6 Simple Tips for Selling Your House…That No One Does.

Take the time to prepare your house for a quicker (and more lucrative) sale.  Homes that are well maintained, decluttered, clean (and priced appropriately) at the start sell FASTER and often for more money.

Follow these steps and you’ll be WAY ahead of the competition around here. Trust me, we have shown a LOT of houses in McHenry and Lake Counties.

Most buyers cannot imagine a room any other way than it currently is. So re-arrange or move your furniture around to show off the home’s features.

It will be well worth your time to move any extra items into storage while the home is being viewed (you are going to be packing anyway, you might as well get started early).

If you have any brightly colored walls or wall paper, you should consider re-painting to a light, neutral color that makes your room look larger and appeals to a broader audience.  Buyers love a house that looks “Move In Ready.”

The front of your home will attract drive-by attention especially when that FOR SALE sign goes up in the yard. So make it look good! Tidy up the bushes. Or tear out those overgrown bushes completely if they obstruct the view of the home. I see this issue ALL the time. People want to SEE what they are buying.

And consider that the buyer’s real estate agent will be standing at the front door getting the key out of the lock box while the potential home buyers are standing around so you might consider painting the front door a fresh color and adding some flower pots near the doorway for a great first impression.

Walk through each room of your house and think about what little things you’ve been living with that could be improved:

Fill nail holes, finish trim work, replace cracked tile, replace old caulk, leaky faucets…
basically anything that the buyers would want to or need to do when they moved in would be worth doing now.

And clean EVERYTHING. Get rid of limescale build up, clean baseboards, walls, cabinets dust, and it’s especially important to get rid of ODORS (pet, food and smoke odors are huge turn offs), and make that place sparkle (or hire someone that can…it will be worth every penny!)

This will depend on the situation but we help our clients decide if it’s in their best interest to consider updating the roof, the kitchen, bathrooms etc.

Sometimes it’s worth it. Sometimes it’s not. That’s what a good agent can help you decide.

A Real Estate Professional can be a HUGE asset if you use the right one. Choose someone that is knowledgeable about your specific market, regularly monitors new listings and sales in your area. Someone that will tell you the truth…even if you don’t want to hear it. Someone that is tech-savy and can reach a broader audience than your yard sign. Someone that you trust to negotiate on your behalf.

If you are local (Chicago area) and would like to set up a consult to discuss your home, please visit our FULL SERVICE SELLING PROCESS page and get in touch. We can also refer you to a trusted real estate agent anywhere in the US through our network, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Dave and Kelly

whitewash fireplace

How to Whitewash a Dated Brick Fireplace

Last week I posted some fireplace makeovers that may inspire you to throw (or rather brush) some paint over your fireplace bricks to give the room a nice CLEAN look.

And some of you are probably SCARED to do that. I know, I know, it’s a SIN to paint brick, right?!

Well, I love to break the rules! You should buy/do/have whatever makes YOU happy. But for those of you that aren’t ready to take that plunge, I offer up this more natural option:

WHITEWASH those bricks!

whitewash before and after

It’s not complicated. You just mix water and white paint (or I suppose you could do gray or tan, but would that still be called WHITEwash?! hmm…). Use whatever ratio you want depending on how transparent you want it to be. 3-4 parts water to 1 part paint would be a good place to start.

Then apply to your fireplace. Try rollers, brushes, rags…whatever works for you!

Here’s a great example of what I forced inspired my mom to do at her house: Continue reading

5 DRAMATIC brick fireplace makeovers

I show a LOT of ugly houses. (Did I mention that I’m a real estate agent?! more about that here)

Almost every ugly house (and many perfectly nice houses) have dark, dingy, dirty brick fireplaces. My clients get a creepy feeling from the room. I totally understand…especially when the room has all wood paneling and no windows in sight.

Call me crazy, but you will usually find me following behind with a little twinkle in my eye because I have this crazy ability to see the AMAZING potential that most people are unable to imagine!

