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Staging your Home to Shine

October 21st, 2014 · No Comments

By Judith Sisler Johnston, President of Sisler Johnston Interior Design and allied member, ASID


I’m often asked for tips and tricks to improve the impression of homes that are being sold.  I can share some suggestions for simple modifications to “stage” your home that will enhance your homes’ look and feel. You want potential homebuyers to leave your home with a positive lasting impression. But, be forewarned: After implementing these suggestions, many homeowners decide to remain where they are!=

Here are some topics for consideration when preparing your home to shine:

First Impressions – Let’s talk curb appeal.  Could the flower bed use some bright, cheerful flowers?  Maybe the chairs on the porch need new cushions?  What about a fresh coat of paint on the door?  The buyer will make many decisions about the home before they even walk through the door – make this first impression count!

Smell and Lighting – The first thing many buyers will notice (even if they don’t realize it) is the smell and lighting of a home.  Have your entire house steam cleaned (furniture and floors) and insist that residents and guests smoke outside. To add a welcoming scent use a clean, simple scent like Fresh Linen and steer away from sweet scents like Vanilla or Cookie Dough.   Lighting is also critical – add a lamp to a dark corner or add brighter light bulbs to the fixtures.

 Neutral shades on walls and accent lighting can help prospective homebuyers imagine their families in these rooms.

Furniture – is there too much?  Too much furniture in a space can make the space look smaller than it really is.  Maybe that bulky recliner in the corner should be put in temporary storage?  Is there too little?  A simple café table placed in an empty breakfast nook could add that quaint finishing touch.

Color – Does your home have a bright pink accent wall in the family room or a den that is emerald green?  It might be a good idea to repaint those walls a neutral shade of beige or tan. 

Personalization – It’s hard for a buyer to picture themselves living in the home if it is full of family photos on every mantle, book shelf and counter top.  Remove the photos and put them away for safe keeping until they are in their own new home.

Windows – The home should be as bright and cheerful as possible.  Windows and window treatments should be examined for cleanliness, condition and weight.  It’s effective to replace old blinds with new ones and heavy drapery with lightweight panels that let in abundant light.  

A bright cheerful room framed by light window treatments showcases this home.

All That Stuff.  This is the tricky part because this isn’t a model home, it’s a home.  It’s going to be full of stuff.  Consider getting a temporary storage facility and move many extra items to the facility – this may include furniture, knick knacks, toys, countertop kitchen appliances, books, etc.


 First impressions matter and this room is organized to highlight the view. Minimize personal itmes on mantles and shelves.

Look for every chance you have to make small, but important, changes to make your home as special for its next owner as it was for you.


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Linda Sherrer Addresses JAX Chamber’s GrowJAX on Boldness in Business

October 20th, 2014 · No Comments

Maxine McBride, Linda Sherrer and Gwen Griggs

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty Founder, President and CEO Linda Sherrer recently spoke to JAX Chamber GrowJAX participants at the CEO Forum at Jacksonville University.

Sherrer shared stories from her business career that required bold decisions for her company to succeed.

The CEO Forum, a program of the JAX Chamber, is a complimentary program for second stage businesses to provide economic development in Northeast Florida.

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Sisler Johnston Interior Design Completes New HabiJax Model Home in New Town

October 17th, 2014 · No Comments

Habitat for Humanity of Jacksonville (HabiJax) has opened a new fully furnished model home in the growing neighborhood of New Town. The new HabiJax model features the interior design of Sisler Johnston Interior Design.

“The programs and services offered by HabiJax are helping many realize the dream of homeownership,” said Judith Sisler Johnston, president of Sisler Johnston Interior Design and allied member, American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). “I believe our show home will inspire and encourage potential homebuyers to contact HabiJax for more information on purchasing a home.”

Featuring 1,064 square feet of flexible living space and priced from $101,000, the Wiley model showcases three bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths. The home features an open and spacious living room and dining room perfect for family living and entertainment, a stylish kitchen equipped with designer oak flat panel cabinets and Formica countertops, and a master bedroom with master bath and walk-in closet.

