It's Show And Tell Time

Friday, July 30, 2021


Here are my picks for the month, a sampling of what brought a smile or new insights to me as I browsed the web, along with some of my favorite products. I hope you find something useful or that tickles your mind or your funny bone. 

People and places

Speaking of tickling your funny bone, if this doesn't get you laughing, nothing will. I don't watch much TikTok, but this top clip caught my attention and is too good not to pass on. 

We're planning a two-week vacation to the Florida panhandle in late August. I have a system for getting us ready for travel and a glitch-free stay. It's similar to this list of vacation packing and travel tips.     

His wife once formed a club she called "Wives Against Collecting." Nevertheless, I love seeing someone carry throughout a long life his passion, like this man who collected one unique item -- 45 rpm vinyl records. He says that as a 13-year old, he hollowed out the fattest book he could find, added holes to the back, and hid his transistor radio in it so he could listen secretly to his music at school and in his bed at night. That's him today in the photo above.

Enjoy some armchair travel with these winning photos from an iPhone Photography Awards Contest.  They make me want to experiment more with my iPad's camera.

Even non-fashionistas can
enjoy reading YouLookFab
to learn how to look better.  

Style

This is a simple, 25-tip list summarizing how to make personal fashion decisions easy, and always look and feel stylish, written by one of my favorite bloggers, Ang at YouLookFab. 

If you have one of those ordinary, office chairs at a desk in your home and you'd like to give it a new look, here is a tutorial that shows how to cover an office task chair using fabric.  

Selling a home

Here is an important post explaining the pros and cons of working with a Realtor who is acting as a dual agent. Spoiler: there is not much to support having a dual agent, but there is a workaround. 

Whenever you buy or sell a property, the negotiations are what often determine whether the exchange goes smooth enough so that everyone is satisfied with what they got. Check out this excellent run-down of the pros and cons of the counteroffer in real estate negotiations.   

Even in a sellers' market, negotiations are crucial if you 
want everyone to leave the closing table feeling like the sale was fair. 

Products I like

When is soap not really soap? This soap is actually what soap is supposed to be, the one we use almost exclusively at our house because it's free of harmful ingredients smells good, lathers well, and isn't expensive. Have you ever noticed that many "soaps" are labeled "deodorant bar" or "beauty bar." This is true of gels, foams and liquid "soaps." That's because technically, they are detergents rather than true soaps, which are simple combinations of vegetable or animal fats, plus scents and coloring.  

You can find real soaps online, at larger
retail stores, and at local farmers' markets.

Even in today's digital age, when texting and emails are replacing written snail mail, I like to send (and receive!) handwritten thank you cards. My favorite sources for notecards are museum stores. Here is advice from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art on how to write the perfect thank you note

Museums, historic homes, and botanical gardens
are prime sources for interesting notecards.


Using commemorative postage stamps like these
adds an additional personal touch to any piece of mail. 

In the kitchen 

Everyone needs a seasonal, go-to recipe for those times when you are called upon to make something from your kitchen using what you probably have on hand. Here is the recipe that comes closest to the zucchini cake I bake whenever I need something for a pot luck meal, a committee meeting, a condolence offering, or an impromptu dessert to satisfy a craving. No summer is complete without one serving of zucchini cake! I bake it in a bundt pan and even without extras like cream cheese frosting or chocolate chips or walnuts, trust me, it's always a hit.  

Unfrosted, this cake becomes an easy,
out-of-hand snack cake for picnics and lunch kits.

I liked these instructions on how to care for cutting boards and spoons made of wood. I use my two bamboo cutting boards daily. They're not as fussy as other woods are about getting wet. As long as they don't stay wet, they don't warp or crack like other woods can. 

Books 

This month one of the books I enjoyed reading was The Night Portrait, by Laura Morelli. It's a historical novel that alternates between two different time periods and locales -- the 1940s in Poland and the late 15th century in Milan. It recounts the history of Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of a nobleman's mistress, a priceless painting that centuries later was stolen by the Nazis. You can read the story's overview here.

I always suggest people read reviews for books or movies I recommend because personal preferences vary widely. 

This is the groundbreaking portrait considered 
Leonardo de Vinci's best work.  

If you read to your young children or grandchildren, there's a source for out-of-print, classic children's books you might not know about. You'll find everything from Harry Potter and Star Wars books to charming vintage (but new) ones like Golden books, Madeline, and The Runaway Bunny. 
If you enjoyed these books as a child, why not let 
the next generation enjoy the simplicity of older classics.

None of the products or sites I recommend here are here because I earn money from endorsing them. I am simply passing along some of my personal preferences. 

How to Market Your Home to Millenials

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Most Realtors and home stagers agree that when you have an understanding of who your potential buyer is, staging and selling your home gets easier. 

