Kitchen Countertops & Costs

While researching counter tops for a clients’ outdoor kitchen I thought it would be a great time to summarize the types of counters that are readily available for today’s kitchens. A variety of textures,  costs and appearances can change the look and feel of the heart of your home.
Soapstone. The first photo of the contemporary kitchen features the sleekness of soapstone. It’s durability has made this material a top choice for hundreds of years.  It’s density makes it stain and bacteria resistant and is not discolored by heat. Cleans simply with soap and water. Develops a dark patina and can scratch or chip over over time.  While many people love the charm the counter top assumes over time, others prefer to sand the soapstone to keep it looking new. Average cost $75 -$95 a foot.

 Concrete is one of the greenest, most environmentally friendly materials on Earth. They are available in a variety of colors and can be textured as well.  Average cost $65 – $135 a foot.

No foyer…No problem!

Could not have written this article better!  In this time of exorbitant housing prices rendering  small square footage a proper foyer is really a luxury. Here is an article by designer Leslie that I thought was terrific.
There is something about coming into a home that has a foyer, an entryway, a vestibule.
It says, “Come on in! Welcome. Stay awhile.”
It’s the welcoming committee for the rest of our home.
But not everyone’s home or apartment is blessed with such a space.
Many front doors open directly into the living room.

However, it’s not hopeless! You can create the feeling of a foyer.

House to Home Elements to Consider:

  • Lighting: table lamps, hanging swag lamps, floor lamps, uplights (can lighting), candles
  • Softness: rugs, rug runners
  • Seating: benches, chairs, ottomans, stools
  • Storage: dressers, credenzas, armoires, large covered baskets, stacked luggage, night stands, umbrella stands, hooks
  • Personality: family photos, travel prints, souvenirs
  • Reflection: mirrors, glass, mercury glass
  • Life: plants, flowers, clocks with pendulums
The primary thing to remember is that you’ll either need a physical barrier or a visual one.
A physical barrier literally blocks the view of the rest of the room.
A visual barrier gives the viewer decor to instantly view in the front door area;
it separates and sets the entryway apart from the rest of the house.
Even if it’s only a few square feet, give your home a place
in which to pause before entering the rest of the house.
Make it Organized & Pretty

If you only have one wall near the front door and no coat closet or console,
compact helpers work perfectly here.


If It’s Compact, Make an Impact
A slim and sleek shelf  topped with a gallery wall of precious photos
makes a spectacular statement.
The drawers below the shelf hold keys, gloves,
the dog’s leash, gadgets, whatever.

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Define with Molding
Give the spot its own personality.
Frame the wall you’ll be using to draw attention to it.

Define with Wallpaper

Accent wallpaper makes a dramatic statement
that can be fun for a transition space.

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Define with Wainscoting

Easy-to-apply wallpaper or the traditional wood panels
create instant cottage appeal.


Paint It Happy
A dresser or console painted in a fun, vibrant color is a sweet way
to say “Hello” to your family and friends.

Display It Happy

Your collection of heirloom and thrift plates needs to be displayed somewhere.
Why not the entryway?

Use a Hall TreeIf you only have three to five feet of space
(and perhaps you’re renting and can’t alter the wall in any way),
the classic hall tree may be just what your entryway needs.


More Sources

Focus on the Front Door

Painting the inside of the door is probably
the easiest fix and the most eye-catching.


Illuminate with Swag

You can create a small square of foyer space simply by
flanking the front door with sconces,
spreading a rug upon the floor,
and hanging a lamp from a hook over the spot.

(If there’s no nearby outlet, use an extension cord;
secure it as close to the floor molding as possible.)


IKEA to the Rescue

A tall or low Expedit shelving unit can be used
between the space near your door and the rest of the room.

(We have the black/brown 5 cube by 5 cube unit and love it!)


A House (Er, Room) Divided

In a larger or longer room, a screen or hanging divider
is an excellent solution for a lack of defined landing area
once you’ve entered the home.

