S5E4 Transcript: Mastering the Art of Real Estate Staging & Interior Design with Ruth Krumbhaar

In this episode, host Cathy Curtis and special guest Ruth Krumbhaar discuss real estate design and interior decorating best practices.

[00:03:32] Ruth Krumbhaar: Hi, nice to see you.

[00:03:34] Cathy Curtis: Good to see you again, too. I’m really excited to talk with you again about, this time, all things decorating homes and residences and rentals, etc. For our listeners, you and I spoke a couple weeks ago about buying properties. You have a lot of experience. You started doing it as a single woman and you’ve built a nice portfolio for yourself.

[00:04:00] Ruth shares her decorating philosophy and why she always starts with a blank canvas when designing a space.

[00:04:00] Cathy Curtis: And of course, when you buy properties, you have to decide what you’re going to do with them once you either move in or decide to rent them or flip them or whatever your goal is. So I’m excited to talk to you about how you think about that. In general, an overview how you start thinking about it. And then we can get into the details of each type of property. So why don’t you talk about your philosophy about home decorating?

[00:04:31] Ruth Krumbhaar: It’s come to me over many years and many missteps, and I have a formula at this point of how I approach properties. And the formula is one that’s, it’s easy. It’s basically, I have a particular white paint that I love: Benjamin Moore Cotton Balls. Warm white, it’s got a touch of yellow, so it looks, it’s warm, but you could paint the whole interior of the house that color, and different rooms will take on slightly different feels.

[00:05:03] Ruth Krumbhaar: So I always like to start with a really blank canvas, and just…  

[00:05:08] Cathy Curtis: I’m gonna ask, because this white thing is so important. So truly, the Cotton Balls, even with rooms facing different ways and all that, it looks good? And you don’t have to paint the walls to see what it looks like in different light?

[00:05:23] Ruth Krumbhaar: It always looks good.

[00:05:25] Ruth Krumbhaar: I, at least I think it always looks good. It’s warm, but it’s not cream. It’s white. And so it doesn’t have that cold sort of sterile feeling that sometimes an all white house can have.

[00:05:40] Cathy Curtis: I know exactly what you’re talking about because I’ve picked bad whites before where they look chalk and you do not want that.

[00:05:47] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah. So I have found that this one, it just works over and over again. It works in modern houses, it works in old houses, it works upstairs, downstairs, you name it.

[00:05:57] Cathy Curtis: What a great tip, okay.

[00:05:59] Ruth Krumbhaar: So I generally use that everywhere to start off with and then I add color as I get to know the spaces. So maybe I’ll do an accent wall or maybe I’ll paint the powder room in one of my houses.

[00:06:12] Ruth Krumbhaar: I painted the powder room like this dark rich brown, which sounds awful, but it’s so incredible to go in. You feel hugged by the color.

[00:06:22] Cathy Curtis: Nice. Now, do you, and you wait to do that then? You paint it all white. And then you start decorating or? What phase do you start repainting?

[00:06:34] Ruth Krumbhaar: Generally, I like having mostly white walls.

[00:06:37] Ruth Krumbhaar: I’ve learned I’m different, like you’ve got that beautiful red wall behind you. And so that room must be so intense and beautiful. If that’s how you’re approaching the home, and I’ll get to that in a minute. It’s so important to maybe not do the white, not do Ruth’s formula, but to actually go in and pick a series of rich, beautiful colors that are going to be more personal to you.

[00:07:04] Ruth Krumbhaar: And if somebody else has a different formula, they should go with that. And I think in a primary residence, it’s so important to tap into what is truly right for you.

[00:07:16] Cathy Curtis: Yeah, I can see that differentiation where the white makes so much sense for rental.

[00:07:26] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, and we’ll get to the primary residence in a little bit, but I generally love that Cotton Balls.

[00:07:32] Ruth Krumbhaar: I generally like thicker baseboards, nice thick ones. I think it feels, even in an older house, you can do more antiquey ones in a modern home. Just square, boxy one.

[00:07:44] Cathy Curtis: You always add those if a home doesn’t have them?

[00:07:47] Ruth Krumbhaar: I don’t always, but I like to. I find that it’s a really wonderful way to have something feel finished.

[00:07:53] Ruth Krumbhaar: It’s smart. It’s smart. And then, and especially if you can, if you’re doing the whole house, if you just are consistent throughout the whole house, that also makes the house feel more unified. And then I have certain floorings that I love. So for like cheap properties, I have vinyl, kind of wide plank, grayish vinyl flooring that I think most people, at least today, find appealing.

[00:08:18] Ruth Krumbhaar: And then I’m just putting it in one of my houses, a sort of medium plank, like a softer, lighter wood and a kind of more of a tan color, really warm and pretty. And it has a little bit of variation, but it’s also a manufactured wood.

[00:08:33] Cathy Curtis: Okay. And where do you source these kinds of things?

[00:08:38] Ruth Krumbhaar: For the cheaper ones, it’s just Home Depot.

[00:08:40] Ruth Krumbhaar: You can just go there, and they generally have pretty trendy things. You can find a lot of good things at a Home Depot or Lowe’s because they are staying current with the trends. So I wouldn’t be afraid to do that, and especially in a less, less expensive property or a rental property that’s going to have a lot of wear and tear.

[00:09:01] Ruth Krumbhaar: But the house I’m doing right now, it’s a little more high-end, so I’m doing it a really nice manufactured wood, which is easy to install, because it is a rental. And so just in case something happens, I want it to be something that isn’t going to cost an arm and a leg to take out, so I’ve done a floating floor there.

[00:09:25] Cathy Curtis: Describe the floating floor.

[00:09:27] Ruth Krumbhaar: The floating floor is when they don’t actually stick the floor onto your foundation or the base. Okay. They actually float it and they put a liner there and then they put the floor on top and then they put the baseboard around that. Okay. It’s easier because if it gets destroyed or distressed, you can pull it out easily or you can pull out part of it easily and reinstall.

[00:09:53] Cathy Curtis: Okay. And you wouldn’t do this in a residence, you would do this in a… Rental in a rental.

[00:09:58] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah. Or I do it in a residence that I wasn’t planning on living on in a long for a long time. Some people, you probably advise some of your clients who are interested in this and keeping something for two years and then selling it and you get the tax deduction.

[00:10:16] Ruth Krumbhaar: For selling the primary residence. I know people who move every two or three years. To upgrade each time because in that case, you would do it. But in a residence that you are going to live in a long time, I would do a different kind of flooring.

[00:10:32] Cathy Curtis: Okay.

[00:10:34] Ruth Krumbhaar: Trying to think what else. I generally I love a colorful front door.

[00:10:41] Ruth Krumbhaar: So I think that’s a place to add some fun and some whimsy and it doesn’t cost a lot. It could be repainted, but it’s great. It’s fun for a primary residence. It’s fun for a little, even a cheap little rental property. I just rented out a place that has a bright blue, turquoisey blue door on it. It’s a white house.

[00:11:01] Ruth Krumbhaar: And the gal who rented it said, I wanted to rent it because I like the front door.

[00:11:05] Cathy Curtis: Yeah. Interesting. We just got our house painted all over outside, and we hired a colorist to help us because I don’t feel confident picking colors and she recommended it’s not red. It’s like a, it’s like a deep burgundy door and the rest of the house is variations in tan.

[00:11:26] Cathy Curtis: It looks fantastic.

[00:11:27] Ruth Krumbhaar: Oh, that’s, and that’s such a great investment that you did because painting the outside of the house is such a, it’s a big deal.

[00:11:36] Cathy Curtis: Oh, it’s a huge deal. And she had an eye, she looked at what we had in landscaping, we have a plum tree, and we have some other plants that are purple in them, and it just tied it all together.

[00:11:48] Ruth Krumbhaar: Oh, that must be gorgeous. I definitely think investing in people like color consultants when you’re when you’ve got a nice property like I’m sure yours is or a primary residence that you want to invest in. That’s a great thing to do.

[00:12:08] Cathy Curtis: I’ll put the name of the woman in the show notes because she’s fantastic and she, I think she’s pretty well known, at least in the East Bay for doing this kind of consulting.

[00:12:19] Ruth Krumbhaar: That’s great. Yeah. Happy with how it turned out?

[00:12:21] Cathy Curtis: Super happy. And you don’t want to make a mistake in our house, we have a big house, lots of square footage to be covered.

[00:12:30] Cathy Curtis: What if we didn’t like it? Then you’re driving up to a house that you don’t like the color. So I didn’t want to chance it. I thought that was a good investment.

[00:12:40] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, other things I love are Grohe fixtures. They’re German and of good quality. They don’t break easily and they’re nice.

[00:12:54] Ruth Krumbhaar: They’re not the nicest, but they feel good in your hands. They feel like good quality and they’re not that expensive. You can buy them sometimes at Costco. They have a lot of deals.

[00:13:06] Cathy Curtis: Okay, which fixtures?

