Accent Islands

Updating your kitchen is one of the best investments you can make in your home – and it doesn’t have to break the bank! Sometimes just updating hardware and appliances is enough. If you’re feeling more ambitious, knocking down a few walls to create an open floor plan can do wonders for the look and feel of your home. Adding an island or peninsula is a huge upgrade! They add more counter and cabinet space, and free-standing islands only cost a couple of hundred dollars. The trickiest part is getting this additional cabinet space to match your existing cabinets. The good news is that accent islands are in!

Take a look at some of these professionally-designed kitchens with “accent islands”:

pro kitchen 3

pro kitchen 2

pro kitchen 4

pro kitchen 1

Instead of the island matching the cabinets, use a contrasting color that goes with the rest of the design, or pulls together colors from the floor, walls, or even adjacent rooms. You can even do a fun pop of color! This not only gives you more creativity, but allows you more freedom when designing your new kitchen.


In this home we flipped, the cabinets were originally very dark. We painted them white to really brighten up the space. Instead of also painting the new peninsula white to match, we coordinated with the flooring – a beautiful medium maple hardwood. The peninsula blends right in while pulling together the colors of the backsplash and countertops. It makes the new open floor plan feel luxurious and modern.

6th street kitchen 1 6th street kitchen 2 6th street kitchen 3


This is another example of an accent piece. The existing cabinets were a beautiful rich warm tone, but very difficult to match. We added the island with the extended countertop to give lots of extra space, but instead of pulling our hair out trying to make a custom stain to match….

freemansville kitchen before cabinet

…we accented the cabinetry with a creamy off-white satin paint. This color goes well with the floor tile and pulls in the lighter colors of the walls and trim. The kitchen now has a much lighter, airy, and sophisticated style.

IMG_1083 IMG_1082 IMG_1079


Don’t be afraid of a little DIY! Not only can you give yourself a kitchen makeover to enjoy, but this upgrade will have a huge impact when selling your home. Contact me for a complimentary staging and design consultation!

Your friend,


Popcorn Ceilings Begone!

You know you’re in a mid-20th century house when you see it:

popcorn ceiling

What the heck is that stuff on the ceiling?

From Wikipedia:

A popcorn ceiling (slang), also known as cottage cheese ceiling or Stucco ceiling, is a term for a spray-on or paint-on ceiling treatment used from the late 1950s into the 1980s in American residential construction. It was the standard for bedroom and residential hallway ceilings for its bright, white appearance, ability to hide imperfections, and acoustical characteristics.

This textured material was made of chalk and wallboard compound, but some mixtures contained asbestos. When asbestos was banned in 1978, suppliers switched to using Styrofoam. Nevertheless, the popcorn ceiling trend was on its way out.

Popcorn ceilings are very difficult to paint and repair. They also make your home look dated. Removing this trendy texture can drastically increase the appearance and value of your home!

First, you should test the material to see if there is asbestos present. If so, STOP! This is when you call in a professional. If you’re in the clear, you can handle this one on your own!

popcorn ceiling before 1 before

popcorn ceiling before 2 before

Here’s my trick: Mix 2 gallons warm water and 7 oz. PIRANHA Concentrate (a concentrate wallpaper and paste remover, available at home improvement stores). Put the mixture in a pressurized garden sprayer so it’s easy to spray on the ceiling. Spray a small corner of the room until it’s saturated. Let it sit for 10 minutes. If necessary, spray again, until it gets soft. Next, use a wallpaper blade to lightly scrape the texture off the ceiling. Wipe off any little pieces or residue with a large, damp sponge. Continue across the room, spraying, scraping, and wiping as you go.

(When you begin, test in small area first, because there have been a few times when the popcorn ceiling had been painted so many times, this mixture could not penetrate and soften the texture. In these instances, we do our best to do ceiling repairs and match the texture as best we can, using various available products, and sometimes even sponging the product on to blend it into the original finish. We make sure to paint the ceiling flat white to reduce the appearance of the popcorn texture.)

popcorn ceiling after 1 after scraping and spackling

After removing the popcorn texture from the ceiling, spackle where needed. Make sure to give the ceiling a good sanding and wipe down. Prime, and paint a flat white for that fresh, new look!

popcorn after 2 after painting

popcorn after after painting

A beautiful, finished product! This project definitely takes some elbow grease, but it’s worth it! Welcome your home to the 21st century.

