My idea of fun is rearranging furniture in a room to make it look better. Just the thought of choosing the perfect paint color for someone's home makes me smile. And although I love to spend a day at the beach or hiking through the woods, I'm just as happy tweaking a landscape or sewing up some fancy new pillows for a home I am staging. Looking back, it seems like my mind has always been preoccupied with making homes look prettier and more functional.  

My first job after college paid me just enough to rent a studio apartment in a Boston brownstone. It was advertised as furnished, but I could count the pieces of furniture on one hand—a bed and a screen to hide it, a refrigerator, a chair and a table for the hotplate that constituted the kitchen, and a sofa in front of the fireplace. The shared bath was down the hall. To my mind, my new home cried out for help. The ceiling was high and adorned with the rosette where a chandelier once hung. One wall featured two eight-foot-tall windows with sills deep enough to sit on. The fireplace was marble and the floors were hardwood.

On my limited budget. I was able to slowly give the room the embellishments it deserved. Curtains came first. Although I had never made slipcovers, I knew how to sew, and set about to slipcover the sofa and a chair I dragged home from the curb. I took a landscape painting class and hung my works of art. My parents gave me a rug. A friend donated two chairs. I could invite someone to dinner!

When I left Boston for New York a year later, my landlady bought the curtains, the slipcovers, and the paintings. I like to think that my improvements helped her find the next tenant and I like to think of this episode as my first staging experience. But it would be 1998 before I heard that word, staging, used in connection with real estate. While visiting a friend in California, she told me that her home was on the market and that her Realtor loaned her towels for the bathroom. My friend was instructed not to use these towels under any conditions, and that this approach to selling a home was called staging. I was fascinated.

Over the years I have lived in many homes, some rented and some owned. Some moves were prompted by career changes and others by a sense of adventure. 

I've lived in San Franciso, Boulder, Santa Fe, and Tucson. Finally, I moved to North Carolina, first to a 1940s farmhouse in the mountains near Asheville, and then to a 1980s ranch house at the coast, where I live now.

In each of these homes, I created an environment that suited me and my growing family. Usually, I furnished and decorated on a shoestring because there was always something more financially demanding. Sometimes we moved our furniture and sometimes we started over. 

When my widowed Dad died and I flew to Connecticut for the funeral, I stayed in the home where I grew up. When my brother, who lives nearby, asked what I was doing with my time in the house, I said, “Rearranging all the furniture, of course.”

I have a friend I know I can count on for advice about clothes. She just has the knack for what looks good with what. She knows the current fashion trends, this season’s colors, and what lines are flattering on anyone. I didn’t get that gene. But I am the one that my friends have always come to for decorating help. What color should I paint this room? Can you make curtains for me like those? Help me hang these pictures. What’s wrong with my shrubs? Come furniture shopping with me.

My friends asking for advice know I won’t bust their budget to pieces because they know I am Ms. Thrifty! I grew up among traditionally frugal New Englanders. 

My parents had skills that made them enviable role models—carpentry, sewing, gardening, repairing, and that special skill of resisting the urge to own the newest thing to hit the shelves. So when the green movement went mainstream and made recycling, repurposing and buying second-hand not only acceptable but the fashionable thing to do, I was like all over it.

People I work with often tease me that my brain never stops coming up with new ideas, whether it's an event we're planning, a personal problem we're discussing, or a room that we're making over. 

I guess I always believe that for every problem there's a solution out there, just waiting to be grabbed! 

My husband and I began investing in real estate in the 1990s while we were professional painting contractors. I staged every house we bought, renovated, and then sold. Each one sold quickly and profitably. Today we own rental properties that we don't sell, but I still help people stage their own homes.

I wish I could scoop up every ugly house, fix it and sell it. Instead, I decided to teach others how to add value to their homes through staging, making their property irresistible to buyers.

What I've learned over my years of staging homes can help you stage yours. I didn't pay a thousand dollars for a weekend seminar, or hundreds on podcasts, webinars and textbooks. And you shouldn't either. You can do this. I've done all the homework for you.

From firsthand experience I know what it's like to be living in the home you are preparing for market, to work on a tight budget, and to make the best use of the furnishings you already own.

Please allow me to take your hand and guide you where you need encouragement, ideas, and advice on the best methods of staging your own home.       

Barbara Pilcher