[00:13:07] Ruth Krumbhaar: Faucets for the bathroom or kitchen. And again, they don’t do super trendy or real showstopper pieces. But for a regular house that’s going to have some wear and tear like a rental property or even a primary residence, if you like the design, they’re all right.

[00:13:28] Cathy Curtis: But especially it’s a way to save a few dollars. If you’re not looking to have bold designs in these fixtures. Okay, good to know.

[00:13:38] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, exactly. And I think the other thing that I have a really good friend and we talk about design a lot, is you don’t want to gild the lily.

[00:13:45] Ruth Krumbhaar: You don’t want to have a showstopper here and then a showstopper there. If your kitchen is very simple and beautiful and you want one sort of fancy thing, having that fancy faucet in the kitchen might be a great idea. It can be the showstopper. Everything else can be more quiet.

[00:14:06] Why every room doesn’t necessarily need a showstopper when it comes to home decorating.

[00:14:06] Cathy Curtis: So, do you think every room needs a showstopper?

[00:14:09] Ruth Krumbhaar: Not necessarily. Can it also leave space for fun cushions and rugs and things like that? Not necessarily. And I think I’m trying to think of other formulaic things. I see a lot of houses; the kind of houses that excite me are those like ugly modern houses. They’re modern but they have traditional fixtures in them and they’re beaten up maybe from the ’50s or the ’60s. Those kinds of houses, I love the idea of doing a modern makeover, bringing them back to what they really should be.

[00:14:52] Ruth Krumbhaar: And so a lot of like iron railing, modern iron railings, or even glass railings. A lot of really simple, beautiful sort of planes, lots of texture, but keeping everything very simple and quiet. I love thinking about those kinds of houses.

[00:15:10] Cathy Curtis: Where would you source those things, like the railings, and where do you generally go?

[00:15:15] Ruth Krumbhaar: Usually I’ll go to an iron worker. Have them manufacture something. You can find pictures on Pinterest or online and you can just go to them and make them. There are also, I know I bought some premanufactured ones through a contractor and I forget the, who made them, but they’re beautiful. And they were there at my property on Telegraph Hill.

[00:15:40] Ruth Krumbhaar: They were actually made for marine around marinas. So they’re very durable, they don’t rust, and I’ve had great luck with those. I can get the name.

[00:15:50] Cathy Curtis: Okay, that’d be great. And just a broader question about this, when you decide that you’re going to have something made versus buying something manufactured, and I know some of it is budget.

[00:16:04] Cathy Curtis: But are there certain things that you think are worth having made for you specifically?

[00:16:12] Ruth Krumbhaar: I think railings can be, but you have to be, you have to make sure that they understand really how to do it, that they’ve had experience doing it. Cause I’ve had experience where people get it the first time and it’s perfect.

[00:16:25] Ruth Krumbhaar: And I have experienced people tried three or four times and they keep getting it wrong. So you have to be sure that you’ve, you’re working with someone who really knows what they’re doing. But it can be a really great way to actually save money to do iron railings in a more modern sort of aesthetic. But again, making sure that you have the contractor who knows, really knows how to handle the situation.

[00:16:49] Ruth Krumbhaar: How stairs turn, how they, that they have experience with that.

[00:16:54] Cathy Curtis: Okay. And so do you take out whatever railings there are already and just change it to iron railings?

[00:17:04] Ruth Krumbhaar: I, in almost, not every house, but most of the houses I’ve worked on, I have taken the railings out because I have a thing against those sort of traditional. I love beautiful old railings, stair railings, if it’s in a really old house.

[00:17:20] Ruth Krumbhaar: Newer ones with a nod to the old, the sort of faux colonial ones. I have a thing about those. I can’t stand them. Yeah, they go out.

[00:17:31] Cathy Curtis: So that is part of your formula. I bet that gives an instant boost to the space.

[00:17:36] Ruth Krumbhaar: Really does. Yeah. And even for a space that’s not totally modern having one modern touch like a cool iron railing or cool glass railing can really Add a bit of that modern feel, even if you don’t want to go all the way, maybe a little drama to a space.

[00:17:53] Cathy Curtis: Yeah.

[00:17:55] Ruth Krumbhaar: So it’s just a nice way to take things up a notch. And so I’m thinking about other formulaic things that I do. Or pet peeves that I have. I know that one of the things that I find really important for rental homes, Airbnbs, primary residences, and you spoke to this earlier with your house, having that beautiful front door, a beautiful entrance, a beautiful lid.

[00:18:26] Ruth Krumbhaar: Numbers visible, maintained area when you come up to a home, it makes such a difference.

[00:18:32] Cathy Curtis: Yeah, I agree. It’s like a welcome mat, a nice welcome mat.

[00:18:38] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, yeah. And so having good lighting, having that front door, beautiful color. Having simple and easy to maintain landscaping so that unless you’re a gardener, you can have a ball, but most of us don’t really have a lot of time to upkeep our garden, so keep it a nice, simple, classic design.

[00:19:00] Cathy Curtis: Nice numbers, you can get some cool house numbers that add an instant boost.

[00:19:06] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, yeah, and allow people to find your house more easily. It just. There’s something, and I also think like having a little bit of a wider path up, if possible. Not, it’s not always possible, but having a little bit of a wider path up to your home and an ample space to stand in front of the door if there’s not a big porch.

[00:19:26] Ruth Krumbhaar: Extending that as much as you can, not having it feel crowded and cramped.

[00:19:32] Cathy Curtis: So I think those are great tips. Thank you. Thank you. I want to talk to you about, because I know you think about decorating differently when it comes, of course, when it comes to the space you’re going to live in yourself versus you have rental properties in Indiana.

[00:19:50] Cathy Curtis: And in San Francisco and one, one other. Oh, and Maine. Yeah. And I, and you use some, you use yourself and then you rent part of the time. Others are full time rentals. Generally, though, when you’re thinking about decorating a space, you’re going to, let’s say a full rental. Let’s just break it down.

[00:20:09] How Ruth determines her decorating budget and where she shops to find cost-effective, quality items.

[00:20:09] Cathy Curtis: Residential. We’ll talk about residential first because that’s fun. You get a rental. And of course, the first thing you’re going to think about is, I don’t want to spend a ton of money on this and it’s probably going to get some wear and tear. And so how do you budget for it and where do you go to find good items?

[00:20:28] Ruth Krumbhaar: I recently did that with an Indiana house and really it was, I took a look at the floors, and they just weren’t that great. They were all scratched up. There was a little hole in one area. And I spoke with the contractor and got a good price on installing just the cheap vinyl flooring.

[00:20:46] Cathy Curtis: And when you say cheap, but you’re saying cheap, but you still think it looks good, right?

[00:20:53] Ruth Krumbhaar: It does. Yeah. It looks cute. I don’t think I would want it necessarily for my home, but for a rental house for, say, a young person, the woman who is renting it is getting her PhD, she’s a soccer coach, she’s got a dog, she just wants something that’s easy to maintain and manage, that her dog won’t scratch the floors, and she’s young, so she likes that trendy feel.

[00:21:18] Ruth Krumbhaar: A lot of like light fixtures that were fairly inexpensive that I got at either Ikea or Home Depot that had that farmhouse look. So I tried to make the house fun and appealing and consistent. But not expensive light fixtures for 30 a pop.

[00:21:40] Cathy Curtis: Okay, great. And the, and how, and the flooring, what does it cost?

[00:21:47] Ruth Krumbhaar: The vinyl? I can’t remember, but it was like on super special. I. A friend of mine was also redoing her rental and she picked the tan and I picked the gray. My place rented first, so I was like, we were arguing over should you do tan or gray. I said gray is trendier. Those young kids, they like the gray.

[00:22:06] Ruth Krumbhaar: That’s the, this is their aesthetic.

[00:22:09] Cathy Curtis: How do you keep up with the trends?

[00:22:09] Ruth Krumbhaar: Sometimes I’ll watch HGTV, or I try and look at what, like for this one I was thinking, what do young people like? And so I would, I looked at some of the pictures of HGTV that I thought were more appealing to younger folks And maybe I wasn’t right, but mine did rent first.

[00:22:31] Ruth Krumbhaar: And that’s really about knowing your audience. We’re really looking at what is your goal? My goal was to get in a good, solid renter who was going to stay for a number of years, who’s going to care for the place. So I wanted it to be nice enough that it didn’t feel like a flop house for a bunch of students to mess up.

[00:22:50] Ruth Krumbhaar: I made it as pretty as I could and appealing to this sort of younger demographic.

[00:22:55] Cathy Curtis: Okay. What about windows? Do you ever change out the windows if they’re…

[00:23:04] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, and again, that’s a big budget item. So, my partner is working on a house in Redwood City, which is more high end. It’s a 1960s house that had old windows, and one of the first things we decided to do was replace all the windows.

[00:23:23] Ruth Krumbhaar: Because in that house, it’s going to be a flip. We want to make sure that the windows are really high quality and good enough for that area.

