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Ginny Sylvester


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The Heart of Your Home!

by Ginny Sylvester

The fireplace is the heart of your home during the long, cold months of winter. There’s not much that’s cozier than gathering around a blazing fire while the cold winds blow outside.

But just like the human heart, your fireplace needs maintenance and good habits to stay healthy. There are safety tips you’ll need to follow each time you light a fire to make sure the fireplace operates safely and cleanly for years to come.

Check out the following fire safety and maintenance tips and then gather a warm throw blanket, a mug of hot chocolate and enjoy your fireplace all winter long!

First, make a call to a chimney sweep.

Yes, it’s another home maintenance expense, but don’t try to save on household expenses by skipping this one.

The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys be swept at least once a year at the beginning of the winter to remove soot and debris. You can find a certified sweep in your area via the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

A professional will make sure your fireplace is fit for the winter season. Considering that fireplaces and chimneys are responsible for 42 percent of home heating fires, it’s an important first step before firing up the fireplace.

A certified sweep will be on the lookout for creosote buildup. Just like fats can clog a heart’s arteries, soot and creosote are dangers to a fireplace. Using seasoned hardwood or manufactured logs can go a long way to minimizing build up. But remember that manufactured logs burn hotter than regular wood and you should follow the directions on the bag for lighting and use. Burning things such as wrapping paper and foam peanuts can release toxic fumes.

If you decide to purchase real wood, look for seasoned wood. This is wood that has been cut and dried under cover for at least 6-12 months, registering less than 20% moisture with a meter. Split wood dries more thoroughly and burns better than whole logs. Well-seasoned wood makes a sharp ringing sound when two logs are knocked together, while green wood makes a dull thud. Green wood will not burn as thoroughly, creating more soot and creosote.

Burn hardwoods, not soft woods. Hardwoods like oak, ash and maple are denser and heavier, delivering more heat than lighter softwoods like pine, poplar and cedar.

Ensure fireplace logs are stacked as far as possible to the back of the fireplace so that sparks and embers don’t spark out of the fireplace and into your carpet. Open the damper before you light the fire, and keep it open until the fire is completely extinguished.

It’s a good idea to light a test fire before the start of the season. Test out the function of your fireplace by lighting a few small pieces of seasoned wood, lit from the top down. If smoke doesn’t exit vertically from the fireplace into the chimney, but enters the room, immediately troubleshoot and correct any problems. These can include that creosote/soot build-up, other debris in the chimney like bird or animal nests, a damper that is closed or partially closed, or wet wood that isn’t burning well.

It’s also important to keep combustible materials such as carpets, curtains and holiday decorations away from the fireplace when a fire is burning. A fireplace screen or guard will help keep children and pets away from the flame.

Once you start using your fireplace, remember to keep the firebox (where the logs burn) clean by cleaning up the ash when it builds up; you can leave about an inch to act as insulation and help keep the fire burning. Keep the firebox completely clean during the months when the fireplace is not in use.

According to Good Housekeeping, a wet/dry vacuum with a disposable bag will handle ash cleanup, once the pile has cooled for at least four days. But if you don't have one of those heavy-duty suckers — or just don't feel like hauling it out — do this instead: After the ash is completely cold, sprinkle it with damp tea leaves or coffee grounds to cover the stale smell and keep down dust (so you don't inhale it). Then scoop the pile with a fireplace shovel and dump it into a metal can, bucket, or even an old stockpot or clay flowerpot. Discard the mess outside, ideally in a metal trash container, but definitely away from your house.

To remove light soot or a cloudy film from glass doors, mix a solution of equal parts white vinegar and warm water and pour into a spray bottle. Spritz a bit on a paper towel and dip it into the fireplace ashes to use as a gentle abrasive (smart, right?). To finish, spray glass and wipe clean with a microfiber cloth. If it’s really stubborn, scrape it away with a razor blade.

