One of my daughter’s best friends in high school would blow her whole allowance every weekend at the movies. Usually, she’d take my daughter with her, and I wondered how those girls could waste so much time. After college, that young woman went to straight to Hollywood, took an apprentice job, and in a few years was a millionaire screenwriter.
A good friend of mine has a son who seemed to spend his childhood reading comics and doodling. Guess what? Today he is an art director with a video game company, a job he loves, making more money than he can spend. Well, almost.
I may not be a child prodigy home stager, but some of my earliest memories are of spending hours on the floor rearranging the furniture in my beloved doll house. Like the bowler, the screenwriter and the artist, my mind has always been preoccupied with one thing. In my case, it was making homes look better.
My first job after college paid me just enough to rent a studio apartment in a Boston brownstone. It was advertised as furnished, but I could count the pieces of furniture on one hand—a bed and a screen to hide it, a refrigerator, a chair and a table for the hotplate that constituted the kitchen, and a sofa in front of the fireplace. The shared bath was down the hall. To my mind, my new home cried out for help. The ceiling was high and adorned with the rosette where a chandelier once hung. One wall featured two eight-foot tall windows with sills deep enough to sit on. The fireplace was marble and the floors were hardwood.
On my limited budget (I brought home $66.77 weekly, but it was 1964) I was able to slowly give the room the embellishments it demanded. Curtains came first. Although I had never made slipcovers, I knew how to sew, and set about to slipcover the sofa and a chair I dragged home from the curb. I took a landscape painting class and hung my works of art. Someone gave me a rug. My parents gave me a chair. I could invite someone to dinner!
When I left Boston for New York a year later, my landlady bought the curtains, the slipcovers, and the paintings. I like to think that my improvements helped her find the next tenant and I like to think of this episode as my first staging experience. But it would be 1998 before I heard that word, staging, used in connection with real estate. While visiting a friend in California, she told me that her home was on the market and that her realtor loaned her towels for the bathroom. My friend was instructed not to use these towels under any conditions, and that this approach to selling a home was called staging. I was fascinated.
In each of these homes, I created an environment that suited me and my growing family. Usually, I furnished and decorated on a shoestring because there was always something more financially demanding. Sometimes we moved our furniture and sometimes we started over. Even when I lived in a tent, I was rearranging the rocks around it to make it more attractive. Fifteen years ago, when my widowed Dad died and I flew to Connecticut for the funeral, I stayed in the home where I grew up. When my brother, who lives nearby, asked what I was doing with my time in the house, I said, “All the things I haven’t been allowed—leaving the lights on, running with scissors, and rearranging the furniture.” I was joking only about the scissors.
I have a friend I know I can count on for advice about clothes. She just has the knack for what looks good with what. She knows the current fashion trends, this season’s colors, and what lines are flattering on anyone. I didn’t get that gene. But I am the one that my friends have always come to for decorating help. What color should I paint this room? Can you make curtains for me like those? Help me hang these pictures. What’s wrong with my shrubs? Come furniture shopping with me.
My friends asking for advice know I won’t bust their budget to pieces because they know I am Ms. Thrifty! I grew up among traditionally frugal New Englanders. My parents had skills that made them enviable role models—carpentry, sewing, gardening, repairing, and that special skill of resisting the urge to own the newest thing to hit the shelves. So when the green movement went mainstream and made recycling, repurposing and buying second-hand not only acceptable but the fashionable thing to do, I was like all over it.
I wish I could scoop up every ugly house, fix it and sell it. Instead, I decided to write a book about adding value to homes through staging. In fact, I've purchased, staged, and sold over a dozen homes—and helped countless others do the same.
I hope that my enthusiasm for beautifying a home for the real estate market is contagious. I hope that what I have learned can help you make money. I hope you enjoy reading my books—and staging your home.
Please contact me at PinkOveralls(at)DIYHomeStagingTips.com if you have comments or questions about my approach to staging. I would love to hear about your experiences. You can also keep up with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook.
Barbara Pilcher, a.k.a. “Pink Overalls”