Portland Local Business

The April Edition

April is Portland is one of best times of the year. From viewing the cherry blossoms by the river to shedding the winter jackets, here are three things we're excited about this month:

1) Out & About: Sometimes during the bustle of daily life, it's easy to forget so many amazing wineries are right at our doorstep thanks to the Willamette Valley and Columbia Gorge. They have all the makings for a fun day trip - or fantastic weekend getaway. Can't make it out? Check out Portland's Grand Tasting on April 12 at the Lefthand Annex.

2) Build Community: Join our team on Thursday, April 19th, for a day of volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. If you'd like more details and wish to sign up, please email us.

3) In the Garden: We're excited about enjoying evening meals in our backyards and watching our gardens grow as the weather warms up. Want to get the most from your space whether it's a yard or deck? Check out Portland Nursery's blog, which offers great care tips for plants both in and outdoors.

If you're thinking about buying or selling a home or investment property, please let us know!
We're always excited to help people set and reach their real estate goals.

follow us on facebook and instagram to learn about our upcoming open houses
facebook // instagram // pinterest // twitter

Our Favorite Things : Holiday Edition

Aside from cozying up in front of a fireplace, sipping on hot cocoa - or a glass of red wine - and staring at the Christmas tree, here are some of our favorite holiday activities:  

"I love keeping Christmas day simple and spending it eating Chinese food and going to a movie. It use to just be my husband and me, but I think the appeal of a low-key holiday has spread to our friends. Now a lot of us meet to see a movie together, which is even more fun!" - Britta Scwartz, Broker

"Matt and I trek up to Christmas Mountain with friends, drink hot chocolate and traipse around in the snow until we find our tree. Then we cut it ourselves, and haul it home to decorate. I love making our family recipe of rooskies [recipe below]. My favorite book is an old, beat-up Christmas book my parents got us when we were little. It was scratch and sniff - that doesn’t work anymore - and it makes me smile when I pull it off the shelf to read to my nieces and nephews." - Claire Paris, Principal Broker 

"My favorite holiday activity is probably getting together with friends for an ugly sweater bar crawl, and sometimes being able to see family who don’t live in Oregon. I also love New Years!" - Deanna Cintas, Broker

"My favorite holiday actives are checking out Christmas lights and different places that are done up for the holidays - grabbing cocktails at the Benson, going to the Grotto, Pittock Mansion, or seeing the tree at Pioneer Square are just a few. I also love watching the Christmas ships at Salty’s! My favorite holiday tradition is spending Christmas Eve at my sister’s house with family. We all get together for some holiday cheer, dinner, and gift opening before heading to mass. I always love making sure the Hallmark Channel Yule Log is on the TV in the background." - Kate Ray, Lead Transaction Coordinator

We hope you have a wonderful Christmas with your family and loved ones.


follow us on
facebook // instagram // pinterest // twitter

Real Estate 101: Home Inspections

Today we're interviewing Jay Hensleigh of Associated Master Inspectors, a home inspection firm based in Tigard, OR. Jay has been an inspector since 2006 in the Portland area. We asked him to share his insights about home inspections, what buyers and sellers can expect from an inspector, and what sellers should have ready if they remodeled their home. 

1) Can you please describe what a typical day looks like for you?
My work day consists of either one or two inspections. For a typical home inspection, I’m onsite for about 4 hours, looking at the home and talking to the client and realtors. When you add in travel time to and from the office or between successive jobs, it can make for a very full day. 

After the inspection(s), I spend an additional 2-3 hours in the office to compile my inspection findings and photos, research any unique issues discovered at the home, and review and finalize the report. Given these time investments, I find it’s logistically impossible to do more than two inspections a day. When I do have two inspections in one day, I make sure to reserve time the next morning to complete the reports.

2) What is your process for inspecting a house?
In Oregon, home inspectors are required to follow and meet tightly defined rules known as the Oregon Standards for Home Inspection, which define the extent, limits, and requirement of an inspection. Within these standards, my process of performing an inspection is primarily a visual process of discovery, essentially starting at one end of the home (roof) and finishing at the other end (the crawlspace). I carry a collection of tools to help me inspect the home, including ladders, flashlights, screwdrivers, probing tools, moisture meter, various electrical testers, and a pick-hammer.

To document issues I discover, I carry a digital camera and also have my laptop on a portable stand to enter information as I move around the property. Some areas may be fully inaccessible for various reasons or my view of various areas of components may be limited by furnishings, stored items, or appliances, and these limitations are noted in the report.

I encourage my clients to attend the inspection, but to arrive towards the end of it. This allows me time to fully focus on the home. Toward the end, I meet with my client and their realtor to review my findings so everyone is aware of the more serious issues present at the home. Sometimes we walk around the home and look at any areas the client wants to see. As we wrap on onsite, payment is usually collected from the client, and I let them know when they can expect the report.

3) If a homeowner is planning a home remodel, what should they take into consideration if they decide to sell their home in the future?
The three most important considerations are permits, permits, and permits. Did I mention permits?

