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Older Homes: Restoring, Remodeling and Home Staging by Sunflower Creations

20 Dec

IMG_9387(1940’s Germantown home staging by Sunflower Creations)

Although we spend a lot of our time on new construction projects, we always get a special thrill out of working with older homes.  For better, or for worse, old homes are chock-full of reminders of the past.  Sure, you’re going to encounter some lumps and bumps and imperfections–  This is the character, the charm, the “cozy” factor!

blog2(Logan Square Home Staging by Sunflower Creations)

If you are an old home-lover, you may fall into the category of Preservationist.  Or, if you are like me, you may appreciate the old bones and cosmetic details, but opt for the conveniences of modern living.  So, I thought we’d talk a little bit about both options, provide some resources, and share some pics of our older home stagings.  Thanks for reading, and feel free to share your opinions and experiences!

The Basics of Old Home Buying

It really goes with out saying that in any home purchase, you should always bring in a licensed and qualified home inspector.  But in older homes, you will want to pay special attention to the functionality of the existing mechanisms.  One hundred years ago, people did not consume like we do today, so be realistic about the capabilities of the plumbing, electrical, heating/cooling systems.  Whether you seek to preserve or remodel, keep in mind that these basic functions of the home can dictate lifestyle, and be costly changes.  (Ex:  Will you be happy to turn off the air conditioner while you blow your hair dry?)  Pay close attention to the condition of windows, flooring, foundation, chimney, framing, and roof.  Also, be wary of grading/drainage issues that may result in pooling water damage, and could contribute to mold growth, and check for asbestos, which was commonly used in insulation before 1960.blog1(Broomall Home Staging by Sunflower Creations)

So, after reading all of those troubling possibilities listed above, why on earth would anyone want to preserve an old home?  Because we love projects!  If you think working around the house sounds like a fun way to spend your weekends, keep reading…  If you think learning history in a hands-on way sounds interesting, scroll on.  And, if you would rather post Facebook photos of your new circuit breakers than your cat, hang with us!

Restoration Resources

So, if you are a preservationist, you are looking to celebrate the history of your home.  Design-wise, you will probably opt for more “period” specific furniture, accessories, and window treatments.

A major cosmetic detail in proper preservation is paint color, both interior and exterior.  Sherwin-Williams has this invaluable section on their website that actually categorizes your home by period/style, and then provides paint color combination suggestions for walls, trim, and accents.

blog5(Suburban Home Staging in Rydal by Sunflower Creations)

A general theme that we hear in older home staging projects is that, charming as they may be, many old wood floors suffer from the “patchwork” phenomenon from many years of different owners and quick-fix repairs.  In some cases, a very simple cosmetic option is a nice big area rug.

IMG_9378(1940’s Germantown Home Staging by Sunflower Creations)

But, in terms of flooring restoration, there are many opinions out there about the best course of action.  OldHouseOnline is a great starting point for your venture because it discusses various types of wood flooring and various types of equipment you will need.    But, if you make the decision to take on the project, consult professionals.  You do want to be sure that the sander you use is appropriate for the type of wood.  Also, tongue and groove flooring restoration can differ from face-nailed flooring.  And, getting the finish right will highly impact your end result.  (BTW, OldHouseOnline also has an awesome section on a vast number of different “restoration how-to’s”.  Definitely worth bookmarking if you are into this…)

blog11(Rittenhouse Square Condominium Staging by Sunflower Creations)

On a final restoration note, I wanted to mention woodwork.  This is a project that I have taken on in the past, and I will be the first to tell you that it is a biggie.  The end result will be worth it every time you look at it, but it is methodical, labor intensive, messy and detail-oriented.  Since many homes built before 1960 may contain lead paint, you will want to seal off the room, wear a dust mask and gloves at all times, and keep away kids and pets.  First step is to treat a small, descrete area of the woodwork with denatured alcohol to determine whether the existing surface material is water or oil-based.  The process will vary a little in terms of materials, depending on what type of surface covering you are stripping.  And, again, you will definitely want to ask questions at the hardware store.  But, basically, from here you will strip the old paint with a chemical agent, scrape the remaining residue, clean up the debris, stain your raw woodwork, and seal to protect.  Simple, right?!  For more details, check out This Old House.

Going for the Update

On the other hand, if you decide to go for the modern spin on your older home, you have infinite possibilities…

One major difference between older and newer homes is the tendancy toward open floor plans.  In older homes, rooms were small, often for the sake of heating each space with its own fireplace.  It is very possible to knock out walls and create open spaces in an older home, but be sure that you know which ones are supporting the structure of the house (and stay away from those!).