 If you have smoke stains on your fireplace facing, begin by squirting them with water — it'll keep the cleaning solution from soaking in too fast (this is particularly important with brick). Then dip a brush in a solution of 1/4 cup all-purpose cleaner to one gallon water; give spots a quick scrub; rinse with a clean sponge; let dry. For marble or other stones, squirt with water, then go over with a soft cloth dipped in mild dishwashing liquid and water. Rinse and wipe dry. One exception: If brick facing is more than 50 years old, it may crumble if you scrub with a cleaner. Just vacuum the surface with your soft-brush attachment.

Using and cleaning fireplaces are a little more work, but a crackling fire during the winter will provide warm nights and happy memories. 

Size Matters!

by Ginny Sylvester

Picking out the furniture, lighting and artwork can be some of the most exciting decisions you make when you set out to make your house a home. But even after you pick the most beautiful artwork, the most interesting accessories and most gorgeous furniture, your work is not done.

When it comes to designing your home, size matters! I’m not talking square footage, because some of the largest rooms can look “off’ if the proportion and placement is not quite right, while the smallest houses can look amazing if scale is considered.

I’ve gathered a round-up of guidelines to consider when you make design decisions, relying on information from experts. Happy spring decorating!

Rug Size

According to One Kings Lane, your living room size should determine the size of your area rug. If you have a large living room with your living room furniture floating in the center, the area rug should be large enough to accommodate all the furniture without feeling cramped, most likely a 9 X 12 or 11 X 14. For a medium-sized room where a sofa is along one wall, aim to have the front legs of all the furniture on the rug, likely a 6 X 9 or 8 X 10. For a small living room, you can place a small 4 X 6 or 5 X 7 rug in the center with a coffee table centered in the middle.

When it comes to dining room furniture, the consensus is clear: all chairs and the table need to fit on the rug comfortably so that chairs don’t leave the rug when pushed off.

One helpful tip: Tape off the dimensions of the possible rug to get a visual of what the rug’s shape will look like in our space.

Indoor lighting

Hanging lights can be tricky, but is so important to the overall look of a room. In the dining room, choose a chandelier or light fixture one-half to three-quarters the width of the table; anything larger will cast shadows on faces. Hang the light 36 to 48 inches above the table (the lower number if you want a cozy, intimate vibe, the larger if you want an airy look and so you can stand when toasting. In the bathroom, mount sconces on either side of the mirror (36 to 40 inches apart is ideal) to cast even illumination across the face. Position the fixtures so the bottom edges of the shades are a little below eye level, or approximately 60 to 65 inches from the floor.

Kitchen pendants should clear the head of the tallest family member and not obstruct views—around 36 to 48 inches from the top of the counter. Start the row of lights 12 to 15 inches from either end of the island or table, and space them evenly within that span. As for your bedside lamps, you want the bottom of the shade to be just below your line of sight or about 16 to 18 inches from the top of the mattress. A table lamp and shade that is roughly 26 to 28 inches tall usually works.

Where Should Pictures Hang?

This is one that frequently trips up homeowners, who are tempted to hang their art too high. According to, most galleries hang their art at average eye level, about 58 inches high. The center of the art, not the top, should at that height. The math is as follows: Measure the distance between the wire and the top of the frame, and measure the height of the art and divide it in half. Measure 58 inches on the wall, add the measurement of half the art's height and subtract the distance between the wire and the top of the frame. Put the nail here. It’s not always such an exact science though. If the art is for above a sofa, be careful not to leave too big of a gap between the sofa and the bottom of the art. Also, consider hanging art lower when you are in a room primarily for sitting, such as a family room.

If you want to try a gallery, salon-style wall, start with the largest piece of art. Center it in the middle or just off the middle, and then place the rest of the art around it in a way that pleases your eye. You can decide on a layout by laying the art on the floor until you find a solution that works or by cutting out the shape of each piece of art in brown craft paper and taping it to the wall to test out ideas. If you don't have one piece of art that's demonstrably bigger, weight the center with darker pieces and frames.


Curtains – How High and Wide?

