Archive for the ‘Interior Staging’ Category

The Devil is in The Details

November 5, 2008

I had a consultation in a wonderful Montgomery County, Maryland home yesterday. The home was just about 15 years old; modern, but mature. I thought this would be an easy one. Landscaping was good, exterior of the home was in good condition…

According to the website,, “When people say that the devil is in the detail(s), they mean that small things in plans and schemes that are often overlooked can cause serious problems later on…”
This couldn’t be truer than when you’re selling a house!
As a home stager, I see lots of details that are little devils, and really need to be taken care of.  These little red flags are often missed by the home owner, not because they are thoughtless or careless, but more likely because they are too closely involved with the preparation of their house for sale that they just don’t see all the little details that will make a big impact on potential buyers.  Paying attention to the details is even more important in vacants, as anything amiss will really stand out.
When I’m walking through a house, it is rare that I encounter a house that hasn’t been cleaned.  That’s always a good sign.  What I often see, however, are dirty light fixtures, old bathroom light fixtures that are rusting, and burned out bulbs.  The floor or carpet may be cleaned to within an inch of its life, but if the buyer can’t see it because of the dust on the fixture, or the lack of working light bulbs, then it starts to set a negative tone that will carry throughout the rest of the house.  Make sure the light fixtures are cleaned – especially if there are bugs in it! –  and the highest wattage light bulbs recommended for the fixture are used.  If the light fixture is old and tired, rusting or broken, then replace it.  It need not be an expensive fixture, but a new one is a lot better than one that looks like it’s ready to fall off of the wall.
Other little devils are all the small, obvious repairs that need to be done.  Make sure all doors work properly, in particular bi-fold doors, which can easily come off their tracks.  Imagine a potential buyer opening a closet door and it falling out, or worse yet, not being to open the door at all. Yikes! 
Another repair of sorts is when painting to remove all the old nails and hooks that held up wall art – don’t just paint over them.  That nail by the kitchen cupboard may have been perfect for your calendar, but probably won’t be for the new owner.  A potential buyer is going to look at the wall of painted nails and think only of how much work it’s going to take them to remove the nails, patch the holes, and repaint.  If it’s too much work, they’ll most likely cross that house off of their list.
As I mentioned above, it is rare that I walk into a filthy house.  But it seems that one area that is often forgotten about is windows – sills, screens, and the windows themselves.  Dust and dead bugs on the sills is a real turn off, along with broken, bent or torn screens, and dirty windows.  A clean window is going to make a room look a lot lighter and brighter, which in turn will help show the house better.
Don’t forget to tell your clients while they are preparing their house for sale to look at their house with the eye of a potential buyer, and to be sure to look for all the little devils that lurk from floor to ceiling, and wall to wall.  Taking care of the details will help prevent potential problems later on.
All the best,


Preferred Staging

the art of home preparation

Condo Transformed in Alexandria, Virginia

November 3, 2008
Can Do Condos  
Looking back across the our back issues of our newsletter, I realized I have never featured a condo! I don’t know why, maybe the single family homes in Fairfax or Bethesda have more drama, there are more rooms to fill in the larger homes of Great Falls, Potomac, MD and Loudoun. Maybe the row houses in Washington DC have a story to tell, who knows! Well, here is our first condo staging story.  
We just finished this awesome condo in the Landmark area of Alexandria. This is a big unit with a western exposure. The listing agent, BJ Cyr, has a great photo of the sun setting as seen from the condo balcony. Take a look at the listing photos on BJ’s site. (Since the property was just staged, the listing phots do not reflect the staging.)
The living room was a very neutral gray, which goes with any decor. The track lighting allowed us to highlight art work on the walls.
Alexandria condo living room before home staging  Alexandria condo living room after home staging
The rooms where so large, that we actually placed the furniture against the walls. In this case the the rooms actually look bigger and allowed us to emphasize the stunning view from the 17th floor.
Alexandria condo living room before home staging  Alexandria condo living room after home staging
On-trend turquois paint in the master bedroom was very unique. With the right bedding, a very soothing environment is achieved.
Alexandria condo bed room before home staging  Alexandria condo bed room after home staging
With the open floor plan of a condo, you need to coordinate the transition between spaces. In this case, the sofa table in the living room (seen in the distance below) is a similar style to the dining room furniture.
Alexandria condo dining room before home staging  Alexandria condo dining room after home staging
Alexandria condo dining room before home staging  Alexandria condo dining room after home staging
The seller loved the results! She said she was considering moving back in!
All the Best,
Preferred Staging
the art of home preparation
Serving Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC

Montebello in Alexandria Great for Young Buyers

October 28, 2008

I was at a condo in the Montebello community in Alexandria, Virginia yesterday. It is an older condo, one of the first developments of its size in the Washington, DC area. It is in a great location, right off the beltway and very close to the Old Town Alexandria area and adjacent to the Huntington metro stop. This makes Montebello a perfect location for young people who want a dynamic environment.

