Quiz: Can You Match the Celebrities to Their Homes?

See if you can tell which stars come out to play, entertain, dine, and doze in these fab homes.

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A City Girl Moves to the Suburbs

Can a lifelong New Yorker learn to accept (if not necessarily love) suburban life?

Growing up in a tight one-bedroom apartment in the heart of Manhattan, the suburbs seemed downright exotic to me. Everything about them felt foreign, from the sizable houses to the reliance on cars.

By the time I was in middle school I’d already mastered the art of independent NYC public transportation. The parks were my backyard, and having your own room seemed like the epitome of luxury.

Each summer my parents would rent a car and we’d drive the hour to my great aunt’s house in Huntington, Long Island for a weeklong vacation. The big draw? A private, in-ground swimming pool and cabana house we could stay in.

The kids across the street would come over for a swim, we called the next-door neighbors Uncle and Aunt, and we barbecued our meals. It all felt very warm and wholesome, and so unlike what I was used to.

I always spent the first night on Long Island lying awake, unable to sleep thanks to the deafening drone of crickets outside my window. The wailing of city sirens was like a lullaby, but the sounds of nature felt somehow intrusive.

Long Island was only 40 miles away from home, but it felt much farther.

Where my path led me

I ended up marrying my high school sweetheart, a fellow multi-generation New Yorker, and we felt confident we’d stay in the city forever, like our fathers before us, raising our future kids on the same streets we loved so fiercely.

But life takes funny turns, and we wound up in Israel for a few years, and then landed in Long Island when my husband got a job at a hospital there.

We moved when our son was one month old, and everyone said how much better it would be to raise a child in the suburbs. We were skeptical at best.

Our move to the suburbs didn’t come with any of the amenities one might expect. Hospital housing provided us with a subsidized two-bedroom apartment, which is quite large by city standards, but requires a walk up a flight of stairs, and doesn’t come equipped with modern luxuries like a dishwasher or washing machine, which I had always equated with suburban life. But my husband can walk to work, a rarity where we live, so we’re able to get by as a one-car household.

Getting settled

Having a child helped me acclimate to suburban life. In my son’s early, sleepless days, I would strap him into the cozy carrier where I could be sure he’d doze off, and I’d take to the streets, determined to explore my new neighborhood by foot.

I discovered a lovely park and library within walking distance, where my son felt grass for the first time and we took Mommy and Me classes that introduced us to both baby sign language and other local parents.

I learned that there is a vibrant Portuguese community in my area, complete with enticing restaurants and bakeries that would feed my burgeoning pao de queijo (cheese puffs) addiction. I found a grocery store I could walk to, though it was a bit of a trek, and stubbornly timed how long it would take me to walk to the farther Korean market where I could find specialty items I was used to easily obtaining in the city.

Slowly I went farther afield, hopping in the car to check out the stunning Gold Coast mansions that are right out of “The Great Gatsby,” the preserves that were once home to Theodore Roosevelt, and the many well-tended public gardens.

Come our second summer on Long Island, my son was a walking, water-loving toddler who relished every second we were at the community pool or nearby beaches. Never am I happier to live where we do than in the warmer months, when all manner of outdoor activity is at our fingertips. It’s now our third summer here, and I’ve finally figured out how to easily obtain a pool pass, and which beaches I can access based on where I reside.

Home away from home

For all that I’ve grown to enjoy about living in the suburbs, though, I’m still a city girl at heart. We take the train into the city often, and my son gets a great thrill from taking the subway, seeing the crowded city streets, catching glimpses of taxis and buses and fire engines.

His grandparents all live in Manhattan, and we spend many weekends having slumber parties in cramped quarters, just to get a taste of all that our beloved city offers.

We have adapted to life in the ‘burbs because that’s what you do, and because there is so much to enjoy here. But my husband and I still have our hearts set on life in the city — if not this year, then in the next few.

I know that once we go back I’ll miss the farms and beaches and big box stores, and I’ll long for the well-stocked libraries and exciting museums. But we can always rent a car and make a vacation out of it.

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Balancing Home Improvements With Big Price Tags

HGTV’s Christina El Moussa lays out how she chooses where to pinch and splurge on home renovations.

Whether you’re rehabbing an investment property, getting your house ready to sell, or just want to improve your home, renovating a house is expensive.

For our business, Tarek and I have to make a lot of hard decisions to stay within really strict budgets, but we can’t ever leave one of our flipped houses looking shabby or rundown. Because we absolutely have to do the best job possible for all of our properties, we’ve learned a lot about prioritizing our rehabs and balancing those big price tags.

I do all of the designs for our properties. As I’ve been going over floor plans, looking at attractive kitchen remodeling projects, and finding the best ways to please our buyers, I’ve been thinking a lot about the choices we make, and how they can help real estate investors and homeowners with their renovations and improvements.

