Your Ultimate Guide to Real Estate on Chicago's North Shore

Archive for the 'Home improvement' Category

Best Gift and Home Accents Store on the North Shore

best gift shop

So you’ve checked off all of your family members, but what about hostess gifts, teacher gifts, a gift for your dog walker, etc. Tired of the old gift card route? Well, lucky for you, the North Shore has a plethora of gift and home accent shops filled with unique items for everyone on your list, including yourself! And if your holiday décor could use a little freshening up too, then chances are you’ll be able to pick something fabulous along the way! Happy Shopping!

Ellen’s on Elm
841 Elm Street, Winnetka, 847-441-5240

More than just a gift shop, Ellen’s on Elm, thoughtfully selects unique gifts, many made by local artists, to line their shelves for all seasons of life. From jewelry and accessories to engraved and monogrammed items, the helpful and friendly staff is always ready to help you find the perfect gift.

Artisan Shop & Gallery
Plaza del Lago, 1515 Sheridan Road, Wilmette, 847-251-3775

If you are looking for interesting, eclectic and beautiful gifts, then look no further. This store is filled with unique and sophisticated handcrafted items by more than 350 American artists, including artisan jewelry, pottery, hand blown glass, wooden jewelry boxes and games, kitchen items, scarves, jackets, baby gifts and more.

Stumble & Relish
1310 A Chicago, Ave, Evanston, 773-330-3488

Owned by a mother/daughter duo, this adorable, little boutique has been described as a live Etsy store. Clients love the creative displays, the affordable prices, their adorable gift wrapping and the passion and knowledge that the owners have about each item and every item in the store. Jewelry, pottery, air plants, soaps, purses, journals, illustrated artwork, small wood curios, and so much more for you to discover and enjoy.

Green leaf Gallery
1760 Sunset Lane, Bannockburn, 847-948-7689

Located in a charming cottage in the woods, Greenleaf Gallery features a wonderful selection of fine art, folk art, handcrafted goods and gifts, accessories for women and men, jewelry, whimsical garden art, stationery and cards, tabletop and baby gifts. The gallery supports more than 100 American artists, including many local Chicagoans in addition to talented people across the country.

Black Sheep General Store
346 Park Ave., Glencoe, 847-242-0130

This quaint, new storefront in Glencoe already has customers raving. It is stocked with a little something for everyone including candy, housewares, spa items, baby gifts, books, clocks, pillows, flasks, specialty t-shirts, candles and more, all with a focus on local, handmade, small batch merchandise.

Kenzy Gifts & Décor
1849 Green Bay Rd., Ste 109, Highland Park, 847-780-4177

Kenzy Gifts & Décor carries exceptional gifts, dinnerware and decorative home accents in every price range. Created from a need to find items for her home that were unique and different, the boutique features designs by owner, Yasmin Mekki, as well those by various other designers.

Style Shack
1839 Second Street, Highland Park, 847-579-4525

Style Shack is a magical place where commerce and culture intersect. The unique collection of giftware is only part of what the Style Shack experience has to offer. From unique jewelry and handbags to one-of-a-kind home accessories and hostess gifts, their collection will entice the most discriminating shoppers, not to mention their outstanding complimentary gift wrapping!

Pierce Interiors
1264 Northbrook Court, Northbrook, 847-291-0300

Don’t let its Northbrook Court location fool you. Established in 1969, Pierce Interiors is a family-owned and operated fine gift and home accent store. Here you’ll find an extraordinary selection of fine crystal, porcelain, metal work, service ware, curio cabinets and other beautiful home decor, including Michael Aram, Swarovski, Lladro, Waterford, Julia Knight, and Lalique. They offer complimentary gift wrapping, price matching, shipping services and free layaway.

If we omitted one of your favorites, or there is a certain topic you would like to see covered, please leave us a comment! Additionally, we are happy to point out any of these locations as part of our Tour of the Shore, a must do for anyone considering a move to the North Shore. It’s a stress free way to familiarize yourself with the communities, schools, house values and amenities in the area. Call us at 847.881.6657 to find out more.

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Getting Rid of Old Paint on the North Shore

old paint cansA couple of weeks ago at a final walk-through of one of our listings, the buyers were surprised to see that there were several paint cans left in the garage after our client had moved out. Some of the paint was relatively new, since our client had re-painted a few rooms to freshen them up before putting his home on the market. He assumed the buyers would want the paint for touch-ups. But they didn’t. They wanted it gone. All of it. They were planning to repaint the entire inside of the house a different color.

That was at 7:00 pm the night before the 9:00 am closing. My client had already moved and was not in a position to deal with the problem. Paula and I had to get rid of that paint and bring a photo of the clean (paint-less) garage to closing. Paint is not one of those things you can just chuck in the garbage. If it’s oil based it’s considered hazardous waste and must be taken to a collection site where it will be dealt with in an environmentally safe way. If it’s latex, it will need to be completely dried out before it can be thrown out.

Most people keep old paint around because: 1) they think they may need it sometime; or 2) they don’t know how to dispose of it. That’s why there are usually 10-20 cans of paint in everyone’s garage or basement.

