Monday, March 30, 2015

From Plain to Posh in One Afternoon

As home stagers and designers, our job is to quickly transform a home from plain and boring to posh and stunning. We tell clients all the time how simple it is to make such a change, but they rarely believe us. It is true though -- with some decluttering, careful editing, smart accessorizing, and plenty of motivation, just about anyone can give their home a fresh face that buyers won't be able to resist.

 Take a look at how we took this home from plain to posh in a single afternoon . . .

Family Room BEFORE -- Haphazard furniture arrangement & lack of pizazz
Family Room BEFORE -- Lots of toys & clutter, but very little "WOW"
This family room is the first thing buyers will see when they enter the home. It had to impress. Unfortunately it didn't. When we started, it was packed with"stuff," but lacked personality. There was no art on the walls, no interesting view points, and the furniture was haphazardly arranged.
To fix it, we first had the clients declutter and make the room a Kids Free Zone. Then we swapped the sofa and loveseat to improve the furniture layout. Next, we anchored the loveseat with a console table -- giving buyers something other than the side or back of a sofa to see when they enter. Best of all we added some "WOW" by creating a focal point above the mantle using art. Doing this stirs interest in the minds of buyers and makes them want to keep exploring the home. Finally we added art, accessories, and lots of lamp light to give the room a warm, welcoming feel. Take a look at the "After" photos of this family room . . .
Family Room AFTER -- New layout, new focal point, and lots of interest piquing accessories

Family Room AFTER -- Another view of the room.
The next room we tackled was the breakfast room. When we arrived the space seemed cramped and dysfunctional. The large table & chairs left little room for maneuvering around the table. If a buyer had seen this, they probably would've had a negative impression about the true amount of space in the room.
Breakfast Room BEFORE -- Table & chairs too big for the space; making the room seem cramped and dysfunctional
To rectify the crowded breakfast room problem, we moved the large bulky table to the empty dining room. Then we added a dining set with a glass top that was more appropriately proportioned for the room. We also hung a large piece of art to accentuate the length of the room. It turned out really great, don't you think?
Breakfast Room AFTER --  Appropriately proportioned glass top table & large art shows the real size of the room
The master bedroom was fine when we first consulted on this project. The trouble with "fine" though is that it is not great. It does not leave a lasting, positive impression on potential buyers -- which is a BIG problem. Take a look . . .

Master Bedroom BEFORE -- Bland décor & in need of a more upscale, coordinated bedding set
Master Bedroom BEFORE -- Sloppy bedding and make shift electronics storage on a TV tray
Underwhelming isn't it? We remedied the problem of the bland master suite by updating the bedding set with coordinated shams and making it in a tailored & tidy fashion. We further pumped up the wow factor by adding art, a few key accessories, and improved lighting. The lasting effect is a fresh, neat, and memorable room!
Master Bedroom AFTER -- Very tailored bedding, art, & new lamps pump up the appeal of this owners' retreat
Master Bedroom AFTER -- Key accessories add interest and cleverly hide cords & electronics
In the master bathroom we found a very common issue that we refer to as "Toiletry Takeover". Toiletries, cleaners, personal products, medicines, etc. sitting out on surfaces in a bath is a very common sight. It is also a common buyer turn-off.
Master Bath -- Cluttered surfaces, visible toiletries give wrong impression to buyers
Cluttered, messy surfaces can leave buyers with the impression that the home as a whole is cluttered and messy. Even rugs on the floor can make a bath feel small, choppy, and messy. So when you are selling, bathroom surfaces should be clean and clear. Period. Fortunately for these clients, we were able to help them avoid the pitfalls of listing a home with a messy bath. See how much better a clutter-free bath looks . . .
Master Bath AFTER -- Clean, spacious appearance.
Master Bath AFTER
So roll up those sleeves and start working on transforming your home today. It's super easy. It just takes a plan and a little elbow grease. 


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What Is This Room?

Let's play a game. I'll show you some photos. Then you guess what room of the house it is. You know, like bedroom, bathroom, living room, etc. Sound easy? I bet that I can stump you. Are you ready? Let's get started.

1.) What room is this?