I’m blinded by sweat equity potential that a simple paint brush can achieve (and the proof is in the before and after pictures that you are about to see).

I’m hoping to share more of these simple (and some not-so-simple) house remodeling ideas for you to keep in mind when you are out  buying your next home (or even tips to use when selling yours…or updating the one you have now). I’ll turn you into a DIY-er even if you’ve never done ANYTHING yourself.

There are many re-facing/covering remodels but these are a handful of painted ones that are just SO simple and dramatic (and budget friendly) that I had to share a few of my favorites from around the web…many of these bloggers have posted detailed how-to tips so you should click the links if you want more info.

1) Homemade Ginger



2) Young House Love



3) Goodbye, house. Hello, Home



4) Shab2fab



5) Design Lotus


I know. I know. Everyone thinks it’s a sin to paint brick. But I’m hoping you now have proof otherwise. There are so many colors to choose from, you can even paint it to look like a lighter color brick.

Happy painting! If it doesn’t turn out you can always build or tile over it, right?!

(here’s a link to our glass tile fireplace remodel at our first house)

Don’t worry, I’ll be showing you how to rid your house of those dated brass doors soon…

(I’m sure you know someone looking at houses or wishing their house would sell…don’t keep these secrets to yourself! Please share!)

Fireplace and Living Room BEFORE & AFTER

Our house:

Living Room & Fireplace Remodel.

Here are the BEFORE pics:

I know they are ugly BUT we loved the HUGE window, Large fireplace wall, recessed lighting and endless opportunity!

living room

fireplace (2)



Pretty sad looking, right?!

After some bamboo flooring, paint, new fireplace build out and  glass tile, granite hearth, (oh and we closed up that wall into the 2nd bedroom. Check out what we created!







Plasti Dip: Round 2

I have some left over red Plasti Dip from that cutting board project 2 weeks ago.

I have a boring old wooden spoon and this pizza cutter (that I’m guilty of putting in the dishwasher and ruining the handle).

A match waiting to happen!? I think so! :)

I quickly opened up the Plasti Dip (which was as good as new!)

Dipped the handle in.


Wiped a little off the end so it didn’t have a big rubber tail.

Then stood there holding this thing. Whoops, probably shouldn’t have acted so quickly without thinking about where I was going to set this thing down while it dried. You cant just set it down.

So I used my best MacGyver skills, tied some twine around it and hung it up (with a paper towel under it just in case it dripped).

And here’s that finished spoon! Love. It.

Finished Products:

Plasti Dip Handles IMAG2616


What’s next?!? Any other ideas out there?

If it’s not covered in concrete here, it’s probably covered in Plasti Dip :)


DIY Color Dipped Cutting Boards

cutting board

I’ve been spotting some color dipped cutting boards in the $150-250 range at Anthropologie and a few other stores. And I had made a mental note many months ago about this stuff called Plasti Dip that is meant for dipping your tool handles (and probably suitable for many MANY more DIY projects.)

I have ALWAYS liked the idea of making cutting boards, but prefer to stick to big impact DIY projects.

You know, the ones that are easy and/or save you LOTS of $$$. With that said….this is SO easy and WAY less than $200. It’s a solid slab of wood and the Plasti Dip was under $7.

Psst…they’d make great gifts too!

First, you’ll need to find some scrap wood or buy some nice wood at the lumber yard or home improvement store…keep in mind that the harder woods are best for cutting boards. We used Poplar, which isn’t really that hard but we are just using it occasionally for cheese and crackers or bread.
<i’ve only=”” used=”” it=”” <span=”” class=”hiddenGrammarError” pre=”it “>a couple times so far but there aren’t any cuts on it yet so that’s a good sign, right?!>

As you can see, I drew some patterns on the board with pencil…I wanted to get 4 cutting boards out of my 4 ft board without wasting too much. You could always make rectangular ones if you don’ t have a jigsaw.

string lights cutting board wood

Then I broke out the jigsaw…I was a bit rusty. Thankfully cutting boards are forgiving.

