April 2011: Rental Rescue & Toolbox


There’s nothing quite like spring in Charlottesville. As the days grow longer and the weather grows warmer, our homes beg for fresh air, friends, and some good ol’ Southern hospitality. Whether it be selecting an open floor plan perfect for a party, or choosing furniture, flooring, and finishes that can stand up to red wine and barbecue sauce (and the occasional tipsy neighbor), a love of entertaining factors into abode-making decisions for many. With the social season upon us, following a few frugal, yet festive tips, you can have your home ready for easy spring entertaining.

Raising the bar


A simple home bar is a sign of an organized and congenial host, ready for impromptu visits and the next shindig. A vintage bar cart tucked in the corner can house your libations and cocktails while adding some “Mad Men” charm to your bungalow. Consider a tea cart or a stack of vintage suitcases on a luggage rack to do the job.

If you’re tight on space, clear out a few kitchen cabinets or shelves and stock them with essential liquors, mixers, glassware, and bar tools (shakers, ice bucket, jiggers, etc). Browse the aisles at Sprouse’s Furniture or the Covesville Store (both on Route 29S) for some terrific vintage glassware and bar tools at low prices.

Setting the table
Whether it be a sit-down dinner or a cocktail party, a well-set table is a hallmark of a great party. Work from the bottom up, and start with a fabulous table cloth. It’s a chance to add much-needed color or pattern to your room and spread, while minimizing damage to your table. If you don’t see something you love on the shelf, browse the fabric remnants at The Second Yard on East Market Street. A simple hem takes you from the bolt to the banquet.

Fresh flowers are always easy, in style, and in season for a great centerpiece. If you’re having a sit-down dinner, keep your arrangement low so conversation can flow. Add in some tea lights and pillar candles to take your party from day to evening, but go for scentless candles. No one wants to smell vanilla and lavender while they’re eating Italian food.

If you’re short on serving platters and trays for a cocktail party, think creatively. Consider some discounted slate or porcelain floor tiles (try the Habitat Store) for a clean, modern look. Arrange chocolate truffles on a glass chess board for a graphic pop on your buffet.

Take a seat

Let’s be honest. Most of us don’t have enough seating for all 40 guests to sit down at once, and we really don’t need it. You don’t necessarily want everyone to park in the same seat all night. Leave room for movement and mingling. Unless it’s a sit-down dinner, you only need to provide seating for about a third of your guests. Consider investing in a handful of attractive wooden folding chairs (try the Terje chair from IKEA for $14.99). A nice folding chair can go from the dining room table to the backyard, and behind the door for simple storage depending on the feel of your evening.

As always, make things easy on yourself. If you worry about a mess, consider darker and patterned area rugs that hide spills. Keep fun coasters and cocktail napkins on hand (try Cha Cha’s on the Downtown Mall) so you won’t be on water ring duty all night. Shopping thrifty for your party accessories will leave more money in your budget for good libations (the most important part). Following these few simple steps will take your abode from Monday morning to party pad, just in time for spring.—Ed Warwick

Demolition expert

Ready to do some serious damage to your home? (And by “damage” I mean remodeling.) Get yourself outfitted with a few tools that will make destruction all that it’s cracked up to be. Besides basic safety gear, you’ll want a crowbar or two, a sledgehammer and a reciprocating saw.

If you are going to get just one tool for your foray into destruction, go with a pry bar. Flatter and often lighter-weight than its cousin the wrecking bar, the pry bar combines ripping leverage with nail pulling claws whilst sliding into narrow channels between boards. It’s sufficiently heavy-duty to smash things apart and manageable enough to avoid damaging nearby elements that aren’t on the demo list. Use this bad boy for tearing out old walls, cabinets, and flooring.

When trying to remove a finish nail, recessed nail, or one missing its head, it’s best to skip the pry bar and go for a nail puller such as the cat’s paw. Using its sharp claws, the paw gets deep enough into the wood to grab what’s there, and remove it.

Time to just smash things apart? Use a heavy sledge (6 lbs. or more). Masonry walls and old sidewalks won’t stand a chance.

Finally, the grand pappy of demo tools: the reciprocating saw. Cut through drywall, lumber, nails, electrical conduits (!) and even pipes (Caution: know what’s behind any wall before you start cutting). An assortment of blades will keep you feeling like the demo expert that you truly are.—Christy Baker