2.) What room is this?
3.) What room is this?
4.) What room is this?
5.) What room is this?
6.) What room is this?
Think you know the answers? Well, if you guessed things like office, play room, or game room, then you're wrong. Here are the correct answers. . .
1.)  Dining Room
2.)  Dining Room
3.)  Dining Room
4.)  Dining Room
5.)  Dining Room
6.)  Dining Room
That's right. Each one is a dining room. Are you confused? Well, so were we. Now imagine how a buyer must feel when they walk in to what should be a dining room only to find Kids' Kingdom. It's a bit of a turn-off, huh?
The thing is, designing a home for living is a lot different than designing one for selling. When we work with clients to design environments for them to live and work in, we focus on functionality, personal tastes, and needs. When it's time to sell though, those considerations are secondary at best.
A home on the market needs to be spectacularly simple. It needs to stand out to buyers, not scare them. When a dining room is set up for anything other than dining, it sends a message to buyers that the home lacks space, organization, and functionality.
One of my dearest friends recently turned her dining room into a family hangout and media room. Although I cringed when she asked, I consented to helping with the transformation -- with one condition. I made her promise that when she got ready to sell her home, the room had to return to dining room status. Take a look at what she did . . .
I have to admit, I LOVE what she did in her former dining room. In fact, it is a great example of how and why to change a dining room's function. Before the change, it was unused space. Now it is a functional room gathering place for her house full of boys. But when it comes time to sell, she better wave her magic wand and change it back to something like this:

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Put Your Home on a Diet

Having trouble attracting buyers? Maybe it's time to go on a diet.

Homes that languish on the real estate market rarely do so because of a lack of buyers. Generally there is an underlying reason certain homes are consistently dismissed by buyers. Sometimes it is an issue of poor maintenance, other times its bad location. Our experience though has shown that most properties stagnate on the market because they are too heavy.

A home can be too heavy in lots of ways. When every room is painted in a different and very saturated paint color, the home is too heavy with paint. The same is true for wallpaper. Tons of different papers throughout a home can cause it to be too heavy in pattern. Big, overstuffed, and excessive furniture results in a room that seems too heavy with stuff. And when books, papers, cleaners, toiletries, collections, and personal items cover surfaces throughout a home, the space is made heavy with clutter.

Take a look at these heavy rooms:

Room is heavy with super saturated paint & upholstery colors, big, oversized furniture, and tons of knick knacks.
This room is heavy with a large furniture item that doesn't fit the shape of the room
This small room is heavy with excessive patterns, and clutter.
Room is heavy with saturated paint and large elements (the plant) that chop up the space.

Putting your home on a diet could be the key to sparking buyer interest in a sluggish listing. With really very little effort, a slow listing can become a sleek show stopper. Reducing excessive large furniture items, removing abundant patterns, getting rid of clutter, and improving lighting are all easy-to-do things that can transform your listing from blah to SOLD in no time. Take a look at these "after" photos of rooms that went on a diet.

Room was lightened by removing excessive items (coffee table, patterned throws, & clutter) and adding better lighting. The look was further improved by altering the furniture arrangement. Pieces now fit the scale of the room.

Room was improved by removing the oddly shaped desk and excessive clutter. A more spacious and airy feel was created thanks to the white curtains and open blinds.

Although some pattern remains, the room was improved by significantly reducing visual clutter & excessive patterns.
The room also benefited from improved furniture placement.  

Room has lighter and open feel because the dark saturated paint was replaced with a neutral color. Items blocking the space were also eliminated. Light elements were improved by opening the blinds and adding a light-reflecting mirror.

If you need help putting your home on a diet, contact Bradford House Consulting today! We can help you lighten up interior spaces and turn your home in to a sleek, sophisticated space guaranteed to wow potential buyers.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Bonus Room - OR - Storage with a Mortgage?

In the 1980's, residential architecture changed significantly as architects began including undesignated living space in many new home plans. They called this extra space a "bonus room".  Clever, huh?

The bonus room revolutionized residential design because prior to that time, most homes lacked auxiliary space. If an office or extra bedroom was needed, owners usually had to add on to the home. Such additions were costly, inconvenient, and not always in keeping with existing design.

The function of the bonus room was purposely undefined by architects. This allowed homeowners to decide how the room could be used to best fit their needs. What architects did not envision, however, was that the bonus room would be a catch-all space for so many homeowners.

A bonus room should be just that -- a BONUS. Unfortunately, most bonus rooms we see during our staging and design consultations are far from being termed a plus. Our experience has been that most bonus rooms fall into one of two categories. The first is a bland, nearly vacant space with little character, scale, or purpose. The second is what we refer to as storage with a mortgage. It is a room crammed so full of stuff that it cannot function aesthetically, efficiently, nor effectively.

Take a look at these rooms and consider whether, as a buyer, they would seem like a bonus to you . . .

Transforming an underwhelming room into a real bonus is not difficult. Really all it takes is some decisiveness. Simply choose how the room should function and stick to it! If the room is to be an office, don't let it turn into an office + workout station + kids kingdom + media room + storage center. And if the room must do double duty, limit it to no more than 2 functions per 1000 sq. ft. 

Recently we tackled a bonus room that wasn't exactly sure what it wanted to be. It pretty much fell into the first bonus room category of bland, unbalanced, and needing purpose. Take a look . . .

