“Setting the Stage for your Next Move” As a Realtor® in Madison, that was my slogan. As a Realtor® and professional Stager®, I feel it is very apropos. When you are getting ready to move, you want to make your home look like it is on the stage in a beauty pageant. Think about when you go shopping, the neat store with a beautiful display draws you in vs the store with items strewn about.  Of course, you do not want to overdo your decorating but rather have everything clean, repaired, touched and freshened up.

I was going to write an article about getting your home ready but then this one titled       8 Tips for Adding Curb Appeal and Value to Your Home popped into my mailbox. Thus, I thought, why write a new article when someone has done it for me? I encourage you to read this article and contact me if you have any questions.

I also recommend adding a nice outdoor seating area that says welcome to our house. It makes people feel very comfortable.

If you or anyone you know is thinking of selling your home, please give me a call and we can discuss listing and staging your home so you can maximize on it’s potential and sell for more money. I’ve plenty of more tricks to welcome your home’s new owners.


5 Tips for Newlyweds Buying your 1st House

5 Tips for Newlyweds Buying your 1st House

5 Tips for Newlyweds Buying your 1st House


Life is exciting, you’ve just tied the knot and now are combining households. You need to decide what to keep, what to throw away, and how and where you want to live. These 5 tips will guide you through the home buying process.

  1. Be Realistic-  You aren’t moving into your parents’ home that they saved a lifetime to buy or build. You are moving into your 1st starter home. Prioritize your needs and wants.  Make a list with must haves and likes, the areas you like, size of home you need now combined with room to grow for potential children.  
  2. S-CocktailChecklistYour Credit Report- When you marry, your credit reports also join together. Make sure you both check your credit reports, have an open discussion, and work together to fix any blemishes before you start house hunting. Work with your creditors to raise your credit score. Planning for the future? There are 7 simple ways to raise your credit score.
  3. Shop your Lender- Do your research with different mortgage companies, banks, and credit unions. Ask about rates, 1st time homebuyers tax credits, incentives, and closing costs. Check the lenders reviews and sit down with them for a face to face meeting. This is a big step and you want to know with whom you are working and how the loan program works. Be wary of internet based lenders with possible hidden fees. Before you start looking for your first home, get pre-approved. A pre-approval lets you know how much home you can afford and allows you to lock in the lowest interest rate.
  4. 4. Don’t tie the knot and then plan to swing the hammer. In other words, don’t buy a complete “fixer-upper”. Fixing a house together puts a strain on both your marriage and finances. The only reality on HGTV are the surprises that homeowners face when remodeling and fixing up a house. HGTV never tells you how and where the homeowners come up with all the extra money to remedy the surprises. A “fixer upper” is costly and can deplete both your finances and energy when you should be focusing on building a life together. Homeowners need to budget for taxes, insurance, maintenance, and the occasional emergency such as the water heater or furnace failing.
  5. Hire a Real Estate Agent- Homebuyers need professional guidance when making big decisions. Emotions and excitement may get in the way blinding you to possible downfalls in different homes and neighborhoods. A professional real estate agent that works with first time Buyers will guide you as they would their children, helping you buy the best home for your money while negotiating the best dollar amount for your purchase.

Creating Ambiance with Lights


Properly used lighting combines style and function to your room while the design makes it distinctively yours. Correctly placing lights in layers serves different functions in the room including overall lighting, accent lighting, and task lighting.

Today, we often use can lights to illuminate the room while providing task lighting at the same time. Can lighting definitely serves a purpose, is relatively inexpensive, and takes the onus out of having to select lights. Can lighting also has a larger arc eliminating shadows and keeps the room from looking cluttered. But can lighting alone doesn’t give the room a focal point and lacks warmth.

Using chandeliers, sconces, and lamps warms up the room, provides layers of light, and makes a home expressively yours. Choosing the right fixtures helps to define your focal point such as the fireplace and complements the room. Wall sconces glowing softly alongside windows, at the sides of the fireplace, or at the entrance to the room are welcoming and create the feeling of elegance.

Chandeliers have always been classic features in the living room and dining room. Ceiling fans often replace the chandeliers in homes built with the open concept featuring a great room versus a formal living space . When designing a home to markedly reflect your personality consider putting chandeliers in surprising places such as the powder room, master bath, or closet.

