Category Archives: Interiors

Countertops: What’s In and What’s Out in Oxford MS


Counter tops can really define your kitchen.

The surface can make an elegant statement. It can be simple. It can be warm. It can be casual.

The surfaces to choose from include wood, stone, concrete, laminate and much more. Many kitchen designers even mix counter surface types within one room.

Wood Surfaces

Wood surfaces are not your regular butcher block from the 1980s. I had a eucalyptus counter in a house I rented several years ago. It was lovely and warm. The wood needed annual upkeep with a specific oil treatment but it was one of my favorite counter tops. Just be sure not to use that space as a cutting board.

Many local homes I’ve viewed had a single counter space in wood and the rest in another surface type. Other wood choices include bamboo, walnut, cherry, mesquite.

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Stone Surfaces

Stone surfaces vary widely and include popular choices like granite, quartz, soapstone, travertine, Jerusalem stone and slate.  Most require particular cleaners as some may damage easily from improper care.  Stone surfaces also come in a variety of color choices to add personality to your kitchen.  The downside to stone is that the busier the design of the stone the easier crumbs and dirt can hide on the surface. However, solid surface colors can only accent the fact you need to clean it.  My favorite counters were black quartz in another house I lived in.  I loved the look when they were clean but I was constantly wiping them down (there were children in the house which accounted for the dirt and crumbs).

New Trends

New trends in counter tops are concrete, copper-wrapped and recycled-glass counters. Copper-wrapping seems to be popular on counters that are separate from the main countertop in the kitchen but not necessarily on the island. Recycled-glass counters are higher-end because of the process to make them. A mix of colorful glass chips from various broken glass items are blended with concrete and sealed for a smooth finish. Terazzo is making a comeback in both flooring and countertops for homeowners making that mid-century modern statement.

Other trends include eco-friendly counters like composite countertops. These can be made of recycled paper or fly ash and are sealed to resist bacteria. They are heat resistant, too. Engineered stone, stainless steel, solid surface and “upscale” laminate are also popular choices.

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Tile Counters

Tile counters are still popular although most people I had shown houses to do not like them. Tile can be a less expensive way to have an expensive looking counter. And while it is pretty, there is the grout to consider when cleaning. Scrubbing stains out of an unsealed grout can be tedious, so be sure to seal it. Grout can also crack, leaving the homeowner to maintain it more often than they would need to with solid surfaces. With these factors in mind solid stone is an unoffical winner of my countertop experience.

But you decide. When choosing your counters go to a store that specializes in stone for their expertise, and visit some other kitchen design centers for their expertise. Be sure to investigate wood as well.

Although I suggested mixing surfaces in your kitchen, do consider matching your other counters throughout the house to the dominant kitchen counter surface. These would include bathrooms and laundry.  If you ever have to sell your house, this is a design issue that comes up often with buyers. Buyers like to see continuity of design and most of my buyers, who have passed on a house, stated that it was because of the expense to match counters.

And my last piece of advice is this: a desk built into the kitchen is a great space to have but consider not using stone on the desk surface; it gets cold. I speak from experience on this matter.

For more info on picking your countertops read this great article on countertops and your personality.

All photos courtesy of Creative Commons.
Eileen Saunders, SRES REALTOR with Tommy Morgan Realtors  2092 Old Taylor Road, Oxford, MS 38655  662-404-0816 or 662-234-5344 Equal Housing



Plank a Popcorn Ceiling

Popcorn ceilings are a thing of the past.  At one time spraying a white textured goop onto the ceiling in a new house was cool; it was different and added that modern touch.  It was also an easier and less costly way for builders to finish a ceiling.  You may think it would cost less to have a plan ceiling but it’s actually the opposite. Spraying on popcorn texture meant the drywall contractor and painters could finish the job quicker, affordably and move on to another job sooner.  I was home shopping in the late 1990s and wanted the ceiling flat throughout the 20160701_080631house. The builder said it was not an option because it would cost too much to mud the drywall at the tape and apply paint evenly on the ceiling. So for that house we had no choice.