The stylist Emily Henderson has some tips for those trying to figure out how high and wide to hang curtains. “A pretty room with poorly hung curtains is like a beautiful, pulled-together lady wearing way ‘too-small pants,’” Emily writes on her blog “It cheapens everything else, stands out in a jarring way and just makes everyone feel uncomfortable.” She recommends hanging your curtain rod at least six to twelve inches above your window. Extend the rod at least 6-10″ on either side of the window frame (if you have the space) so that when the curtains are pushed totally open you can see almost all of the window. Emily also cautions against too small of panels for a large window. Curtains should look full, not as though they are barely doing their job. You may have to buy four panels (two for each side) and have them sewn together. You can also just hang the four panels, since you often can’t see the break because they are so full. As for length, do not go too short! Here are three options: the slight float (it doesn’t touch the floor, but just barely); the kiss, it barely touches the floor (measure accurately!); and the puddle (best for a romantic, or European, old-world feel).


We hope these guidelines help you create a home that looks effortlessly stylish. If you need any help making your house look its best for the spring market give us a call we would love to help you!

The Silent Killer

by Ginny Sylvester

We think of our homes as our refuge, our places of fun, relaxation and safety after long days at work or school.

But sometimes something dangerous can lurk at home that goes unseen and undetected – a gas that can cause serious illness or even death.

When someone inhales carbon monoxide – often called the “silent killer” -- the carbon monoxide displaces the oxygen in the victim’s blood, according to the Geneva Fire Department website. Because no one can smell, see or taste it, people have no idea they are being poisoned until it is too late.

Every year, 20,000 to 30,000 people in the United States are sickened by accidental carbon monoxide poisoning and approximately 500 people die, many in their own home because carbon monoxide cannot be detected by humans without the help of a detector.

That’s why safety experts consider it so important that families be prepared by outfitting their home with alarms near every bedroom. In Illinois, state law requires that every “dwelling unit” be equipped with at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm within 15 feet of every room used for sleeping purposes.

With the right equipment and knowledge, residents can know they are doing all they can go keep their home safe and stop a potential horrific tragedy.

Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas produced by incomplete burning of any fuel and is a common by-product of vehicle exhaust, improperly vented fireplaces, grills, wood stoves and appliances that run on fuel-burning appliances such as gas furnaces, ovens, stove burners, and portable heaters.

So what can you do to make sure you are not a victim? Place a detector on every floor. Big box stores sell plug-in detectors that use an outlet with a battery back-up. There are also combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that you can install to cover both dangers.

Home appliances should always be checked to ensure that they are in good working order and properly ventilated by a qualified professional. All combustible appliances produce some level of carbon monoxide. However, if the appliances are in good condition, meant for indoor use, have adequate venting, and are maintained regularly, there are usually no safety issues.

What to do if your carbon monoxide detector starts beeping? First things first, go outside to fresh air. If you experience any symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, it is crucial that you leave the premises immediately, leaving windows and doors open if possible. Call 9-1-1 only once you are out of the vicinity as the gas could cause unconsciousness before you can call for help. The fire department will send personnel out to your home with equipment to test the levels and where in your home they are elevated.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may not be obvious, if even felt at all. Some people say that they thought they were coming down with the flu. However, if more than one person is experiencing the same thing or symptoms occur when you are in one part of the home but go away when you move elsewhere, this could be carbon monoxide poisoning.

Symptoms include: headache, dizziness, nausea, weakness, loss of muscle control, tightness in the chest, difficulty seeing, shortness of breath, sleepiness and skin redness.

This month, do a quick inventory of your carbon monoxide alarms and make sure they have fresh batteries and are placed in the appropriate places.

The Perfect Place For Your TV

by Ginny Sylvester

One of the best parts of fall is cozying up in the family room to watch a big football game on a chilly weekend afternoon.

With everyone gathered together and all eyes trained on the TV, it’s a perfect time to consider: where is the best place for that all-important piece of electronics to go?

Deciding where to place the TV can seem like you must choose between having either a well-designed, beautiful room or a space where the TV is king and the design comes second.

But it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Here’s a round-up of ways to make your TV blend seamlessly into your room, so that you can curl up and watch the TV comfortably AND in style.