You don't want to shoot your foot off by marketing to a specific and narrow group of buyers, but since Millenials represent 37% of today's homebuyers, you'd be wise to find ways to appeal to them. These are people between 22 and 40 years old. 

Although there will be some needs that your home might not answer for these buyers, there are bound to be features your property has that this market craves. And there are likely other features that you can easily add or imitate.   

Here are the features that are important to these buyers.  

Low maintenance living

Young singles and couples are likely to have full-time jobs, young families, and busy social lives. They'd rather not spend their limited leisure time taking care of tedious household chores. And they may not have the skills or equipment to do things like pressure washing, carpet shampooing, gutter cleaning, window washing, and other tasks common to homeownership. 

They usually prefer hard flooring over carpeting. One hard flooring material that takes a minimal amount of upkeep is luxury vinyl planking. I have it through my home and cannot believe how simple it is to keep it looking clean. 

Other details Millenials would appreciate are windows that tilt in for cleaning, jumbo gutters with gutter guards, LED lights, metal roofing, non-staining countertops like quartz, and cement fiber siding. These are the kind of things that make a home low maintenance. If your home has any of these perks, be sure your real estate broker knows the specific benefits of them so she can point them out and include their specs in the MLS listing.    

Exterior routines necessary to keep a home looking good include lawn mowing, pruning, fertilizing, edging, watering, and weeding. Now's the time to minimize these tasks by scaling back labor-intense landscaping. Replace fussy flower beds with groundcovers, hardscape, or small shrubs in a mulched bed. Limit turf areas to what's necessary to keep up to neighborhood standards and provide grassy play areas. Get rid of thirsty or disease-prone trees and shrubs. Use native plants that thrive in your climate.  

Stay true to your horticultural zone so you can conserve water,
grow healthy plants, and simplify yardwork. Photo: Bob Vila 

Flexibility  

Today's homes and today's buyers aren't like those of bygone eras. Today's young buyers generally run away from the formal dining room and traditional wood cabinetry, pastel tiled bathrooms and carpeted floors, matching gold hardware and chandeliers, vertical blinds, and wallpaper borders.  

The attraction now is a layout that can accommodate a growing family of assorted interests and needs. Younger buyers will be looking for flex spaces -- areas and rooms that can be used in a variety of ways and change when needs change. Examples are a guest room that can be a craft room, or a finished basement that serves as the family room. I have seen homes where a wide hallway serves as a home office, in another, a landing is used as a reading nook, and in another.  

If you have areas in your home that do not display dual-purpose possibilities, you can stage them to help buyers see the potential. Possibly your home office can include a daybed, or a mudroom can include a sewing station. 

An enclosed porch is often used in the American South
as what's called a "summer sleeping porch." Photo: Seth Benn 
  

This craft room could be used as homework central, 
workout space, extra bedroom, or home office. Photo: Toll Brothers

Useable outdoor space

Even though Millenials don't want to be tied down with yard work, they still want to be able to relax, entertain, and play outside. If your home does not have some kind of level area like a porch, deck, or terrace for these kinds of uses, consider adding a patio of concrete pavers. It could be a weekend DIY project that would definitely add value to your property. 

Other popular outdoor attractions are a firepit, a fenced backyard, a picnic table, and a garden shed. Check that these upgrades are included in your listing info and are photographed. 

In some locales, a chicken coop, pollinator garden, vegetable patch, herb bed, pit for playing horseshoes, shade pavilion, privacy hedge or screen, rain barrel, inground irrigation system, pool, or putting green would get noticed and appreciated. It depends on the lifestyle where you live, what the norm is, and your price point.   

High-tech perks

Millennials grew up with computers and smartphones. If you are part of this demographic, your home may already sport some of today's high-tech amenities. If not, consider making a few of them part of your home's list of bragging rights.  

Some of these additions that wouldn't be difficult or costly are a programmable thermostat, a security system, an under sink water filtration system, low-flow showerheads, faucets and toilets, and a video doorbell. If your appliances are new, they could be smart appliances. Other impressive upgrades include a whole house water filtration system, on-demand hot water heaters, an electrical system that easily handles multiple electronic needs, and a home theatre that conveys with the property.  

Turnkey residence

Because they want a home they can move into without the bother and additional, unknown cost of what it would take to make it suitable, Millenials will shy away from homes that need even minor remodels like painting interior walls, replacing toilets, shoring up a porch, or even changing ugly ceiling lights.    

And when it comes to the more serious repairs, they are even more skittish. If any of a home's infrastructure systems like plumbing, electric, and HVAC are obsolete or poorly maintained, they send up serious red flags for younger buyers.  

