Celebrity Homes

For Sale: Picasso’s Last Home and Studio

Found in a field of poppies in the hills of Mougins, France, Notre-Dame-de-Vie makes it clear why Pablo Picasso chose to spend his final years there. Since renamed Domaine L’Antre du Minotaure or Lair of the Minotaur as a nod to the artist, the charming estate combines sprawling views with provincial architecture to create a picturesque environment for an artistic mind.


The historic home, where many of Picasso’s last works were created before his passing in 1973, was said to be purchased by a Belgian art dealer for $10-12 million some years ago. However, after a substantial restoration to the property, which includes a total of three houses, it has now returned to the international marketplace for a staggering $220 million.

Picasso's Home
Photo A. B.-J |

In addition to its priceless history, Picasso’s former villa features a main home, a guard house and a studio. The 35-room main home offers roughly 2,600 square feet, with a total of 10 bedrooms and 8 bathrooms. Also included in the $220 million price tag is a wood-burning fireplace, a private health club, a pair of pools, a tennis court and a garden.

While $220 million may be out of your price range, there happen to be plenty of homes in the French province for sale on International. In a nod to Picasso’s property, we have highlighted some of the most picture-perfect listings in Mougins, France.

Price: $5.1 million


Description: Built in the 1970s by a noted French architect, this villa offers resort-style living with beautiful arches and custom lighting. The main house is comprised of two levels and features a central area and a wing reserved for guests. Outside, the residence boasts a pool and a pool house with a fully equipped kitchen, bar and sauna.

Price: $24 million


Description: Featuring an updated design and dramatic views extend from the sea to the old village, this exceptional property brings a contemporary vibe to the country. Inside are luxuries ranging from a sauna to a fitness center to a wine cellar and even a projection room. The property rounds out with a beautiful Japanese terrace and pool area.

Price: $26 million


Description: The listing hails ths property as one of the most prestigious in Côte d’Azur, and it’s easy to see why. Located within a beautiful park, the former residence of the monks of Lerins Islands boasts beautiful rose gardens, thousands of olive trees and a four-level “castle.”

Price: $5 million


Description: A quaint farmhouse in the old village, this property enjoys views stretching from the Lerins Islands to Esterel. It features a large living room that opens onto a terrace and the pool.

Price: $7.9 million


Description: Found within the heart of an old village farm, this Mediterranean plantation evokes a Caribbean feel with rows of palms and other mature foliage. It features a main villa, a swimming pool and a pool house, as well as a caretaker’s apartment.

This article was originally published by Neil J. Leitereg on To see the original article, click here.

Click here to see the source of the second photo.

Celebrity Homes

President Obama’s Former New York Apartment for Rent

It’s not the Oval Office — it doesn’t even have a separate office — but in 1981, the 2-bedroom, 1-bath apartment was Barack Obama’s home during his junior year at Columbia University.

Source: StreetEasy

A photo of President Obama, thought to have been taken in the apartment, now hangs in the rental.

Source: StreetEasy

According to the Huffington Post, the future president lived in the pre-war home with a roommate, sharing a monthly rent of just $360. Today, the apartment is listed for $2,400 a month, which isn’t bad considering the unit’s presidential history and the Upper West Side’s median rental list price of $ 3,250.

Source: StreetEasy

As far as New York apartments go, this one is pretty standard: hardwood floors and exposed brick. High ceilings and a “walk-in” closet up the place’s appeal.

Source: StreetEasy

The apartment’s history was first revealed in 2010, and now the listing is using the previous tenant to its full advantage.

“Live where the president once lived, and who knows you might end up in the White House one day!” boasts the description.

So does a bit of presidential history help a place get rented more quickly?

“You know, a place to live is for you,” a listing broker told the New York Times back in 2010. “But people would be more inclined to take this one … even if the other was a little nicer. It’s a dinner conversation.”

Photos courtesy of StreetEasy.

This article was originally published by Erika Riggs on Zillow Blog. See it here.


Buying Foreclosures and Fixer-Uppers

“Free real estate!” “Save thousands on your next home!” “Make millions with no money down!!” Those ads and late-night commercials make it sound easy, don’t they? The truth is, sometimes you can save money by buying a foreclosed home, but you need understand the process and determine whether the potential rewards are worth the inherent risks.