[00:23:31] Cathy Curtis: So, it really depends on a lot of things. For example, the Indiana place, I think you said it’s near a university. So, students are your renters professors or students?  

[00:23:44] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, professors.

[00:23:45] Cathy Curtis: Okay. So, let’s say they’re old sliding windows, but it would cost several thousand dollars to replace them. You don’t necessarily go ahead and replace those in that case.

[00:23:55] Ruth Krumbhaar: No. And the windows that are there are like the cheap vinyl, but they’re new. So, they keep in a place like Indiana where there are big storms and it does get cold, they have to be really good functioning windows, but they don’t have to be fancy or expensive.

[00:24:11] Ruth Krumbhaar: And the ones there were just fine. They worked just fine.

[00:24:14] Cathy Curtis: How do you, because I think it would be easy, especially as a new real estate investor, to rent, to buy a place to rent and then think you’ve got to make it look pristine. Yeah, perfect. Yeah. I could see where you could put a lot of money in that will really hurt it as an investment.

[00:24:32] Cathy Curtis: Do you agree? Have you ever experienced that?

[00:24:34] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yes. Yes. And it also depends on how long you want to hold onto it. So, another friend who just recently did two rental properties and he’s… he just couldn’t help himself. He overinvested. They’re beautiful, they’re so nice. They’re much nicer than any other house in the neighborhood by far.

[00:24:54] Ruth Krumbhaar: But his thinking, his rationale is, “I’m going to have these for a long time.” So for him, it made sense. I, for me, I’m a little more cautious about spending money. And that’s why I say the farmhouse, the cool farmhouse style light fixtures that are $30, are just fine. Cute. And people like them.

[00:25:17] Ruth Krumbhaar: There’s no need to spend more money there.

[00:25:19] Cathy Curtis: Okay. In the case of your friend, do you think he is able to get any more rent because the decor or the surfaces or the windows are nicer? Than in another apartment in the same building, let’s say, that doesn’t have those upgrades?

[00:25:38] Ruth Krumbhaar: I think sometimes that is true. What I think he accomplished is he rented it very quickly. So, it was appealing. Somebody had to have it. And so, then he could just start getting his income going sooner.

[00:25:56] Cathy Curtis: And maybe you keep tenants longer. Yeah, who knows? I know that’s all hypothetical, but it seems like that would make sense.

[00:26:06] Ruth Krumbhaar: And I have to respect that he’s got his formula and I’ve got mine. Mine is more cautionary.

[00:26:12] Cathy Curtis: Plus, don’t you have to crunch the numbers? Like when you go to buy a place, you look at it and you go, “How much money can I afford to put in this place to still get the ROI I want or reach whatever financial goal I want?”

[00:26:28] Ruth Krumbhaar: And I wanted 10%. So I only invested up to that number. I went a little bit over; I went like maybe $5,000 over, but I knew that’s where I had to, I just had to stop things like on that Indiana property. I wanted to make a certain amount of money, and I wanted to spend a certain amount of money, so there are a few things I didn’t do to the house.

[00:26:54] Cathy Curtis: Like for example, what didn’t you do?

[00:26:55] Ruth Krumbhaar: There are some electrical lines that hang a little lower than I would like in the backyard. So, I was going to have an electrician put them up on a pole on the roof to raise them up. Yeah, I didn’t do it. I would have liked to have had a garden crew come in and really do a good job on getting the yard and the garden squared away.

[00:27:18] Ruth Krumbhaar: Didn’t do that either.

[00:27:18] Cathy Curtis: That makes sense. So, sometimes it’s better not to go see the property and just, if it’s a rental and your goal is to create passive income, the numbers have to be right. Like you said, you haven’t been to see the property in Indiana, is that correct?

[00:27:41] Ruth Krumbhaar: That’s correct. I have a video and photos, and a great contractor. And I’m more concerned there with just having a fridge that works, a washer and dryer that work. It just needs to function.

[00:27:51] Tips and tricks for decorating an Airbnb for functionality and style.

[00:27:51] Cathy Curtis: Yes. That really does make sense. Okay, so I’d love to talk about Airbnbs a little bit because they’re so popular. I just went to Europe and we rented three Airbnbs. I’m fascinated with how people decorate them or pay attention to detail, things like that, and not everybody does. Or I have a suspicion that either they don’t pay attention, or they’ve never… I think people should stay in their Airbnb and experience what it’s like.

[00:28:25] Ruth Krumbhaar: Absolutely.

[00:28:27] Cathy Curtis: To know what people really want when they rent an Airbnb because there’s… you don’t have to be perfect, but there are certain things that are going to make people pretty darn happy. Just as an example, we stayed in an Airbnb where the shower had no place to put soap. It’s like, where do you put it?

[00:28:49] Cathy Curtis: Besides, don’t get me started on French showers, but you turn it on and… Anyway, that’s a French thing, but there was no shelf in the shower to put shampoo or soap or anything. Who designed this? Or no towel racks or not enough hooks. But there are so many things about an Airbnb that could make an experience better.

[00:29:16] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, and really there are two things. It’s like form and function, and you’ve got to have both of them. It’s got to be functional in order for people to be comfortable. They’re coming in from a trip, they’re traveling, they want to just land and have everything work and be easy and approachable. They want a little place in the shower to put their shampoo.

[00:29:37] Cathy Curtis: Yeah, I actually have an Airbnb, a Tahoe cabin that is listed on Airbnb and other platforms. One thing that we did is we totally tricked out the kitchen as far as kitchen utensils and gadgets go. It’s like better than a lot of people’s own kitchen. Every comment we get is, “Oh my gosh, the kitchen is so well equipped.” People love that. And now, it is in Tahoe and people barbecue, which is appropriate for that area because people are going to be cooking. It has to be appropriate for where you are, but I’m surprised how many comments we get about that.

[00:30:20] Ruth Krumbhaar: That’s great. That goes back to knowing your audience. People are going to be doing some cooking, so it’s so important to think about that. A little teeny studio apartment in a great old building in Paris. You’re not going to necessarily be wanting to cook all the time. You’re going to be wanting to go out.

[00:30:40] What you really want is a good coffee maker. And if they provide capsules, bonus points. You don’t have to go out to the grocery store your first day. And speak another language and try and find the coffee capsules.

[00:30:55] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yes. Yes. Agreed. That’s so funny.

[00:30:56] Cathy Curtis: Yeah. Have you Airbnb’d any of your places?

[00:31:00] Ruth Krumbhaar: I have. I have. An Airbnb gives us a chance to be a little more whimsical because, yes, the pictures do have to sell the experience, and it is an experience staying in someone’s Airbnb. Maybe the experience is a classic Tahoe home, but maybe the experience is a groovy San Francisco pad with a little neon on the wall where you can take a selfie. It’s a chance and an opportunity to be a little whimsical in whatever way is calling you. And I definitely love to encourage people to be a little fanciful in those.

[00:31:43] Cathy Curtis: I agree with you. It’s more fun for the person renting.

[00:31:48] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, and the pictures will sell it too, more easily. The other thing that I’ve noticed about Airbnb is they get a lot of traffic.

[00:31:57] Cathy Curtis: Yeah. I don’t know if you agree with me, but I think you need to go a little bit higher quality in the decor. Not necessarily the gadgets, but the decor, because it gets used so much—rugs and towels and… Either that or you replace them all the time. I don’t know what the best way to outfit an Airbnb is.

[00:32:18] Ruth Krumbhaar: I think either way is important. You also want it to feel fresh. And I’m definitely environmentally minded, so getting cheaper things and throwing them away isn’t what I would necessarily recommend. But sometimes, maybe with a rug or with little throw pillows or whatever, you do want to be keeping it feeling fresh by doing that. And then have more substantial furniture or something to balance that out so that it does feel fresh and has some pop.

[00:32:55] Cathy Curtis: Yeah, are there any places where you shop that you think are particularly good for that kind of home decor, like pillows or things like that?

[00:33:08] Ruth Krumbhaar: I actually think Home Goods is still pretty good. You don’t want to make sure it doesn’t look like a Home Goods setup, but if you’re careful, they always have fresh-looking, well-priced pillows and little knickknacks and things.

[00:33:27] Ruth Krumbhaar: But again, I wouldn’t do all of that. I would mix that in with some flea market finds or some more character items so that it doesn’t look like you just went to Home Goods.

[00:33:38] Cathy Curtis: Yeah, I love the flea market idea. Or thrift stores, where people give away nice things that you can’t believe they’re giving away, but they work perfectly.

[00:33:49] Cathy Curtis: We do that a lot in our Tahoe place.

[00:33:51] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, in my main house, I have a very low window between two twin beds, and I’ve been looking and looking for the right bedside table to put between the beds. And finally, my friend, who’s a designer, said, “Get two galvanized buckets, turn them upside down and put a plank on top, and you’re done.”