Consider your options

You probably don’t have the budget to splurge on everything you really want in your home improvement project. And even if you do, it’s nice to come in under budget, especially if you plan on selling the property.

When I sit down to design our remodeling and renovation projects, the first thing I do is look at the house as a whole. I decide which rooms are most important, and where I’ll spend the most money.

For most properties, the kitchen and bathrooms are going to be your best investments, but they’re not always the rooms that need the most work. Look at the materials you have in your kitchen and bathrooms to see what you can salvage and what you need to update.

Look at the rest of the house to see which areas will be the most impressive to buyers after renovations are complete.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

The places I almost always spend a little extra on include the front porch and outdoor entrance, as well as the front foyer. First impressions are crucial.

Balance splurges and savings

As you look at each room in the house, consider which elements and features will get the most attention, where you want to splurge, and where you can save.

For example, let’s say you’re renovating the kitchen. I recommend splurging on marble or quartz countertops, but you don’t have to do it for all of your counters.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

You could go with that higher cost material for the counters lining your walls, but then save some cash by choosing a butcher block or stainless steel countertop for the island. It’ll still work with the rest of the design for your kitchen, but it won’t cost nearly as much.

Similarly, you don’t have to buy the most expensive tile on the market for the bathroom. In fact, you can save a surprising amount of money by going with a cost-effective, neutral tile for the floor and shower walls.

Then, to spruce it up and elevate the look of the room, you can add an accent strip of nicer tile that wraps around the shower stall and/or borders the floor. You’ll spend a fraction of the money, and you’ll get really beautiful results.

Give thought to your flooring

Now, everyone loves hardwood flooring, but beautiful wood floors come with some pretty big price tags. I get around this issue by considering my options and looking at the best, most cost-effective way to go. For example, a lot of laminate wood flooring has gotten so good that it’s almost impossible to tell it’s not true hardwood.

Laminate is less expensive than hardwood, and it won’t have the same issues with moisture that real wood flooring can have. As a result, you might be able to go with a single type of flooring throughout the house, even in the kitchen. This is an especially attractive option if you have an open floor plan.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Even if you really do need to go with real hardwood floors (which we’ve had to do on some of our investment properties), you still have some options to save money and create gorgeous results. For example, do you actually need to rip out and replace the flooring for the whole house?

You already know that you’re likely going to have tile in the bathrooms and kitchen to avoid water damage and give those rooms a more defined look. Have you considered whether you can get away with carpet in the bedrooms instead of hardwood floors?

Depending on the design of the house, I sometimes go with hardwood floors throughout the communal spaces like the living and dining rooms, and then I go with a soft, new carpet in the bedrooms.

When the budget permits, I’ll extend the hardwood or laminate flooring into the master bedroom to give it that extra luxurious look and feel — but it’s not always necessary.

Keep it simple in the yard

Finally, don’t go crazy with landscaping, especially if you’re selling the house. Instead of planting a bunch of expensive shrubs, flowers, and bushes that need to be cared for and watered on a regular basis, go with some low-maintenance options.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

You can also go with an attractive gravel front walk and then line the house with gravel, as well. This will create a cohesive look, and it’s less expensive than paving.

Basically, when it comes to landscaping and outdoor features, keep it simple. Simple is attractive and neutral, and it lets buyers see themselves in the house, even before they actually enter the home. Make sure that everything is well kept, but don’t spend a lot on your yard. Save that money for what your buyers will see when they walk inside.

If I had to pick one piece of advice for getting everything done on a budget, it really would be, “pick your battles.” Choose the things you care most about and splurge on them. Then save wherever you can on the things that don’t matter as much and won’t improve the home’s value or your enjoyment of living in it.

Want more help? Watch design and home improvement videos for expert advice.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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House of the Week: A Tuscan Villa on Hilton Head Island

Take in the private beach, deep-water dock, and the lap pool with a view.

After spending a lot of time in Italy, Ray and Terry Travaglione knew they wanted a Tuscan-style villa back home. So in 2002, they bought an idyllic piece of land on South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island and built one.

It’s not heavy the way some people think of Tuscan architecture, Ray said. “It’s not Gothic, but understated, with a Santa Barbara appeal to it. Every corner is rounded, as you would find in a Tuscan villa.”

There’s also a local flavor, with wood beams that were pulled from the Savannah River, he said. The home is on the market for $4.97 million with listing agents Dan Prud’homme and Tristan O’Grady of Carolina Realty Group.

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Giant oak trees share the grounds with trees that recall Italy: lemon, lime, orange and fig.