Not too bad, right?! Then comes the real work!


and sanding…

and sanding…oh my!

and repeat with fine grit paper.

Use a hand sander, I started with a really rough paper 80-110 range then a finer paper (I used 220). Then I got lazy and quit so Dave went over them again (that’s true love!)…make sure you get all the edges, sides, top and bottom.

Good thing they looked so cute and felt so smooth or I might have given up on ever doing this again :)

Here they are:

I didn’t intentionally create this “puzzle” cutting board to go together

But it sure would be nice to keep those top ones as a set to be used together for long french baguettes and then they can come apart to use  for cheese and crackers as well! Who doesn’t love a multitasking kitchen item?!

Apply mineral oil to the boards to seal them. I actually used an orange oil & beeswax combo that I found.

Then it was time for fun!

After discovering the Puzzle Cutting Board, I couldn’t ruin those ones by dipping the ends…

BUT the other two were practically begging to jump into the Plasti Dip. I knew they would look GREAT with a splash of color on the handle. It’s a rubbery goo and so easy to use…

Just dip it in (make sure to mix it up and do this outside since it does stink…but well worth it):

Mine was a bit thin at first because it wasn’t sticking to the mineral oil that didn’t soak in yet. You should probably dip first then oil…or at least be patient enough to let the oil all soak in.

So I let it dry and gave it one more coat. Turned out GREAT!

I like that that rubbery handle adds a nice grip to the bottom. Might be nice to coat the whole bottom with it.

cutting board

It comes in any color imaginable! I think I’ll be doing the ends of my keys next.

I saw some table legs, origami birds and pine cones on Pinterest that were dipped in Plasti Dip. The white ones gives the look of ceramic but much more kid friendly!

Any other ideas of things we should be dipping?!  Please share in the comments…

DIY Garland Wreaths

DIY doesn’t get much easier than this:

Step 1: Buy sewing circles (I think that’s what they might be called?! I used them HERE for our nursery’s modern tree) and tinsel garland

Start wrapping the garland around your circles like so:

Tuck the ends in and/or tie a knot and you are DONE :)

DIY Modern Christmas Tree

After seeing these plans for a modern wooden Christmas tree on The Design Confidential, I couldn’t help myself…

I don’t even care if it’s before Thanksgiving…

I’m usually the one that gets angry at this time of year that people aren’t following the rules about waiting to decorate, listen to holiday music, and all that other general holiday joyfulness…sounds like a silly thing to be angry about in retrospect.

This year I choose Christmas JOY…even before Thanksgiving **gasp**

And having two little boys who’s eyes light up with every mention of lights, Christmas trees, Santa, cookies, etc is pretty great!

Okay, okay, back to the tree :)

We cut some random scrap pieces to different lengths (ranging from 3″ to 18″) to make our mini version of this tree (it’s about 2 ft tall).

I lined them all up to make sure we had enough to cover the entire dowel:

Then drill holes in the center of each piece: (We used a 1/2″ dowel so had to make sure the hole was at least that size):

Start threading them on the dowel. You’ll see that I decided to make the second piece up a little bigger so I could add little feet to it and still allow it to fold flat for easy storage).

Glued little fee onto the second piece…any excuse to use my favorite little clamps :)

Keep stacking them up:

After some white spray paint, lights and ornaments:

Complete! :)

And here’s that link again to the full plans over at The Design Confidential.

You like?! How many trees do you put up at your house?

Pour-in-place Concrete Counters

I know that many of you have been asking us to re-post our concrete counter project so here it is:

WARNING: This is long so feel free to scroll through the pics for a quick summary.

NOTE: This was our first time ever touching concrete….YOU CAN DO IT TOO :) We’ll do our best to share what we’ve learned since then.

We poured and stained these in place in the Summer of 2010 and they still look great!

STEP 1: 

Attach cement board to cabinets


Attach countertop forms to cement board.

