June 15, 2023

Staging Ideas for Outdoor Patios

Summer in Chicago means getting out to enjoy the beautiful weather. It’s probably no surprise that most homeowners in the Midwest consider the outdoor space the most important space in their home, especially after a long winter indoors. If you’re selling your home, designing your outdoor space to appeal to potential buyers is key.

Menard Johnson Chicago Real Estate

[ Source: Room and Board ]

There is undeniable value in creating a relaxing, 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. As it draws people in, it helps buyers see themselves entertaining friends and relaxing in that space. It’s an extension of the living space. If the home or condo is small, it provides an expansive feel.

Menard Johnson Real Estate Staging

[ Source: Freshome ]

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.

Menard Johnson Chicago Real Estate

[ Source: Better Homes and Garden ]

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.

Menard Johnson Chicago Real Estate

[ Source:Architectural Digest ]

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.

Menard Johnson Chicago Real Estate

[ Source: One Kind Design ]

Renting outdoor furniture for staging can be expensive, so if you work with us at Menard Johnson, we prefer to make suggestions using items that you already have. And if we do recommend purchasing something, we suggest cost-effective items within your budget that you can use in your next home.

Posted in Design Ideas
May 15, 2023

DIY Home Design Ideas


Simple updates around your home changes the atmosphere. Some updates, such as adding color to your garden, painting the front door, replacing an old bathroom shower door or new lighting in the kitchen, can add value to your home. And while others may not notice the new details, they will feel a freshness in the air. Whether you’re thinking of selling your home or ready for a refresh after months spent indoors, here are simple DIY ideas to help you get started.


Menard Johnson Chicago Real Estate



  • Replace cabinet hardware
  • Brighten countertops with under cabinet puck lighting
  • Add a new tile backsplash
  • Refinish kitchen cabinets

Menard Johnson Chicago Roscoe Village Real Estate



  • Refesh tile grout and re-caulk the tub 
  • Replace towel holders
  • Install tile flooring
  • Remove old wall decor
  • Add greenery / plants

Menard Johnson Chicago Roscoe Village Real Estate


Living Room 

  • Update lighting fixtures 
  • Add a ceiling fan
  • Replace window coverings with new window treatments
  • Add moldings around doorways 
  • Reupholster chairs

Menard Johnson Chicago Roscoe Village Real Estate



  • Brighten your bedding
  • Upgrade your lampshades
  • Refurnish or paint furniture, dresser
  • Paint / Wallpaper

Menard Johnson Chicago Roscoe Village Real Estate

Photo Credit: Houzz

Throughout the Home

  • Stencil stairs, walls or kitchen island
  • Replace light switch plates
  • Add a window seat in an alcove
  • Create an office in a closet
  • Convert an attic to a bedroom

Menard Johnson Chicago Roscoe Village Real Estate



  • Install new house numbers
  • Paint the front door
  • Add new landscaping touches
  • Freshen a patio or porch with planters

Are you wondering what types of updates/renovations add value to your home? Or do you need referrals for your home repairs and/or landscaping? We can help. Please contact us for reliable resources.

April 15, 2023

How to Organize a Home Office

Menard Johnson Real Estate Home Office


Now that a lot of people are working from home, the home office has become one of the most important rooms. Especially when sharing space with others. Your home may have turned into a multi-functional place with a variety of activities such as a workout center, classroom, game room, movie theater and conference room. With everyone around, it could be showing it’s inefficiencies. How do you focus with all the activity? Organization is key. 


Here are five tips to help you organize a home office:


Declutter. This is the fastest way to increase your productivity. Go through your whole office and throw out or donate items you no longer use. If you’re continually tripping over something to get to an area, remove it! Hide electronic wires and cords by snaking them behind your desk using cord clips. You want your office to flow. 


Next, clean up your desk. Go through papers and either toss or file. You can organize this quickly by creating two piles: one for things you need to take action on and another pile to review at a later time. Dedicate a space, either on your desk in trays or on a shelf in a bin or in a specified drawer for incoming items, like documents and mail. Then set regular time aside to go through and discard or file. Just as important as cleaning your actual desk is clearing your computer desktop of clutter. Organize electronic files, email and back up important information regularly. Clear the clutter, clear the mind!