For the home’s lively design, Sisler Johnston selected a color palette of warm neutrals with vibrant accents of crimson, apple green and honey. Visitors of all ages will enjoy the vibrant elements and style of the Spiderman-themed children’s bedroom.

The model is located at 1308 Tyler St., Jacksonville, Fla. 32209. The model and homes built by HabiJax in New Town are part of a revitalization project underway in the historic neighborhood west of downtown.

“Our new model home designed by Judith Sisler Johnston is a reflection of the change taking place in New Town,” said HabiJax President and CEO Mary Kay O’Rourke. “We are thrilled that the community has embraced our initiative to make a difference in New Town and help families realize the dream of homeownership. I encourage everyone interested in purchasing a home to contact us for information on how to become a new homeowner.”

Founded in 1988, HabiJax has become the largest non-profit affordable housing provider in Duval County, helping improve urban core neighborhoods in Jacksonville, including New Town. HabiJax is one of the most successful Habitat for Humanity affiliates in the United States, having provided homeownership opportunities and other housing services to more than 2,000 families. In addition, HabiJax is an advocate for affordable housing, fair housing policies and economic development and provides workshops and other trainings to help families improve their opportunities for wealth building. For more information, visit www.HabiJax.org.

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Tamaya Hosts Jacksonville Symphony Guild Membership Coffee Welcoming New Music Director Courtney Lewis

October 16th, 2014 · No Comments

David Pierson, Allene Groote and Courtney Lewis

ICI Homes of Tamaya, developers of a new master-planned Mediterranean-style community located midway between Downtown and the beaches, hosted The Guild of the Jacksonville Symphony as it welcomed the orchestra’s new Music Director, Courtney Lewis, to the Guild’s Fall Membership Coffee at Tamaya.

Dorothy Nutort, Barbara McTiernan and Suzanne Martin

Lewis was named the new music director of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra earlier this year. A rising star, Lewis is renowned for his clear artistic vision, subtle musicality, innovative programming and deep musical understanding.

Iris Simmons, Ben Johnson and Jennifer Barton

He made his major American orchestral debut in 2008 with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and has led orchestras throughout North America and abroad. He is the eighth music director to lead the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in its 65-year history.

Kathy Cosnotti, Allene Groote and Lorraine Roettges

For 65 years, the Guild of the Jacksonville Symphony Association has worked to foster an awareness of music and to create strong community support of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra through fundraising events, educational projects and community involvement activities.

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HabiJax Receives ULI North Florida Award for New Town Success Zone

October 15th, 2014 · No Comments

(L to R) Irvin “PeDro” Cohen, New Town Success Zone; Greg Matovina, HabiJax; Pam Paul, New Town Success Zone; Angela Leatherbury, HabiJax; Mary Kay O’Rourke, HabiJax; and Alfred Arzuaga, HabiJax

Habitat for Humanity of Jacksonville, Inc. (HabiJax) has been honored by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) North Florida with an Award for Excellence (Downtown Sector category) for The New Town Success Zone.

“We are thrilled and honored to be recognized by ULI North Florida for our work and partnerships in New Town,” said HabiJax President and CEO Mary Kay O’Rourke. “Our work in New Town has been extremely rewarding and we are so proud to assist in the revitalization of this historic neighborhood. We firmly believe in providing affordable housing to people in need so they may build better lives for their families.”

In 2011, utilizing more than 600 volunteers, HabiJax completed a visual assessment of more than 1,000 residential properties in the New Town area of Jacksonville. HabiJax embarked on a $16 million capital campaign to provide home ownership to 135 families and complete 300 renovation projects for homeowners already living in the neighborhood.

Since embarking on the campaign, HabiJax has partnered with almost 100 families who have purchased homes and completed more than 150 projects for existing homeowners in the neighborhood.

HabiJax partners with families whose income level is between 35 percent and 60 percent of the Area Median Income to purchase a home of their own with zero percent interest mortgage. Families that apply for a home must qualify for a mortgage with adequate income and acceptable credit. Families attend homeownership, budgeting and maintenance workshops. They make a down payment and contribute a minimum of 300 hours of “sweat equity” labor working on their home and other HabiJax homes. After purchasing the home, their mortgage payment is usually less than the cost of previous rent payments.