[00:34:12] Ruth Krumbhaar: And I was like, “Yes, of course. That’s perfect. It’ll look cute. It’s a guest room with two single beds. So it’s probably where kids are going to stay, and I think it’ll be a little fun.”

[00:34:24] Cathy Curtis: That’s a great idea. Now, this is the Maine property. Yes, it’s on an island, and you use it sometimes for yourself, and then you rent it word of mouth. Okay. And I bet that was fun to decorate.

[00:34:41] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah. So much fun. So much fun. And it’s very eclectic. A lot of old pieces mixed in with new, a lot of paint, painting old furniture and old chairs. We just had a lot of fun with that one and it’s come together.

[00:34:56] Cathy Curtis: What do you think about theme decorating? Is that too cheesy? Like beach house decor or?

[00:35:03] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah. In some places, it can be nice. This house is in Maine. I’ve got a sort of a Maine feeling, but it’s also a little bit of being near the water. So it’s got paintings of sailboats and I actually have sailboats on my plates. So there’s a little of that going on. My partner makes sure I don’t go too far in that direction.

[00:35:23] Cathy Curtis: When we bought the Tahoe place, it was a rental, it was a second home for the person that we bought it from. Oh man, she had it outfitted with so many bear motif things. It was… And my husband likes bear motif a lot more than me, but so just systematically over the last couple of years, I removed one bear at a time and replaced it with something else.

[00:35:53] Cathy Curtis: But we still have bears in there. It is Tahoe. It was, it can get overdone.

[00:36:00] Ruth Krumbhaar: It can. It can. And that’s where having some fun is good. But it’s like jewelry. I remember a friend who’s very chic. She said, “Oh, when you go get dressed to go out, put on all the jewelry that you want and then take off one thing.”

[00:36:14] Cathy Curtis: Yeah. I’ve heard that. That’s great advice.

[00:36:18] Ruth Krumbhaar: It’s the same for homes. And also, for your wardrobe, you want a bunch of really tailored, beautiful pieces, and then some sort of cheaper, fun things to toss on with them. And that’s how you can approach your home as well.

[00:36:32] Cathy Curtis: Exactly, that is a good money-saving technique because you invest in quality pieces. And then, if you want to be on trend, which is fun to do, you don’t have to spend as much money. Because those things don’t last as long, like the toss pillow that you decide to go all bright pink. In a year or two, you get sick of that, or whatever.

[00:36:52] Cathy Curtis: Keeping in mind the environmental aspect, I agree with you, I’m not into throwing things away or into fast fashion. But that is a good way to think about decor so that you can make it economical.

[00:37:06] Ruth Krumbhaar: And Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, you can go to those websites if you’re open to using furniture or furnishings that people have used before. It’s a great way to get some good deals and things that you wouldn’t naturally find in a store.

[00:37:23] Cathy Curtis: Interesting. I’ve never once used Facebook marketplace. Is it good?

[00:37:26] Ruth Krumbhaar: Oh, it’s so good.

[00:37:28] Cathy Curtis: Okay, that’s a good tip. And are you using a local Facebook marketplace or is that… Because I know on Craigslist, you could look in your local area to see if you could pick up something.

[00:37:41] Ruth Krumbhaar: You can do it locally. I think you can do it like Craigslist within a certain amount of miles. Actually, no, Craigslist is more region-specific. Facebook is more about how many miles away.

[00:37:52] Cathy Curtis: Okay. That’s good. So instead of going out on Sunday to garage sales, you could do it from your computer.

[00:38:00] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah. I’ve gotten some beautiful things on Facebook.

[00:38:03] Cathy Curtis: Ah, okay. Okay.

[00:38:05] Ruth Krumbhaar: Beautiful old lamps and rugs and various things. Plants.

[00:38:12] Why flipping a property requires a slightly different design approach than decorating a rental property.

[00:38:12] Cathy Curtis: Yeah, because people move, and they don’t want to move their plants. Okay, great. What about, and I don’t know if you’ve done a flip. I think you have, or your partner has.

[00:38:22] Ruth Krumbhaar: My partner does a lot and I help him with the design.

[00:38:26] Cathy Curtis: Okay. So that’s a whole different ballgame.

[00:38:28] Ruth Krumbhaar: Completely different. And it really depends who your audience is. Again, know your audience.

[00:38:35] Cathy Curtis: Okay, how do you approach that?

[00:38:37] Ruth Krumbhaar: We’re doing one right now in Redwood City, which is a very nice suburb here in the Bay Area on the peninsula.

[00:38:45] Ruth Krumbhaar: And the property is gorgeous. It’s an old, actually, the property is beautiful with old trees. The house is basically a square box that no one has done anything with for many years. So there’s an opportunity there. That’s a beautiful swimming pool. We have simplified the landscape by having the trees pruned, some of them taken down because it was a little too oppressive.

[00:39:13] Ruth Krumbhaar: To lighten it up and make it a little more airy. We’re just keeping…

[00:39:17] Cathy Curtis: Which is an expense, right? You had to factor that in.

[00:39:20] Ruth Krumbhaar: We did, but we know that we can sell this for much more than we’ve put in. So we know there’s a profit margin, so it’s worth it. And I think the buyers will feel that difference.

[00:39:33] Ruth Krumbhaar: But we left, we actually ground up a bunch of the trees and we created mulch from the ground-up trees and we spread that all in this whole area under the trees. We didn’t have to buy mulch. We didn’t have to landscape it. It just feels more rugged and rural and, but still nice and polished.

[00:39:55] Ruth Krumbhaar: All of that at the same time. And then it was a very narrow path walking up to the house all alongside the house. You have to turn to get to the front door. So it felt awkward. We think about people wanting a nice wide path that you feel invited in. And we’re going to do a fountain across from the door and do a sort of cutout.

[00:40:19] Cathy Curtis: Okay. So this goes back to your kind of formula: make the entryway really nice and inviting.

[00:40:28] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yes. And in this case, because there are all these trees and the wood chips, I wanted to have water, the sound of water too. So we’ll have a little fountain. We were just talking about that before I came on this call.

[00:40:42] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, we have different ideas about what the fountain should look like, but something modern will be right across from the door. So also when you’re exiting, you see this beautiful fountain, and then the landscape just fades and becomes nature. And so that felt like a really good way to add a feeling of luxury and a feeling of welcome and also something for them to remember when they leave.

[00:41:10] Cathy Curtis: Yeah. Okay. So the fountain, where will you go to source that?

[00:41:15] Ruth Krumbhaar: I just went on Amazon and there are enough decent fountains. This is not a high-end fountain. This is just to sell the house. We’re looking at about 300 for a modern, good-enough fountain. And then creating a little nook for it. And then what we did was we really focused on windows and doors and floors.

[00:41:39] Ruth Krumbhaar: So all the main surfaces of this house.

[00:41:44] Cathy Curtis: Which is totally different when you’re looking at a rental for Airbnb, right? Because you’re looking to make a profit on this place and sell it quickly. And that, people look at those kinds of things.

[00:41:59] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah. Because the house is so simple and lacks architectural interest, we felt that we needed to add a little more substance to it. The doors are really cool, modern ones with some cutout windows that will also let light in. We made the same design choice on the garage doors as well.

[00:42:17] Ruth Krumbhaar: So there are some sort of fun design elements that we can bring in through the doors.

[00:42:23] Cathy Curtis: Okay. Where did you find the doors?

[00:42:26] Ruth Krumbhaar: I will let you know, because I did not order them. However, my partner has a great local source for doors, and he has lots of opinions on windows too. So, we really focused on those pieces, the entry, and the landscaping.

[00:42:46] Ruth Krumbhaar: We ensured that we chose good, really good windows and fun, yet substantial doors. A door handle that feels really good and solid in your hand is a wonderful detail that you don’t skimp on.

[00:42:59] Cathy Curtis: Yeah, that makes sense. After all, it’s the entry to the home. It’s the first impression sort of thing, like a handshake.

[00:43:08] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yes, exactly. And then we’re going to paint everything Cotton Balls. Of course, we’re selling this house. We want it to be simple, but warm and inviting.

[00:43:21] Cathy Curtis: Did you use that company, Grohe, for the fixtures?

[00:43:24] Ruth Krumbhaar: We haven’t gotten there yet, but we probably will.

[00:43:26] Cathy Curtis: Okay. Did you spell that as G R O H E?

[00:43:33] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yes, that’s right.

[00:43:49] Ruth Krumbhaar: We’ve noticed some trends, for example, ridged wood surfaces. So, we got two vanities for the two bathrooms with that kind of surface. They weren’t that expensive, but they feel designer. We’re trying to create a theme there. In one part of the house, due to the open floor plan, we’re actually going to mimic that with some floor to ceiling thin pieces of wood.

[00:44:28] Cathy Curtis: Interesting. May I ask where did you source those vanities from?

[00:44:34] Ruth Krumbhaar: We had to hunt and peck for them, and I will again send you where we found them. I think we may have even found them on Houzz or Amazon.

