There are lots of things that might motivate homeowners to remake their interiors: Maybe the colors are all wrong or the furniture is outdated. Maybe they’re just sick of it. Maybe accumulated clutter is rearing its ugly head. Most often, though, it’s because they’re trying to sell their house and want to make the décor more universally appealing.
Time for all-new furniture and paint and the advice of a smart interior designer, right? Well, not everybody has the money—or the time—for that. And that’s the scenario where a home stager like Paula A. Henry can help. The owner of Simply Put Interiors, she has a knack for recommending a few simple changes that can transform the whole look of a home.
What exactly does a home stager do?
If, for example, it’s a case of someone trying to sell the house (Henry takes on other sorts of interior design projects, as well), we will come in, do a thorough assessment and determine how to create the highest level of appeal for the greatest number of potential buyers. In many cases, simple changes that cost little to nothing can drastically improve the appearance of a room or the entire home.
What is the process?
I begin with a written assessment that includes looking at every aspect of the property, from the curbside to the bedside, and then provide the sellers with an action list detailing the things they need to do to spruce up their property and make it as appealing as possible.
What are some simple things homeowners can do to make their home more appealing?
First and foremost, de-clutter: I advise my clients to clear about 30 percent of the space available in each room by using storage rental units or just giving it to Goodwill. This is important in creating an illusion that the closets and cabinets are spacious. Another easy fix is to keep your traffic patterns open. You want to avoid placing furniture at the entrance of a room, which will force people to have to step around it just to get in. You should make sure every room is well-defined. For the most part, people don’t want to see a desk in the bedroom or toys scattered in the dining room. And, if at all possible, create a small seating area in the master bedroom. People love to see that space is available to sit, read, and relax in the room that is often their retreat.
Do your action plans typically make use of a client’s existing furniture and artwork?
Yes, as much as possible, just in a new way. If new furniture or accessories are necessary, I try to work with the homeowner to find things they like and that they would want to take along with them to their new home. But I also do “start from scratch” jobs.
What do you charge for your services?
The initial assessment can be completed, with the written action plan provided, for a fee equal to 12 percent of the finished square footage of the home. For example, the fee for a 3,000-square-foot home would be $360. In many cases, the only other cost the homeowner will absorb will be related to completing the action plan (paint, hiring a handyman, etc.).
What is the typical return on this investment?
In most cases, a home that has been staged well will sell for a dollar amount closer to the asking price and will spend less time on the market. But even a beautifully staged home must still be priced and marketed appropriately in order to sell.
What are some common decorating mistakes you encounter? Better yet, some horror stories? Velvet Elvis artwork? NASCAR-themed rugs?
One of the things I see, and one of the easiest to fix, is where artwork is hung. It should be at eye level for normal people. Likewise, small pictures can be very lonesome on a huge wall looking like Post-it notes.
Another is so-called “personal treasures.” An example is amateur artwork by family or friends that’s prominently displayed and just doesn’t fit in with the décor. Another common mistake is perimeter decorating, such as a room that appears to have magnetized all of the furniture to the walls. Don’t be afraid to pull things into the room and off the walls. You would be amazed at how warm and inviting it can be. Yet another mistake is floating furniture, where something like a chair seems suspended in the room with no relation to anything else. Then there are paint colors: When they’re wrong, no matter how much you love the color, you will always feel like something is just not right in the room. Speaking of painting, decorative painting can be a perfect example of a do-it-yourself project gone terribly wrong. Put away your sponges and get the job done right. And finally, there are the “Dead Heads”: For many clients I’ve had who enjoy the hunt, a tasteful display of their successes is one thing, but too much in the wrong place can be, well, overkill.