Thursday, July 20, 2017  

Lights, Camera, Action
How to Stage Your Home  

Your home is probably one of the most, if not the most, valuable asset you own. You live in it; you experience life’s dramas in it; it becomes almost a part of you. That last part is the problem. It becomes such an accepted part of us that we fail to look at it objectively as time goes on. We ignore the broken tile, the dent in the door, the clutter of things we just can’t throw away. And we really don’t see it anymore, but other people do.

That’s where staging comes in. Staging is a process that presents your house in its best light. Many articles have been written about staging homes that are for sale. Staging can also be useful for evaluating your home’s flaws and making it more attractive. Even if you have no intention of selling your home, you may want it to look extra special if you are having out of town visitors, hosting a wedding party, or just want to freshen up your look.

To explain what staging is, let’s look at what it is not. If you are calling in interior decorators, contractors, etc. and doing massive makeovers and spending lots of money, you are remodeling. Staging is more modest. It is lean and mean. You can hire a professional or you can do it yourself. The most important part of staging is the ability to see your home objectively and to make a plan to remedy the problems you find.

William Shakespeare wrote that “all the world’s a stage” and we are the actors. In a sense, our home is the scenery, the backdrop for our drama. Just as scenery changes in the theatre create excitement or changes in mood, we can change our scenery in our homes to actually make us feel better.

Staging a home is different depending on your goals. With new construction, you are cleaning and adding furniture, art, rugs, etc. to create a look that will sell the house. Homes that are being sold and the owner still lives there usually have the opposite problem—too many things some of which need to be removed. If you are not selling your home, you have more flexibility in your goals because you are not trying to please a customer, but to create a look you, your family, and guests will enjoy.

Act 1 Staging a New Home
Enter real estate agent or builder. Everyone is eager to sell a new home in as little time as possible. Why spend money staging a home? By spending a little time and money to prepare the house for sale, the home will sell quicker. Would you go to a job interview in a tee shirt and shorts? Your home needs to dress up too.

Rule number one is to make sure the home is not just clean, but spotless. Also, give it the sniff test. Odors in a new home accumulate when the house is shut up and there is no air movement. Dust settles on countertops. Spiders spin their webs. Unfortunately, even clean homes do not stay clean.

Second, empty houses are lonely houses. You do not need to completely furnish a new home in order to entice buyers, but a few well placed pieces of furniture and art will make the house you’re selling look more like a home to potential buyers. One caution here is that the furniture and art should match the look of the house both in style and scale. For instance, a contemporary home should probably keep with that theme in furnishings. In a small home, a few small furnishings will make it look more attractive and spacious.

Finally, don’t overlook the entrance. You may have driven up to the house so many times you don’t even notice the “first impression” first time visitors get. Ideally, the house has been landscaped by now with grass and appropriate plantings. Lawns should be kept mowed and leaves raked. Hide garbage areas. If the house has a porch, a hanging plant will dress up the entrance. If there is no porch, put a potted plant near the front entry way. The front entrance may be where the potential buyer decides whether they like or don’t like the house. So make sure it is absolutely clean. Because outside entrances are subject to wind and weather, they may need this cleaning more than once.

Act 2 Staging an Occupied Home
Almost everyone at some time in their life will face the challenge of selling their home while living in it. The cast of characters here may be a family and their pets. They may have lived in the house long enough that the closets are full and overflowing. The home itself may have tons of precious family photos and mementos that are cherished and rightfully so. But this stuff has to leave the house. The easiest thing to do is to store these items offsite until a sale is made. Closets need to be emptied so they look spacious. Rooms should look neutral and uncluttered. By removing your personal items, you allow the buyer to begin to imagine it as their space and not your home.

Once again, the house must be spotlessly clean. It also helps to add a few fresh flowers in vases. Supermarkets usually have inexpensive bunches of fresh flowers year round. Break up the bunch and scatter them in vases throughout the house. You will be amazed at what fresh flowers add to the atmosphere.

Next, eradicate all stinky odors. Cat litter boxes are the worst. But there are many other smells that may offend. Cooking certain foods may leave strong after odors. Sometimes an overpowering fragrance meant to cover up bad smells offends. You may like the fragrance. Someone else may not. The house should smell clean. That’s it. Just clean, nothing more.

As with new houses, entrances should be attractive and lawns well maintained.

Act 3 Staging a Home You Plan to Keep
Although staging is used a lot to help sell a home, its basic ideas are useful for everyone who owns a home. There are many times in our lives when our homes are center stage. We may be hosting a big event at our house or maybe we just want a change of scenery for ourselves.

Two things you can do that will change the appearance of your home drastically are to get rid of clutter and give your home an extreme cleaning both inside and out. Throw away, give away, or sell items you don’t need anymore. Now organize and store the items you wish to keep. We are bombarded with ads that encourage us to buy things. Actually less is more. Having more space and fewer things does cause the home to look better and it is a lot easier to keep clean.

Next, fix or hire someone to fix items that need repair or look worn. You may need someone to help you with this, unless you can step back and view your home with “new eyes.” We become so used to our homes that we may not even notice some of their obvious flaws.

When you get uncluttered and clean, you are ready to refresh your look—to change the scenery a little. Department stores do this by moving their inventory around to create a new look. You can use this trick as well. Try rearranging the furniture you have in a new grouping. Be creative. If you don’t like the look, you can always move it back. You may want to arrange the room around a favorite piece of furniture or focus on some item you treasure.

If your walls are white and variations of white, try a new paint color to brighten up a room. If you like the colors of your rooms, but you haven’t painted them in years, it may be time for a fresh coat of paint. This is one of the cheapest ways to help the appearance of any house for very little money. Try to pick colors that don’t clash with your furnishings and that you won’t grow tired of seeing on a daily basis.

If you have art on the wall, rotate a few pieces to different rooms. If you don’t have art on the walls, buy some or create some yourself. Art adds interest, color, and personality to a room.

One of the most important things in creating new scenery for you is that it reflects what you like and that you feel comfortable with it. Think about rooms you have been in or places you have visited where you liked your surroundings. Try to recreate this feeling in your own home. Analyze the elements you liked there and bring them home to your environment.

The Happy Ending

Finally, try out your new scenery on your family, friends, or guests. Give yourself a standing ovation. After all that work, you deserve it!