Thanks for visiting my website! I’m Jennifer Baron, owner and creator of Home Love.
This page is for those who want to learn more about the woman behind the logo and how I gained the wealth of experience and skill I bring to the services I offer with Home Love.
My story has spanned several decades and taken a few unique paths. When I thought I was going in one direction, it turned out that my life has been one big circle bringing me back to where I was meant to be. Everything I’ve done in my life has perfectly prepared me to do what I love most…to help others create beautiful homes that reflect their soul’s journey and to help them create the sanctuary they deserve. My ultimate goal is to help people fall in love with their homes again.
Home Love is my passion project and the culmination of what I’ve learned along the way and all I have to offer. The following is the story of the history that brought me here.
I’ve been passionate about creating beautiful and organized spaces since I can remember. I was the kid who carefully curated all her toys, organized her books in alphabetical order, arranged her clothes by type and color, and whose walls were an explosion of color and texture. Friends teased me often and when I wasn’t looking they’d move my stuff out of place just for laughs. But, my quirky organizational nature would prove to be my secret weapon. I accomplished all I set out to achieve by being very well organized and future employers found my organizational skills to be one of the greatest assets I brought to the table.
I grew up in a real estate family in NW Indiana. Dad was a builder/developer and Mom was an interior designer. She designed all Dad’s model homes and I joyfully helped her shop and decorate them. On weekends I went to work with Dad and helped show the model homes to buyers. He built many different types of homes so I witnessed various levels of home construction. One year he was awarded for building the most prefabricated homes in the nation in a small town in southern Illinois, another year he built luxury homes in a small town in Indiana; and another year he built luxury condos in a near west suburb of Chicago - just to name a few.
I fell in love with every thing having to do with homes at a young age. I watched them being built from the ground up, helped Dad choose finishes for the interiors, and I even learned to paint, lay tile and hang drywall. To this day I love the smell of newly cut wood and fresh paint. I swore I would marry a carpenter and together we would build houses all over the world…or at least the Midwest!
A NEW WORLD TRAINING:
Naturally, when I got older I rebelled and turned away from the family business. I decided I wanted to become a filmmaker. My dream was to become a Director (everyone in film school wants to be a Director ) OR, my next choice was to become a ‘Production Designer’ and to design movie sets.
My family thought I was crazy. They said there was no way I’d break into movies yet alone make a living. Happily, I proved them wrong. I graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BFA in Film & Video Production and a minor in photography, and immediately started working in low budget, independent films for the next 3 years.
In the Indy world you tend to wear many hats on the same film, so I worked in several different crew positions in the early years. Primarily I worked as an assistant director, producer and set designer but I also worked in the lighting and grip departments. And, if a make-up artist didn’t show up that day I’d happily jump in and do make-up, or if the caterer canceled I’ve been known to cook a meal for a crew of 30, no problem!
Those early days were some of my happiest and allowed me to hone my craft in becoming a filmmaker. However, just to break in and get the experience I needed, I had to work for free on most projects. On weekends I worked as a cocktail waitress to pay the rent and somehow scraped by. It wasn’t easy but I knew if I worked hard enough I’d one day get the lucky break I needed.
THE BIG BREAK
That one lucky day finally came and I ‘broke into the big leagues’ I was hired to be a production assistant on a big studio movie called “Flatliners” that starred a very young Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland. Not only did I finally earn a decent paycheck, but from that point forward my freelance career in film and television in the big leagues took off!
I worked as a production assistant on two more studio movies: “Only the Lonely” starring the late John Candy and “Curly Sue” directed by the late John Hughes. My next big break came when I was offered a job as an assistant location manager on the movie “Mad Dog & Glory” starring Robert De Niro, Bill Murray, and Uma Thurman.
From this point forward, and the next 15 years, I continued to work as a primary scout and location manger for several large studio movies and television series. One of my favorite films was “High Fidelity” starring John Cusack. Most of the locations in that film are my finds and I worked closely with the production designer to contribute to the creation of the famous record store.
The funny thing about working in the locations department was that I was - in a lot of ways - back to where I started in the family biz. In scouting for movies I toured a LOT of homes, from small bungalows in quaint neighborhoods to luxury condos in the sky overlooking the bustle of the city, and everything in between. Once locations were selected, I essentially then became a “real estate liaison” for the movie studios. I negotiated filming contracts with property owners and prepared them for the filming in their house or business. I also worked with the neighbors and residents of the communities where we filmed, and paved the way for the production company to film at that location.