If you are planning to sell your house in the future, you should be aware that most buyers do not want your old paint. So you might as well make a plan to use it up or dispose of it. You could give some rooms a fresh coat of paint. You could donate it to a local charity, theater group, school or church. Otherwise, here’s what you can do:

Oil-based Paint

You can’t thow it out. You must take it to an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency collection center. The closest collection center to the North Shore is in Gurnee:

Solid Waste Agency of Lake County
By appointment only on second Saturday or fourth Monday of each month
1311 N. Estes Street, Gurnee
(847) 336-9340

Or, you can wait for one of the one-day collection events that take place from time to time on the North Shore.

Latex Paint

Leave the paint can open in a well-ventilated area until it dries out. Then you can put it in the garbage- but leave the lid off so your garbage collector knows it’s dry. To expedite the drying-out process you can mix kitty litter or sawdust in with the paint. Even shredded up newspaper will work…anything that will absorb the paint. If you don’t have the time or inclination to do this, you can take it to a local hardware store (see list below) and, for a fee, they will take care of it.

North Shore Hardware Stores That Take Latex Paint

  • Millen Hardware, 1219 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette.   (847) 251-3060
  • Skokie Ace Hardware, 5035 Oakton St., Skokie. (847) 673-0700
  • Weiss Ace Hardware, 1560 Waukegan Rd., Glenview  (847) 724-3444
  • Craftwood Lumber and Hardware, 1590 Old Deerfield Rd., Highland Park  (847) 831-2800

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The #1 Home Improvement Project For Return on Investment


Looking to boost your home’s value? According to Remodeling Magazine, the number one home improvement for recouping your return on investment is the addition of an attic bedroom.The nationwide average cost of this project is a bit over $50,000, however you can expect to recoup 72.5% of the cost once it comes time to sell the home.

According to This Old House, you should consider the following building-code basics for turning attic space into living space:

1. Access and egress: code generally requires a full-size staircase and two ways out of the room in case of fire.
2. Ceiling height: there must be 7 feet of headroom of a floor of at least 70 square feet.
3. Floor support: joists and a sub-floor are most likely needed.
4. Ventilation and insulation:very important for heating and cooling costs

Click here for the original article This old house

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Kitchen Remodel Saga – Part 1

Tomorrow is D-Day for demolition of our kitchen.

StovesThis did not start out as a total kitchen remodel. It was going to be a fairly straightforward matter of purchasing some new appliances, but then everything seemed to snowball from there.

It all started when one of our ovens stopped working and then the other one died not long after. We were told they weren’t worth fixing. Better to just replace them. The only problem? These ovens were part of side-by-side 30 ” ranges. Our only option was to buy two new 30″ ranges to replace them, which didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. I mean, who needs two stoves? What we really wanted was one of those big hefty industrial strength stoves that are all the rage, not two more of the wimpy kind that we currently have. But we couldn’t get one of those because it wouldn’t fill the whole space left by the two outgoing ranges. Read the rest of this entry »

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7 Ways to Prevent Basement Flooding

flooded basementOn the North Shore of Chicago, April showers bring May flowers…and flooded basements. Drive down almost any street in the area after a heavy rain and you’ll see soaked carpet piled on the sidewalk. Actually, the worst storms we’ve had in recent years have been in late summer and early fall, but springtime is the next worst season when it comes to water problems.

In some cases wet basements are a result of seepage. In others (like my neighborhood) it’s because the sanitary sewer system backs up when it rains too hard for too long. Either way, it’s not fun and you want to prevent it at all costs. Otherwise, you not only have a big mess on your hands and lots of damaged stuff, but you may have problems with your insurance company if you make more than two claims (I know from first-hand experience).

Here are seven things you can do to help prevent your basement from flooding:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Remodeling Projects with Highest Return on Investment

Remodeling Magazine recently released its 2011 Remodeling Cost to Value report, which shows the projects that tend to yield the highest return on investment. Gone are the days when huge kitchen remodels and additions would more than pay for themselves. These days the return has  people are opting for more modest improvements and replacement projects.

1. Replacing the entry door to steel

Estimated cost: $1,238

Cost recouped at resale: 73%

2. Attic bedroom (converting unfinished attic space into a bedroom with bathroom and shower)

Estimated cost: $50,148

Cost recouped at resale: 72.5%

Although this is an expensive project, it continues to provide high value, as it is a way to add a bedroom and bath within the existing footprint of the house.

3. Minor kitchen remodel (including new cabinets and drawers, counter tops, hardware, and appliances)

Estimated cost: $19,588

Cost recouped at resale: 72.1%

4. Garage door replacement

Estimated cost: $1,512

Cost recouped at resale: 71.9%

5. Deck addition (wood)

Estimated cost: $10,350

Cost recouped at resale: 70.1%

6. Siding replacement (vinyl)

Estimated cost: $11,729

Cost recouped at resale: 69.5%


Electronics Banned from Illinois Landfills

no computersEffective January 1, 2012, the Illinois Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act has banned from Illinois landfills. Electronic items such as TVs, computers, printers and monitors will no longer be allowed in the regular trash. You can see the entire list of banned electronics here.

