Staging a Home for Sale –Part X

The Kitchen

There are a variety of socio-economic reasons to account for the fact that the kitchen has gone from a secluded place at the back of the house to the focal point of American homes over the last few decades.

As we have gotten to be more food conscious and appreciative of cooking and entertaining, kitchen design and appliances have gotten more and more elaborate and desirable. Suffice it to say, the kitchen is the status room in the American house and the one investment that will bring homeowners the greatest return.

So what are buyers looking for in a kitchen? Simplicity, neutral color schemes, and natural materials are as important as utility. By utility, I mean great layouts and  functionality,  such as hidden storage drawers that pull out for easy access, built-in storage racks and center islands as well as mini, moveable islands. Buyers also desire an eat -in kitchen, whether it’s at a table, a booth, or stools placed around the center island.

Hidden hi-end appliances, Wi-Fi connections, stereo systems, enormous sinks, beautiful countertops and  hardware, efficient and attractive lighting are also popular. Above all, buyers are looking for space.

What should you do if you have an outdated kitchen?

The first thing, of course, is to clean everything and get all signs of life off the countertops, refrigerator door, and tops of shelves. Don’t hesitate to leave a few new, attractive appliances on show.

Now comes the part that you or your handyman can do to transform the kitchen.

  • Paint the cabinets white, off white, pale grey or pale grey green
  • Add modern glass tiles for back splash
  • Exchange the old fashioned pulls for sleeker Euro-pulls
  • Add attractive hardware at the sink.
  • Possibly add crown molding

You can purchase all these materials at Home Depot inexpensively. Additionally you can:

  • Add some beautiful artwork or oversize black and white photos
  • Add green plants
  • If you can afford it, and don’t have them already, add stainless appliances.

How you can  create the illusion of space if you don’t possess it.

Exchange cabinetry for open shelves or add a few carefully placed glass fronted cabinet doors to lighten the look of the kitchen. If opening a wall to the family room, or dining room, is an option, try that as well.

Never forget to thin out the pantry, under sink areas and cabinets, keeping only your most attractive pots and dishes on show. You want to create the illusion of spaciousness and cleanliness.

However the thing to remember is, you are making cosmetic changes to help the visual appeal of your home as it goes on the market. Don’t overdo it, don’t overspend, and remember buyers might prefer their own taste over yours and be willing to change things around.

If you can’t afford to do anything but clean and paint, your Realtor will adjust the price of your home accordingly, relative to the comparable properties currently on sale.

Last but not least, there are people who eschew trends and go for what they love. Your kitchen may fit their particular taste.

When I sold my first condo in 2003, it was to an older couple who preferred my eighties ‘pink’ oak, Portuguese tiles and Provencal ceramic pulls to the sleek super modern kitchens in the same tier  I was competing against.

My current kitchen was one of the biggest selling points when I bought my current vintage condo. Decorated in 2003, it has sleek blue, aqua and camel cabinets, incredible storage features and top of the line stainless appliances, which knock on wood, are still going strong today. It’s not everybody’s idea of a gorgeous kitchen, but one look at it and all my friends commented: ‘It’s you!’ I love color and it makes me happy each time I walk through or spend time in it. It is well laid out with multiple work spaces, but I’ve cooked sit-down dinners for thirty in a tiny galley kitchen without issues. Truly, its the aesthetics of a place and the way it makes us feel that has the most impact on our choices.

Buyers, remember dont make a decision based on re-sale value alone. Buy and live with the things you love, because trends and tastes will change by the time you are ready to move.

Next time we will look at the features buyers are searching for and those which may or may not add value to your home.

Staging a Home for Sale-Part IX

The Living Room

I think the saddest thing about American living rooms is that they are so seldom used unless space is at a premium. We tend to live our lives in our kitchens, family rooms, and bedrooms and save the living and dining rooms for holidays and entertaining. And so, we end up with stiff overdone rooms that aim to impress but have the opposite effect -or those which are so devoid of life as to appear forlorn.

The real antidote to crafting an inviting living room is to look at the way the English live in their country houses-and I’m referring to the way they use their sitting rooms, particularly. Of course, you needn’t end up with a stereotypical chintzy English room but you can apply the basic principles, whether your taste is contemporary or classic.