However, the realtor I am working with told me that some believe Montebello is a 50+ community!

Wow. When you own a home in a mature neighborhood, especially a condo, which may be particularly attractive to younger buyers, you need to stage for the market you are targeting.

  • Update the paint.
  • Get rid of the dated furniture.
  • Rent modern furnishings and art work to appeal to your audience.
  • Stage a room as an office with a laptop. Bring in a flat panel TV.
  • Stage the balcony as a place of rest and serenity.
  • Bring the outside in with some small trees next to the sliding doors.

If your furnishings are dated, they will project the wrong image for a younger audience. Project a feeling of youth and vibrancy and buyers will be excited when they tour your home.

All the best!



the art of home preparation

Washington DC Row House Staged and Sold

August 6, 2008
Staged and Under Contract in 6 Weeks
This DC row house was something of a budget challenge. The client wanted nice, but not expensive.
Hey, we can do that! Instead of a full staging in each of the rooms, we went with staging the living room, the room buyers would see immediately upon entering the home. We did a small vignette in the dining area and a few pieces in the master bedroom.
Washington DC Living Room Before Home Staging  Washington DC Living Room After Home Staging
 Washington DC house entrance before home staging  Washington DC house entrance after home staging
 asp logo  DC bedroom after home staging
These touches were just enough to give buyers a sense of space and what could be done with the rooms. Can’t argue with success. Staged, listed and under contract in 6 weeks.
Check out MLS #DC6738918 if you are curious.
If you have a vacant, please talk to us about staging! 

All the Best,

Preferred Staging
the art of home preparation

Herndon, Virginia Home Sold in 7 Days

June 15, 2008

Staged and Under Contract in 7 Days

Preferred Staging was called back in February, 2008 to see a small 1950’s house in the historic district of Herndon, Virginia.  The house needed a lot of work to compete with the new homes being built across the street.  The owner did virtually all the renovations themselves.  Updating and upgrading the house was actually the easy part.  It was HOW to make the house show well that was the hard part.  That’s when they called Preferred Staging.
Herndon Living Room Before Home Staging    Herndon Family Room Before Home Staging
As an architectural historian, I immediately saw the house’s charm and unique character.  The town’s historic architecture guidelines prohibited any changes to the exterior of the house, but the interior was a different story.  Potential buyers really needed to see that although the house was 1950s on the outside, the inside could certainly accommodate a family in 2008. 
We decided to stage the house “traditional with a twist”. We also had to work closely with the owner. She had her own ideas of how she’d like the house to look.  Our combined ideas created what we called “The Vision”, and nothing was used that didn’t compliment the overall feel of what we were trying to achieve.
Herndon Living Room Before After Home Staging    Herndon Family Room After Home Staging
Preferred Staging provided the furniture Vision and the home owner purchased according to the plan. We were responsible for the accessories and the “magic”, which transformed the interior of into a welcoming and cozy home.  One visitor to the house commented that “everything just works together so well” – from the new plantings in the front of the house that created the very important curb appeal (so necessary for this house, as it faces a busy street), the warm and inviting interior, and the large backyard with tall, mature trees and gardens.
So the success is that we achieved our “Vision”, right?  Well, that’s part of it.  But the true success was that the house was under contract in one week at 97% of the asking price.
Staging is truly a win-win-win-win situation.  The owner wins because their house sells quickly and for top dollar.  The buyer wins because they get a house that meets their needs, fulfills their dreams, and is move-in ready.  The Realtor wins because the house is its own best marketing tool, which allows them to focus on bringing buyers into the house.  And the stager wins, too.  For Preferred Staging, it’s the satisfaction that my skills and hard work helped to sell the house quickly.
Visit our website for more before an after photos of this home.
All the best, 
Preferred Staging
the art of home preparation

The 1st Rule of Selling Your Washington DC Area Home

May 26, 2008
Depersonalize, Depersonalize, Depersonalize

We are in the process of staging a wonderful high-end home in Oakton, Virginia. This is the type of home that many people dream of –  it has a sweeping staircase in the foyer, an indoor pool, his and her master baths, etc. What’s not to like?

