The best part about moving into a new home is the fresh start. You have another chance to get life right. If you’re like me, you believe that somehow, if you put things just right, your whole life will fall into place.
Oh but that were so.
However, this is so: Put the right things in the right place, and you will live better and more beautifully than if you put the wrong things in the wrong place. And, eventually – and there is an eventually -- you will sell your house faster for more money.
I’m at that threshold again. As a live-in home stager, my job is to make a home that isn’t mine lure a stranger into wanting to move right in, so his life will fall into place, too.
The feat requires mastering the lived-in-without-looking-lived-in look, and it’s an art I can always improve.
So this week, while gearing up for my third home-staging project in as many years, I reached out for a little continuing education, and called a real pro.
Barb Schwarz, owner of Stagedhomes.com in Seattle, has been staging homes for more than 40 years, and trains others in the art.
“Selling a home is like being on stage,” said Schwarz, a former theater actress who transferred her stage skills from one arena to another. “You have to set the scene for every different act, for every room.”
I think of Shakespeare: “All the world’s a stage,” then his words: “Lord what fools these mortals be.” Man, what a farce he could have made of my life.
“Regardless of the home’s selling price, staging principles are the same,” said Schwarz, reeling back my wandering mind. “It’s hard work, but it’s not hard to do.”
We agreed on the basics: Clean (get the flies out of the windowsill); paint (with good neutrals); declutter (lose anything smaller than an orange); depersonalize (remove all family photos and collections). Then Schwarz up-shifted to staging tips for the advanced student.
“You live in your home one way and you market it another.”
“Not me!” I say. “I’m always for sale.” This strikes me as sad.
“First,” she continues, “stand in the doorway and look at each room like you’re a stranger to the place.”
“That’s easy. I am”
“If the buyer stands at the door and says ‘uh-huh,’ they’re not connecting. Staging pulls them in.”
Then she offered these home staging tips to help me get my game on -- again:
• Show them the possibilities. Creating a scene in a buyer’s minds is the same as suggestive selling. Help buyers see the good life they will have in the space. Set up a board game in the den. Set the table outside with fun linens and margarita glasses.
• Think three. When arranging tablescapes, go with three items of three different heights, in a triangle. For instance, a table lamp (tall), a plant (medium), a stack of wooden coasters, (short).
• Check the reading material. Put away magazines with busy covers. If the magazine has a cover like ‘Veranda’ magazine, fine, but absolutely no celebrity covers, says Schwarz. “If you leave out a People with Kim Kardashian on the cover, the buyers will pick it up and read instead of looking at your house.” Make sure books are appropriate. “I have seen sellers leave books about sex or the holocaust out, which can turn buyers off.” (Don’t get me started on reading material in the bathroom.)
• Play the angles. Putting beds or armoires at an angle can break up flat lines and aid flow. Try it if a room feels too static.
• Invite with towels. Tie bath towels (in excellent condition) on towel bars with raffia, tulle or thick ribbons. Hang towels over the edge of the tub, place French soap on them and a clean loofah. Keep towels you actually use hidden.
• Accessorize the kitchen. Pull decorative accessories away from the walls, about one-third of the way. Don’t cram them in the corner. (That’s nice when you’re cooking, but you’re not cooking.) My go-to touch is a white rectangular plate with three pieces of the same fruit spaced evenly on it – peaches, pears, apples. Put out an open cookbook on an easel. Put away appliances. Use one large rug rather than a few small ones.
• Detail the refrigerator and pantry: These need to be staged, too. Shelves and drawers need to be clean, and crumb and grunge free. Artfully arrange contents (think still life) and strive for lots of empty space so buyers will think there’s room to spare.
• Thin is in – in the closet. Take out the opposite season’s clothes. Have nice matching hangers, no wire ones. Edit your shoe collection and make sure no dirty laundry is visible. Leave empty shelves, put a Victoria Secret bag on one with pink tissue coming out. Hang a pretty nightie on the door.
• Fluff up the bed. The master bed is a major focal point. Stage it with decorative pillows. Put a bottle of champagne on a tray with two glasses on the side table.
“Once we detail the bedroom, some clients sleep on the floor in sleeping bags because they don’t want to mess up the bed,” said Schwarz.
“THAT is not happening,” I assure her.
There are limits to the lengths I will go.
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through www.marnijameson.com.