This first idea may be the most costly, but it has several advantages. A large built-in on the room’s dominant wall allows the TV to be nearly eye level, the components and extras like DVDs hidden in drawers or baskets on other shelves, and still allows plenty of space around it for other décor pieces, such as frames or accessories. If you have an underutilized corner, you can consider a corner built-in unit, arrange your furniture around a different focal point such as a fireplace, but still have the ability to also see the TV in the corner. If you have built-ins around your fireplace, and don’t want the TV above the mantel, you can always choose one of the built-ins flanking the fireplace to place the TV.


Right above the mantel is a popular choice for many homeowners who see it as a way to put their TV right above the traditional focal point of the room. There is a major drawback, however. Placing it above the fireplace typically means your TV will be higher than what many experts recommend, which is eye level when seated. You should always check with the manufacturer to make sure it’s safe to put your TV above the fireplace’s heat as well.

Gallery Wall

If you’d like to really incorporate your TV into your décor, considering adding it as yet another square shape to a wall full of your favorite art in frames.  I had a client that mounted their TV and built molding around it so it looked like a picture frame. Hang several different pieces of art in an eclectic grouping and then add your TV to the mix. It will blend in as another square, but will give other décor a chance to shine.

Hide the wires

Though wall-mounting a flat screen is all the rage, there's still a whole lot of design mileage to be had from placing your TV on a great-looking entertainment center,” according to an article on “Here’s where you can get creative, too: Consider adding a new coat of paint and some custom holes to snake out the wires on a thrift-store dresser, armoire, or vintage metal gym lockers. It's a custom look, and the ultimate form of recycling.”

If you prefer that wall-mounted look, there is still the issue of all the wires associated with all the gadgets. There’s always the option of opening the wall to hide the jungle of wires. But there are simpler alternatives. You can purchase woven baskets with a wide weave, poke the wires through the basket and into the outlet.

Hide the TV altogether 

Maybe you don’t watch much TV or really can’t stand the look of it front and center. There are some clever ways to disguise it until you need a TV fix. You can recess it into the wall, then place a photo or art on a hinge in front, allowing it to only appear when it’s time to watch.

There is another consideration when thinking about the best spot for your TV – how large should your TV be and how much space should you allow around it? Answers vary and of course, depend on how big the room is, whether you’re watching in high definition, your budget, and your personal taste. Here are some guidelines for the optimum distance between the viewer and TV, according to 6" screen = 3 to 5.5 feet; 32" screen = 4 to 6.5 feet; 37" screen = 4.5 to 7.5 feet; 40" screen = 5 to 8.5 feet; 46" screen = 6 to 9.5 feet; 52" screen = 6.5 to 11 feet; 58" screen = 7 to 12 feet; 65" screen = 8 to 13.5 feet; 70" screen = 9 to 15 feet.

Whether you prefer to camouflage your TV or allow it to be front and center, these tips should help you enjoy many cozy evenings watching your favorite team or TV show in style. And if you’d like to discuss preparing your home for the market or are starting the search for a new one, please give us a call at (630)232-0021.

New House - Old Charm

by Ginny Sylvester


Living in a newer home definitely has its advantages – fewer repairs, fresh finishes and 

current floor plans. But newer homes are sometimes lacking in those little details that 

add charm and character. 

Homeowners of a house built in the last few decades may not have the period details, 

original wood floors or the character that accompanies a historic house, but there are 

some relatively easy ways to give your newer home some patina and charm and 

differentiate it from the similar houses in the neighborhood. 

Here are some ways to make your newer home stand out with its own character:


Take that sea of drywall and add some architectural interest. There are plenty of online 

tutorials on how to do simple crown molding, or a professional can quickly turn those 

four walls into a room with plenty of character. And there’s no need to stop with crown 

molding! Homeowners interested in replicating a cottage or Craftsman style to their 

walls could add board and batten treatments or bead board treatments to their walls as 


The website Houzz explains it this way: “When it comes to architecture, details count. 

They also define," Houzz says. "The places where floors, doors, ceilings and windows 

meet the walls are usually accompanied by trim. The way that trim is executed has 

refined and defined our houses throughout history. Trim adds character and flavor to a 

home, the way pearl buttons finish off a shirt or cinnamon completes a coffee cake. And 

it helps distinguish one style of architecture from another.”

