Let's Talk: Cash or Credit?


Technology has really afforded us tremendous convenience and we all are pretty much the same, “let’s do things as efficiently and quickly as possible”! Some things though are not as they appear and one of those is related to the biggest convenience we would be hard-pressed to live without: credit and/or debit cards.

I have heard many people complain that some small businesses and service providers do not accept credit card payments. It may be difficult to understand why a business would not elect to allow payment by credit card when it is such a convenience to the consumer (and likewise, often times, annoyance when not available as an option).

I DO accept credit card payments but quite honestly it is expensive; there are associated fees and I can understand why some small businesses decide against this payment “convenience”. This morning I received George Whalin's Retail Management E-Letter on this very subject. I thought it would be helpful to share the basic points with consumers too, so that when you are met with the dreaded, “Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t accept credit cards”, you have a better understanding of the possible reasons why.

Among the many issues facing merchants today is the ever-increasing costs of taking, handling, and dealing with credit and debit cards.  Retailers, on average, pay out anywhere from 2% to 3% of sale fees – in addition to monthly and transaction fees. This may seem small yet those fees generated more than $62 billion to retailer costs in 2009 as reported by The Nielsen Report. Even Paypal assigns rates equal to about 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. For a small business, that adds up to a substantial amount.

Many times retailers are charged per “swipe”. For example, if a salesperson/retailer scans a card through the card reader and it doesn't go through so they scan it again (possibly several more times). This can result in additional fees from the bank or card processor, varying among credit card processors.
Over the last two years, there have been significant increases in credit and debit card processing fees and costs. On July 1st, 2010 this will change again when two things will occur:
  • Processing fees will see across-the-board increases
  • 25 % of the equipment used to process these payments will become inoperable (which means retailers will need to purchase new equipment) 
(Source: George Whalin's Retail Management E-Letter )
As stated previously, my business, Storibook Designs does accept payment by credit card. It is a service that I've always felt I couldn't possibly go without offering.  As fees continue to increase though, I sometimes feel that business owners are between a rock and a hard place.  The cost of providing this service is something that I watch carefully and come next week, when the new changes go in to effect, you can be sure that I will be looking at the charges with closer inspection to see how it affects the bottom line.

How about you, as a consumer/shopper, do you find it annoying if a business does not accept credit card payments? Will you shop elsewhere if credit card payments are not allowed?

If you are a business owner, do you or do you not accept credit card payments?

I’d love to hear your feedback - consumers and fellow business owners alike!

Thank you ~ Sarah

Get In Gear...Or At Least Get It Organized

Look familiar?

Don't panic. You're not alone. We're here to help.

It's inevitable. Summer is not unlike other seasons. As temperatures change, our activities change and along with that...more stuff! And with more stuff come more organizational issues. What to do with the swim floaties, outdoor cushions, and garden hose? What to do with all those (sigh) toys, toys, toys? Don't sweat it. If you don't have a garage (or do and would actually enjoy parking in it once in a while), we've got ideas to help you keep your cool this summer, especially if you manage to wrangle others into storing everything in its proper place. From crafty to designer chic, you'll love these solutions to the most common summer storage problems.

Shed Up
If you have a garden shed, chances are it's stuffed with all things...well, garden. Space permitting, investing in an additional shed can house your summer stuff, like bicycles, rollerblades, bats and balls. This double-door shed even has built-in shelving!

Deck for Cover
A deck box is a perfect solution in so many spaces. Need a place right in the pool area to stash the floaties, noodles, beach balls, and goggles? This one hides a slew of pool paraphenalia.

How about a dual function spot to store toys and sit and watch your little ones play? This stylish storage bench would look fantastic sitting right on your front lawn. Toys on your front lawn never looked so good.

And how about the multi-function nature of this next deck box? Storage unit by day, this piece easily morphs into seating or a coffee table by night. Wondering where to keep essentials like cushions, pillows, and blankets for cool summer evenings? Here are some great options.