The HabiJax program is unduplicated in the Jacksonville area and fills an unmet need. In addition, HabiJax also provides services to low income and elderly homeowners to help with basic needed repairs with the goal of providing a safe and sustainable home for families to age-in-place.

The Awards for Excellence was started in 2012 to showcase ULI North Florida’s efforts in identifying and promoting the “Best Practices” in all aspects of real estate development and place making. The ULI District Council includes 34 counties from Flagler to Escambia including Jacksonville, Gainesville, Tallahassee, Pensacola and Panama City.

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AT&T Presents MBF Champions for Child Safety Pro Am for Monique Burr Foundation

October 14th, 2014 · No Comments


The Monique Burr Foundation for Children, Inc.’s (MBF) Champions for Child Safety Pro Am Golf Tournament, formerly known as Jinglebells Pro Am, presented by AT&T, will be held Monday, Dec. 1, at the Palencia Club. The tournament offers corporations and individuals the opportunity to golf for a good cause and tee off with professional golfers.

This year’s tournament honorary chairs are Fred Funk, Jim Furyk, and Mark McCumber. Net proceeds from the event will help communities throughout the state provide MBF Child Safety Matters™, MBF’s bullying and child abuse prevention program provided at elementary schools at no cost to the public schools. The program offers training and resources for students, parents and school personnel throughout the state of Florida and is currently being implemented in 54 out of 67 counties.

Registration and a Beer Pairings Party begins at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 30 and the opening ceremonies begin at 10 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 1. A cocktail reception and awards ceremony are scheduled for later that day. The Palencia Club is located at 600 Palencia Club Drive in St. Augustine, Florida.

From Jacksonville, take Interstate 95 south to exit #335 for Old St Augustine Rd. Turn right at Old St Augustine Rd. Turn right onto U.S. 1 to head South. Turn left on Palencia Village Drive. At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit onto Market St. Turn right onto Palencia Club Dr.

Visit www.championsforchildsafety.com or contact Callie Hugo at chugo@moniqueburrfoundation.org for more information and to register. Sponsorship opportunities are also available.  Each foursome is $7,000 or $1,750 for individual. For more information about the Monique Burr Foundation for Children visit www.moniqueburrfoundation.org.

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GreenPointe Homes Offers Unique Storage Options for Homes in Cedar Bay Community

October 13th, 2014 · No Comments

When homebuyers are looking for the ideal home, one of the leading factors on the list is often the amount of storage available. Many people move when they run out of room in their current home and desire more space, want to feel more organized, or when traditional garage or attic storage just does not satisfy. Builders like GreenPointe Homes, which has popular floor plans for sale in the North Jacksonville community of Cedar Bay, are coming up with creative ways to give homeowners more storage and organization options – and in surprising places, too.

“We realize that having convenient and logical areas to store belongings is vital to the success of a residential space, and we enjoy designing storage extras for our floor plans,” said Roger Postlethwaite, president of GreenPointe Homes. “Our buyers are thrilled with the creativity of options such as our stairwell storage, upstairs linen closets, drop zones and flexible lofts.”

Every GreenPointe Homes’ residence in Cedar Bay has a large walk-in closet located under the stairwell. Accessed by a private door, this space is ideal for items such as children’s toys, cleaning supplies, seasonal outerwear or any other items needing easy accessibility.

The downstairs stop-and-drop zone is one of the buyers’ favorite signature features in GreenPointe Homes’ residences. This convenient counter space is located right inside the home in front of the garage door – the main access point to the home for most families. This out-of-sight place is ideal for leaving items that would normally clutter up a kitchen counter or front hall table.

Upstairs, GreenPointe Homes’ floor plans have a spacious loft that can be used as an entertainment area, study area, home office or playroom. It offers plenty of storage for those pursuits that need a semi-private room out of the main flow of downstairs traffic. The Hawthorne floor plan, available for touring in Cedar Bay, has walk-in closets in all four bedrooms. The upstairs storage is completed with a walk-in bonus linen closet which is 5 feet by 6 feet and accessible from all three upstairs bedrooms.

