A Simple Formula for Beautiful Rooms

Saturday, February 29, 2020
Professional decorators and successful home stagers all have a giant bag of tricks they depend on to keep their clients happy.

They know what colors work well together, how to dress windows and beds, where to place art, what size rugs should measure, where to buy all that killer furniture, how to add those perfect finishing touches that make a room come to life, and much more!

If you're worried that you don't have that kind of know-how, relax. There's one simple method for making a room look pulled together that's always a winner.

It's not expensive or difficult to buy, it doesn't take skill to use, and it works its magic across all decorating styles.

You can tap into this power by making chinoiserie part of your repertoire. It's pronounced SHEEN-waa-zr-ee, and it translates from French as "Chinese-like." It's not an authentic Chinese style. Rather, it's a European interpretation of Chinese motifs.
Bamboo is often part of a chinoiserie-themed room.
It can be painted whatever color works for you!
Photo: MonicaWantsIt

Historically, the fascination with these motifs began when Western nations started trading with the East in the 1600s.

Aristocratic ladies and gents in Europe apparently could not get enough of the elaborately painted ceramics, the fanciful murals depicting nature and leisure, the sumptuous silks, and the exotic materials like ivory and ebony.

All across Europe, the fashions, architecture, furniture, and gardens of the wealthy reflected Asian style mixed with a heavy dose of the extravagant Rococo style.

Chinoiserie still carries with it the appeal of the exotic and mysterious. Even dashes of it incorporated into your decor will hint at playfulness mixed with high quality.

Traditional Chinese-inspired designs in iconic blue and
white patterns are a given for chinoiserie decor. The best blue
is a cobalt blue, but all blues work as well. Photo: Livcorday.


How to get the look

We've all seen decor magazine photos and Pinterest images with chinoiserie done in both small doses and in full-blown style.

The small doses show up as blue and white ginger jars and pagoda-shaped lamps.

The more extreme indulgence shows itself as whole rooms of Asian-inspired scenic wallpaper, gold Chippendale chairs, and black lacquered etageres.

But don't think for a second you need to invest in pricey pieces of furniture you'll never use or like!

Smaller chinoiserie elements have the same power to attract. They add a touch of tradition and high style to a space, no matter what size, layout, age, or architectural design your home is.

Although this style mixes well with most other decor styles, you can't assume that adding chinoiserie pieces to a room that's already fully decorated room is going to work.

This kind of blue and white ceramics display is never going to make
anyone unhappy! It's so fresh and classic at the same time. Photo: TheZhush

So, your first step has to be removing the pieces of furnishings and props that don't make your home look more valuable.

Hide, sell, or give away the objects that don't make your home look stylish. These would be the dated or useless or overly personal possessions, the unfinished projects, the broken or dirty or cheap objects. If you love them, store and keep them for your next house.

Fabric with an Asian motif can
be framed and used as art. 
Look through shelter magazines and upscale home furnishing catalogs for ideas and inspiration on what today's enviable homes look like.

Even though these photos showcase the residences of millionaires, you'll be training your eye for what's functional and smart.

You may not want to imitate exactly or buy from catalogs and websites like Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, DecorPad, House Beautiful, Veranda, Elle Decor, and Architectural Digest. Still, perusing them will educate you about trends and styles. 

Don't think that you have to stay with traditional colors of chinoiserie -- blue and white or black or gold or celedon. Let the colors you are using for staging be the colors for your chinoiserie props. Spray paint to the rescue.

You'll often find chairs like these Chippendale styled ones
at flea markets and antique malls. Photo: ChinoiserieChic

Best sources

Be on the lookout for affordable chinoiserie props, and scoop them up when you see prices that fit your home staging budget. With luck, you may already own pieces that have that Asian style you are after. 

Madame Pampadour, mistress to Louis XV, may have had to commission her elaborately painted vases back in 1760, but today you'll find plenty of fun knockoffs and kitchy imitations that pass as good enough for staging. 

Shop these online sources and use the keyword "chinoiserie" to search: eBay, Chairish, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Etsy, and Replacements. Locally, visit the usual second-hand stores, charity shops, estate sales, and garage sales.

Hunt for bargains on blue willow ware dishes, Oriental lamps and lanterns, chinoiserie vases, dragon-themed and peony-themed fabric, ceramic foo dogs (actually lions), monkeys, elephants, cats and other animals. Also worth looking for is artwork such as Chinese-style paintings of fish and birds, and joie de vivre renderings of people in happy, often pastoral scenes.


There are hundreds of fabrics with a chinoiserie motif available online. Use them to make pillows, framed artwork, covered boxes, window treatments, chargers, or serving trays. Photo: TheFabricCo.

Chinoiserie touches 

Foo dogs are classic. Look for ones that work
with your color scheme. Pairs are best.
Here are my choices for five budget-friendly frills you can incorporate in your staging to cash in on the appeal of Asian decor.