Buying Foreclosures and Fixer-Uppers

The Facts About Foreclosures

Simply put, foreclosure is the process by which a bank or other lender repossesses a home when the owner fails to make payments on their loan. And since banks make their money lending money, not managing property, they’re often eager to unload their repossessed properties. The market did see a flood of foreclosed properties after the 2008 recession, but that did not diminish the need for potential buyers to be versed in the intricacies of buying one of these properties and the particular legal and financial constraints associated with them. Before you even consider buying a home in foreclosure, be sure to:

  • Visit, the website of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides general information and links to specific property listings.
  • Search the foreclosure listings found on Zillow, in local newspapers, and in real estate magazines.
  • Work directly with the lender who holds the mortgage on the property, rather than via the auctions where many foreclosed homes are originally offered.
  • Tour the property and insist on the right to have it inspected.
  • Compare the home to comparable, non-foreclosed homes to calculate perceived savings and potential market value.
  • Be prepared for added paperwork, an extended closing period, and unforeseen problems.
  • Most important, work with a real estate agent who is experienced with buying foreclosed homes. Don’t go it alone unless you are very experienced.

Finally, be aware that those late-night ads and inside guides have enticed a lot of people into pursuing foreclosure homes. Increased competition means more pressure (and yet even more stress) as well as fewer bargains. Like instant wrinkle removers and machines that promise four-minute, six-pack abs, the reality rarely lives up to the promise.

Fixer-Uppers: The Sweet Smell of Sweat Equity

Still looking for something priced lower than the average home in a certain area? If you’re handy, have the time, and want to avoid the hassles of foreclosure sales, perhaps a fixer-upper is more your style. Neglected and in need of work, they’re the kind of houses where a little “sweat equity” can create a wonderful home and a substantial return on your investment.

How can you tell if a fixer-upper is worth fixing up? There’s no hard and fast formula, but there are several factors that can help you decide:

  • Are the repairs required cosmetic or structural? Generally speaking, cosmetic repairs cost less, are easier to complete, and provide instant eye appeal.
  • Are the repairs required worth it? If a repair (a new roof, for example, or upgraded kitchen) costs more than it adds to the resale price, it may not be.
  • Who’s going to do the work? Whether you do it yourself or hire others, you’ll pay for it — in time, money, and/or stress.
  • How well do you handle disruption? From dust and debris to the daily parade of workers, some people would rather just pay more for a more finished home.

That last one may be the most important of all. Let’s face it, repairs and renovations always take longer, cost more, and involve more stress than expected. That may also be why it feels so wonderful when they’re done.

The Principle of Progression

A good fixer-upper offers a prime example of one of the main tenets of buying real estate: Whenever possible, buy the worst house in the best neighborhood you can afford. The reason is the principle of progression, a fancy way of saying that nicer, more expensive homes have a positive effect on the perceived value of their smaller, less expensive neighbors. Why? Because most people want to live in nice neighborhoods and will pay a premium to do so, even if it means getting less home than they might somewhere else. So, even if that long-neglected cottage has a bit more “character” than you’d really like, it may pay off in the long run.

This article was originally published by Diane Tuman on Zillow Blog. To see the original article, click here.

For Parents

Stop Real-life Bedroom Nightmares

Crib Detail w/childKeep kids safe from bedroom dangers, and you’ll all sleep soundly.

Your child’s room may have soothing pastel walls and toys that play lullabies. But cute details won’t ensure kids’ safety. Moms and dads need only do a little homework to easily prevent hazards.

Crib slats should be spaced no more than 2 3/8 inches (60 mm) apart. Parents who use vintage cribs and furniture (or pieces from their childhood rooms) should make sure they meet this standard. Also, make sure kids’ furniture does not contain lead paint. Check to ensure that the mattress fits snugly into the crib so the baby cannot become trapped between the mattress and the crib. Remove above-crib mobiles when infants are 6 to 9 months old. If they can reach an alluring mobile, they can grab it, pull it down and risk choking or strangling.

Kids may clamor to sleep in comfortable oversized T-shirts, but parents should not let them. Cotton and cotton-blend garments, especially super-sized ones, are easily ignited and can cause serious burns. Federal law requires that all sleepwear for kids 9 months and older be flame-resistant or snug fitting. Government figures show that burns are a top cause of death among children 14 and younger. And, according to recent data from the National Safety Council, some 540 kids died in fires or from burns in a single year.

Toy chests
Inspect any toy chest to be sure it is not airtight since young children sometimes like to crawl in that little space to hide or explore. If necessary, drill holes in older models for ventilation. All toy boxes should have hinges that won’t nip little fingers and a lid that isn’t so heavy it can crush small hands.

Small items 
Adults’ bedrooms are havens for jewelry, buttons and pins that held dry-cleaned items on hangers. You may not notice if these tiny pieces fall on the floor. But curious crawlers or toddlers may find them, and possibly try to eat them. Be sure to regularly scan night tables and carpeting for these items, to reduce choking hazards and eye injuries, says Connie Harvey, a health and safety expert for the American Red Cross.

Cover sharp edges that can gouge a child’s eye or cut kids’ heads. Rocking chairs can pinch small feet if a child grabs the chair while standing close to it. Wedge a book under the rocker to prevent it from moving and crushing a child’s hands or feet.

