Life's a stage

HURON Times are tough. Money is tight. Drive down almost any street and you'll see at least one Home
Lori Koelsch
May 24, 2010



Times are tough. Money is tight. Drive down almost any street and you'll see at least one Home for Sale sign sticking out of someone's yard. How can sellers make their home stand out from the rest?

There are some things that that can't be changed. If a buyer is looking for a three-bedroom ranch home and a seller has a one-bedroom bungalow, there isn't much to do to convince that person to buy from them. However, there is a way for those sellers of three-bedroom ranch homes to make their property more appealing and draw in buyers.

Tami Johnson of Johnson Johnson Interiors and Simply Amazing Home Staging is a professional interior decorator who knows how to help. She works with builders to decorate model homes and assists private clients with home staging to sell their homes.

Home staging is the art of preparing a residence to be as appealing to as many prospective buyers as possible. The goal is to make the home as welcoming and attractive as possible by focusing on the very best the home has to offer while detracting from its flaws.

Meeting Johnson in a model home that she decorated in a new development, North Port Condominiums in Huron, she shared some tips and tricks of home staging for people with limited budgets. The ideas she has lend themselves to anyone, regardless of whether or not your house is for sale. Anyone can reinvent a room, or their whole house, with simple steps affordable on any budget.

Johnson started decorating as a little girl making curtains and pillows. She knew she had a gift for and a love of decorating and started her career with Hills Interiors. Before long she went out on her own and eventually took a week-long staging course earning her diploma as a professional stager.

When staging a home for sale, the first thing she does is walk through the entire home. "The first thing most owners have to do is declutter. All personal items must go. The object is to downsize so the buyer sees the home, not the stuff."

Small knick-knacks, although they may hold a lot of sentimental value to the owner, don't mean anything to the buyer and need to go. Pack away those doll collections and those cups and saucers that you inherited in grandma's will. Family photos? Pack them up for the move. They buyer needs to envision how their knick-knacks and collections will fit into this new home they buy. Also, family photos and children's drawings, although cherished by you, only make it harder for many people to feel comfortable about buying a house, "People actually will feel bad about uprooting a family from their home. The home needs to be depersonalized."

Any furniture or carpeting that may be worn or dirty needs to be removed. Windows need to be cleaned. Cobwebs need to be brushed away. Bathrooms and kitchens must sparkle.

Once everything is clean and decluttered, it's time to neutralize. Paint makes the biggest difference and is the cheapest design tip, whether or not you want to sell your home. White walls can be too stark and beige or creams can be too dull, so choose a warm neutral color for the walls; the paint in the model home has a golden base that brightens up the rooms in a wash of sunlight. Flooring and countertops can be deep beige.

Another fairly inexpensive update can be lighting fixtures. A bold fixture in the foyer can make a statement and lend a wow factor as soon as the potential buyers first enter the home. The dining area and kitchen can also stand up to more confident home lighting.

Outside, cut the grass and weed the garden. Anything that is dead needs to be removed. "Without curb appeal, buyers won't even stop to see how amazing the inside of the house might be." Painting the front door a nice color can also help draw a buyer in.

A professional stager may be someone you don't think you can afford, but they know the market and may make the difference between taking weeks or months to sell your home.

Johnson was kind enough to also share tips on perking up a house for the average homeowner who just wants to make some changes to brighten up the mood for the move into fall and winter.

Start now. "The holidays have a tendency to sneak up on us really quick and then we're too busy to think about changing anything." Concentrating on one room at a time, the first thing to do is clean up what you have, scrub around the baseboards and pull out the broom to knock down the spider webs, unless, of course, your intent is to use them as Halloween decoration (but once October is over, they've got to go).

Now it's time to declutter. Go through and remove those things you purchased but once you got them home you knew they weren't quite right. Aunt Sophie left you that antique lamp but it doesn't mean you have to keep it on display in the main room of your house. "Just because you have it doesn't mean you have to use it."

Johnson suggests removing all the furniture from a room and taking all the artwork off the walls. Then "shop" around your house. People tend to get stuck in ruts with their decorating, leaving pieces in the same room they've always been in. Mix it up. Move a table that was in the den into the living room or move the print that was over the couch over a bed.

Switch out the flowers you have on the table. Hydrangeas can be beautiful this time of year. An inexpensive idea is to grab a pile of tall, interesting branches that have fallen into the yard, bring them inside and place them in a tall chunky pot.

Don't be afraid of color. A pop of color in a vase, print or lamp shade can make a terrific difference in a room. Accents can be bold even in a subdued room and bring a rich and luxuriant feel to your home.

Change out light colored candles for more intense, darker colors. Pillows and throws can be in darker, more vibrant hues in wool and heavy knits. A gallon of paint can work miracles to completely change the mood; sage greens and brown tones can add an entirely new dimension to a room. Purchasing an area rug can make a significant decorating transformation and you can warm it up with floor pillows.

Bedrooms can be changed up for fall and winter as well using deeper earth colors and heavier fabrics. Shop for inexpensive "bed in a bag" sets for a quick transformation. Use ready made drapery panels to update windows.

Johnson has several ideas for window treatments. One is to take a low-cost flat sheet, use a seam ripper to cut through the ends of the natural fold trim at the top, put a curtain rod through and hang. In a kitchen, take a hand or dish towel and round curtain clips and hang from a tension rod, or use take that same towel and fold it so that the two longest opposite ends are splayed across the tension rod creating two hanging triangle points and use as a valance. In the bathroom, use the same ideas incorporating bath towels. Fabric shower curtains can also make interesting curtains outside the bath.

To make televisions and computers less obtrusive, hide them. Make a closet into a computer space by hanging a shelf and putting a keyboard drawer below it. Then simply place the computer on the shelf and you can close the doors to keep it hidden from view. Televisions can be hidden in armoires in either bedrooms or family rooms. Cords can be tacked up against baseboards to keep them out of view or, if necessary can be run under an area rug or carpeting. Black cable cords can be switched out with white cable cords which may look less garish.

For new and interesting ideas, head to your local library to browse home magazines and decorating books. Stores such as Lowe's and Home Depot carry a lot of decorating magazines and books for sale if you find something you like in the library that you want to keep. Ask professionals for their advice. You can get great ideas at home improvement and design stores. Salesclerks in home furnishing departments can also be a wealth of information and ideas.

It's important to keep in mind how things work together. When purchasing something new, think about how it will fit in with your scheme. Don't buy "stuff" just to have it, make it have a purpose. Simplicity is key, Johnson says, "Less is so, so, so much more."

The best and least inexpensive decorating tips to remember: Clean from floor to ceiling; Declutter and keep things simple; Change things up, move furniture and prints around, stay out of old ruts; A gallon of paint can give you the biggest bang for your buck; A pop of bold color can go a long way in bringing everything together. And most important when decorating your home, have fun with it and make it your own.

If you are looking for someone to stage your home, ask your realtor, go online, or call Johnson at Simply Amazing at 419-499-3015. Interior decorators can be found in the yellow pages and online.