Wednesday, December 31, 2014

One Woman's Story: A Warning to All DIYers

The end-of-the-year holidays are bittersweet for Heather Von St. James.

Nine years ago, on November 21, she sat in her doctor’s office and listened, in shock, as he delivered the message that would change her life. She had malignant pleural mesothelioma, a lung disease similar to cancer with a typical life expectancy of 15 months.  

She was 36, married, and with a new daughter just a few months old. She had everything to live for.

Today she is a spokesperson working to eliminate this devastating but preventable disease. She contacted me because she knows that DIY home improvement projects can expose people to the dangers of breathing asbestos fibers – the cause of mesothelioma.

Heather lives today because she underwent surgery to remove one lung, plus radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Many who are diagnosed are not so fortunate, and live shortened, compromised lives.

“I was exposed to asbestos as a child. I would wear my father’s work coat to do chores around the yard. Little did I know the coat was chock full of asbestos fibers and I was inhaling them daily.”

Heather’s dad worked in construction. Many homes built before 1970 contain asbestos products. It can take 20 years for you to show symptoms of mesothelioma to appear after a period of prolonged exposure, such as working assorted projects in an old house for years. Don’t put yourself or your family at even minimal risk, however. 

When asbestos fibers enter the lungs they stay there and cause inflammation, scarring, and fluid retention. In time, this can lead to lung cancer, tumors and cancers in other organs.
You can't tell whether a building material contains asbestos simply by looking at it.

If you are planning any remodeling projects that require disturbing the structure (walls, flooring, cabinets, ceilings, insulation, roofing, siding, ductwork) be aware that asbestos may be present.

If the home was damaged by storms, water, fire, or simple aging, materials containing asbestos may now be compromised to make the fibers breathable – not what you want!

The best way to deal with any existing building material that contains asbestos is to leave it undisturbed. Once the fibers become friable -- the way they would if you begin removing things like old popcorn ceiling, asbestos floor tiles, exterior asbestos siding, or old heating ductwork – you are in danger of inhaling or ingesting the invisible asbestos fibers.

If you are buying a home built before or refurbished prior to 2000, especially if you plan to do home repairs or remodeling, get information about possible asbestos products in the home from a home inspector or  from your real estate agent, and the from the present home owner.

When asbestos is a possibility, you should hire a professional asbestos inspector or an industrial hygiene firm to determine where, how much, and how stable the material is. He will advise you on remedial actions to take.

Here is a very short list of just some of the common places a DIY home improver will come across asbestos.

  • Vinyl wallpaper
  • Spackling and glues
  • Cements and plaster
  • Floor tiles, wall tiles, acoustic ceiling tiles
  • Heating ducts, furnaces
  • Roofing felt, shingles, stucco, siding

You can see the complete list of asbestos-containing material used in home construction at this site.

The Environmental Protection Agency does a concise and helpful job of spreading the word about the problems of asbestos. It’s a must read if you are a homeowner.    

If the asbestos can’t be contained or otherwise encapsulated, you will have to have certified asbestos removal professional remove the asbestos product, or find a way to leave it in place and safely cover it. For example, you can lay a floating laminate floor or carpeting over asbestos floor tile. You can put vinyl or wood siding over asbestos exterior shingles.

What we once thought was a wonderful product because of its insulating and fireproofing qualities has become a toxic substance. Don’t stay in the dark. Please educate yourself about this issue, because there is a right and a very wrong way to deal with asbestos!  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Round-Up: This Blog's Best Home Staging Posts of 2014

Choosing a front door color - that's just one topic!  
My blog’s focus has always been to provide the kind of information that helps a home seller get a better price for her home with fewer days on the market.

Looking back at 2014, I’ve selected the seven posts that I think are the most helpful to that end. 

Kick Off the Year! 

In January I wrote about what most Americans list as their number one New Year’s resolution – getting organized.

Based on my own experience and the advice of experts, here is an ultra-simple, two-step process to getting and staying organized.

Save Your Money 

Sticking to a home staging budget is one challenge that faces everyone who’s trying to dress up her home for the increasingly demanding real estate market.

Here’s a list of best ways I know to get the most for your money when you’re prepping your home for sale.

Power to the Props 

Details make the difference. Once a home is cleaned and decluttered, you’ll need some decor accessories that deliver the message, “Buy me. You’ll love me.” Here are the special home staging props that earn their keep day after day.
In March I listed my six favorite props for staging your home.  