In today’s world, making sure you obtain permits for renovations or repairs when required is very important. If you choose to do work without permits, it’s very likely it will come up when you go to sell the house. Most buyers will ask for permits to be obtained. Obtaining permits retroactively can be very expensive and time consuming. In worse-case scenarios, you may be required to open up walls to expose work for inspection or could even be required to demolish additions.

4) What’s one tip you can share with sellers?
How about three? First, make sure all utilities are on. Having the water, power, or gas shut-off severely limits the inspection and almost always requires a second inspection visit that often results in added inspection fees and almost always delays.

Second, making sure attics, crawlspaces, furnaces, water heaters, and electrical panels are not blocked by stored items, furniture or appliances also ensures a complete inspection without delays.

And finally, please plan to be away from the home during the inspection. Your presence can slow down the inspection process and makes it difficult for your buyer to learn about your home without some sense of unease.

5) What’s one tip you can share with buyers?
Homes are a complex compilation of materials, systems, and components. Over time, materials weather, systems age, and components wear out. As a home inspector, my primary job is to alert you to health and safety issues, structural problems, and conditions that may lead to safety and structural issues, but keep in mind that the inspection is a snapshot in time. Conditions in and around the home can and do change over time. You can be your home's best ally by consistently performing seasonal and annual maintenance, and monitoring your home to catch and resolve any conditions that may lead to significant damage.

6) BONUS Q: What drew you to home inspection?
The first time I saw a home inspector in action was 1995 when I bought my first home. At the time, I was well established in a career path as a fishery biologist, but I was intrigued as I followed the inspector around the house, and later as I read the report.

Seven years later my career transition, I started working as a handyman for a property management company, which led to construction work for a local developer, which led to getting my contractor's license. While construction work was fun and rewarding, I wanted a more flexible and independent schedule, with more variety in my work tasks. I also wanted more interaction with clients. Home inspection seemed like it would meet these needs and would allow me to use the skills, knowledge, and experience I had built-up as a contractor and as a biologist. It took a little more training and testing, but soon I was working as a home inspector. I have found that indeed, it’s a great fit for me. The joy of the job is the mix of technical expertise required, camera and computer work, seeing all kinds of houses, and of course, meeting people as they proceed with the exciting, and stressful, process of buying a home.

Thanks Jay for taking the time to share your insights with us and our readers!

Follow Associated Master Inspectors on Facebook.

follow us on
facebook // instagram // pinterest // twitter

Five on Friday with Alexander Frane

We sat down with Portland native and beverage writer extraordinaire, Alexander Frane, to get his take on all the essential information home-seekers need about Portland libations.  

1. In your time covering local restaurants have you seen any places that have had a big enough impact to change the dynamic of a neighborhood? 

When I think about that, what I really think about most is Mississippi. That change was around ten years ago. Restaurants and bars opening in that area happened along with a major shift of the demographics of homeowners in the neighborhood. It has been a big topic of conversation in Portland; I don’t want to comment too much on that shift other than to say that it occurred in tandem with these new food and beverage businesses taking up residence. I love that neighborhood and I love those bars and restaurants - I think they are amazing - but it is indicative of how the city has changed.

Woodstock seems to be going through some of those changes Mississippi went through with a new Double Mountain Brewery and other attractive businesses moving in. I wonder if it is kind of a chicken and the egg thing. I’m curious whether these new restaurants change the neighborhood or if the neighborhood starts changing and new restaurants come in as a result. Woodstock still has many long-term residents but I also feel like it is attracting new people and the street itself is starting to look different.

I think Pok Pok on Division was successful and lead to that area being more developed as other restaurants followed suit. I imagine that had an impact on the housing and rental market in the area.

Also, Coquine. It’s such a nice area but there is less directly around it so it might be bringing people into that area that haven’t been there before.

2. On the other side of things, any restaurants you are familiar with that have struggled because the neighborhood wasn’t a good fit?

There are some restaurants in town that are great, but in areas that have continued to feel quiet and residential. The main street of restaurants in Beaumont continues to have steady but a quieter turn out which is unfortunate since some highly-underrated restaurants can be found there. Like Bang Bang, which has a great, creative menu but doesn’t seem to get lines out the door like some very comparable restaurants in other neighborhoods. Smallwares was well liked and had an amazing reputation but closed after inconsistent levels of business. There is a complex relationship between food and beverage venues and the neighborhoods they live in and influence.

3. When people are looking for a home, they might find there are certain local amenities they can’t live without. When it comes to having a neighborhood bar, what requirements should a prospective neighborhood fulfill?

I think you should have one of every variety of bar: a dive bar, a neighborhood bar, and a cocktail bar. Some people group neighborhood bars and dive bars together but I think there is a distinction there. If you have one of each of those within walking distance of your new home, you will be all set.

4. One of my favorite things you have shared are the best places for dog owners to drink in Portland with their four-legged companion in tow. Since you have perspective on this topic, which neighborhood in Portland do you think is best for drinking with dogs?

That would be Mississippi. Everyone loves dogs on Mississippi and there are a lot of dog-friendly places. Prost, Interurban, and Bar Bar are all dog-friendly. Further up when Mississippi St. turns into Albina there is Victoria which is one of the best dog-friendly bars in the city. The owner loves dogs and the patio is set up well to host them. Alberta is good too for dogs, but really Mississippi hands down though, it’s not even a question, if you want to take your dog out drinking with you.  