That's why it's good to hire a home inspector before you list your property. What you pay him will save you money in the long run because flaws that potential buyers discover will be bargaining chips during negotiations. It will be cheaper for you to fix them than it will be to reduce your price by what their real estate agent insists it will cost the new owners.   

Installation errors can lower HVAC efficiency by up to 30%, so why not have a heating and cooling company give your system an inspection and a tune-up, and an appraisal of its condition? A termite inspection is usually free. An electrician can provide you with quotes for work to be done and the same is true of a plumber. Armed with these kinds of figures, you can decide what, if anything needs to be done, and you are more equipped to negotiate knowledgeably. 

New appliances 

Your major appliances don't have to be brand new, but if you want to impress the Millenial market, the newer they look, the better. New or like-new appliances build confidence in home buyers, particularly in first-time buyers who might be accustomed to living with mom and dad or renting a well-equipped condo. 

If you decide to replace major appliances, look for a retailer who will give you a discount for purchasing the refrigerator, dishwasher, and range as a package. Or, shop for scratch-and-dent appliances that don't have obvious damage. Big box stores usually have a section for these discounted appliances, some of which were returned only because the previous buyer changed his mind. 

If your appliances still have years worth of reliable service in them but need some cosmetics to make them look new, there's a paint for that. Actually, a few different paints. Rustoleum makes a spray paint to refresh white appliances. Krylon makes an appliance touch-up paint in a tube designed to cover minor chips and scratches. If you want to convert white or almond appliances to a stainless finish, there are black and silver paints for that also, paints and techniques you can read about by searching online for "refinish appliances with paint."  

What's not to love about a laundry room that
is equipped with the latest in washer and
dryer models, but also an overhead, adjustable,
 vintage drying rack? Photo: Jean Stoffer Design

Trendiness 

The latest styles and trends are more important to Millenials than to other market groups. 

Two ways to make your home look newer are with today's window styles, and with the latest in hardware details like doorknobs, hinges, lights, and faucets. 

Contemporary windows can give a building an entirely new look, both inside and out. If your windows are more than 20 years old, they are not energy efficient and probably show their age as well. I suggest you get a price quote from a local installer, and I think you will be surprised by how economical and quick this project can be. Look for the blue Energy Star sticker and be sure your Realtor stresses that energy expenses can amount to a savings of  7% to 15%  --  something every buyer is looking for.

Selling time is time to take a critical eye to the hardware in your home. If you replace old brass door handles with black hardware your home will look more in step with the times. 

The same is true of lighting, both inside and out. A stroll through the lighting department of any home improvement store will teach you what's on-trend and energy-efficient for chandeliers, vanity lights, and exterior fixtures. Poking around Pinterest will show you numerous ways to update older lights to make them look trendier.   

New vinyl windows in this kitchen made the room look
new and clean. Stainless appliances, a butcher block island,
and a modern chandelier add to its appeal.

Not every Millenial buyer will want a separate dining room, but 
most will like a flex space like this one. This photo and
above photo: DWD Discount Windows and Doors


Get the look, get the book

When you reach out to a younger market, you'll be competing with landlords who are renting homes to this same market, especially in these 13 cities it is cheaper to rent than buy.  Five years ago over half (65%) of the people 35 or younger rented where they lived. And it could be higher now with a hot sellers' market. Usually, landlords do not stage a property, so you'll have a distinct advantage over those properties if you stage your home.  

You may not be able to change the location of your house or the architectural style or the square footage of your house, but you can certainly make your home more attractive to Millennials in numerous ways. And the best part is that most of your tweaking and upgrades will appeal to other home-buying groups as well. 

Don't leave before you download my staging eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. It gives you all the advice and encouragement you need to get the best deal in the shortest time. Let me share with you what I have learned from my years of buying, staging, and selling homes for a profit.  



How to Harness the Power of Collections When You Stage Your Home

Friday, July 16, 2021


It's not unusual for DIY homestagers to hear that collections have no role to play in a staged home. The reason given is that a collection will make a room look cluttered -- the curse of home staging. Or that a  collection will be too personal. Or too expensive or too precious. 

But -- surprise -- there are ways that a collection can be a valuable part of good home staging.  

It just depends on what and how and even where a collection is displayed. Let's look at the times that you could make a collection work to increase the appeal of your home for sale.   

None of the items are priceless

Everything you do to prepare your home for the real estate market should be done with an eye to making the property more valuable. The right collection of interesting objects, arranged well, can do just that. 

The best collections for staging make a home feel cared for by owners who have an enviable lifestyle.  For example, a collection could hint that the current owners travel, or have a sense of humor, or have leisure time for hobbies, or are especially well educated. 

You don't need to spend big bucks to curate a collection that looks valuable. Mixing some inexpensive knockoffs and garage sale finds with more unusual pieces yields interesting arrangements. The photo at the top shows a grouping of a few statement pieces of ceramicware interspersed with ordinary bistro dishes, Asian rice bowls, and even some plastic dinnerware.     