Optimize the space. Once you declutter, you’ll be able to see what you have to work with. Going forward, keep clutter off your desk with nearby cubbies, hook and baskets. Drawer dividers are a great way to make sure a “catch-all” drawer doesn’t turn into a mess. Plus, you can access what you need more quickly. When storing items, group them in way for efficiency, such as keeping writing tools in one place and mail supplies in another. 


If you have paper records, use a binder or file system to categorize information such as medical, auto, pet, house, personal, etc. Straighten up book shelves and organize by subject or by color for a design look. Decorative baskets and bins are a great way to create order and a clean look to your shelving. Label shelves, bins, baskets and drawers for efficiency. Plus, if others in the house use the office, it will guide them to where things are stored without interrupting you. 


Create work zones by activity. Your main workspace will be your desk and computer. From there, create a flow to your office. Organize it in a way that makes it easy to utilize your equipment (printer, router, etc) and supplies. Little irritations can disrupt your day! Store items you rarely use. Find an accessible space to hide your router, like in a cabinet, closet or decorative basket. Different work zones can include a reference area (filing cabinet, shelves, binders), print area (printer, paper), and supply area (closet, shelves, drawers). Think of the way you move in the room and organize it to make your life easier. 


Utilize wall space. Maximize a small office with floating shelves. For bigger office spaces, floor-to-ceiling modular shelving blends naturally with the room and the extra space between shelves will open it up. Use push pin, magnetic or cork boards to organize your paper and see important notes at a glance. Create a wall pegboard with floating shelves, hanging baskets, notes and inspiring decor.


Personalize your office. You can do this by using decor from around your house or purchase new items such as artwork or a small water feature to inspire flow. Enhance your focus by painting the walls a blue color. Blue evokes a feeling of trust, logic, communication and efficiency. For creative types, yellow stimulates positivity, creativity and happiness. If you’re looking to mix it up, you can paint the walls one color and then add artwork and accents of a secondary color. Consider your light sources. Natural light is best, but you can create an overall natural feel by diffusing ambient light with lamp shades to avoid the direct glare of overhead lights. Certain scents, such as mint, lemon, lavender, rosemary, cinnamon, are also known to stimulate focus.


Home office design that flows with your routine creates efficiencies in subtle ways. Taking small, consistent steps in keeping an office organized will go a long way in setting up an environment for productivity. It clears the mind to focus on what’s most important, the task at hand.

Posted in Design Ideas
March 13, 2023

Spring Cleaning Checklist

Spring Cleaning Home


Spring is a great time to freshen up your home by decluttering and cleaning. There’s something very satisfying about living in a clean home. Especially now, with most congregating at home. Since cleaning your home after a long winter can feel overwhelming, start with these simple steps and take your time. 


Make a Plan

  • Start early in the spring, to complete the list before summer.
  • Walk through each room and make two lists – one list for the things you can do and the other for handyman repairs.
  • Organize your list into manageable chunks of time to prevent burn out. 
  • Purchase cleaning supplies. 
  • Hire a handyman for more labor intensive repairs.

Interior spring cleaning ideas:

  • Go through closets and storage to remove the clutter. Donate items you haven’t used in awhile or maybe even forgot about.
  • Deep clean areas such as baseboards, carpets and rugs, walls, light fixtures, windows and window treatments/curtains and appliances. 
  • Clean behind and under furniture. It may even inspire you to redesign the layout of the room.
  • Take a look at your utility room, laundry room and garage to see if you can organize the space in a better way. Think about the way you move around in the room.  

Exterior spring cleaning ideas:

  • Clean up the yard including raking old grass, putting down grass seed, and trimming back trees and dead branches.
  • Consider curb appeal, plan your garden and landscaping.
  • Check sewers for drainage. 
  • Dust off your lawn mower.
  • Power wash the walkways, decks and siding.
  • Take a look at the gutters and have the roof inspected. 
  • Service the furnace and air conditioning.