So what do I mean by the basic principles? One, you have a variety of seating-comfortable sofas and armchairs, stools, and a number of chairs of differing heights and sizes. The next thing, is to create one or more seating arrangements, which would be geared toward group interaction when people are seated; a corner with a comfortable armchair or lamp for reading; a table for gaming or a desk for writing. The objective, of course, is to suggest that life happens in this room and that it is a joyous place to be.

Your primary seating arrangement should surround a focal point such as a view or a fireplace. Don’t orient it around a television; save that for the family room. If you live in a smaller condominium, you may not have a choice but there are ways to insert other comfortable furniture around it to mitigate the effect that your domestic life revolves around the large screen.

The next thing you will want to do is add elements that will warm up the space, such as paintings or large scale arty photographs, throw pillows and throws, books, flowers, and plants. But please stay away from small scale items that are scattered randomly all over the place. If you have porcelain statuettes, and what- nots, group them on the fireplace mantle or put them away in a vitrine.

I personally loathe curtains but some people use them to great effect. Keep them simple and remember we’re not in the 80’s anymore. Please stay away from lace curtains unless you live in a cottage in the countryside.

One of my favorite living rooms of all time is in Jorge Elias’ mansion in Sao Paulo-you can search Pinterest to see it. What makes this room so great is not any single element but the way that diverse elements are combined. There are boiserie panels on the walls, but they are non-essential. What one does immediately notice is the combination of art that works so well. 18th century landscapes surround the fireplace -while abstract 20th century paintings are placed on the mantle and above the mirror. Two sofas in oyster colored silk velvet are placed perpendicular to the fireplace. A white Parson’s coffee table, French jacquard armchairs and variety of cushions add color and interest. The quirkiest and most interesting part of this arrangement is the Pedro Friedeberg Gold Hand Chair perpendicular to the sofas. On the other side of the room, another sofa, green plants, simple curtains, African statues, blue and white Chinese lamps, photographs, and paintings complete the picture. All this sits on a rosy Savonnerie carpet. Expensive? Yes. But, the principle to take away is the way that the room was organized to reflect a completely personalized aesthetic that is both eclectic and harmonious.

Another room I love is in Paris, and is completely reproducible. A white Le Corbusier style sofa faces a dark marble fireplace. In front of it, placed on a grey geometric rug are a metal and white coffee table, two Mies leather benches, and a Barcelona chair covered in grey tweed. What warms the room are the abstract paintings in heavy gold frames, and the collection of pottery and prehistoric statuettes. There is nothing complicated about this room-and nothing that can’t be reproduced in any modern condo –yet it is completely chic, unusual, and inviting.

My living room mixes Meis and Le Corbusier furniture with Chinese antiques. I have two focal points, a fireplace with a contemporary marbleized fireplace surround- and a red lacquered antique Chinese cabinet, on an adjacent wall. Two giant fig trees stand in front of east facing windows, velvet throw pillows in greens and hot pinks compliment the large abstract painting above the Knole cabinet. Indonesian rain drums, Chinese rosewood nesting tables, a black lacquer Chinese coffee table, and Mongolian throne chairs round out the look. The parquet floor is covered by a black and griege Tabriz. The walls were originally grey, which tended to depress me-now they are a too pale shade of green-soon they will be something yet undecided upon. It’s not for everyone, but it makes me and my friends very happy to be there.

However you decide to furnish it, keep your living room looking like real humans inhabit it and that it is not just a place to pass through in order to to reach the kitchen and family room.

Guest post by Lily Temmer

Next time, we will take a look at the kitchen.


Staging a Home for Sale-Part VIII

The Bathroom

My love affair with bathrooms started when I was a teenager seeking to escape from my overdramatic family. We were living in a split ranch, and no one ever used the large downstairs bath off the family room but me. It wasn’t the most glamorous room. In fact, the only thing about it I really remember was the yellow rug. But, it was a wonderfully solitary space where I could escape to, relax, and read. I spent so much time there, my mother asked if I wasn’t experiencing digestive problems.

Our next house was more upscale, as my parents were advancing in their careers and putting the early years of their immigrant saga behind them. I had a bath off my bedroom and knowing it was my favorite place, my dad installed a wall mounted phone, so I could chat with my friends. It was decorated in tasteful earth tones, my mother’s second decorating period after her 1970’s green and gold phase.

A few years later, I met my first husband, a physician with a passion for hotels. It was during our global travels that I discovered what true luxury looked like.  I saw many incredible features for the first time: enormous onyx bathtubs, multiple spray showers, sunburst showerheads, bidets, and heated towel racks. However, I will always remember bathrooms at the Paris Ritz as the epitome of beauty and luxury.