Some of its items are unique

Whether made up of purely decorative or else everyday useful objects, what makes any collection special is that it contains some things that aren't ordinary. If it's a framed collection of sheet music, some pages could be foreign. If it's a collection of vintage luggage, some could have rare travel stickers on them. (hint: these stickers can be purchased as reproductions). If it's coasters, aim for one from a famous bar, restaurant or casino. 

But since you don't want anything stolen or broken, anything valuable or precious to you should be kept out of reach, or framed, or locked behind glass doors.      

If your collection is made of simple things from nature like feathers, seeds, leaves, or pressed flowers, it will need a few unique feathers or shells or seeds to make it look special.  A display of shells could include some pristine starfish or extra-large conch shell. Especially a frugally or hastily assembled collection may need elements to make it look like it has some provenance or history.

Often an ordinary collection can be staged to make it look more unusual by adding a related element. A 1940s sewing machine could be part of a display of vintage sewing patterns. An early American flag could accompany a collection of old military medals. 

A collection doesn't need to be valuable, but at least some
of its items should be unique. Photo: etsy 
Think about adding seasonal touches with small collections like  
this stack of children's Christmas books when you list during December.  

It's actually curated   

Arranged haphazardly, a collection of dull objects just looks like a mess. You can't expect a heap of cheap baskets from Goodwill to make much of an impression of quality. 

Perhaps you already own a collection. Ideally, it's made up of items that over time you've purchased or found, chosen because they had some appeal to you. If that's the case, I'm sure your collection has its own character since you didn't simply acquire it as a kit. 

But if you don't have a collection already, don't hesitate to either begin or finish or even purchase one in one shopping trip or online swoop. A stroll through a flea market or antique mall might give you all the novelty salt and pepper shakers you need to make a statement up high on a shelf over the breakfast nook.  

Ask yourself, "Does my collection fit the message I want my home to convey?"  Is your home cottagey, sophisticated, quirky, minimalist, coastal, modern farmhouse, historic, colorful...or what? You can create vignettes of carefully chosen items to emphasize the style and feel of your home.  

What not to show off as a collection -- beanie babies, Barbie dolls, CocoCola cans, Disney toys, Pez dispensers, Elvis memorabilia, MacDonald's crap, Pokeman stuff, lawn flamingos, ... I think you get the idea. I hope I don't sound elitist when I emphasize the importance of making your home reflect your quiet, good taste through and through. 

Matching frames help create a clean aesthetic to this 
handsome collection of sepia photos of trees. Photo: Pepperfry
Outdoor collections can be part of your home staging.
This grouping of hosta plants makes a more interesting
addition to the landscape than a mass of identical plants. 

It adds personality

Not all rooms are interesting enough for people touring your home to want to linger. Studies show that the longer a person spends inspecting a home, the chance of a purchase increase. Remember too, that normal belongings you use on a regular basis can be considered collections. Collections can even indicate how a space can be used. 

For instance, a display of purses in the closet, an exhibit of wine bottles on your bar cart, or coffee mugs at your coffee station, or the placement of everyday dishes on your kitchen's open shelving are all legitimate collections and deserve attention to how they are arranged. They are part of your selling team. 

Resist the temptation to carry a collection onto a theme for a room or (even worse) a whole house. If you collect rubber ducks that are on display on a bathroom shelf, you don't need a rubber ducky shower curtain and a rubber ducky nightlight too. This will only cheapen the collection. 

More advice on what not to do: don't display campaign buttons or banners, guns, knives, high school sports trophies, valuable gems, taxidermy (unless you are staging a hunting lodge), erotic art, or weird things like scary masks or gnome figurines. People prefer to buy homes owned by people like themselves. Help them easily relate to you.   

Before you declutter and pack extra belongings
for moving or storage, consider what might
be worthy of staging as a display, like
this shoe arrangement.  Photo: The Home Edit

It doesn't overwhelm 

Don't allow your collection to be a room's focal point by being too large, too colorful, or too unusual. It shouldn't make people stop and study the details. Let it cast a spell but not distract from your home's overall appeal. A little vignette of vintage books on a sofa table or old alarm clocks on a bedroom dresser, or a fishbowl of imported soaps on a bath vanity can be part of the supporting cast instead of the star of the show.

Natural locations for collections are coffee tables, mantles, bookshelves, high ledges, and bare walls. You don't want your collection to take over the room visually. Let's say that you already own a sizeable collection of Vera scarves or antique postcards or CD cases. My advice would be to frame four or six and arrange them as a grid on one wall. 

Consider tucking small collections in unexpected places, such as some old license plates in the garage or a few antique tea canisters in the pantry. These become some of the memorable details of your home.  