Note:You could build your own form but it would need to come down to cover cement board edge then out away from cabinets then back up to height of final countertop. We chose to order from this site (Z Counterform) to make our life easier. AND they have a bunch of options. We chose the “Full Bullnose” form.


Tape all seams in the forms and between forms and cement board


Roll out and cut chicken wire to size. It will reinforce the concrete and help to avoid cracks.

Oh, and don’t forget to attach plastic tarps to protect cabinets and floor…somehow it seems to actually clean up really easily on ours thankfully :)


START MIXING and POURING! Follow the directions on the package. We decided to mix by hand since we were doing just the island as a test. In this section of countertop we used a quick drying blend made specifically for counters. BUT we didn’t anticipate just HOW QUICKLY it really drys. You will need to work FAST and have helpers!

Here I am…working as fast as possible to get a base layer in place…pressing (rather than pouring) since it is DRYING. TOO. FAST. AHHHH…

Press it into the edges as well as possible. This will make your life much easier when you take the forms off.

STEP 6: Insert wire mesh and keep filling with concrete…

Don’t worry we’ll show you how we fixed this lower level…Let’s take a look at how it SHOULD be going…

(Next pic from upper level of island with regular–non quick drying concrete)


Screed the top (shimmy a board back and forth along the top) to get the water to come to the surface which will smooth it out.

STEP 8: 



The moment you’ve been waiting for…SNAP those forms off!

Ours looked pretty good, but there were some sections that needed some major filling/sanding etc. so don’t cry about it if it’s not perfect!


FILL in missing areas and sand any rough areas

We actually loved the texture so we mixed up a ‘slurry’ (wetter than usual concrete mix) to fill in the sections that needed it and left the rest. We are also a bit lazy and didn’t want to make a huge sandy mess in the house since we were living there.

If you like a super polished look. This is the point that you would start sanding top down in a major way. But wear a mask and tarp off the room because this will be dirty!

STEP 10:

STAINING (if you want it to be a different color)

There are some SUPER cool tricks to make your concrete look like anything you want…

We choose a solid black stain to contrast with our light cabinets.

Simply brushed it on and let it dry.

STEP 11: 


We used a food-safe wax to seal the counters.

My next post will be about how we fixed the first lower level of the counter using a concrete resurfacer (which is now our best friend and we use it to make tables all the time!) 

Feel free to ask questions in the comments or on our facebook page. I’m sure I left out some details (and I will try to find and add the specific stain/sealers etc. that we used to this post when I find them).

How To Make Wood Mosaic Wall Art

You can make a BIG impact with a piece like this:


Here’s how it’s done:


We cut 1/4″ backer board to the size you want.

This one was 6ft wide x 2ft high.

Then we framed it with 1×2’s and stained them.

After sketching out a plan on how we should layout the slats, 2×2 blocks and tiny 3/4″ blocks…

We started CUTTING

And cutting

And cutting…

Until we had this:

The slat pieces were made from 1/4″ plywood that was ripped down into 1″ strips.
The large blocks were 2×2’s sliced into different lengths.
The tiny blocks were made by ripping down 1×6 boards into 3/4″ x 3/4″ square strips then slicing them…YES you might go crazy if you do too many of those ;)

Then, we used a sanding block on any of the rough edges.


Set each block on cardboard and start spray staining

—NOTE: Yes! Spray stain DOES exist…go get familiar with your stain aisle at the Home Improvement store–

We used four varying shades and gave the blocks two coats each


Start placing all of your blocks and slats in place. You’ll likely need to trim some slats or make adjustments in your layout to achieve a perfect fit.

We got the layout looking good but weren’t happy with the coloring. The frame and slats would look better in a darker espresso color.

So we tested a new black color on a sample slat and LOVED IT.

Looks good,right!? Isn’t the fun strip of color great too..


And get some heavy items ready to hold the slats in place

What do you think?? Would you take on the challenge of making one for yourself?

Psst…If you love it but not up for the work you can always BUY one at our ETSY shop instead of DIYing it :)