What Makes a Great Tablescape?

Monday, September 30, 2013
A good tablescape juxtaposes rustic and refined, tall and short, new and old.
Do you wonder why, despite your efforts, your tabletop displays don’t look like those you see in magazines and decorator showhouses?

There are some simple steps you can take to turn those lackluster displays into pleasing, vignettes.

Why bother? Because in a staged home on the market, tabletops can help you sell a  home. They are one of the few areas where you can play with some details to make a home look newer and more interesting, where you can add another layer to capture the imagination of buyers. They can also stress the uniqueness of your locale, the pedigree of a home, or an appreciation for the current season.  

Easy as One, Two, Three

There are three steps I depend on for a winning tablescape. 

First is to use something from nature such as flowers, fruit, coral, plants, pine cones, acorns, shells or rocks. These things might be painted or left natural, real or artificial, large or not-so-large.     

Second is to add something refined or glamorous such as a handcrafted ceramic piece, a beautifully framed sketch, glassware, leather bound books, or a lacquer box. 

Third is to choose something that serves as a background that ties it all together such as a tray, a large open basket or bowl, a cutting board, a table runner, or a garland.

To create a table centerpiece suitable to stage a dining room in autumn (above photo), I made a simple grapevine wreath. My other natural element is green apples. The glass bowl holding the apples is the requisite "refined piece," even though it isn’t cut crystal or hand blown glass. The silver candlesticks also add a touch of elegance. And the checkered table runner is my background layer. Like I said, easy as counting to three.

You can elaborate on these basics if the area you are staging is large. Just add more props from nature or some beautiful objet d'art. Don't think that you need to bust your budget at the home decor store, although that's a great place to go for inspiration and ideas. Often the home staging props that make sense for the style and location of your home are all around you -- hiding in closets, the supermarket, your backyard, garage, attic, store room, bookcase, or local thrift stores. 

Small items can be pilfered when a home is being shown, so stage with props that
are too big to fit in pockets, or that don't have much value, like these nuts in a bowl.

Decorator David Jimenez uses a simple black and white color palette to unify
all the objects on a bedside tabletop, Some are organic, some are reflective,
and there's always some kind of tray to gather up the little things.    

Stay with the Season

All of the elements in my fall centerpiece reflect the time of year in my mind. The apples and grapevines represent harvest time. Other autumnal props you might prefer are the ubiquitous pumpkins and gourds in all shapes, sizes, colors, designs and materials. Bittersweet berries, leaves, and other woodsy elements are natural fall choices. When I think of the fall I also think of sweaters, plaids, and houndstooth patterns (especially popular this year), baskets, old barn wood, corn husks, quilts, and dark leather.    

Candles are especially appropriate decor accessories for autumn. Bring on the pillars, the votives, and the tapers!  During the summer, I don’t stage with candles. They just seem too “hot.” When days shorten in September, I'm glad to re-introduce candles.

My checkered tablecloth is reminiscent of a homey country kitchen. A crisp black and white pattern is always in season and a checkerboard design is classic. Generally, autumn colors are the warm, muted, muddy colors of the season's diminished natural light and of the drying vegetation. But I like to use more urban touches as well, such as black, white and metallics.     

More Staging Tips

When you are choosing props to stage a table vignette, whether it’s a simple tabletop, a mantel, bookshelf, a bath vanity, or dining table, remember to choose objects of different heights, shapes, textures, uses and colors. It sounds like it might get chaotic, but trust me. As long as you choose items that share some unifying theme such as similar color or mood, you’re good. 

If you are staging a home, I'm here to help. Order my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar, and you’ll learn all the big and little tricks to make a home appealing to buyers.

DIY Craft Project: Upcycled Tin Tray

Thursday, September 26, 2013
I used my DIY autumn-themed tray to anchor 
a group of props suggesting a small beverage center. 
To be safe, I stage with empty liquor bottles 
or bottles filled with water. 
One prop that’s indispensable to home staging is the simple tray. It corrals little things and adds a subtle layer to tabletop decorating. 

Whether it's round or square, flat or with a curvy lip, vintage or brand new, wood or rattan, a tray can make a bunch of ordinary stuff look important and planned. It's an automatic de-clutterer.  

I decided to makeover a derelict metal tray I’ve owned forever. It would be perfect for autumn entertaining or staging in any room -- if only it looked presentable.

This fall I’m taking a stand against the usual Halloween colors. I’ve centered my fall decorating around greens. I hunted through my fabrics to see what I had that was both green and harvest-reminiscent. Bingo – a green and cream joie de vivre print that included fruit and vegetable images. 

The fabric lived a previous life as a DIY shower curtain from a house I staged eight years ago. My first step was to cut out only the images I wanted. I didn’t want ladies and gents dancing in their fancy clothes. I didn’t want the scrolls and birds and flowers. I wanted fruits and vegetables!