“Homeowners want to have as many storage options upstairs as downstairs,” said Postlethwaite. “The linen closet and flex loft are special touches that our buyers have responded to with very positive feedback.”

GreenPointe Homes currently has both inventory homes and homesites for sale in Cedar Bay, including several with scenic river views of the peaceful Broward River. Three-, four- or five-bedroom residences range from the mid $180,000s to the mid $200,000s.

Cedar Bay is a 153-home community located in North Jacksonville and convenient to River City Marketplace, Jacksonville International Airport and minutes from downtown Jacksonville. The Cedar Bay Community Park offers the perfect place for get-togethers, family outings and celebrations with amenities such as community grills, tables and benches that overlook the Broward River, a shade structure and playground equipment for children. Residents also enjoy a convenient location close to the city’s major employers and nearby shopping and dining opportunities.

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Move-in Ready Homes Available at Jacksonville Community of Tamaya

October 10th, 2014 · No Comments

Is your family looking for a new home that is move-in ready? ICI Homes of Tamaya, developers of a master-planned community between Downtown and the Beaches, reports five new homes are available for purchase and will be ready to move-in before the end of the year.

Located within the 169-home Bella Nina neighborhood at the Mediterranean-style community off Beach Boulevard between Kernan and Hodges boulevards, the move-in ready homes at Tamaya are located on 60- and 75-foot-wide home sites and feature five unique floor plans ranging from 2,157 square feet to 3,405 square feet. Homes at Tamaya are designed with Tuscan, Mediterranean and Spanish architectural styles and are selling at a rapid pace.

“Because of the high demand for homes in our community, we are building inventory homes that will be available to move-in soon,” said Don Wilford, Northeast Florida division president of ICI Homes. “For buyers who do not have the time to wait several months for the entire building process, our move-in ready homes are a great option and offer the highest standard of quality and focus to custom detail that comes with an ICI home.”

The largest move-in ready home is the Egret IV, an impressive five-bedroom, four bath home with 3,405 square feet of living space. The home opens into a welcoming foyer, which flows into the heart of the home – a cozy yet spacious family room and gorgeous open kitchen perfect for entertaining. The home has a luxurious master suite with master bath and two walk-in closets. The home’s other bedrooms are situated away from the master, offering plenty of privacy for guests and family members alike. The home also features an upstairs bonus room and a three car garage. This Egret IV is priced at $599,270.

In addition to the Egret IV, ICI Homes at Tamaya offers homebuyers a choice of four other stunning plans, the Vienna, Victoria, Sienna and Portofino, that include wonderfully designed living areas punctuated with impressive architectural detail, magnificent gourmet kitchens and spectacular outdoor living areas. The move-in ready homes are priced from the low $400,000s.

The best way to envision life at Tamaya is to visit the community and its model park and vision center. Private tours of the move-in ready homes are available by appointment.

Tamaya is a one-of-a-kind community. In addition to stylish and elegant homes, Tamaya features a convenient location as well as a rich mix of amenities including a $10 million, 11,000-square-foot amenity center and abundant green space. Visit www.TamayaFL.com.

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Leadership Jacksonville Hosts Annual Reunion Luncheon for Program Graduates

October 9th, 2014 · No Comments

Helen Lane, Deborah Moore and Warren Jones

Leadership Jacksonville, an organization that develops youth and adult leaders in Northeast Florida, recently held its annual luncheon for Leadership Jacksonville adult program graduates. The event, which officially welcomed graduates of the Leadership Jacksonville Class of 2014 and New Leadership Summit XII participants, took place at the Omni Hotel Jacksonville.

Longtime Jacksonville City Council member Warren Jones and civic activist and philanthropist Helen Lane were inducted as honorary lifetime members of Leadership Jacksonville during the luncheon.

