Monday, March 25, 2013

Pastel Colors: Good or Bad for Staging Your Home?

If you want to stage with pastels, there are dos and don'ts to learn.
When you think of pastel colors, do you envision sickeningly sweet pinks, lackluster yellows, and hospital room greens?

That kind if thinking is so yesterday. Pastels can be just the ticket not only for home staging, but for home decorating in general.

But only if used in the right way.

In order for pastels to flatter your staged rooms, they need to be the background and secondary colors. Not scattered through the room as accents.

By definition, a pastel color is any color mixed with white. Think soft blues, delicious peach, smokey lavender, creamy yellow, dusty greens, and sea glass shades of teal.

If you had to choose one word to describe the effect of pastel colors in home décor, the word would be “soothing.”

Sure, you want to wow home buyers visiting your home for sale, but you don’t want to blow them away with highly saturated, vivid colors that might night be their first choice.

Need more reasons to paint some walls or furniture pastel tones in preparation for the spring home buying season? Or for refreshing your window treatments, laying down an area rug, buying bedding, or recovering some chair seats that cash in on pastels' appeal? 

Pastel-toned furnishings are less likely to fight with each other for attention,
and accessorizing them is a no-brainer. Photo: diadapolenta.com.
You can easily build a color scheme around various shades of one or two pastel colors,
as in this lavender and blue room. Photo: housetohome.


Eight Reasons to Love 'Em.
  • Pastels are more benign than bright colors. They’re less likely to offend buyers because they are never garish.
  • Pastels are comforting and relaxing. They’ll encourage buyers to slow down and linger.
  • Pastels are not distracting. They make it easy for buyers to appreciate your home’s important qualities, like layout, flooring, room size, focal points and other features.
  • Pastels are cheerful colors. They are reminders of happy celebrations like birthdays, showers, weddings, and springtime holidays.
  • Pastels combine well with accents of brighter colors, with wood tones, with white, and with touches of black that give definition to a room.
  • Pastels are appropriate for almost every décor style. They're at home in rooms decorated in Contemporary, Colonial, Asian, French, Scandinavian, Shabby Chic, and any combination of styles.   
  • Pastel colors are easy to paint over. If your home’s new owners want to choose their own colors, pastels are more likely to need only one coat of paint rather than two.
  • Pastels look fresh. They build confidence in the buyer's mind because they "feel clean." 
Do you have some pastel colors in your home on the market? Pastels aren't perfect for accent colors, but they can be the perfect background and middle color of any room. Keep the entire room in a pastel scheme, and you'll look stylish and well-staged. 

Want more advice on staging your home? Download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. You can access it immediately, for just $4.99, and it comes with my money back guarantee.  

top photo: Sam Allen Interiors.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What You Should Know About Mid Century Modern Furniture


I thought she was crazy when my friend Becky started collecting 1950s furniture in the 1980s. 

I grew up with those armless sectionals and amoeba shaped coffee tables. Maybe that’s why as an adult, I saw zero appeal.

Crazy ole me. 

Now I envy how Becky has decorated her San Francisco home. Funny how the passage of time gives you a better perspective on design. 

That furniture is easy on the eyes. It’s well-constructed. It’s colorful. It’s unique. And it’s on-trend now.

Mid Century Modern furniture designers were recognized as rule breakers at the time. The novel concept to design furnishings where form followed function began in the 1930s. 

In the 1940s when furniture makers discovered what could be done with new materials like plywood, fiberglass, wood veneers, molded plastics, and synthetic pigments, they set off on a new and exciting path. And the rest is history.

If you are staging your home to sell it, here’s what you should know about MCM furniture.   

Plays Well with Others. You don’t have to have a glass-walled ranch house to use MCM furniture. These streamlined pieces mix with most décor and furniture styles, from shabby chic to ornate Asian. 

I've owned the chair you see above for twenty years. I rescued it from a house being torn down. It's solid teak and weighs about 30 pounds! I took the seat apart and replaced the old tweed fabric with an animal print, stitching it to the original vinyl part of the seat.  No mater where I live or how I decorate, it looks at home.  

Prices Are in Reach. MCM furniture is accessible. Sure, the pristine originals and the high quality reproductions are pricey. But you can often find vintage pieces on Craigslist, in thrift stores, and at other second hand sources. If the piece is in excellent condition and the seller is knowledgeable, the price may reflect the value that collectors place on 50s furniture. But often these pieces come onto the market because someone is cleaning out grandma’s house, or the piece needs repair, and that’s when you can score a bargain.

The sleek lines and spider legs of this cabinet make it a
perfect candidate for home staging. BHG photo.

Color Palette is Delicious. The colors typical of MCM design are usually fine choices for home staging. Wall colors tended to be dusty tones of pinks, greens, tans, and blues. But the palette also includes today-colors like cyan, lemon, tangerine, and lilac. Home staging welcomes the natural woods and plastic woods, the pastel colors and black accents that are integral to these furnishings.   

