If you long to banish visual clutter, restricted traffic flow and disorganization in your home, all you really may need is a fresh set of eyes.
Or perhaps you're trying to sell your home and your pack-rat tendencies are not making the best impression on prospective buyers. Once again, a fresh set of eyes may be just what you need to make the sale.
Stagers, a relatively new breed of decorator, born of experience in real estate sales, are carving a niche in the Lehigh Valley, helping out homeowners who can't see the living room for the clutter.
By taking what you already own and rearranging it, a professional stager can transform a room.
"People look at their own things day after day -- so much that they can't even see them," says Diane Szemenyei of Bethlehem.
She and her partner, Marcie Miller of Northampton, have used their "new sets of eyes" to stage many homes since they started their business, House Dressing Stagers, two years ago.
Their philosophy, Szemenyei says, is that your home should be in its best showcase condition whether you're trying to sell it or simply trying to enjoy living in it.
Staging is a service that's particularly helpful to people who lack the confidence to set up their own rooms.
"We have the experience of setting rooms up every day, so we know what works and what doesn't," Szemenyei says.
They also have stock rooms full of furniture, lighting and accessories to boost the appeal of a "temporary" room -- a room that's been spruced up to help a house sell.
Clutter is every room's enemy, Szemenyei says, and it's the first thing to go on every job. During their "1-Day Redesign," for people who are not selling a home, she and Miller determine what the room will be used for and then "shop the house," with the owner's permission to collect things the client may have forgotten they own to perfectly set off the room's new design.
The four to five hours Szemenyei and Miller spent about a year ago at the home of Rosemary Paraszczak in Whitehall Township, was well worth the $50-an-hour charge, according to the homeowner. The duo transformed the living room and dining room area while the owner was at work.
"When I opened the door, it lifted my whole spirit," Paraszczak says.
"It was all my stuff, but it was from several other areas in the house. They brought a bench and a Shaker-style chair down from upstairs, and they took out a lot of things, too," she says. "I'm a clutterbug."
Szemenyei and Miller stowed away the exercise equipment that had taken up residence in Paraszczak's dining room and brought in the kitchen table to show what the room would look like with a table in it.
Paraszczak left it there and bought a new table for the empty space in the kitchen, she says.
"I thought it was going to be just an expensive housecleaning," she says. "But after the first glance, I got myself a cup of tea and just sat on the couch and looked at everything. I didn't want to leave the room. It's very warm and inviting."
Two sofas that Paraszczak had arranged in an "L" shape against the walls were rearranged facing each other on a diagonal with the coffee table in between, she says.
Though she considers herself fairly clever and able in the decorating department, Paraszczak says she's busy and doesn't have the time or the know-how to arrange it "just so."
"I buy stuff and just throw it in the house and I don't have a clue," she says. "I never would've thought of this arrangement."
Typically, it takes no more than eight hours to complete such a job, Szemenyei says, and it's satisfying work.
Stagedhomes.com, based in Concord, Calif., is the company through which Szemenyei and Miller received their three-day training and the Accredited Staging Professional designation. A six-day course also is offered, which makes a graduate a master ASP.
Courses include instruction in marketing, shopping and design principles, says Nancy Benner of Upper Saucon Township, owner of Rejuvenated Spaces, who also completed a three-day course.
The company was founded to help property owners sell their homes. Its graduates include many Realtors. There are several in the Lehigh Valley and many more in the greater Philadelphia area. All are listed on the Web site.
The training has expanded with its offering of a "1-Day Redesign" course, which instructs stagers who arrange homes for clients who have no intention of moving.
There are several such companies offering instruction in staging. Among them are Homestagingresource.com based in Vista, Calif.; Qcdesignschool.com based in Silver Spring, Md., and Decorate-redecorate.com based in Huntington Beach, Calif.
All tout the advantages of owning one's own business, which was perfect for Szemenyei and Miller who lost their jobs at Agere and Benner who was in a similar situation at Cherrydale Farms.
Benner loves her new job, which she calls more fun than work.
Recently working on a soon-to-be-for-sale Bethlehem row home, she had an epiphany as she was shopping at an area Ollie's for the perfect bright red placemats to complement the dining room.
"This is work? I love this," she says.
After sweeping the home of clutter, the next thing that must be removed is anything that personalizes it -- including collections, family photos or religious items, Benner says.