[00:44:45] Cathy Curtis: Okay. Can you buy things on Houzz?

[00:44:49] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yes, you can.

[00:44:53] Cathy Curtis: And a lot of people go to Houzz for ideas, right? It’s like Pinterest but for home decor. Do you rely on it a lot?

[00:45:02] Ruth Krumbhaar: I use Houzz, and I use Pinterest. I also read magazines – everything from watching HGTV to my favorite magazine, which is World of Interiors, a more European and ethereal style.

[00:45:19] Cathy Curtis: I didn’t know about that. Okay, World of Interiors. That’s great.

[00:45:43] Ruth Krumbhaar: In terms of color and choices around tile and counters in this house, we’re doing everything in tans, whites, and a little touch of gray, accented with black. So, all the door handles will be black. It’s almost like the little black touches are like the eyeliner and everything else is more natural.

[00:45:54] Cathy Curtis: Are you using elevated materials for the flooring and things like that?

[00:45:58] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yes, for the floors. When looking at countertops, because we don’t have to live with it, we can just look and see what fits our design, budget, and what’s in stock.

[00:46:18] Ruth Krumbhaar: You get what you get and you don’t get upset is our motto when we’re doing projects like this.

[00:46:27] Cathy Curtis: Where do you go to find countertops and things like that?

[00:46:31] Ruth Krumbhaar: Part of our sourcing happens in South San Francisco. There are also a bunch of places in the Bay Shore area of San Francisco. We basically give ourselves two days, cruise through all of them, and make a decision within that timeframe.

[00:46:49] Cathy Curtis: See, that stresses me out. Some people are better at that than others. Have you heard of Granite Expo? It’s in the East Bay. I have a friend that tells everyone in the East Bay who is doing remodel jobs and needs tiles and things to go to Art and Tile on Broadway. It’s a bit high-end but they do great stuff. However, my friend suggests going to Granite Expo for cheaper prices.

[00:47:22] Ruth Krumbhaar: There is a place in the East Bay that we’ve gone to, I’ll think of all our sources. It’s great to go to the expensive places to get ideas.

[00:47:36] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, really great customer service. If you have the budget and you want to make it easy on yourself, by all means, that’s a good choice. They often have good contractors to recommend. It’s a bit more of a white glove experience. If you want to be a bit scrappier or if you have a great contractor that you know, these other places are where you can find beautiful materials.

[00:48:03] Ruth Krumbhaar: It’s just that you have to look a little harder.

[00:48:05] Cathy Curtis: And do you think you end up spending less when you do it? So, you really can save money by doing some of it yourself and foregoing the total white glove thing?

[00:48:20] Ruth Krumbhaar: For example, in Maine, we ended up getting beautiful marble countertops. I won’t bore you with the story, but we had three places that we were going to go to. We knew that we had to get them within a certain time frame, and our backup was to do wood, like butcher block counters, which are expensive, but still attractive.

[00:48:43] Ruth Krumbhaar: It’s a suitable choice for a summer house or for one part of your kitchen. It saves money.

[00:48:49] Cathy Curtis: That’s interesting. That’s a great idea. A backup, yeah. Yeah, excellent.

[00:48:53] Ruth Krumbhaar: And this place in Redwood City, the owner wanted to fill in the pool because he didn’t want to deal with it. I said he can’t. So, we’re doing some very inexpensive concrete around it. We’re actually creating some patterns within the concrete so that we can have moss growing in between.

[00:49:09] Ruth Krumbhaar: It’ll be a high-end feeling but not super expensive.

[00:49:23] Cathy Curtis: And concrete can be very attractive. It doesn’t have to be the ugly old asphalt or whatever.

[00:49:31] Ruth Krumbhaar: There are techniques where you can put salt on the surface to make it pucker a little bit, and there are different finishes and stains you can use on concrete.

[00:49:42] Cathy Curtis: Interesting. So, what’s the timeline for putting it on the market?

[00:49:49] Ruth Krumbhaar: Hopefully, September.

[00:49:50] Cathy Curtis: Okay. Is that because all this is going to take that much time due to the contractor’s schedule?

[00:49:58] Ruth Krumbhaar: It is, and it’s also because that’s a good time to start selling. That’s when people are ready to focus back on that kind of thing.

[00:50:08] Ruth Krumbhaar: During summer, people are more distracted.

[00:50:11] Cathy Curtis: So, you’re going to put it on sale at peak time to get the best price.

[00:50:17] Ruth Krumbhaar: Hopefully. It’s not a great market right now.

[00:50:20] Ruth’s advice for handling home renovation projects, such as updating a bathroom or kitchen, and why a good contractor can make a world of difference.

[00:50:20] Cathy Curtis: Yeah. I heard prices are dropping a little. Sounds like a fun project. Let’s switch over to residences. I am going to start this because I have a project and I want to hear what you say about how to handle this project.

[00:50:35] Cathy Curtis: I think a lot of people are in the same boat. My master bath has not been redone for years. It really needs to be gutted. It’s a fairly large room. So, I had a contractor come over and look at it and measure. He gave a quote for the gutting. Now, I’ve been advised to find everything, pre-order it all, and have it ready for when they come. Do you agree with that?

[00:51:08] Ruth Krumbhaar: If that’s what your contractor wants, then that’s the way to do it. Some contractors will say, “Give me the list of what you want and I’ll order it,” because they don’t want it sitting around at the job site.

[00:51:22] Ruth Krumbhaar: The con, if you have a good contractor whom you really trust and like, is that they have their process, so working with them in their process is a good thing to do. The other reason why they’re probably saying that is because you’re a homeowner; you’re gonna have an attachment to certain things, like a particular tile or whatever.

[00:51:44] Ruth Krumbhaar: And if he’s halfway through and you’re like, “Oh, but the tile that I wanted isn’t available anymore. I don’t know what to do,” he doesn’t want to have to stop halfway through and wait for you to figure that out.

[00:51:56] Cathy Curtis: Yeah, and in the meantime, your bathroom’s all torn up.

[00:51:59] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, yeah. So he probably has some experience with this and feels like it’s better to have it all there, sitting there and not have to worry about things not coming in on time.

[00:52:09] Cathy Curtis: Okay, that makes sense. And then me, who I love home design and I feel like I’m a creative person. I don’t know what it is, but the thought of redesigning a big bathroom just… and I procrastinate so much. I just cannot get started. So, what is your advice to somebody that is faced with this? That really wants their bathroom to look great. What are the steps you would suggest to come up with ideas and come up with a design?

[00:52:38] Ruth Krumbhaar: I think it all depends on your contractor, actually. Is your contractor someone that you trust their judgment and their sort of direction? Because some contractors, because they’ve done this so many times, they really understand how the bathroom functions.

[00:52:58] Ruth Krumbhaar: And they have actually really good ideas about how you might want to set it up. They’re not going to pick your tile for you and things like that. But they’ll have an idea of if you do the countertops here, you’re going to save a lot of money because you’ve already got your plumbing here and if you do, if you want to walk in, shower, you could do it here and you could actually fit a freestanding bath over here.

[00:53:19] Ruth Krumbhaar: They’ll possibly have some really good ideas. So I think that’s a great place to start. Start that conversation with your contractor, bring them in for a meeting in the space.

[00:53:32] Cathy Curtis: Yeah, and say, “I want a beautiful design that doesn’t cost ridiculous amounts. So I want to use what I can with the space,” like you’re saying, the plumbing.

[00:53:44] Cathy Curtis: Yeah, it makes sense.

[00:53:46] Ruth Krumbhaar: Or where window placements are, doors and things like that. The other thing is that if you have to get a permit, you may need to submit drawings, and so you would need somebody who can do that for you. If that’s the direction you’re going. Some people submit permits, some people don’t.

[00:54:07] Ruth Krumbhaar: It’s generally a good idea to do it.

[00:54:09] Cathy Curtis: Yeah. I know I have that. I debate that with people all the time.

[00:54:12] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah. And then the other, in terms of design and function, is what do you want? What is important to use? For some people, it’s important to have the toilet have their own little room. For other people, it’s they must have that double vanity with lots of space.

[00:54:30] Ruth Krumbhaar: For other people, it’s a walk-in shower and a freestanding tub. Thinking about how you want to use that space.

[00:54:36] Cathy Curtis: Okay. What’s important to you. Okay, that makes sense. And then the daunting thing to me is picking out the tiles and things and the countertops, because you’re not, you can’t envision it until it’s done.

[00:54:56] Cathy Curtis: So how do you go about doing that?

[00:54:59] Ruth Krumbhaar: I always, when I’m confused and unsure, I just go classic. You can never do too badly when you choose classic things. Like a sort of a marble, a grey and white marble. It may look, ho-hum, regular, uninspired, but hopefully you’re doing it in such a way that you’re adding in some fun details where you can.

[00:55:27] Ruth Krumbhaar: But classic always looks good. And so I would go on.