If you plan a gradual, whole-house transformation, take the time to peruse pictures on 

whether you like the look of Victorian, Georgian, Craftsman or Contemporary trim styles 

so that your rooms flow seamlessly.


Speaking of architectural interest, is there anything that says “charming” more than 

beautifully-designed built-ins? Think bookcases lining a wall, a mudroom with built-in 

cubbies, or a reading nook in an upstairs loft. And you don’t necessarily have to hire a 

craftsman. Centsational Girl, a design blogger, has a tutorial on her website,, on how she connected four Ikea bookcases, used trim to 

complete the edges and created a wall of built-ins for her family to enjoy.


A surefire way to add charm is to consider changing your lighting fixtures. Nothing says 

charm and character more than a period light fixture hanging above your kitchen table 

that is different than everyone else’s on your block. Homeowners can scour flea markets 

and antique stores for a truly unique pieces or search online for replicas of schoolhouse 

pendants or antique chandeliers. For the cost of the fixture and the time it takes to 

swamp out the fixture, a new home could almost instantly achieve that “old look.”


Sometimes the smallest details can make the biggest difference. Consider swapping out 

builder-grade door knobs for some lovely crystal ones. The hardware in kitchens or 

baths – think vanity or cabinet handles – can be replaced with some vintage-style bin 

pulls or other retro styles. 


Wallpaper has come a long way from the outdated styles of the last century. In a newer 

house, a powder room or other small room papered in a show-stopping current pattern 

can really give your house some unique character.

Adding a few of these elements can take a new home and give it the charm and character 

it was missing. If you’re looking for just the right home to make your own or thinking of 

selling your current one, we would be more than happy to help you!

What's next for downtown Geneva?

by Ginny Sylvester

Big changes are coming to downtown Geneva! Three new developments, two already approved and one that’s in the works, will be making over some key sections of downtown.

One developer said he’s targeting empty nesters, and another one wants “millennials,” but both are looking for residents who want to live close to Geneva’s downtown shops and restaurants and desire that maintenance-free townhouse lifestyle.

This spring, the Geneva City Council approved a plan by Oak Creek Capital Partners to build 30 townhome units to fill the block bordered by North, Stevens, North First and North Second streets.

The units, which will be priced just less than $500,000, will all face the street with parking in the development’s center and access to the townhouses from North Street, according to news articles.

 With Third Street just a quick walk away, and the Fox River and Wheeler Park so close, the 30 units are in a prime spot that city officials had already deemed ripe for development. There was some concern from neighbors in the adjacent historic district that the size of the development was too large for their neighborhood, but ultimately, the Geneva City Council gave the project a nod of approval. In their discussion, several aldermen said that the density of the 30 units fits in with the city’s long-term planning.

The City Council will also have another big vote coming, when Marquette Companies comes forward with its plan for the Cetron property. Longtime Genevans know that the Cetron factory, which made electronics and vacuum tubes until the 1980s, has been an eyesore for many years.

Geneva’s official strategic plans also identify that site as prime real estate. Marquette, a Naperville-based developer, has bought the site and demolition began in late March to tear down the crumbling factory.

But what’s next for that location at Seventh and State streets from Richards to Peyton streets? The developers brought some preliminary ideas to the council in 2014 that included 200 “amenity-rich” apartments, according to news reports. The developers envisioned rents averaging $1,500 and thousands of ground-floor square footage designated for shops and restaurants.

The final proposal will have to go before the Plan Commission and the City Council for approval, but whatever replaces Cetron will certainly give the northwest side of downtown a whole new look.

On the other side of State Street, a new development by Shodeen that includes six townhomes will revamp the corner of Seventh and James streets. Priced starting at $419,000, the six Seventh Street Terrace townhomes are slated to be about 1,900-square-feet with attached garages.

With all these changes coming, there will certainly be more opportunities for the buyer or renter interested in a maintenance-free, downtown Geneva lifestyle. 