The Lines are Perfect. Another element that makes MCM furniture great for home staging is that it can make rooms look more spacious. Chairs have open arms. Some chairs are made of wire. Bookcases have pencil legs. Tabletops are glass sheets on aerodynamic bases. Credenzas hide clutter. 

Mid Century Modern examples like these can help home stagers with their furniture 
arrangement. These pieces will create a clean, comfortable and edgy look in most homes.    

Creates the Right Mood. MCM can manage to look comfortable and warm, and at the same time industrial. The original designers turned to mass production because they wanted to produce “democratic furniture.”  As a result, many pieces do have an industrial vibe to them. But because of the use of light toned woods and playful geometric textiles, these pieces stop short of looking cold. That’s a perfect prescription for home staging success, a style that appeals to the masses.

Vintage 50s furniture doesn't have to look spare. Combined with slipcovered pieces
and floral drapes, they stay true to themselves yet look fresh. BHG photo.  

Nostalgia Gets Attention. If your MCM furniture is in good condition, it will evoke memories for some of a more innocent era, when home ownership was easy by comparison to today, and when people were happy with a slower, simpler life. For young people who appreciate vintage, the charm is still there, without the grandma ruffles and florals.    

Mid Century Modern pieces have made their way to collections in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. They will never lose their value. Incorporate some MCM to increase the value of your home on the market by making it look more attractive, tasteful, and comfortable.

You can learn more tips on furniture styles, demographics, decluttering, furniture arrangement, curb appeal, and all things home staging related, if you download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Should You Stage Your Own Home? Or Hire a Pro?

An inviting front entrance like this colorful one -- so important
for curb appeal --  is easy to stage by basic staging principles. 
So I was reading on this online forum for professional home stagers, when I stumbled across a comment that annoyed me at first and then amused me.

Here's the quote:

“One can certainly tell the difference between real staging and self-staged. The latter range from bad to appalling. Anyone looking at self-staged listings has to look past the fuchsia/avocado green walls and swagged drapes and dark green wall-to-wall carpeting and flowered sofa and chair that don't match -- indeed, they don't match anything in the room.” 

That’s pretty harsh. But not true.

I maintain that most homeowners can stage their own homes. 

Many of them will need to bring themselves up to speed, but that process can be an enjoyable learning experience. And most certainly a smart financial experience.
 
It’s no secret that most of us stage our own homes to stretch our budget. 

Hiring a professional stager will cost some money, understandably. A trained and accredited stager is an entrepreneur in business to make money, and cranking up and running a home staging business demands capital investment. She’ll have to pay for her training, for furnishings and warehousing, insurance, website, cell phone, laptop, camera, transportation, day laborers, tradespeople, office expenses, and advertising. She has to calculate these costs into the estimate she gives you.

Why Do It Yourself

Besides the obvious economic advantages of staging your own home, let’s look at some other benefits.  

Pace. You have the flexibility to do it on your schedule. Unless you have a tight deadline for moving, you can afford to make some mistakes and then fine tune things with time. Perhaps family and friends will give you feedback for what looks best. You’ll be educating your eye. You might even be making purchases for your next home and using them for staging this one.

Safety. Most people have a horror story about movers or other workers in their home. Something was broken or stolen. Private information was taken. Do you know the “helpers” a stager might bring in to move your antiques around? Only you know exactly what you have that is valuable, delicate, or private, and how things are packed, labeled, and stored. Staging your own home could mean no surprises down the road.

Familiarity. If you’ll be living in your home while it is listed, you have an understanding of exactly what you and your family can tolerate in the name of an uncluttered home. It’s unrealistic to stage a playroom all cutesy and expect it to stay that way when you have three boys who prefer the room with wall to wall Legos. Can you keep your countertops free of small appliances? (I can’t!) Put away hair styling equipment and cosmetics every day? You might as well stage your home so you can still function comfortably. 

Julie, a reader of this blog, staged her home herself. This is her
dining area. I think she did everything right!

On the Other Hand

A professional brings advantages of her own to the home staging process. Here’s my list of the advantages I see, along with some tips for you if you are considering hiring one.

She’s been schooled as a professional and knows what the market insists on, what the trends are in your area. You should ask to see her credentials and view her portfolio.  You can ask your real estate agent to recommend a stager.
   
She has the furnishings and manpower necessary for staging. Ask if she pays any furniture rental fees or if you do. How about the cost of tradespeople like an electrician or a plumber?  Ask about the total cost for staging, how it is determined, and how it might vary.
    
Professional staging can be done relatively quickly. Depending on the extent of the job, the stager will probably be in and out and have you photo-ready in less time than if you had to do everything yourself. Ask how long the work will take. Ask what your responsibilities will be during the project.  
    