Ceramic foo dogs are a favorite of decorators and stagers. Ideally, you'd have a pair, representing male and female, but if you're budgeting you'll be happy to see singular ones at second-hand stores, donated I suppose after the mate fell and broke! Deal!

Chinoiserie vases can also be found second hand. They don't have to be authentic Chinese antiques to be charming. Home Goods is the best source, but smaller ones sometimes show up at discount and dollar stores.

Asian-inspired planters are another go-to item for decorators. Look for blue and white ones with designs of lotus and peony flowers. Use them for real or artificial plants, or simply for arranging empty on a mantel or bookshelves.

Bamboo frames, new or used, are common in all sizes, from ones too small to use effectively for staging, up to poster size. Any finish is good, but gold, red, black, and natural bamboo are the most stylish.

Finally, if you use nothing else from the grab bag of chinoiserie props, select some pillows with Chinese designs. They can be either fun and eye-catching, or subtle and sophisticated, depending on the style of your home.

Staging vs decorating  

Why not DIY some pillow covers with chinoiserie fabric?
A yard will cover a standard bed pillow. Photo: ChicChinoiserie
You don't need a dining room designed around a black lacquered table set with blue and white Delftware and surrounded by red Chippendale chairs to capture the essence of chinoiserie. Since you are staging and not decorating, you can count on subtlety rather than overkill.

Learn more about how to make your home attractive to buyers. My home staging eBooks take the stress and confusion out of staging your own home. You can count on my 25+ years of real estate buying and selling experience to steer you right. I'm practical and thrifty, and you can be too! You are just two clicks away from reading and staging. Go here.

If You Stage Your Home, Make it Sensual!

Monday, February 10, 2020
Happy Valentine's Day. For readers who live in countries where this is not a national holiday, I can explain. It is a day set aside for people to show their love. We do this by spending money. This day of celebration was invented by the chocolate, florist, greeting card, restaurant, and jewelry industries.

But seriously, I think people should show their love 365 days a year. Instead of bestowing commercially produced tokens of affection, loyalty, and passion on February 14, how about we all just show kindness to the people we love? Like, all year.

Still, go to Olive Garden for their breadstick Valentine bouquet.

If your home is for sale, spend that chocolate and roses money on a few things to make people fall in love with it!

You can make buyers fall head over heels for your house, and all it takes is paying attention to the senses and how they make an atmosphere inviting.

Colors speak to buyers

Soft colors like pastels and whites add a romantic feel to any space. Colors like corals, lilacs and blues -- even in pale shades -- may not be ideal for all the walls in your home, but elsewhere they are what will add personality to your home.

So, use these "friendly" colors in small doses, like vases, artwork, pillows or lamps. The books, lamps, paintings, rug and bedding in this photo from Whitney Campeau show how soft tones can create a soothing bedroom scene.

Do you have some paint left from DIY projects you've done for your home? Properly stored, a can of paint will last for up to five years. If you add some of it to white paint you'll automatically have a pastel that will harmonize with what's existing in your home. It takes lots of white to make a pastel, so don't try adding white to a can of dark or highly saturated colored paint. Rather, start with white paint and gradually add small amounts of that leftover deep color.

Professional stagers know that intense wall colors can be hurdles to prospective buyers. Most of today's buyers want a home they can move into without fixing or updating anything. As much as you love your cherry red dining room walls or chartreuse powder room, buyers see these as projects they don't want to tackle. Go neutral with walls. Here's my best advice on choosing interior paint colors.

Don't let your house get photographed and listed like this. 
If you are having an open house, use signs and pennants with matching colors. When it's for sale, your house is like a mini-business, and up to half of all customers find a business because of signage. Does your Realtor have an eye-catching sign that's well maintained? I've blogged about how to DIY a simple pennant banner for an open house to help people find your home and attract passersby.

Textures make a room interesting 

Incorporating some varied textures is important in any well-decorated home. This fact is especially true in a staged home where the color scheme is simple, and a simple color palette is usually the kind of look we aim for when we stage. 

Here's a homework assignment: Walk through the rooms of your home and look for interesting textures. Have you incorporated some smooth and shiny surfaces, some rough and nubby textures, and some fluffy or even furry materials? If you're not seeing a variety, here are samples to get you playing with textures.

Place a rustic basket or wooden bowl on your glass- or marble-topped table. How about a flokati rug on the tile floor of your entrance? Or a loopy yarn throw on the arm of a leather loveseat? Stage a wicker bar cart with chrome tumblers and a crystal decanter. These kinds of contrasting textures add subtle variety to a room

I'm crazy for these pillow covers I made from a fuzzy, thrift store sweater, and then
combined them with velvet pillows to telegraph that feeling of relaxation. Yum! 
People touring your home will "feel" these surfaces with their eyes. They might even want to get close, run their hand over the cool granite countertop, or touch that lush, potted fern on the nightstand. These are the luxury touches that appeal to the tactile sense. Buyers want to think they are taking steps up the social ladder with their home purchase. Luxury is important to Americans, who spend a whopping 42 hours a week commuting. They want a dream home to come home to.