Now days the sight of those textured ceilings makes a home buyer cringe. But, alas, that texture is easy to remove; well, relatively.  Wet it and scrape and it comes off.

But I noticed a disturbing trend in some homes that were remodeled maybe 10 or so years ago.  Rather than removing the popcorn, they painted over it.  Maybe there was a stain from a roof leak or the owner just felt like the ceiling needed some freshening up. Oh my, that causes a big problem.

You see…scraping the popcorn off leaves a surface that can easily be sanded smooth and painted over.  Leaving the popcorn seals it to the ceiling.  It won’t come off because it is now under a layer or two of paint.  The only way now to remove the texture is to take down the drywall and start over. This can also cause potential damage to the top of the walls. 16714470544_5fe01c5dff_b

There is one other way to fix this and update your house. Add wood planks to your ceiling.

Wood planks come in all widths and finishes. You can plank the length of the room or the width of the room. If the ceilings are tall enough add a few decorative beams. Paint the whole thing white or a neutral color or stain it to match your floors. Try a pattern: herringbone or alternating pattern of squares. There are no limits to what you can do with the plank ceiling and you can find dozens of ideas here on Pinterest.

Eileen Saunders, SRES REALTOR with Tommy Morgan Realtors  2092 Old Taylor Road, Oxford, MS 38655 | 662-404-0816 | 662-234-5344 | Equal Housing

Decorating for the Fall When Your House is For Sale

The smell of Fall is all around. Leaves are changing colors, mums are blooming everywhere, outdoor fire pits and wood-burning fireplaces are sending comforting smells through the air. And depending on what part of the country you live in, you may be spending more time indoors. Traditionally, in America, we decorate our homes more in the Fall — bringing the outdoors inside to enjoy. We decorate for the upcoming holidays at the end of the year as well.

Decorating a house that is on the market for sale can be challenging, especially if the homeowner is prone to extreme seasonal decoration. When a house is staged properly, buyers can see the indoor space in a more practical way, but with seasonal decoration, advent-1821740_1920the potential buyers may not be able to get past your Nutcracker collection or other bric a brac. If they leave your house referring to it as the pumpkin house or the turkey house, you may have lost their attention and probably the sale. They just couldn’t see the house as theirs.

I generally recommend during any time of year that sellers start packing things they will not need in the next few months and place them in storage or the garage. Since they plan to move anyway, why not get a head start on packing? Packing up unnecessary items minimizes clutter so potential buyers can view the house, not the stuff in it.

If you must decorate your for-sale house this Fall, remember this: you are going to sell the house. Everything you pulled out to decorate with needs to get packed again. Think minimal. A simple pumpkin display by the front door or on the fireplace is appealing. Perhaps a bouquet of fall-colored flowers or a pot of mums on the dining table will add a festive touch.

If a Christmas tree is necessary, consider keeping the size of the tree and decoration minimal. A tree too large will make a room look smaller. You want your rooms to look big.

Leave hand-railings free of decoration. It allows buyers to view the railings in their natural and beautiful state. Additionally, some buyers may need to hold onto the railing to get safely up and down the stairs. If garland and stockings block their grip, it’s a safety risk.

Is yours the house in the neighborhood known for the lights and blow-up characters on the lawn? Maybe this year you can start a new tradition in the neighborhood. Chances are that the new homeowners will not carry on your family’s enthusiasm for lighting, so this season, with your house on the market, keep your items in storage and let the christmas-21966_1920neighbors get used to a low-light holiday.  It’s less for you to pack up, too, if the house sells quickly. You will also save money on your electric bill that you can use toward your new home.

When your house is on the market for sale, think minimal decoration during the Fall and Holiday seasons.


Eileen Saunders, SRES, REALTOR with Tommy Morgan Realtors  2092 Old Taylor Road  Oxford, MS 38655 | 662-404-0816 | 662-234-5344 | | Equal Housing

Bedroom or Bonus Room?

When listing your home for sale, what actually constitutes a bedroom?

Does it need a closet? Does it need a window? Does it need an easily accessible bathroom?

