Monday, March 26, 2012

Here's How to Set the Table in Your Staged Home

Think Spring: Flowers are a must.
Opinions differ on whether or not to set the table with place settings in a staged home. Here's my take on the question.

If you need a focal point in a dining room, gussy up the table to make it look special. But if the room has a view, a fireplace, architectural details, or other assets, your best bet is to let the table play a minor role.

Do you have a nondescript or windowless dining room? Then take these tips to create a stylish tablescape that will become the focal  point, giving buyers that warm and fuzzy feeling.

Learn the difference. Setting the dining table in a staged home is different from setting the table for a dinner party of your friends and family. It doesn't have to be practical, and the settings can be a little over the top.

People on home tours know that buyers are putting their best foot forward, so don't  think you will look like a phony. Think of tablesetting as putting on lipstick. It's obvious your lips aren't really that color, but you are telling the word, "Hey, I'm doing my best."

Make it seasonal. Here's your chance to give your home that up-to-the-moment feeling.

Seasonal decor indicates that your home is new on the market, even if it isn't, and that you care about and enjoy your home. Look to nature for inspiration and themes, rather than decorating for any religious or ethnic holidays.
A tray with a tea cup on a bedside table? Why not?

In spring, no matter where you live, flowers set the perfect tone. I always suggest silk flowers because today's good silks are very convincing, and take almost no care. I especially like to see flowers that are in season at springtime, like lilacs, tulips, pansies, forsythia, daffodils, wisteria, dogwood, violets, hyacinths, poppies, and crocus.

Base your tabletop settings around pastel colors in spring. Make the colors brighter in summer. Make the colors warm and muted in the fall. For Christmas and winter, choose either traditional, or simple and dramatic color schemes.      
Any where snacking is bound to happen is an opportunity to stage
a place setting. This jumbo coffee cup measures 5 inches across. 

Go Big.  Set the table with large, carefully chosen pieces for impact. You don't want buyers to be distracted by small details. You want the tablescape to look lush and abundant, but not crowded.  Large serving pieces are how to get that look.

Even though your table doesn't sell with the home, you can use it to get a message to buyers that there's plenty of room for entertaining. I always use all the chairs and spaces at the table, unless it looks crowded. I don't see the point of setting for four a table that will seat eight.

Be on the lookout for oversized plates, glasses, and cups. Now is not the time for delicate teacups, small salt shakers, or little napkins. You can use trays for chargers, chargers for dinner plates, mixing bowls for soup bowls, and vases for goblets, for example.

Pile on the Layers. Dressing the tabletop is a little like dressing yourself. But instead of creating the illusion of a trim body, we want the illusion of a generously proportioned room. Your aim is to make the whole room look comfortable and luxurious. Two or three color-coordinated plates, a cup or bowl, glassware, cloth napkin, and placemat make the table look festive and well-appointed without looking fussy.

My friend Kathy, who owned a store that sold tableware and cookware, showed me the trick of using two cloth napkins instead of one to make place settings look more lush and layered. Try it!  

Match the style of your place setting to the style of your room, or the demographics
you can expect to attract, based on what your realtor says is your target market.  

Skip the Cutlery. Silverware of any kind is just too tempting, too easy to pocket. Sad but true, people walk off with it. Your incomplete table settings won't look as peculiar as you may think. It merely looks like the party is just getting started.

Ideally, you'll have enough details on the table that silverware won't be missed.

Don't count on your realtor to be your protector. It's just not practical to expect she can be in every room with every person when your home is being shown.
You can stage a tabletop on a shoestring. The floral design plate on this table is
 paperware, the placemat is a pillow case, and the napkin ring is a shower curtain ring.    

Practice Frugality. For the same reason -- pilferage -- don't use anything that you prize, or that cost more than you can afford to lose. Small furnishings have been known to disappear even at open houses.

It's very easy for you to find attractive dinnerware at second hand sources, or discount stores, so leave your precious silver service in the closet. Can you believe the teal-edged plate in the top photo is cheapo plastic, and not handblown glass from Italy?

If something is small enough to fit in someone's pocket, don't use it, unless you are willing to give it away.
When in doubt, work with a palette based around variations of one color,
like periwinkle, plus white and silver. 

Keep it Simple. Simplicity is one of the guiding principles of successful home staging. Stick to a simple color scheme, one that coordinates with your room and home. Cluster the items at each place setting, and leave plenty of breathing room between them.

