July 10, 2018

Urban Outdoor Design Inspiration

By Charese David


An outdoor area is one of the most important spaces in a home. With our shorter warm weather season, a lot of Chicago homeowners take full advantage of the outdoors. An inviting urban oasis for both relaxing and entertaining can feel like a retreat. This is also a key factor for those thinking of selling their home. 


Outdoor Design

From Elle Decor and Elle Decor


There is undeniable value in creating a  stress-free zone in our urban environment. Prepping your outdoor space with fresh staging ideas can help you sell your home faster and maybe even for a higher price. It draws people in and helps buyers see themselves enjoying the garden. It’s an extension of the living space. If the home or condo is small, it provides an expansive feel.


Urban Outdoor Design

From Apartment Therapy


Sprucing up your outdoor space can be as simple as reupholstering or buying cushions and pillows. Update old light fixtures with a fresh coat of paint. Add tea lights and candles, along with an outdoor rug to make the space cozy. Use neutral colors to draw attention to the natural green environment for a more calming feel. For privacy and to separate the space from the neighbors, add rattan blinds and hanging plants off the balcony. Strategically arrange inexpensive flowers and potted plants around the area.


Urban Outdoor Design

From Elle Decor and Elle Decor


For homes with a small backyard, use accent stones to create a relaxing retreat feel. Purchase tall thin bushes for privacy. Place bamboo lanterns along pathways or string bistro lights around the dining area to create a sophisticated evening atmosphere.


Urban Outdoor Design

From Apartment Therapy


The style of your home should seamlessly blend into the style of your outdoor space. If you’re on a budget, Home Goods offers inexpensive outdoor accessories. For a more modern vibe, check out West Elm, Room and Board and CB2. To design a traditional space, shop at stores like Arhaus, Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, Jayson Home and Walter E Smith.


Urban Outdoor Design

From Domino


Renting outdoor furniture for staging can be expensive, so if you work with me in selling your home, I will give staging advice using items that you already have. And if I do recommend purchasing something, I suggest cost-effective items within your budget that you can use in your next home. Please contact me at (312) 399-1271 or charese@menardjohnson.com if you have questions. Happy Summer!

Posted in Design Ideas
May 29, 2018

Successful Home Staging - Before and After Photos

By Charese David


Home Staging


One of the things I love about working in real estate is that I get to use my eye for design on a routine basis. There are various ways that I am in touch with the latest home design trends. When I take my home buyers out on a property search, I see properties firsthand and can determine right away the quality of the workmanship. I can explain the history of architectural features and share ideas on how they could potentially renovate a space to make it more livable. When I walk into a property, I get inspired with design ideas. Because of my experienced eye, I am able to point things out that they might not see that could actually make or break a deal. 


I have also been a design consultant, working with developers in the design and layout of property spaces. I can see the flow of how a room will work for potential buyers. As I am out with buyers and privy to conversations that I overhear when showing a property to sell, I know what clients are asking for in a property. 


As I walk through a property with a client who has hired me to sell their home, I am current with what similar properties have recently sold for in their neighborhood and explain to them what I see that potential buyers are looking for. I offer suggestions on how they can make minor, inexpensive updates, like painting, decluttering or adding new lighting, that can have a big impact in the sale. I sometimes also share ideas on moving furniture around to make the space flow better. You’d be surprised by what a few minor design adjustments do to the look and feel of a room. 


In marketing a property for sale, I hire a professional photographer because online photos are the curb appeal - they are what will draw potential buyers to see a property. I’m also an avid photographer and I believe that this helps me frame a room - to envision it in the best light possible. After all, my objective for my home sellers is to get the highest price possible for their property, at the quickest return rate.


When home sellers move out of their property, I will usually recommend that it be staged either virtually in the photos or that they hire a staging company to physically bring in the furniture. This helps potential home buyers quickly envision the room and imagine their furniture in the layout. And sometimes, staging is only in the main living spaces and not throughout the whole home.


Take a look at my before and after video of a River North condo. This is before making the updates:

And after the updates, see how paint can transform a room.