Home Values "Grow" with Great Landscaping!

by Ginny Sylvester

After a long, cold winter, is there anything better than the sight of garden centers filling with flowers and tulips and pansies popping up in yards around the Fox Valley?

When spring arrives, homeowners fling open their doors and take those first, excited steps outside, ready to enjoy their yard, patios, and decks again. But if the sight in your yard makes you want to head back indoors, consider some easy spring maintenance tasks that will make your yard look inviting again.

You may also contemplate doing some upgrades and calling in the landscaping professionals to create some beautiful beds or plant some gorgeous trees. If you’re mulling making some outdoor improvements this year, whether it’s selecting some perennials for a lush new garden bed or a row of evergreens for privacy, remember that experts agree that landscaping is an area you will almost certainly see some return on investment if you place your home on the market.

According to the Appraisal Institute, great landscaping can increase your home’s value and may help sell your property more quickly. Some estimates have professional landscaping and outdoor features adding up to 10 percent to your home’s value!

But before you head to the garden center and fill your cart with every perennial shrub calling your name, here are some things to consider:

  • Try to view your yard with fresh eyes. When you’ve tended a shrub for years, you can become emotionally attached. But maybe it’s actually taking over the porch, and needs to be removed or significantly pruned. Or perhaps you planted a bed with the best intentions but as they’ve matured, you realized they simply don’t go well together. One tip is to walk around your yard and take pictures of various areas. Those snapshots can give you a perspective on what spots of your yard need help.
  • Consider calling in a professional. It’s easy to plunk down several hundred at a big-box store and fill your trunk with every lovely bush in sight. But a well-landscaped yard needs a plan and a hodgepodge of bushes planted willy-nilly isn’t going to achieve that look you’re after. There needs to be movement and flow from bed to bed, with hardscape features like patios and walkways complementing the overall picture. For an hourly fee, a landscape architect or designer can check out what you already have, diagnose any problem areas, and provide you a plan for what will work well in your current set-up. You can take that plan and decide whether it’s something you want to DIY or call in landscapers to implement. Having a plan for the current season and how those plantings will grow over the years could save you money in the long run!
  • Don’t underestimate the effect of regular maintenance. If your budget is tight, and you don’t want to invest in professional landscaping, remember that well-tended, simple landscaping adds plenty of curb appeal. When the temperatures start to warm, take a weekend afternoon to power wash the leaf stains and algae growth from your siding and sidewalks. Trim any shrubs or trees that have become unruly or unsightly. Be willing to bid farewell to any shrubs that have died or have been ailing for more than a season. As soon as you see the yellow forsythia bushes bloom, you’ll know it’s safe to start seeding bare batches in your lawn.  Clear your beds of leaves and last year’s growth, then cut fresh edges on your beds and lay a new carpet of mulch. It’ll do wonders for your home’s curb appeal.

I hope you enjoy these early weeks of spring, whether you decide it’s time for a whole new landscaping look or just the simple pleasure of planting some spring flowers. And if you’re considering selling your home, I’d love to assist you. Please contact me at (630) 715-1887.





“Spring sprucing will make your house shine for buyers”

by Ginny Sylvester

With spring in sight, the time is right to place your house for sale. The market is heating up and buyers are ready to take a look!

But before you decide to list your home, it makes sense to spruce up the exterior and interior and perform any maintenance tasks you have let slip. It can be difficult to see your home through fresh eyes after many years, but you’ll want to give your home a once-over and optimize its potential.

While a full-scale renovation of a kitchen or bathroom may not make sense, there are some smaller changes a homeowner can complete over a few weekends that won’t put the dent in your wallet that a remodel would. You’ll be amazed at what a difference these small, but significant, changes will make in helping your house look its finest for potential buyers.

An entrance that says “come in!”

This may seem obvious, but its importance can’t be overstated. The front entrance is the first indicator to buyers how well you’ve cared for your home. They will be standing there taking their first look while their realtor opens the lockbox – give them the signal this is a clean and cared-for home. A new coat of paint on the front door in a complementary color and shiny new door hardware present your home as updated and fresh. Put buying a new door mat on your to-do list. This is not the year to skimp on outdoor flowers -- a blooming pot or a hanging basket will set a cheery tone. Also, take a look at your outdoor light fixtures to see if they could use updating. New ones can be found at home improvement stores for less than $100.