Your dinnerware does not have to match, but it should feature complimentary colors. Also, the settings should match each other, or your dining room will look like a garage sale. Aim for a variety of textures to keep things interesting.

Show the Tabletop. Tablecloths, no matter how pretty, colorful, or luxurious, look old fashioned. I love linens as much as the next gal, but the draped table looks like grandma's kitchen. Of course, there are exceptions.

An historic home, a cute breakfast nook, an old table that needs to be disguised -- these situations may call for a cloth appropriate to the room, but generally, an undressed table looks better in the staged home.
Every springtime tablescape needs flowers, whether they are real ones,
silk ones, or even a floral print fabric. 

Don't Fool with Food. Have you ever been to a home show or a model home and seen a bowl of fake popcorn, or a cherry pie or chocolate cake made from resin, or a loaf of shellaced bread? I think it's hokey and deceptive, don't you? I'm encouraging you to be decorative with your tablesettings, but not tacky. The only fake food I like to see in a staged home is a bowl of citrus fruit, because no one eats lemons.

Use these Rules. What works in the dining room, works in the eat-in kitchen, breakfast bar, deck, or anywhere there is a designated eating area. What could be more charming on a porch table than a tray set up to host a tea for two?  
Be imaginative. I used a pipe cleaner, a very inexpensive, beaded bracelet,
and a scrap of vinyl for a napkin ring. 

Tabletop staging doesn't need to be complete, expensive, or elaborate, but it should suggest good times entertaining, relaxing, eating, and enjoying a home.

What have you done today to make your dining room and your whole home more enticing to buyers? Download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Quickly and For More Money, to learn other ways to stage your own home.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Make Your Very Own Garden Planter That Looks Like Stone!

Why doesn't someone invent a prettier name than "Hypertufa" for these garden containers?

They convincingly resemble stone, but are lightweight and porous.

I love them because they look old and natural, and these are desirable qualities to bring to a garden. Or sometimes, to an interior tablescape.

Plants like sedum love hypertufa.

Hypertufa is made from cement, and usually peat moss, and perlite. You can make these planters in almost any shape you like. Gardeners and crafters most often make them in a trough shape because that's the easiest and most rock-like shape.

Over the years I have made a variety of hypertufa planters. Properly constructed and cured, your planters will last a long time, about 10 years.

Because they are lightweight, you can take them with you to your next home. Meanwhile, they will add some authenticity and charm to even the smallest garden spot you have.

They are perfect for plants that prefer well drained soil, like rock garden alpine plants, cactus, herbs, and succulents.

Please don't be put off by the detailed instructions. It's a lot like making mud pies, but there are some specifics that need attention if you want a vessel that won't fall apart.

You can read my simple directions here, and you can read Martha's instructions, hypertufa forums and other tutorials for making hypertufa planters and ornaments.

 Step 1. Gather Your Materials


These are the things you need to make a simple faux-stone planter. 
Honestly, the hardest part of working (playing, really) with hypertufa is getting everything you need. Here is the basic, simple, uncomplicated, beginner's list.

Portland cement. Do not use concrete or Quickset mixes. Only Portland cement will do. Unfortunately, unless you have a stone mason for a friend who will sell or give you a smaller amount, you'll have to purchase the 47-pound bag sold at home improvement or builder supply centers. The cost is nominal -- about six bucks -- but the weight could be a problem. And the bag usually leaks a little, so throw a tarp in your pretty little trunk first. Get help if you are going to hurt yourself lifting this baby.
My hypertufa trough can be used indoors and out. 

Peat Moss. Most gardeners have this on hand. It's cheap enough, and you can always use any extra to make your own potting soil for those container plants you'll need to improve curb appeal. An 8-quart bag costs about $4.

Perlite. You'll recognize this as the little white beads in your everyday potting soil. An 8-quart bag costs $4.50, and you can use what's leftover for your container plant mix.

Latex or rubber gloves. Use the dishwashing kind that will stand up to the task. Concrete will tear up your skin and nails!

Dust Mask and Safety Goggles or Glasses. Cement is a fine powder that blows around and when it lands on a moist surface (like your lungs or in your nostrils) it reacts chemically. You do not want to breathe cement dust or get it in your eyes. Be safe. Don't take the mask and glasses off until the mixture is wet and thoroughly mixed.