This article was originally published by June Bell on To see the original article, click here.

Interior Design

4 Ways to Add Luxury to Your Home

Ever walk through a design center, flip through a home remodeling magazine or scroll through a home improvement website and think “Why can’t that be my house?” Not everyone is as gifted as “Cousins on Call” or “Million Dollar Decorator,” but knowing what to focus on can go a long way!

Here are four places to start.

Inlays, trays and molding

Design by Alder & Tweed
Design by Alder & Tweed

They don’t call it “crown” molding for nothing. Make your walls look like royalty. Simple molding can add character to any space and highlight specific features in a room. A tray ceiling can make any standard room stand out, and adding inlays on doors can make any entrance grand.

Paint it up

Design by Christopher Derrick
Design by Christopher Derrick

A simple paint job can go a long way, but a bad paint job can end up causing a huge headache. You may toy with the idea of becoming the next Picasso and feeling “one” with your paintbrush, but that doesn’t mean that your paintbrush feels the same way about you. Don’t give your walls the short end of the deal. Spend the additional money and hire a professional for the best look possible.

Custom and convenience

Design by CBI Design Professionals
Design by CBI Design Professionals

From custom closets to custom kitchens, anything and everything that’s made-to-order will immediately put the home in “glam” status — not to mention add convenience, organization and extra space.

Time to shine

Design by D for Design
Design by D for Design

A little sparkle can go a long way. Silky drapes, cashmere throws and metallic pillows can add both a whimsical and romantic vibe that will transform any dull home into a luxurious space. In addition, new, shiny fixtures can add a sense of “wealth” to any average old item.

This article was originally published by Samantha DeBianchi on Zillow Blog. See it hereSamantha (Sam) DeBianchi is a Realtor and founder of DeBianchi Real Estate. Her expert real estate advice and straightforward approach can be seen and heard on FOX Business. Always keeping it REAL, you can follow Sam online on Twitter and Facebook.


Do You Have Buyer’s Paralysis?

You’ve looked at dozens of homes. Your REALTOR® is about to tear her hair out with frustration. You are paralyzed, letting one great home after another pass you by. Why can’t you make a decision?

Buyer Paralysis

Buying a home can be an overwhelming process. There are so many decisions to make and any of them can mean serious financial consequences. A home, after all, is hardly a liquid asset. Nor is it a growth investment, according to Wall Street definitions. It’s your greatest financial debt, even while it puts a roof over your head. As it appreciates, it also needs repairs and maintenance. With all that weighing on you, no wonder you’ve got commitmentphobia.

Yet, you really want to buy a home. You know that few purchases will provide you the quality of life that a home of your own does. There are plenty of advantages, as well – tax breaks, rising real estate values, a stable environment for the family, to name only a few. So you stifle your worries and keep looking for homes. You just can’t find the one that’s just right for you.

It might be time to back this train up and examine what is causing the conflict between wanting to buy and being unable to make a decision. There is a cause, and it’s name is money. The question is, which aspect of money is stopping you from moving forward?

Fear of spending too much

Lenders will loan you money at the top of your ability to borrow. Realtors will suggest that you will be happier in a “bigger, better” home, eliminating the need to “trade up” in a few years. Stretching to buy the most home you can possibly afford is a good strategy, but only under certain conditions – that you have confidence that your salary will rise, that your income is stable, and that you can handle large surprise expenses.

If you’ve been pre-qualified, you are already looking at bigger, better, more beautiful homes at the top of your range. But something isn’t quite right. Even though you may feel that your income is stable, a feeling is telling you that if you buy in this range, you won’t have enough in reserves should something happen. Those are your instincts talking, and you should listen, because your desires have been doing the talking up to now. Your instincts are telling your desires to scale back a little.

That means backtracking. Talk to your Realtor and ask her to show you less expensive homes. You can’t go wrong buying slightly under your ability. In fact, many financial advisors tell their clients to budget about 25% of their income for housing in order to position them to build reserves for savings, investments, home improvements, emergencies and dozens of other reasons. That’s almost six percent less than lenders will allow you to borrow. Just think what else you can do with six percent of your income. You’ll still have your house, you’ll just have more to do other things with.

A conflict in goals

Many couples purchase homes with the idea that they will have a child, so stretching buying power to have the extra space makes sense. But if you are trying to accomplish two big financial goals at the same time – buying a home and adding to your family, then something has to give.

You can’t have it all – peace of mind, a large mortgage, and burgeoning expenses all at the same time. Something has to give and the way to do that is simply to prioritize your goals. In what order of importance do you want things to happen? What is most important to you? Whether you are planning a family, returning to graduate school, paying off a student loan, or buying a new car, you surely realize that your financial pie can only be sliced so many ways. Your mortgage is the largest, and the larger it is the smaller the other pieces.