Picture  glazed white walls and ceilings, a marble counter with double sinks above white lacquered cabinets, a paneled tub, and white marble floors.  Off the main room,  the toilet and bidet are placed in their own water closet where the door can be closed for privacy.  Now add thick white monogrammed robes and towels, heated towel racks, and the piece de la resistance: swan shaped silver fixtures. In 1983, when I first saw it-it was pure awesomeness. Nowadays those features, and so much more, are achievable in our own homes, though I’d probably leave the swans behind in Paris.

So what can you do to get that Ritz luxury as you stage your bathroom for sale? First, scrub the grout clean and get a squeegee for the shower doors. If you have a plastic shower curtain, trade it in for one in a clean white fabric. Recaulk everything and make sure there is no trace of mold anywhere. Give the walls a fresh coat of neutral paint. Make sure the mirrors and hardware are spotless. Check that exhaust fans are working perfectly and that there are no burnt out bulbs in the room. Toss out any mats, rugs, toilet covers and other outdated items. Replace the toilet seats with new ones. Some stagers suggest removing the wastebasket and toilet brush, but I think if those items are new, attractive and suit the décor, they can stay.

Then make sure your towels are new and fluffy. Always place clean ones out before a showing, making sure you have folded them in thirds so the seams don’t show and layer small towels over the larger ones. Clean out your cabinets, weeding out two-thirds of the contents. Buy new toothbrushes and fresh soaps. Store all of your daily products so they are out of sight, including the ones you keep in the shower. Your buyers will be opening your cabinets, so keep everything sparse and nicely organized. Even though your personal hygiene products such as hair and toothbrushes won’t be on display, they need to be immaculate when those cabinets are opened. Don’t forget to buy some organizers for your make-up that you can nest in cabinet drawers.

Now organize everything that is going to be on show. Remember that I mentioned trays and vases in the previous post. Use them to display sprays of flowers or your beautiful perfume bottles and bath oils. You can add a bamboo or blue and white Chinese garden stool next to the tub to create ambiance. Hang a few nicely framed Chinese or Japanese prints that evoke serenity, or if you have them, add a bust or a sculpture. Green plants always liven up a room and work beautifully in all settings. Seashells can also be lovely in the right setting.  Natural brushes, loofas, bath salts, and candles impart a luxurious spa-like experience. Roll up smaller towels and place them in attractive baskets or trays. There are actually how-to videos on YouTube that you can follow.

What are you to do if you have really dated bathrooms with garish tiles and a minimal budget? Don’t worry-some buyers adore retro! However, you must be wise about sprucing up the space. Again fresh paint, towels and the like apply. Replace those tiny medicine cabinets with large simple framed mirrors or wood framed cabinets; change the hardware and lighting fixtures for more attractive ones. You can buy all these elements cheaply at Home Depot, Costplus World Market and the like. If you have outdated golden oak cabinets, can’t afford to replace them, and are handy, refinish them in white.

Do you live in a developer special? In the last two, and they weren’t inexpensive, condos I lived in, developers working in hot markets had put it the cheesiest hardware and appliances. You can actually make these sow’s ears work with a minimal investment in Euro-pulls and attractive back splash  tiles, in addition to crown moldings and fancy baseboards. Rather than a shower curtain rod, have a track installed. Your small changes will have a huge visual impact.

If you live in a Victorian you can spike up that space with ferns, which always look gorgeous, provided they do not overwhelm the place. Patterned wallpaper, Staffordshire dogs and decorative plates always look great in that context and in cottages, whereas they would seem tacky elsewhere. Stay true to the style of your home and remember the bathroom is where we go to escape from kids, pets, and worries. Luxe, calme et volupte (luxury, peace and pleasure); Ritz bathroom décor may be passé, but the ideas behind it always hold true.

Next time, we will look at living rooms.

Guest Post by Lily Temmer



Staging a Home for Sale-Part VII

The Bedroom

The secret to a beautiful bedroom is to make it serene and fresh, a restful retreat. I’m not a big fan of whiting everything out to achieve that effect. It works in some climates and seasons but mostly it has the effect of imparting sterility.