Retail outlets know that when a customer picks up a piece of merchandise to handle it, chances of an actual purchase go up. Make buyers feel your home.

Scents put buyers in a happy frame of mind

The sense of smell is so important that it's another trick high-end hotels and department stores use to coax buyers into a positive mindset. Forward-thinking stores that can afford it scent their indoor air with fragrances like vanilla, lavender, jasmine, bergamot, sandalwood, musk, lemongrass, citrus and pine.

You can imitate this powerful strategy. People will tend to linger longer, and judge your home as more pleasant, cleaner, and more memorable when it has a pleasing ambient scent.

The right way to cast this spell is to use essential oils, not artificial fragrances like so-called air fresheners and scented candles. Sorry, Scentsy, Fabreze, and Glade, but you guys are hormone disruptors that mess with our health. Follow that link to read how to make natural scents with essential oils. (Relax, I am not a distributor.)

Using essential oils will keep you healthier, and will prevent anyone touring your home who is chemically sensitive from experiencing common allergic reactions like coughing, sneezing, and itchy eyes. That's not the experience you want to create for prospective buyers.

Edibles appeal to the sense of taste

You don't need a fancy expresso machine
to stage a refreshment center for
your home on the market. This one by
Nina Hendrick would let people on
tour of your home make a cup of coffee.  
Some Realtors recommend setting out cookies for people who come to see your home. It seems a little hokey to me, but if that's the tradition in your area of the country, you don't want to be the exception.

An open house is another story. That's the perfect time to have some light refreshments that will set a welcoming and casual tone, and perhaps encourage people to stay a little longer. It would have to be monitored, especially if children are coming by.

If it's winter, hot drinks like green tea (which has less caffeine than black tea) or hot chocolate would be a nice touch. In warm months, you can't go wrong with chilled water or iced tea.

You may even consider having some candy in a small bowl by your front door. Make them individually wrapped and nothing too precious. Peppermints, small candy bars, or wrapped chocolates are a nice touch.

These are the kinds of things that will help people remember your home after touring a number of homes in one day.

Florals delight the eyes

Staged homes on the market often get criticized for being "too vanilla." And to that I say, "What is wrong with vanilla?" Vanilla is America's most popular flavor! But if you want to add some "sprinkles" or "hot fudge sauce" to your staged room, flowers and plants are the way to do just that.

There is something special and even magical about flowers, even ones that are not real. I never recommend buying fresh flowers for staging unless you are living in your home, have a generous floral budget, and already have a routine of picking up a fresh bouquet every week. If your Realtor is scheduling an open house, I hope she's springing for the fresh flowers.

My vote goes to silk flowers that stay looking just-picked. Today's silks are classy and convincing. In lieu of flowers, you can stage with green plants that are either real or artificial. Green plants add that sense of freshness to a space without calling attention to themselves the way a big floral centerpiece does. I have my favorite very-low-maintenance houseplants.

I encourage you to try a few of these ideas when you're staging your own home, and I know you'll see, feel, and smell the difference. If you need more inspiration and how-tos, download my eBooks on home staging. They come with a money-back guarantee. One click takes you to more information about how to order and what you get. You can start smart-staging your home today!


Four Mistakes You Might Be Making When You Stage

Monday, February 03, 2020
I'm all about encouraging home sellers to stage their own homes!

According to Family Handyman Magazine, staged homes spend up 90% less time on the market than unstaged homes do.

That's an impressive figure. It translates into money in your pocket, because there are always carrying costs when a home sits on the market -- costs like insurance, taxes, mortgage payments, and maintenance expenses.

But I always remind people that staging a home involves more than adding some toss pillows and hiding family photos. Often it calls for tedious jobs, some dirty work, or even heavy lifting.

Experienced professional stagers know how to take precautions to make sure no one gets hurt. Here are the most common mistakes I've seen inexperienced DIY-ers make. I want you to stay safe when you stage. Because getting hurt is no fun!

You're not dressing right for work

Protect yourself. Protect your wardrobe. Wear what will keep you safe, save you time, and help you do a better job. I've blogged about how to dress for yardwork and how to dress for painting projects.

Always wear closed-toe shoes, never flip-flops, slippers, clogs, or sandals, when you tackle a home repair or furniture moving job. Invest in some shoes that are comfortable, support your ankles, and prevent slips and trips. 

A pair of safety glasses will protect your eyes when you deal with scraping popcorn ceilings, pruning shrubbery, or using power tools. I like mine because they have a warm tint to them, so I see the world literally with rose-colored glasses when I wear them!

