Easy Decorating Tips that Add Winter Warmth

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Warm colors and layered bedding create a cozier look.

Warm colors and layered bedding create a cozier look.

 

Brown accents and layered bedding create a beautiful, warm-looking bedroom

Brown accents and layered bedding create a beautiful, warm-looking bedroom

 

Persimmon-colored drapes and pillows

Persimmon-colored drapes and pillows

Winter got you down? When New Jersey temperatures hit the single digits and the chore of digging out from repeated snowfalls are making you crave moving to Florida or the Caribbean – but you really don’t have that option! – turn up the visual “heat” in your home instead. Just bring in shots of warm tropical colors, such as pink, red, orange, yellow and even comforting chocolate brown, in pillows, blankets, comforters, and window treatments. Inexpensive items such as pillows or pillow covers (try Bed, Bath and Beyond and West Elm or Etsy, Wayfair, or Overstock.com), decorative red, yellow, or orange accent vases or art, and higher-wattage bulbs and/or an additional lamp or two can all make your home more inviting and cozy for those long winter months spent mostly indoors.
Another tip: layer multiple blankets and decorative pillows or invest in a set of heavier bedding and velvet panel drapes that can be swapped out in the spring and summer for lighter-weight alternatives. Layering and heavier-weight fabrics even in cool colors make homes look warmer.  Not only can these small changes make a big change in your environment and mood, they can also make your home a more interesting and fun place to live year-round that is reflective of our changing seasons.

Renting Furniture For Staging Homes Is An Investment with a Great Return!

P1010676IMG_0916P1010683IMG_0920Lately I’ve had many inquiries about the cost of staging vacant houses, but once callers such as real estate agents, investors, and sellers hear the cost of furniture rental (which I arrange through outside rental companies) their first reaction is to balk. But at around $200 – $300 per room per month (depending on style and price point of furniture as well as number of pieces required for each room), the cost is actually very reasonable considering:
*Furniture rental when selected by a professional stager or decorator is a very smart investment that will easily return anywhere from 2 to almost 6 times the cost (source: HomeGain) in a higher selling price and quicker sale that will save owners money on monthly maintenance, mortgage, property taxes, and other carrying costs
* The cost is always less than a typical price reduction on a property
* Renting furniture is a smart and critical move to creating a warm and welcoming environment for buyers that helps them envision their ideal lifestyle
* Using the services of a design expert such as a stager or interior decorator to place furniture in an empty home shows buyers how to use spaces most effectively, resolves questions about seating, watching TV, reading areas, eating areas, the number of people that can comfortably use a room, too-large or too-small spaces, what to do with awkward angles, oddly-placed fireplaces, etc.
* Using rental furniture from professional rental companies insures all furniture is sanitized, professionally wrapped, delivered, and set-up, and that the inventory is frequently turned over (i.e. updated) to reflect current design trends.

*Stagers/decorators can often negotiate lower rental prices, sometimes get insurance waivers removed, and generally arrange better terms with furniture companies since they know we bring them repeat business and they value their relationships with us.
So while the cost may seem high at first glance, the benefits of renting new, trendy pieces to create the look that appeals to buyers far outweigh the initial cost of around $3-5,000 to furnish 4-7 main rooms in a house over the standard 3-month rental period.

Home Staging Creates Emotional Connection with Buyers

One of the main benefits of consulting with a home stager is the emotional connection she or he is able to create with buyers for your home. Buyers tend to buy with their hearts, not their heads, as much as they think they are using rational decision-making!

Many factors contribute to buyers’ perception of value when looking at a home:
Landscaping, paint colors, materials and finishes such as hardwood floors and granite countertops, fixtures such as stainless steel appliances, updated vanities, modern light fixtures, and even non-attached elements such as furniture and accessories. The vast majority of buyers who see older, overdone, mismatched, or even minimal décor will not find the home appealing and will de-value it or pass it by completely. There are many easy fixes that stagers can suggest to get offers for homes that are stagnating on the market because of older décor. Stagers can also psychologically “fix” poor lay-outs simply by re-arranging furniture and art.

Even dark or out-dated paint colors will reduce the value of a home, although having rooms repainted is an easy and relatively inexpensive fix. Unfortunately most buyers don’t know that and even if they do, they don’t want to deal with doing the work. Buyers will pay more money for move-in ready homes than out-dated ones or fixer-uppers (which is why investors seek the low-value, low-price homes that need work). Stagers advise their clients on the specific items that should be changed or replaced in their home in order to raise the value of the home over and above the expense involved!

Update and Repair Before Listing Your Home For Sale!

When listing an out-dated older home (anything older than about 10 years) for sale, you can’t expect that furniture re-arranging, de-cluttering, and cleaning are enough to prepare your home for the market. That’s like putting icing on a half-baked cake or lipstick on a pig! The underlying more critical problems and issues need to be addressed first, or the rest is not going to make much of a difference.

Eliminate old flooring prior to selling

Eliminate old flooring prior to selling

Metallic patterned wallpaper scares off buyers! Too personal in taste, too old.

Metallic patterned wallpaper scares off buyers! Too personal in taste, too old.

