At Home

At Home: Put the right elements in place to draw people into your home

September 6, 2013 

When staging a home to sell, show buyers the good life they could live in that space. For instance, turn an outdoor eating area into a place that invites buyers to pull up a chair.


The best part about moving into a new home is the fresh start. You have another chance to get life right.

If you’re like me, you believe that somehow, if you put things just right, your whole life will fall into place.

Oh, but were that so.

However, this is so: Put the right things in the right place, and when you are ready to put your house on the market, you will sell your house faster for more money.

The goal is to create a lived-in-without-looking-lived-in look, and it’s an art I can always improve.

While gearing up for my third move in as many years, I reached out for a little continuing education.

Barb Schwarz, owner of in Seattle, has been working to perfect the art of home decor for more than 40 years.

“You have to set the scene for every different act, for every room,” said Schwarz, a former theater actress who transferred her stage skills from one arena to another. “It’s hard work, but it’s not hard to do.”

We agreed on the basics: Clean (get the flies out of the windowsill); paint (with good neutrals); declutter (lose anything smaller than an orange); depersonalize (remove all family photos and collections).

She offered these additional tips to help me get my game on – again:

Play up the possibilities. Evoke the good life. Set up a board game in the den. Set the table outside with fun linens and margarita glasses.

Think three. When arranging tablescapes, go with three items of three different heights, in a triangle. For instance, a table lamp (tall), a plant (medium), a stack of wooden coasters (short).

Check the reading material. Put away magazines with busy covers. Make sure books are appropriate.

Play the angles. Putting beds or armoires at an angle can break up flat lines and aid flow. Try it if a room feels too static.

Invite with towels. Tie bath towels (in excellent condition) on towel bars with raffia, tulle or thick ribbons. Hang towels over the edge of the tub, place French soap on them and a clean loofah. Keep towels you actually use hidden.

Accessorize the kitchen. Pull decorative accessories away from the walls, about one-third of the way. Don’t cram them in the corner. (That’s nice when you’re cooking, but you’re not cooking.) My go-to touch is a white rectangular plate with three pieces of the same fruit spaced evenly on it – peaches, pears, apples. Put out an open cookbook on an easel. Put away appliances. Use one large rug rather than a few small ones.

Detail the refrigerator and pantry. Shelves and drawers need to be clean and crumb-free. Artfully arrange contents (think still life) and strive for lots of empty space so buyers will think there’s room to spare.

Thin is in – in the closet. Take out the opposite season’s clothes. Have nice matching hangers, no wire ones. Edit your shoe collection and make sure no dirty laundry is visible. Leave empty shelves, put a Victoria’s Secret bag on one with pink tissue coming out. Hang a pretty nightie on the door.

Fluff up the bed. The master bed is a major focal point. Stage it with decorative pillows. Put a bottle of champagne on a tray with two glasses on the side table.“Once we detail the bedroom, some clients sleep on the floor in sleeping bags because they don’t want to mess up the bed,” said Schwarz.

“THAT is not happening,” I assure her. There are limits to the lengths I will go.


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