Mr. Mann's Design- the Novel

I wrote a short story decades ago, which I lost when a computer technician erased my hard drive.  It was a story of discovery and transformation, and the good and bad things that happen when those occur.  I'm resurrecting the story for the millenium, but incorporating the story with a fictional character, Mr. Mann.  I wanted to do this to add another layer of depth to the thought that goes into our brand.  I'll be adding chapters as I complete them....


Mr. Mann’s Design- the Novel

Water from a summer afternoon downpour, like a biblical deluge, streamed down James Clark. He stood motionless on the sidewalk on Market Street just steps from the entrance from where he worked, oblivious to the wetness around him. Droplets pooled on his short brimmed beige hat, creating mini lakes which then cascaded down the wrinkles of his youthful face which got a little too much sun in his younger years as lifeguard at the Jersey Shore and later as crewman for Pennsylvania. The stream continued to the collar of starched white shirt, inside to his starched white protective undergarment so that the dampness penetrated from both the outside and the in. This created the illusion of multiple layers of clothing disappearing into flesh. His red and blue rep bowtie, replete with his Ivy League insignia, usually stood proudly and puffed, but now withered and wilted with each drip. His rope belt was cinched snugly around his taut waist, providing a dam of sorts initially to prevent overflow from the rivers above. But that too gave way, and the refuge of his khakis were soon soaked especially around the outline of his backside, textile clinging futilely to his rower’s legs and calves. His socks and brogues probably received the worst of things, being his last receptacles, with his feet swimming in what amounted to be leather jars.

Bounding towards him, hop skipping puddles like the triple jump, Warren Cruz was late for work. He normally ate lunch at Planet Pancit in his favorite seat at the counter in front of the cook with the other customers. This day however was filled with soup seekers from the damp weather and he had to wait longer than usual for a seat. He was prepared for the weather at least. A hoodie army jacket raincoat formed the first line of defense, which just came just at mid-thigh. His Japanese selvedge denim jeans were stiff and water repellent enough to protect his long legs. His jet black thick hair, although covered with the hoodie, was pomaded with styling gel which also did double duty in the downpour as a sealant. His shoes were vulnerable, however, being a leather/canvas slip on combination, but his agile sprint, along with masterful puddle footwork, helped him preserve their integrity.

As Cruz rounded the last corner to work, he didn’t see Clark standing motionless in the rain, and had no idea of the series of events that were about to unfold.

Tips for Staging Your Home


7 Lakes Country Club

Tips for staging your home
By Craig Mann, Interior Designer

When getting ready to sell, staging is a great avenue for any new or existing home. It’s important to make sure future buyers can see themselves living in the home. Here are some simple tricks to help you along the way:

A little dusting goes a long way: It’s obvious, but not always done. Make sure your space is clean. Dust and clutter only distract the eye and give a negative impression. Remove shoes and clothing from sightlines, and make sure the kitchen is cleared of food and crumbs. People will look in the oven! Here’s a tip of the trade- in your bathroom put your toilet seat down and covered. Replace dirty towels with clean ones, and use fresh soap. Make the bed. No one ones to feel awkward in the bedroom!

Simplify floor plans: Remove excess furniture, chests, cabinets, chairs or tables. Configure Floor plans so the buyer can get around easily to get a feel for the space. Less furniture will give the feeling of space and larger rooms. Pull furniture away from walls. To make your room look larger, float furniture in cozy conversation groups. Staging is also great for those odd or awkward spaces in your home. For example, for a space that is off the kitchen, create it into a breakfast nook or set it up as a little home office space. Give the buyers something to think about. Sometimes it can be a selling point.
Don’t oversimplify because keeping some furniture in house can give the buyers an idea how it would look when totally furnished.

Stay with clean colors: Stay with neutral colors. Whites and neutral will give an appearance of a larger room. There’s nothing wrong with a using color as contrast on featured walls, but keep it on the lighter side and avoid any color that is jarring. Keep the colors true to the architecture. For example, bright white may great for a modern home or room, but would not be the best choice for a Tuscan style room where a creamy butter color would be better.
You can always add pops of color from accessories you might choose.

Creative kitchen and bathroom updates: You don’t have to spend a lot of money to update your kitchen and bath. Replacing an old lighting fixture. Repaint old cabinets, maybe something lighter and brighter. Replacing new cabinet knows and drawer pulls can make a difference. Keep it clean, light and bright.

Spacious closets: Buyers will peek inside your closets. Closet space can be a make or break point for these buyers, so show your closets to their full advantage. Make sure they look clean. A fresh of paint won’t hurt. Remove anything that is musty or smelly and consider a light fragrance to mask any closet smell. Clear out excess clothing or goods, and aim to free up about 20 to 30 percent space in each closet. This gives the impression your closets are very spacious.

Simplify accessories: As much as you love them, this is the time to put away all those family photos and knick- knacks. Everything should look clean and spacious. Personal art is important in any home, but may not connect with new buyers. So replace them with mirrors which are a great alternative. They maximize light and make rooms look larger. Floor rugs should also be removed. Potential buys like to see wood floors and tiles.
Dining tables can be set. Use white plates and pop it with a colorful napkin.
Pops of color can also be used in throw pillows or blankets.
When it comes to eye-pleasing accessorizing, odd numbers are preferable, especially three. And scale is important. Just remember, it’s about the room, not the accessory.