A stager has an unbiased viewpoint and can evaluate what should stay and what should go in your home for showings. She’ll see problems and solutions you haven’t thought of because she has the fresh eye.  Do you sense a sympatico with the stager you’re interviewing, so that communications are likely to go smoothly?

Here's the bedroom Julie staged. Would a professional have done better? I don't think so. 

You Could Flip a Coin

What’s a homeowner to do when it’s time to sell? It’s possible that a compromise might deliver the best of all worlds.

You could pay for a plan, and do the labor yourself. Many stagers will work as consultants, touring your house and offering suggestions on how best to present it. For a fee that varies according to where you live and how experienced the stager is, she will tour the property completely and then present you with a printed report.  A more casual, more economical arrangement might be a walk-through when you can take notes or record or video what she suggests.

Some stagers will offer an initial consultation and a follow-up visit to make suggestions about finishing touches or tweaks.

A cooperative arrangement like this means that you do the cleaning, the decluttering, and make the necessary trips to Goodwill, the landfill, or storage facility.

Celeste, another blog reader, sent me this photo of the living room she staged herself
after reading my eBook.  Her house sold for close to asking price in two weeks,
and I think it was because she did such a good staging job.
Whether you hire a pro or not depends on -- 
  • Schedule. How much time you have to do the work yourself. 
  • Market. What the competition is like in your local real estate market, how other homes go to market. In larger cities, it’s more likely that staging is expected. 
  • Specifics. The price, size, and age of your home. More expensive homes, larger homes, newer homes benefit more from a professional’s touch. Even if you have had your home professionally decorated, a home stager has a different set of priorities than a decorator. 
  • Nostalgia. How much emotional detachment you can muster. An outsider will be more objective, and help you understand typical consumer reactions to your décor and belongings. You may adore your cherry red dining room walls, but a stager may see that they make the room look smaller and older. 
  • Imagination. How much vision you have. If you’ve never been one to pay much attention to home décor, if you haven’t redecorated in a couple decades, if home improvement bores you, and if you can’t even imagine alternative colors or furniture arrangements for your home, perhaps you need outside advice. 
  • Money. How much money you are able and willing to spend on staging. If you are underwater with your home, it’s understandable that investing more money is painful. But an investment is what it is. Done correctly, staging pays for itself, because staged houses sell faster and for more money. 
  • Desire. How motivated you are to sell. If you want to sell quickly and move on, staging with a pro can speed things up.  
  • Stress. How able you are to cope with stress. Some people seem to thrive on chaos, drama, and deadlines. Others are easily overwhelmed. Even a simple closet cleaning can be stressful for some, while someone else can take a complete kitchen remodel in stride. 
Whether you do all your own staging, turn it over to an accredited home stager, or go with some combination, only you can decide.

If you stage your own home and use my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar, as a guide, I guarantee your results won’t look anything like the way the online poster described self staging. You’ll be on our way to staging like a pro. I’ll give you your money back if you are not completely satisfied with your purchase.

Avocado walls and swagged drapes, indeed! 

Top photo: Better Homes and Gardens

Monday, March 4, 2013

Checklist: A Dozen Must-Have Cleaning Tools


You’re staged to sell. Are you cleaned to sell?

Clean houses sell faster than less-than-sparkling ones, because buyers love a property that looks like the professional cleaning crew just left.

I know that deep cleaning is hard work. Keeping the essential tools and equipment at hand makes the tasks easier, faster, and more thorough.   

Here’s a run-down of cleaning tools that will help you sell your home. I compiled this list based on my own experience and the advice I’ve researched from professionals and other neat-freaks.

Caddy. An equipment caddy is like your purse. Get one you like to look at, and stock it with your favorite cleaning solutions. Keep it clean, organized, and handy.

Some people like to store a caddy on each floor of the home, or in each bathroom.

Microfiber cloths. Who isn’t a fan! These miracle cloths are so effective at capturing and holding dust and dirt that they make harsh cleaning products unnecessary for many of your ordinary cleaning jobs. For wiping down doors and trim, give me a bucket of plain water and a microfiber cloth, and let the games begin! Easy.

For big, reusable microfiber cloths at the best price, look in the automotive section of Wal-Mart. 

Rags. I use rags for spot cleaning carpets, sopping up major spills, and tackling nasty jobs like wiping down porch railings or the undersides of a range hood. Disposable paper towels are temptingly easy but can get very expensive.

Did you know that paper towels can actually scratch some surfaces, like Plexiglas and other plastics? And paper towels are no friend of the environment.

Got orphan socks? Cut them in half lengthwise, and use them for cleaning. They’re soft, absorbent, and reusable. Old T-shirts, diapers, and towels make good cleaning rags, too. Recycling feels good!

