- - Thursday, April 26, 2012

Anyone who watches home makeover shows or has been house hunting in recent years knows staging is practically mandatory if you intend to sell your home. Not everyone, however, realizes you can consult with a home stager even if you have no intention of moving.

“Staging for life,” or the redesign of your home, will not replicate the depersonalized, clutter-free style of a home on the market but should result in a more serene and pulled-together residence.

Trained home stagers often are accredited staging professionals and share some similarities with professional organizers and interior designers. In general, stagers work with things their clients already have to improve the look and functionality of a home, while interior designers, who have more extensive training than stagers, tend to bring in new materials and home furnishings.

Most home-staging professionals split their time between working for home sellers and for homeowners who intend to live in their home after it is staged.

“Often, buyers will come to me after they’ve seen a home I’ve staged and ask if they can buy the furniture or at least have me help them re-create what they loved about the staged version of the home they bought,” said Deb Harshman, an accredited staging professional master and president of Staged Home Decor in Potomac.

Lyric Turner, an accredited staging professional and owner of Red House Staging and Interiors in the District, said staging for life can be a less expensive alternative to an extensive interior design project.

“There are some similarities and some differences between staging for sale and ‘occupied’ staging,” Ms. Turner said. “I do try to set expectations for people that if they intend to live somewhere, it won’t be quite as clutter-free as a home that’s been staged to sell. That’s just not realistic, but living with one-third less stuff might be.”

The goal of staging for a home sale is to depersonalize it so potential buyers can visualize themselves living in the residence.

“You need to make a deep psychological impression when you are staging for sale so that buyers want to live there,” said Deb Gorham, an accredited staging professional and Realtor with Long & Foster Real Estate in Reston, Va. “When you are staging for living, you need to think about what brings the owners joy and how they want to live. The redesign must be functional and compatible with the homeowners’ lifestyle.”

Most home stagers start with a two-hour consultation with homeowners, typically charging $250 to $350 for that session. If homeowners opt for a complete makeover or ask the stager to shop for them, most charge an hourly rate of $75 to $95.

Ms. Harshman said the most important step in the redesign process is listening to the client’s likes and dislikes and looking at their furniture and accessories to see what can be repurposed and what needs to be eliminated. The first consultation, she said, is to define the client’s tastes and to determine how best to use what they already have to the best advantage.

“Most clients request that we work on one room, usually the main living space, such as a living room or a family room,” Ms. Harshman said. “Often, though, the project overflows into another room because once you start moving furniture around, you often realize pieces can be repurposed into other rooms.”

Ms. Turner said about 50 percent of her clients only need the initial consultation. Depending on the scope of a redesign, staging can take a full day or just a few hours.

“Sometimes all someone needs is a push in the right direction, especially if they just have one problem area, such as a tricky living room floor plan,” Ms. Turner said.

For homeowners who want to experiment with staging on their own, the professionals have several suggestions.

“Start with a clean canvas,” Ms. Harshman said. “Remove everything you can from a room and then place it back in the arrangement you’ve decided to use. Pack up and store or sell items you don’t want to use or take them to use in another room.”

Ms. Gorham said people often overcrowd their spaces both visually and functionally, so she recommends asking yourself about every object in your home: Is it a necessary object for your life? If so, where does it belong? She recommends reviewing your home as the seasons change.

“I suggest that you pretend your home is going on the market in three weeks,” Ms. Turner said. “Box up everything that is cluttering your home that you don’t need and either store it or get rid of it.

“Some people edit themselves so much that they throw out their personality, though, so then you need to add in some art, rugs, throw pillows or a new paint color.”

For many homeowners, determining furniture placement is the biggest challenge.

“You should start with a focal point in each room,” Ms. Harshman said. “For instance, if you want the whole family to watch TV together in the family room, then you need lots of seating. In a living room, the fireplace is often the focal point. But sometimes the focal point can be a large piece of artwork with an ornate frame, so you need to take the style of the frame and bring in pieces that coordinate with it.”

Many people push their furniture against the wall, Ms. Turner said, but bringing pieces together to create conversation areas can be cozier.

“Furniture placement depends on a lot of factors, including the focal point of the room, the location of the doors and traffic flow, plus the size of the furniture and the room,” she said.

Many people hang their artwork too high, she said, or put a tiny picture on a large wall so it looks out of proportion.

Another challenge can be collections that have sentimental value but perhaps look like clutter to guests.

“You need to figure out how to edit and display collections so that they are visually appealing,” Ms. Harshman said. “One rule is to cluster items in groups of three with a high, medium and low height to increase the visual impact.”

Organizing your closets, bathroom storage and kitchen cabinets may not be as visible to guests, but it can have an impact on how you feel about your home.

Ms. Turner suggested replacing all your mismatched wire and plastic hangers with wooden ones and organizing your clothes by color for an instant improvement at a low cost.

“Playing around with your stuff doesn’t cost anything,” Ms. Turner said. “Trying out things in different spots helps you figure out how to use your space. And, if you don’t like it, you can always just move it back.”

If you need some extra help, Ms. Gorham suggested asking a friend with a good eye for design to come to your house. Of course, hiring a professional stager also is an option.

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