Oxford MS has adopted the International Residential Code (IRC) which does not require a bedroom to have a closet or its own bathroom.  But it does require the following:

  • An entrance from inside the house
  • An escape to the outside of the house (the HUD handbook specifies size, height and location details of this escape route)
  • A latchable door
  • At least 50% of the ceiling height is 7 ft. or more
  • The area of the room must be at least 70 sq ft and not less than 7 ft in any horizontal direction
  • It cannot open to the garage
  • Must have functional utility; direct access to a common area
  • Must be above grade

If there are other requirements in Oxford MS or any other town, they are because of local ordinances.  However, when determining whether a room in your house is a bedroom, consider common sense.  If the room meets these requirements, would you still definitely use the room in question as a full-time bedroom for a family member?  Is it more likely a room set off from the main living quarters that you can put a bed into for Grandma to use when she comes to visit?  Is it actually the den near the front door with double-glassed windows that you’ve furnished as a sleeping quarters?

I see many homes listed for sale that I simply scratch my head about in wonderment over the extra bedroom. But this may be a matter of my opinion, experience and common sense.

If the room is far removed from the nearest bathroom, would you call it a bedroom?  If the only two full-size bathrooms are a master bathroom and a jack-and-jill bathroom, but there is a half bath, does that room have real bathroom access?

Under the IRC, closets are not a requirement, however, homebuyers expect them in modern homes.  That older Victorian will not have closets unless they were added but that is expected of a vintage house. If you don’t have closets in your modern-era home, you’ll have to use furniture to house your clothes and to many buyers that is a turnoff.

Another issue I see is with the “bedroom” over the garage. The stairway from that room can come into the house at any point: hallway, living space, kitchen, and laundry room to name a few, as long as it comes into the house separated by a latchable door and does not go through the garage, patio or other outside area first. Let’s say there are no closets and no easy bathroom access. You currently use it as an office or a playroom.  Why?  Because to you it is not really a bedroom. It is an extra room that you wanted in the house.  So to list it as a bedroom would be an exaggeration, wouldn’t it?  Should this room simply be listed on the MLS or any FSBO listing platform as an extra, or bonus, room? Now let’s throw in a “guest bed” for when Grandma or an occasional friend comes to town.  Is it now a bedroom?  If there is no easy bathroom access and Grandma has to navigate stairs in the middle of the night, would you actually put her up there? Is it still a bedroom or guest bedroom?


I have a wonderful room over my garage, however, it is accessible through the garage only. Under IRC, HUD and Oxford MS municipal rules, this room does not qualify as a bedroom.  It is a bonus room, an office, or whatever we’d like to make it.  If we put a bathroom up there and add a closet, under the rules it is still not legally a bedroom.  While it has 2 access areas (door and window), latchable door, ceiling height and square footage requirements, it goes through the garage so it cannot be a bedroom.

Let’s say a client/family asked me to find for them a 4 bedroom house because they have 3 children that want their own rooms. If I showed them a house listed with 4 bedrooms but it was actually one with 3 bedrooms downstairs and a single room upstairs without a closet or bathroom, I’d be wasting their time.  Experience tells me that regardless of the child’s age, this set-up is less than desirable.  Sure a teen might think it’s pretty cool to be upstairs by themselves but the reality of no bathroom or no closet will soon become a bummer.  Having to run downstairs in the middle of the night to use the bathroom might be dangerous for a sleepy person or a sick child.

So, when you decide to list your house for sale, either with a professional real estate agent or as a FSBO, remember these guidelines and ask yourself if it is really, truly and without a doubt a bedroom.

*Sources for this article:  Oxford MS Municode, International Code Council, Sacramento Appraisal Blog, National Appraiser Roster 

Eileen Saunders, REALTOR (r) ~Tommy Morgan REALTORS (r) ~2092 Old Taylor Road, Oxford, MS 38655~662-234-5344 or 662-404-0816~Equal Housing

Selling Your House and Keeping It Clean

You’re selling your house!

Chances are you will live there until it sells. Maybe you have children, a dog, a home office.  Maybe an elderly parent lives with you.