5. If you were to buy a home based on its proximity to your favorite bars in the city what neighborhood would you choose?

Buckman. It has the highest concentration of the best bars at every level. It is the best eating and drinking spot in town. With all the stuff on Sandy and Burnside and all the stuff in lower Buckman into the lower industrial area. Even if you are just in the inner-industrial area just by the Morrison bridge you could probably go to a different wonderful place each night. It may be difficult to find a home right there since it is less residential, but if you head east a few blocks there are more homes. My dream house would be off Stark anywhere between 15th and 20th right over near Buckman grade school, where I went. That is my favorite part of town. You can walk anywhere from there to all the best bars and half the best restaurants and it’s beautiful. I think the Division/Clinton neighborhood would be my second choice. 

Check out Alexander's articles on ThrillistThe Daily Meal and Drink Nation's Drink Portland; and follow him on Twitter and Instagram for Portland insider libation locations! 

Five on Friday: Ross NW Watergardens

This week we are excited to share out conversation with local landscape designer, Ben Bowen of Ross NW Watergardens. Ben is a third generation landscaper and part of a family-owned business.

1. How do you consider the architecture of a home when you are designing a landscape?

It really depends on the client. Some people want a landscape very true to the style of their home; if they have a craftsman, then they want something classic. While other people may not care at all. They may have a very traditional home but they want a modern design for their yard that may not necessarily fit the style of the house. Sometimes the fit between the landscaping design and the house is seamless; other times you get a little more creative to make the styles work together in a way to make visual sense. If you do that well, it seems like you can make almost any style you want work. Whether the styles merge easily or not, there's usually things about the house that you're trying to accentuate or hide.

2. Can you give an example of what techniques you use to accentuate or hide parts of a house?

Sure; ranch style homes can have nice windows but will also have some long expanses of just bare wall. It's a great backdrop for some plantings, so picking where you put those involves some strategy. A lot of the newer homes that infill homes are too tall for some of the lots they are on. It can feel like they are looming over you as you approach the house when you have a two-story house eight feet from the sidewalk on a 4000 square-foot lot, the proportions can seem off. You can help soften that transition by utilizing tall, narrow plants. It goes the other direction too. Plants can also be a wonderful way to edit what you can see looking out from your house. Tall plants can be great for neighbors because they give a lot of privacy. Bamboo is usually the answer. 

3. How do you balance a client’s lifestyle with their landscape ambitions?

 Modern landscape and design-build project by Ross NW WatergardensAs far as maintenance goes I try to get a good sense of how much time they spend in their yard, including how much they want to be leisure versus working in the yard. Knowing their lifestyle helps to figure out what is the most sustainable design for the customer. When clients are planning to pay for someone else to maintain the yard, I design whatever they want and don’t weigh the two factors [leisure vs maintenance]. If they are going to do the maintenance themselves, then there are a lot of compromises that need to be made between beauty and labor. I find most people want to spend their Saturdays enjoying their landscape, not working in it. It helps that most people are realistic about how much work they will put into their garden, which really guides all those complex decisions.

4. Do you use edible plants in landscapes?

There is a lot of interest in edible plants in landscaping. I get asked this question often. There are lots of ways to work edibles into the landscape and I always try to do it in a way that works with everything else that we have chosen. I love to use blueberries because the shrub itself, even without the fruit, is very attractive. We plant quite a bit of persimmon; it's a beautiful tree and even if you don’t use the persimmons, they look so cool in the fall. In the fall, the fruit stays after you lose the leaves so it looks like a bunch of miniature pumpkins. If you were so inclined you could plant it just for that reason.   

5. How do you balance budgets and requests?

I try to balance the budget, climate, and style. For a lot of people, the budget is the most important. Depending on exactly how important budget is, I can make decisions about how to balance everything else. I feel like over time I have become good at reading people’s priorities. As we adjust the plan, I work with them to find their priorities and educate them about the costs and benefits of the different directions we could go with the design. It’s a very collaborative process and it is really rewarding to see the final product and hear client feedback about how they enjoy their outdoor space.

Bonus Question 1: The climate in Portland has been more extreme lately. How has that influenced your designs?

There have always been some plants that have been borderline evergreen for Portland but if we have more winters like this last one, they'll no longer be evergreen options. Hebe is an example of that; it’s a very popular plant that used to be considered an evergreen in Portland. I now must be more careful with what goes dormant during really cold winters. Hot summers just mean more water and more work, which is ok. It’s much more disappointing to have spring come around and think that your plants are dead - but they aren't.  

Bonus Question 2: Are you seeing any changes in your client's requests recently?

Portland is experiencing a lot of growth which is leading to some shifts in the demographics. People are moving from Seattle and San Francisco and bringing requests for modern homes and modern landscapes to go with them. These designs are really low-maintenance and attractive with clean lines, plantings that are function first, and a lot of hardscapes. As they get more popular I expect to see the effect snowball and we will get even more requests for these types of projects.

Bonus Question 3: What are your favorite Portland neighborhoods to look at landscaping?

