Archive for the ‘Featured Projects’ Category

Greening the Education Experience

Posted on 05 May 2010 | Category: Featured Projects

A community volunteer and co-founder of Go Green Wilmette, Beth Drucker isn’t just an advocate for environmental sustainability, she practices what she preaches. So during a conversation with Get Dwell’s Darryl Rose, Drucker shared plans for a three-bin compost unit she had installed in her own yard, one she described as the “Cadillac” of composting systems.

Unbeknownst to Drucker, Rose and his team, thinking the plans looked like an interesting carpentry challenge, subsequently built the system in their workshop on spec. Rose said he had no plans for the finished product, although he considered donating it to an interested community organization.

compost1Around the same time, Drucker found herself wishing for a composting bin for the teaching garden she helps maintain at Highcrest Middle School in Wilmette. She felt composting at the school would not only provide valuable nutrients for the teaching garden, it would offer a real-world lesson in environmental sustainability for the school’s students.

It was then, when she mentioned her desire to Rose, she discovered the system she had hoped for was ready and waiting for her at Get Dwell.

compost2“Get Dwell not only had it built and ready at the shop, they donated it to us and delivered it to the school,” Drucker says. “It was a huge job because the system weighs over 100 pounds. It was a very generous donation.”

Although nine feet long when in one piece, the bin design Get Dwell used was modular, which allowed them to disassemble the unit to get it through school doors.

The three-bin system that ultimately arrived at the school is considered an ideal composting solution because it allows material at different stages of decomposition to be separated.

compost3“You have fresh compost, compost that’s been decomposing for a while and compost that’s just about ready to use,” Drucker says. “It’s the only way to ensure that what goes in the garden is fully broken down and best for the soil.”

Highcrests’s students took to composting immediately. Drucker says she never lacks for volunteers when the time comes to turn and aerate the compost.

“They’re surprised to learn it doesn’t smell,” she says. “And recently, we inserted a thermometer into the compost and found the internal temperature was 120 degrees. The kids were amazed, but I told them that’s compost doing what it’s supposed to do.”

compost4The compost system got a big infusion recently when, in honor of Earth Week, the school cafeteria donated all its fruit and vegetable scraps.

“The kids were very generous with their contributions,” Drucker observes. “Maybe overly generous. There was a lot of uneaten apples and carrots.”

Now, it’s busy breaking down for use in the teaching garden, where it will nourish a mix of native woodland and suburban plants, as well as species that will themselves bear fruits and vegetables.

compost5“The system is such a great addition to the garden, and we’re very grateful to Get Dwell,” Drucker says. “It’s a great teaching tool and it will help keep the garden healthy for years to come.”

Design on Deck

Posted on 09 April 2010 | Category: Featured Projects

web_art_houseMike Harper and his family had lived with a small, increasingly tired-looking deck on the back of his Arts & Crafts home for 20 years. After years of enduring long Chicago winters, they hoped to enjoy the warmer months even more. Finally, they hired Get Dwell to design and build a deck with the added room they wanted and that would work better as part of the yard.

“We told them what we wanted generally and they sketched it out,” Harper says. “They created an interpretation of their own, one that picked up elements of our house.”

web_art_deck6The goal was to borrow Art & Crafts features of the home to avoid the “off-the-rack” look common to many decks while accommodating all the features that the Harpers wanted.

“Most people just take what’s available at the home center and build with no regard to how the house looks,” says Greg Vereschagin, a Project Manager with Get Dwell. “A gifted carpenter, however, can build a deck that works in partnership with the house and gives the project a feeling of wholeness.”

web_art_deck2“Their design isn’t boxy at all,” Harper says. “There are angled edges and a lot of tapered features that draw from the design of our window treatments.”

Harper says he also appreciates the sturdiness of the deck.

“I really liked the workmanship they put into it,” he says. “It’s extremely strong, and it just looks great. We’re very, very happy with it and expect to enjoy it for many years to come.”