Accent lighting: Make sure you turn on all the lights when your showing your home. Remember you are creating an atmosphere. Make use of dimmers or adjust wattage to create drama, especially in small spaces. Light up dark corners with floor lamps. Make sure the bulbs are bright and clean! Change out dark lamp shades to lighter brighter shades.

These are some things I have done to successfully stage homes to sell which I hope you find helpful. Remember keep true to your architecture and simplify your space so your buyer can see themselves living in it. I have no doubt using these simple tips you will be on your way to a successful sale. Of course, if you need professional help, Mr. Mann’s Design can do this for you at reasonable cost. You’ll recoup your investment with a ‘sold’ sign! Staging

Working Away Presentation Anxiety


Medical Conferene Presentation

I’ve presented, emceed, hosted many different events to audiences of several to several thousand.  Although the audience has remarked how natural and comfortable I appear, there are always some nerves and nervousness I feel before the presentation.

That doesn’t stop me from presenting or performing.  In fact, I’ve learned to enjoy it!

Here are some practical pointers you could use whether you’re a novice or a seasoned presenter:

  1. ‘Butterflies’ are expected.  In fact they are good!  Physiologically, the body protects itself from stressful situations by stimulating the nervous system to ‘fight’ mode.   This is an automatic response and very natural.   The ‘fight' mode allows a higher level of alertness; energy is created by burning off stored sugar; the eyes dilate.  A little nervous energy is good because it’s a like a shot of caffeine when you get up in the morning. It jump starts your awareness.  Too much stimulation is not good, and that why the rest of the advice comes in handy (especially how you can slow your nervous system down).
  2. Know your material well.  This comes with practice, practice, practice.  It’s ok to have notes or a PowerPoint, but you’ll lose your audience if you look like you’re reading because you are not prepared.  That’s because you forgo eye contact and connecting with your audience. Practice your first few sentences over and over.  Once you get started and the ice breaks, things flow much better.
  3. Connect with your audience.  Ice breakers are good for them and they are good for you.  They relax, and you relax by releasing the first bundle of energy.  It doesn’t have to be overly long or drawn out or hilariously funny.  A simple hello and greeting and using non-verbal cues such as smiling, eye contact, open postures like not crossing your arms always help.  By the way, laughter helps release tension.
  4. Know your audience. Sometimes this is not possible, but you might have to alter your presentation to be understandable.  For example, non-medical people would probably glaze over if I used too many medical terms.  Also, Millennials might be on their devices the entire time and not appear engaged when in fact they are communicated.  Watch for audience clues such as snoring or falling asleep.  It might mean it’s time for a break or change in style!
  5. Familiarize yourself with the room and the stage beforehand.  Walk the stage, notice the lighting, which can be bright.  Some stages don’t have podiums, or have monitors or tele-prompters instead.  It’s always good to make sure your microphone is on!

To help calm excess energy, there are simple maneuvers you can do:

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10 Simple Rules to Throwing a Great Party


party boys

My mother was a great hostess.  I think this was something innate in her gregarious family, and also learned from her years working as a diplomat in the United Nations in New York in the 1960’s. The photo is from one of the great parties she used to throw for us.  Can you guess who I am?

She passed me on a few tips I’d like to share with you.

So here are my 10 simple rules to hosting a successful party:

  1. You’re the host, be happy!  Your guests will follow your cues and your energy. Greet them warmly when you first see them, say a little something personal to make them feel they are part of the event.  If they bring a gift or flowers, of course acknowledge it, but also spend a second looking at it so that they know you noticed their effort.
  2. You’re the host, embrace the stress!  Turn the stress into happy energy.  A party is a journey about to unfold and not a bullet train to the final destination.  It’s not possible to predict every circumstance, so if the unexpected happens, make it part of the memory.  If the caterer brought chocolate cake with vanilla frosting instead of vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, laugh it off with your guests and let them in on the secret.
  3. You’re the host, prepare for the stress!  Preparation, preparation, preparation.  It can be time consuming, but the party planning is half the fun, playing out the themes, music, food, and drinks. Start out with an idea, and see where it takes you.  Trying to find inspiration for a party, I remembered I had a string of lights.  I looked out to my backyard and saw a clearing surrounded by trees, which naturally created an intimate space.  I strung the lights over the clearing anchored by the trees, and voila, I had an event space!  I carried the outdoor theme and set up a picnic area with cushions and tables.  This lead to the picnic theme which meant picnic food, specialty spirit-enhanced lemonade, and C&W music.  All from a string of lights!
  4. You’re the host, and the star of your own show!  Give yourself permission to be your best self. You might want to buy something special to wear, or focus on your hairstyle, or carry a prop.  One of my fabulous friends threw a party in her very small apartment.  She embraced every moment (and space) by dressing up like Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” replete with a long cigarette holder.  The moment people walked in, they felt they were part of a movie!

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