Do you need referrals for your home repairs and/or landscaping? Please contact us for reliable resources. 

Posted in Design Ideas
Feb. 14, 2023

Fall in Love with Your Home Again

Menard Johnson Real Esate Love Home


If you’ve been living in your home for awhile, you might not feel the excitement that you had when you first moved in. This is normal. But does it still give you a warm, fuzzy feeling? The feeling of home is best when you can step out of busy everyday life and into a calm, relaxing space. It’s a place to rejuvenate, a sanctuary to decompress. Whether curled up with a good book or entertaining family and friends, home is a place to enjoy yourself. If your home isn’t making you happy, there are simple ways to rekindle that love. 


Color affects mood. Bright colors energize, while muted colors calm. Red, orange and yellow colors tend to be uplighting, creating positive feelings. While shades of blue can feel tranquil and peaceful. Choose colors that you are drawn to. Do you have a favorite memory that makes you smile? Maybe a trip to Mexico with the vibrant colors of a sunset. Or a stay at a resort with blue, calming waters. Use memories as inspiration. Colors can be used throughout, not only on walls, but also with accents such as paintings, throws, and pillows. 


Lighting brightens the atmosphere. It impacts the way you feel. While natural light is optimal, well-modulated, diffused light can create a serene feel. Use bulbs that emit soft light instead of CFLs, which can take five minutes to warm up and can give off a harsh, white light. Soft light bulbs illuminate immediately and have a warm impact on the eyes.


Functional design creates ease. A well-designed home with rooms that ebb and flow, lend to moving freely throughout. Put things you use in places where it makes sense. For instance, keys by the front door or mugs by the coffee maker. Walking in and out of rooms, forgetting what you needed can build stress. Create flow that make sense to your routine. Your rooms should be supporting you, not stopping you. 


Embrace “Perfect Imperfection.” A room that is too designed may feel uptight and uncomfortable, losing that homey feel. The Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, encourages perfect imperfection. Add organic, imperfect finishes and different textures to engage the senses. This can create a cozy, relaxed feel. 


Infuse the air with natural, subtle scents. Plants can neutralize the air in your home. Fresh-cut flowers can delight and enliven the senses. The innate connection that we have to nature has proven that plants often have a relaxing effect on us and can help to improve our well-being. Infusing fragrance into a room using flowers, diffusers, or candles can change the overall feeling of a space. Scent is linked with memory, so bring in scents linked to happy memories, like fresh baked cookies or a warm crackling fire. 


Design a space dedicated to a hobby. Hobbies are born out of passion. When you spend time doing what you enjoy, it brings happiness. Think of it as a retreat space in your home. It could be a space for hobbies such as playing games, making art, working out, meditating or a reading nook. Spend more time doing what you love and that love will radiate throughout your home. 

Posted in Design Ideas
Jan. 6, 2023

Home Selling Tips

Menard Johnson Real Home Seller


Do you want to sell your home this spring? It's time to start planning. We have a few tips to get the ball rolling.


Interview real estate brokers. Check out broker reviews as this will provide good insight. Zillow and Yelp reviews are great to browse, along with references from past clients. Research their credentials to determine if they are a good fit for your home buying or selling goals. This real estate professional should have a wide range of knowledge about the Chicago market. They will help you understand the nuances of the property values.


Once you find a real estate broker, ask for a Custom Analysis on your home. This is more than an MLS review of tax records and comparables. It involves in-depth research, reviewing specific property details versus just pulling generic numbers. When we work with clients, we take time to research the property, taking into consideration variables such as school districts, location, renovations, the structure, age of the property and so much more.


Take a look inside and outside your home. Are there things that need to be fixed? Call a handyman to make the repairs. Be willing to invest money so your home will show at its absolute best. This is also the time to purge by donating items that you don’t use. Organize your home, clear the clutter to allow potential buyers to envision themselves in the space. For more tips, check out How to Prepare to Sell Your Home.