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Tile Transitioning

My friend Gina from The Shabby Creek Cottage
tiled a tiny space by her front door.
She says:
“Making a grand entrance isn’t all that easy
when you have a 2 ft. by 4 ft. square to do it in.
No room for big furniture. No big open space to decorate.
That’s okay, I like to keep things simple…”


Family Friendly

Children love their own personalized space!
Give them one (or two, or three, or more…).

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Lean a Mirror

Even a chunky wardrobe mirror works well to define a visual vestibule.
I like Old Time Pottery and Hobby Lobby’s selections.

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Nook Necessities

Maybe you have a bitty spot that is more like a crevice than anything else.
Shelving, hooks, and baskets can help to organize your homecomings.



Not only is it great (hidden) storage, but it looks great, too!
A mirrored one is perfect for last-minute primping.


Recycle That Pallet 

Yet another pallet creation, and it’s fantastic!

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In My Home

My basement cafe has no foyer to speak of.
Here’s how I used the wall behind the door
so guests can park their purses or primp.

I hope that this encourages those of you who have lost hope of having a foyer!
Try creating one; you will feel proud to enter and to invite others into your home!Have a beautiful, blessed day making your home!

Year End Market Report ~ 2014 – 2015


San Mateo & Santa Clara Counties comparison sales from 2014 to 2015 were down in units and up in dollar volume in every city I observed with the exception of Redwood City & Los Altos which marked a 10% & 5% increase in units sold respectively. This reflects a lack of inventory and a high appreciation we have continued to see since we started rebounding after the 2008 crash. Predictions for 2016 seem to be more of the same, with possible appreciation leveling out in the high single digits. Housing market fundamentals are strong, job and income growth are positive, mortgage rates are low and should remain low in 2016, lending standards are more reasonable then they have been a year ago, and household formation is rebounding. Overall 2016 should prove to be a year similar to 2015.  Fingers crossed! It is an election year though and historically the housing market waits to see the outcome.

Here are the Stats:

2014 -2015 Year End Totals

City                         YTD 2014       YTD2015     %Change


# of Sales                      105                    76                     -27%

Median Price            $4.4M               $5.9M               +34%

Menlo Park

#of Sales                       438                   384                  -12%

Median Price            $1.6M               $1.9M               +15%

Los Altos 

# of Sales                      331                   349                  +  5%

Median Price            $2.3M               $2.6M               +14%

Los Altos Hills

# of Sales                      96                      94                    –  2%

Median Price            $3.3M               $3.6M               +10%

Palo Alto

# of Sales                     471                    412                    -13%

Median Price            $2.1M               $2.5M               +15%

Portola Valley

# of Sales                       85                        62                  -27%

Median Price            $2.5M               $2.6M               + 7%

Redwood City

# of Sales                    627                    690                   +10%

Median Price            $975K                $1.2M               +25%

San Carlos

# of Sales                   383                     307                    -10%

Median Price            $1.3M               $1.5M               +16%


# of Sales                   105                     94                      -10%

Median Price            $2.4M               $2.7M               +13%

What’s Better than Marinated Cheese!

Marinate Your Feta and Never Look Back

Marinate Your Feta and Never Look Back photo
Credit: Alex Lau

The quality of your cheese-eating life hasn’t reached its full potential. It’s time to start marinating your feta. Food director Carla Lalli Music always keeps a few Mason jars of the stuff in her home fridge to have on hand whenever she wants to schmear it on crackers or crusty bread, crumble it onto a salad or a soup, or stuff it into an omelet. You could say the quickie technique is her bread and, er, cheese. And it’s incredibly easy to pull off if you have a jar, a fridge, some olive oil, a few key ingredients, and five minutes.

If you’re ready for peak cheese, raise your hand—and watch the video below.

Super Bowl ~ Appetizer

antipasto-kabobs2 (1)

Thought this looked terrific for the Super Bowl!

Antipasto on a stick!


  • 1 – 7 oz container fresh or marinated mozzarella balls
  • 8 oz. sliced prosciutto
  • ½ lb. genoa salami, sliced thin
  • 1 12 oz. jar roasted red peppers
  • 1 6 oz container of marinated olives – the type you find in the olive bars @gourmet grocery stores
  • 1 head of red leaf lettuce or arugula, buttery mache, whichever kind of leaf you like

If you want to drizzle them with olive oil and a little vinegar you can do that as well. Little tomatoes can be substituted for the red peppers or even added for more color.