Keeping the Past Present

Posted on 03 March 2010 | Category: Featured Projects

Famed architect Harry Weese and Kenilworth resident Rachel Noel never got to meet. But they might have had a lot to talk about.

Like Weese, Noel is enthusiastic about history and historic preservation. And it so happens she and her husband, Dan, reside in the same 1908 Arts and Crafts foursquare where Weese himself spent a portion of his childhood and that’s now on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to Noel, however, Weese might not have recognized much about the home when she and her husband, Dan, moved in back in 2005.

“It was suffering from benign neglect,” she says. “It had pink walls and the trim had been painted white. Even though it’s an Arts and Crafts style, someone had tried to Colonialize it with brass chandeliers and things like that. But it had good bones.”

Noel had used Get Dwell for some time to help her keep those “bones” in good repair. But she says there was one project that was particularly memorable.

web_art“I wanted Get Dwell to help prepare an enclosed porch for a heating-system upgrade,” Noel says. “They were under the porch taking a look around and out they came with this old milk bottle.”

The bottle, from a long-forgotten company called the Winnetka Sanitary Dairy Company, was just the tip of what turned out to be an historical iceberg. Noel asked Get Dwell to do an excavation under the porch, and what it turned up taught her a lot about how her predecessors lived in the home in the early 20th century.

The haul included coal ash, more bottles, children’s toys, marbles, dishes, a sled and even an early device for washing clothes. Plus, Get Dwell found a variety of stained glass, which Noel’s research indicated might have been product samples Weese used as a young architect.

web_art2“I discovered they didn’t have trash pickup in Kenilworth in the early years,” she says. “What didn’t get burned up in the stove got buried under the porch. It’s a really interesting look at the way people lived.”

Noel donated many of items to the Kenilworth Historical Society, but some were preserved in plastic bags and put back under the porch, “for someone who owns the house after us,” she says.

She says that kind of attention to detail and inquisitiveness is typical of Get Dwell. She credits the company with finding an original door for the home while working in another, less accessible area of the house.

“They look in places other people would never look and really explore every nook and cranny. The finds under the porch were a nice surprise but the reason they were there was the reason I always have them here – they make it possible for us live in the house and enjoy it.  When they fix something it stays fixed, and when you live in an old house that’s important.

Turning a “To-Do” List into a “Sold” Sign

Posted on 05 February 2010 | Category: Featured Projects

House for SaleBrian Quinn’s interest in fixer-upper homes isn’t just personal. As a former member of the “This Old House” team and current interactive sales vice president for HGTV, Quinn has a professional connection to home renovation and improvement, too.

So when Quinn and his wife prepared to sell the vintage North Shore home they had been renovating since 1998, they knew they still had a lot of work to do to get the house in optimal sale shape.

“We had done a lot of work on the home, but I still had a long punch list of items we knew we needed to deal with,” Quinn says. “Plus, we were selling in a challenging market. We knew we had to get the home spit polished for it to sell for the price we hoped for.”

Their first step was hiring Shields and Baylor, a Realtor team now with @properties. Barbara Shields not only recommended hiring a stager, who would help the home look as aesthetically appealing and personality neutral as possible, she also brought in Get Dwell to consult on and manage the physical repairs and upgrades that needed to be done before the house went on the market.

“There was trim work that had never been completed, attic stairs that needed paint and a new railing, light switches that need to be replaced, a service door in the garage that needed to be replaced, paint touch ups — a long list,” Quinn says. “Get Dwell came in, consulted with us and guided us through the process. They did a lot of seemingly small things that really made the house appear to be worth more to buyers.”

According to Barbara Shields, those kinds of repairs and improvements are important even — and sometimes especially — if a house is in good shape overall.

sold“When a house is in good shape, often times small imperfections stand out more,” she says. “You want to make the home consistent in quality. Plus, buyers these days don’t want to move in and have to do a lot of work.”

What Quinn describes as a “modest” investment in Get Dwell’s services paid off handsomely. The house went on the market in late spring of 2009 and sold in six days for 95% of the Quinns’ asking price. And they received two other offers.

