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Staging your home long before you sell it

Minchstaged_3Here's the thing about those compelling, addictive stage-your-house-so-you-can-sell-it shows like Designed to Sell: I always feel a little sad when the previously dumpy, awkward house is turned into a graceful object of desire for just a few bucks. I think: Why didn't the owners do this stuff five years ago so they could enjoy a great house? Why wait until it's to be sold?

And I can tell the owners often feel regret, as well.

So when I heard that Pasadena home stager Michelle Minch, of Moving Mountains Design & Staging, had been nominated for Professional Stager of the Year, I decided to ask her a few questions. Here's what she said:

Question: What are a few things a person could do now, while they are living in their home, to give it the cool, elegant look of a staged home?

Answer: The No. 1 thing that any stager will tell you is get rid of clutter. Most people could afford to get rid of at least 50% of what they have accumulated. Donate it, trade it, sell it, get rid of it or put it away.

Clean out the closets, take everything that you choose to keep and put it away neatly, folded nicely with a little space between the stacks.

Purchase new bedding and retire the old stuff. New bedding doesn't have to be expensive. I stage multimillion-dollar homes and most of the bedding I use comes from discounters like Ross Dress for Less, Marshalls, Home Goods and Tuesday Morning. I have purchased very expensive, but heavily discounted Pratesi sheet sets at Tuesday Morning. I also shop the white sales at major department stores.

Solid colors are always safe, but if you go for a pattern, choose something classic and limit its usage. For instance, I have used a fluffy white duvet with a beautiful toile quilt folded on the foot of the bed. I use a couple of pillow shams that match the quilt, and the rest of the bedding is white. It is a very elegant look. I always use high thread count sateen sheets. Not only do they feel delicious, but they look very rich and expensive. If you are a smart shopper, you can pick them up inexpensively at the discounters mentioned above. Even Target has very good quality sheets for a reasonable price.

Make sure everything looks clean and neat. If your sofa is older, you can dress it up with some nice throw pillows in a pretty accent color and make a big difference in the way the room looks. Carry that same accent color through the room with flowers, artwork and accessories.

Question: On the other hand, what are things you might do to stage a home that would be impractical to live with day to day?

Answer: When we are finished staging a home, everything is picture-perfect, literally, since we also provide our clients with professional-quality photos to use in marketing their home. The sheets and pillowcases are steamed and ironed. Pillows are fluffed and perfectly placed, countertops are clear of clutter and perfectly shiny. There is no dirty laundry, piles of bills, kids’ homework or the detritus of everyday living.

It would be nearly impossible to live like that on a daily basis, especially if you have a family. We did stage a home for a client that was still occupying it until the house sold. He was very invested in selling his home so he followed our instructions to the letter. When the house sold and we went back to remove our Persian rugs, furniture and accessories, everything was exactly as we left it four weeks earlier. I wanted to kiss him!

3. What are the secrets to making a home look staged with little money?

Answer: Keep it simple, and be a smart shopper. Find a look that appeals to you in a magazine photo, and then shop until you find an affordable pieces and accessories that look similar.

Question: What are your final thoughts on living like your house is staged?

Answer: Staging your home does not have to be expensive, but you can still achieve a rich look. If you are not the do-it-yourself type, there is actually a sub-specialty of professional home staging that is called "staged to live." It is for people who are intimidated by hiring an interior designer but still want their home to have the appearance of a model home. For a nominal fee, the stager will come to your home, assess the situation, discuss your needs and desires and help set a budget. They will either provide you with written instructions you can follow yourself, or you can hire the stager to do part or all of the recommendations. Obviously, the more you do yourself, the less expensive it is. You can start your search for a qualified home stager on the Internet under "home staging" and the city you live in or near.

(Photo: Pasadena dining room staged by Michelle Minch)

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