To stage or not to stage

Staging is a dirty word to designers. Whenever I hear the term, I think of stripping out every last shred of personality and warmth in a home — not a house, a home — and replacing it with a pleather-infected, sterile box. I imagine walls being painted in coffee colours, and red being used as an accent to really set off the beige-and-brown room with the chrome accent tables. Every time one of these rooms is born, somewhere, a designer weeps. 

We used Pratt & Lambert’s Gray Moire on the walls, and Seed Pearl on the wainscotting. Works with any colour palette. Photo: Meredith Heron Design Inc.; Photographer: Paul Orenstein 

So, you want to sell your house? Here’s how a designer would do it. Get ready to bookmark this page: It will change your life. OK, maybe not your life — gosh, I’m confident, aren’t I? -- but the truth is, many stagers overstage, and approaching home resale with a designer’s perspective (in my opinion) will most likely get you better re$ults. Read on and see if you don’t agree. 

Accent Walls 
Why? Why do you have them? Are they arbitrary, or do they serve as some sort of shorthand for design fabulosity? You can keep brick or stone walls (even though I’m so over the stacked ledgestone wall in anything but a mountain home); the single wallpapered wall, so long as it’s making sense (headboard wall, for example, though, please, not damask — another personal pet peeve), but for decorating sake, please don't look to an accent wall as the answer to a lack of character. 

Avoid: beige, straw, browns. I know, I know, I’m pulling out the rug from under your world. Well, brace yourself — I almost put taupe in there, too, but figured that kind of boldness would crash the servers. Here’s the reasoning: Most people don’t look great in Café Mocha. You want your prospective buyers to feel good in your space. If you are going to hook them and make them desperate to buy, they have to feel something — and preferably the feeling in question is not jaundice. Stick with creams, greys, pale blues, charcoals. Simple rule: Do not use Condiments as your colour inspiration! 

You don’t need to swap out all of your furniture unless it looks like a Lazy Boy Graveyard. If you have pleather parson chairs as dining chairs, do yourself a favour and either slipcover them or accidentally break all of the legs (yes, I’m religiously opposed to them, more so if they are brown or red). Sometimes it makes sense to start fresh — but if you do go that route, don’t cheap out. Why? Because it will look like you cheaped out.

Here’s a blank slate room I styled:

The only thing in this 3rd Floor bedroom that belonged to the client was the side table. The furniture and dressings were from our Design Studio, and the carpet was from Weaver’s Art.Photo: Meredith Heron Design Inc.; Photographer: Paul Orenstein 

Keeping personal photos on display helps to convey the feeling that this is a home — so long as you don’t have eerie retro wedding photos from 1973 hanging over your bed (or, worse, nude maternity photos lining the walls). Emotion is the key to a sale; hook the buyer sentimentally and you are golden. I prefer to cluster family photos in a gallery-type arrangement. Mix in artwork; it doesn’t have to be all matchy matchy. 

Fewer pieces, but big ones that make a statement, are a great way to make a space feel larger and look inviting without being cluttered. Minimize contrast between furniture and walls. Use area rugs to anchor a seating area but make sure it fits the seating area.


The clients did not have a headboard, so we used louvered doors that were antiqued, to act as a headboard to fill the space. The patterned area carpet served to make the room feel more intimate and cozy, which is key in a master bedroom. Photos: Meredith Heron Design Inc.; Photographer: Paul Orenstein 

Let your styling and vignettes tell a story; not your story, per se, but the story of the person you think will very, very much want to live in this house. Do your research: Create a profile of the prospective buyer. For the house I am styling right now, the prospective buyer looks like this: 

• Small family: 1-2 kids (under the age of 10) 
• Looking to locate in Toronto’s Beach community 
• Wants to be close to good schools 
• Athletic and outdoorsy 
• Pet lovers 
• Storage required 
• Finished basement preferable 
• Pre-landscaped yard preferable 
• Not DIY, but can handle paint 
• Prepared to do some interior renovations, but no bathrooms

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