Problems in the marriage
This is one of the toughest issues to address, and one your Realtor can’t help you with. But just as you are listening to your instincts about the amount of money you should spend on your new home, you should be paying even more attention to your feelings about your marriage. And only you can answer the question – will we still be together in five years? You should at least be able to predict being together long enough to pay off the interest on your loan! Or you’ll be selling your home without the benefit of building any equity and equity only comes with appreciation and mortgage reduction.

Buying a home will not fix a poor relationship. It will only make things worse. So you have a decision to make and it isn’t which house to buy. It is whether or not you want this relationship to survive. If you decide you want the marriage, then you must pour your efforts into fixing its problems, including your share of the blame. Be willing to change some things, compromise on others, or accept many things as they are. If you can’t do all of those, then to dissolve the partnership is your only other choice. After you have solved the problems in your relationship, you will find your home more easily.

Fear of the future
Fear takes the fun out of a lot of things, but there is reasonable fear and unreasonable fear. Unreasonable fears have no basis in reality, so there is little you can do beyond getting professional help for your anxiety. Reasonable fears you can handle on your own with a little common sense.

Fear can be tamed by looking at the worst case scenarios compared to the best case scenarios. So examine the questions that are really bothering you.

What if we can’t make our payments? This question can be balanced by a best case. What if we manage our money so well that we can make double payments? So the fear here is manageable – it comes down to how confident you are about managing your money. If you aren’t sure of yourself, get help. Ask someone whose money management style you admire for advice on how to manage your money better. Then stick with it.

What if the value of our home goes down in value? Would you feel as fearful if you asked yourself whether your property will go up in value? Property can go up or down, but all property requires maintenance or it surely will deteriorate in value. This can be easily prevented by having enough budgeted or in your reserves to perform scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. Look at the properties surrounding the home you are considering. Are they maintained with pride? Are they being updated? Then your chances are good that the neighborhood and your home will retain its value. Rest assured that there will always be a buyer for an attractive, well-maintained property.

Because it is not a liquid asset, real estate is not as volatile as you think. It goes down slowly and rises comparatively slowly. And home values even when depressed may get a resuscitation after a few years. Your best hedge against the future is to keep your property in desirable condition.

You can’t predict the future. The only thing you can do is prepare yourself to handle what may happen.

So money isn’t the root of all evil, but it is the root of indecision – at least when you are paralyzed about buying a home. Thinking through the money issues can help you get moving one direction or the other. For some of you, just reading this article will put your jitters to rest. For others, you may realize that a home isn’t in the cards for you right now, and that’s OK. Wait a few days or weeks if you need to. Use the time to regroup. It is far better for you to work through a few obstacles than to jump into the largest investment of your life without confidence. If you can work through your fears, get your finances in tip top shape and proceed, you’ll find buying a home doesn’t have to be a paralyzing decision. In fact, it can be one of the most exhilarating things you’ll ever do.

If you are worried about cash flow, then making disproportionately large house payments will tarnish the joy of home ownership, unless you can find ways to cut down the other pie pieces. Work to improve your cash flow. Accelerate your credit card pay -offs Don’t incur new debt. Rebudget your expenses and eliminate unnecessary expenditures. Make compromises – vow to cut down if you can’t cut something out. Be willing to move timelines for meeting your goals. Don’t be influenced by others to live beyond your means. Set your sights on an affordable home, and you may find your dream home will appear right before your very eyes.

This article was originally published by Blanche Evans on

Buying Selling

Buy or Sell First?

For homeowners aiming to sell their home and buy another, it’s the classic real estate, which came first, the chicken or the egg, question — buy or sell first?

The Chicken or Egg Question!

If you sell first, you may find yourself under a tight deadline to find another house, or be forced in temporary quarters.

If you buy first, you may be saddled with two mortgage payments for at least a couple months. You may need the money from the sale of your original home in order to pre-qualify for a loan for your new home. You may be facing a job relocation and need to sell quickly.

There are many variables involved; there is no universal correct answer. It basically comes down to your specific circumstances.

Dan Gregor, a Realtor in Pickerington, Ohio, says there is generally less pressure when you sell first. “It really comes down to risk,” Gregor said. “It’s whether you want the risk of owning two houses, or possibly none at all.” Gregor says that if you have the money to make two mortgage payments, the pressure is off. But if you need to sell your house in order to qualify for a loan, then you have no choice — you’ll have to sell first.

“You can write contingent contracts, but if you really want the home, you’ll pay a premium — that’s if the seller will even entertain a contingent offer,” he says. And if you go ahead with a contingent offer, then you may end up settling for less for the house you’re selling in an effort to get it sold quickly.