A collection can often be placed safely out of reach
and be a subtle, visual treat. Photo: A Beautiful Mess 
Clustered together and carefully arranged on a ladder, this 
collection of quilts sends a comfy, friendly vibe to anyone
touring the home. It enlivens the corner of the room
without "taking over." Photo: Blueisbleu blog  

It shows a variety

A good collection consists of things that are alike but not identical.  Even a collection of brass candlesticks, or similarly-sized stuffed panda bears, or round white plates, or Santa cookie cutters will look boring if there isn't enough variety. There is a sweet spot in every collection between diversity and uniformity.    

Art collections are a little tricky to get right in a staged home. Unless you collect a particular format or theme (such as framed silhouettes or Japanese block prints or watercolors by one particular artist) an assortment of art is going to be just part of your home's interior decor. Art certainly helps sell your home, but it doesn't have to be a collection. 

There are no two exactly matching items in this collection.
They share similarities, but are different enough
to make an interesting display. Photo: Lodge Cast Iron  

Get the look, get the book

So, when you declutter, think again about how some of your belongings can be clustered into collections, whether photos, signs, souvenirs, vases, or hats. A collection done right can be a handsome space filler or colorful addition to a corner, a bookcase, or a wall that had you stumped because it looked bare and boring. 

There are dozens of small ways and unusual ways you can use decorator tricks and professional home stager techniques to make your home more desirable to buyers. Download my eBook DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast for Top Dollar to learn how you can easily stage your own home to increase your profit and sell your home quickly. 



It's Show and Tell Time for June

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Welcome to the second of a series. I'll be showing and telling you samples of what interested me enough to want to share. 

Book choice

One of the books I read this month was one recommended by a friend whose opinion I trust. I never read Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. After reading City of Girls, I am sure it won't be my last book from this popular author. When it comes to fiction, I enjoy a story that isn't formula-driven and predictable, that's easy to read but not hackneyed, one with an accurate sense of time and place. If you are looking for a summer read, this one will keep you happily whiling time in the hammock or on the beach. You can read the reviews and see if it is your cup of tea as well. 

It sounds spooky and morbid, but I liked a book that was offered on Kindle for $1.99. The title is I've Seen Dead People. It's written by a woman who worked for years as a deputy coroner and assistant in a funeral home. The writing style is a little repetitive but that's just lazy editing, so I blame the publisher. It's still a fascinating read, full of empathy and kindness. It reaffirmed my belief in immortality and the good in people. I always suggest people read reviews before diving into any movie or book, just the way you would on anything else you purchase. We are now a buying public who trusts the collected opinions of our contemporaries over the word of advertisers and sellers, and I think that's a positive move.         

Selling a house

Perhaps you have questions about buying or selling a home, questions you want to ask of others who are buying and selling homes now. Well, there's a forum for that. It's one of my favorite sites for those nights when insomnia kicks in.

And if you are selling a home now or will be selling a home soon, be sure to download my home staging eBook, DIY Home Staging  Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. You'll find all the encouragement and tips to make the job of getting your home market-ready easier and more profitable. 

Here's a super simple idea for adding impressive art to a wall of your home. It's a way to frame small art to make it look big.  

You can make small art look so much better, just by framing
it correctly. The tutorial shows how to create art easily. 

I've used this online photo book service to create albums for gifts. If you are listing your home and are the kind of homeowner who takes photos of the landscape around your property at different times of the year, a photo album showcasing your home's seasonal appeal could be part of your marketing plan. Display it on the kitchen counter or a coffee table!  

Food and garden tidbits 

It's refreshing to read about people who gain success just by being themselves, especially when one of them starts out as a dyslexic boy living without luxuries. 

My garden's single swiss chard plant has been producing fresh leaves for months. So, my breakfast choice of late consists of two softboiled eggs with steamed swiss chard or spinach, plus V-8 to down my supplements. Here is where I learned to make perfect soft-boiled eggs

What small, kitchen appliance is a must in your house? For me, it's my Cuisinart ice cream maker. I keep the canister in the freezer so I'm always ready to make sherbet, sorbet, frozen yogurt, or even actual ice cream for a special occasion. I found mine at a garage sale in like-new condition. These machines retail for $60 and up. Months later I found another like-new one at a second-hand store similarly priced so I scooped it up (!) for my daughter. Apparently, people receive these as gifts, or else prefer Ben and Jerry's. So, keep your eyes open for clean, lightly used appliances like this when thrifting if you like to make your own healthy summer frozen desserts.  

Notice the $6.99 price still penned on the bottom of this 
Cuisinart machine for frozen yogurt and ice cream. 