Lighting should reflect the ambiance you want in each room. Dimmer switches and the correct bulbs both play a part in setting the mood. I’ve included some of my favorite lighting pictures from our Midwest Design Homes and Jon Huss Custom Homes Parade and Showcase Homes.

Most importantly remember, the cost of lighting doesn’t have to break the bank to set your humble abode apart from your friends and neighbors homes.


The 5th Wall

Years ago, actually more than a decade ago, I tuned into the Christopher Lowell Show on the Discovery Channel several times a week. Besides encouraging the DIY’s, Christopher spoke daily about the 7 layers of design, emphasizing the 5th wall.

For many years, the 5th wall; the ceiling was often forgotten or just painted ceiling white. Although if we reach back far enough to 1512 and Michelangelo’s’ painting of the Sistine Chapel, we can see the beauty of decorating the ceiling.  Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel mural and sculptures far above our heads reminds us to look to the heavens for hope, guidance, and to meditate on the path of our lives.I remember laying on my back as a child, contemplating the swirls on my bedroom ceiling. Trends in decorating the ceiling come and go as do all decorating fads. In my lifetime I’ve seen various transitions from the white plaster swirls of my childhood to the horrible popcorn finish, to beams, crown molding, coffered ceilings, to several layers of the tray ceiling. Cathedral, tray, planked, and coffered ceilings are hot in today’s’ new construction.

Transform a plain room to one with the wow factor by using a ceiling treatment. It doesn’t have to be elaborate to create interest. A tray ceiling with rope lighting creates romance and ambiance. I especially love it when the ceiling is painted with various tones of the same color creating depth and drama.                                                                    tray ceilings with rope lighting

Coffered ceilings can remain an elegant white, be richly stained, or paint the ceiling first and then add the coffered for a dramatic effect.Tin tiles have made a resurgence for ceiling decor over the bar area or the kitchen island as seen here in the Jon Huss Custom Homes Showcase house.

Since ceiling decor trends come and go, do what feels right to you and it will last forever.Believe it or not, we often look up so it is best not to forget the 5th wall as Christopher Lowell would tell you.

Just in Time for the Snow


Just in time for winter, snow and the arctic blast our 3 season room is completed. We started planning the room last February when we met with 4 different contractors to draw up plans and give us bids. Unfortunately the process took us a lot longer than we ever anticipated as some of the contractors dropped the ball, changed jobs, and decided that they did not want to build the room. We wanted a custom built room , not one built from a kit. Once we finally settled on a contractor we were excited to begin. Unfortunately for us, it was to be a long wait.

Our 16 x 16 ft. three season room was to be started the third week of August. I don’t think we started until sometime in October. Luckily for us and for our contractor, we had a unusually warm fall. Of course we received quite a bit of rain which also set things back a bit. We received at least an inch of rain on the day the pilings were dug and poured.20161221_145125

Our contractor doesn’t like mistakes and believes in measuring twice and ordering once. Therefore our windows were ordered after everything was framed putting us back another couple of weeks. We can’t complain about that because the windows fit perfectly. Even though the room consists of mostly windows, our contractor took special care to thoroughly insulate the roof and the floor. Even with only a small electric fireplace and the 12 below zero temperatures that we received last week our room only dropped to 42 degrees. Not ideal for the Luxury Vinyl floor but so far it is working.


Our 3 season room was supposed to be done by Halloween, then by Thanksgiving, but was just completed last week. When building the client must have patience. The delays while he worked on other jobs is really our only complaint. But we have experienced that before as contractors try to satisfy several customers at once. The wait was worth it. We love the room with the high cathedral ceilings and clear story windows. It is so bright and on a sunny day reaches temperatures in the mid 70’s even with the minus zero temps with 20 below wind chills we received this past weekend. It is beautiful at night with the glow of our lights shining on the glistening white snow. We love the white trim against the lavender/blue paint that we chose.

Our three season room already received several compliments and we feel like we are on vacation as we drink our Sunday morning coffee, read the paper , and listen to soft jazz.

Patience Wasn’t My Middle Name, But…



Really patience wasn’t my middle name or necessarily my strongest suit. But I think I deserve a name change, or at least a gold star. Why? Our 3 season room project continues, continues and continues.