By Hook or By Crook
Use what you've got. Attach hooks to fences and rig up instant organization. Great for cumbersome pool supplies like a vacuum, hose, and skimmer, these hooks keep your pool area safe. No more tripping!

Cute and creative for toys, use hooks to attach milk crates or other bins to fencing. Customize crates by choosing an individualized color for each child. We can't guarantee they won't argue over the toys, but there'll be no question whose bin is whose!

Entertaining Style
Need a little more space for your outdoor entertaining needs? Think napkins, serving trays, pitchers (yum). Consider a sideboard suitable for the elements.


Photo: Home Portfolio

See? No need to panic. You have options. Got some other creative outdoor organizing ideas you'd like to share? Please post a comment and let us know!

Interior Inspirations from My Web Favs: Apartment Therapy

Here it is, post number two in my inspirations from the web blog series. Looking to redesign a specific room or an entire house, or do you just want a few item ideas to spice up your space? Apartment Therapy focuses more on, as the name suggests, cures for the design dilemmas presented with a small space. In 2004, I found only a simple one-page site:

Photo: Internet Archive: Wayback Machine

The site has grown tremendously over the last 6 years!  So aside from good looks
-(does anyone else see the resemblance to Bradley Cooper? )- Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, interior designer and founder of Apartment Therapy, is doing more than one thing right!  

Ahhh ....an entirely different kind of therapy!.  Back to the real subject of this post....

These days he is reporting over 4 million visitors per month!  In just 6 short years, those are some pretty amazing stats!

In 2007 or 8, AT broke off to include 5 blogs:  apartment therapy, the Kitchn, ohdeedoh, unplggd, and re-nest - each covering a major area of the home. So, although they stay true to the "small space" design vision, there are tips and product features that any homeowner can use.

But don't just take my word for it, visit Apartment Therapy to see what its awesomeness is all about!

 To help break down your visit, let me point out what I think makes Apartment Therapy so amazing:
  • Frequent Posts. There are so many personal opinions about how often one should post to a blog.  I'm not judging though.. 4 million visitors.. hello, I think the proof is right there.  People are loving the fact that the AT blogging team pushes out content almost as fast as you can get fries at McDonalds. Ok, maybe not that fast, but A LOT...multiple posts per day, sun-up to sun-down! Keep that in mind when you subscribe, you may want to be sure you are not having the updates sent to your email box.  Go RSS!
  • Tours. Want to see how other people are designing their houses, both inside and out? Click on the house tours tab and look for unique design ideas you just might fall in love with! 

  • Filters. Refine your search to a place a little closer to home with their metro filters - New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, DC and Boston. 

  • Sister Sites (Blogs):  As mentioned above, AT defined the focus and navigation more clearly with Kitchn, ohdeedoh, unplggd, and re-nest.  Check it out ~ click on the tabs to see the latest from technology to designs for children that span nursery to teen.  Particularly interesting to me, is the always intriguing green, covering eco technologies, outdoor spaces, landscaping and gardening. 
  •  Marketplace.  They say you can't be "all things to all people" and clearly AT knows it but they still manage to keep us on top of what's current with the Marketplace, their newest addition to the ever-growing empire I call AT! 

Apartment Therapy is a perfect site to get lost in when you need to unwind or if you're looking for inspiration.  

Here are a few things I stumbled upon while navigating the site:

Tab = "Boston"

Tab = "House Tours"
Photo Source: Matthew Mau (graphic designer)

Tab = "Children" "Kids' Room Tours"
Photo Source: Ohdeedoh

Take a click on over and check it out for yourself.  I would love to hear your thoughts and what your favorite feature of their site is.

And finally, because having 4 million visitors is not enough, one must publish a book:  Check out Maxwells' Big Book of Small, Cool Spaces.   

The premise: " size constraints can actually unlock your design creativity and allow you to focus on what’s essential."  

I agree!  Growing up with 12 siblings, you could say we were tight on space.  I have first-hand knowledge of the necessity to fit all that is required into the space at hand!! 