Plastic Buckets. My preference is a roomy one for floor mopping jobs, plus a couple of smaller ones to soak items or dilute solutions. Spray cleaners can build up after time, so once in a while a cleaning with clear water, rinsing as you go, calls for a handled bucket. 

          I like equipment that I can wash and disinfect, like my little dustpan and broom.  
Brooms. Many homeowners have tossed their brooms in favor of Swiffer-style sweepers, but nothing matches what a broom can do for floor corners, edges of carpeted rooms, exterior doors and steps, and other places where most vacuum cleaners won’t pick up.

Soft, synthetic bristle brooms are easier to use and grab dust better than stiff brooms. For garage floors, driveways and sidewalks, a stiff push broom is best.

A broom's kissing cousin is the dust broom, and a dust pan. They're a necessity unless you're sweeping debris under a rug, and I know you wouldn't! Well, maybe if your realtor is knocking at the door with clients in tow.   

Mops. A mop’s essential for a thorough cleaning on washable flooring. A large-headed wet mop with a swivel base and removable microcloth takes care of maintenance cleaning. For deeper cleaning, use a traditional sponge mop, one with a sturdy replaceable head that will squeeze out excess water and lets you rinse floors as well as wash. The more money you spend, the better the mop. Read the reviews and pick your weapon.

Brushes. They’re indispensable for embedded dirt, textured surfaces, and hard to reach places. I prefer a brush or a cloth to a sponge, which starts out looking all perky and then gets stinky if you don’t disinfect it regularly and then dry it quickly.

I like Oxo brushes because they are designed well and last a long time. My dentist has forgotten that he recommended a Sonic toothbrush, so when I get free toothbrushes with each visit, they become part of my cleaning arsenal, perfect for getting into those tough spots.

This little, long handled, low-tech carpet sweeper could be your answer
to those short notice showings when your carpets need a quick once over.  
 
Magic Erasers. Like any addict, I make sure I never run out of these. They are the only approach for some otherwise unsolvable cleaning problems. We’re talking glass shower doors, fiberglass shower stalls, stoves, porcelain and stainless sinks, and stains on vinyl and laminates. The post I wrote about how Magic Erasers work their magic is one of my most popular posts. 

Vacuum Cleaner. Nothing sexy about it, but people have love/hate relationships with their vacuums. I love my Rainbow. I’ll never go back to using a vacuum that blows air over dirt and then out its exhaust. My Rainbow is a little heavy and a little awkward, but I don’t care. It makes the whole house smell great because I can scent the water that cleans the air. I don’t get paid to say these things.    

A vac is your most important tool. If you’re in an unfulfilling relationship with yours, now’s a good time to invest in your future. Whether you prefer an upright or a canister type, I urge you to spend a little more money and get one that you can stay married to for a long time.

Or does your present vac just need a thorough overhaul and cleaning?

It's not a vacuum cleaner, but it's the ancestor of vacs -- the humble carpet sweeper. It could be included on this dirty dozen tool list as #13. Compact, lightweight, inexpensive, quiet, it will perform your hurry-up-tidy-ups between regular vacuuming dates.     

Long Handled Duster. A microfiber duster on an extendable handle is the way to handle ceilings and walls on a maintenance schedule. Swooshing over these surfaces regularly gets rid of dust and cobwebs before they become visible.

The telescoping handle is your friend if you have high ceilings. Use your handled duster for ceiling fans because they are a magnet for whatever is in the air. Knock the dirt down before you vacuum.

My favorite scents. If you've read my home staging eBook, you know that I like to avoid 
   strong chemical scents, and prefer essential oils for adding fragrance to a room.    
You can download the book now and and learn all my tips to clean like a pro. 

Plastic Watering Can. A real time-saver. If you have to use caustic solutions, like Lime-A-Way or CLR, to clean shower walls and doors, use a small plastic watering can with a spout to rinse them away. Tuck it away in the vanity.

Nitrile Gloves. Protect your hands and your health. Slip on some pretty gloves for all your wet cleaning tasks. Even pure water dries your skin, and cleaners in solution are absorbed by your skin. If you won't drink it, don't put it on your skin.     

What? A girl can't have too many pairs of gloves. I have other glove collections
for painting and gardening. This is the watering can I use for rinsing shower walls.   

Depending on your home, you’ll have favorites to add to this list --  a steamer, roller to remove pet hair, carpet shampooer, robot cleaner, hand-held rechargeable vac, pumice stone, special dry mop, a squeegee, your favorite dance music. What do you do to make the most of your housecleaning time?  

Getting your home to shine is one of the most important ways you stage your home. When a person buys a home, she envisions herself starting fresh, and moving up in the world. Cleanliness is part of that picture, part of what sells homes. You can't clean your home on the market too much, but you deserve the tools that let you do a better job, faster and easier. 

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