Well… The current owners have maintained the home very well, but in some areas the decor was quite customized.  This is a very delicate issue to address with home owners.  They need to be diplomatically told that their decor is “style specific”, meaning that the decor reflects their personal style.  This is fine when the house was their home, but now that the house is a property on the market for sale, the decor can no longer be “style specific”.

Attract the Largest Number of Buyers

In order to appeal to the largest number of buyers possible, home owners must eliminate many of their personal touches around the home. It can be a difficult process for homeowners to even determine what needs to be changed or eliminated. Since many homeowners decorate to meet their own tastes and have lived with the decor for a period of time, the decor becomes part of the home – something they would not even notice that needs to be changed.

That’s where an experienced stager is critical. A stager can assist the home owner in identifying the personal touches that may not appeal to the largest number of potential buyers. Then an action plan is developed to neutralize the decor to get read for a quick sale.

Vienna Virginia foyer before home staging

Vienna Virginia foyer after home staging

Involving a stager helps the home owner see their house through the eyes of a buyer, and a good stager will diplomatically and gracefully communicate those “style specific” elements that need to be changed.  This is one of the first critical steps towards a successful sale in this competitive real estate market.
All the best!

The Trained “Eyes of a Buyer”

Preferred Staging
the art of home preparation

Lamps Set the Stage

May 26, 2008

Lamps – Do People Still Use Those?

With the variety of home lighting available in new construction and remodeling, one might thing that lamps are a thing of the past. Also, with less time spent reading at home these days, the traditional use of lamps has declined.
So, when preparing a home for sale, do you want lamps or not. I say, “ABSOLUTELY.” Lamps provide one of the three core lighting elements of any space. Without them, a room can seem out of balance.
The three lighting sources in any room are:
  1. General (also referred to as ambient or fill) light – this is the general light source for the room. It may come from windows during the day and ceiling fixtures during the night or in rooms without significant light source.
  2. Accent – This type of light is used to create focus or drama within a room. It draws attention to a focal point or throws light into an otherwise dark corner.
  3. Task – aka lamps! This is lighting for specific areas of the room, typically associated with a seating area.
A home with just general lighting can look like a warehouse, especially with an open floor plan. Add accent lighting and you have gone from the warehouse look to more of a museum look, but add task lighting with lamps in the living area, and a room becomes warm and cozy.
                       Before        Oakton VA family room before home staging                                      After
Oakton VA family room after home stagingPrior to staging an Oakton, VA home, the only light was general. By adding task lighting in the form of small lamps, the room warms up. Notice the spotlight effect in the “before” photo. The “after” photo has a warm glow to it cast by the extra light from different sources.
When staging with lamps, I always us the reveal type light bulbs (they look blue when they are off). These bulbs really allow colors to pop and cast a nice even soft light. Be sure the lamps do not block the focal point of the room. In the pictures above, the lamps actually serve to draw you eye to the focal point (the fireplace).
Lamps are not a thing of the past. Lamps are classic. Use them where you can!
All the best, 
Preferred Staging
the art of home preparation

Set the Stage with Vignettes

May 26, 2008

Staging with Vignettes

There are a variety of staging solutions for every home and budget. An experienced stager will be able to work with sellers to find the appropriate balance between the cost to the home seller and the impressions of the house created for the home buyer. 