The following photos are of the same River North condo, only they are virtually staged. 

Home Staging

Home Staging

The following Roscoe Village condo hired a staging company to come in with furniture. 

Home staging

Updated lighting can do wonders for the design of a room. Take a look at the updated pendant lighting above the island in the After photo compared to the pendant lighting in the Before photo. 

Now you can see how minor updates can make a big difference in preparing to sell your home. If you're thinking of selling your home and need design guidance, please contact me at (312) 399-1271 or charese@menardjohnson.com. I’d love to share my design ideas with you!

Posted in Design Ideas
March 13, 2018

Real Estate Services for Home Sellers


Are you interested in hiring an experienced real estate broker to help with the sale of your property? Chicago real estate broker Charese David shares tips for home sellers.
March 13, 2018

Real Estate Services for Home Buyers


How do you find the right property in the right neighborhood within your budget? Chicago real estate broker Charese David shares tips for home buyers. 

March 7, 2018

Why Hire a Real Estate Broker?

By Charese David

Chicago New Construction Home


An online search for real estate will bring up a lot of information. So, why hire a broker? At first glance it may seem that buying or selling a home on your own will save you money. But that might not be the case. According to the National Association of Realtor®'s 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, you’ll make more money by hiring a professional real estate broker. “FSBOs typically sell for less than the selling price of other homes; FSBO homes sold at a median of $190,000 last year (up from $185,000 the year prior), and significantly lower than the median of agent-assisted homes at $250,000.”


And there are other things to consider before embarking on your real estate journey. As a part of my daily routine, I research the market to track prices and trends through online broker resources and in real estate publications. I know neighborhood news, zoning changes and am up-to-date on new policies, rules and ethics pertaining to brokers. 


When working with clients, I hear what buyers expect in a property and am able to translate this to my home sellers. As a photographer for many years, I am personally involved in the property photo shoots. These photos will be posted online and are critical to the success of attracting the right buyer. With my eye for design, I am able to offer expert staging tips, remodel ideas and repair advice to my home sellers. 


By consistently networking with other real estate professionals, I am able to keep tabs on influences in the market, trends and the economy. If I have any questions, I know exactly who to contact for answers. And driving the Chicago neighborhoods every day, I see new construction homes, rehab projects, property conditions and am on the lookout for any changes, such as new businesses moving in.


Here are what I consider the benefits of hiring a real estate broker:


Education and Experience

One of the main benefits of working with a broker is their knowledge and experience in managing the process. Before hiring a real estate broker, ask to set up an interview. You want to make sure that this person understands the neighborhoods, real estate market and trends. Whether buying or selling, the broker must have a keen eye in a property to catch things you might miss and expertise in negotiation to put you at ease during the process. 


Neighborhood Knowledge and Prices

In a city as big as Chicago, it’s key to understand the neighborhoods from a historical perspective and the current market value. If looking to buy, you want to make sure the neighborhood aligns with your finances and lifestyle. And from a selling point of view, it’s important to know current market values. The broker has knowledge of local and state news that can affect housing prices. When meeting with a broker, they should be able to advise you on your neighborhood picks and clue you into other neighborhoods to consider.


Professional Resources

A good real estate broker will have connections in the industry. Find out how they network with other real estate professionals. This person should also be able to share trusted home repair and remodel resources. For a smooth transaction before and after the sale of a property, a reliable agent will manage the process from setting up the home inspection to putting together the right team to handle the volumes of paperwork at closing. 


Staging Advice and Identifying Home Repairs

Whether you’re buying or selling, a broker should be able to walk in to a property and identify the opportunities and challenges. If more information is needed, they will share trusted resources to help you understand the scope of repairs and how it will affect a property value. When selling a home, an good agent will offer inside and outside staging and design advice. 


Unemotional Negotiation

Buying or selling a home tends to be an emotional journey. For peace of mind, a professional broker will handle all aspects of the negotiation process in your best interest. A good agent will share their honest opinion on your options in order to set up a successful property transaction. 