Then just put them on the skewers arrange on a platter and enjoy the game! Can be prepared ahead of time covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated.  However allow them to come to room temperature before you serve them to get the best flavor from the cheese and prosciutto.


Creative Landscapes ~ Sloped Yards

Landscaping a sloping hillside yard can be challenging…

In this article by Laura Gaskill, one of my favorite go to research writers at Houzz, she has put together a terrific collection of ideas on how to landscape difficult hillsides. Pictured in the first selection are retaining walls made of stacked Arizona sandstone, slate and bluestone. Contemporary Landscape by Berkeley Landscape Contractors Mariposa Gardening & Design.


Roasted Cauliflower & Pepitos!

Well now that we are settling into the routine of 2016…..
I’ve received a request from a friend for more recipes. So here you go…. knowing we are all still trying to eat relatively healthy I found one I just love. Now I know you might be saying how can a vegetable be a warm, fuzzy, comfort food. This one is. Cauliflower gets such a bad rap. It’s actually quite versatile and because it absorbs the flavors you roast or cook it with it it  chameleon “esque” in its taste. I found this one courtesy of BonAppetit but have home tested it frequently.



  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus leaves with tender stems for serving
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice


  • Preheat oven to 450°. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with 1 Tbsp. oil. Trim cauliflower stalk and place head stalk side down on a cutting board. Slice cauliflower lengthwise into ½” slices. Arrange cauliflower slices and any stray pieces in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp. oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until underside is deeply browned, 20–25 minutes. Turn cauliflower over, season with salt and pepper, and continue to roast until other side is dark brown and crisp, 15–20 minutes longer.
  • Meanwhile, melt butter in a small skillet over medium. Add pumpkin seeds, bring to a simmer, and cook, swirling pan occasionally, until pumpkin seeds are toasted and butter is browned and smells nutty, 6–8 minutes. Remove from heat and add red pepper flakes; let cool 10 minutes. Add chopped cilantro and lime juice; season with salt and pepper.
  • Arrange cauliflower on a serving platter and drizzle with dressing. Serve topped with cilantro leaves. I use arugula instead of cilantro. But you could use parsley or any herb you like.

There you go Grayson!

Alain Pinel Realtors ~ Luxury Portfolio International


As part of the never ending quest to pay attention to all the details involving our clients real estate needs we have moved our business operations to Alain Pinel Realtors. With the influx of international investors we felt it important to work with a company that strongly supports that marketplace. Alain Pinel Realtors affiliation with Luxury Portfolio and Properties International provides our clients properties unparalleled exposure in over 50 countries globally.

Luxury Portfolio International® is the luxury face of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® the largest global network of premier locally branded companies dominated by many of the world’s most powerful independent luxury brokerages. Our award-winning website was launched in 2005 and in its first year featured more $1 million-plus residences than other luxury real estate organizations. The network continues to grow and now markets over 25,000 of the world’s most remarkable homes annually and attracts over 1.2 million high-net worth visitors a year. By presenting a gallery of the finest luxury properties and brokerage worldwide, our brand is recognized throughout the world as the luxury standard of excellence. In addition, we are unmatched in the global arena, with properties in over 45 states and 27 countries, website visitors from over 200 countries/territories every month, site translation in nine languages, conversion to multiple currencies and a total inventory of available properties totaling almost $40 billion. The 200 luxury affiliates represent the luxury component of an organization which encompasses nearly 500 companies, 4,600 office and 140,000 associates producing $225 billion in annual home sales in 30 countries. Based in the United States, Luxury Portfolio International® is backed by the experience of the most well respected and well known experts in markets worldwide. This group collectively has decades of experience in the high end luxury real estate market.

Whether you are selling here and want to reach a global market or buying internationally and want in-depth knowledge we know that our extensive services will provide you with up to date and exclusive representation, anywhere.