Quinn says there was one downside to hiring Get Dwell, though.

“Once the work was done I said to my wife, ‘I don’t know if I want to sell now.’ I wish we’d done this two years ago and been able to enjoy it more. It did give me some second thoughts, but we had our eye on another house. Looking back, the work everyone did — our Realtor, our stager and Get Dwell — really made our sale clear sailing.”

Organizing an Older Home

Posted on 07 January 2010 | Category: Featured Projects

The same things Sarah Jacobs loves about her 1912 Wilmette home – the charm, the quirkiness, the unconventional layout – are the same things that make organizing it a challenge. So when she set out to make a basement cedar closet and a garage more storage-friendly, she called Get Dwell to help make her vision a realty.

closetIt started in her basement, at the foot of the stairs where she had a computer workstation set up near the cedar closet. Over time, the closet – intended for clothes – had become a dumping ground for office supplies. Get Dwell worked with Sarah to identify what she needed to store in the closet, then chose, purchased and installed the appropriate prefabricated elfa storage system from the Container Store.

“When it’s your home office, it’s important to really think about what you need,” Sarah says. “Darryl consulted with me and made sure I got the components that were best for my storage needs. Now the closet holds all my office supplies and my printer comfortably.”

garageSarah also hired Get Dwell to install flat wall in her garage, a grooved wall fixture that allows the user to install brackets where and how they’re needed.

“It’s very flexible and adaptable,” Sarah says. “It gives you the ability to organize things the way you want them, then rearrange them easily.” Get Dwell also installed flat wall in an unfinished portion of Sarah’s basement, further expanding her storage options.

“In an old house, you have to utilize space the best you can,” she says. “Working with Get Dwell, I was able to think through what I really needed, and Darryl had the creativity to bring it to life. It’s made a big difference.”

Turning a House into a Home

Posted on 01 December 2009 | Category: Featured Projects

New fireplaceWhen Debi Chess Mabie and her husband, Clint, moved into their new Evanston home, they, like so many other new homeowners do, started making a wish list of improvements they hoped to see happen. Some items on the list were small, but some required a bit more thought and planning. So once Debi settled into her new surroundings, she talked to Get Dwell to help her transform her house into the home she envisioned.

Making a Family Heirloom Into a Functional Focal Point

Media cabinet beforeClint moved into the Evanston house with a credenza that had been passed down through his family. Although the piece carried considerable sentimental value, its low, wide profile made it an impractical fit for the space it occupied. So Debi hired Get Dwell to collaborate on a solution that would turn a family heirloom into a functional and aesthetically pleasing focal point for the room.

Media cabinet detailAfter several consultations with Get Dwell, it was decided to build an upper, hutch-like addition to the piece, one that, in Debi’s words, was both “beautiful and structurally sound.” Get Dwell drew up a design, then worked with Debi to seek out a wood and a stain that would make the new addition fit the existing piece perfectly.

Media cabinet afterThe result, Debi says, is a “fantastic job. You can’t tell it’s not original to the piece. My husband loves it, and I got a piece that works in the room. Neither of us wanted to get rid of that credenza, and Get Dwell came up with a solution that matches the original piece, fits the room and is actually useful.”

Softening a Stone Fireplace

One item high on Debi’s wish list was dealing with a decorative stone fireplace enclosure that she felt was too heavy and bulky for the vision she had for the house. Clint, however, liked the “lodge” feel of the stone and didn’t want to see it dismantled. Both decided the stone would stay until another solution could be devised.

Fireplace beforeThe need to find that solution was accelerated by a Christmas eve fire that caused considerable smoke damage to the stone and other areas around the fireplace. In meetings with Get Dwell, it was decided to strategically remove some of the stone façade, but not all of it, taking away the bulk that she disliked but retaining the rustic look her husband appreciated.

“They got rid of the heft,” Debi says of Get Dwell’s solution. “Now we have fireplace that’s really quite lovely and unique.”

Debi says her relationship with Get Dwell has helped her not only make her house into a home she can be proud of, but it has saved her money, too.