Here’s a few cosmetic ways to open up space:

Utilize the color wheel- Paint ceilings white, and choose cool, light colors for accent walls.  (And, while we are on the topic, be sure to use a flat or eggshell paint finish.  A less shiny finish will hide more of the unevenness in older walls.)  Lighter color flooring materials will brighten the room, also making it feel larger.

Play visual mind tricks-  Hang long accent panel curtains as high as possible above windows.  The long vertical lines will make the ceilings seem higher, and the rooms more spacious.  And, if you are installing directional flooring, you can create the feeling of more space by the direction that you lay your new floor.

IMG_9373(1940’s Germantown Home Staging by Sunflower Creations)

Now, if you love your older home, you obviously have some affection for things antique and vintage.  But, if you are like me, you might want to get eclectic with some modern surprises.

blog3(Fishtown Home Staging by Sunflower Creations)

Consider updating with contemporary light fixtures.  Switch out kitchen/bathroom drawer pulls with something artsy or something clean-lined.  A glass/ceramic tile or hammered tin backsplash is an excellent little addition that is not terribly expensive or invasive.

blog4(Mount Airy Home Staging by Sunflower Creations)

Here’s some other simple and complex renovation ideas to think about:

Well, that does it for today–  Thanks so much for looking!

…Whether ultra-modern new construction, a charming rehab, or a traditional redesign–We understand the subtle differences.

Our “look” helps homes sell quickly and our process keeps clients coming back time and again.

If you need help with home staging or interior design services, please contact us:

Ali Kutner, Home Staging Coordinator


or visit us at Sunflower Creations Home

sfc logo copy

Philadelphia Interior Design: 1/2 Bath

26 Nov

One of the things that keeps me up at night is the state of our environment.  I find myself in a constant internal battle over what products to use, am I recycling enough, could I do more?  I’ve learned that I may not be able to change it on my own but the little steps I take to improve myself can help in a big way, especially if those around me take notice and (quite frankly) give a damn.

So it is with great pride that I present one of my recent interior design projects which incorporates up-cycled items and low voc paint.  The great thing about this project is we turned an unused mudroom into a 1/2 bath, no old bathroom demo.  And my heart is glad 🙂

If you live in Philadelphia you must get over to Philadelphia Salvage located in Mt Airy. Need an extra push to get over there?  Thursday nights are ‘Thirsty Thursdays’ whiskey and beer while you shop.  What more could you ask for?!

We cut the wood for the shelving from a 4ft piece of wood reclaimed from a 150 yr old barn (purchased at Philadelphia Salvage).  We did the math, the tree probably started growing in the 1600’s.  Like whoa.  We created the brackets using some plumbing pipe, floor flange and cap.  Vintage bottles and milk glass vase purchased at Phantastic Phinds (great home consignment store in Flourtown).

I also found these metal baskets at Philly Salvage and they fit perfectly in the reused sink cabinet’s side shelves.  There’s not much space in this bath so instead of a hand towel bar we used one of the metal baskets to hold fabric napkins for drying hands.  Bonus, wash them and use them over and over!

We left the exposed brick on one wall to add to the industrial/reclaimed feel.  The bathroom door was salvaged from previous renovations in the house.  A few coats of paint and some genius DIY barn door hardware and it works great.

We finished it off with a coat of low voc paint in a soft gray and some homemade curtains.  I thought the black and white vertical pattern would help draw the eye up, hence making the small room feel larger.

All hardware is oil rubbed bronze.  Flooring is a Dal Tile porcelain tile in a concrete gray.

I’m so excited this project is completed and that it came together so well!


The Staging Chick

“Be the change you want to see in the world” -Gandhi

Need an interior designer in Philadelphia?  Email

Germantown Home Staging

12 Apr

Two years ago in September my husband and I purchased our first home.  We then spent the next four months completely renovating the entire house.  This was full on construction and we weren’t able to move in until December.  It was a crazy journey but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  We learned so much and worked our butts off.  Now we have a house that we are so proud of.

Our Home Before

Our Home During

Our Home After

That being said I have a true appreciation for people who can take a beaten down home and rehab it into something beautiful.  Some people like my husband and I are DIY’ers and some do it as a way to make money.  Either way I know it isn’t easy.  You walk in with a plan but once you open up those old walls new fixes you never dreamed of start popping up!