Portland is a city where people really enjoy the outdoors and use their yards. All over Portland, there are more specific homes, not areas, I’ve noticed and really like. I enjoy the mid-century modern style and the landscaping that goes along with it. I think it can be distinctive and interesting. There are some great neighborhoods in Southwest Portland for those styles. It’s amazing how one person’s landscaping can influence and inspire the landscaping for the homes around it. There’s a six-block stretch of homes on North Flavel Drive where people have taken their landscapes and done interesting things with them, and they coordinate as a neighborhood. I don’t know how these things catch on but it is cool to see and I could imagine it spreading.

If you find yourself in need of some expert landscaping design or if you are looking for some inspiration be sure to check out Ross NW Watergardens on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Houzz, and their Website!

Five on Friday with Abbasi Fine Rugs

This week we sat down with some local entrepreneurs, Omar Abbasi and his partner Alexandra Brennan, who recently started their own business, Abbasi Fine Rugs.                                                                                                              

1. In your bio, you mentioned that your dad has inspired you to start this business. Can you elaborate on that? Is your father in the rug business as well?

He is, he owns several businesses in Latin America that specialize in antique Persian rugs. He also sells furniture that my brother and I have helped him import from India and Indonesia. He has been doing that in Guatemala for 30 years. As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that I really admire his work and his philosophies about helping people find this important feature for their home.

My dad always did this advertisement that I thought was kind of cheesy as a kid but have grown to realize is true. The line is “people always spend a lot of money on copies of Persian rugs but they could afford to have the real thing for less.” Working in the mainstream rug business for the last six years, I really see that to be true. I want to continue my dad’s approach here in Portland to help people connect with a better product.

2. How will you be finding your rugs? Will you be following your dad’s lead when it comes to sourcing?

Initially, the plan was to go to Iran and purchase a container, but the recent political climate has forced us to change our game plan. The new plan is to use the connections I have made throughout my lifetime doing business with my father as well as my own experience in the rug industry. We will still be sourcing directly from our contacts in Iran and the Middle East, we will just have to go about it a bit differently.

There are not a lot of people sourcing directly from Iran. Most stores are buying from wholesalers, so they must add more of a markup to make a profit. I have a very different business model, where I will sell a higher volume at an excellent value and not have to pay a wholesaler. The other benefit is that I get to personally select the rugs and find things that I really like and that my clients will be excited about as well.

All the rugs that we sell are hand knotted pieces which I have acquired over the last ten years of collecting. I’ve also found rugs in thrift shops and online, but that takes a lot of patience. You must know what you are looking for and be persistent. We hope to alleviate some of the headaches for our clients but still get them the great result of a beautiful, one of a kind piece.

3. How long have known you wanted to start this business?

About four years ago, I became way more serious about what I wanted. I started kicking around the idea that I could have my own business and I thought maybe it would be an antique store with all sorts of found objects everywhere. Not a lot of my friends thought that was a successful idea so I never did it.

In the last year, I woke up and decided that if I had a store that specialized in rugs and sold to my friends and their friends and had decent foot traffic, then it would be successful. I think there are many parts of my business plan that appeal to a newer type of consumer. There is a push for long lasting quality over disposable quantity.

I think this is relevant for younger generations who are emphasizing reducing waste. Instead of buying something that’s just okay for now and replacing it when you have the money and drive to find something better, take the time you need to find something you really love, that is timeless and you can keep forever. Our goal is to make that an affordable option by working with consumers to find just what they want. It may take longer but is so worth it and less wasteful in the long run.

Buying a rug is a really grown-up purchase. It makes your space feel like home. It increases your seating and is luxurious to walk on. It’s a physical and emotional change to the room.

As the population in Portland continues to increase, there can be other upsides to rugs as well. They are amazing for sound insulation. If you live in a condo or an apartment it can really cut down on the noise for your downstairs neighbors and help stifle some of the sounds you may hear coming from them as well.

4. Your business is offering a unique service based on requests. Can you tell me a little more about that? Do you know anyone else who does this?

Nobody that I know of really asks people what they want. People come in and start shopping around and if they’re not seeing exactly what they have in mind, a salesperson may come in and try to sell them on something else. They may get talked into purchasing something that they don’t necessarily want.

I want to help people find what they are looking for. If they have a clear idea of what they want, they can show me examples, draw it out, bring color swatches, let me know the size and their price range and I can find the rug that fits. It may take a little bit but it will generally be faster than if they look themselves, as I know the market and where I am most likely to find what fits their needs.

When you are rug shopping, it is a clever idea to explore your options. All store owners have different tastes and you may be limited by their inventory. That being said, if something grabs your attention, even if it's not what you thought you wanted, give it a shot. It might end up being great in your space. We offer a 24-hour trial period prior to purchase. Take it home. Feel it out. You shouldn’t have to keep something you don’t want to live with forever.

5. What would you say is the goal of your business?

I think my goal is to make the prospect of purchasing a rug more approachable. It’s important for people to know that at any stage in life you can have a home you love. Comfortable furnishings are not out of reach. If you just spent money on a home purchase, that initial anxiety and sticker shock can make it feel like you don’t have the money to nest and customize your home. Having an affordable option like a rug to upgrade your home is a great first step.