For those of you who enjoy your daily caffeine fix, here's good news about the health benefits of drinking coffee. Note that it's not the recommended beverage for pregnant women (and probably nursing moms, too), and that sensitivity to caffeine increases with age.  

I would enjoy cooking in this famous kitchen, even though it's nothing like the direction today's kitchens are going. It's the (reconstructed) kitchen of Julia Childs, who nearly single-handedly revolutionized how 1950s Americans cooked. 

This is the kitchen of a serious cook, someone who actually
used her equipment, and insisted on nothing less than the best.  

Our minds

You are perfectly normal if you've never liked hearing the sound of your own voice. There's a reason why people say, "Do I really sound that bad?" (Still, I'll work on my New England mumble before I make any of my own podcasts.)  

Although it's five years old, I only recently discovered this 6.38-minute clip of Reese Witherspoon speaking about women's roles -- both in American society and in films. 

I've noticed that some people are curious and some people just are not. Curious people seem to get more pleasure from life, are more interesting than others, and offer more to society. I'd rather hang with them! Here are quotes about curiosity from three different people with enquiring minds.

Adam Savage, of Discovery Channel's two-man Mythbusters team, says of curiosity, "It's sort of a mental attitude about critical thinking. It's the mindset of looking at the world in a playful and creative way." 

Author Zora Neale Hurston once wrote, "Research is formalized curiosity and prying with a purpose." So don't feel bad about being "nosey" about anything!    

"Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit." Those are the words of poet e.e.cummings. 

Adam Savage, a Hollywood stunt director, who has
has worked as an actor, artist, set designer,
toy developer, and toy developer,
shows off his collection of fake gemstones.  

Zora Neale Hurston was an American author, anthropologist,
and filmmaker who lived in the first half of the last century.

What have you been curious about lately? Go exploring! 

Notice of Change in How You Are Notified of New Blog Posts

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Do you receive email notifications of new posts from DIY Home Staging Tips? 

Google has announced that, effective July 1, their Feedburner service will no longer be operational. 

This means you won't be notified when new posts appear here. 

But, you can easily follow us on Facebook or Twitter (or both!) and see when new posts go live.

Go to Facebook here to begin receiving new posts in your Facebook news feed.

And follow us on Twitter by going here. I promise not to clog your feed with random and useless tweets that don't pertain to home staging, home decor, and real estate! 

Thanks for following DIY Home Staging Tips. We've been here since 2010, and there's still plenty I want to share with you. Here's a preview of some posts to come in the months ahead -- 

  • Seven Little Decor Details That Make a Big Difference
  • What You Need to Know When It'sTime to Move
  • My Best Tips to Help You Better Manage Your Time 
  • How to Choose an Accent Color
  • Get Your Money's Worth From Your Listing Agent
  • Spruce Up Your Closets on a Budget
You don't want to miss out on the valuable tips and inspiring content 
I have planned to make your home sale go smoothly and profitably. 
Make your home all that it can be once it hits the
real estate market. Photo: Nate Berkus

Work Magic with Scrapbook Paper When You Homestage

Sunday, June 20, 2021
On the chance that you haven't discovered the beauty and versatility of scrapbook paper, let me introduce you to your new best friend. These colorful sheets of paper sold as pages for scrapbooks and photo albums can be your go-to source for a variety of craft and decor projects, helping you solve some of your staging dilemmas. 

The benefits of using precut sheets of printed scrapbook paper are obvious. They are easily available at craft stores and online. They are inexpensive. The colors and the patterns number in the thousands. You can buy individual sheets or curated sets of designs that share a singular motif or set of colors. And the designs are varied and decorative.  

Scrapbook paper comes in different sizes, but the most popular ones are 8 1/2  by 11 inches, and 12 by 12 inches. The larger size sheets cost just 69 cents and the smaller ones cost 59 cents at Hobby Lobby. Foil, glitter, and embossed sheets can cost as much as two dollars. All are often on sale for half that price. 

You can buy the sheets individually or by the pack. Amazon sells a 30-sheet pack of cardstock weight papers for under $8. Some sheets are double-sided with a different color or design on each side, but for homestaging crafts, one-sided designs work fine. This scrapbooking company offers over 2,000 different packs. Michael's offers hundreds of beautiful 12- by 12-inch squares.   

Most sheets are medium-weight paper, 50- or 65-pound paper. The sturdier sheets are card stock weight, or 80-pound. Paper trivia: This means, for example, that 500 sheets of cardstock weigh 80 pounds. 

Here are some of the ways you can make scrapbook papers part of your toolkit for home decor when you stage. 

Dress up ordinary containers

One of your first steps in staging will be selecting a simple color scheme. If you look around your unstaged rooms, you'll probably see furnishings that don't fit with your new, simplified color palette. Scrapbook paper is one temporary way to covert things like boxes, bins, cannisters, and vases into containers that fit your plan. 