Living in Your Staged Home 

Keeping a prettied, shined, and tidied home show-ready can become a non-stop job if you live there like normal people. Buyers don't expect an immaculate setting, but spaces can't look distractingly messy either.

With some clever planning and rethinking, maintaining that model home look is a whole lot less daunting.

Best Front Door Colors 

I know one decorator who tells her clients, “Painting your front door changes everything!” I agree. But selecting the right front door color isn’t always a breeze.

Here’s tips that make the decision easier and guarantee you and buyers will love the improved curb appeal.

Get in Gear 

If you have trouble staying motivated, welcome to the club. I outline the seven powerful strategies that let you accomplish goals, stay on track, and save your sanity no matter what your schedule looks like.

DIY Wall Decor  

Art on the walls solves a list of home staging problems. Art injects personality, fills up bare spaces, sets your home’s style, adds color, balances the weight in a room, and adds another layer to your decorating.  I show you how to create one of the easiest DIY art pieces, the abstract painting
October's art project: It looks messy, but the results are stunning.

I want to thank you, my reader, for checking this blog, and for following me on Pinterest, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. I'm sending you my best wishes for a New Year that makes all your dreams come true.

If selling your home is one of your resolutions for 2015, you'll want to download my home staging eBooks to help that dream come  true. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Staging the Christmas Mantel: Four Pointers for Success

No matter where you live, a fireplace is an asset.

Is yours staged for the season? Make it the room's focal point and make it reflect the tone of the season.

Here's my simple formula for staging a mantel that calls attention to the fireplace without taking over the whole room.


Set the stage so people touring your home immediately imagine themselves enjoying the fireplace.

I love to see a table and chairs in front of the fireplace, as though this were the perfect spot for a romantic meal.

Or you can position a loveseat or couch facing the fireplace. If a couch takes up too much room, place chairs flanking the hearth either facing outward or towards the fire.


Don't let the black hole of the firebox be the black hole in the room. You can create distractions on either side of the opening that bring the area to life.

I made a pyramid shape tree of grapevines wrapped around an inverted wire tomato cage topped with a golden angel. On the other side of the hearth, I added a shabby Rudolph planter who makes an appearance at our house every year.

Greenery in vessels is always a winner for softening the dark hole of the fireplace. Other seasonal props you might have available are vintage toys, wrapped gifts, a basket or bucket of kindling or pinecones, a rack of logs ready to burn, or a fancy screen. Just be certain to place your décor so it does not pose a fire hazard.


Hit all the bumpers. Combine glitzy props with natural elements. This is your chance to expand the appeal of your home to more than one demographic group. Some of your elements will be nostalgic and some will be trendy. Some will be high-end style and some will be dollar store cheesy. This is the one time of the year when (almost) anything goes. You can tone things down again in January.


Repeat colors and shapes. Start with some kind of color scheme, and everything will flow. In this room, I veered towards the browns and greens plus white and silver. You can't go wrong there. I also repeated the conical shapes of evergreens as well as the sphere shapes of ornaments and beads.

If you follow these simple guidelines, I know you'll stage a fireplace that helps sell you home. Be sure to read my post, Seven Steps to a Gorgeous Fireplace Mantel from two Christmases ago! And for more ways to prep your home for the real estate market, be sure to download my $4.99 eBooks.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What's the Best Time of Year to Sell A House?

Timing the sale of your home can make a big difference in how long it’s on the market and what it sells for.

In the past, about half of all houses that sold were sold during the spring and summer months. But the stats are changing.

If you need to list your home in the fall or winter, don’t be discouraged. In fact, there can be some surprising advantages.

Speedy Deals

From October through December home closings can happen quickly because people want to be in their new home for the holidays.

If they are shopping for a home over the winter, it could be that they want to -- or need to -- move soon. They are less likely to stall or drag out negotiations.

This article in the Washington Post points out that listed houses stay on the market less time in winter than during the so-called more popular selling seasons.

Fresh starts

Maybe your future buyer is starting a new job in the New Year, or has decided, with the holidays behind him, to begin his house search ahead of house-hunting season.

Maybe he’s made a resolution to improve the quality of his life with a better home.

These buyers are motivated, and there is less competition because many home sellers (your competitors) are waiting for the “busy season” or are too involved with the holidays to list their home mid winter.

According to this article from Fox Business News, November through January is prime time for home sales. Statistics show that while families with school aged children used to make up the bulk of home buyers, today many home buyers are unmarried or without children, so the theory that most buyers prefer to move in the early summer is a myth.