Your friend,





Picture Perfect

Janice and Leonard thought selling their home in a lovely country community would be easy. The house is newer construction, and has great amenities including a whirlpool tub, a vaulted great room, mudroom, fenced-in yard, and big above ground pool. It has the classic 3-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom set-up; it is the perfect family home. This is why the couple grew worried as their home sat on the market (with another Realtor they chose based on their advertising) month after month, even after lowering the asking price. After 6 months of inactivity, Janice and Leonard reached out to me. They remembered my energy level from when I was the listing agent for the builder that built their home in 2003.

The first thing I noticed about the listing was the poor photographs taken of the home. There wasn’t nearly enough interior shots. In addition, the home wasn’t staged. Staging a home is vital because it makes the home visually appealing. The keys to staging a home are de-cluttering, positioning furniture and decor, and updating or neutralizing color and lighting.

pond view old living room  before

pond view living room   after

pond view old living room 2 before

pond view living room 2 after

For Janice and Leonard’s home, this included paring down all of the rooms. In the family room, we removed the extra chair, rearranged the end table, decluttered the tables and mantle, added new throw pillows, and opened the curtains to let in natural light and show off the sliding glass doors. Doesn’t it look so much more inviting?

pond view old kitchen 2 before

pond view kitchen afterpond view old kitchen before

pond view dining room after

In the kitchen and dining room, we cleared off the counters, decluttered, and got new window treatments. The most extensive (but still easy and budget-friendly) change we made was updating the stick-on tile kitchen floor to a new laminate that blended well with the counter tops and hardwood floors in the rest of the home. I also made sure to get additional angles and more pictures of this important living space.

pond view old bedroom before

pond view bedroom after

In the master bedroom, we spruced it up with new, neutral bedding, linens, and curtains. I also got a much better angle of the bedroom when taking the new photographs.

pond view old bathroom before

pond view bathroom vanities after

pond view bathroom after

pond view bathroom tub after

We also made sure to highlight the luxury bathroom. The original photos of the bathroom didn’t even include the whirlpool tub! Some new towels and master bath ensemble made all the difference in showing off the space.

Just look at the difference! These small but effective changes allowed buyers to get a much better feel for the home.

It was then my job to re-photograph the home to show off its best attributes! I use a professional Canon camera with a speed light flash (which ensures accurate color and correct lighting – you can really see the difference in the before and after photos) and simple photo-editing tools, making sure to get plenty of different shots and angles. This can make a huge difference to buyers when they shop online; there are so many choices out there and your home has to stand out! I also wrote a new property description that connects with buyers while highlighting the home’s features.

When we all agreed the house was ready for showtime, we put the home back on the market. After just 3 weeks, it was sold at 98% of its new asking price (which was slightly increased from the previous Realtor’s list price).

When we decided to put our house up for sale, we went with a realtor whose advertising caught our attention. We had our house up for sale 6 months with this realtor. Our home didn’t sell and we were getting very discouraged. Finally we decided to call Michele. She came in and right away mentioned some things we could do to accentuate our home and make it more marketable. She worked with us until we all thought the house was ready to be put back up on the market. With a little effort on our part and some small changes suggested by Michele, our property was once again up for sale. Michele took many beautiful photos of our home and along with a wonderful description, our listing was enhanced. This time, our home only took 3 weeks to find a great buyer! Michele’s talents at getting a home to looks its best, along with her positive, enthusiastic personality, made for quick sale and some extremely happy clients! – Janice and Leonard W.

pond view sold

It’s amazing how just a few aesthetic changes and thoughtful photography can impact the salability of a home. It’s all in the details!

Your friend,


Selling Grandma’s Stone Rancher

This story illustrates how a few simple DIY changes can drastically improve your home’s value and marketability.

When Toni had to sell her grandparents’ home, she was a little overwhelmed with the process of preparing the home for market. She lived 2 hours away. How was she going to handle this process?