What does work are restful shades of blue, blue-green, putty, lavender, grey –lavender, and butter cream, depending on your taste. However, I have seen many gorgeous bedrooms in vibrant shades and probably one of my all-time favorites is the emerald bedroom Miles Redd created for Oscar de la Renta. Let’s face it, dark colors with the right accessories work really well in masculine rooms with few windows and little light. However, this is trickier to pull off.

So let’s say you’ve settled on a color that works well in the room, you’ve decluttered the closets, and cleaned the carpets. What’s next?

Declutter once more! Is your furniture overwhelming the room? Take some of it out, using our photographic trick to see what works and what doesn’t.

Do you have a nice headboard? If you don’t there are ways around this. An attractive painting, huge photo, reproduction on canvas without a frame, kilim, suzani, or screen create beautiful visual interest. Never leave the wall above your bed bare unless you have a four-poster bed.

Now, you are ready for new sheets. You can find top brands in gorgeous colors at discount stores such as T.J. Maxx. With new sheets come clean covers and bed skirts. If you feel safer going with a set, do it. Consequently if you don’t trust your taste where patterns are concerned, choose whites, deeper or lighter shades of your wall color, or complimentary colors.

Add a few decorative pillows in solid velvets, and a beautiful blanket or throw at the end of the bed to create the illusion of comfort and luxury. Did I mention that you should flip the mattress, so that your bed will appear tidy and unused?

Did your dresser, bed, and bedside tables come in a set? Don’t fret, you can lose that bland department store look with accessories. Solid color lamps with nice shades, fresh or silk flowers, pretty tissue boxes, books with attractive covers, clocks, china plates, mirrors, seashells, and coral all work beautifully in small doses.

If you live in an apartment and your computer table is in the bedroom, keep that area completely neat or remove it altogether. No one needs to see wires or messy papers in the bedroom.

Remember to always keep the bedroom aired out and your linens fresh.

Moving on to the other bedrooms, you can apply the same principles. It’s imperative that your teens  clear their clutter and your little ones put their toys in the toy box. Neat, tidy, fresh, and clean are the keywords. It’s not always easy to manage kids but do what you can to get them to contribute.

Do you have a spare bedroom that you use to store junk? You must remove everything. If you have nothing to put in there, try rearranging some of the overflow from the other rooms in a way to suggest an office, a play room, a screening room, or a hobby room.

What to do in the guest room if you never got around to decorating it fully? Again, accessories are the key, whatever your budget. A nice armchair, a writing desk/ vanity table, pretty vases with silk or fresh glowers, green plants, a painting, or a photograph printed on canvas that you can purchase online for under a hundred dollars, go a long way to making the guest room delightful and desirable. If you need inspiration, look up Garrow Kedigian to see how he blows up details of masterpieces and hangs them in his decorating schemes.

If you are a minimalist and take your bedrooms down to bare-bones white, you can create interest with texture. So mix it up! Velvets, mohairs, chenilles, faux fur, cottons, matte and shiny, perhaps some graphic strips on your throw, bare branches in a white vase all work beautifully-and even more so if you colorize the walls in a warm putty or a pale grey. If you do this in a girl’s room, ballet slipper pink works marvelously well on a few accessories-flowers, pillows etc.

I love navy in boys’ rooms. It’s beautiful on walls when you add accessories in red, camel, or white. If you need a primer on how to make this work, go to Pinterest and search for: Ralph Lauren, navy rooms.  His stylists can do wonders with navy walls, black and white framed photos, and rattan chairs. Add a potted palm in a basket and you’ve got chic galore.

Whatever your taste and style, I think Pinterest is the best resource for styling ideas. And it’s free to boot!

Next time, we’ll discuss the bathroom.

Guest post by Lily Temmer

Staging a Home for Sale-Part VI

The Dining Room

Lately house stagers have been recommending that sellers stage their dining rooms by setting the table as if they were going to have a dinner party.

I think this will look silly, particularly if your home is being shown during the week and during daylight hours. Although most people coming through your home will probably be nice, I would recommend locking up your Great-grandmother’s silverware, nevertheless.

Once you’ve painted, cleared clutter, cleaned the cushions or upholstery on your dining room chairs, you need to make a little used room appealing to buyers.

How to do this economically? We have spoken of the power of plants, ambient lighting, and subtle scents in previous posts. Now you must ratchet everything up a bit. The best way to this is to group your art on one wall instead of dispersing it throughout the house. Do an Internet search to see how to group art in ways that will create visual interest.