But go ahead, don't just take my word for it, pick up the book for yourself and see what you think of the creative small-space wonders Maxwell has featured!

Apartment Therapy.... it's where its AT!

Entertaining Alfresco, Part II: Functional Elements

OK, I admit it, I just want to stay outside!! As long as the weather cooperates, I say, keep on movin' those parties (and guests) outdoors.  It isn't just about getting out of the house though, is it?  You've got to consider your guests' entire experience.   I know since my last post, many are thinking beyond a "table for two" and outdoor umbrellas. 

Got that party penciled in on the calendar?  Now you can start the real planning, some great tips that will take you from start to finish;  functional elements that will keep your family and friends out enjoying the party for as long as possible! :

Up First, Lighting.

Flood lights? Citronella candles? I think not!  You can do better than that to safely guide your guests through the dark and - equally as important (or more?) - create atmosphere.  Mhhh, many options, inexpensive to the major investment - you decide which is best.

Scatter candles throughout the entertaining area.  Tall candles can provide a good amount of light when housed in a hurricane lamp to prevent being blown out by the wind.

    Torches around the perimeter of the area provide a beachy, island vibe while deterring bugs and creating dramatic shadows.

      Strings of lights are an inexpensive way to add a bit of magic and twinkle to your outdoor affairs.  This lighting idea borrowed from your college dorm room adds whimsy and interest.

                                Photo: L, Trendy Wifee    and   Photo M, R: Live Creating Yourself            

        Paper lanterns are low budget but fun, create a soft glow, adding some color and to me, they just say, "party".
          Photo: Source Unknown
          You can design with more permanency however; an investment you would surely never regret.  Case-n-point below... multiply your living space; light your path straight from the back door and throughout the yard with uplights and downlights that highlight plants, trees, sculptures, and water features.  Gorgeous!

            Even in smaller spaces, it adds both beauty and functionality, simply incorporating the lighting around the cooking area and footlights for surrounding pathways.

              Have you seen any other great lighting designs in outdoor spaces?  Please share if you have or if you've seen something new and wonderful that may have escaped my radar.  Would love to hear about it!  In the meantime, let's talk about keeping that chill out of the air!

              So how about those Temperature? 

              I know, its summer, who wants to think about heating elements?  But you know there is always one..... your sister, your friend, neighbor? - the one who is always chilly, regardless of the time of year.  Well whoever that person is, thank them, because that one special person should have you thinking about climate control.  But then again, who are we kidding, I bet we all agree that a fire-pit and/or heating element is an essential element in summertime fun..... it's surely an absolute must for late-night S'more's making!  So whether you go for a firepit.........

              or a patio heater.... (who's only downside is no-marshmallow toasting);
                                              Photo: L, Luxury Housing Trends          R,  Patio Heaters Direct
                (both of these are great looking gas-powered options)

                or an outdoor fireplace - bigger investment for a fabulous look; 

                regardless of the final choice, come late August and early fall, you will be so pleased with yourself that you incorporated this very important feature into your planning!

                So, I feel like this is a bit backwards, but talking heat now has me thinking about that scorching sun!

                Have you considered shade and Sun? 

                If you're doing a brunch or lunch, shade needs to be a major consideration.  Though we all should be slathering on the SPF 30 we all know not everyone does.  Unless we want our guests to be reaching for the aloe, make sure to provide some shaded areas ....

                Renting a tent is the standard and wise option for a large group. 
                   Photo: Source Unknown

                  and yes, there is always the tried and true... tables with umbrellas for more casual gatherings;

                  and sure, I LOVE this, but its not going to hold out very long through the day, let alone the season....;


                  this is pretty quaint too, actually rather adore it.... but c'mon, we all know impracticality when we see it, right?

                  Long term is what we're talking.  My suggestion:  think pergola, lattice or awning
                  to get the most from the season....

                  This is precisely the vision I have for our existing patio!
                    Photo: ? TBA

                  And one last and very important detail: Do you have a little cutie like my guy, Quincy, who follows you wherever you go?