[00:55:31] Cathy Curtis: There’s some colors that I know this is true. In the 50s, it was all olive green and pink. I know there’s always trends. And I guess that’s not so important if you’re not planning to sell your house, but are there trends right now in bathroom colors?

[00:55:50] Ruth Krumbhaar: The ones that I see and respond to most are neutrals – just all neutrals. However, I’ve been working with a friend who’s obsessed with Moroccan tiles, which are trendy now. She wants to have the green square Moroccan tiles in her shower. I said, “If you do that, you have to have an arch doorway. Go for it!”

[00:56:18] Ruth Krumbhaar: That approach will get you a Moroccan light fixture. It can be fairly flush to the ceiling. Go for it. Because of that conversation, I’m seeing a lot of green. There are a lot of earth tones, interesting, almost clay-like, kind of pinky-brown clay-colored tiles, and a lot of beautiful tans.

[00:56:42] Cathy Curtis: What about wood-looking tiles? I’ve started to do a little exploring on Houzz and Pinterest, and I love that kind of earthy, outdoorsy feel that you get with wood. But of course, you don’t want wood in the bathroom.

[00:56:57] Ruth Krumbhaar: I think going that way is great. If you want to go earthy, I would take it a step further. Maybe do the pebble floor in the shower, just to bring natural elements or that kind of feel into the whole bathroom.

[00:57:13] Cathy Curtis: Yeah, okay. So maybe start with a theme. I like the natural elements look. It’s like you can make this an outdoor bathroom or something.

[00:57:24] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yes, then go for it. Go from there. And that’s where having a primary residence that you’re going to stay in for a while is important. You want to follow trends and be smart to a certain extent, but it’s also a chance to do something very personal for you. You’re going to create something that you’re going to enjoy for years to come.

[00:57:49] Cathy Curtis: Yeah, okay. From a budget perspective, do you think it’s a good idea to hire a bathroom consultant?

[00:58:07] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yes, I do. It’s like having a color consultant. A bathroom is a big deal and it’s a big expense, so you want to feel confident going in and like you have a plan. You don’t want a lot of changes happening as you’re doing it because your contractor will become more and more expensive.

[00:58:32] Cathy Curtis: So you don’t need an architect when it comes to redesigning?

[00:58:37] Ruth Krumbhaar: It really just depends, but I think getting a bathroom consultant is a good idea. I would speak with your contractor. If you have the budget, get a bathroom consultant who might be able to draw up the plan and make sure that you’re not overspending on your bathrooms. Generally, the projects that I’ve been privy to, and my mother is a landscape designer, she tells me every single project goes one third over budget. My partner is a contractor and it’s the same thing – every single project is one third over budget. So if you can keep in mind, only budget for two thirds of what you can afford. Leave a third extra of your budget for all the things that you’re going to discover along the way.

[00:59:34] Cathy Curtis: Yes, I know. I see it all the time. The clients did a lot of remodeling during COVID because people were at home. Home became a huge priority. I don’t even know if a third covered the overruns. It just got very expensive for people. They’re all very happy with it though. People love remodeling their homes and getting their spaces to reflect who they are. Like you said, if it’s going to be your residence for a long time, and most of my clients are planning to be in their residences, why not? The cost amortizes over time. If you do it well, maybe you won’t have to do it again for another 10, 20 years.

[01:00:17] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yes, exactly. And that’s where getting good fixtures, especially faucets and shower fixtures, comes in. You don’t have to go all the way to the super expensive ones, but you should get a good quality one.

[01:00:32] Cathy Curtis: Right, and knowing what the good quality things are. I guess that’s where you’re going to share some of your resources. You just have to do your research and talk to people. I’m sure bathroom consultants know where to go for good quality.

[01:00:48] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yes, and contractors will know as well. Some contractors are really up on that too.

[01:00:54] Cathy Curtis: Yes, it sounds like a key person is your contractor.

[01:00:59] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yes. So, I would almost speak with them before the bathroom consultant, because they’ll have that kind of understanding of the space, and you can brainstorm. For example, if I wanted to move the vanity over here, how much more would that cost?

[01:01:14] Ruth Krumbhaar: Get a sense for the kinds of choices that you feel prepared to make and pay for.

[01:01:19] Cathy Curtis: Okay. And then just generally speaking about res, so you’ve done a lot of decorating. Do you do decorating with friends too, besides your own? Yeah.

[01:01:27] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah. Yeah.

[01:01:32] Tips for updating a space where you’ve grown tired of the décor, and why hiring a style consultant can be a worthwhile investment.

[01:01:32] Cathy Curtis: So any, you’ve talked about your philosophy, general philosophy, but any other tips that you can give when you’re thinking about, let’s say, you’re completely tired of your living room decor? Like my living room decor has been the same, gosh, for 15 years.

[01:01:50] Cathy Curtis: We did it we got some really high-quality core pieces of furniture, but like I have a sisal rug. I’d love to get a real rug. How would you, what do you think about that? Updating like a room, refreshing let’s say.

[01:02:03] Ruth Krumbhaar: Oh, I think it’s great to do. I think it’s great to do. And maybe that sisal rug can find a home somewhere else in your house too.

[01:02:12] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah. It doesn’t necessarily have to go on the curb. One of the things that I’ve had a lot of fun with is working with friends doing updating, say, a living room, and they’ll say, maybe they’ll come to my house and be like, “Oh, I love your living room. I really want mine to look like yours.” And then we’ll go to their house.

[01:02:32] Ruth Krumbhaar: And I’ll realize their style is totally different than mine. It’s never going to work. And so it’s fun to help them really home in on your style. What is your style? You want a clubby, cozy, rich feeling. You don’t want an airy, ethereal, bohemian. Or you love that English countryside look. Go for it.

[01:02:56] Ruth Krumbhaar: And it’s so fun for me to explore other people’s tastes. My mother, for example, we’re finding fabric, she’s got a, in her kitchen she’s got this big banquette, like seating area, and a big table, and these big armchairs, and it’s all pink and green. Which, I can’t stand pink and green. Personally, it has been so much fun getting into her head and into her style.

[01:03:22] Ruth Krumbhaar: I have found the best pink and green fabrics for her. It’s been so much fun. I really think it’s important for us to connect to ourselves and connect to what we love and what makes us happy. And if you have a friend who’s good at design to get the design juices going or hire somebody to come in for a consultation.

[01:03:46] Cathy Curtis: Yeah, I know, I have friends that use designers, would never think about, I have a friend doing a refresh right now, has used a designer from the start, but she herself, my friend has really strong ideas of what she wants, and she finds it looking through Houzz and magazines and all that.

[01:04:06] Cathy Curtis: I think she uses a designer mainly for the sourcing. Yeah, and that’s finding these pieces that she really wants because she doesn’t want to have to do that leg work.

[01:04:16] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, and designers are really good for that because they get a discount and so they can either make their money in time or in reselling you the pieces at regular prices and they or both.

[01:04:29] Cathy Curtis: Yeah, which high-end designers do both.

[01:04:32] Cathy Curtis: I know that hourly and getting a cut on whatever pieces are sold.

[01:04:38] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah. And that’s where also working with designers, a lot of designers are wonderful, but some of them are going to try and push you to get more expensive things so they can make more money. So really making sure that you stick to your budget and stick to your guns around.

[01:04:53] Cathy Curtis: I had that experience when we first decorated this house. We hired a designer who showed me a dining table that was like a third of our budget for the whole top floor of our house, and I’m like “Were you not listening to anything I said about our budget?” We really had a budget. Yeah. Do you know what she said?

[01:05:14] Cathy Curtis: She said, “Oh, I’m sorry. Most of my clients don’t have a budget.”

[01:05:18] Ruth Krumbhaar: Ooh, that doesn’t sound like the right…

[01:05:22] Cathy Curtis: My husband said, “Let’s not use her.” And I was so deep into the project already. I thought I just couldn’t, but he was right. He was right. That kind of comment clearly indicated she wasn’t the right designer for us.

[01:05:37] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, especially for your profession. You’re helping people manage money.

[01:05:41] Cathy Curtis: Yes. So, you have to find the right person. And then, I decorated our master bedroom at another time, found the perfect person who went out of her way to stay within the budget and found some wonderful things for even lower prices.

[01:06:02] Cathy Curtis: And I… I would have never thought that because she was so focused on that. So, there are all different kinds.

[01:06:10] Ruth Krumbhaar: And it’s just like your contractor. Making sure you have a good contractor. Making sure that if you hire a decorator or designer of any kind, you see eye to eye and they’re creative.

[01:06:22] Ruth Krumbhaar: Some designers are very resourceful. Like the one you mentioned, they go on websites like Cherish, which is a wonderful website. Another tip. There are so many cool websites that have wonderful finds that are unique or antique. And they know how to find these unique things. That make your home really feel…

[01:06:48] Ruth Krumbhaar: Like an extension, an expression…

[01:06:50] Cathy Curtis: Of yourself. Exactly. And what I loved about her, she was more excited than me when she found a great deal. It was fun working with her instead of anxiety provoking like it was with the original people that we worked with. It was extremely anxiety provoking. Oh my gosh.