Containers for forms. Collecting these might be your most difficult task for this DIY project. You need two similarly shaped vessels, one slightly smaller than the other. These containers could be cardboard boxes, plastic containers, Styrofoam forms, wooden boxes, or even baskets. Do not use metal containers. Larger projects should have a 2-inch space between the two containers, and smaller projects are fine with a 1-inch space. This space will be the wall of your hypertufa planter.
I used two plastic mixing bowls from a matched set. I added rocks to the bottom so
 I could knock them out later for drainage holes.
I weighted the inner bowl with a brick after filling the space with wet mixture. 

Release Agent. I use WD-40, but cooking oil spray, silicone spray, or Vaseline will work as well. The release spray makes it easy to separate the mold from your planter once the cement has hardened. .

Garden hand trowel or masons trowel. You'll use this tool to mix the ingredients, and pack the form with the mixture. You may also use it to scrape sharp edges away from the container before it is completely hardened. If you are mixing a large quantity in a wheelbarrow, you may want a hoe as well.

Wire brush. To soften the sharp edges of a partially cured hypertufa trough or pot, you'll want a wire brush. Brushing the smooth sides of the container will give it a rough, natural finish rather than a smooth one.

Water, measuring vessel, and mixing bin. The water source doesn't have to be directly next to your work. You'll use your measuring vessel to measure the ingredients. The mixing bin can be a roomy plastic dishpan, a bucket, or a wheelbarrow.

Plastic sheeting. Cut open a plastic garbage bag. Use this to cover your work surface, and then to cover your container while it cures for a day or two. This DIY project can be messy, so wear work clothes and choose an area where you can make a mess temporarily.

Step 2. Mix the ingredients

There are different formulas for what goes into a hypertufa mixture. I used for this tutorial --
  • 1 part cement
  • 1 part peat moss
  • 1 part perlite
If you read other tutorials, you'll see that different crafters like different proportions and other additions. For example, vermiculite gives the container some shiny specks, dyes can color the finished product, and reinforcing fiber makes the vessel stronger.

Put on your dust mask and goggles. Measure the cement, the peat moss, and the perlite into the container you are using to make your mixture. I used my wheelbarrow, and I scooped 8 containers of each ingredient. Using the trowel, combine these dry ingredients. Then add an equal amount of water, slowly, mixing well after each addition. Let the mix stand for 10 minutes so the peat moss can absorb the water.
You can see the size of the scoop I used for measuring perlite, peat and cement in
equal portions in a wheelbarrow. The bottom left photo shows the dry mix,
and the bottom right shows the correct wet consistency for a hypertufa mixture. 

Use this time to prepare the pairs of containers you'll use for molds. I made three containers from my batch for this tutorial, and I used about half the bag of cement. Spray or rub the interior surfaces with release agent. If the material is cardboard, it doesn't need a release agent because you can just tear the cardboard away. Have on hand any shells, leaves, or rocks if you want to add these as design elements.

Step 3. Fill Your Molds

Check the mixture for consistency. It should be wet but not runny, so that it clumps together in your hand, and even allows some water to run out when you squeeze it. If it is drier than cottage cheese, add some water. Fill the containers, packing the mixture into all the corners. Cover the molds entirely with sheet plastic. The plastic seals in the moisture so the cement can cure slowly at an even temperature.
Inside a square plastic bin I used a cardboard box that left a three inch well
all around for the hypertufa mix. I added sea shells to the outter edge,
and I weighted the cardboard box down with a flower pot full of rocks.  
You can make a free-form hypertufa container by inverting a cardboard box ,
covering it with plastic, shaping the hypertufa mix over the box,
and wrapping it in the plastic to cure for a day or two. 
This is how the three containers I made looked during the first 24-hour curing period.
I used the plastic garbage bag I covered the work surface with, to wrap the vessels,
and weighted it with stones and flower pots. 

Step 4. Clean Up, and Cure 

Now is the time to wash your tools, before the mixture begins to dry. Rinse your mixing container well and wash your trowel and gloves.

Do not disturb the covered containers for 24 hours, or 36 hours if they are large. Then, wear your gloves when handling the still-uncured cement containers. Uncover them and carefully unmold your creations.