                  You do!  Well, don't forget him/her; they love to be entertained and expect to be included......

                   Design with your best buds in mind and be sure they have the option of being in or out of the sun too!

                  Photo: AZ Woodman

                  Dining Alfresco in Your Own Backyard

                  If your idea of dining alfresco includes a crowded street, exhaust fumes, and brushing elbows with passersby, then by all means, nosh away. Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration..... there are certainly many beautiful outdoor dining spots. Still, nothing can compare to having a comfortable outdoor space of your own at home.

                  Sure, the people-watching may be limited, but your options are endless. This collection of fabulous ideas is sure to awaken your appetite for style. Whether you decide on cozy casual or grand garden, indulge in a little alfresco dining of your own this summer!

                  The cooking and service? Well, can't really help you there, but we highly recommend grilling, drinks and good friends (that "bring a dish" of course)! And if that doesn't work... trust me, an Appletini or Margarita, a quick salad and burgers is always sure to please!

                  Table for Two
                  Take your morning coffee out of the kitchen and enjoy a little serenity designed for two. These spaces serve up entirely different styles but offer all the luxury in quiet, outdoor spaces. Loving the earth tones, wood and iron elements, and abundant greenery in the first space. Makes you feel like you're on vacation, doesn't it? ........Tuscany, anyone?

                  Sleek and sophisticated, the second space is just plain simple - colorful, functional and fun -- it works. Paired with a modern table in basic white, the chairs do all the talking here! Infuse a little energy into your day by starting it outdoors in a setting like this. Who needs coffee? ..........Well, okay, we need coffee.

                  Maybe "pretty" is what you want to serve up?  

                  Slip (your furnishings) into something more comfortable.  Camouflaging  those old wood chairs and chipped tables with the magic of colorful fabrics will always make a positive impression. 

                  Be creative.  If traditional outdoor furnishings are not in your possession, hunt around.  Just look at the loveliness vintage finds and heirloom treasures can create.


                  If you are lucky enough to live on the water, a folding table and chairs is easily transformed  to the "finest-table-in-the-house" at your own romantic bistro!

                  A Family Affair
                  The best part of dining outdoors is sharing a little quality time with family. Make family time more special by sharing a meal together outside. Create warmth and unity by using an umbrella as a focal point. Leave it open even after the sun goes down and accessorize with lighting for a more intimate feel.

                  Dramatic Dinner Party
                  An umbrella just won't cut it in these spaces ! Take a look at the various translations of "canopy" used in each space to again create a focal point. Completely head-over-heals with this first one ~ everything about it, from the simplicity of the wooden arches, off-set with the hanging planters, to the scroll top of the iron lantern as centerpiece and the shape & styling of the chairs! In a word, WOW!

                  O.K... what do you think? Does this one feel a little bit like a setting for a party at Jay Gatsby's home? Easily the envy of any romantic!  Who wouldn't want to unwind for an afternoon in this setting; it seems a perfect spot to retire after a competitive game of croquet too, doesn't it!  Not that I've ever played, but invite me over and I'll give it a try!
                  Photo: ApartmentTherapy.com

                  And how divine is this canopied transitional space? Feels very Feng Shui, doesn't it? Floor cushions easily slide under the table or find homes elsewhere as guests mingle or walk about the gardens.  Can't you just envision having breakfast after morning yoga? I know my sister could!
                  Porch & Patio
                  And let's not forget what fun can be had at "Porch Parties".  No matter the size, there is always room for more at the table and no one ever feels cramped!  Think about it... I bet everyone can pull up some hilarious memories from impromptu "porch parties".  Good times.  Plan some.


                  Whether you're looking to design a small space on a tight budget or go big with seating for twelve, a thoughtfully designed outdoor dining space can feel like a treat in itself this summer. And perhaps the best part of dining at home? .......No reservations required.
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                  Craftsmanship: custom artistry by hand

                  Craftsmanship: custom artistry by hand
                  At Storibook Designs we create custom designs by hand; here it is not just sewing, it is art!