Saturday, August 15, 2015

No Swag Here!

Whew! We've had a super busy summer helping agents and homeowners get their listings sold. It's been so busy, in fact, that I haven't updated the blog since March. Since this rainy Saturday morning has put a stop to my outdoor plans, I suppose it's the perfect day for some virtual housekeeping.

I've said before that our job could be labeled an exercise in extremes. When we get called in to consult on a listing, generally we find one of two conditions exist. Either the owner has too much stuff and we need to convince them to remove items and use what remains in a more functional and aesthetically pleasing manner -- OR -- the owners have very little in the way of furnishings and accessories, resulting in the need to add some style and personality to the listing.

In the case of this listing, we faced the latter issue. The home was filled with just the basics. There was a place to sit, a place to work, a place to eat, and a place to sleep. There was little in the way of accessories, and the furnishings were very masculine and a bit dated. Essentially, it was a bachelor pad. Take a look at these BEFORE photos. . .


Master Bedroom BEFORE
Bedroom BEFORE
Pretty bland, huh? I mean the home had great bones and is in a fabulous neighborhood, but it did not show well. Aside from a lack of furnishings, the home was also short on elements of light that help buyers respond positively to a property. So along with filling the space with furnishings and accessories, our job was to introduce more and better lighting so buyers could see the home's full potential.
Take a look at the results AFTER the rooms were tidied up, dressed with a few new accessories, and injected with light . . .
Living AFTER
Dining AFTER
Master Bedroom AFTER
Bedroom AFTER

The "BEFORE" living room was a sparse, dark, bachelor's den. It needed a big injection of personality and light. Even though we added many items, the room actually looks and feel larger because it is filled with well-planned furnishings.
The room clearly needed more "stuff" in it, but we also removed things that were of poor scale or style. Chief among them was the rug. It was doing nothing to modernize or express functionality in the room. The super saturated colors were also camouflaging the furnishings. You can barely see the black Chinoiserie coffee table on that dark rug. So we ditched the rug and brought in a slightly lighter coffee table that coordinated better with the leather sofa and television cabinet.
The room also seems larger thanks to a small change in the existing window treatments. Having "swag" may be a good thing on the street, but with home design, having swag is a big no-no! The simple truth is, swag-style curtains are generally not attractive. In most cases, they hide light and look sloppy. You can see in the "before" photo that the swag curtains give the room a dated and depressing look. By extending the rod slightly outward and letting the curtains hang straight down to flank the window, we allowed light and on-trend style to be part of the new design.
As with the living room, in the dining room we had ditch the swag! You can see how just the simple step of opening the curtains and allowing more light into the room completely changed the tone of the home. Once we let the light in, it only took the addition of a few simple accessories and a beautiful painting make the room look amazing.
We often refer to the master suite as a "money room". Along with the kitchen, the master suite can make or break the sell of a home. To get the best price possible for your property, the master bedroom must convey as a coordinated, spacious, and relaxing retreat to buyers. But as you can see from the photo, this master suite was anything but a retreat.
To rescue the lackluster master, we started with bedding. Simple, neutral bedding can make a dramatic impact on a bedroom. A sleek, coordinated bedroom doesn't have to cost a fortune either. There is no need to drop hundreds of dollars on a complete bedding set from a high-end department store. This bed transformation cost less than $100. With a coverlet, matching shams, and coordinating throw pillows, you can pull together a disheveled bedroom for about $80 -- for a KING size bed!  We completed the look with a pair of taller lamps with stylish shades and large, coordinating art. With the affordable change, buyers can finally see the potential of this great master suite.
This teen's room looked like, well, a teenager's room. To help bring this room to order, we first got the teen on board with the idea of maintaining a tidy room while the home was on the market. Then we went about adding simple, economical adjustments to the room.
As you may have guessed, we started our transformation with the curtains. Although the sheer curtain panels were not hung in a swag, they did very little to give the room a light and well-kept appearance. The rod on which they hung was strictly utilitarian and designed to be hidden beneath a valance, not as a stand-alone rod. The rod was also broken and sagging in the center. We would've liked for the panels to softly flank the window as in other rooms, but in this case, the most sensible thing to do was to remove them.
Next we added a simple coverlet and coordinating pillows to the bed and a teen-friendly piece of art on the wall -- very affordable fixes.
In the photo you can also see that the "before" arrangement had an unnecessary and nearly hidden seating group in front of the window. The result was a congested and small space. To remedy that, we removed a chair and table, then placed the remaining chair at an angle in the corner. Finally, we moved the bed, nightstands, and dresser about a foot closer to the window. The small adjustment left the room feeling spacious, stylish, and orderly.
We've have many more photos and ideas from our summer projects to share with you in the next few weeks. I hope you'll check back again to see the other decorating extreme. In our next article you'll see how we removed about half the contents of a home to discover a calm, coordinated, and charming home.

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 d├ęcor & 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.