The containers then need to cure for 2 more weeks in the shade. Keep them away from temperature extremes or dry heat. Unfortunately you cannot grow plants in them during this 2-week curing time because the cement is leaching lime as it cures.
The texture of hypertufa can be smooth like polished granite,
or rough like volcanic stone, as above, depending on the mold you choose
and how you finish it before it cures completely. 
The top photo shows the three planters I made for this tutorial, plus the mold I used
for the center, smooth one. 
The far right container shows the free form approach. 
To reveal the shells, I used the wire brush on the square container after unmolding it.
I used the brush to soften the edges, and rough up the texture, too. 

  
Hypertufa containers change color from brown to grey as they cure, and if left outdoors in damp weather may develop a mossy covering. Some gardeners create this growth my introducing moss spores to the surface.

Don't be afraid to move your hypertufa container indoors for use as a base for floral arrangments. Protect your furniture with felt pads underneath the container. Hypertufa won't hold water, but you can use a plastic or glass container inside your planter.

Or make dry arrangements with dry floral foam, the way I did using silk tulips in the photo above.

Out of doors, bulbs and seedlings, and slow growing herbs are happy in hypertufa containers. I forced these allium bulbs in a hupertufa container I made years ago, using a plastic flower pot for a mold.

I hope you will try your hand at making these unique containers.

I also hope you'll order my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For To Dollar. In this easily downloadable PDF-formatted book, you'll discover all kinds of easy ways to dress up your home on the market. Your competition is staging. Are you?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Listen Up: It's Easy to Make No-Sew Curtains

Curtains make the difference between an ordinary room and a pretty one. 
If you do nothing else to stage a home on the market, whether it's occupied or vacant, please dress your windows.

Bare, naked windows make any room look sterile and feel uninviting -- not the look and feel that makes a buyer fall in love your home.

Window treatments can be pricey, even if you make them yourself. I know, because I've sewn many curtains and draperies. But if you don't want to spend much time or money, and you don't want to even sew -- there's still a way you can dress windows.

Actually, there are 15 ways. And you can learn each of them in my eBook, No-Sew Curtains and Draperies to Stage Your Home.

Did you know that burlap, felt, and fleece make handsome draperies that hang beautifully and and require no sewing?

The trickiest part of most window treatments is how to hem, seam or trim the edges. 

Or that ordinary white glue is perfect for hemming curtains for staging, curtains that won't be laundered?

Or that duct tape can be used for hemming curtains?

Or that $1 shower curtain rings are a handy stand-in for expensive drapery rings?

There are at least seven no-sew techniques to hem draperies, and I demonstrate them all.

The style of drapery that staging requires is different from ordinary window treatments.

I also list the secrets to success and some possible variations at the finish to each tutorial to help you use the tutorials to their fullest.

These are some of the valuable methods, tips and tricks you'll learn in the step-by-step tutorials.

You can download the ebook now, and start turning your windows into selling points.

Your cost is just $4.99 and it comes with my money back guarantee.

Buy now for just $4.99.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tips for Dressing Your Mantel in Springtime

Something old something new,
something borrowed, something green! 
How a mantel is decorated can mean the difference between a fireplace that looks like a dark hole in the wall, and the fireplace that is a room's focal point.

If you have a fireplace and if your home is for sale, and if winter is winding down in your neck of the woods, it's time to give the mantel some love.

There are endless ways to stage a mantel. Here are some guidelines that I have found work for me.

Think Pairs. You don't always have to have two of something, but adding pairs makes mantel staging easier. Pairs add formality and structure. Even if your room is casual, starting with a pair of objects is a good beginning.

Mix Old and New. A collection of all new objects lacks contrast. A patina, some distressing, a bit of the shabby, or an artifact obviously from the past, these are what keep an arrangement from looking like a ready-made kit.

Stagger the Heights. Although some mantels do fine with a row of similar or even identical objects, using a a variety of heights will call attention to your fireplace. Home staging is all about showing off your home's assets, and a fireplace is definitely an asset. When you glance at your mantel, your eye should roll gracefully over the arrangement as though "reading" it from left to right.

Staggering the height of mantel elements might include, for example, draping a garland from the shelf or letting some greenery cascade over the edge. These are just two ways to get your zig zag going.

Add Texture. A shiny ceramic vase next to old leather bound books, some craggy driftwood in front of a glass hurricane, a metal roof on a weathered birdhouse, these kinds of juxtapositions make your mantel sing.
I wanted this springtime mantel to have "signs of life," so
I added both a rabbit and -- my favorite -- a frog.  