Just to get to a day of filming, the Locations Department was responsible for coordinating a lot of moving parts. Our job was to procure filming permits, coordinate city services, park the big trucks and trailers, provide daily maps for crew to get to set, secure parking and daily lunch locations, and hire and coordinate security guards and police. Last, but not least, our job was to get every other department on the movie crew everything they needed to get their respective jobs done, from helping the lighting and rigging crew get lights up on roof tops, to helping the set design crews get everything they needed to transform our locations.
The best part of working as a location scout and manager was that I worked closely with both the Director and the Production Designer. I helped them not only find the perfect location that worked logistically, but I also helped find locations that looked beautiful on film. I may not have done the actual set design, but I was part of helping create the important and essential “look” of the film. This aspect of my job was truly the icing on the cake!
KEEPING THE SET DESIGN DREAM ALIVE
Most movie jobs lasted 6-8 months. To fill in the time between film projects, I also freelanced on short films, commercials and industrial films (training & PSA videos). To my delight, It was on the short films and industrial videos where I got to do some set design. They were usually small sets but I loved each and every opportunity to design.
The favorite of my smaller freelance jobs was working for photography studios, specifically ones that produced interior design spreads for catalogs and magazines in the home design world. These studios were basically little movie sets. Thanks to a connection who knew my dream of being a set designer, I broke into this world as a paid shopper. I LOVED this job! I was hired to shop for things needed for the set design. I went everywhere…Antique stores, high end decor stores, hardware stores, tile stores, florists, fabric stores, prop shops and more. I also spent a lot of time at Chicago’s Merchandise mart, a shopping mecca!
One studio loved my work so much, saying I had ‘the eye’ for finding and selecting props, and that I contributed immensely to the overall “look” of the projects, so they offered me a full time job with training to become their 2nd position designer (2nd to the top designer who co-owned the company) I was probably crazy, but by this point in my career I was pretty much in love with working in the film industry, so I turned them down. They still hired me any time I was available but the movie and TV world kept me busy.
THE BIG SWITCH
In 2001, my life took a dramatic turn that was part accident and part destiny. As a location manager another one of my tasks was finding short term rentals for “above the line” crew members, meaning the movie stars, directors and producers. Typically I was searching for high end homes in the Gold Coast of Chicago. This was before the world of AirB&B so I turned to some of Chicago’s elite realtors to help in my search. It was one of these realtors who suggested I get a real estate license to help me with property searches and to earn some extra money. Being a freelancer,I thought that was a brilliant idea that would add to my repertoire. That winter I took real estate classes and by spring I had my real estate license.
I never planned on becoming a full time realtor, I just wanted to ‘up my game’ in location scouting and to more efficiently find short term rentals. Then on September 11, 2001, the unimaginable happened. Not only was the whole country in shock, but the film industry in Chicago suddenly came to a screeching halt. I was booked to work on ‘The Wheel of Fortune’ that was to film for a week in Chicago but the job cancelled and there were no jobs coming to replace it for the first time in my career.
Everything shut down and it became what I now call the great shuffle. I wasn’t the only one out of work. Many of my colleagues moved to LA seeking work but I loved the Mid-West and didn’t want to leave. So with my new real estate license in hand, I began interviewing at small real estate agencies. I thought I was seriously good at helping big movie directors find the locations of their dreams, why not help real people find the homes of their dreams? I thought it had to be pretty much the same, and I was right, it really is a very similar process.
I wasn’t excited about any of the brokers I met and I started to get discouraged. Then, Chicago Magazine had the photo of this handsome Irish immigrant janitor-turned-real estate mogul on the cover. The article inside told of his rags-to-riches success story, and that he was opening a new brokerage in Chicago. Without hesitation I wrote Mr. Conlon a letter. The day he received it he called to tell me I was hired!
I worked for Sussex & Reilly for 4 years before joining another new and exciting brokerage with a unique name, @properties. I’ve been honored to work for @properties for 18 years and have loved watching them grow into the explosive brokerage they are today and the recently rebranded @properties | Christie’s International Real Estate.
I loved working as a real estate broker, but coming from a creative background, something was missing in the early days. I still dreamed of set design. So, when working with sellers,I went above and beyond when helping them prep their homes for sale. With my film and photography background, I understood the power of a single image. I brought the movie magic and ‘styled’ my clients homes and ‘directed’ the professional photographers I hired. I understood that to drive traffic to our listing the photos had to be perfect.