How in the world are you going to keep it clean to show it while you still live there?

Not all of us can afford regular house cleaning services so we have to do it ourselves.  If you are selling your house consider having a major, one-time cleaning done before or just as you get the house listed.  It will make a big difference to how the house shows and  it is well worth the expense.

It is not enough, in many cases, to just tidy up the place. A home buyer is going to inspect everything. If the kitchen is greasy, the bathroom has soap scum, the livingroom floor is coated in pet hair, or the bedrooms have unreasonable clutter, the home buyer might wonder if the house has been maintained over the years.  A one-time deep cleanse might help eliminate this concern.

A home inspection will tell what maintenance issues exist but if the house is filthy, the home buyer might not consider making an offer and checking out the home inspection report.

Once a deep cleanse is done, it should be easier for any home seller to maintain the house while it is on the market.  There are many places in the house that get overlooked by the seller once that cleanse is done so read below for a list of areas around the house to pay attention to until you move out.  This list comes partially from but I’ve added a few of my own ideas based on my own expertise.

  1. Kitchen: drawers, pantry floor, refrigerator, dishwasher, gas cooktop.  These are areas that home buyers inspect. Nothing is grosser than grease and food particles stuck to the inside of the dishwasher door near the seal, or in the microwave or refrigerator. If these items are staying with the house, keep them clean. Keep food and boxes off of the floor of the pantry so people can see how much extra space is inside.  Crumbs in the kitchen drawers can also be a turn off. Send the home buyer away with a good feeling about the house.  The last thing they want to think of is how much cleaning they’ll need to do to get into the house so make it look move-in ready. A quick wipe down after use will  keep it clean.
  2. Ceiling fans, hanging lamps, light bulbs: These are huge dust and spider web collectors so be sure to keep watch on how much dust is overtaking them after the “big clean”.  Don’t leave the home buyer with the impression you have a spider problem because of the hanging webs from the lamps.

    Can you see the spider webs?  A home buyer will and wonder if there's a spider problem in the house.
    Can you see the spider webs? A home buyer will and wonder if there’s a spider problem in the house.
  3. Behind the toilet: a very overlooked area because no one wants to reach back there. This spot collects hair, dust, pieces of paper and more, so keep it dusted.
  4. Laundry room: if the machines are staying, clean them. Keep the floor dust- and lint-free.
  5. Bed Skirt: my dog lies next to my bed at night so I have dirt and dog hair on my bedskirt from her furr. This is one area that I have to keep clean and if you have a pet, take a look at your bedskirt. It should be easy to launder so be sure to do it regularly and keep the home buyer’s eyes up to look at the room, not down at the dirt.
  6. Windows: again, I have a dog. She puts her nose on my windows to look outside.  Dogs and little children can leave windows less than sparkling so if you get a call for a showing, be sure to wipe the smudges before leaving the house. It’s quick and easy to do.
  7. Shower curtains: mildewed shower curtains can leave a smell that someone else will pick up on. It may leave the home buyer wondering if there is a mold problem in the house so before you put  the house on the market, change your shower curtains.  If you have shower doors, check the sweep at the bottom of the door for mildew. These are easy to replace and available at your local home improvement store.
  8. Kitchen cabinets: you might not notice the greasy hand print or the smudge of syrup or grease splatter on your cabinets but a home buyer will and it is a turn off.  Once you have the deep cleanse, get into the habit of a quick wipe-down each night after loading the dishwasher. It’s a good habit to get into and you can stop the dirt build-up with daily attention.
  9. Bathroom sinks: wipe down each  morning when you finish getting ready for the day. Then you don’t have to worry about cleaning for the next showing.

If you get into the habit of wiping up the little things each day, your house will stay clean and look great to each potential home buyer that passes through. This attention to detail may be the difference between no offers and an acceptable contract.

Eileen Saunders, Realtor~Tommy Morgan Realtors, 2092 Old Taylor Road, Oxford, MS 38655~662-404-0816 or 662-234-5344. Equal Housing.