Knowing I had enough of the fabric scraps to make a collage, I then sanded and primed the tray. I used an orbital sander for most of it, but an orbital doesn’t get into corners, so I hand sanded those areas. It’s not perfect, and it still has a hole in the bottom, but good enough!

What I started with: the tray and the fabric. 
I 'm sure that as a young thing, my toleware tray 
was quite a sight -- strong and stylish with a black base coat 
decorated with hand-painted flowers. 

These are the images I liked best in the fabric I was 
re-purposing. I thought they looked like traditional fruits of autumn.  
This is how the tray looked after I gave it a good sanding to remove
corrosion and old paint. Many of you would like it to stay this way.
But I think it's a bit too shabby for home staging.  
After a coat or two of  spray paint, things started to look better.
The hole didn't bother me. 
I knew it could be covered with a fabric scrap. 

I sprayed a couple of coats of cream-colored Rustoleum paint that matched the fabric background. Then I trimmed the fabric scraps and arranged them to fill the tray. Once I thought the arrangement looked okay, I used spray adhesive to anchor them, making sure the edges were glued down well.

As in decoupage work, sharp scissors will give you good results. 
I fiddled with the arrangement until I liked it, 
overlapping some of the fabric pieces. 

The next step was to finish the tray with a few coats of clear gloss spray to protect it. Any time you want to make custom props like vases, lampshades, trays, artwork or other decorative accessories, pasting paper or fabric onto a surface and then clear-coating is a method you can count on. It’s easy and it’s cheap. The clear spray is especially stinky, so I suggest you give a tray a few days to out-gas solvents before serving guests drinks or staging your foyer console with it.  

The cut metal edge gives this tray a little extra flair. 
It's the perfect size for staging a dry bar or small beverage station in a 
living or dining room, or on a porch.  
When it comes to trays, a gal can’t have too many, especially if she is staging her home.

Want more ideas and inspiration for staging your home? Just download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. Don’t stage alone, when I can hold your hand and make your home staging easier and more effective.   

Five Rules for Staging a Mantel

Monday, September 16, 2013
It's that time of year when a fireplace mantel
needs an autumnal dress-up. What's yours wearing?
Make it easy to do by following my rules.  
I am going to call them rules, even though we hear so much about follow your heart and break the rules when it comes to decorating.

Unlike home decorating, home staging goes by a set of rules.

Some people struggle with arranging vignettes like seasonal mantel displays and table vignettes. If that's you, this post's for you.

Rule 1. Start Big

Just like the Christmas mantel I blogged about last year, having one large item gets you off to a great start.

My favorite big starter is a piece of art, or even an empty frame or two.

Center the big thing or else place it off-center. Once you get more accessories on the mantel, you'll probably be re-arranging it to experiment and fine-tune.

Other initial decor pieces that work well when staging a mantel are a good-sized mirror, a large platter, or a jumbo wreath. I've also used a sculpture, wall hangings, ships models, and floral arrangements. Use what you have.

Rule 2. Find a Wreath 

Wreaths are home stagers' and decorators' go-to prop. They come in all sizes, styles and shapes. They are easy to DIY and can always be counted on to designate the season.

When a home is on the market, a little seasonal decor goes a long way to let buyers know the home is loved and well-managed. Just make sure your Christmas wreath isn't still hanging around in April.

The wreath might be your one large item, like the one I used to stage another autumn mantel. The chimney breast is a natural for the wreath, but anywhere on or even under the mantel works as well. The burlap and raffia wreath I made would need to be removed if there were a fire in the fireplace.

Would you believe I made this wreath from two new feed sacks I spotted at my local
Tractor Supply Company? And the best part was the price -- one dollar each!
I just wrapped them around a  foam wreath and tied it all with raffia. 

Rule 3. Count on Books

Although they aren't essential to mantel staging, what could be more accessible and economical than books? Find a stack that fits on the mantel and lay them vertical or horizontal. I like older books for the character they add to a grouping.

When you're staging your home, you can use books in your favor, as supporting members of your cast of props. Books telegraph a message to people viewing your home. Think about what you want the message to be. Vintage children's books are safe, and so are botanical, travel and wildlife books. How about books that emphasize what's unique about your locale?

Of course, people shopping for a home won't read your books, but many people read spines, out of habit or curiosity. Peak their interest. But avoid anything racy, political, religious or controversial. People like to do business with people who think and look like them, only better. Because, you know, they are buying your lifestyle when they buy your home.

My autumn mantel revolved around a green color scheme. Frankly, I tire of the
orange and black routine, and this arrangement
can stay put past Halloween. A little stack of green books to the rescue!
Notice how I've propped up the framed art on a glass box to give it height.