Because the room was really only used as a hangout for teens, it was pretty much an afterthought to the homeowners. No art was hung, more light was needed, and the room just wasn't in keeping with the rest of the home. Simply -- it was probably not the bonus that buyers in this price point were seeking.

To show off the room's amazing possibilities while at the same time keeping its function as a teen hangout in tact, we had to rearrange and accessorize. First we separated the huge sectional to form a more symmetrical conversational grouping. Breaking down the large sectional AND opening the drapes helped to achieve better balance in the room. It no longer felt as if the room was weighted on just one end.

We counterbalanced the large furniture grouping by adding a console table at the opposite end of the room.
Finally we brought the room to life by adding art, accessories, and light elements. 
The room remains true to its primary function as a teen hangout, yet the design is sophisticated enough to appeal to adults and wow buyers. The transformation is a real bonus that will never be mistaken as just storage with a mortgage.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dream Driven Design: A How-To

Last week I was introduced to the gorgeous treasures at If you haven't visited, you must do so today! Especially if you're looking for high-end home furnishings that won't bust your budget. The site is filled with tons of upscale vintage furnishings. Even the most sparse, drab interiors can be transformed by the fabulous finds at, and I have proof . . .  
Only hours before I first found online, I was standing in one of the most awkward spaces I've ever seen. The owner kept referring to it as a master suite, but the vibe I got was more like a bleak suite. Scant furnishings and lack of personality were just one issue. The real challenge was odd architecture and poor space planning.
Here is a rendering of how it looked:
View from room entrance
View from bath
The builder of this home has dotted our area with plenty of these designs, but this was the first time my partner and I had seen the master suite built like this. In a word, it was strange. Typically with this model, the bedroom area is larger and has wall space to accommodate a king size bed, night stands, a dresser, and accessories.

In this room, though, that was not possible. For some reason the builder put a wall and pair of side-by-side closets where much of the bedroom would normally be. Then, walls in the middle of the room were oddly bumped out and the master bath placed where a large closet usually sits. The result: a very narrow, pinched, choppy design.

Existing floor plan
Because of its narrow design, placing the bed on any of the three large walls made the room feel choppy. Plus, those options lacked the wall space to accommodate a bed and two side tables. To improve style and functionality, it was clear we would have to do something we almost always try to avoid. We had no choice but to place the bed in front of the windows. And while we were at it, we decided it was time to move the baby to its own room. Look at what happened when we did those things . . . 
Proposed floor plan
With a new floor plan established, it was time to start thinking like a kid by making a wish list where nothing was off the table. was a great source of inspiration for my list. For the first time since seeing that bedroom, I could imagine a beautiful, functional, and on-trend master suite. Take a look at the fabulous finds from that served as impetus for the new master suite . . .
Amazing vintage furniture & accessory finds from
At, I found:
  • A pair of gilded French commodes flanking the new bed sets the tone for the entire design; offering an eclectically chic style.
  • The vintage Victorian mirror adds subtle bling without overpowering other elements in the room.
  • The black & gold French desk is a gorgeous and functional statement piece.
  • Blue & green silk vintage ottomans helped establish the color palette. So pretty.
With those pieces in mind, I started dreaming of how the room could look. Here's the potential I saw in that master suite . . .
Improved master suite design
Closer view of bedroom side of the suite
Closer view of sitting area & workspace
Can you believe it? Hardly even resembles the old room. The blend of beautiful and functional elements help to transform the once awkward space into a true master suite.
What's even better is that almost anyone can do this. Just start by composing a check list and/or a design board of items needed to create your dream room. A design board (sometimes called a "mood board") looks something like this:
Examples of furniture & fabric pieces needed to achieve the desired look

Light & Art Element examples found at
With your list of furnishings and accessories complete, you can start shopping -- even if you have a tight budget. Determine the look you want, then shop for dream-like items that your wallet can handle. I'm not promising the shopping part will be easy -- it won't! But it will be easier than winging it with the hope that things will miraculously fall in place.
A design board and wish list can also help you decide on which unique and one-of-a-kind items you should splurge. In the case of our room, I found lots of splurge-worthy elements at like these fabulous finds (pictured above):
  • A pair of Arteriors Home gilded floor lamps for the sitting area
  • A pair of vintage crackle glaze ginger jar lamps for the bedside tables
  • 3 Bernard Buffet lithographs, ca. 1968
  • A vintage 1930s Chase Co. chrome desk lamp
  • Linda Colletta "Spring Blush" abstract painting
  • An oil on canvas painting of the Lahinch seaside is my new go-to for extraordinary pieces to add serious panache to bland spaces!
So the next time you find yourself dealing with a difficult space, don't fret. Seek inspiration from places like and start dreaming. Then let those dreams drive your design.