Gregor says for most people, the stress level is lower when you sell first.”You have time to get pre-approved for your mortgage and see all the housing options in the price range you’d like to buy,” he said. When your selling house is in contract, he suggests you pick the three best homes of those you’ve viewed and prepare to make an offer on the one that best meets your needs. “The absolute worst that can happen is the right home isn’t available,” Gregor said. “You end up in a short-term rental with the cash in your pocket and pre-approved financing for the balance you need. So you look like a cash buyer when you make an offer on the home you finally decide on.”

But brisk selling conditions in some parts of the country require more aggressive tactics.

Brett Furman, a broker in suburban Philadelphia, says the strong market dictates that homebuyers focus on buying first, and selling later.”The housing market in the suburban Philadelphia market is moving very quickly,” said Furman. “Normally we advise our buyers to sell their home first and buy second … However with the faster moving market, we are advising many of our buyer clients to obtain a mortgage commitment that is not contingent upon selling their existing house.”

In their book, House Selling for Dummies (Hungry Minds Inc., 1999), Eric Tyson and Ray Brown “strongly recommend” that you sell first. “Even in good real estate markets, sales frequently drag on much longer than you expect,” the authors say. “Selling in a weak market usually compounds the problem. Homeowners tend to overestimate their house’s resale value and underestimate the length of the selling process — a fiscally deadly one-two punch.” The Dummies book says selling first eliminates financial risk — no double mortgages and double payments for property taxes and insurance payments. And no worrying about how you’ll come up with a down payment.

But selling first isn’t the perfect solution. Some of the issues that may come up include:

Being forced out of your house before you have a new place available. Where will you live? Where will your kids go to school?

Having to move twice. Do you want to go through the hassle? Where will you store your extra furniture while you live with family and friends or rent an apartment?

Not being able to find a house you like. How long are you willing to live in temporary quarters until you find a suitable house?

Whichever way you go, it always seems to work out in the end, at least in Gregor’s experience. “I’ve been in the business for 30 years,” he said. “We’ve never had anyone out on the street and the vast majority of our clients that make double moves are those building new homes that had to have their property sold first.”

This article was originally published by Michele Dawson on To see the original article, click here

Tiny Homes

11 Terrifically Tiny Homes

It’s a trend that’s growing in popularity: Houses are shrinking.


Homeowners keen on paring down have started to learn how to pack essential functionality into less square-footage — much less — and they’re doing so with style.

1. Living in a Box


In San Antonio, Poteet Architects added doors, windows, a heating-cooling system and an innovative, “green” roof to a steel shipping container, ingeniously transforming a utilitarian unit into a cozy space for living. Bamboo floors and a cool wall covering bring the interior design to life. It’s small and modern, but undoubtedly a home.

2. Case study


To test the boundaries of small-footprint living, interior designer Jessica Helgerson moved her family to a 540-square-foot cottage that she designed 15 minutes north of Portland, Ore.

By using mostly reclaimed materials to construct her miniscule maison, and by adding a moss-and-fern green roof, Helgerson completed the project for less than money than she anticipated. The home requires little energy to heat and cool.

3. Self-sufficient


With a shed roof and corrugated siding, this off-the-grid cabin on an island off the New England coast runs on solar power. A rainwater tank and an instant hot-water heater provide drinking and bathing water, while rolling, exterior door panels protect the home in inclement weather.

It may be tiny, but this house can stand tall all on its own.

4. Hip to be square


This 784-square-foot design by Minnesota-based weeHouse features a bright blue exterior and a lively yellow interior. But its striking color palette is not the only reason that this little lodging stands out.

Constructed of two modules, the units seamlessly adjoin with the help of a large exterior porch; bug screens with magnetic catches keep insects at bay on summer nights.

5. Salvage beauty


Brad Kittel of Tiny Texas Houses believes there are already enough building products out there, so why buy new? His small structures use 99% salvaged materials, including doors, windows, siding, lumber, door hardware, flooring and porch posts.

6. DIY kit house


The folks at Jamaica Cottage Shop offer a kit for their 16-by-20-foot Vermont cottage, a “roll your own” residence that takes two people roughly 40 hours to construct.

The interior can be outfitted a number of ways, and a sleeping loft can be added for maximum efficiency.

7. Gather no moss


In only 65 square feet, the XS house from Tumbleweed Tiny House Co., profiled here, manages to squeeze in a bathroom, kitchen area, built-in desk and sofa, as well as a sleeping loft. It costs roughly $16 per square foot for a DIY version, $39 per square foot for the readymade version.

Built on a 7-by-10-foot utility trailer, the whole thing can be towed, making “home” anywhere you go.

8. Micro house


In Massachusetts, Derek Diedricksen applies a “can do’ attitude to tiny-house construction. Making creative use of household cast-offs, such as a broken, front-loading washing-machine door repurposed as a porthole, his tiny structures cost only about $200 each.