The second method is to group some of your crystal, candlesticks, or pottery collections in the center of the table. If your table is rectangular or oval, you can use a beautiful runner down the center, as well. If you don’t really have anything collectible, fresh or silk flowers in a pretty colored vase will always work.

If you have a round table, you are really in luck. You can create wunderkammer style collections around an elevated centerpiece, be it a bust, a vase, or urn with sculptural branches, flowers, or a plant. Group books at different heights around it, add pretty painted boxes, small bronzes or cloisonné pieces. Don’t overdo or use too many tiny pieces to avoid a cluttered feel.

Alternatively, blue and white Chinese style vases of several heights and varying shapes work nicely on any shape table, and they can be picked up very inexpensively at many discount accessory stores. Baskets or bowls of fruit, pretty linens, seashells, crystal, small paintings or framed non-personal photos, and ceramics all work well in creating ambiance.

If you think you are not creative and don’t know what to do, go on Pinterest and search for Tableau or Tablescapes, there are many examples that would fit your decorating scheme and collections. It’s easy to put together once you have gotten ideas of what others have done.

If you have a china cabinet, thin it out, or if it can hold books, arrange some hardbacks, minus their dust jackets, along with your best pieces. The same will work for built in shelving.

Do you love minimalism or live in a small condo? A beautiful glass or crystal bowl can perk up your dining space instantaneously.

Once again, experiment, then take photos to see what works and what does not. It takes minutes to change arrangements and buyers who have difficulty looking past décor to the bones of your house will love your dining space.

In the next post, we’ll look at bedrooms.


Guest post by Lily Temmer

Staging a Home for Sale-Part V

The Power of Plants

When I was growing up in Oak Park Illinois, my best friend’s family lived in a house designed by one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s students.

I loved this house for many reasons, but the main attraction was the parents’ exquisite taste. The father, an horologist, was a collector of important clocks, paintings and bronzes. While the mother, a jewelry designer, chose paint colors and furnishings. What I loved best about her decorating sensibilities was that she made seasonal changes. As the warm weather approached, she rolled up the oriental carpets; slip covered the furniture in white linen, and took her many plants outside. The formerly dense, cozy rooms took on an empty, ethereal look that made you feel cooler, even though it was hot and muggy outside.

I always tried to emulate her and though I leave my carpets in place by necessity, I do change the linens, bedcovers, and throw pillows in my condominium. What makes a significant difference in the look of my rooms are the plants. I have about fifty, ranging from huge rubber trees to tiny African violets. Out they go in May. In they come in October, transforming my home into an almost Victorian indoor garden. While the days get greyer and colder, I am indoors surrounded by greenery, and that in itself immediately lifts my mood.

The most amazing property of plants is that they connect us to the outdoors, to nature and the cycles of life. Plants can transform a dull lifeless room, perk up empty corners, add texture and color, and function as living sculpture. Moreover, they are good for us, since many are noted for their ability to clean the air of impurities. The best part is that they are cheap, and you can buy them at the grocery store or grow them from seed.

Try grouping them by shape, color, or type, setting them in matching pots, and allowing them to spill over from shelves. Yes, even the dreaded macramé and hanging plants are making a comeback-and they look great!

Regardless of how you choose to display your pants, they will immediately signal warmth and joy to any buyers who are viewing your home.

Next time we will look at dining rooms.


Guest post by Lily Temmer

Staging a Home for Sale-Part IV

Lighting and Scent

You’ve cleaned, scrubbed and polished, decluttered your rooms and closets, and made all necessary repairs. Now you’ll need to make your home inviting.

‘Eeeek!’ you say. ‘How am I going to do that since I was advised to depersonalize my house?’

Don’t worry. It’s simple.

Light plays a huge factor in regulating human mood, so unless you have a view of a brick wall, open your curtains and shades. Even if there is daylight outside, turn on some soft lamps in your home. I recall coming home from a trip many years ago. My sister and her best friend had been cat sitting while I was away. They had cleaned my condominium until it was spotless, but what made my home coming so amazing was that they had turned on a few select lamps. There was something incredibly warm and welcoming about the way the rooms were presented, and seeing all my favorite things enveloped in a golden glow made me  happy to be back.

The next thing of importance is to create pleasant scents. We are all wise to the bread in the oven trick, but it just shows how vulnerable we are to the mood evoked by certain smells. Who doesn’t love the scent of freshly cut grass on a summer’s day or of fires burning in winter? We automatically associate the aroma of fragrant logs or baked goods with home and hearth, warmth, and family.