And, not every family with children is looking outside its present school district, so timing isn’t critical for them.  

If you plan it right, a front door decoration can take you from
Thanksgiving through New Years Day. 

Serious Buyers

During the cooler months you won’t be bothered so much by lookie-loos, folks who are just curious or window shopping for a dream house they’re not prepared to purchase. Spring and summer bring out the people who open-house-hop on Sundays for fun.

Winter brings out the qualified buyers.

Accessible Labor

It can be easier to get on the schedule of contractors like carpenters, roofers, painters, home stagers, and landscapers to do your repairs and upgrades. You might even get discount rates. Local home inspectors, lenders, real estate agents, and lawyers may have more flexible schedules and rates during the fall and winter (although things grind to a halt the week between Christmas and New Years Day).

Consequently, your budget goes further in the slow season.

Sentimentality sells

People are nostalgic about winter holidays, family traditions, and the school vacations they’ve taken when they were young. You can stage your home to capitalize on that warm and fuzzy feeling of a home that’s special, inviting and approachable. Seasonal decor plays an important role when you stage your home.

During a home showing, a man will be pondering where the big screen television will go but his wife will be pondering where the Christmas tree will go, and if the dining room is large enough to accommodate extended family for Thanksgiving. If you traditionally stage for the winter holidays, she'll have her answers.  

Even if you do not stage specifically for your particular holiday,
staging a dining room so that home buyers can envision celebratory meals
makes an impression and gives them ideas and information. Candice Olson.

Desirable spot

People travel during the winter holidays. Do you live in or near a travel destination? Most of us have visited a place or traveled through a town, and thought, “I would love to live here!”

No matter where I am, when I meet new people I always ask them why they moved to where they live. It’s interesting how many times I’ve heard the same story. “We were on vacation and we fell in love with the place.”
Let’s not forget that people buy second homes. If they are financially comfortable, a home that offers amenities unlike their primary residence is a serious option for many. So, even if your home isn’t on the water, or in ski country, it could have features attractive to buyers such as proximity to family, tax breaks, being close to recreation areas, or simply offering a different local culture or lifestyle.

People with the finances to afford a second home often travel for the holidays,
and they could be coming to a town near you. Are you ready? 

Perfect weather

If you live in the Southern U.S., winter could be the most attractive season for your particular brand of buyers. Northerners relocating, retiring, investing in properties, or shopping for a vacation home are actively looking all year. Winters in Tampa, San Diego, Atlanta, Tucson and similar hot spots (and in neighboring small towns) are still prime time for buying and selling.

Because people shop online more during bad weather, your web listing is especially important. It helps to have online photos that show off your property favorably in all seasons. 

Tax advantage

A person looking for ways to lower his income taxes could be your perfect buyer. By purchasing before the end of the year, he’ll be able to deduct what he spends, including points, interest, and property taxes. If he happened to sell his residence during the summer and needs to reinvest that money, he’ll be motivated to close in order to avoid paying capital gains tax.
So, if you want to list your property during the "slow season," there’s no reason to wait. Home buying doesn’t stop and start when a calendar page flips over. Stage it, price it right and they will come.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Homestaging Wall Art: It's Day 31!

A month doesn’t seem like a long time. But it is when you commit to doing something every one of those days, whether you want to or not.

I never ran a marathon, I’ve never been called an overachieving type A, and I’m about as competitive as a jellyfish, so pushing myself to create a new blog post for 31 consecutive days didn’t come naturally.

In one way I enjoyed the test to come up with fresh content under pressure. I was almost glad that the self-imposed deadlines came at me fast and furious.
But I missed the satisfaction that I was posting the best tutorials, photos and writing that I could – if only I had more time.

I’m Hanging It Up

I learned a lot by researching, dreaming, experimenting and writing about wall art for homestaging in the past month.

I hope you’ve learned along with me. I hope you’ve picked up some tips about decorating your walls.

Whether you are staging your own home, staging other people’s homes, or just having fun with art, I like to think I helped.  

Everyone needs a creative outlet. Blogging is mine. Maybe you’ll find a new creative outlet or art form in the tutorials I’ve posted.