9. Modern mix


The Boxhome from architect Sami Rintala is just 205 square feet. Amazingly, there’s room inside for guests — the seating platform in the living room becomes a bed. Taking cues from Finnish summer houses and Japanese cooking traditions, the design offers a cultural mix.

10. Hidden treasure


Nestled in the woods in Hilverstum, Netherlands, this house was designed by Piet Hein Eek. It plays on the theme of traditional log cabins. Instead using notched-log beams, cross-cut sections make up the exterior, an aesthetic touch that helps this little getaway blend into its surroundings.

11. Victorian times


A former Catskills hunting cottage is remade in a romantic, Victorian style by owner Sandra Foster. Doing much of the carpentry work herself and using a variety of salvaged elements, she has created a cozy hideaway filled with books and lit by a crystal chandelier.

This article was originally published by Rebecca Thienes Cherny of on MSN Real Estate. To see the original article, click here.

Interior Design

Women muscle into the ‘man cave!’

Yeah, dude: When you’re not looking, your sports sanctuary may play host to the wife’s quilting party.

Women in the Man Cave
Craig Schuelke’s Forest Hill, Md., basement is a testament to manliness. There’s the Arnold Schwarzenegger pinball machine and about $30,000 of signed University of Michigan and University of Maryland sports memorabilia that the construction superintendent has enshrined on the walls. An air-hockey table commands one corner, flanked by a pool table, shot-glass collection and dartboard. It’s a quintessential “man cave,” except for one feature: Schuelke’s wife, Melanie.

“He doesn’t know what we’re doing when he’s not home,” Melanie Schuelke says. “My female friends, we shoot pool, drink beer and throw darts down there.”

The man cave has a secret: Women use them, too. Their new interest comes as these spaces have changed from cold garage outposts into tricked-out comfy spreads, complete with flat-screen TVs, fully stocked bars, arcade games and plush (clean!) furniture.

As a result, men are learning to share with the family while combating the inevitable intrusion of scented candles, flowers and children’s toys. While couples often cozy up together or party in caves with friends, more women say they retreat there — even holding the occasional quilting party — without the guys.

Rather than trade up or build on, more homeowners are squeezing the most out of their existing living quarters — but splurging on the décor. As a result, today’s man caves are desirable and even luxurious pads that the whole family wants to enjoy.

An entire marketplace has emerged in recent years to outfit these spaces. There’s Man Cave LLC, modeled after Mary Kay cosmetics, where guys hold barbecue parties dubbed “meatings” to sell steak and cave accoutrements, such as bacon-scented candles and beer pagers to locate lost brew. Online retailers and hawk essentials, such as beer kegerators, pool tables and skee-ball games.

Higher-ticket items make women feel more proprietary over caves, originally intended as spots where guys could be alone or hang with pals, says Mike Yost, who runs cave-community

“If the guys spend on the big-screen TV and chairs,” he says, “the wife typically is going to have to sign off on it, too.”

Further stoking female cave envy is cable TV’s “Man Caves” show on the DIY Network. Episodes feature bling such as a pool table that rises out of the floor.

“These are really, really nice spaces, and when the guys want to spend time there, the family wants to spend time there,” says Andy Singer, DIY Network’s general manager.

That’s the case in Robert Butterfield’s Sierra Vista, Ariz., home. His retreat is a 400-square-foot homage to NASCAR racers Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. It also sports a 50-inch TV, couch, hundreds of die-cast model cars, even a Christmas tree decked in Earnhardt ornaments — about a $50,000 investment. Butterfield, 43, calls it “my space,” but it’s often where his wife, Maria, and sons also congregate when he’s home from his overseas government-contracting job.

“I enjoy being in there because it’s kind of like a little getaway from the rest of the house,” Maria Butterfield says. “When I’m in there, I’m not reminded about dishes or laundry.”

That’s cool with her husband: “Sure, I like time to chill alone, but I started a family because I wanted to be with them.”

Still, the gender cohabitation raises a nettlesome question: When does a man cave stop being a man cave and become just a family room?

“There’s a real blurring of the line between man cave and family room,” says Minnesota decorator Sue Hunter, who runs “I think guys are going to start taking charge back in that area.”

And certainly purists remain, such as Tommy “Buck Buck” Sattler of Islip, N.Y., who rigged his 325-square-foot getaway with New York Giants football paraphernalia, seven TVs, a red-oak bar top and a urinal in the bathroom.

Sattler flips on an outdoor blue light to let the neighbors know when his “underground lounge” is open, but he jokes that women, including his wife, typically stop by only if “they are dropping off food or bringing cleaning products.”

Most guys, however, seem game for co-ed caves — so long as there are ground rules, such as no potpourri or decorative pillows. Hunter says she steers clear of big glass vases and baskets in favor of art, she says, that means something to a man, such as, “I want to go kill the buck in that picture.”