This property in Germantown is one of those complete gut rehabs.  I was able to find before pictures online and I am so impressed to see how far it came.  Here’s what I did…


Sun room, Living room, Dining room, 1/2 bath and EIN kitchen


***Please call for a complimentary walk thru and proposal

Simple and sweet!  I know this home will make someone very happy.  My favorite part about this property is the tile in the 1/2 bath…I may just use it in my own home some day!

If you’re interested in this property visit the listing or email


The Staging Chick

***What I’m listening to: ‘Everywhere I go’ Lissie

Free home staging tips

10 Feb

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Refurbished retro light fixture

4 Feb

As I have mentioned 1,000,000 times, I love mid-century modern everything.  So, when I came across this fixture in a client’s home I was in love.  Unlike love at first sight I tend to have vision at first sight.  Having been in the residence I was updating/staging for round-about 40 years, this fixture needed some TLC.

Let me start by saying, if you are an antique collector or dealer you may want to shield your eyes.  I understand what I do may affect the value of these trash-to-treasure finds.  However, it’s better than sitting in a landfill.  And I digress…

When I think of art deco and mid-century modern I think bold colors, high gloss and architectural lines.  We had to update the light fixtures throughout the space in order to get it ready for sale.  So, rather than toss this I claimed it as my next project.  After passing by it on my way to throw in the laundry I had a vision, ORANGE!

The light requires light bulbs designed for night lights, which come in clear or white.  I could just picture the orange with the white bulbs…oh what a treat!  Off I went to Home Depot for high gloss Rustoleum orange paint.

Here are the steps to refurbish a brass light fixture:

1. Clean the surface (using mild soap and water/tack cloth)

2. Sand with a medium grit sandpaper (this allows the paint to adhere to the surface)

3. Prime the surface with a white primer (again, this will help the paint stick)

4. Spray the fixture (I do three coats to make sure it really gets on there) Also, fill the light bulb holes with paper towel scraps so the paint doesn’t get in there and cover the wires.

5. Spray with a poly sealer (I actually skipped this step, so it’s really optional)

Very easy and gratifying!  This fixture is for sale on my etsy shop and can be shipped anywhere in the US.  I would love to keep this for myself but unfortunately doesn’t fit with the style of my current home.

I’m also available for commissioned pieces and can help you refurbish any pieces you may have lying around your home.  Email for more info.

Love you guys!


The Staging Chick

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Before & After: Chalkboard Table

3 Feb

With the winter hitting us so hard I’ve been hibernating and getting creative.  I have a laundry list of projects to finish/start and I’ve been knocking them off left and right.  Oh the feeling of accomplishment! 

The idea for this cute table came a few months ago.  I picked this table up at  a thrift store in the summer with thoughts of using it in a staging.  It never made it that far and sat as our dining room table until a few weeks ago.  I had a ‘ah ha’ moment one Friday night when my husband and I had a night in of wine and games. 

As we sat playing at this table I thought how great it would be if we could keep score right on the table!  AH HA, and the chalkboard table was born.  I love this table and think it would be great for a child’s play room or even in an office.  Think of all the things you could do with it!  I had some fun thinking of my own ideas. 

This table is for sale in my etsy shop for local Philadelphia pickup. 

Making this was very simple.  I sanded the top of the table and applied three coats of chalkboard paint that I picked up at Home Depot.  To ensure a smooth finish on the base I spray painted it with a flat black Rustoleum paint.  Simple (and cheap) as that! 

Hope you like it.  I’ll be back in a few days with ANOTHER before and after so keep checking back or follow me on twitter / facebook / blog


The Staging Chick

Refurbished antique chair

28 Jan

As you all know I LOVE turning trash-to-treasure.  With my hectic schedule as of late I haven’t had much time to work on my side projects.  However, love it or hate it we were hit with 17″ of snow the other day and I was snowed in which allowed me some much needed ‘free’ time.

This beauty has been sitting in my basement for over a year…I know YIKES!  My friends found her in someone’s trash and thought of me.  How sweet 😉  I’ve really fought hard for her.  I can’t tell you how many times my (loving) husband threatened to sneak her into the trash.  I had a vision and I wasn’t going to let it pass.

I removed a few layers of fabric from the seat and lightly sanded the wooden frame.  After two coats of paint I roughed up the edges to give it a worn look.  To make it more ‘authentically’ old I used an antique glaze from Lowes which gave it a dirty brownish tint.  Finally I sealed it with a coat of satin poly and recovered the seat with some linen fabric and upholstery nails.

So without further ado I give you: Rick Allen.  Yeah, incase you didn’t notice my chair only has one arm.  I chose to leave it there in part because I think it is interesting and in part because I want to call her Rick Allen (the drummer from Def Leppard).