As a part of our process, we work with home sellers to assess the property value and how to update it to sell. We give advice on cosmetic changes such as light fixtures or paint, minimal investments that will improve your chances of selling your home faster and for asking price. We know what buyers are looking for, what the market demands and current trends. Our experience includes both new homes and home renovations, so we are up to speed on the latest styles and technology.


Another part of our process in working with sellers is to help them understand what's going on in the market and what to expect when you actually go to list your home. If you’re selling in order to purchase a new home, find out how the timing can work in your favor or against you.


If you have any real estate questions, please contact us.

Posted in Chicago
Jan. 6, 2023

Home Buying Tips

Menard Johnson Real Estate Home Buyer


The busy spring market is right around the corner. If you're in the market to buy a home, you may want to start your search now. Interest rates are low and inventory is down, so it might take a little more time to find the perfect home. If you're on the fence about a property you're viewing through online photos, go see it. There's a chance it has more to offer than what you see in the photos. Keep an open mind about exploring neighborhoods you haven't considered. You might find the perfect home for a great price in an area that turns out to be the right fit for your lifestyle. 


Here are simple tips to get you started:


Take your time. Buying a home is a big decision and not something you want to rush into. Get organized, do your prep work before you start the process. Meet with a mortgage broker to provide insight on interest rates and determine a price range you’re comfortable with. We can recommend a few good mortgage brokers, if you’re looking for one.


Research the neighborhoods that you would like to live in. You can start by searching prices online to find properties that fit within your budget. Once you’ve narrowed down the area(s), spend time in the neighborhood(s) at various times of day. Hang out in coffee shops, wander the retail and grocery stores, eat lunch or dinner in the restaurants, grab a drink at a local pub and explore public transportation. 


Get a good sense of the type of people and establishments in the area. How safe is the neighborhood? Ask around, research online - real estate brokers are technically not allowed to discuss safety issues, making it important to get a feel for the community as a whole. 


A real estate broker can share information about the history of an area, zoning restrictions (for fixer upers), local commerce and community events and media. They can tell you if an area is sleepy community or one that has a more social atmosphere. And even if you have your neighborhoods narrowed down, a broker may offer suggestions in alternate neighborhoods where you can get more bang for your buck and possibly a bigger return when you go to sell years down the road. 


If you have young children and you’d like to enroll them in school, check out the CPS (Chicago Public School) website for school rankings. Call the school and ask specific questions about the teachers, classroom size and community involvement. Then map boundaries so you know where to look for a home. 


If you have any real estate questions, please contact us..


Posted in Chicago
Nov. 4, 2022

Winterize Your Home Checklist

Winterize Chicago Home


As the weather turns colder and we spend more time indoors, it’s the perfect time to take inventory of regular maintenance and make a list of things that need to be fixed. Even if your home is running smoothly, regular maintenance is important. Preparing before the snow and cold can save costly repairs and aggravation later. The weather can change quickly, especially in Chicago!  


Property Checklist:

  • Service furnace and replace the filter
  • Clean humidifier plates or pads to ensure efficient operation
  • Inspect the roof to see that it’s draining properly
  • Clear gutters and downspouts of debris
  • Check patio, deck or outdoor space for repairs, now is the perfect time to paint
  • Scan brick properties to see if it needs tuck pointing / sealing
  • Change outdoor lightbulbs now, to avoid doing it in the cold weather
  • Test the snow blower
  • Rake, mow and trim landscaping 
  • Add mulch/compost to gardens
  • Fertilize the lawn
  • Plant flower bulbs
  • Disconnect hoses and store them away 
  • Turn off outdoor water spouts
  • Store seasonal furniture and grill
  • Sweep the chimney 
  • Test smoke detectors, CO monitors and inspect fire extinguishers
  • Check doors and windows for drafts, use caulk and weather stripping to prevent heat loss
  • Hire a handyman for bigger home repairs
  • Buy wood and curl up by the fire with a warm drink!

If you need excellent and reliable resources, such as a handyman, furnace repair, landscaping or any type of real estate advice, contact us at (773) 472-6016. 

Oct. 19, 2022

The Best Way to Determine Home Value

Real Estate Home Value


Getting an accurate property value can be challenging when using the online home estimators. The online tool may not be pulling property details from up-to-date information. Take a look at our comments about the Zillow Zestimate. 