Every time we see some progress in our new build, we seem to take a few steps back. I ask my contractor,”So, how are we looking?” His answer, “A few more weeks.” As I mutter under my breath or at least think I’ve heard that several times now, he says, “I seem to keep saying that.” Yes, I think, you do. And not only am I anxious to finally finish the project, we’d like to use the room while there is still a bit of warmth in the air, I’m tired of the dust and dirt entering my home. Riley, my dog, has gotten used to the constant company, loud radio playing NPR, and the hammering and sawing. I think he is going to have withdrawals when our contractor leaves for good.

It looks like we are getting close. The ceiling and drywall are hung and the light skip troweling on the walls looks like it is completed. Unfortunately the ceiling needs another coat of paint and I think there are at least a hundred nail holes to fill. We still need flooring, trim, a light installed, and gutters.

Now with the shorter days, it is dark when I get home and I can’t really asses the progress since we don’t have any lights.

Our patience is wearing so thin that we took tray tables out there and our patio chairs so we could enjoy our weekend coffee and bask in the heat. Unfortunately, this past weekend it was so messy that we couldn’t even do that. But speaking of the heat, once the sun is up and the sky clears, the room heats up nicely.

Patience when building or remodeling is a must. As I have mentioned in previous posts, we have done both. Twice we remodeled our kitchens. We were told by the contractors to go ahead and gut the kitchens. We worked hard, completed our tasks, only to have the whole project delayed by 6 weeks. We are experiencing a huge shortage of contractors and trades people so expect delays in the building process. Plus, be nice to your contractor. They have so much work that if you don’t respect their time, are too demanding, and pushy, you might really regret it in the end.

So calling me Susie Patience is ok. And, I do provide my contractor with homemade cookies every once in awhile. Is the delay, dust, and a bit of frustration worth it when building? You bet! We will absolutely have a room that we love. Our contractor has done a great job in designing it and is picky about his work. I’m including a few pictures and my next post will be of a completed 3 season room.



Does Your Home Speak to You?

Does your house speak to you? No, I’m not crazy, but I believe if your house does not speak to you something is wrong. I’ve always told my clients; whether I was working as a designer at Steinhafels, a Realtor or a new home designer for Midwest Design Homes/Jon Huss Custom Homes, your house must say, “Welcome Home, this is your sanctuary, this is where you are meant to be.”

My past Realtors used to get frustrated with me when we drove up to a house and my immediate reaction was to drive on. If the front of the house didn’t attract me, it definitely wasn’t worth my time or theirs. The funny thing is, I never loved the front of our Madison home because it was too dark and in a very dark wooded neighborhood. But it warranted a second look and ultimately a purchase because the owners landscaped the yard with bright impatiens and a charming sundial (which much to my dismay they kept.) The little things can really make your house say , “Welcome Home.” Originally our Madison home had a charming tree growing out of the lower deck and a spiral staircase from the lower deck to the upper deck. I found both charming at the time. We won’t discuss here how they both became an issue. I often bought homes because the quirky things grabbed me; such as a little built in arched telephone nook, corner cupboards, or a grand entrance.

Do you notice how holiday decorations warm up the front of a house and make you want to visit? A well placed lit lamp in a front window creates a feeling of coziness and warmth. For some reason when I see a light in the front window I think the home and it’s owners must be warm, friendly, and about to serve a comforting meal. Again, I am not crazy, it is just an illusion that I hope is true. A home with gables, front porches, the right mix of exterior colors, or well planned landscaping may also say, “Welcome Home, this is where you are meant to be.”

Every home my husband and I have bought possess large windows and the ability to see the backyard when walking through the front door. We love to bring the outside in; especially as we live in the north. Over-sized and well placed windows, a signature of MDH and Jon Huss Custom Homes, help the homes feel bright and spacious, inviting people to sit down in a sunbeam.

If you are thinking about building a new home, drive around and look at houses paying special attention to the ones that make you want to stop and step inside. What is it about them that attracts you? Do they have the same ,”Welcome Home” feeling on the inside. Make sure to incorporate the elements when building, buying, or decorating your home. These elements need to also be integrated in the interior design of your home. It doesn’t matter what kind of architecture or design you prefer, it must speak to you personally.

Please share the features in a house that say welcome home to you.