Here’s my summary 

An effective home stager should know these facts when choosing wall art.
  • Art for staging should never be offensive or controversial
  • Big is best.
  • There are economical and easy ways to create your own art.
  • A variety of media are suitable for staging art -- paintings, textiles, collages, photos and combinations of these forms.
  • Framing and matting can make all the difference.
As your high school teacher might have said, “If you forget everything else I’ve said this semester, remember those points.”

Be sure to download my $4.99 eBooks for home staging. You’ll find more ways to increase the value of your home.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rugs, Wreaths, and Quilts

I've posted plenty about paintings, but often a home stager's best friend isn't what you see framed on the walls of a traditional museum or gallery.

It's the quirky "finds" that get pressed into service as wall art.

Need examples?

How about an area rug like the one on the right?

Can you believe that all it took to fasten it to the wall were three dressmakers pins along the top edge, pins that are all but invisible. And they leave almost invisible pin holes in the wall.

The floppy fringe on the top of this rug doesn't bother me, but you could tuck it behind a rug as an alternative.

Another common textile used for wall decor is the quilt.

I've written in my $4.99 home staging eBook that the wrong kind of quilts, and you know the grandma kind I mean -- as beautiful as they might be -- can age a home.

But today's artsy quilts are a different story. They can make your home stand out in buyers' minds. Confused about how to hang them? Don't be. Just don't hang them from rings or tabs, but from a rod that distributes the weight of all that fabric. This is the way to go with rugs, tapestries, weavings and other textiles.

You can easily hand stitch (or glue if the piece is not precious) a casing, a simple strip of strong fabric, to the top back of your hanging, and insert a rod that fastens to the wall.

Another method is to attach a strip of hook and loop tape to the top edge, and the other strip to a wood strip firmly mounted on the wall.

Or Command strips from 3-M might be your choice for getting textiles on your walls. They come in all shapes and strengths, so I know you'll find one kind that's right for what you're hanging.

For more delicate textiles like scarves, lace and antique fabrics, you can attach these to a base fabric like linen or upholstery weight fabric to stabilize them. Mount this backer fabric on a stretched canvas, foamcore board, or even under framed glass.

Third Dimension

Wall hangings that have more body to them than flat art will add an interesting layer to your staged spaces.

The most common of these is The Wreath. Pinterest overflows with ideas for wreaths!

My favorites are the seasonal ones.

Just make sure that your Halloween wreath gets replaced before Christmas. There's no reason your potential  home buyers need to know how long your unoccupied home has been on the market and an updated seasonal wreath tells people that you still love your home.

Check that your wreath is an asset to the room, something that adds texture and quality, and that it ties into the colors you've chosen for staging.

Most of the wreaths on my Pinterest board for Wreaths are more suitable for exterior decor, but not all. My square wreath of pine cones looks super indoors.

If you need ideas for current fabric wall hangings, use search terms like "Quilts as Wall Art" on Pinterest, and get ready for some treats.

More Options

Here are other possibilities for filling up blank walls with art other than traditional paintings, whether your home is for sale or forever.

  • Clothing, like saris and silk robes
  • Hand dyed masterpieces of your own like tie-dyed work
  • Batiks and ikat patterns from fabric samples
  • Machine-stitched free-form embroidery
  • Flags (as long as they do not announce a preference for a certain sports teams or impassioned nationalism for a foreign nation)
  • New upholstery or drapery fabric  
Have fun with all the possibilities to fill your walls with subtle pattern, color and texture. With the right wall decor, buyers are bound to be impressed with the specialness of your home. Yours be the one house on the tour they remember. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

When to Go Frameless

The edge of the art canvas is usually framed.

At least, it used to be. But now, I'm seeing more and more unframed art. 

And I'm not talking about art students who don't have the cash to frame what they've painted.

I'm talking about giant canvases hung over drop-dead-gorgeous stone fireplaces in second homes featured in Traditional Home Magazine. So it's not about frugality or speed. 

It's about style. And I rather fancy it. It's a contemporary look that fits into almost any decor style.

The frameless look certainly makes DIY decorating a bit easier. Happily, it updates a home that looks stuck in an earlier era.

Imagine the room pictured above, and how old school and it would look with an old-fashioned frame surrounding that painting of loopy circles.

But the edge of an unframed painting still has to look finished. It should be clean and free of paint drips and stains.

If you stretch a piece of decorative fabric that you've purchased around wooden stretchers, then the design will wrap around the stretchers. But generally, a painting ends at the edge of the front surface. A painting that wraps around the stretchers is often a painting was printed in a factory and then stapled onto stretchers. Not exactly one-of-a-kind art.
Buying your canvas stretched and ready to go is the simple solution if you want to do your own artwork for staging, but you can't prop up or hang a piece of unframed thin-style canvas board. Your canvas has to have that boxed edge that stretchers provide.