Anna Dooley, Mary Kay O’Rourke and Suzanne Montgomery

The keynote presentation of the program was a showing of a segment of the Jacksonville Legacy Series video “Lessons in Leadership: Jacksonville’s Community Trustees,” which featured portions of interviews with Fran Kinne, Bob Shircliff, Delores Barr Weaver, Alton Yates, Jake Godbold and Frederick Schultz. Following the video, Karen Brune Mathis conducted a live interview with Bob Shircliff.

“Showing a portion of the new video highlighting words of wisdom from the community trustees in our award-winning Legacy Series, and the interview with Mr. Shircliff, was a rare and inspirational treat. We are very pleased to present honorary lifetime membership awards to two distinguished leaders in the Jacksonville community,” said Jill Langford Dame, executive director of Leadership Jacksonville. “The annual luncheon provides an opportunity to bring Leadership Jacksonville alumni together and is also a chance to encourage and inspire them to developing as community trustees and making a difference in our community.”

Jones is a lifelong resident of Jacksonville and a longtime city council member for District 9. His first taste of a political career began in high school, when he worked part-time for Councilman Earl Johnson and participated in Boys State. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Florida and served five terms on the city council from 1979 to 1995. He was the first council president to serve two consecutive terms in that position. Jones returned to the council in 2007 and is currently completing his seventh and final term – term limits require him to not seek re-election in 2015. Jones also worked in the city’s Human Resource Department as a junior planner, in addition to working in the Community Services Division.

Aside from living in Boston, Mass. for a few weeks after her birth, Lane has always called Jacksonville home. She is a graduate of Sweetbriar College, and alongside late husband Ed, has been one of the city’s most active civic servants. She is a co-founder of the Woman’s Giving Alliance and has served as president of the Junior League of Jacksonville, the Garden Club of Jacksonville and the Cultural Council of Jacksonville, formerly known as the Arts Assembly. Lane has been referred to as the patron saint of Jacksonville preservation for her work in rescuing Victorian houses, with a total of 23 saved since 1969. She has also served on the boards of the Library Foundation, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the Jacksonville Historical Society, Riverside Avondale Preservation, the Community Foundation and the Cummer Museum.

To learn more about Leadership Jacksonville and its programs, visit www.leadershipjax.org or call (904) 396-6263.

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Monique Burr Foundation Hires Antionette Meeks

October 8th, 2014 · No Comments

Antionette Meeks, Education, Outreach and Grants Manager


The Monique Burr Foundation for Children, Inc. welcomes Antionette Meeks, EdD, MCHES, CPP as the Outreach and Grants Manager.

“We are fortunate to have Antionette join our team at the foundation,” said Lynn Layton, executive director of the Monique Burr Foundation for Children. “She is the ideal choice to successfully expand the MBF Child Safety Matters™ program throughout the State of Florida due to her extensive experience with the Florida Department of Education and passion for our mission.”

Dr. Meeks is completing her tenure with the Florida Department of Education as the Project Manager for District-Developed Assessments in Hard-to-Measure Content Areas for the Office of Race to the Top Assessments.  Prior to this position, she was the Assistant Director and Health Coordinator for the Department’s Office of Healthy Schools, in the Bureau of Curriculum and Instruction (Standards and Instructional Support).  She is a former teacher, department head, and district-level coordinator for comprehensive health education/safe and drug-free schools, athletic coach, and district wellness team leader.

“The Monique Burr Foundation has made an incredible impact on the lives of so many families throughout the state of Florida and I am honored to be a part of such a wonderful organization,” said Meeks. “My work with the Foundation is perfectly aligned with my belief that before children can be open to learning and achieving, they need to feel safe. I am passionate about extending our mission throughout the state because prevention education works and is a more effective option than reactive intervention.”

Meeks was an education and training specialist for K-12 tobacco use prevention education programs and coordinator of a college-focused tobacco use prevention program for Florida’s successful tobacco program.  She has served as an adjunct professor at three state universities and has taught at the undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate (doctoral) levels. She is trained in and has provided professional development in several prevention education curricula and programs.  Meeks has provided expert review for other states and was part of the writing team for the revision and writing of national education standards.  She is a Master-Certified Health Education Specialist and Certified Prevention Professional and has served on three boards and has held state and national offices, serving as president for one national organization.


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