You can donate them to a charitable organization if they are in good working order or take them to a retail store that accepts electronics for recycling. Otherwise you can take them to one of the following locations:

Cook County

Glenview Transfer Station
1151 N River Rd
Across from the Maryville Academy
Saturdays: 9:00 am – 11:30 am

Winnetka Public Works
1390 Willow Rd
Tuesdays: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Thursdays: 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Lake County

City of Highland Park (Firearms Training Center)
1180 Half Day Road
ONLY Tuesdays and Fridays  7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  (excluding holidays)
(fluorescent light bulbs, foam containers and packaging materials are also accepted at the Highland Park Electronic Collection)

Village of Round Lake (Public Works Facility)
751 W. Townline Road
Second Tuesday of every other month (March 13)
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

for more Lake County electronics recycling facilities go here.

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Adding Curb Appeal to a Bland or Unwelcoming Exterior

One of the most human of human traits is that we are attracted to what we think is beautiful. That first impression of beauty can be the lasting impression of a person, or a place, or even a house. As much as we don’t want to label ourselves as being superficial – in many ways, we are just that. We have an unreasoning love of some things just because they look good.

Cars are an example of this. The driver of a Ferrari is the only one around who can’t see the car but he is the one who is most pleased with how it looks. When it comes to houses, there is a special term for this characteristic: Curb Appeal.

Curb Appeal is a sub-category of architecture under the main heading of “Is It Pretty?” ( Category No. 1 is “Will It Stand?”, No. 2; “Does It Work?”. No. 3; “Is It Pretty?”. I’m not making this up; these are the Ancient Roman Precepts of Architecture – really)

Here is a story of a house in Wilmette, Illinois:


Before: a lovely Spanish Style with some interesting details. Just slightly on the un-welcoming side.

Concept Drawing:

Concept Drawing

The original architect was nice enough to leave a little work for us to finish. The drawing above shows our concept for giving this old home more Curb Appeal and function.


After: The added porch welcomes visitors

The completed project enhances the character of the neighborhood and the porch gives the owners of this home a place to enjoy that character. This project recently received an award from the Historic Preservation Commission of Wilmette.

Do you have an old home that isn’t playing nicely with its neighbors? Tell me your house story.

John Vasilion, Vasilion Associates, Inc. Architects

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Locked Out of Your House? Beware of Locksmith Scams

This morning I was watching TV while I made the kids breakfast and saw an expose about locksmith scams. Apparently there are tons of 24 hour emergency locksmith services that people find online or in the phone book when they’ve been locked out of their homes. The locksmith arrives, goes to work, often destroying the lock and the doorknob in the process, and then charges an outrageous fee.

Watch this video to see how shady locksmiths are plying their trade:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

How to avoid being scammed by a locksmith?

1. Give a spare key to someone you trust and who (ideally) lives nearby.

2. Find a reputable locksmith in your town BEFORE you need him, and program his number into your phone. Ask friends for recommendations or find a locksmith who actually has a storefront for his business. Many of the scam artists have fake addresses and are next to impossible to track down if there’s a problem.

3. If you do find yourself in a situation where you have to call a locksmith you’re not familiar with, ask to see his license (in Illinois locksmiths are required to be licensed) and get an estimate in writing before he starts work on your door. And ask up front if he takes credit cards. He is also required by law to ask you for ID to prove that it is your home that you are asking him to “break into.” If he doesn’t, that should be a red flag.

Here is an excellent and reputable locksmith on the North Shore:

Johnson Locksmith
1557 Maple Ave., Evanston

They charge $86 on average for a lock-out.


10 Tips for Downsizers with Too Much Stuff

attic filled with stuffNorth Shore baby-boomers, if you are planning to downsize to a smaller place anytime soon, this Forbes article by Ashlea Ebeling is worth a read.

It’s got great advice on how to maximize the return on all that great stuff you’ve collected over the years and how to minimize the tax consequences. Here’s a summary of her tips:

1. Accept that downsizing is tough.

Most people have an emotional attachment to their stuff, even if it has been up in the attic for years. It’s hard to let go of family heirlooms, old scrapbooks or souvenirs from your honeymoon. Give yourself time to reminisce so that you can let go more easily.

2. Find trusted experts.

Make sure you know which things have value beyond your sentimental attachment before you rush off an sell them on Craig’s List.

3. Call an appraiser to get an objective assessment of value.

4. Be wary of family lore.

Just because Grandma said that chair or vase is a one-of-a-kind doesn’t mean that it is.

5. Don’t toss things out prematurely.

Some things that look like trash aren’t (and vice versa).

6. Call an auction house.

For rarer or more valuable pieces this gives you access to a broader (even international) audience than an estate sale would.

7. Donate and deduct.

You can get a charitable deduction on your taxes if you donate something, but you do need to itemize if it is worth $500 or more.

8. Pass your heirlooms down before you die.

You can gift up to $13,000/year tax-free to as many people as you want (and that includes stuff as well as money).

9. Watch out for capital gains.

10. Remember the tax return.