“They find little problems around the house before you know they exist, but can also help bring a large project in line with your budget. I appreciate the way they look at the big picture, like a consultant. I count on them for a lot around here, and I’ve gotten really great results.”

Project of the Month: Attic Insulation

Posted on 01 November 2009 | Category: Featured Projects

insulation1For most homeowners, making a home more energy-efficient and green isn’t an all-or-nothing, one-shot event. It’s a process of steps both small and large that continue as long as you own your home.

One North Shore family discovered that recently when deciding how to take advantage of the new “green home” tax credit, and cut back on steadily escalating energy costs. After considering a number of options, they zeroed in on their home’s attic, which typically has the biggest impact.  What they found was an attic inadequately protected with traditional pink fiberglass insulation and a few common installation oversights that were responsible for additional energy costs.

According to John Deck, Project Manager for Get Dwell, few attics meet the current insulation standard, R-49.

“The standards rise over time,” Deck said. “Even attics insulated relatively recently probably don’t meet current requirements.”

storageThe family didn’t want to simply add more of the same insulation – fiber glass insulation is unsightly, itchy and contains materials that make it unhealthy for both the outdoor and indoor environments. Because they also wanted to use a portion of the attic for storage, Get Dwell suggested a product called UltraTouch from Bonded Logic.

UltraTouch consists almost entirely of natural denim fibers that are 100% recyclable, reducing landfill waste. The denim is also 100% post-industrial, giving a “second life” to material that was salvaged from the cutting room floor. These fibers have qualities that provide for extremely effective sound absorption and maximum thermal performance.

insulation2Plus, UltraTouch does not itch, contains no chemical irritants and requires no warning labels compared to other traditional products. Because the client used the attic for storage, UltraTouch helped ensure that fibers wouldn’t be disturbed and enter the air every time someone entered the attic.

Equally important, UltraTouch is a Qualified Building Envelope Component under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, making the family eligible for a tax credit of up to $1,500.

entranceGet Dwell installed the UltraTouch over the existing pink insulation, creating a powerful double layer of thermal protection. Plus, they took pains to ensure there was adequate ventilation and air sealing, helping to ensure maximum efficiency and the healthiest possible environment. They also built a storage deck in the attic and installed an insulated hatch at the attic access stairs, an often-overlooked area.

The end result not only helped the homeowners save money and lessen their environmental footprint, the project dramatically improved the appearance and usefulness of the attic.

If you’d like an assessment of your attic’s efficiency and its R rating, contact Get Dwell today.

Project of the Month: Lakeside Cabana

Posted on 01 October 2009 | Category: Featured Projects


A homeowner with lakeside property on the North Shore recently approached Get Dwell with a request. They wanted to build a cabana able to store items like rafts, lifejackets, umbrellas and chairs, but were unhappy with the off-the-shelf, do-it-yourself solutions they’d seen in the big-box stores. They wanted a custom structure that matched the quality and beauty of their home site, but could be built on a fixed budget.

Get Dwell’s Greg Wisinski, the project’s manager, sketched out plans for timeless-looking cedar structure of about 80 square feet. Greg felt a cedar exterior would be able to stand up to the exposed lakeside environment the cabana would face, and would weather to blend in with its surroundings over time.

storageTo meet the budget, Greg used treated lumber to frame the structure and broader cedar shingles that were more expensive than narrower ones but were higher quality and required less man-hours to install. To maximize storage space, he allowed for an offset door and generous, widely space shelves.

A particular highlight for Greg was the building and installation of the cabana’s cedar door. For many reasons, conventionally nailed doors have a high failure rate. So Greg’s solution was to insert “tree nails,” dry wooden pegs that are pounded into the door’s joints. The wood, therefore, is interlocked, and instead of being forced out as the wood dries, the tree nails are gripped tighter.nails

According to Greg, those kinds of traditional building methods often add a higher-level of quality without added expense. His ingenuity and craftsmanship means one North Shore home will enjoy the convenience of a handsome, sturdy lakeside cabana for many years to come.