Then there’s the “no touch” rule that has reigned in Robert Butterfield’s NASCAR sanctuary since he found his 4-year-old son’s fingerprints on the display cases with his model cars.

“It’s a little bit of an ownership thing,” he says. “I’m really detail-oriented, and this is the way I want the room.”

Other regulations are trickier to enforce. Karen Dixon of Friendswood, Texas, gladly turned over her garage to husband Shawn, even though parking outside means unloading groceries in the rain.

“I’m not controlling, and it makes him happy,” she says.

Inside, he’s stationed his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a 1967 Cavalier Coca-Cola machine, a pay phone painted Harley orange and a heavyweight punching bag.

The Dixons, both 38, often play cards together in the cave, but Karen Dixon balks at his suggestion that usage is by invitation only.

“Really? I think that he doesn’t own it,” says Dixon, who says she thinks her husband would be secretly “flattered if I brought my friends in there to have crafts and a book club.”

Shawn Dixon’s concern: “I’d be afraid something would be moved and I’d never find it.”

The stickiest time can be during cave construction. Karen Dixon advises other women to negotiate time limits.

“When Shawn is focused on something, it consumes him,” she says. “Looking back, what I should have done is said, ‘Spend as much time with your family as with the man cave. If you work out there for an hour, then come inside for an hour.'”

Indeed, compromise is critical in any man-cave negotiation. Married 36 years, Steve and Pam Flaten, both 56, share space in AutoMotorPlex Minneapolis, a compound of high-end garages ranging from 1,000 to 6,500 square feet for fixing up and storing specialty vehicles.

In the loft living area the Flatens constructed inside their garage, Pam Flaten typically quilts while her husband tinkers with his race cars below. Recently, she held a quilting party.

Despite the domestic influence, Steve Flaten has stood his ground on certain points. The racing flames on the toilet seat, those get to stay. The flowers his wife wanted for an end table, those got moved outside.

Women’s interest in the man-cave phenomenon is sparking a logical next step: woman caves. The DIY Network is exploring development of a new show around the concept. Retailer HomeGoods just launched a campaign to outfit what it dubs “mom caves.”

To some, that’s redundant.

“A chick cave?” says Dan Cunningham, owner of the Monroe, Mich.-based “That’s what the rest of the house is.”

This article was originally published by Gwendolyn Bounds of The Wall Street Journal on MSN Real Estate. To see the original article, click here.


Interior Design

Awesome Ideas for Awful Rooms

Starter homes or fixer-uppers come with plenty of imperfections: bathrooms that are small and outdated, unfinished basements that are dark and dank, rooms that are cramped or oddly shaped and space that is wasted or undefined.

© Dmitry Melnikov

The good news is that many bad spaces can be fixed with clever and creative design ideas. Sometimes it takes just a can of paint or a new piece of furniture to transform a space. Other times, you may have to call in a contractor.

Here are 10 awful spaces that have been transformed into awesome places.

1. Book nook  

Was: Unused closet

Book nook (© Courtesy of Susan Jay Design)
Book nook (© Courtesy of Susan Jay Design)

Susan Jay Freeman, owner of the Los Angeles interior-design and space-planning firm Susan Jay Design, created this reading space from an underused closet in a room next to her client’s study. Her client wanted “a cozy place to read stories with her granddaughters,” she says.

“We opened it to her study, lined the walls with adjustable bookshelves, installed low-voltage lighting on a dimmer and created a platform for which a custom-upholstered cushion and pillows were added for comfort,” she says. “This became a cherished hideaway.”

2. Storage closet

Was: Dead area under stairs

Storage closet (© Veremeenko Irina)
Storage closet (© Veremeenko Irina)

Do you have an awful space under the stairs that you don’t know how to handle? One option is to use it for storage.

A closet can hide clutter, says interior designer Carrie Drosnes, former design producer for ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

“Since there is no maximum height or depth required for a closet, it can be any size and can be used in a way that is most advantageous to the homeowner,” Drosnes says, adding that installing drawers is another option.

If the stairs are near the kitchen or dining room, the space could be ideal for a built-in wine rack, wet bar, pantry or a place to store crystal or china.

In this case, two cabinets — brightly painted to match the décor of the finished basement —provide ample storage room in an otherwise unused space.

3. Work station

Was: Oversized landing

Work station (© Cora Reed)
Work station (© Cora Reed)

Sometimes the wasted space is not under the stairs but next to them.

Drosnes says that a work area is a great solution for many areas of all sizes next to stairs. For example, an oddly shaped landing at the top of a staircase can be a good spot for a work station. A tiny vestibule, often found in older homes between the kitchen and stairway, can be a cozy spot to put a small desk.

“It allows (homeowners) easy access to the kitchen and to the upstairs while working from home in a small, specifically allocated space,” she says.