Rule 4. Shop Mother Nature

Every room should include some organic elements -- a plant, flowers, fruit, or even shells, logs, leaves, twigs and other outdoor gleanings. There's a decor store featuring free accessories somewhere in your town -- a park, a beach, the woods, or your own yard.

When I recommend fruit, flowers and plants, the artificial ones pass for home staging's purposes, as long as the quality is there. I used some greenery and gourds to give the mantel a fall-ish feeling.  

I also chose the artwork over the mantel to reflect the season. I inherited this vintage watercolor of woodland fowl, and made a new mat for it because the frame and print were in good shape, but the mat was stained. Not only does it bring a touch of nature into the room, but its antique quality has some personality.  

Rule 5. Repeat and Vary

One of the principles of good design is that certain elements get repeated, but there has to be some variation. Otherwise, your props are just a line of marching soldiers. 

So look for a variety of textures, but keep the colors similar. Or repeat a shape, but change the size. Don't forget to stagger the items to create a rhythm as you read from left to right. 

I liked the way the white urn, the green crockery, and the faux gourds all
repeat the motif of vertical ridges. They share a pattern, but they aren't identical.

Be sure to read the other mantel staging posts I've written and linked to above. A fireplace in a home on the market is an asset that needs to be emphasized. Furniture arrangement and mantel staging are the best ways to do that. 

For more DIY home staging advice and encouragement, download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. 


How to Use Today's Trendy Grey and Yellow Palette

Monday, September 02, 2013
Looking for a crowd-pleasing color combo that looks clean and contemporary to make your home attractive to buyers? I vote for grey and yellow.

I'll admit that when -- just a couple years ago -- I started seeing greys in photo spreads and hearing greys talked about as the new neutral, I was all, no way!

Now, I see what a workhorse greys can be. I thought greys would be depressing, dark and dinghy. Not so. They are chic and soothing. They have many variations, from cool and clear, to muddy and warm, and everything in between. They're easy to combine with all kinds of other colors, but do well on their own.

Grey is the up-to-the-moment decorating darling color now, and bound to hold that position for a years to come. Yellow is the current companion that makes it look new. Yellow is always in style.

In other words, you can't go wrong with this twosome as long as --
  • You keep the colors on the lighter side
  • The colors in one room flow with the colors in adjoining rooms.
  • There are no jarring accent colors.
  • The greys you choose are all in the same color family. The same for the yellows. 

The trick to choosing a great grey: undertones

Shopping for fabrics, drapes, linens, upholstered
pieces, lamps, or pillows? You'll have plenty of
grey and yellow options this season. 
One advantage to painting with greys is that they cover well. That's why many primers are tinted grey.

Whereas some colors, particularly yellows and reds, often require two coats to completely mask a previous paint color, greys absorb light and so they mask well.

Whether you're painting furniture or walls, you can save time and money by going with grey. But how do you determine the right grey when you're starting from scratch?  

To help you decide, look at the darkest version of any grey on the color strip at the paint store. It will help you see what the undertones are.

For example, Sherwin Williams "Wallflower" is almost lilac, but you might not notice that unless you look at the other end of the same strip and see the saturated maroon chip. Their "Silver Strand" has olive brown undertones, which is apparent when you look at the dark end of the color strip. If you're looking for a bluish grey, you'll find it at on the strip that has navy colors on the dark side, and greys named "Icy," and "Solitude" on the same strip. 

Once you have a color grey you want to use, whether you are painting with it or just using it to match something like fabric, previously painted furniture, carpeting or tile, carry the paint chip with you as a sample when you are making your home staging decorating decisions. The other greys in the room needn't match, but they should share the same undertone.  

If you have some existing fixtures that are grey, whether it's tiles, carpeting, appliances,
or upholstered pieces, finding the right shade of yellow will update them. Photo: hgtv.
A soft grey like this is an ideal color choice for home staging. The 
yellow accents here add texture and warmth. Photo: Luckypinkelephants.  
If you don't have new grey and yellow upholstered pieces like these, you do know that
you can slipcover or paint upholstered pieces, right? Photo: Plummers Furniture. 
Black and white are perfect foils for a grey and yellow room. They add
a certain crispness to the space. This photo and top two photos: bhg. 
If you don't want to commit to an all-over gray and yellow color palette,
you can limit your yellow to frugal or dispensable accessories. The grey
furnishings will be your neutral pieces in the future. Photo: DirectHomes.   
The colors you choose for decorating your home can make or break your home staging  Greys mixed with yellows give you a safe route that's on trend and versatile.

For much more advice on colors, accessories, furniture arrangement, cleaning, decluttering, landscaping, and other projects for staging your own home, download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast for  Top Dollar. It comes with my money back guarantee. 

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