Lawn and driveways

Time to get out that pressure washer! A thorough wash of the sidewalk, driveway and patio will help your house looks its best. Washing off the siding or brick will remove lingering spider webs and dirt. A thorough cleaning of your windows inside and out will let the light shine in beautifully. Replace broken or old screens, it will help your house look maintained. And a layer of fresh brown mulch laid a few days before your house is officially listed sets a pretty, manicured picture.

Closets and Countertops

What’s the common link between model houses and existing homes that are beautifully prepped for sale? The absence of “stuff” – all the little things that come with daily life. When you list your house, you want to provide a “fantasy” home for buyers they can envision living in themselves. That means clearing the kitchen counters of piles of paperwork and small appliances, removing the toy bins in every corner, and emptying the refrigerator of its artwork and calendars. You’re planning on packing to move, so why not begin the process? You can donate the items you don’t want to take with you, and box the rest in a storage unit.

Take each closet one at a time and pare down belongings. If you have 20 pairs of pants teetering in a hazardous stack on a closet shelf, pack all but two or three that you leave neatly folded. Buyers will be impressed with how roomy and organized your closets are!

A fresh coat of paint in neutral colors will also let buyers know they will be moving in to a clean and maintained home.

Consider a realtor who can help choose paint colors and will stage your home in neutral furnishings and accessories that will appeal to a wide range of buyers. At Hemming & Sylvester, we offer full staging for our clients and have the experience to advise you on how to best prepare your house for the market. If you’d like to talk about selling your home or buying a new one, please contact Ginny Sylvester at (630) 715-1887. 

Smart Homes

by Ginny Sylvester

In “Back to the Future Part II,” Marty McFly travels far into the future to find a family that uses flying cars and self-lacing shoes. That faraway future date? 2015! Now that 2015 has actually arrived, we can look around our homes and see that no, we do not have hover boards and “hydrators” to make pizzas.

But features that make a “smart home” are on the rise, with a growing number of consumers interested in adding features to their homes that increase security, lower energy use, and hopefully, make lives more convenient. According to an estimate by BI Intelligence, there are 1.9 billion smart home devices today, and there could be 9 billion by 2018, while another research firm predicts that that the smart home market will reach $71 billion by 2018, up from $33 billion in 2013 and $25 billion in 2012.

Industry experts foresee a time when we will connect our home appliances, garages, lights and locks with the touch of a button on our smart phones. Imagine turning on your oven, receiving an alert that you are out of milk, opening your garage, “flipping” the lights, and turning up the thermostat with a quick look at your smart phone before you leave the office!

Homeowners can buy products they are interested in, download the appropriate app, and set them up themselves, purchase a “hub” like Wink to manage all the connected devices, or hire a company that will install an entire home system.

In 2015, there are several products on the market that will make your home “smarter” and modern. Here’s a roundup of some technology on the market to create a smart home of your own:

  • Appliances – Manufacturers such as LG are now adding features on 2014 models that will allow you to text your oven, robot vacuum, refrigerator, or washing machine in regular language to check on food supplies, update a washer cycle, clean the carpet, or let the appliances know you’re out of town.
  • Thermostats – Thermostats such as the Nest claim to learn your schedule in about a week and programs itself to control the temperature with no work from you. You can also adjust temps from your smart phone. Nest proponents say that 4 out of 5 can install this device in 30 minutes or less, and that it will save up to 20 percent on your utility bills.
  • Garage Door openers -- Forget trying to hunt for your opener in your dark car. You can buy an opener that allows you to tap your device’s screen to open and close your door from anywhere. Some manufacturers plan to add the capability for the opener to sense when you’re near your driveway and open on its own, and then close when you’re safely inside.
  • Video monitors -- Want to check on your living room while you’re at dinner with friends? Video monitors placed in your house allow you to go online or to an app to get a live look-in any time you like.
  • Light Bulbs – There are now options for lighting such as LED lights that communicate over Wi-Fi so you can control them with an app. You can turn them off and on, change their brightness and create automatic settings.
  • Entry systems – No more digging in your purse for your house key. Doorknobs and locks on the market now allow you to simply touch the knob with your finger to unlock or lock a regular-looking door bolt. You can also monitor who is coming and going and receive activity alerts with the app.
  • Humidity and water sensors – Want to avoid a water leak or a moisture leak that causes mold and mildew? Now, homeowners can install sensors that will activate a ventilation fan once a room reaches a previously-set humidity level. Another sensor device allows you to place sensors in places like sinks and toilets if any water drips, the information is sent to the hub, which alerts the homeowner. The app also allows you to see temperature and humidity in all those areas.