I think the overall assumption of Persian rugs is that they are expensive and out of reach. My goal is to set the prices so that they are attainable. The same amount of money someone might spend on a rug that is just tolerable from a department store could buy them something unique and timeless.

These rugs are made to last. They are handmade with fibers that age beautifully. We want people to know that these heirloom pieces are not out of reach just because you may be at a point in your life where you don’t have a big budget for decorating your home. You can own nice rugs and not go broke. Alexandra came up with a great catchphrase for the business “Rugs for Everyone”, and we have a new one, “You Can Afford It”. Now that we have a brick and mortar, I want to put that on the windows instead of “Sale” or “50% Off.” I want to have statements that invite people to feel welcome and know that they can leave with something they will love without stressing their budget.

Persian rugs are full of history and can be functional art. A quality Persian rug will become even more attractive as it ages. We even use old rug remnants to frame and hang on the walls. Even when they cease to be comfortable they can still enhance your space.

Bonus Question 1. Are there any significant changes coming up in your company that customers should be aware of?

Yes! Ahead of schedule, we’ve opened our brick and mortar!!

We opened April 1st at the corner of SE 32nd and Belmont (3150 SE Belmont, across from Cricket Cafe) and we’ve been working hard to broaden the spectrum of products we carry. In addition to gorgeous one of a kind rugs, we are now offering unique vintage furniture, handmade pottery, and crafts, and have been collaborating with a fellow small business owner in vintage dresses, jewelry, and accessories.

We’re so excited to host everyone for our GRAND OPENING EVENT tonight (April 21st) from 6 - 9 pm. Stop by for a toast to the future!

Thank you for this interview and the opportunity to talk about our passion. To all the readers, we hope to see you soon!

To find the perfect rug for your home be sure to follow the adventures of this new rug shop on Facebook, Instagram, and of course be sure to check out their website! I also recommend browsing their social media for some serious design inspiration! Definitely, check out their brick and mortar when you are in the market for a rug (Paris Group Realty blog readers mention us for a 15% discount from now until May 15th) and be sure to tell Alexandra and Omar we say hello!

Five on Friday: Claire's Podcast Debut!

Our very own Principal Broker, Claire Paris, was recently a guest on Christopher Cumby and Allan Wich's podcast Think Bold, Be Bold. Read on below for a preview of their chat and be sure to clink the link to the podcast to hear the whole thing!

1. It seems like recently sellers get to call the shots and buyers are in competition to impress them for homes. What is your take on that?

"...The first thing obviously starts with a conversation with whomever the other agent is to find out what is motivating the seller because that's always the question. Obviously, price motivates the seller but sometimes there are other things. Especially in Portland where the seller is worried their house they've owned for 25 years is going to be bought by a developer and raised to the ground and replaced by a high-rise. You know there's a lot of people that don't want that..."

2. I think you have a particularly cute example of some of those tactics you mentioned that my daughter utilized when she was buying her house. Can you share that story?

"Oh my God, it was the cutest thing ever. Seriously the cutest thing ever. So, my nephew was in Allan's daughter's kindergarten class and when she was writing her offer for her property she had her students write letters to the seller. So, I had like 30 letters delivered to the seller in little kid’s handwriting - with pictures of chickens and goats - about why Ms. Wich should get the house. It was pretty cool. I think it really did help. I really do; it worked!"  

3. What one thing do you see coming down the pike that you think is going to change the industry?

"That’s a good question, I think ironically, I think it's actually interest-rates right now. That's going to get people to go back to the basics and work. In 2007, I don't think Realtors had that much value. I really felt like anybody could do the job. I mean there was nothing to do, loans were free and easy. You just had to sign your name. Now loans are actually more difficult, and more increases in the interest rate is going to further complicate that."

4. What about the over-valuation of property?

"...Everybody you talk to has a different story but right now the projection is 115 people a day moving to Portland, Oregon. So, crazy! With our urban growth boundary, which is artificially keeping the prices high - but I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Then obviously with interest rates still low, I think a lot of the things are still putting pressure on prices to stay where they are."

5. What’s your favorite book?

"That’s a good one, I would say Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink."

Bonus question: 1. If you were going to a brand-new country, never been there, didn't research it, and we're pretty much going in the blind what is the one absolute thing that you would have with you, for sure?

"A toothbrush."

Bonus question: 2. What is your favorite quote?

"The one I have on my wall is the Goethe, the one that says, 'Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Boldness has genius power and magic in it. Begin it now.'"

Bonus question: 3. What piece of technology has helped your business the most?

"DocuSign; it's an electronic signature program. It is terrible to say, but it has made my life so much easier."

Bonus question: 4. What is one thing would you like to leave the audience with today, something that they can go out and do today that will make their life better, more efficient, more effective, maybe more economic, from an entrepreneurial standpoint?

"For me, personally, I will say that it is not going to be anything mind-blowing but I think it’s just another back to basics. I find that for me and for most people, there is something on your list that you are avoiding and you are doing a bunch of other stuff instead of it. I would start the day with whatever is on your list that you’ve been dreading, that you don’t want to do. Just start it, do five minutes of it and then if you don’t finish it that’s fine but just do five minutes of it and keep going back to it and see where you get."