Built-in units can maximize the space in ways that store-bought pieces cannot.

4. Mudroom

Was: Doorway

Mudroom (© Curtis Terzis)
Mudroom (© Curtis Terzis)

An undefined space by the back door can too easily become a dumping ground for coats, backpacks, shoes and other gear that family members shed as soon as they step inside the house. Although this may create a mess in a small space, Maplewood, N.J.-based interior designer Alexa Harris-Ralff says there are ways to keep the clutter hidden.

The solution can be a built-in storage unit that matches your home’s style. A ledge, large enough to allow residents to sit and untie their shoes, and a tiled floor that can easily be mopped would complete a modern mudroom.

Harris-Ralff says she loves the look of locker-style storage, as well, if it fits. “It’s simple, easy to wipe down and even easier to assign each family member a locker,” she says.

5. Pantry

Was: Not-quite mudroom adjoining tiny kitchen

Pantry (© SwitchYard Media Inc.)
Pantry (© SwitchYard Media Inc.)

Sometimes, a mudroom may not always be necessary — or functional. But the space can make a welcome addition to a small kitchen, especially the kind often found in an older home.

The owners of this 1918 Seattle Craftsman realized that their mudroom, which needed an upgrade, was large enough to accommodate a small pantry for the adjoining kitchen. The cabinet is 12 inches deep and offers plenty of storage shelves and a pull-out drawer below. It also was designed around an existing window, so the space remains bright and cheery.

6. Exercise room

Was: Weird triangular room

Exercise room (© Chris Rodenberg Photography)
Exercise room (© Chris Rodenberg Photography)

Oddly shaped rooms can be a challenge to furnish because most people prefer to put big pieces — sofas, dressers and bookcases — against the wall.

Turning the space into a home gym is one solution, because exercise equipment is typically placed in the middle of a room rather than along the walls.

Using the space for a reading, meditation or yoga room is another good option, Drosnes says, adding that plants, flowers, candles or a water feature can help make the space inviting and intimate. She also suggests using a rug or carpet and wallpaper.

7. Murphy-bed room

Was: Undersized sleeping quarters

Murphy-bed room (© Courtesy of Wallbeds Northwest)
Murphy-bed room (© Courtesy of Wallbeds Northwest)

Near the turn of the 19th century, William L. Murphy was living in a tiny San Francisco apartment. Frustrated with his lack of space, he invented a bed that folded against a wall when not in use.

The invention caught on and has never lost its appeal as a space-saving idea. The Murphy bed can transform a tiny, cramped room into both a bedroom and a usable space during waking hours.

Dozens of companies sell do-it-yourself kits for Murphy beds. Seattle’s Wallbeds Northwest, for instance, has kits that begin at about $1,000. Its basic units extend about 16 inches from the wall when folded up.

8. Sauna

Was: Cellar closet

Sauna (© Igor Borodin)
Sauna (© Igor Borodin)

Does your basement have an ugly corner that makes you tense? Use that space for a sauna and you can relax there, instead.

Buying and installing a home sauna has become easier in recent years with the introduction of prefabricated, modular units that do not require framing or insulation. Many can be assembled in an afternoon. Prices for a two-person sauna of this type start at about $1,000.

Is it right for your home? Small dry saunas heated with infrared lamps require no special drainage and, in some cases, can be powered with regular 120-volt outlets. Larger infrared models typically require 240-volt outlets and possibly an electrician’s help.

9. Home office

Was: Tight, sloped upstairs space

Home office (© Iriana Shiyany)
Home office (© Iriana Shiyany)

The rooflines on some houses can severely constrain space in upstairs rooms. In some, an adult can stand upright only in the middle.

So what should a homeowner with an aversion to crouching do with that space? One solution is creating a home office that allows residents to sit, rather than stand, along the room’s perimeter.

“A home office or study room for kids would be good option because it can be set up to function based on the construction of the space,” Drosnes says. “The slants of the roof that cause the walls to be at odd angles can be wallpapered or painted, and floating shelves can be installed. Built-in seating or desk space can be custom-designed to work around the odd shapes of the walls.”

10. Efficient bathroom

Was: Overstuffed bathroom

Efficient bathroon (© Sklep Spozywczy)
Efficient bathroon (© Sklep Spozywczy)

Instead of the spa-like expanses of a modern bathroom, some homeowners may have to make do with a smaller space so overstuffed with amenities that there is little or no room left for the person who wants to use the place.

Technology and modern design can help you maximize the space you have. A wall-hung toilet can save a few inches in a tight room. A small glass shower stall can liven up an old bathroom that a tub dominates. Don’t forget about lighting and paint colors to make the space seem larger.

This article was originally published by Scot Meyer of SwitchYard Media on MSN Real Estate. To see the original article, click here.