She contacted a local agent. After a walk-through, Toni was told she should not expect more than $100,000 for the home. She was disappointed with that opinion of value, but began cleaning up the house to get ready to put on the market.

maple front

After some thought, Toni decided to contact me after hearing some word-of-mouth recommendations. I immediately saw a ton of potential in the classic stone rancher. I mean come on, it has a pool and a sunroom! This is a perfect family home in a great location. There was no reason Toni couldn’t sell the home for a higher price than what she was originally told; it just needed to be showcased to highlight its attributes. I advised her to make a few simple but vital changes that would help the home meet or exceed the buyers’ expectations.

To start, it needed a deep cleaning. Some good old-fashioned elbow grease took care of that! Toni updated key light fixtures in the dining area and kitchen. A few of the rooms got a fresh coat of paint in neutral colors to lighten up the space and modernize wooden paneling. The kitchen got new laminate flooring to replace an original old laminate floor. The most noteworthy difference was tearing up the old carpet to expose the beautiful original hardwood floors. Even though they need a little bit of love, it still made a huge difference in the home’s marketability because hardwood floors are in! About 4 months and $2,000 later, the house was ready to be put on the market.

maple front room

maple kitchen

Toni’s grandparents’ home sold in just 19 days for $159,900. That’s almost a 60% increase in value from the original estimate! Toni was ecstatic.

I was referred to Michele through my local realtor when I was looking to place my grandparents’ home on the market. She was my second realtor, whom I’m glad we found because the first realtor was no where near as experienced, friendly, punctual, or flexible due to my living two hours from the home listed. Michele has been understanding and has explained every aspect of the entire process from day one.- Tonice P.

Sometimes spending a few thousand dollars and investing a little time and energy can dramatically improve how quickly your home will sell and the price it will sell for. Don’t be afraid of a little DIY!

IMG_5296 (2)

Your friend,


My Friend Michele

When it comes time to sell your home, the process of preparing it for market can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be! You can find an experienced local Realtor who can tell you what your house needs to get you the price you want in your local real estate market. Or, you can come to me, your friend Michele! I always ensure a client’s home is staged to highlight its value and showcase its best features. Sometimes a few small changes can give you a huge return on investment! I use my knowledge of the real estate market and my intuitive eye for design to maximize results.

I have been in love with real estate since the mid-1980’s. When I could not find a home I liked where I was living in Indiana, I decided to build. Working with developers, I built my first home, a rancher, in 1985. But shortly after, I decided to move to Pennsylvania to be near my family. I hired a realtor to sell my home in Indiana. After 3 months, my house sat on the market unsold. I decided to put a “For Sale by Owner” sign in my yard and I sold it myself!

After moving to PA, I purchased my first flip in 1987. With the help of my parents, I made a quick $7,000. Not bad! Especially back then as a young 20-something. My real estate Broker told me I had an “eye” for seeing the potential in homes, and recommended that I seriously consider selling real estate as a career. With a few years of experience with a national real estate developer and a Bachelor’s degree in business under my belt, I took courses and attained my Real Estate License in February 1988.

Since then I have become a successful listing and buyer agent, earning national sales awards each year (check out my bio and website for more on my background and experience). In addition, I have continued to be an avid house flipper. I flip one to three homes per year. I’ve dealt with everything from estate sales and foreclosures to abandoned properties and fixer-uppers. I have a passion for turning a sad, tired, neglected house into a happy, cheery, welcoming home – without breaking the bank! Throughout my three decades of experience, I have learned many “tricks of the trade” and how to stay inside “the budget.”

I especially enjoy using my “eye” for design and redesign to help my clients ready their homes for market, ensuring quick sales and the best price possible. We choose fixes that maximize results, from general de-cluttering to staging, which may include removing or rearranging furniture, painting, purchasing or positioning small decorative items, and improving exterior curb appeal. I take great care when photographing each home, being sure to highlight important qualities and design features. My client’s success is my success.

I wanted to start this blog so I could share some of these tricks and some of my stories. I often have people referred to me because someone told them, “Oh, my friend Michele could help you with that!” Now I want to share my knowledge of the real estate market, design ideas, renovation tips, and inexpensive improvement concepts with you, too! I hope these success stories inspire to tackle your own projects, from old tile baths and hardwood floors to popcorn ceilings and wood paneling.

I welcome your comments, questions, and feedback. I’d love to hear about your own ideas and experiences. Let’s have some fun!

Your friend,


michele profile