Buyers don't want to have to paint; it's a simple, cheap fix to avoid scaring them off.

Buyers don’t want to have to paint; it’s a simple, cheap fix to avoid scaring them off.

Room needs paint and neutral carpeting

Room needs paint and neutral carpeting

Too Much Pattern

Too Much Pattern

Old Light, Wallpaper, Carpet

Old Light, Wallpaper, Carpet

Pink Won't Sell!

Pink Won’t Sell!

If your home has any of these problems, your investment in fixing or replacing and updating them will more than pay for itself in a higher market value when it’s time to sell:

1) Look down: Out-dated flooring, such as vinyl (even worse, strongly patterned vinyl), or chipped and damaged or stained ceramic or wood flooring. Buyers want clean, repaired or replaced ceramic or wood floors in kitchens and ceramic tile floors in bathrooms. Call a hardwood flooring specialist to fix, replace, or sand and refinish stained or scratched hardwood floors, which are a huge draw to buyers in the mid-Atlantic (and other) areas of the country.
2) Carpeting needs to be at the very least cleaned, if not replaced, depending on condition. If there are hardwood floors hidden underneath, rip out the carpeting and refinish the floors instead.
3) Look up: out-dated light fixtures – anything shiny brass, plastic, small-scale in a large ceiling, or older than about 8-10 years, tells buyers the home is older and makes them mentally downgrade their offer price.
4) Vanities and toilets and tubs in any color other than white or “biscuit” (off-white) are a negative when selling your home. Vanities and toilets are only a few hundred dollars to replace, plus labor, if you shop at the big-box stores in particular. Tubs can be re-glazed white for just a few hundred dollars as well.
5) Ceramic tile can also be painted or re-glazed inexpensively, so if yours is an old-fashioned color like pink, yellow, blue, or green, change it to white to look clean and universally appealing.
6) Wallpaper: Although wallpaper is starting to trend back in style in dining rooms and sometimes master bedrooms or children’s bedrooms, it is a highly personal décor taste, and I have yet to ever stage a home with trendy new wallpaper! All the wallpaper I see is decades old and holds no appeal to today’s buyer: it just screams “old”! So remove the wallpaper and paint an appropriate color.
7) Now that we’ve mentioned paint, be sure to avoid listing a home with any strong, bright, dark, dramatic colors. Painting is one of the cheapest ways to give your home a beautiful and modern face-lift and make it look clean and refreshed at the same time. Use neutrals that coordinate with the flooring and furniture finishes in your main living areas, and choose softer blue-grays, greens, yellows, gray, or beige for bedrooms, making sure the color you choose complements your new updated bedding! Most stagers have taken at least one, if not more, color classes, and are experts at color consulting so that the colors you choose will wow your buyers!
8) Out-dated kitchen cabinets and appliances: What color and style are your kitchen cabinets? If they have arches, they’re out-dated! If they are knotty pine, they’re out-dated, unless perhaps you live in a cabin in the woods or on a mountain. If they are bright red or orange or blue laminate, they probably won’t fly with buyers in any place other than trendy and modern NYC lofts. Darker stains are still a popular choice on the East Coast. Ivory, white, and gray cabinets are generally popular too, depending on the style of your home, its neighborhood, demographic, and the other finishes in your home. Black and sage green are less popular, but can work in some homes.
9) Wood paneling: PLEASE take your stager’s or decorator’s advice and eliminate your knotty pine or wood paneling, unless it’s teak or mahogany! Whether it’s faux wood or real wood, it is out of favor for many decades now unless it’s been painted white, off-white, or pale gray! Dark wood paneling screams “old” and “dated” and makes rooms dark as well. I can’t ever say it enough: light, bright rooms (that means leaving every light on during showings and all blinds pulled up and drapes removed or pulled completely aside) SELL houses! I went to an open house last weekend and the room was so dark with all the drapes drawn, I had to ask the seller to turn on the lights so I could see it!
10) Brass trim around showers, brass faucets, toilet levers, etc.: Eliminate the shiny brass trim that is a tell-tale sign of the 80s. If it’s too expensive to replace tub and shower trim, it can be dulled down or painted using specialty paints — at least a temporary fix to get more money when you sell. Ask your paint specialist or your stager for more info!

NOW your house is ready for the furniture re-arranging and trendy “icing on the cake” accessorizing that will prepare it for those close-up MLS photo shots that will woo buyers!

Taste-Specific Decor Scares Away Buyers!

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imagesl8f441f44-w10oIf you want to attract the most buyers possible when selling your home,
you need to present it to appeal to the masses by adopting at least some popular trends and eliminating taste-specific décor. In my 3-plus years of staging, I’ve come across some homes and seen countless photos on-line of many more that languish for many months or even years because they showcase out-dated colors, materials, finishes, or unusual décor, artwork, and collections that apparently no agent advised them to put away or change. About 95% of the time, homes have too much furniture that makes them look cluttered, cramped, or worn and tired! I find it hard to believe that any seller who truly wants to get top dollar for their home and move on would choose to waste months of time trying to sell a property that isn’t competitive in the marketplace.