When her kids were small, one of my closest friends bought a house in a nice suburb with a great school district. I was repelled when I visited and thought it a poor choice. Why? It had been previously owned by smokers and the stench was awful. The next time I came over, I was pleasantly surprised. The house smelled clean; of beeswax polish and fresh air. My friend had lightened the rooms with paint and removed the heavy curtains. I immediately liked the house much better than I had the first time.

Which leads me to the next order of things, crack open those windows and let the wind freshen things up! You are going to have to cook while your house is on the market, but it doesn’t have to smell as if you do.

Scientific studies indicate that a vast majority of people love vanilla, coffee, lavender, fresh pine, and citrus. I prefer the scent of ozone before a storm, Bulgarian roses, pipe tobacco, and horses-but those types of scents are too personal, and others may find them offensive. Some people are nauseated by the odor lilies give off or get headaches from perfumes and non-eco candles. Whichever scents you choose, use them sparingly. The most important thing to remember is to not  mask bad smells from pets or cooking with heavy sprays or candles.

Dried flowers are a  wonderful way to impart a subtle aroma -one that works really well in conjunction with that beeswax I mentioned previously. I have two Chinese vases full of Ralph Lauren’s pot pourri from the late 1980’s, which still smells as if it’s brand new.  Strangely, I experience a little burst of joy whenever I am nearby, since I associate that scent with happy times.

To help keep your home fresh, wipe down and disinfect kitchens and baths, keep clean towels in the bathrooms, and change your bed linens frequently, not forgetting to launder the duvets and blankets. You can’t smell yourself, but others can. This is even more important in teenagers’ rooms, which tend to serve as their private living quarters and get more use than other rooms in the house.

Next week we’ll consider the power of plants in room décor.


Guest post by Lily Temmer

Staging a Home for Sale-Part III

Color and Paint

You’re getting your house ready for the market. You’ve deep cleaned, decluttered, fixed everything that is broken, removed and replaced old carpeting, linens, and towels. But where do you go from here? You search online for advice from the professionals-but all the ‘do’s’ look like discount showrooms, and you realize you have better taste than stagers.

Nevertheless, you start looking at trends. You read that this year green is in, white is out, but should you still paint using neutrals to appeal to the broadest base of consumer or not, since dark jewel tones are in? Confused, you read about kitchens, but now your expensive, durable granite is out, and marble is in. Brushed metal is out, cerised wood is in. Oversize furniture is out, smaller pieces which are upholstered in velvet are in.

What are you to do without breaking the bank? The answer is-don’t worry!

I still recall when my parents sold our first house, which was in a new subdivision featuring six basic models. It was at the tail end of the seventies and green was the predominant color throughout. Green wallpaper, carpet, and upholstery were only broken up by accessories and appliances in, you guessed it- harvest gold.

‘I’m so sorry the decor is so green,’ my mother apologized to the buyer, who looked completely bewildered by that statement.

‘But that’s the reason I bought your house. My favorite color is green,’ the kind buyer explained.

The truth is there is no one size fits all formula. Instead consider the style of your home. Is the architecture of your home traditional or modern? Certainly you wouldn’t have used colonial colors or furniture in your steel and glass condominium. This is the place for warm grey and putty colors.  Do you live in a Victorian? I guarantee your buyers will prefer a rich color scheme to greige. Is your home a Chicago bungalow reflecting the arts and crafts movement or its offshoot Prairie style? Then soft greens, brick reds and golden wheat are the way to go. If your home is on a body of water, pale greens and blues will work well.

Chances are you are familiar with your neighbors and their homes and that you’ve been to open houses in your neighborhood. You probably already know what kind of buyer is moving into your area and which properties sold quickly and well. That will give you an idea what buyers are looking for and what appealed to them most.

Start with paint. It makes a huge statement and is a far less expensive option to remodeling. Paint one wall. If it doesn’t turn out well, try another color. Once you have finalized the paint colors, you can focus on details.

In our next post we will look at inexpensive ways to make your home more inviting.


Guest post by Lily Temmer

Staging a Home for Sale –Part II

 Decluttering for the Camera

Today I read an article which stated that home staging has moved away from the greige and sterile towards warmer palettes and eclectic decor. That’s wonderful news for all of us who have been pining to see more color in interiors, but confusing when it comes to preparing our homes for sale.

