Most homeowners, even those with
the keenest sense of style or artistic training, suffer the occasional
buyer's remorse. The higher the expenditure, the more likely they are to
second-guess their decisions. Buying an ottoman in the wrong color only
dents the budget $100 or so. But, adding a room that doesn't fit the house
or installing the wrong color siding are costly mistakes.
Enter Dolly Sinon. Armed with a
digital camera, scanner, computer and reams of photo-quality paper, Sinon
creates photographs of homes, with proposed cosmetic or structural changes
"Most people can't visualize the
`after' picture," says Sinon, owner of Elburn-based Home Visuals. "This
way, they can change their minds as often as they want before they make
any purchases. I can help them get the `what ifs' out of the way--`What if
we add a door here?' or `What if we choose a different kind of garage
A client can select a color with
the assistance of Sinon's software then take a color printout to a store
to have the paint matched.
For clients about to build new
houses or begin remodeling, Sinon's images help them narrow down their
decisions. Some clients have attached the images to their remodeling
permit applications. A few new homeowners have used her service to create
preliminary sketches for their landscape designs.
"I've even had a few clients who
have made copies for neighbors to show them their remodeling plans, so the
neighbors know what to expect," says Sinon. "They could also use them to
get approval from homeowners' association boards."
Sinon begins by photographing the client's house. She
enters the photos and/or blueprints in her computer program, then adds
rooms, dormers, roofs or whatever is on the client's wish list. Clients
can order hard-copy images, which look like photographs of the finished
projects, or CDs. They also can access their images through Web pages,
which Sinon links to her Web site.
Sinon keeps each client's project
linked to her Web site until the project is completed, so the client can
continue to make changes. Some clients invite their subcontractors to
access their pages, too, to view proposed changes.
The cost, Sinon says, is in the
set-up. (The base price is $100 to $300 for projects that involve cosmetic
changes, extensive remodeling and whole-house plans are more.) No matter
how many times the client changes the type of kitchen countertop or the
color of the dining room walls, the cost remains the same.
In addition to homeowners, Sinon's
clients include small- to medium-size contractors who use her service to
help their clients visualize proposed projects. They include new-house
builders, remodelers and specialty contractors, including one who builds
"It helps him in the winter,
especially, because he can use the service to `remove' the snow and `add'
some flowers," she says.
Dolly Sinon (right) uses a computer to help clients envision the remodel
of their home's exterior.
Sinon launched her business in
2002. Home Visuals has grown through word-of-mouth. News of Sinon's
service travels quickly through neighborhoods in which remodeling is
common, such as a Fox Valley subdivision where dozens of homeowners are
replacing their faulty synthetic stucco exteriors with siding or brick.
The mother of three sons, ages 12
to 19, Sinon is a native of Evergreen Park. Now, she's raising her
children in Elburn, in a neighborhood where she says, "everyone's watches
out for everyone else's kids." In her free time, she coaches her sons'
soccer teams and reads the books her sons are assigned at school. "Now,
it's `Animal Farm,'" she reports.
Now that her own house is 17 years
old, Sinon says, she, too, is remodeling. She uses her Home Visuals
program to visualize changes she is considering.
Last year, she finished her
basement and tiled a bathroom floor. This year, she plans to paint the
living room. She's considering a bold cranberry paint, or perhaps a
subdued tan. Or, maybe cranberry on the fireplace wall and...
Whatever she dreams up, her
computer helps her "see" it before it's done.
- - - - - -
One on one with Dolly
Q. What's the upside of running this business?
A. It's something new; people didn't used to have
this option. As a mom, having my own business enables me to work around my
kids' schedules. I can drive them to their after-school activities then
get back to work in the evening.
Q. What's the downside of this business?
A. It is so much fun, I spend too much time on
each project. I have to remind myself to stick to whatever the client
Q. How would you have used your service to change
your own house that you built before you launched this business?
A. I would have made the bedrooms bigger and
added a front porch. And, with three boys and two dogs, why didn't I
include a mudroom? If I had Home Visuals then, I could have `walked'
through the house and seen my mistakes before I built it.