Since many sellers don’t spend hundreds of hours a year keeping up with décor trends and they don’t have an eye for design, or know what sells, your best bet is to hire a stager to consult with you on how to present your home in order to market it effectively. Staging is a critical part of any home’s marketing plan, just like grooming yourself and dressing up in a conservative suit or dress is a part of a job interview in order to make a good first impression. A good stager will tell you much more than just what and how to de-clutter and what should be cleaned (OK, that’s easy, everything!). Stagers advise you on:
• What décor needs to be changed in order to capture many more prospects, 90% of whom troll the internet to decide on the homes they want to see: things like 1980s mauve and green carpeting, bright or out-dated paint colors, wallpaper, for instance, or bathroom fixtures and appliances in anything other than neutral colors, knotty pine paneling, old laminate kitchen cabinets, outdated lighting and hardware, Hollywood lightbulbs around bathroom mirrors (this is endemic in northern New Jersey, for some unknown reason), etc.
• How to enhance curb appeal, both for daytime and nighttime (think good lighting for pathways and the front door, even inexpensive uplighting for trees)
• Why and how much to pare down personal collections that will distract buyers from the selling features of your home and prevent them from seeing themselves living in it; I’ve seen gun collections, doll collections, old toy collections, deer heads on walls, stained glass “art” throughout a home, etc. These items are way too personal and can even be offensive to the vast majority of buyers.
• Eliminating family photos, pet paraphernalia, grandma’s crocheted afghans, doilies, etc. , and anything else that screams “this house is someone else’s home, I can’t see myself living here.”
• What repairs to make, if they are obvious to a critical eye: thinks like broken steps, doorknobs, missing tiles, mildewed grout, cracked walls or outdoor foundations, etc.
• What to stow away, such as garbage cans and personal hygiene items or cleaning supplies.
• What furniture should be removed, re-arranged, slipcovered to neutralize outdated patterns and colors or cover up stains, and generally positioned to maximize both space and your home’s selling features, such as fireplaces, views, nooks, etc.
• How to visually expand spaces by getting rid of scatter rugs, rugs that are too small for rooms, exposing hardwood floors, removing curtains, changing paint colors or adding mirrors in dark rooms.
• How, where, and what size artwork to hang to bring color and life into a room as well as to emphasize features
• And more . . . just too much to cover in this blog post!

The return on investment for staging is anywhere from 200% to 600%, according to HomeGain’s annual surveys on improvements that sell homes. I never make recommendations that won’t, in my experience, at least return their cost for that home’s location, and most improvements are inexpensive. Also keep in mind that buyers tend to over-estimate the cost of repairs, many don’t know who to turn to to get those improvements done, or don’t have the time to make those repairs and updates. They just know they want to live in homes like the ones they see on TV and in magazines, and sellers that give them what they are looking for are the ones who get more buyers and competitive bids and sell for higher prices!

Enliven Your Rooms With Color For Drama and Warmth!

Color in homes tends to make them more joyful and interesting! Pastel colors are coming back, but what matters in your home is what makes YOU feel happy. Color is such a personal choice and we all respond differently to different colors. To figure out what colors are right for you, think about what accessories, bedding, clothing colors, or even vacation spots you are drawn to and find pleasing. Do you love the ocean or lakes? Then blue or blue/green might well be a color you’d enjoy in your home. Are you drawn to the Southwest? You likely will prefer bold warm colors, such as orange, yellow, or red in your decor. You also need to consider the main purpose of each room (relaxing, entertaining, studying, sleeping); the amount and quality (north, south, east, west) of your light (natural and artificial); cohesiveness with existing hard-to-change finishes such as flooring, tile, cabinetry, granite, even expensive furniture you own; and your partner’s color preferences as well, if you to both live in something akin to harmony! Don’t be afraid to go bold, but when you do, keep colors limited to 2, maybe 3, combinations, and be sure to have one or two neutrals mixed in to get a color palette that works and won’t make you dizzy or overwhelmed! Or call me for a color consult and to discuss what will work in your home for the mood and results you want!

Luxurious bathroom

Luxurious bathroom

The Difference Paint Can Make!

The Difference Paint Can Make!

Spring green and raspberry pink add modern flair

Spring green and raspberry pink add modern flair

Purple-pink bedroom

Purple-pink bedroom

Stripes are Trending!

Pin striping with white paint

Pin striping with white paint

Stripes of 4 different colors alternate for a hip look!

Stripes of 4 different colors alternate for a hip look!

Cool and feminine look is striking!

Cool and feminine look is striking!

Classic look for a child's room

Classic look for a child’s room

Wide taupe and white stripes
Varying widths of stripes in the same color "family"

Varying widths of stripes in the same color “family”

The style pendulum always swings back to previous looks, and this year horizontal and vertical stripes of all widths are back in style! I put up blue and white stripes in my small front hallway 25 years ago, so I remember the look being popular back then (or was I just being on the cutting edge of style, ha ha?). Here are some looks I’ve come across recently — most all can be done inexpensively with paint and painter’s tape aligned perfectly straight to create the striping.
horizontal black and white stripes look dramatic!

horizontal black and white stripes look dramatic!