So what should do? There is so much advice out there that it can become completely overwhelming. To simplify, let’s begin with some basics:

  1. Clean your home.
  2. Make any necessary repairs.
  3. Wash your windows.
  4. Clean or remove old, stained carpeting.
  5. Replace old towels and bedding.
  6. Clean and remove everything from kitchen and bathroom counters.
  7. Determine if your wood floors need to be polished, or polyurethane them. There is no need to completely refinish.
  8. Consider if any rooms need repainting.

Your home should look pretty good by now, but at this point your work is only partially completed, because what looks right to your naked eye, doesn’t necessarily photograph well.

Recently, I was taking pictures of my living room when, with a shock, I realized  the pictures showed a sloppy, unattractive space. I wondered how that could be. The furnishings, carpets, antiques and paintings all looked harmonious to me. I thought somehow the camera angle must be wrong. I tried over and over again but was completely unhappy with the result. I then called an architect friend to intervene. An experienced photographer, and trained at IIT, he immediately began to remove decorative pillows, throws, plants, and flower arrangements, along with any objects that cluttered table surfaces.

In other words, everything that I used to make my home welcoming and homey had to go.

‘But it’s Christofle, or Murano, or Ming Dynasty,’ I protested, to no avail.

In the end, I realized he was right. My living room, a place I adored, looked so much better with a quarter of the contents cleared away. I then picked up my camera and started to photograph the other rooms in my condo. As I looked at the finished photos, I began to adjust the placement and content of objects for a better, cleaner look. The droopy plant in my study is now reviving on the porch. The magazine stand in my bedroom has found a new home in the closet. The unused spice rack and toaster on the kitchen counters are nestled in drawers.

In truth, as our eye becomes accustomed to our surroundings we cease to see the obvious. Knick-knacks, throws, books, plants, photographs, appliances, and accessories may add to our comfort and convenience but detract home buyers from finding our homes attractive. The easiest way to remedy these issues is to use your camera as a visual  tool and make necessary adjustments in your environment. Remove everything that is extraneous, then play around adding elements one by one. Take a few photos and compare. My sofa ended up looking best with one throw pillow as an accent, and the coffee table with a large art book.

I would have never known what to do  had my architect friend not shown me how to stage my home. So before your Realtor schedules a photographer, work on your own pre-shoot. If you don’t feel confident ask your Realtor for advice. They have seen so many homes that they will have a good idea of what works well. Additionally, your Realtor can recommend professional stagers who can either edit your belongings or bring in their own furniture and props. It is more costly, but there is a good chance you will save both time and money in the long run by presenting your home at its best.

In our next  post we will look at decorating trends.

Guest post by Lily Temmer

Staging a Home for Sale –Part I

The Importance of Good Photographs

When I was selling houses on Chicago’s North Shore, I visited a house that was so aesthetically pleasing that it actually moved me to tears. Nestled amidst woods at the end of a circular drive, its expansive rear lawn dropped down beyond the garden to the shores of Lake Michigan.

Walking up the stone steps and entering through imposing carved front doors, I had the impression I was in a stately home that had been in one family for generations. Every aspect of the house, from the Persian carpets to the millwork, was of the finest quality imaginable. I lingered for a long time, so awed by its beauty that I never wanted to leave.

When I returned to my office, the managing broker, a man with impeccable credentials and superb taste, asked if I had viewed, quote: ‘that hideous house.’ I was shocked, since I knew we often saw eye- to -eye on architectural matters. I wanted to verify that we were, indeed, speaking of the same property. We were, but he had only seen the photos which had appeared on the Internet. Sadly, that gorgeous mansion had been photographed so badly that it had ended up looking tired, drab, small, and shabby. Though the house was correctly priced and in the best location, the photographs were never changed, and  it sat on the market for over a year, with few showings, before it was withdrawn.

The following week I was showing houses in a different neighborhood to a young couple, when the husband remarked, ‘Wow, you really know your stuff. We thought you were crazy when you put this house on our list, but it really is great.’

Those two back –to- back incidents alerted me to the fact that buyers were making their selections based on the images they were seeing on the Internet. A house might be an absolute jewel in real life, but if it doesn’t show well on photographs it could be completely overlooked, causing sellers to lose both money and valuable time.

In our next post, we will take a look at how to best edit a home for the benefit of the camera.


Guest Post by Lily Temmer