Find Unifiers. Like any art form, too much variation leads to chaos, and too much similarity creates boredom. Does your mantel have a unifying theme? Are you repeating a shape, a color, or objects that share a function, such as a collection of old cameras? In the mantel above, I used different shades of green as my unifying theme. Green is the color of spring. Use it to give your home on the market a shot of freshness.

Be Seasonal. Decorating the mantel for the seasons like autumn or winter is a good idea when you are staging a home, where you want the appearance of the property to look well-tended and up-to-date. Having a rangy poinsettia or a collection of snowmen on your mantel after February, tells house hunters that a house has been on the market too long, and that no one is giving it any attention.
The springtime mantel should showcase a sampling of
greenery, flowers, and other indicators of the season. 

If you see a mantel set-up in a blog, a book, a magazine, or a model home, that draws your attention -- in a good way -- analyze what makes it work. Usually, you'll see these guidelines at work.

You can find more tips on decorating mantels in my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. It's price? Just $4.99, and I promise to give your money back if you are not totally satisfied with your purchase. Download now so your home can sell itself!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

What Your Outdoor Seats Say About You

Any outdoor seating speaks to buyers. What's your message?
Do you live where winter turns your outdoor spaces into a colorless wasteland?

You might think you can forget your landscape for now, at least until the forsythia starts putting out her little yellow blossoms.

But if your home is for sale, you'd be wrong.

Wintertime is when you can get a handle on your landscape's hardscape.

Hardscape is all the man-made, fixed-in-place stuff that doesn't go away no matter what the weather -- stuff like patios, walkways, edging, walls, fencing, and arbors.

And seating, even if it is portable and living in your garage or storage unit for now, is part of hardscape, too. 

Just like the furniture inside your home, outdoor seating conveys messages to buyers checking out your home on the market.

What? You didn't know that furniture could talk? Here are some of the things your outdoor seating can say to prospective home buyers.
  • 'You will have fun here! Here is where you will entertain your friends and family."
  • "Slow down and take a good look. Come sit here and see what your could own."
  • "This is a home where you can kick back. When you live here, you'll have time to relax in comfort."

Five Tricks of the Trade

Follow these pointers to make the most of the power that outdoor seating has.

1. Keep furniture in good condition. Shabby chic may be charming indoors, but can look downright neglected outdoors.

Outdoor furniture doesn't have to look new, but it does need to be free from mildew and dirt. If anything needs repairs, now's a good time to take care of them. If what you own can't be repaired, and often plastic pieces can't be, get rid of it.

Although a brand new, high end, patio table and chairs for six gets pricey, there are inexpensive alternatives, furniture that you'll likely use to feel immediately at home in your next house.

2. Place seats where it makes sense to sit. Don't be guilty of the crime of Settee Showoff. That's my term for the placement of a bench or table and chairs plunked in the middle of a front lawn, facing the highway.

It's not a garage sale you're creating. It's a place to unwind, rest, socialize, or observe nature in private.
Whether front yard or backyard, a sense of
enclosure is comforting. This bistro set matches
the old world style of the home. Photo: Plow & Hearth
  • 3. Match the furniture to your home's style. A cottage sideyard could feature an old wooden table and chairs painted in bright colors.
  • The restored, mid century ranch home needs something more sleek.
  • And the McMansion almost demands matched sets of metal or composite patio furniture.
4. Go for color and comfort. Even though it may seem impractical, cushions on seats soften the look of outside furniture.

I've written about staging your home's exterior in my ebook, and blogged about how to stage your outdoor spaces as well.

5. Use furniture as a focal point to capitalize on your home's best features.

That's what good staging is all about! A dining table and chairs on a patio or balcony gives the impression of additional, usable square footage.

Comfy chairs on the front porch remind buyers that yours is a friendly and safe neighborhood. A lounge chair in the backyard says that the climate is comfortable.
Benches come in all styles, all of them qualifying as seats. 
Hammocks, porch swings and stools are other possible seats.   
 
The one exception to staging your home's exterior with outdoor furniture would be if your home is unoccupied and there is a risk that vandals would claim the furniture as their own, like in the middle of the night, for good.

Otherwise, let your outdoor staging say all the right things about your home, like,  

"Welcome!"

"I've been pampered."
"Love me."
"Buy me."
Outdoor seating -- done right -- is one of the best ways to get all those message across to potential buyers. Find more advice about selling your home in my $4.99 home staging eBooks you can download right now!
Seating should look comfortable and inviting.
You can make these cushions by following my tutorial for covering cushions.

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