ANOTHER TURNING POINT
One day, I overheard an agent talking about ‘Staging’ and that she was an accredited staging professional (ASP Home Stager). At that time, most agents or sellers hadn’t heard of home staging, but the moment I heard this new profession existed, it was music to my ears! I had to learn everything I could about ‘home staging’ so I immediately signed up for courses with Barb Schwarz, the actual creator of ‘Home Staging’. She was the very first to introduce home staging to the world of real estate, and the first to offer an accreditation program.
In 2007 I made it official and became an ASP Home Stager, joined the international association of home stagers, and opened my first company ‘Jennifer Baron Staging & Design’. From that day forward I took what we called “styling” in the film industry and I became the best home staging realtor I could be.
Just one year after becoming a home stager, with the primary goal of helping my seller clients, the world experienced the great market collapse of 2008. The times were devastating for many and sadly, it would take many people years to recover the values lost in their homes. Agents left the business in droves and short sales and foreclosures were on the rise at an alarming rate.
Fortunately, I was in a perfect position to provide a viable solution to help sellers and agents get their properties sold with home staging. Prior to this downturn, it was hard to convince people of the true value in staging homes. Now, staging is pretty much main stream thanks to HGTV.
In those tough years of the market recovery, I was able to grow my staging business into a busy operation. I was staging multiple properties monthly for my own clients and many other agent’s properties too. I grew my inventory from a small prop shop in my garage to a warehouse full of furniture and accessories. Most importantly, my real estate business benefitted in ways I only dreamed about.
By the time the market recovered in 2012, and after a decade of staging and selling real estate, I had fine tuned my skills and talents, my reputation took hold and I had mastered the art of selling homes. At this point, I was so busy with my own real estate clients that I stopped staging for other agents and strictly staged only for my own sellers.
For the past 12 years, my staged homes consistently sold faster and for more money than the market average, with an average market time of 5 days and an average sales price of 103% I achieved this level of success with a 3-prong formula: 1. Create the best presentation possible with home staging and professional photos. 2. Master the essential skill of pricing a home right the first time. 3. Provide the best marketing available in the industry, thanks to @properties | Christie’s International real estate.
Much to my delight, clients who were thrilled with the staging I provided, began asking for my help in designing their new homes. And thus, the design part of my business began. I’ve guided many kitchen and bath remodels and whole house design projects. To this day, if you hire me to sell your home, my staging fee is included as part of my marketing package, and if you buy a home through me I always include a design consult as part of my closing gift.
COMING FULL CIRCLE
After years of trying not to work in the family business, staging and selling homes became my primary profession and life had pretty much come full circle! I still scouted locations and helped find crew housing on occasion, but my dreams of being a set designer transformed into staging and designing homes, just like Mom did, and selling homes just like Dad did.
In 2021, yet another shift brought big change. I made a life time dream come true when my husband and I moved to SW Michigan. Growing up in NW Indiana, my family spent time in Michigan throughout the year on a regular basis so I always thought of Michigan as my 2nd home. Even after moving to Chicago, when I needed a break from my busy career, SW Michigan was always my destination of choice. I’ve spent 30+ birthdays in Michigan in winter, my favorite season, and I have many dear friends who live here. To say I’ve loved Michigan my whole life is an understatement. I’ve loved it so much I’ve finally made it my full time home.
Before my husband and I moved into our new home, as you might suspect, we remodeled the kitchen, installed new flooring throughout and painted the entire house. I also designed and installed a new gorgeous wood burning fireplace. And, we put up a beautiful 6 ft cedar wood privacy fence to contain my raised garden beds and the extensive pollinator garden I’m creating. Turns out I’m also passionate about organic gardening and I raise Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterflies. But that’s another story I’ll save for when we meet…
If you’ve read this far, I applaud you! I hope I’ve illustrated how my whole life prepared me for creating my company Home Love. I bring a ton of passion and a little movie magic to all my projects. I absolutely love to help others achieve their dreams of creating a home that is both functional and beautiful and that makes their hearts sing. Choosing the name for my company was easy because for me it truly is all about the Home Love.
When your looking to transform your space or just give it a refresh…when you need help bringing some calm and order to your home…when it’s time to sell and you want your home to stand out and bring top dollar…or when you need to bring your short term rental up to a 5 star rating and increase your bookings…I hope you’ll consider allowing me to be your partner in making your goals and dreams come true. It would be my honor to be of service.
Thanks for reading!