If you are in the Philadelphia area and you would like to purchase this chair please email


The Staging Chick

DIY Shabby Chic Desk

6 Dec

As I was preparing to write about my most recent DIY trash-to-treasure my friend over at First Home Makeover gave me the heads up that one of my past trash-to-treasures was featured on BetterAfter!  I love blogging about my DIY adventures.  I’m finding less time to spend on these projects but when I do I’m so happy!  It’s even more fulfilling when other people want to see what I’m working on.

Desk Before

So without further ado, here’s what I’ve been working on!  I found this in front of my neighbor’s house a few months ago.  My loving husband was hoping I wouldn’t go outside and see it, but he lost.  Glad he did!  This piece is an amazing antique.  There were four leaves that went to this table and to be honest I’m not sure how it worked.  I left the leaves behind and decided this would work best as a console or small writing desk.

Desk After

The top of this piece pulled apart so my first step was to secure it together with wood glue.  Then I used a two-part epoxy to smooth over the seam.  After a run with the sander and a little cleaning with mineral spirits it was time for paint.

Desk After

I decided to paint the entire dresser a cream color (Sandstone Cove: Behr) and highlight the accents in my favorite sage (Silver Sage: Behr).  I painted the dresser in the cream first.  Then I went back in and hand painted the accents.

The final step was adding these adorable knobs (Homegoods).

I love the way this turned out.  I think it would be perfect for a kids room or as a sofa table in a shabby chic home!  This piece is currently for sale.  Email for more info!

I hope you love this as much as I do!


The Staging Chick

Daily inspiration

15 Nov

Inspiration and genius–one and the same.  Victor Hugo

Being a business owner I’ve learned that it’s really hard to map out a set schedule for my day.  I can wake up on Monday morning with no appointments and have two scheduled by 10 am.  I love that about my life but if I don’t stay on top of everything I can get bogged down with catching up and lose my sights.

I truly believe it is crucial to stay inspired, to keep up with whats going on in the world and to stay connected.  Not only in business but in life.  I’ve been thinking a lot over the last week about my days in high school and college.  Being an artist I was always doing something creative whether it be painting, re decorating my room or writing.  I obviously had much more free time but I can’t let time be my excuse for slacking off now.

With all this thinking and reflecting I had an epiphany.  To keep myself tuned in I’ve decided to post daily music, color and design inspirations on my twitter/facebook accounts.  My hope is that I will continue to grow as a designer through finding new ideas and sharing them with others.  Hopefully this doesn’t just annoy everyone else 😉

In an effort to remind myself to look for inspiration on a daily basis I created this ‘inspiration flag’.  I guess it reminds me of a Tibetan prayer flag.  I just cut out letters from magazines and created these inspirational cards based on the things I want to pay attention to in my day.  I hung them on the wall right in front of my desk so I can see them everyday.  Hopefully this will keep me on top of things!

How do you guys stay inspired in your daily lives?  I’d love to hear…


The Staging Chick

Front Door Makeover

27 Sep

When my husband and I bought our house last year we embarked on a long journey of renovation.  So long and intense that we did not move in for four months after settlement.  We pretty much gutted the entire place with the exception of the kitchen (which remains to be renovated).  During that time we were doing heavy demo and focusing on putting the house back together.  So, some of the small cosmetic things that drove me crazy from the time we saw the house were over looked.

Well my friends now that summer has passed and we’re heading into fall I’ve been tackling some of those small projects.  One of the things about the house that I really despised was the aluminum storm door on the front porch.  The gray color and dated look made me cringe.  We had planned on buying a new door if our budget allowed.  Well here we are one year later and I’m still staring at that door.  Until last weekend!

As you know, I believe a fresh coat of paint can fix just about anything.  So it was crazy that it took me so long to think of painting that wretched eye sore.   I wouldn’t recommend painting just any storm door, but this one was a perfect candidate.  It has a grainy unfinished texture perfect for grabbing and holding onto paint.

To do this project I washed the door down with soap and water then let it dry.  I removed the hardware (which I sprayed with a fresh coat of black paint) and primed the whole door.  I decided to use a foam brush to get a smooth finish.  After a coat of primer and three coats of semi-gloss white paint this door (and our porch) looks so much more inviting!

We will eventually buy a new door but until then this is the perfect money-saving alternative.  This project cost literally nothing.  I already had leftover paint from prior projects and a few foam brushes.  What projects are you guys working on?


The Staging Chick

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