Click here to hear Claire's full interview on Think Bold, Be Bold!

BTW: You can vote for Claire under the "Best Realtor" category in Willamette Week's Best of Portland 2017 awards! 

Five on Friday with Purringtons Cat Lounge

We had the pleasure of sitting down with local business owners Sergio and Kristen Castillo the owners of Purringtons Cat Lounge located in NE Portland. Read on to find out all about their awesome business and how pet ownership can change your home.

  1. Can you tell me a little about the inspiration behind your business?

We saw a video of a cat cafe in Paris and thought it was such a great idea. Tokyo is known for them probably because people live in small quarters and it is not always a responsible option for them to have pets. Small home dwellers still love animals and cat cafes are a great way to have that interaction. We didn’t really see that as a reason to have a cat cafe in Portland, we more expected it to be good for people who cohabitate with people who are allergic. However now, with a lot of changes to the city, our business might also be good for people who don’t feel like their housing situation is stable enough for pets, or with the push for infill we might find people have less space in their homes and the cat cafe is a good alternative.

People often are forced to surrender animals to shelters because of their health or finances and it is such an insult to injury to have to lose a source of comfort during a stressful time and it is awful for the pets to have to be in a shelter and away from their family.

     2. While we are on the topic of rent increases and changes, what effect does that have on pets?

We haven’t seen too much of it yet, but we imagine with the rapidly increasing rents in Portland and property owners being more restrictive with their rental policies we will probably see an increase in owner surrendered cats to shelters. As people get priced out of their apartments they must seek new places to live and in a market with so many renters willing to pay well owners and managers can be very selective and often place restrictions on pet ownership for renters. People are charging rent for cats now. This puts people in the difficult position of having to choose between a beloved pet/family member and the practical necessities of having a place to live that suits their needs. That’s the benefit of being a homeowner. If you own your home you can do whatever you want, and a house is not really a home until you have a cat.

    3. Speaking of cats and homeownership when we first spoke you sent me a hilarious video tied to a tradition in Russia related to home purchases and cats.

  There are many beliefs about cats around the world and I think the one in Russia is that a cat entering through the threshold is good luck. One mortgage company capitalizes on that and has new homeowners pick out a cat to adopt that they bring to the home when their agent gives them the key. The cat is supposed to enter the house and it is lucky or a sign of a good home. I think that is a   little too much pressure for a cat, though. They shouldn’t be forced to provide goodwill or a good vibe for your house. They would just do that anyways without any sort of preconditions because cats are awesome like that. What if they don’t want to enter the house? Do people back out of a transaction?   Does it mean that something is wrong with the house?

  Maybe some cats can double as home inspectors. We adopted out a cat that knows when the diabetic child in his family has low blood sugar, maybe some cats can smell dry rot. I don’t know about adopting cats out with houses though because you don’t know if sensing a good purchase will be one of that cat’s special skills.

All jokes aside, though, a house really isn’t a home without a pet. 

     4. How do you help a cat get settled into a new home?

It takes cats some time to acclimate to a new space. At Purringtons we did a big build out, so when we first moved cats into the cafe they were really staying in back in the area that guests don’t spend time in and we got a little worried. I think the construction smells in the cat lounge were not really inviting to them. Once there started to be people here and other smells, like brewing coffee, they started to venture out into the cat lounge.  

I think it is probably a similar experience getting a cat settled in a new house, or after a renovation project. Give them time to adjust to changes, they are so sensitive to ambient sounds and smells. Newly adopted animals can take a long time to be fully settled in and you can expect the process to be even longer when there are other animals in the family.

As a homeowner, you can help the transition by enriching your space for your cat, making it more stimulating and inviting. Shelves mounted under window ledges so that your cat has a good vantage point, catios so they can get fresh air and take in the outdoors; there’s a lot you can do for making your house fun for kitties. Keeping them busy with toys and designated areas is also a great way to minimize damage to your home. Entertained cats with access to appropriate places to scratch like posts are less likely to scratch up furniture and home fixtures.

     5. You mention Catios to keep your cat entertained. Can you elaborate more on your opinion of indoor or outdoor for pet cats?

In Portland, we have urban coyotes on top of all the normal dangers to pets outside, like cars and inclement weather. There have even been some frightening reports of people hurting other people's cats. If you want your pet to be safe, we recommend keeping them inside or using a catio to let them explore the outdoors without the risk. Don’t let your cats roam outside because the lifespan for an indoor versus an outdoor cat is considerably longer. Of course, everyone knows an exception or two to that rule, but you have no way of knowing if your outdoor cat will be one of the lucky few that live to an old age without incident.

It’s our policy to only adopt cats at the cafe out to homes that will keep them indoors because we want to keep these animals we care about safe. We recommend homeowners consider a catio as a great option that might not be available to renters. There are some great companies around town that install them; a lot of their work is featured in the Catio Tour hosted by the  Feral Cat Coalition if you want a preview before you commit. They can be as simple or as elaborate as you would like, but either way, your cat will enjoy the option to go outside safely.