Undoubtedly, the number of products that we can use to automate our homes will keep on increasing to allow features and conveniences that we can’t even imagine. Who knows what kind of house Marty McFly would have found by 2030? Consider taking the plunge and adding some technology to make your home the smartest on the block.

If you’re considering buying a new home or selling your current one, I would be more than happy to help you. Don’t hesitate to contact me at (630)715-1887.








Trends for 2015

by Ginny Sylvester

During the dreary winter months when we all spend more time indoors, you may realize you have the itch to remodel or renovate part of your house – maybe an outdated bathroom, a tired kitchen, or a bedroom sporting the same paint color since 1987.

If you’re considering a renovation to your kitchen or bath, or maybe just updating your paint colors or throw pillows, it may be worth considering what’s trendy in 2015 and what will help create a home that looks fresh and current.

Kitchen and Baths

Kitchens and baths are trending toward more contemporary styling, according to a style report from the National Kitchen and Bath Association. More than 400 designers agreed that a kitchen design focusing on a cleaner, more simple styling is hot. While the cozy cottage look is still popular, kitchens with contemporary lines and a minimalist feel will gain in popularity, they predicted.

Finishes in the kitchen and bath that rank the most popular are satin nickel and polished chrome. Almost two-thirds of the designers said they incorporated docking and charging stations and a home office or desk area in the kitchens they designed. In the bathrooms, shades of gray are an on-trend choice. In 2015, demand for “leggy” vanities and freestanding and soaker tubs will grow. Quartz countertops in both the kitchen and the bath are expected to continue their rise to the top.


Hardwood still reigns supreme, but some different looks are now the rage. Gray tones of every shade are an increasingly popular choice for hardwood floors, as well as hardwood planks that are wider than the traditional three-inch. Matte finishes instead of a high-gloss are popping up, as well as white oak and limed finishes and stains.

Paint Colors

Benjamin Moore named “guilford green” its 2015 color of the year, a “silvery green that works a wide range of color combinations,”according to Benjamin Moore professionals also say that “monochromatic colors feel right, right now. Try warm, cool, dark and light layers of the same hue … gracefully flowing room to room.” Gray continues to be fresh, with a dizzying array of tones to keep you interested, from muddy, earthy grays to cool and clean ones. Tones of blue are also popular, from the soft Benjamin Moore “breath of fresh air” the (2014 color of the year) to the strong navys and cobalt blues popular in both fashion and home décor right now.


Home Décor

Brass is officially making a comeback. Industry professionals predict its rise in sinks, lamps and other accessories in 2015. Other trends you may see coming in 2015 are chinoiserie prints, large florals, corduroy upholstery and artwork and textiles with an exotic or ethnic flair. Industry professionals also predict that décor in all shades of blue will be popular, whether it’s accessories, window coverings, or throw pillows. Infuse your home with blue, and don’t feel like you have to stick to one shade!


Whether you’re ready for a full-scale renovation or a weekend paint job, discovering what trends you prefer will ensure you’ll enjoy your changes for years to come.

And if you’re considering buying a new home or selling your current one, I would be more than happy to help you. Don’t hesitate to contact me at (630) 715-1887.

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Contact Information

Katie Hemming & Ginny Sylvester
Hemming & Sylvester Properties
823 W State St.
Geneva IL 60134
Office: (630) 232-0021