Joe who wants to stay up to date on current events you might check out the Super Bowl in a bar or maybe even have a couple of friends over to watch the game. Here are some tips to have on awesome Super Bowl Sunday:


  1. Beer. Let’s face it: beer and football go together like peanut butter and jelly, Oliver and Hardy, yin and yang… you get the picture. Make sure you have plenty of beer and other spirits on hand. Of course you should also provide sodas and/or alcohol-free beer for the designated drivers and friends who don’t like ye old ale.
  2. Speaking of things that go together, while beer and football are a match made in heaven, chips, dips, peanuts, pretzels and all sorts of finger foods and snacks are pretty much necessary for a complete football experience. Make sure you have plenty of snacks on hand and do your shopping early. You don’t want to miss the first touchdown, just because you’re stuck in an infinite line at the liquor store around the corner.
  3. An essential part of the Super Bowl experience, of course, is the TV. A true football fanatic that hasn’t score tickets to Phoenix for the 2015 Superbowl will probably want to watch the Christmas equivalent of football on the highest definition TV set with a diagonal surpassing that of many art house cinemas and a sound quality superior to NASA’s equipment. Which makes it quite likely that you’ve picked up a new television, in which case, color us jealous! If you have, be sure to add it to your renter’s insurance policy ASAP.
  4. Speaking of renter’s insurance, you might want to get one, before Sunday’s big event or update your old one. Renter’s insurance, such as Resident Shield, offers a bevy of neat features, that make your life that much easier and more care-free. Among them of course is property protection for your belongings in case of fire, theft or vandalism, personal liability protection in case of slip and fall liability claims as well as guest medical payments, which provides coverage for medical expenses, regardless of fault, for guests incurring accidental injuries at your rental residence.