Unlike central Italy, the property sits on the water, with a private beach alongside a deep-water dock. There’s also a lap pool that was designed on an angle, so swimmers can look up the Intracoastal Waterway.

The 6,671-square-foot home offers stunning water views, including from the chef’s kitchen, which boasts a 6-burner Viking gas stove, two dishwashers, a farmhouse sink and wood-beam ceilings. It features 4 bedrooms and 5 baths, a 1,200-bottle wine cellar and a guesthouse with a fully equipped gym.

The living and dining rooms boast a custom stone fireplace, cathedral ceilings and French doors that open to water views. Outside, there’s a 400-square-foot dock house with built-in seating and wiring for music and television.

The villa faces west across the waterway, which makes for breathtaking sunsets, Ray Travaglione said. “At the end of each day, there’s this little gift given to us by looking west.”

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7 Tips for Maintaining and Repairing Wood Decks

Keep your wood deck looking as good as new with a little regular care.

It can be a cookout space, lounge area complete with a brightly colored umbrella, or a display of potted plants. For whatever purpose you use your wood deck, it requires regular maintenance and upkeep to be able to provide you with years of pleasure.

The key to preventing long-lasting damage to your deck is spotting and repairing the most common problems early on. With a little attention — and this helpful checklist of maintenance must-dos — you can keep your deck looking as good as it did the day it was constructed.

Keep it clean and dry

Leaf mold, spills, and tracked mud diminish your deck’s good looks and can attract unwanted flies and insects. Promptly scrub away stuck-on debris with warm water and wood-safe oxygen bleach (mixed as directed on the bleach container), then rinse clean. Perform these steps and spot treatments as needed throughout the year.

You should also clean the entire deck at the start of every season using either the approach described above or a power washer at its lowest pressure setting to quickly spray away dirt and grime.

It’s fine to let your deck air-dry on its own after cleaning or a rainstorm, as long as you remove outdoor accessories that retain moisture on the deck’s surface. Make sure that outdoor rugs or doormats are quick-dry rubber, and always place saucers underneath potted plants.

Rejuvenate natural wood

Do you remember how your redwood deck looked and felt when it was first installed? Its color was warm, and the wood was soft and smooth underfoot.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Over time, natural woods, including redwood, cedar, and teak, can start to feel rough and turn silvery gray. Fortunately, the original hue is merely hiding just beneath the surface. Simply sanding a deck made of natural wood will remove its weathered layer and restore the original color.

Protect and seal

Apply a penetrating sealer annually after a thorough cleaning to protect your wooden deck from the elements for the next 12 months.

Wait until the deck has completely dried and been sanded (if desired), then use a product that repels water, offers UV protection, and contains a mildewcide. Make sure you get the right kind of sealer for your deck. Natural woods require specific sealers.

If your treated-wood deck looks faded, you can opt for a combination sealer and stain to refresh its appearance and protect it at the same time.

Replace old nails with screws

Wood decking swells and moves with humidity and temperature fluctuations. As a result, nails used in deck construction can become loose, resulting in raised nailheads.

Instead of hammering the nails back down, pull them out and replace them with decking screws.

If your deck is made of treated lumber, use plastic-coated ACQ-compliant screws. For a natural wood deck, choose screws with a corrosion-resistant coating.

Swap out warped and rotted planks

Even when chemically treated, wood can warp over time. This problem is particularly common with longer boards like decking planks. More than simply detracting from your deck’s appearance, these defects can cause guests or family members to trip or get a splinter.

Replacing the entire plank is the best choice. However, if only a small section is affected, you can get by with cutting the plank back to the center of a joist and installing a replacement section.

Secure rickety railings

Weather extremes, loose fasteners, and kids’ horseplay can all take a toll on a deck’s railing. Once a rail is wobbly, it takes more than just a few screws to stabilize.

For beefed-up lateral support, add a vertical post between existing support posts. Secure the new post by bolting it to the deck’s rim joist and to the railing.

Fix up failing posts

A deck that settles, tilts, or slopes is showing signs of post failure. Inspect posts positioned nearest the lowest point of the deck. Your next steps will depend on the extent of the damage.

For a slipping post: If a support post has slipped downward in the center of a concrete footing, jack up the deck until it is level and bolt angle iron support brackets at the post’s base.

For a rotting post: If a support post is rotting at the base, you’ll have to jack up the deck and completely replace the post. Mount the new post in an iron post bracket secured to the top of the concrete footing.

To reduce the risk of post rot in the future, pack vinyl concrete patcher around the base of the support post to form a bevel that drains water away from the wood.

See deck design inspiration on Zillow Digs.

Entertaining outdoors this summer? Add festive accents to make your gathering extra special.

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Summer starts outside with a $5,000 shopping spree at west elm. Enter for a chance to win!

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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