There is an answer to the question, when is it a good idea to skip the frame? The answer is, "Almost anytime!" Most house styles can support this kind of look. It's casual and creates an approachable atmosphere.

Are you working on a redesign of your rooms? Don't leave here without downloading my $4.99 furniture arranging eBook!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It's Typography. But Is It Art?

In case you've been living under a rock for the past few years, I'll explain that signs and lettering are kind of a big deal in home decor right now.

You know a decorating craze has reached its zenith when you can buy it by the bagful at the dollar store.

I'm all for beautiful calligraphy. I appreciate the finer points of typography.

Many years ago, as a young magazine editor, part of my job was "spec-ing type." That means I had to mark up typed manuscripts so the printer would know what style and size type to set them.

It wasn't nearly as much fun as all we can do on our computers now.    

Today signage is everywhere in homes, proclaiming the love we have for our families, the strength of our faith, the quotes we find uplifting or amusing.

Witness the avalanche of "Keep Calm and ..." signs. Enough already! It's clear that signs and any art with typography or handwriting are appealing. When used for home staging art, it can add drama and some quirkiness, but there are limits to its practicality.

Let's look at the plus side of the ledger first. Here are some of the benefits of using signs for décor: 
  • They can set a mood with a message.
  • They can be inexpensive.
  • They are easy to hack (except for the fine art of real, hand penned calligraphy).
  • They can add a touch of lightheartedness.
  • Foreign languages look sophisticated when used as art.
  • Handwriting can look funky-fun-decorative.  

I loved this image the moment I saw it on Centsational Girl's blog. 
It feels so personal, nostalgic and graphic in all its overblown glory.
You can't go wrong with a vintage travel poster. This one is from Lakehouse Outfitters.

On the Other Hand

There is something compelling about the written word. People stop and read words. For this reason, I never encourage people to load up with anything that people want to stop and read.

If you feel compelled to announce your philosophy of life to the world, may I suggest that you write it in Spanish, French or Chinese or another language that speaks to you. "Carpe Diem" looks so much more sophisticated than "Seize the Day." And how about, "Dérouler le tapis rouge," for "Roll out the red carpet."

Keep it short.

Get your message across to your potential buyer by decorating in a style anyone could love, and leave the lettering for your next home when this one sells. 

Top photo: Apartment Therapy

Monday, October 27, 2014

Six Ways to Create Big Art

Staging a home calls for big strokes, whether we’re talking furniture, window treatments, accessories, or art. Big Art makes a house look more modern, more luxurious, more comfortable, more valuable.

And, It doesn't take up any floor space.

But any kind of large-scaled work of art is bound to have a price tag to match. DIY is the most practical solution, but not the whole answer. You still have to use your ingenuity.

1. Think Threesomes

Combine three identically framed pieces each with a third of one large picture.

You can use this same format to hang three similar posters, such as three images of Paris or three black and white photos of trees.
2. Upcycle Stuff

Look around. You probably already own over-scaled stuff. Use a  flat surface like a white board or cork board, as a base instead of reinventing the wheel. You might be able to convert a vinyl shutter or a window frame into a piece  of art, either covered with fabric or paper, or "as itself" pure and simple.

3. Re-Frame Them

Sometimes the frame isn’t the problem, but filling it with art is. When this happens, you can put a large empty frame around a framed smaller piece. I love this technique when I have art that's great for home staging in every way but size. So, don't pack up all your favorite small paintings!

Because of its size, the pencil drawing above would be too insignificant for staging. But when I added an ornate frame, it gets the boost it needs.    

4. Buy Insulation

Many decorators don't know that you can get huge sheets of foamcore for budget prices at places like Lowes and Home Depot.

Just buy a piece of 1-inch thick rigid insulation at your home improvement store. They cost less than $20 and measure 4 by 8 feet. Cut it in half and you have two, lightweight, 4-foot by 4-foot surfaces that you can wrap with fabric.

I've done this and it works. I've also done this and it didn't work when I wrapped it with canvas and then painted the canvas. The board developed a slight warp. Advice: If you want to paint a canvas for your insulation board, do the painting and then wrap the insulation board with it. Wrap like a package, duct tape the fabric on the back, and hang with Command strips. No need for a frame.