I keep gloves for every chore -- latex ones for wet work, nitrile ones for painting, and heavy-weight but flexible gloves for demolition work. It's a joke in my family that I never saw a pair of gloves I didn't like. The right gloves will give you a better grip, and protect your hands from injury, and (horrors!) a ruined manicure.

Fasteners like nails, screws, tacks, and bolts cause 30% of all injuries that happen when people are doing home improvement projects. Keep your work area clean and organized as you work. If you do get a puncture wound, you should get a tetanus shot.
  
You might not enjoy wearing it,
but it's going to keep you safe.
Photo:YourGloveSource
A particulate mask will protect you from dust particles but you need something more serious if you are going to be using epoxy paints and glues, oil-based primers, or strong cleaning products. You need a full-face respirator. Yes, it will cost you, but they will protect your precious lungs and keep toxins from circulating through your system. Ventilate your work area to avoid the dangers that things like mold and spray paints present.

Be aware of where lead paint and asbestos can lurk, and don't disturb these substances by sanding or removing them.

You don't know how to use a ladder correctly

Slip and fall injuries can happen easily in your home while you're doing work you're not accustomed to doing, like climbing ladders.

Most likely you will use a 6-foot stepladder to do things like paint walls, clean a ceiling fan, install drapery hardware, or hang a large painting. Be sure the ladder is on a level surface and that it doesn't have any slippery, loose or broken steps. Don't use the top rung as a step. Don't use a metal ladder when working with electricity. If possible, have someone spot you or hold the bottom of the ladder while you work.

Chances are you won't be using an extension ladder for home staging, but in case you need to clean out gutters or do some high work, be careful! Have a spotter stand on the ground but with both feet braced against the ladder's bottom legs. Make sure the ground is level and stable. Follow the "four-one" rule. For every four feet of ladder height, the bottom of the ladder should be one foot away from a wall or structure.

No matter what kind of ladder you use, don't over-reach while standing on it. Instead, climb down the ladder and move it.
I love a ladder like this for all kinds of
household tasks. It stores well, is safe,
and is super-versatile. Photo: Support Plus

You're lifting things the wrong way 

Avoid lifting furniture if possible. In my eBook on furniture arranging, I recommend using gliders to place under the feet of furniture. They make a world of difference when you're not exactly sure where you want furnishings to go and you need to see a few variations. These small, inexpensive devices are game-changers.

If you must lift a piece of furniture, hold it close to your body, and at or below waist level with your elbows tucked in. Don't bend from the waist. Instead, crouch with your knees bent to avoid back injuries.

If upright, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart in order to distribute the weight of the furniture more evenly. Keep your back straight and shoulders relaxed as you work rearranging things. This will give you more control and reduce the chance of hurting yourself or the furniture.

Pace yourself, and don't try to move heavier pieces on your own. Even if it seems silly to ask for help with a lighter piece, it's far better to have a buddy than to be out of commission when a job needs to be done, or to do damage to furniture or walls or door casings.

Gliders under furniture pieces will protect your floors when you are
moving things around, as well as make your job easier.

You leave valuables in plain sight

Besides putting yourself in danger of bodily harm, there's also the possibility of emotional or financial harm. These days, you can't be naive. Be defensive. Get proactive about staying safe.

If you are alone in an unoccupied or vacant house and working on staging it, don't be obvious about it to passersby. Keep the doors locked, even if you have a helper or two. Keep your phone on your person. Most women Realtors and professional house cleaners keep pepper spray with them because they are usually working alone or even in teams and know they could be victimized easily.

When you are living in the house, failing to protect your valuables and personal information when you stage and list your home leaves you susceptible to trouble once people start touring your home. Realtors cannot accompany every person to every room when showing your house. Thieves operate as couples. Some scumbags schedule tours of homes just so they can survey a place and then come back to burglarize it when no one is there.

Jewelry, electronics, and small antiques should be kept out of view. Larger valuables, such as artwork or expensive gadgets, should also be secured or removed before your home is photographed and listed.

Keep your personal or professional paperwork stored safely, never visible. In the wrong hands, your financial information could do long term damage to your whole family.

Remove personal items like sports trophies and family photos, as well. These can be off-putting to buyers and could make your children vulnerable to being targeted.

Of course you'll remove prescription drugs from the premises. Even if people are genuine buyers on a serious home tour, seeing something that's valuable or useful can be tempting. People can be impulsive. Don't give them any excuse to take advantage of you.

Get the look, Get the book. 

I hope these reminders will encourage you to stay safe while staging. And I hope you take advantage of my home staging eBooks to sell your home quickly and for a good price! They will help you stage your home to make prospective buyers feel like they are walking into anyone's version of paradise -- even if your property isn't a paradise like Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands!

It's winter and I am dreaming of a getaway! Photo: Magnum Helicopters

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