      Bonus question 1. As much as a cat is an excellent addition to a home they can also wreak some havoc on a house. Any advice for homeowners eager to have a pet and not damage their wood floors?

  One of the behaviors that can cause the most damage to a home is inappropriate urination.  If your cat is urinating outside of the litterbox there is usually a reason. It may be health related, like they have a UTI, or maybe you are not keeping their box clean enough, or it is in a location they don’t like.  Don’t be discouraged if you struggle with this with your cat, just focus on figuring out what is causing the behavior so that you can fix it and your home's floors will stay beautiful. All behavior has a cause, so if you are experiencing a behavior from your cat that may cause damage to your home don’t give up on your pet. You can find out what is causing the behavior and address it so that you can have both a lovely home and a happy pet.

If you ever find yourself having a rough day, I recommend you browse the Purringtons Instagram for some uplifting images of sweet kitties loving the cat cafe life and finding forever homes. Don’t forget to friend Purringtons on Facebook and bookmark their website to keep up to date on all the events they host! You don’t want to miss a movie night, wine tasting, or yoga with cats. If you are ready to find a forever home for a kitty we can help; No matter what stage of the process you're in, we are happy to assist you finding that perfect corner for your furry friend’s scratching post.



Five Questions on Friday with Designer Ashton Ford

This week we had the pleasure of asking local designer Ashton Ford of AshtonForDesign some of our burning design questions over a delicious coffee.  Ashton, a hands-on local designer, works in residential and commercial spaces to create impactful, comfortable, and functional environments.

        1. You provide design inspiration to Portlanders by creating content for your website AshtonForDesign.com, contributions to ‘Where's Your Living Room?’ Living Room Realty’s online magazine. When you are looking to get inspired where do you go?

Inspiration is everywhere.

Physically getting out there and seeing spaces is the best way for me to get inspiration. Taking note when something is done well and/or when something can be done better. Talking to friends or strangers about these characteristics of a space. What’s their opinion?

You shouldn’t ever limit yourself to one form of inspiration. I subscribe to a few magazines, including  Interior Design and PNW publication called Gray. I’ll flip through these to discover new products, styles, and great projects that other designers are accomplishing. When you see or read something you like, scan it into your computer, or find it online to bookmark. That way you will always have it to reference. There are also great apps for your phones that allow you can scan directly to your email, laptop, or desktop.

And... Instagram! Social media is such a great platform to get inspired. If you see an image you like, or you start following someone, it will pull up other content that’s in line with your style.  People can be critical of Pinterest, and to each their own, but I keep boards of inspiration, color contrasts, industrial beauty, or whatever specific design element I am interested in. It’s a great way to organize ideas so that I can refer back to them. Especially when I have an opportunity to put them to use. I make digital and physical files for projects, which help identify a cohesive direction. Imagery (and sketching) is a very useful tool to communicate design ideas to clients and contractors. When I begin a project, I’ll create a layout of inspiration to get clients’ imaginations going and they start to identify what suits their taste. The layout inspires conversation.

2. In some of your writing, you offer a lot of design ideas for renters, what kinds of design upgrades are options for people once they buy a space that are usually not options when renting? What are some design advantages homeowners can take advantage of?

Paint, I know it’s cliché, but it makes a big difference and can change the overall appearance of a space. It is so easy to pick paint and have it done before you move in. This way you don’t have to deal with moving furniture around and risk damaging things.

Lighting is so important as well. You can have an amazing looking home but if you don’t have good lighting you won’t be able to appreciate it. When you’re renting, it isn’t usually worth the cost to install new fixtures, nor is it permitted...so you are more limited in the lighting changes you can make. When you own a home, however, it makes more sense to invest in new fixtures and, if need be, have them wired to exactly where you want them and not where they were for the previous owners.

Those customizations are the first changes I recommend in a new house. After that, you can start to think about materials like tile, counters, flooring, etc.  It makes a big difference when they are upgraded or modified. These things can get expensive, but remember that things can always be done in phases to maximize your budget. Be on the lookout for remnants or discounted materials around town. For example, you might see that you need 50 square feet of tile for your kitchen backsplash. Remember this quantity when you are perusing the tile showrooms, who sometimes heavily discount tile leftover from past projects.

Personalizing your home with accessories, like rugs, can have a big impact and you can start with discount rugs and upgrade to wool and silk as it becomes affordable. The obvious or not-so-obvious upgrades are decorative objects such as artwork, plants, and the like. Have fun exploring your city’s many shopping venues and personalize your home as your budget allows.

3. You write in your bio that you are interested in the psychology of space. With that interest in mind, how do you think the psychological effects of a space play into a home purchase? How can buyers adjust a space to influence their emotions in a positive way?

It’s easy to dismiss the huge effect that lighting has, but it influences everyone, whether they are conscious of it or not.  People often don’t recognize bad lighting until it has been replaced with better lighting. Then they realize how much more relaxed or motivated they feel in the space. I think that one of the innovations we will soon see in homes are intuitive lights that change throughout the day to positively affect the end-user.

Cooler light may increase productivity and warmer light will help people reduce their energy as the day settles into the night. Bulbs that can change color temperature and wattage output seem like a natural step into the future of custom interior design. Until then, homeowners should try to identify what kinds of light make them feel best and set up their home to fit their needs in each room. You’d be surprised at how many colors an LED now comes in.