[01:07:10] Cathy Curtis: Beautiful things. Who doesn’t want a beautiful oak $15,000… But yeah, so I learned my lesson in that one. So speaking of, we’re going to go back to the personal finance aspect of this. There is investing in pieces, and then there’s knowing that you’re buying something that you love, but probably won’t last long.

[01:07:35] What Ruth believes are the most important items to invest in when decorating your home.

[01:07:35] Cathy Curtis: What do you think are the most important things to invest in when you’re decorating your home?

[01:07:41] Ruth Krumbhaar: I was just talking with a designer friend and she said it’s the rugs and the window treatments for her. And for me, I was like, really? I think it’s the sofa.

[01:07:53] Cathy Curtis: I think the sofa is really important too.

[01:07:56] Ruth Krumbhaar: I think… I happen to, I’m looking in my living room right now, I have an expensive sofa that I probably paid way too much for, but I love it, and it is the showpiece of my living room. I’ve got a very inexpensive rug that’s maybe $250, really inexpensive. But it looks good. So sometimes we can find these cheap things that look okay.

[01:08:23] Cathy Curtis: I know. It’s really true. Is it a big rug?

[01:08:28] Ruth Krumbhaar: It’s huge. And I can’t even believe how inexpensive it was. I bought it online on something like rugs.com for another room. And when it arrived, it was so nice. It’s not, if you touch it, it’s not going to feel like a really high-end rug, but it, and then my expensive sofa works very well with it.

 [01:08:50] Cathy Curtis: See, it elevates the whole room. That, I like that.

[01:08:53] Ruth Krumbhaar: So, I think it’s… People have their philosophies about what to invest in. I do think window treatments, good window treatments are… You can really feel the difference between custom curtains and off-the-shelf curtains.

[01:09:09] Cathy Curtis: And other… Not to say that you couldn’t find a good off-the-shelf curtain. Your rug is a great example. It’s just not as easy.

[01:09:18] Ruth Krumbhaar: Exactly. And there’s some… I think Pottery Barn has some like lined linen curtains. This is my go-to for people when they can’t figure out what they want, but they want it to look soft or summery or… It’s just a good standard. This is a good placeholder and you might have it for the next 10 years and it might just be fine.

[01:09:39] Cathy Curtis: Yeah. That’s not expensive. You know what my favorite, one of my favorite pieces in my home that came from working with the original designers is these reed shades in our living room. Oh my gosh, I love… I still love them. I’ve had them for 15 years and I look at them and they make me happy. And they were expensive.

[01:09:58] Cathy Curtis: Yeah. And I just… That was such a good investment.

[01:10:02] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah. I have some curtains that I bought years ago for an old house that I lived in a long time ago. And they’ve traveled with me. I make sure that they work in every house that I’m in because the fabric is so beautiful and the… quality of how they were put together is so beautiful. They elevate every room they’re in.

[01:10:21] Cathy Curtis: In fact, I’m going to put the name of the designer of my shades in the show notes because they still… You would probably know the name. I forget it, but… So beautiful. But you know what? Then again, I know that there’s a lot of quality copycats now that you can get a lot cheaper. It just depends on your budget and how much time you have to search out things.

[01:10:45] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, but I do think if you want your house to feel elevated, every room should have something that feels really substantial. Whether it’s a headboard, or in my guest room, I have a beautiful headboard and some beautiful fabric on the bed. Then I have a cheap desk that I might have gotten at Ikea. It’s just a guest room, so it doesn’t need to be super elevated. But I wanted the bed to feel really sumptuous and it has beautiful cushions.

[01:11:15] Cathy Curtis: I agree with you. We’re talking about residential right now, but even Airbnb’s need this. One of the Airbnb’s we stayed in on our trip was a really nice space.

[01:11:25] Cathy Curtis: It was big. It had a kitchen, but it was decorated completely in HomeGoods standard. There was no elevating element to it at all. It was adequate, it was comfortable. It was fine. But, I couldn’t help thinking, “God, I wish they had just spent a little bit more money.” And it was even from the things hanging on the wall, everything.

[01:11:53] Cathy Curtis: I thought, just maybe a few hundred more dollars. I couldn’t help thinking that, to your point, even if they had just picked one nicer element, it would have elevated the whole space.

[01:12:08] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, it makes a difference. People feel it, even if they don’t know what they’re feeling. Like in that Airbnb that you were in.

[01:12:17] Cathy Curtis: Exactly. I think about that with our Tahoe space. I’ll give a good example. We were in Tahoe recently and I went to a shop that had original art. The art wasn’t that expensive. I found a piece and I thought, “Oh my God, that would look so good in one of our bedrooms.”

[01:12:38] Cathy Curtis: And I thought, “Yep, I’m getting it.” We didn’t have the right piece. But, when I put that on the wall, just the fact that it’s an original art piece, even though it’s not that expensive, elevated the whole room.

[01:12:52] Ruth Krumbhaar: That’s an important aspect of decorating. Going back to my little house in Maine, I have the upside-down buckets with a piece of board on it, but on the wall, I have a series of antique floral framed pictures in old frames that are beautiful and have that elevated quality.

[01:13:24] Cathy Curtis: That works because you’ve got both elements. Another thing we noticed in a lot of Airbnb’s, which seems to work, is using baskets for decor like hanging a series of them on a wall. It works if there are other elements that aren’t baskets.

[01:13:51] Ruth Krumbhaar: In fact, I have here something I’ve traveled with. It’s a big rattan kind of basket-like thing.

[01:14:00] Cathy Curtis: Could you bring it a little bit closer? There you go.

[01:14:02] Cathy Curtis: Wait, a little bit back. We could see it at some point, but I see what you did.

[01:14:09] Ruth Krumbhaar: Anyway, it’s something that can go on a coffee table, or it can go on a wall. It was like, I don’t know, $40. Because it’s earthy, it doesn’t feel cheap. It’s like the baskets.

[01:14:24] Cathy Curtis: Exactly. And because it’s earthy, I don’t think people should move away from basketry. It really is a nice design element. Maybe you don’t like that look in your home, but if you have an Airbnb or VRBO, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it as a design element.

[01:14:45] Ruth Krumbhaar: It’s a really inexpensive way to bring a little more design in.

[01:14:50] Cathy Curtis: Juxtapose that with a piece that’s maybe a little bit nicer.

[01:14:54] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, I do have a lot of baskets in my house in Maine, actually.

[01:15:00] Cathy Curtis: Do you? Okay, what’s your resource for that? HomeGoods? I’ve asked you that 20 times already.

[01:15:08] Ruth Krumbhaar: I have to admit, that’s a great place.

[01:15:11] Cathy Curtis: HomeGoods? Yeah, HomeGoods. Okay, that would be a good place for baskets. Remember Cost Plus used to be such a great place.

[01:15:26] Ruth Krumbhaar: I don’t know, I haven’t been there. There was one near here, or are you thinking of Pier 1?

[01:15:32] Cathy Curtis: Oh, Pier 1. I think they’ve shut down too. Those used to be my go-to’s, but you’re giving a lot more ideas for where to look, which I’m excited to see.

[01:15:46] Ruth Krumbhaar: And Etsy is another wonderful place. I just ordered a tablecloth from Etsy, which is beautiful. You can find so many different things of varying quality on Etsy.

[01:15:59] Why practical designs can actually boost your return on investment with an Airbnb property.

[01:15:59] Cathy Curtis: You’ve given some great notes too. I want to make sure we covered some of your main points. Oh, I know, about rental and Airbnb, the practicality. We haven’t really discussed practical designs very much. Designs that are easy to clean, easy to maintain.

[01:16:20] Ruth Krumbhaar: So you don’t want to do something like I did in Maine, unless you’ve sealed it a bunch. Having marble countertops in a rental is probably not a great idea because red wine could spill on it and stain it.

[01:16:35] Cathy Curtis: Oh, okay.

[01:16:37] Ruth Krumbhaar: Want to have surfaces. And oh, I had candles that dripped. You want to have dripless candles. Things like that. You need to consider, imagine messy people being in the space and how the housekeeper is going to clean it easily.

[01:16:58] Ruth Krumbhaar: And how are you going to maintain it easily? So, making choices, whether they’re cheaper things like the board on the galvanized buckets or smooth surfaces that can’t be destroyed, is key. Some of my furniture in Maine, for example, is painted, but it’s also a little bit of that. It can be chipped and a little worn because that’s the sort of feeling of a Maine summer house.

[01:17:24] Ruth Krumbhaar: So, I don’t care. But if it was a different kind of feeling, maybe the painted furniture wouldn’t go so well.