Time Savings

An experienced real estate broker will understand the buying and selling process inside and out. They will be with you every step of the way, working through the details, freeing up your time for other important things. With trusted resources at their fingertips and experience to have the foresight of potential challenges, they are able to navigate the process, saving you valuable time. 


A good relationship with your broker can benefit you beyond the real estate transaction. You have a trusted resource in all your property questions.


Real estate is my passion. I am dedicated to gathering knowledge and am committed to building client relationships. If you have questions or comments, please contact me at (312) 399-1271 or charese@menardjohnson.com.


Feb. 8, 2018

2018 Home Design Trends


This year, think beyond staging your home like a showroom floor. There are many options to create personalized touches to freshen up any room. From new accessories, such as pillows or photo frames to new floors or bathroom tile, these options can fit a range of budgets. Top real estate broker in Chicago, Charese David, shares style and design inspiration for 2018.


floral patterns home design

From CountryLiving and Houzz


Bold flower prints in exaggerated proportions and contrasting colors can evoke a new kind of elegance. Look for this trend in wallpaper, textiles, art, accessories and statement rugs.


geometric patterns

From Decor Aid and HuffPost


Geometric motifs are not a new trend, but as with floral prints, expect to find dramatic, bold, oversized prints in home decor. Find these beautiful designs in anything from accessories to tiles. 


home color trends

From House Beautiful, Refinery29 and PopSugar


Serene pastels can create a relaxing and tranquil atmosphere. Think of soothing colors such as rose, violet, lavender and calming blues.


Rich reds and earthy tones, like deep burgundy, caramel brown, bold yellow, bright coral, burnt orange and rusty terracotta are warming up homes this year. These colors add a coziness without interfering with a clean design aesthetic.


The classic combination of black and white can balance some of this year’s bold and daring design styles.


home color trends

From HuffPost


Jewel tones and deep saturated gem colors, such as cobalt, emerald, onyx and cranberry add depth to a room. These accent colors can be found in drapery, bedding, rugs, accent walls and wallpaper, furnishings and pillows.


home design trends

From Refinery29 and House Beautiful


Vibrant color palettes and mixing metals with different finishes creates a custom feel, in contrast to the staged look of home stores. 


home design trends

From HuffPost and Country Living


Golden brass tones are replacing brushed silver in the bathroom, kitchen and throughout the home. Create brass and copper touches with pendant lighting and sconces, photo frames, serveware sets and other furnishings, such as coffee and side tables. 


home design trends

From The EveryGirl and House Beautiful


Look for velvet in upholstery, drapery, and accent pillows this year. The multi-dimensional fabric adds softness and luster to home decor.


home design trends

From HuffPost and Refinery29 


There is a shift in buying fixtures from local artists and small businesses. Artisan lighting adds a personal touch to any room. 


The urban farmhouse trend creates a hybrid style of casual and edgy. Create nostalgia in the bathroom with a farmhouse inspired bucket (trough) sink.


In other vintage trends, Terrazzo flooring with its scattered marble pattern is becoming popular again. Expect to see a rise in statement floors in the bathroom, laundry rooms and entryways.


home design trends

From House Beautiful 


Natural elements in the home changes the focus from the tech world to the natural world. Materials such as stone, copper, concrete, and granite on floors, walls and pottery create a balanced and organic design style.


home design trends

From Refinery29 and Country Living


The newest lifestyle trend, from ancient Japanese philosophy, is Wabi-sabi. It is about accepting imperfections, as well as the unpredictable nature of life. This translates into loving the blemishes, dings, dents and scratches in your home.


If you have design questions or need real estate advice, please contact Charese at (312) 399-1271 or charese@menardjohnson.com.

Posted in Design Ideas
Dec. 29, 2017

Tips for a Healthy Home

Healthy Home


Top real estate broker in Chicago, Charese David, shares ideas on simple things you can do to clean, freshen, purify and declutter various spaces to create a healthy home.


