Last fall, my husband, Larry Kruse, a realtor with Hermann London Group, and I were getting one of his listings ready to sell. The owner had moved out into an assisted living facility. This is a common occurrence in our neighborhood, as we live in an “over 55” community, Heritage of Hawk Ridge, Lake St. Louis, Missouri. The house looked sad and empty, few scratches on the wall were glaringly noticeable, carpet looked worn. The photographer was scheduled to come in a few days to take the very important photos for the MLS. These photos are very important, as Clients look thru photos on the various websites to choose which houses to go and see. Photos of an empty house are not appealing. You can’t tell from a photo the size of a room, how furniture could be arranged or answer the most often asked question, “Where will the TV be placed”?
We decided to check websites for the cost of staging. We were amazed at the beautiful websites, some more outstanding than others, but all had very full rooms of furniture and accessories on every wall and in every available space. Too much. Too much heavy furniture, some outdated looking, too expensive for the client to spend on a house they had moved out and moved on from.
The time clock was ticking, as we needed to get the house on the market as soon as possible. With my background in Interior Design, I have always liked arranging and rearranging our furnishings. Over the years, I admit, I have enjoyed changing up things a little too often at home. At one point, when we were younger, Larry said he never knew when he came home from work where to find his favorite chair to sit in. I often was busy moving things around making our home more attractive. As our two sons got big enough, they would help me drag chairs to a new conversation area, bring different tables up from the basement to see how they looked, change up the accessories. So, with this in mind, we decided to take a few of our extra accessories I had collected over the years, to the empty house listing to accessorize for the photos.
Amazingly, a few well-placed items transformed the empty sad house into a warm inviting home. I knew the fireplace should be the focal point of the room, so we started there. I had a really great framed picture of some red and yellow large POPPIES with a touch of grey and green in the background. We propped it up on the mantle and added two pairs of large wooden candlesticks. Voila! We had our inspiration piece.
The rest of staging items were built around the colors in the mantle painting. We placed long sofa table on the wall where a sofa would go, to show it would work to have a sofa there without us actually bringing one in. We added a lamp, a stack of old books covered with hand-painted grey and white paper. We needed a pop of color there, so added a vase of bright red flowers on the stack of books. A mirror propped up against the wall made the room larger and reflected the Poppy painting.
Now we needed some seating. Two matching grey upholstered chairs had just been delivered to our home and still sitting in original boxes in our garage. They were oversized and unique looking. MMMM…yes, they would be perfect for this room. I felt certain Larry would sell this house quickly and I could get the chairs back by Christmas. Our sons, Nick and Adam were helping us with the heavy lifting. They were getting tired of this project and wanted to leave soon. I needed to make a decision quickly if I wanted their assistance. “Yes, please go get the chairs before you leave!”. They were perfect in the room, but the setting still needed more accessorizing. I added a grey and white checkered throw pillow and draped a soft red throw on one of the chairs, with a basket of red apples nearby. The other chair got a matching pillow and plant next to it for balance.
A mirror in the entryway, a small wooden table in the dining area set with a table runner and 4 white plates and bowls looked nice. But the room still needed more. Another pickup truck load later, we added two matching paintings on the wall with reds and yellow designs, a beautiful white floral arrangement in center of dining table I designed, placemats and grey chargers from home, cream-colored linen napkins, and best of all, I wrapped up 4 little Beatrice Potter books in red paper, added bows and placed them on the table with the napkins as boost of color. I only hoped no one viewing house opened the gifts.
The kitchen was easy, now that we had a color scheme. We used 3 small groupings of items to add the look I was trying to achieve. A yellow mixing bowl I had, added with some newly purchased yellow and black striped kitchen towels were one grouping. On a black tray I had, I put another new kitchen towel on with 2 gold mugs and a potted plant. To another area on the counter, I added a cookbook on a stand and a basket of lemons.
By now we were tired of this project but wanted to make it look appealing for the photos. Our son, Adam, of Hermann London Real Estate Group, always says there are few areas most important to sell a house. One we had ignored so far, the empty, sad and unappealing Master bedroom and bathroom. The bedroom was large and had a wall of windows. It needed a bed to show the size of the room. We made another trip home to our basement and a queen size bed was brought over with all the appropriate bedding. We started with one end table but decided we needed two. Two paintings of Paris Doors with red mats went above the bed, a pair of matching lamps, and the bedroom looked great. Some towels were added to the bathroom, a shower curtain and a flower arrangement.
The photos were taken, listed on MLS and Larry had many positive comments about the house, which of course, sold quickly. The owners appreciated our efforts, of course, and I loved spending time with my husband and sons, doing something I love, arranging furniture and accessories to transform a house into a warm and inviting space to live.