All three parts of a triptych don't have to be equal widths, as shown in this 
painting of red tulips by Lourry Legarde available through FineArtAmerica.

5. Use Your Imagination

Hang items that weren’t designed to be wall hangings – rugs, quilts, flags, signs. They can be framed under glass, pasted into jumbo combinations, or hung as a gallery wall. As long as there is an aesthetic similarity -- the color, the style, the subject -- your collection will read as one Big Art.

An old window is the  perfect size and shape to fill an
awkward area. Photo from blogger Down to EarthStyle.

6. Get Out Your Scissors

Cut up a print or poster, and reassemble the pieces on a large canvas, cubist style.

Or you can create your own crazy cubist picture using your camera and photo editing to make a collage. 

Start with one subject  and photograph it from different angles.
I think a big "painting" in the style of cubism would bring any ho-hum space to life. Your camera is your friend here. Photograph the same scene from different angles and then create a collage with photo editing and over-scaled printing at a copy shop. Or print multiples of your pictures and cut and paste them to a canvas. Bingo!

I hope you have some fun creating Big Art for your home, whether you are staging it for sale or just dressing up your digs.

You can pick up more fun tips in my décor eBooks aimed at professional home stagers and homeowners prepping their own homes for market.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

How to Put Animal Art to Work for You

It doesn’t take much time on Facebook to realize how much people love animals.

Have you had your daily dose of adorable kittens and talented terriers?
Most people respond favorably to images of the non-scary animals like domestic cats, dogs, rabbits, horse, chickens and some exotic animals.

You can tap into this warm and fuzzy feeling by including some animal art when you stage your home.

I have blogged about the why and how of using animal images for staging, and I gave examples in that post of what to avoid.

Animal art can get a little tricky. You want to avoid anything too schmaltzy-sentimental or anything that looks scary. If you're shopping for animal art that helps your staging, stay away from discount stores and the taxidermy shop and you'll be okay.

Here are some examples of animal art that could add good staging style to a house.

Horses are always classy. This black and white image is a winner.
I know it's old fashioned and elitist, but it's also just plain nice to look at --
dogs painted in the English style, to the hunt or at rest like these.
One sure way to add a jolt of color is to choose a colorful animal. Flamingos and tropical fish 
are favorites, especially if your home has a tropical or coastal vibe. HDWallpapers. 
How to do a gallery wall the right way, with all the prints in
 matching frames, the same subject matter, and all having about the
same amount of visual weight. You're always safe with bird prints.
Don't these two sea horses look friendly? And don't they fill an
alcove with cozy charm? Roughan Interiors.
For much more advice on home staging, be sure to download your copy of my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. I guarantee you'll be 100% satisfied, or I will give you your money back.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Five Mistakes Home Stagers Can't Make When Choosing Art

Sex and religion: a double whammy!
Home staging has been bashed for stripping a home of personality for the sake of a generic look. To this I say, “What’s wrong with generics if that’s what sells your home?”

There’s no accounting for taste. Or, as my grandfather would say, (rather than say “What the heck was that guy thinking?”)De gustibus non est disputandum,” which translates from the Latin as, “In matters of taste, there is no logic.”

He loved Latin

You might want the art on your walls to be an expression of your taste, but it better not be too expressive.

One easy way to make your art more generic is to avoid the mistakes common to these subject areas: Sports, vulgarity, politics, religion, and (surprise!) people's faces.


Sports loyalties are a big deal all over the globe. Some team rivalries are intense, so the safest route to a purchase offer is to keep your sports preferences a secret. Why alienate someone interested in buying your home? There are so many posters and paintings that are suitable for staging, ones that are easy to DIY or easy to buy, that hanging a NASCAR poster doesn’t make good sense. 

One exception might be vintage sports photos or similar archival images (not you in your high school basketball uniform). 

Vulgar is a word we don't hear that often. Instead we say, "sexually explicit," or even "politically incorrect."

Like obscenity, you know vulgar when you see it. Nudity is one of those controversial issues. Nude paintings have their place in art history, but to some people even Venus de Milo will be embarrassing. 

Always err on the side of caution whenever displaying artworks that include even vaguely sexually suggestive content. If you even think it might raise some eyebrows, then it probably will for some people. Remember that buyers often come from other cultures and other countries. We all have different sensibilities. 

So wrong on so many levels.

Maybe you are the precinct chairman of the local GOP.

Maybe you worked on the Al Gore campaign. 

