Tips On The Best Ways To List And Present Your Home From Celebrity Stager Margaret Schaffer And Interior Designer Barb Murtagh Nash
Last March, the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches reported a boost in existing, single-family home sales and a nine-percent rise in median prices.
While this month may be the perfect time to sell a property, this time of year’s milder temps also make it optimal for livening up a home’s worn-down aesthetic and clearing away the clutter.
Whether you’re selling your property, or staying put, we’ve enlisted a pair of renowned design experts to weigh in with their home staging tips and simple ways to invigorate your living space.
According to Margaret Schaffer, owner of ReStyle Interiors, “The point of staging is to help buyers understand the property and its value. Furnishings are important because they lend a sense of lifestyle.”
In 2014, the entrepreneur and mother of three opened her home staging and redesign firm in Boca Raton and makes guest appearances on shows like Bravo TV’s “Million Dollar Listing: Miami” and “Flip Wars,” A&E Network’s reality series that features extraordinary property transformations in 24 hours.
To stage or not to stage: Some sellers think that leaving a space empty amplifies its size, but Schaffer disagrees. Staging puts scale and purpose into perspective and demonstrates how someone living there might use it. Rooms should be fully staged or not at all. Don’t go halfway, she warns. For example, if there’s already a bed in the master bedroom, add a pair of side tables, some lamps and appropriate bedding. She says, “If you only have a mattress and a box spring, that’s going to hurt you.”
First impressions are lasting ones: Landscaping, outfacing surfaces and accessories indicate a home’s current state to buyers, so clean them up before anyone steps inside. Schaffer recommends power washing the driveway, walkways and front stoop. Swap out dead, scraggly plants and cover beds with fresh mulch. She favors Sansevieria, a stiff, flowering plant that requires little watering. Light fixtures and front door handles can be outdated but should be replaced if they’re corroded. If it’s in the budget, she proposes painting the exterior in a clean, classic hue like white or a beige-gray. “A fresh coat of paint will pay you back many times over, especially because it’s a first impression,” she says.
Turn an extra space into a lifestyle room: Have an attic, basement or bonus room you don’t know what to do with? Schaffer recommends turning it into an office or a home gym. “Lay out some yoga mats and balance balls and make it a yoga room,” she says. “People are hiring personal trainers, so these rooms are really becoming popular.”
Highlight focal points: Mothers always say to accentuate the positive. Whether it’s a colorful pillow or a piece of artwork, every room needs a focus to guide its design. To maximize a client’s spectacular ocean views, the designer flanked the picture window with a pair of couches to keep the site lines from the entryway unobstructed. She advises keeping tabletop accessories to a minimum, like a living plant or books. Too much confuses the eye and just adds clutter.
Stay neutral: Keeping to a neutral schematic is the key to good home staging. Schaffer proposes staying in the same color family and mixing in layers of contrasting textures. For a client’s living room, she started with a natural sisal rug then added a blond-wood coffee table and a light linen sofa with fur, linen and chunky knit pillows in white and blue tones that pulled in the water views. On the table, she added a white orchid display and cerulean-colored books to counter the pillows. “Pulling your color palette through the room brings harmony to the space,” she says.
Convey personality without getting personal: Picking artwork can be challenging because it’s so personal and can turn buyers the wrong way. “You don’t want your art being the reason somebody can’t connect with the property,” she says. Again, she advocates sticking to neutral pieces like abstracts and black-and-white photography.
Small changes make a big difference: Sellers may not be aware that little things like wall color and dingy or outdated accessories can chip away the home’s value. Painting walls white, removing faded window treatments, hanging modern light fixtures, laying new carpet, and replacing yellowed switch plates are easy fixes. Updating an old thermostat with modern technology, like the Nest Thermostat E, is another idea. “It’s a couple hundred bucks, but it elevates the property and looks really sharp,” she says.
Barb Murtagh Nash has been creating dreamy spaces for more than 20 years. As the owner of Blue Sky Environments Interior Décor (BSEID), she named her design company and online home furnishings store after a passage in a children’s book she’d read to her kids before bed.
Before taking on a remodel, Nash stresses the importance of knowing the long-range goals for the house—do you want to sell in a few years or are you planning to stay indefinitely?
Next, set a budget and make a complete list of everything you’d change if you had the money. Perhaps there’s not enough storage or you want privacy on your windows. Determine the cost of each project and how long they’ll take to complete. Homeowners can cherry-pick the projects they want to tackle first or save for later.
Complete a project before beginning another: The biggest mistake Nash sees homeowners make is starting a new project before finishing the previous one. “Completing a project shows that dollars have been well spent and gives the person a sense of accomplishment,” she says.
Save money by repurposing: Update high-traffic spaces, like the kitchen, by repurposing what you already have. “If you can’t afford a brand new kitchen, repaint the cabinetry and install new hardware,” she says. To keep things from feeling too monolithic, add white Corian countertops and a matching subway tile backsplash if you have it in your budget.
Skip the tub for more space: The designer always marvels at how much space is gained when the master bathtub is removed. With the extra square footage, she suggests creating a spa-inspired setting with a glassed-in shower, separate water closet and a sitting area for relaxing or reading.
Create a dramatic backdrop for art or a collection: One of Nash’s clients owned a collection of black and cream charcoal etchings his late mother had bequeathed him. Although they meshed with the home’s understated vibe, she feared they’d look flat on its soft gray walls. “So, I painted this really fabulous navy wall in the foyer with a simple console and beautiful contemporary lamp on it—what a statement it made,” she says.
Lighting is hot: “There’s so much diversity in lighting,” Nash says. “For example, LED light bulbs come in different colors and brightness levels that make people feel more happy.” Also, swap out standard edition flush ceiling fixtures for ones with dangling crystals, polished chrome or colored glass.
Play with unused space: Nash agrees with Margaret that options abound for bonus rooms. Basements can be transformed into a secondary family room or a space for hobbyists who enjoy sewing or woodworking. “Even if you don’t drink, you could add a wet bar or create an entertainment area for children and teenagers,” she says. She also steers clients to add a basement bathroom whenever possible. “It only increases the value of your home.”