Depersonalizing a room, she says, allows a potential buyer to envision a home as her home with her own belongings. Very personal items are hard to see past.
"It's the same reasoning that staying in a hotel room that you know hundreds of people have stayed in before you doesn't bother you. There's no personal attachment to another person there," Benner says.
"It's no longer their 'home,' " Szemenyei says, "As soon as you put a house on the market, it becomes a product."
Knowing people have an emotional attachment to their homes, Benner says, she asks them to share a memory of each room or how they relate to it.
"Then I walk through by myself," she says, to see it through the eyes of a potential buyer and formulates a list of suggestions for the homeowner to consider.
For this initial consultation, Benner charges $150.
When Benner comes back to arrange furniture or to place items of her own stock to spruce up a room, she charges $50 an hour.
Sometimes clients will tackle some of the items on the list themselves, especially if it involves removing furniture or painting.
Benner recalls one client who had a doll collection that potential buyers saw right after they entered the house. What the homeowner saw as a labor of love that she carefully collected and arranged, buyers saw as hundreds of beady little eyes upon them, Benner says.
Instead of saying something like "These have to go," which could have hurt the client's feelings, Benner says she has learned it is better to advise a client who's moving to box up treasures so nobody will bump or damage them as they are walking through.
"People skills are an important part of being a stager," she says.
Szemenyei and Miller follow the same pay scale as Benner, but they sometimes will rent furniture to be used when they stage to sell. Clients are responsible for the rental fees, Szemenyei says, but either she or Miller will be available to receive it and see that it gets back to the rental facility.
One of her most satisfying moments, says Szemenyei, was recently finding a pair of prints packed away in a client's upstairs bedroom that she brought down to the family room she was redesigning.
The green of the matted artwork matched the sofa and loveseat and really tied the whole room together, she says.
As they get into a redesign, the first thing they do is identify a focal point, Szemenyei says.
"It can be a fireplace, a bow window or a staircase," she says. Next, they set it off with lighting and artwork.
If there isn't something there that can be highlighted, they make their own focal point, she says. Maybe setting up a small table with some pretty flowing linens, a picture and perhaps a ficus tree to the side, works nicely.
Every room needs lighting, color and texture, she says, and usually three sources of lighting that can come in any of several varieties, such as pole, table, reading or track lights. And plants or some kind of greenery add life.
When they make a beautiful room, the crux of what they're doing is adding comfort, says Szemenyei, who finds each job a challenge because there's no such thing as a "perfect room."
That's where creativity seasoned by the client's wishes comes in.
In the end, however, everybody wants the same thing.
"I want to feel that I want to be there," she says.
THE DETAILS: RESOURCES
Whether selling or staying, a home stager can help rearrange a home to make sure it's in its best showcase condition.
Nancy Benner of Upper Saucon Township owns Rejuvenated Spaces. For information, call 610-798-9393 or visit www.rejuvenatedspaces.com.
Diane Szemenyei of Bethlehem and Marcie Miller of Northampton own House Dressing Stagers. For information, call 610-262-3565 or visit www.housedressingstagers.com.
For information on becoming a stager or for an additional list of stagers, visit www.stagedhomes.com and www.homestagingresource.com/
TIPS FOR STAGING YOUR HOME FOR SALE
Declutter to allow buyers the ability to see the rooms of the home you're trying to sell.
Depersonalize your home. Remove family photos and collections. You're moving anyway, so box them up and minimize the chance that they'll be damaged accidentally by anyone during the selling process.
If there will be someone in the home, light a candle or two so it smells nice.
Lighting opens up a room, so open the curtains and turn on the lights, too.
Be sure each room is in its best showcase condition clean and well arranged to highlight positive features or a focal point.
TIPS FOR STAGING YOUR HOME FOR LIVING
Declutter. Under any circumstances, stagers say, clutter is the enemy. You can't have an organized life if you're wallowing in clutter. Eliminate piled-up newspapers, magazines. Have a place for everything and put everything in its place.
Every room needs light, color and texture, so mix it up.
Decide what you're going to use the room for. If it's a family room, will you be entertaining there? If you're entertaining, will it be family only or neighbors, too? Co-workers? Your preferences will dictate how you arrange the room.
Maximize your traffic flow with your furniture arrangement.
Highlight a focal point in every room. It can be a fireplace, a window or a staircase. When you have something that naturally draws the eye, embellish it with lighting and greenery.Copyright © 2015, CT Now