Spring is just around the corner. For those who are planning to sell their homes or other real estate in Chicago, this means curb appeal matters more than ever.

Thankfully, Kim Kaulas, a landscape artist based in Edgewater who also works in Lakewood Balmoral and Andersonville, has extensive experience helping people maximize small spaces and shade in urban areas.

“I specialize in environmentally responsible practices,” she said. “I don’t use chemicals. I amend soil naturally, and I promote appropriate plant placement to promote their longevity.”

Does it work? Kaulas can’t provide statistics on shortening of market time or specific evidence that curb appeal raises sale prices. But common sense goes far, and making judicious choices to rejuvenate a landscape specifically for curb appeal is a specialty, she says.



“I consider myself an exterior decorator,” Kaulas said, adding that landscaping involving plant material doesn’t tend to be instantly gratifying. Some plants can take 3 to 10 years to grow in. “Curb appeal choices may include exterior paint colors, paint projects, awnings, container plantings and general exterior aesthetics.”

She works on a consulting basis, charging $90 per hour and prorating the fee to the minute. She has no minimum hourly charge. Kaulas brainstorms a project with the homeowner, suggesting ideas for improving the curb appeal or general attractiveness of the site and outdoor space. Beyond that, the client might commission a formal design. This would include pictures and measurements, scaled drawings and detailed plans. The estimate would be based on the scope of that project. Kaulas does not offer free estimates, however.

She also gets involved in installing those designs, providing quotes based on time and materials. Meanwhile, the client can help her or her staff plant. “And because I charge by the hour, they learn something and then it’s a cost savings, because it’s that much less manpower that I’m charging them for.”

Kaulas does not provide mowing or leaf blowing services. “I recommend that clients interested in those services talk to their immediate neighbors and see who already has their trucks and manpower on their block and who is doing a good job,” she said.

For more information on Kaulas’ services, visit or call her at 773-761-3668.

VGrabnerVictoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.


I had the pleasure of touring five luxury homes in the historic Lakewood Balmoral neighborhood in Edgewater, Chicago recently. I love the area as much today as when I first laid eyes on it in 1986.

Edgewater was one of the first transit oriented communities, developed in 1885 by J. L Cochrane. Plans for Edgewater included its own train stops for steam powered locomotives. At the time, there were 33 trains daily between Edgewater and Union Station in Chicago. Today Edgewater is served by five el stations.

I think it’s really cool that what Cochrane envisioned as a suburb of single family homes, is now part of Chicago, and is an oasis of green surrounded by smaller two and three unit buildings like 5251 N Glenwood and larger apartment buildings, or even high rises as you go east to the lakefront.

The community was amazed at how beautifully the owners preserved vintage features of their turn of the century homes adding green features, and luxurious kitchens and bathrooms.

The tour of homes also included 5526 North Lakewood and was hosted by architect Tom Greene of Greene & Proppe design. The owners in renovating the kitchen incorporated green features such as glass walls and glass faced cabinets to bring in light. The home overlooks lovely landscaped gardens of drought tolerant plants, and the use of turf is minimized. So take a walk thru Lakewood Balmoral in Edgewater in Chicago to see for yourself.

Maggie Finegan, ABR, Move with Maggie Chicago Real Estate Team


Imagine a day when a rehabbed vintage 1912 theatre marquee lights up using the energy equivalent of a toaster oven.     That day is already here.   That energy-efficient marquee belongs to The Morse Theatre, the historic Rogers Park gem brought back to life – in green – thanks  to Thom Greene, Principal Architect, Greene and Proppe Design, Inc.     Greene   transformed this diamond-in-the-rough former nickelodeon theater and vaudeville house into a sustainable yet vintage-feeling building, now a live music venue, its front a restaurant reminiscent of old-style Chicago.

Greene and Proppe Design, Inc., founded in 1980 by architect Thom Greene and interior designer, Rick Proppe, takes on projects that run the gamut from small scale residential additions to million-dollar renovations.   “Honest architecture” is their promise, with an emphasis on enhancement of structures.  The Morse Theatre is a notable example of their mission accomplished.     Greene and Proppe converted the theatre without altering its original character while updating the structure and mechanicals to fit a sustainable paradigm almost 100 years after its original construction.

Greene’s work must feel like play, with city beautification and community preservation among his favored hobbies.   How did Greene’s passion for beauty and sustainability in architecture transform The Morse to one that conserves resources and is environmentally gentle?     What’s more sustainable than reusing an existing building and making it a vital cultural destination within a community that values the local business?     When you freshen up in the Morse facilities during an evening of dinner and a concert, remember that the water runs from low-flow plumbing fixtures (this type of plumbing uses an average of 600 gallons per day less than conventional plumbing).   That water is also heated by solar panels.   The 340 square foot panels located on the theatre’s north end can heat up to 550 gallons of water per day (stored in basement holding tanks).   That satisfies about 70% of the restaurant and theatre’s daily water heating needs and makes yesterday’s energy-sapping water heaters a part of history not revisited in the revitalized Morse.   Want to see The Morse’s landscape of native plants?     They’re on the roof.     The extensive green roofing system, which takes up about half of the total roof, requires no irrigation.     This type of roofing system is a natural insulator and temperature regulator, not to mention requires lower maintenance than an intensive roofing system.     The elevator is also energy efficient.     Conventional models using twice the energy it takes to run this elevator.