[01:17:31] Cathy Curtis: One of my pet peeves is bathroom surfaces that are dark. I don’t know if it’s slate or what, but it shows all the toothpaste stains. You cannot keep it clean no matter what. It’s a mistake to have in any kind of place that is an occasional rental.

[01:17:51] Cathy Curtis: Yeah, yeah. You really have to think through that kind of thing.

[01:17:54] Ruth Krumbhaar: You really do. And think through what also of yours can you tolerate having other people touch or use.

[01:18:04] Cathy Curtis: Yes. And the cleaning person thing you brought up. So critical to help your cleaning person be able to clean quickly and efficiently, especially if you’ve got a popular place with constant turnover where they’ve got to come in and maybe have someone come in that same evening when someone leaves. Thinking through that, maybe not so many knickknacks or the surfaces you choose for your floors in the kitchen and bathrooms, all those kinds of things are so important.

[01:18:35] Ruth Krumbhaar: It’s so true. That’s so true. Having enough sets of sheets so that if some are in the dryer, the cleaning person can get the other beds ready.

[01:18:44] Cathy Curtis: It’s a real art and a science to run a place. And to run it well.

[01:18:48] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah. And that’s why with the Airbnb’s that I’ve had, all the sheets are the same color.

[01:18:55] Ruth Krumbhaar: So if you have a pillowcase here, even if they’re slightly different, you could, everything’s white or everything’s blue or everything is in the same theme so it can be mixed and matched.

[01:19:07] Cathy Curtis: Yeah. I agree. Keeping it as simple as possible is, especially if you have multiple bedrooms, it just makes so much sense. And all the beds being the same size is helpful too. Yeah, if you can do it. But all these things save time, and they save money. They do. You make your cleaner’s job easier, she or he is going to spend less time in the place cleaning it, you’re going to have a lower cleaning fee, things like that.

[01:19:36] Ruth Krumbhaar: And so, I think with those kinds of properties, keeping it again, simple, keeping the design simple, keeping the garden simple as easy to maintain as possible. One of the things at my place in Maine. The front step. It’s an island where there are granite quarries. So it’s got these massive granite slabs as steps, but they were off-kilter and the whole house felt kind of funky. I had a guy just correct it and oh straight and pushed it back into place, which was not an easy thing to do because they’re humongous. The whole house feels different.

[01:20:17] Ruth Krumbhaar: It feels so good. And also, it’s safer. Because if somebody trips on those stairs, if they were a little bit off, maybe they could sue me. So you have to also think about that.  

[01:20:30] The importance of understanding local real estate laws when investing in a rental property.

[01:20:30] Cathy Curtis: Okay, that’s another great topic. So, this is for rentals. You have to know the local laws about keeping the property safe.

[01:20:42] Cathy Curtis: Yes. If you have a tenant especially. Can you talk to that a little bit?

[01:20:46] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, it’s really important. When I owned rental properties in San Francisco as a landlord, I don’t have a lot of rights. I have fewer rights than I would like so that’s something really important to consider. In Indiana, I certainly don’t want to do anything to upset my renter.

[01:21:06] Ruth Krumbhaar: I love my renter, but I have more rights in Indiana than I do here in San Francisco. And that is appealing…

[01:21:13] Cathy Curtis: About that on the first podcast, that you could do a lot more things than you can do in San Francisco. And just how much easier would that be? It’s just so much easier.  

[01:21:24] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah. This is less, there’s so many elements that come into this.

[01:21:29] Ruth Krumbhaar: Because you have to make sure your insurance is good for it being a rental and…

[01:21:34] Cathy Curtis: Can you give an example of something you can do in Indiana that you would never be able to do in San Francisco?

[01:21:40] Ruth Krumbhaar: I think I can kick my renter out more easily. And again, not that I would want to, because I love my renter.

[01:21:48] Cathy Curtis: But no, I know, but that’s a real issue for landlords.

[01:21:51] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yes, in San Francisco, I was considering selling my property and approached the renters and it was going to cost a hundred grand to move them out.

[01:22:02] Cathy Curtis: Yeah, that’s happened to friends of mine. It’s horrible.

[01:22:06] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, so it’s important to think about that. And as I go to re-rent my property in San Francisco, I have to consider the renter, if I want to sell it in say three years.

[01:22:19] Ruth Krumbhaar: I either need somebody who I think will leave in three years, or I have to be prepared to buy them out.

[01:22:25] Cathy Curtis: Are there any other, you mentioned knowing other local laws or ordinances and wherever you do buy and rent.

[01:22:35] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah. I’ll use Indiana. The mayor of the town where my house is. He’s real estate friendly.

[01:22:43] Ruth Krumbhaar: He’s actually just trying to help the town get back up on its feet. And so he wants people to come in and fix up houses. He wants great rental housing because three new factories are moving in. So he’s trying to make it easy for everybody, the workers and the people who need housing, but also the people who are supplying the housing.

[01:23:05] Ruth Krumbhaar: And I love his attitude. I don’t, I can’t recite all the nuts and bolts, but in listening to him and reading some of the articles about him and the initiatives that he’s got going. He’s really favoring developers, he’ll sit down and meet with you and talk to you about what you want to do in terms of development and try and make it happen.

[01:23:26] Cathy Curtis: Did you know this when you, after you bought or before you bought?

[01:23:31] Ruth Krumbhaar: Before, before. A friend of mine…

[01:23:32] Cathy Curtis: That would be, that’s a really interesting element to know about when you’re going to buy a rental in a city.

[01:23:38] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yes. And so you want to go on any sort of board, even Reddit is a place where you can get some information.

[01:23:47] Ruth Krumbhaar: You don’t want to rely on that solely. You should read the local newspapers. That’s a really good way to learn, talk to some banks about lending practices and what’s going on, and do a drive around the area, talk to your realtor. Look at, I think we talked about a lot of this in our first podcast, look at places like Muncie where my house is, three new factories are coming in.

[01:24:14] Ruth Krumbhaar: Actually, I think it’s really promising for our future. I think that it’s important to do your research around what’s happening locally. You don’t want any surprises.

[01:24:26] Cathy Curtis: Yeah. We want as few as you can manage because there’s always going to be something. Yeah. It’s always going to be something.

[01:24:35] Ruth Krumbhaar: Yeah, you can make a property as pretty as you want and you can have it as buttoned up, but there are always things.

[01:24:43] Ruth Krumbhaar: One thing that I think my partner is running into in Redwood City is when you do a transaction there buying or selling a property, you have to upgrade the sewer lateral, which is a huge expense that a lot of people aren’t aware of. So I think that’s common.

[01:24:55] Cathy Curtis: I hear about that a lot and it’s expensive.

[01:25:03] Ruth Krumbhaar: It is. So just making sure that you do your research.

[01:25:07] Cathy Curtis: Yeah. You need to be like a forensic scientist when you’re digging into all the details. That makes a lot of sense. Great. I have enjoyed this conversation so much. Is there anything else you’d like to add that you think our listeners would enjoy hearing about? When it comes to decor, and I know, just so everyone knows, we’ll share a whole bunch of resources on the podcast page once this is published.

[01:25:37] Ruth Krumbhaar: I think just connecting to what makes you happy, what brings you joy. If you are a maximalist, go for it, at least in your own home. If you are a minimalist, go for it. And then also, I think, just follow your heart, be you. Yeah. Or make your home represent you, make it be an extension of your personality and expression.

[01:26:04] Ruth Krumbhaar: That’s in your own house. And if you have rental properties or you’re interested in doing Airbnbs, see if you can establish a formula because it’ll make it a lot easier. Have one paint color that you always go to, that feels like the safe bet. So you don’t have to scurry around and wonder what color you painted that rental property or that rental property.

[01:26:27] Ruth Krumbhaar: And just have fun with it. Design is fun, and it’s inspiring, and it says a lot. And it’s a great way for us to express ourselves, but it’s also a great way to welcome people and allow other people to feel good. So that, and then in terms of finances, that sort of two thirds, one third is possibly a rule to stick with.

[01:26:52] Ruth Krumbhaar: If you have your budget is, say, $100,000, see if you can whittle it down to somewhere like $75,000 or $70,000. You can work within there knowing that you have a little bit of extra wiggle room if you need it.

[01:27:06] Cathy Curtis: That’s great advice. And then you won’t be so surprised. And hopefully, you’ll have the money to be able to do it.

[01:27:15] Ruth Krumbhaar: Exactly. And then, of course, as we talked about, having every room have that something elevated.

[01:27:22] Cathy Curtis: I think that is really good advice. Yeah. I love it. You can’t go wrong if you do that.

[01:27:31] Ruth Krumbhaar: All right, this has been so much fun. It’s wonderful fun. And I love talking about design and real estate and finances with you.

[01:27:40] Cathy Curtis: I do too. Thank you so much. And we’ll be publishing this very soon. And I’d love to say we’ll do a third one. So maybe we’ll come up with another topic for the future. Yes. Okay, Ruth. Thanks so much. Take care. Bye. Bye.

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