For an accurate home value estimate, go through a real estate broker. And even then, it’s good to dig a little deeper to find out how they are getting the information. A lot of brokers will generate an automated report from the MLS based on a zip code search. This report may include property sales that are already six to twelve months old and may be comparing single family homes to condos. On any given street of the dense, urban landscape in Chicago, properties can vary drastically from new construction to homes that are over 100 years old. This can make the price difference extremely different. 


With our diverse neighborhoods and hectic pace of market trends, the Chicago real estate market is complex. At Menard Johnson, we have decades of experience in the market and a deep historical knowledge of trends. We offer a custom market analysis of your home that goes beyond a basic MLS report.


The Menard Johnson custom market analysis takes the following details into consideration:

  • Current market trends - how in demand is your type of property?
  • Historical trends - what real estate cycle is Chicago currently in?
  • Current news - what local and state government news is affecting the market?
  • Location - what are the neighborhood trends, public schools and transportation?
  • Type of property - what is the size of your home in relation to other properties in the neighborhood?
  • Property condition - what is the condition of your heating, air, plumbing, electrical, roof, ventilation, appliances, etc?
  • Overall style - what is the style of the kitchen cabinets, countertops, bathroom fixtures and flooring?
  • Floorplan - what are the room sizes, storage spaces and general layout?
  • Update and upgrades - what types of improvements have been made to the property since the purchase?
  • Building materials - what type of construction is the home’s interior and exterior?
  • Comparable properties - what have similar properties in close proximity sold for in the past six months?
  • Current homes - what’s the price of current comparable properties on the market right now?

Want to get an accurate and up-to-date property value? Or are you wondering if a rehab project will add value to your property? Please contact us for more info. 


Sept. 5, 2022

How Schools Affect Real Estate Values

Chicago Public Schools


There are a lot factors that attract home buyers to specific neighborhoods. Conveniences such as the proximity to the CTA and highways, commute time to work, nearby shopping and dining, distance to Lake Michigan or one of the many parks tend to play a role in the home buying decision. But one of the biggest reasons people choose a neighborhood is because of a good school. Even those without children see the value of a competitive school. The fact is, people are willing to pay more for a smaller house and less amenities to afford to live in these neighborhoods. 


Good schools have enticed people to certain neighborhoods for decades. Everyone wants their child to have the advantage of a quality education. CPS (Chicago Public Schools) has worked tirelessly to increase the level of education it can offer. A portion of our property taxes fund these schools. When there were fewer top-rated schools, parents struggled to enroll their kids in the good ones. The neighborhoods with the best schools tended to be unaffordable to the average home buyer. But that is now changing. 


In the past four years, public schools that were not considered to be competitive, have risen in their rankings. In fact, 5 CPS high schools are ranked among the top 100 in the nation. How did this change? Communities have rallied around the need for higher educational standards. Parents also play a huge role in their involvement and continue to expect good, solid education for their children in both primary and secondary education. 


How do you find a school that fits your family’s needs? 


Numerical metrics — school test scores, rankings, graduation rates are important but only part of the story. Look beyond the numbers at the schools' specialized programs, teaching methods and priorities. We live in a city that is rich with opportunity to learn and diverse in its offerings. Assess your child’s interests in a particular subject, such as math or music, and find schools that thrive in those areas. 


Once you’ve narrowed down your search, call the school(s) and ask specific questions about the teachers, classroom size and community involvement. Speak to other parents who have a child enrolled in that school. Ask questions on the local Facebook page. And search online for information. 


Online Resources:

School Design Impacts Learning 


A look back to the 1920s reflects how Chicago school design changed based on new ideas about child development and health. This was the decade when more public elementary schools were constructed than any other era. Explore the evolution of Chicago's public school designs to learn about rich architectural history. Plus, there were Four Features Of 1920s Chicago Public Schools That Reflect Changes In Education that were innovative in design and helped children thrive.


If you have any questions about Chicago schools, please contact us. 

Posted in Chicago