Greene and Proppe continued to walk their green design mission talk with choices in finish products, like carpet tiles that are 56% recycled content, wool or PVC-free-vinyl covered chairs and booths, bamboo and wheat board millwork and trim, and drywall/ceiling tiles made from recaptured gypsum, recycled paper, fly ash and slag.     If only every building possessed the indoor air quality Greene and Proppe’s design allows, with only low VOC paints and adhesives used, people would be much healthier for it.   The carpet meets strict emissions standards, with low chemical emissions and a Green Label Plus stamp of approval.

When work feels like play, it’s not work anymore-it’s passion.   Greene’s passion for beautification and preservation at work and play is reflected in the Andersonville community design from the sidewalks to the street lamps.  Greene’s influence here makes sense:   Greene and Proppe created the design guideline manual for facades and storefronts for Andersonville.     Take a stroll or sit on a bench on North Clark in Andersonville to appreciate Greene’s influence on awnings as an architectural complement, sun shield, and customer amenity.  Also, be sure to visit the Bryn Mawr Historic District to view the streetscape and community identifiers designed by Greene and Proppe.   Bryn Mawr Avenue is on the list of the National Register of Historic Places.

Visit the Greene and Proppe website to view innovative residential projects before and after.   You’ll see new porches fueling life into historic buildings, which will certainly help buildings continue to appreciate and provide a generous return on project investment for you as a homeowner.   Be sure to check out Greene and Proppe’s transformation of a Lakewood Balmoral renovation of a two-flat into a single family, with form and function, color and texture skillfully chosen to achieve a vintage yet modern feel.   You’ll see bronze fittings, granite countertops, glass tile mosaic flooring, limestone counters, hand painted silk shades and more.

Greene and Proppe are part of Chicago Metropolitan’s Agency for Planning, which works with existing Chicago municipalities with urban planning scenarios.   Check out the website for more details on The South Shore Concept (plans to finish the 2 southernmost miles of the lakefront), The Calumet Genesis Energy Park concept (silos on the Calumet river would be transformed into a clean energy resource).

As a local neighborhood resource and one of our trusted providers Greene and Proppe continue to help form the personality of Chicago and its unique neighborhoods.


Why would a luxury home buyer search for a house in the Lakewood-Balmoral neighborhood, part of Edgewater in Chicago?   Better yet, what will the home look like and what amenities can a buyer expect?

Lakewood-Balmoral has the distinction of being recognized by the Chicago Landmark commission for its architecturally significant homes.

Architecturally, some of the best homes showcase English Gothic, Colonial, Classic Colonial, Flemish, Queen Anne and French Renaissance of the Transition period.   Residents have taken on the restoration of their homes, bringing these gems back to the luster they had in the 1920s and 1930s.   Old fashioned lamp posts light the quaint streets.

Lakewood-Balmoral is within walking distance of the lake, a 20 minute train ride from Chicago’s Loop and 5 minutes from Andersonville restaurants, shops and entertainment.   Visit here for information on local amenities.

Luxury homes buyers in the area are mostly professionals or business owners.   Many work downtown and/or from their home office several days a week.   Buyers can expect to pay upwards of $1,000,000 for a nicely appointed four bedroom, three bath home.

Luxury homes are defined by the quality of the finishes and the extent of the amenities.   Kitchens have high end appliances such as a Bosch dishwasher, Dacor dual fuel stove, Subzero refrigerator.   Custom built cabinetry such as England built Smallbone, or Italian designed Scavolini are often used.   There is usually a bar area off the living or dining area equipped with ULine wine cooler, or quite often the homes have wine cellars stocked with extensive collections. Many homes have fully functioning offices and are wired throughout for technology.

The master suite will includes a luxe bath featuring separate steam shower or body spray fixtures, along with a Jacuzzi.   Laundry areas are usually on the second floor for convenience. Green building and smart homes technology is beginning to appear in features such as on demand hot water systems, cellular roof panels, and the use of opening glass walls.  For more on these resources, click here.

Yards usually have decks equipped with stainless steel outdoor kitchen and low voltage lighting.   Although the Lakewood-Balmoral neighborhood is within walking distance of local transportation, the highest end homes have 3-car heated garages to house that sports car in addition to the family van and commuter car.   And of course security systems are an essential.