The new year is a fresh start as many begin by committing to healthy habits, such as a new workout regime or eating strategies that will trim the waistline. In the hustle to get healthy, have you considered how to live in a healthier home? This can involve simple remedies, such as opening a window to let in fresh air (unless it’s winter, of course), or more lasting solutions such as carefully selecting paints, furnishings and cleaning products that don’t contain chemical vapors. 


Now is a great time to create a healthier home environment, especially winter in Chicago as it can start to feel stuffy inside. This year’s New Year’s Resolution: get your home in shape!


Use non-toxic cleaning products

To clean the oven, sprinkle water on spills and add salt when it’s warm, then scrap the area when cool. White vinegar removes grease, soap buildup and is an alternative to bleach. Baking soda scrubs tiles. Hydrogen peroxide removes stains. Diluted lemon juice cleans windows. Borax inhibits mold growth. Consider using a washable shower curtain and liner. 


Clean your kitchen

Use hot, soapy water on your kitchen prep surfaces after every use. Sanitize faucets. Change your sponge every week and when running the dishwasher, include it in the cycle for regular disinfecting. Scrub refrigerator shelves and drawers. Dechlorinate your tap water by equipping your kitchen faucet with an activated charcoal water filter. Eliminate BPA-containing plastic containers, instead use glass and ceramic containers. Check that your non-stick Teflon pots and pans are intact, otherwise replace them. Toss cracked cutting boards. 


Dust regularly

House dust can aggravate allergies and may contain chemicals. Clean dust in  areas that collect buildup, such as entertainment centers, shelves, artwork, photos, light fixtures, and door/window frames. Clear cob webs from corners of walls. Sanitize remote controls. Vacuum a couple of times a week. Sweep and mop floors with diluted vinegar. Establish a no shoes policy while indoors. Buy curtains that are machine washable for regular cleaning. Hire a chimney sweep. Wash sheets, duvet covers and bedspreads in hot water once a week. 


Purify the air

Buy an air purifier or install an electronic purifying system on your furnace. Keep a schedule to check filters on your furnace and replace when necessary. Use a steam humidifier so the humidity levels are more consistent during the cold weather. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Avoid air fresheners which may mask mildew odors. Install a dehumidifier in your basement.


Beautify your home with nature

Plants neutralize the air in your home. The innate connection that we have to nature has proven that plants have a relaxing effect and can improve health and well-being. 


Declutter and toss expired products

Decluttering rooms and spaces actually declutters your mind. Remove items from rooms that are just collecting dust. Clear desktop spaces and clean junk drawers. Check under your kitchen and bathroom sinks and toss toxic cleaning chemicals, old beauty products and items you no longer use. Organize your medicine cabinet and throw out expired vitamins, supplements and pills. Look for expired products in your refrigerator and cupboards. Go through your garage and basement to get rid of old paint, caulk, plaster, remodeling supplies or other products that are dried out or broken.


Throw out toxic pesticides and herbicides

Instead focus on prevention by keeping your house clean. A few weeds in the lawn can be pulled out with muscle power. Throw out mothballs and instead buy cedar chips from a pet store and make a sachet by wrapping them in a cheesecloth. Store clean silks and wool items in a sealed plastic bag. 


If you have questions or need real estate advice, please contact Charese at (312) 399-1271 or charese@menardjohnson.com.


Wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Posted in Real Estate Tips
Dec. 6, 2017

10 Home Design Ideas for the Holidays

holiday living room

Photo credit: Elle Decor

The holiday season is a wonderful time to celebrate with family and friends. Besides the delicious food and drink, it’s fun to create design touches throughout the home that sets the stage for holiday gatherings. Creating a warm and cozy atmosphere can be simple and add a little sparkle during this festive season. 


Real estate broker Charese David has a designer’s eye when it comes to staging a home. If you need design advice or perhaps you’re wondering if a rehab project will add value to your home, contact Charese at (312) 399-1271 or charese@menardjohnson.com. She has contractor resources and excellent guidance on how to add value and style to your home. 