When you wrap pretty sheets of paper around an oatmeal box or cardboard milk carton, you've created one of the most frugal staging props ever. If you want your container to be sturdier or waterproof, insert a plastic or glass or metal container inside.  

To cover larger boxes or vases, you may have to overlap or tape two sheets together, but often the seam will be inconspicuous or else can be hidden on the back or underside of your container. For the half-gallon container shown here I used one 12- by 12-inch sheet. I trimmed the sheet to wrap around the carton and used the trimmed piece on the unseen backside. I used a glue stick, but you may prefer tape or a hot glue gun.    

A half-gallon milk container can be the start of something
new. For filling with fresh flowers, or to make it more stable,
use a glass or metal insert for your paper-covered carton.  

Cover hardback books

For a number of good reasons, books are always an essential element of smart staging. One reason to cover them is titles become unimportant. Even their condition isn't important. So, you can use books from your own (decluttered!) bookshelves, or books from the $1 bin at your favorite thrift store. 

Making jackets for books you want to use for staging couldn't be easier or quicker to do. Here is a 1.18-minute video that shows you how to cover a hardback book

You'll notice that many books come in a standard size, a cover that measures 8 1/2 inches top to bottom. That means many books can be covered with the common 8 1/2- by 11-inch size paper if you tape two sheets together to make it wrap around the front and back covers and the spine. Covering a book this way means you won't have a folded edge on the top and bottom of the book cover, but you won't have to cut or fold paper carefully to fit either. It will look more like the dust jacket you get on a new hardback book, and less like the way students cover textbooks. Either way looks good for staging. 

The top book took two sheets of paper, and the
cover on the bottom book is the original dust jacket
turned inside out. A tube of scrapbook paper
changed the look of the clean glass vase.

Most books will require two sheets of scrapbook paper. If you can cover a book with one sheet, that book is probably too small to use for staging. Usually, a seam is undetectable and can be hidden on the underside of the book. 

A small stack of bundled books looks special as part of a tabletop vignette. To make it look more interesting and intentional, you can either coordinate your own mix of paper patterns, or use papers from a manufacturer's curated collection.  

Bonus tip: Some books you'll use for staging may already have their original dust jackets on them. If they are in good condition, you can just turn them inside out to let the blank (usually white) side of the paper become the new cover.   

Combining patterns of scrapbook paper to create
a shelf arrangement of book covers is fun, once you
know the simple formula for mixing patterns

Update a tray

Trays can simplify your homestaging tasks. On a vanity (top photo), a coffee table, nightstand, or kitchen counter, a tray can corral a grouping of assorted objects. The right tray has the power to make a mismatched assortment of objects look logical, and the power to make a bunch of small objects read as one. 

It's easy to find trays to use for staging, but not so easy to find trays that work with the colors and style you've established. Scrapbook paper to the rescue. Just measure the flat area you plan to cover, trim your paper to fit, and either glue it in place with a glue stick or just lay it there, keeping it in place with the objects you'll arrange on the tray. 

Bonus Tip: Since many scrapbook sheets feature a small design, it's easy to choose paper that you like that can then be trimmed to any dimensions and still look great. Even designs that are off-center or have a "large repeat" can be trimmed to look good on a tray. 

There was nothing terribly wrong with this distressed
mosaic tray, but I didn't want the beachy look. 
All I did to the beachy tray to give it a new look was to lay
in two square sheets of an animal print scrapbook paper.  

Add interest to place settings

A naked dining table in a staged home isn't doing its job. When they tour a home for sale, people think about sitting down to family meals and hosting friends. Why not take the opportunity to help buyers envision the life they will have when they buy your home? Place settings, simple ones, can help. 

You can use scrapbook paper to make placemats, chargers under plates, or napkin rings. None of these projects takes much time or skill or expense, yet they dress up a tabletop to make it more interesting. 

I've blogged about how to make napkin rings from tin cans, using aluminum foil or duct tape. But scrapbook paper makes it easier, faster, and gives you more options! 

I brushed the rims of this can with some metallic
gold craft paint before wrapping it with paper.

Start with a set of cans that match, ideally the 4 or 5-ounce ones for evaporated milk, mushrooms, and green chiles. Once you have collected enough of them to stage the table you plan to dress, you're ready. Remove the labels and the bottom ends. Wash them well.  

You can use either hot glue or glue sticks to affix the paper to your cans. I prefer glue sticks because you get a chance to fine-tune the fit. The disadvantage to glue sticks is that you'll have to place a rubber band or clips to hold the paper in place while the glue sets. I've used paper clips, binder clips, and clothespins, all with success. 

The choice is yours whether to wrap the inside of the paper-covered cans, or just the outside. Once a napkin is arranged in the ring, the inside isn't seen, so I recommend the simple route of outside only. 