Let’s just say you have the posters or photos declaring your political passions. Even if you have a photo of you shaking hands with JFK, Ronald Reagan, or Martin Luther King, now’s the time to pack them into storage. Or cover them up with other, more benign, art for the time being. When your home is on the market is not the time to win votes, convert the undecided, or announce your political persuasions. Sorry.


I’m going to tread lightly here because I know how important faith is to people. It’s your call if you want to share your belief system with the art in your home when it’s for sale. Buyers will make decisions about the kind of person you are – to your benefit or not. My personal opinion is that the less the buyer knows about you, the seller, the better. It’s a factor of successful negotiating.
Buyers may not want to deal with someone they feel is either condemned forever, or else someone who would judge them negatively for their own personal religious beliefs. Spiritual beliefs run very deep, understandably so because along with our social mores, they form the core of value system and therefore our actions. 

Have you ever driven in traffic and suddenly become aware that the driver in the next car over is looking at you? Yeah, even our peripheral vision is attuned to full front faces. It must be hard-wired in our brains.

Faces command attention, so for this reason, I always suggest that if you are staging your home, you should avoid using artwork that includes faces.

Your job as stager is to keep people noticing the assets of your home, uninterruptedly.

People touring a home want to “own” a room as soon as they enter it, not enter and be confronted with the presence of a stranger. It’s subtle, but that’s what home staging is all about – subtleties.
Does this “rule” apply to pretty watercolor paintings of children playing at the beach? Or etchings of Classical Greek statues? No.  I’m referencing pictures like the examples shown here.

You’ll know when a face takes over a room.

My Message
Political opinions are a hot button topic. 

Do not fear the generic. It keeps you out of land mine territory.

If making your home a house rather than a home bothers you, remember that it’s only temporary. "Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis," means "Times change, and we change with them." [winking to Grandpa]

I hope your home staging efforts are making your home more beautiful and a pleasure to live in. For more encouragement, tips on cleaning, decluttering, furniture arrangement, window treatments, curb appeal, and everything else that makes a home attractive to buyers, download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Photo Editing to the Rescue!

If you had to choose an art form to call your own, would you rather pick up your camera than a paint brush?  

If so, you have solved the problem of how to decorate the walls of your home on the market.

Photographs are a smart choice for home staging.

They're more economical than other art forms, and you can easily produce your own images that will rival stuff you bring home from the store or order online.

Staging success with photos depends on the quality of the photo and of the framing. Write that down.

A frame has the power to elevate a photo from a simple print or snapshot to a work or art. Framing a photo usually includes matting the photo first. A mat makes all the difference!

The quality of the photo can be enhanced in the privacy of your own home, because today’s cameras and smart phones make it a snap to turn almost anything that captures your eye into an image worth sharing. Where the camera leaves off, the computer picks up.   

Make Your Pics Better

No matter how good a photographer you are, chances are editing will improve your pictures. If you are an experienced professional photographer, or a purist when it comes to camerawork, or someone who is making the effort to improve your raw photographing skills, then stop reading here.

Otherwise, find a photo editing program that works for you and stick with it. I've used Picasa exclusively for years and have never had problems. It's not as sophisticated as Photoshop, but it's free and serves my needs.

The basic tweaks for making pictures look better are
  • Straighten
  • Crop
  • Increase or decrease the contrast
  • Increase or decrease the color saturation
  • Lighten or darken or add highlights

Beyond these tools, the sky is the limit for how dramatic and stylized you want your photos to be.

Here's a photo I took of a bike rack. I liked the colors and the
repetition of lines, but there was clutter in the frame.
I cropped it to fit in a square frame. It's okay, but nothing special.

Same dimensions, but I really saturated the colors for an op art look. 

The bikes were almost unrecognizable when I converted the picture to a duotone.
Black and white is always a classic. And so are sepia tones, for a vintage look.

You don't have to do anything dramatic to your pictures to make them stage-worthy. If the photo has any merit at all, usually just smart cropping and bumping up the contrast will give you something you can mat, frame and hang.

I take lots of photos to get one good one. This is a shot I took that was nothing special. 
I decided to edit it to see if I could save something.

Same picture. I rotated the image, cropped close to a square format, made the colors
downright gaudy, and she's ready for her mat and frame.
No matter what age or style your home is, there’s a photographic approach that’s perfect for it. So, however you take your photos, I urge you to play with some of them to turn them into art pieces for staging.

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