In the meantime, Charese hopes to ignite your imagination and inspire you with these design ideas, some DIY, to create inviting spaces throughout your home.




Spruce up a doorway or area of ceiling with mistletoe to add rustic charm. Don't get caught standing under it, unless of course you want to! Just follow this step by step guide to create a beautiful greenery touch, certain to be a conversation piece.



Snowflakes are a fun and an inexpensive way to create a delightful design for your ceiling. Simply cut out and hang cardstock snowflakes using tape for easy installation.


candle displays



Mix and match figurines and greenery with candles of different shapes and sizes. Use contrasting colors for dramatic displays.




You won’t be able to roast marshmallows, but with this flameless fire pit you can bring fun and ambience to any room. When it’s cold outside, using string lights will make it feel warm and cozy inside.


These spheres of twine are modern, yet playful. They will add warmth and light to any space, including as table decoration or creatively placed on the floor.


A wreath is a standard holiday accent. With winter greens, herbs and pops of color, they are a beautiful way to bring nature indoors. Many stores carry different styles, from modern to traditional. Or create a wreath tailored to your own style.


There are different ways you can showcase a wreath from the placing it on a door, to including it in a holiday display with candles and other decor, to hanging it above a table as an interesting chandelier. 



Dressing a table in a tasteful way just might make the food seem more appetizing! Centerpieces are a key ingredient to gorgeous dining experiences. There are an abundant of styles that can appeal to anyone, from the more elaborate forest design to a clear glass sparkle.


Wishing you a festive season filled with love, laughter and good eats. Happy holidays from all of us at Menard Johnson!


Posted in Design Ideas
Nov. 21, 2017

Luxury New Constructions Homes Virtual Open House

Al Johnson opens 4 luxury homes for virtual tours for the Thanksgiving Holiday

New construction is a force in our local area real estate. Over the Thanksgiving holidays Al Johnson shows what a luxury home looks like today. Denny Development builds quality homes and represents the best in the market. See the homes in Roscoe Village and North Center currently available with great photography, 360 photos to explore whole rooms, floor plans and interactive elements. We will show 4 homes over the next week. Click on link to register 

Nov. 1, 2017

Advantages of Buying a Home in Winter

Chicago Real Estate Broker Charese David


Top real estate broker in Chicago, Charese David, shares her expertise on opportunities of home buying in the winter.


In Chicago winter, with colder temps and snow approaching, you might assume that it’s not a good season to be looking for a home. As most are focused on holiday festivities, this opens up opportunities for home buyers. In our connected world with access to property listings, the real estate market doesn’t take a winter break.


Here is insight into the buying real estate in the colder months  …


Less Market Activity 


Fewer people overall looking to buy a home at this time will lead to less competition among other home buyers. This gives you leverage in your offers and lowers the chances of multiple offers and bidding wars. Homes listed at this time may be more open to negotiation.


Flexible Schedules


Although it does seem that most businesses are 24/7 now, the holiday season tends to bring more focus to time off to enjoy festivities. This time of the year may be the ideal time to use vacation time to house hunt instead of using up precious weekends during the year. Plus, mortgage industry professionals see a slow in the market and tend to be more flexible with timelines. 


Motivated Home Sellers 


If a home is on the market at this time, there’s a good chance that the seller may need to sell the home. Perhaps it’s a job relocation, financial hardship or a change in personal circumstance. There is also an incentive if a house has already been on the market for some time. In any case, with fewer offers on the table at this time of year, a seller may be more willing to accept a lower offer and/or be flexible with concessions, like paying part of the closing costs. 


Weather, Weather, Weather …


This is the time of year when weather can play a major role in how the real estate market performs.  Snow, rain and cold keep the less serious buyers away. But if there are homes on the market that seem interesting to you and you are serious buyer, keep a watchful eye.  These are the times when fewer buyers vying for the same home and can help you get the better deal … if there is a deal to be had! 


Good luck and as always if you have questions, I am here to help. Contact me at (312) 399-1271 or charese@menardjohnson.com