When staging vacants, the industry standard is to spend 1% of the home’s value on a 3 month staging. In the Washington, DC area, that is $5,000 to $10,000. While many clients understand that staging is an investment that will yield far more than a 1% return either through a higher offer from the buyer or less time on the market – or both, some sellers simply cannot make that type of investment.
We work with all types of sellers and understand their needs. A great solution to a tight staging budget is to stage using vignettes. A vignette is a small visual element that provides context to an area.  
Vignettes can be used in secondary rooms, such as basements, kids bedrooms, offices, those odd spaces in kitchens that don’t really have a purpose, etc. Vignettes typically help to define the purpose of the space, but also provide some spacial context to a empty room.
Washington DC row house before home stagine   Washington DC row house after home staging
Vignettes are not recommended for the emotional spaces of kitchen, master bedroom and family room. These rooms sell homes and need the most attention.
When staging with vignettes, there are some classic rules to follow:
  • Always be consistent with the purpose of the room. Do not mix messages just because you have the space. Stage an office vignette as an office; resist the urge to throw that overstuffed chair in the corner just because you can.
  • Follow the “rule of three”.  The human brain is wired to be able to wrap itself easily around concepts, phrases and visual elements that come in threes (“location, location, location” is a good example). When staging, creating vignettes in groups of threes is the fastest and easiest way to present a visually appealing “concept” for a room.  For example, a bedroom may simply have a bed, nightstand and lamp, which is just enough to accomplish the following three objectives: define the purpose of the room, create the essential cozy feeling, and allow the buyer to see spatial relationships.
  • Make the vignette the first thing you see when you enter the room. You do not want a potential buyer to walk into a room and ask, “What is this room for?”, then notice the desk, chair and computer against the far wall. They should be thinking “office” as they enter the room.

Staging vignettes cost less than staging the full room. They define the room’s purpose and add contextual reference points to potential buyers. Vignettes also help buyers see the how they might use those awkward spaces that many newer homes in the Washington DC area have.  

All the best, 
Preferred Staging
the art of home preparation

For Wasington, DC Area Aspriational Home Buyers

May 11, 2008

Go With the Pottery Barn Look

Pottery Barn is considered the pinnacle of design for today’s young home buyers. Take a look at their website and you will see why. Their designs are fresh, unpretentious and modern, yet still have traditional roots. They seem to have found the recipe that speaks to the Gen Xers. One thing the Washington, DC has a lot of are Gen Xers, so we need to know how to position starter homes for them.

What does it take to market to these buyers? In my opinion, color is king here. After all, the only thing that will be left after the home is sold are the colors.
So what can we glean from Pottery Barn’e success and customer research? First, everything is bright – not a dark color in the bunch. Even their dark colors are bright and are used primarily as accents.
A cynical person would say, “Yea, they use those colors to accent the furniture, which is usually white.” Well, maybe… but I think there is more to it than that. Pottery Barn knows its customers well. And it knows that certain colors, along with its furniture, will create a “feeling”. Since the furniture in their display ads is usually white, the feeling is being created by the colors used as the backdrop.
Now I am no psychologist, but it seems to me this is the very same feeling that we want to create for the Gen X home buyer. I call it “aspirational”. It is a sense of what it will be like when “I get there,” where ever “there” might be.
So, if you have a home targeted at the first time buyer, consider using Pottery Barn colors.
“Well, geez! Thanks, Monica. But just how are we supposed to do that, match chip cards against the Pottery Barn web site?”
No, Benjamin Moore has done it for us. They have developed a color pallet especially for Pottery Barn.
Best colors for virginia, dc and maryland
Use these colors for single family homes, town homes and condos in the suburban environments. I am not sold that all of these are the right colors for urban locations, so please keep that in mind.
All the best, 
Preferred Staging
the art of home preparation

It’s March, So It Must Be Time to Talk Fireplaces!???

March 30, 2008

Huh? Yes, bear with me – this is important. The fireplace is probably the focal point of any room it occupies. Make sure it remains a focal point throughout the year, not just during the winter. Too many times, I see home owners covering up fireplaces with screens, plants or even play houses. Buyers buy fireplaces, so let’s show them off!

While most newer homes in Northern Virginia have gas fireplaces, older homes are almost exclusively wood burning. For a wood burning fireplace, clean the firebox of any ashes. Clean the firebox windows. If the room smells of burning wood, sprinkle baking soda on any carpets and leave over night, and place one or two boxes of baking soda in inconspicuous places.

Furniture placement may be tricky in a room that hosts another focal point (typically a TV). Classic staging requires the removal or de-emphasizing of competing focal points. We realize this is not always possible. We practice practical staging for our occupied homes and try to accommodate the needs of the family without sacrificing the image we are creating. In general, the furniture should be arranged for fireplace viewing – close enough to feel the warmth of the fire and allow for casual conversation.

The mantel should be cleared of all but a few light items on either side. Odd numbers here, an even number of accessories create too much balance and are actually distracting to the eye. Place a framed print above the mantel to draw the eye.  

Before home staging: Burke Virginia Family Room Before Home Staging  

 After home staging: Burke Virginia Family Room After Home Staging

By keeping the fireplace the center of attention throughout the year, you will appeal to the largest number of buyers – that’s what we are all about!

All the best!