Scrapbook paper doesn't have quite the flexibility of paper you might use for decoupage projects, so be prepared for a more wrinkled look when you are wrapping the can's round rim. My preference is to let the metal edge of the can be visible on the finished project, as shown on the two front cans below.  

One can is wrapped inside and out, adhered with ModPodge, 
and top-coated with ModPodge. The other map-design scrapbook paper is
just glued on the outside of the can. The front can is just wrapped,
glued and then decorated with beads using a glue gun. 
 
The heavier weight of cardstock scrapbook paper is 
 sturdy enough to use as placemats. The paper in this photo   
is embossed and has a sheen. I used one and a half
12- by 12-inch sheets, slightly overlapped and taped underneath. 

Create instant  art

Framed artwork is an important component of effective home staging. I've blogged about the importance of wall art and about how to make a collage of paper

The easiest way to use scrapbook paper for framed artwork is to simply insert it in a glassed frame you have. If the frame has a good, clean mat, tape the corners of the scrapbook paper to the backside of the mat, lay it on the glass, place the glass in the frame, fix the backing onto the fame, and you are ready to hang using whatever method you'll use for hanging. 

The fact that most scrapbook papers have a small, all-over design means that centering the paper or getting a mat sized to match perfectly isn't a problem.

Bonus Tip:  When you are thrifting, be on the hunt for square picture frames in good condition and with square mats, since many scrapbook papers are sold as squares.  

It's easy to imagine scrapbook paper sheets like this,
matted and framed like watercolors. Photo: Hobby Lobby
Even without a mat, a square of scrapbook paper
centered on a square of framed, white foam-core is a
simple solution to creating economical artwork.

Make unique decor props

Professional stagers have their arsenal of decorative objects that add the finishing touches to a room -- ceramics, baskets, pitchers, candles, pillows. But probably the most economical, pretty little addition to a room is a small box wrapped as a gift. 

Why not take advantage of scrapbook paper's versatility to wrap a box to be part of almost any room's staging? A little gift looks right at home on a side table, bookshelf, coffee table, or desk.  

To cover an ordinary box, make sure it is in good enough condition that it sits square when you tape it shut. Rather than flimsy boxes like cereal boxes, stronger ones, like what you'd get from an online purchase, work best. 

Even if your scrapbook sheet doesn't cover the entire bottom of the box, you can still use it where it won't be handled, such as out of reach on a mantel, or else hot-glued to a tray. A box doesn't have to have a removable lid. An unlidded, empty box can be wrapped and placed open side down. 

If you have plain jane decor props like clear glass vases, or candlestick lamps, you can make them part of your color scheme by wrapping a strip of colorful or textured scrapbook paper around just part of the vase or lamp. 

Other pretty props to make with scrapbook paper include a chain of scrapbook paper links or a pennant banner that could dress up the wall over a bed. Or styrofoam balls decoupaged with scrapbook paper and arranged in a glass bowl or a basket. You can also use it to line the backs or the shelves of book cases or cabinets. 

Bonus Tip: Wired ribbon will add structure, height, and an extras special touch to a gift-wrapped box. 

Boxes wrapped with scrapbook paper make lovely
props for table vignettes and centerpieces.
I changed the look of the frosted glass vase with a strip
of scrapbook paper, coiled and placed inside.  
 

Disguise storage boxes

When you stage your home, it's better to have opaque containers for storing all kinds of unglamorous things. Containers like wastebaskets, desktop accessories, medicine kits, or cord storage boxes look better when people can't see what's inside. I like to use clear plastic boxes for all kinds of things because contents are easily visible. But for staging, I like to use opaque containers. 

Changing transparent containers to decorative ones is easy with scrapbook papers. Usually, you can just slip a piece of paper trimmed to fit the sides of a see-through box, and you're done. If the lid is also transparent, it might call for another sheet. 

This trick comes in handy when you have a collection of small tools, manicure equipment, nutritional supplements, cosmetics, socks, underwear, or small toys. These are the kind of items that people on tour don't need to see.  

Bonus tip: Save the scraps and partial sheets for smaller craft projects, like holiday and party decorations, bookmarks, gift tags, notepaper, greeting cards, and... scrapbooking!  

There's no shortage of paper designs and colors
in the scrapbook aisle of Hobby Lobby.
 

Get the look, get the book

When you are staging your home, it's refreshing to have some projects that are this simple and quick to do, and yet are as effective as using scrapbook papers to decorate, unify, and conceal. 

I hope you'll have fun seeing how you can use pretty scrapbook papers to make your home more interesting to buyers. Need more ideas and tips for economical home staging? Don't leave here without downloading my home staging eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips for Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar.  




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