Along with lighting, spatial layouts will affect individuals differently based on their needs and personality.  For example, some people find that an open floor plan lends itself to better productivity, while others find open floor plans a bit overwhelming, making it difficult to focus. These personality types might prefer smaller or designated areas for work. Floor plans that are more segmented may also be good for people who live with others and may need to make some specific spaces their own private area. Also, remember that many things in a house can be changed to fit your wants and needs. Whether you have a large open space or a series of rooms, you can create a dynamic plan that suits and inspires yourself.

Again, color has a huge significance in design. Many of the things we are taught about color are sometimes not as accurate as we assume. For example, people say that blue is a very calm or relaxing color, but when applying a blue to a wall, it doesn’t always create that effect. When you think about fire, blue and white are the hottest colors, while reds and oranges are not. The reds and oranges can actually create a relaxed space if done correctly. It totally depends on the hue or saturation you choose as well as the final touch of finish. Blue can be a calming color...or…. it can be bold and reactive! Color is a major attribute of design.

Texture can also play a major role in the psychology of a space. Fabrics versus leathers. Woods versus metals. Plants versus no plants. People have memories and experiences associated with these materials and they should be taken into consideration when designing.

4. It seems that home shopping is aided by some creative thinking to see the possibilities of a space and how it would fit into your life. Do you have any advice for people who are not particularly creative and in the process of home shopping?

Recruit some extra help! Enlist the service of a professional; bring along your designer or seek out a creative friend who understands your style and needs.  They can help you envision how things could be transformed which makes finding a home that much easier and less overwhelming. This step may also help you budget better because a designer can assist in pricing out some of the recommended modifications, which you can then factor into the overall cost. A designer can also give you some helpful perspectives on the overall impact of changes that can be made, such as opening a kitchen to a dining room, creating a bigger master bathroom or providing more storage space. This is extremely important information to consider so you don't unnecessarily rule out a house that has great potential.

5. What do you think are the most cost-effective design changes to make?

Plants are one of the most affordable ways to modify a space. You can buy plants at several places around town for a relatively low cost but there are also a lot of ways to get plants for free! Ask friends if you can propagate their plants, which pretty much means ‘clipping a plant you know can grow roots in water.’ This easy task can add some natural greenery to your space. There is even a woman here in Portland, Julia Barbee, who coordinates a propagated plant exchange. It’s called Portland Propagation and it is awesome!

Add inexpensive life to a space with paint, pillows, a shelf of books/records, artwork that has been collecting dust, and more! Just remember that these things can be subtle touches or extremely dramatic statements. It’s totally up to the end-user how they want to feel in the space and how they want their guests to feel. Your space, whether it is your home, your office, or your commercial business; it is your personal creation. There really are no rules when it comes to decor. Confidence is the key to a successful space.

Bonus question 1. In some of your writing, you talk about shifting things around seasonally, which is an idea I really like. What are some practical ways homeowners can do this?

Sometimes seasonal décor ends up being holiday-specific and you miss out on changes that you could enjoy all season. Instead of just putting up holiday decorations, consider changing textiles like curtains, warm blankets, and table runners with the seasons to make a space airier in the summer and cozier in the winter months. Consider adding accessories to your mantle that set the mood for the whole season. Floral arrangements are a great way to reflect the seasons. A vibrant array of buds and luscious green stems or a textural beauty of branches with dried leaves. Possibilities are endless.

Changing out artwork is another great way to shift it up. Your home can feel fresh and seasonal with what you decide to display. Showcase pieces you’ve collected throughout your travels, but maybe never got around to framing or finding that blank space on your walls. You don’t always have to hang artwork. You can install what they call a ‘piano shelf’ anywhere your heart desires and lean them against the wall! This variety and rotation of art creates an engaging interaction with your home. It can keep things interesting and help you fall in love with your place all over again.

That being said, some behavior experts say that routine, such as keeping everything in its place or having a capsule wardrobe, frees more space in the mind for other things. So maybe the idea of changing things out varies in appeal from person to person. It’s worth trying out these seasonal changes in your home to see if you like it!

Bonus question 2. One dilemma homeowners often face is how to fit all the design elements they have into their home? Any advice for people looking to integrate items with sentimental value into their space?

Tchotchkes and those items that get passed down can be difficult to find the right place for. Grouping items together on a tabletop or displaying even three-dimensional objects on walls can be a great way to integrate these items into your home.

For example, my dad gave my husband and me a rock he had picked up during our wedding ceremony. He painted ‘09.06.15 - Josh and Ash' plus a little heart on it. It has some serious sentimental value so we needed to find the right place for it. We found a prominent place on our bar shelf, and it even works on a functional level as it can be used to hold down cocktail napkins.

Basically, your house is where you live, often where you work, and a place you share with loved ones, so it should be a home not just in a physical sense but in the cognitive sense too. Decorate and design your home with components that activated your senses and your thoughts. These details may, in turn, inspire your guests as well!

If you would like to know more about Ashton’s work you can follow her on Instagram, browse her Pinterest boards, and definitely bookmark her website!