If Home Staging is not Decorating or Design Why are So Many Trying to Make it Fit the Decorating Mold?

By
Home Stager with Sensational Home Staging

It struck me today as I was writing an article that there seems to be an evolution of sorts in the Home Staging realm.  Unfortunately, the evolution is not one of progress, but one of conformity - conformity to a standard that is the antithesis of the true essence of Home Staging.  We need to be aware of this and remember what Staging is really about.

By one definition Staging is the process of preparing a house for sale so that it sells in the fastest time and at the best price.  Staging is the opposite of decorating - which is all about personalizing a space. When was the last time you picked up a decorating magazine and found it full of ways to clear out the space and make it universally appealing to everyone?  I don't see articles like that in decorating or home interior magazines.  What I see are ideas on personalizing colors, fabric choices, and furniture styles - all with the intent of making a space personal to the owner and pitching the latest trends in the decorating industry.

Let's face it - there are a lot of Stagers in business, and I do believe we do the industry proud as a group.  But, I am concerned about what I see as a push towards elements of decorating that really have no place in Staging.  This is not a criticism of decorators or designers, and yet many from those fields promote themselves as Stagers, and have blended the lines, so to speak, between what Staging is and what it is not.  And we are letting it happen.

As an example, when the windows of a house have a hard line at the top, Home Stagers often swag a simple drape of fabric over the top to soften the lines, and possibly to frame the window.  It is cleverly done, a quick step in the Staging process and it works.  Stagers that are focused on the decorating or design side of things would say "Tsk, Tsk!  The fabric is not at the right length or no hardware was used."  I say, "Who cares if the fabric does not go all the way to the floor? Do you really think a buyer is going to notice much less care?"  To me, the fact that the window is framed is enough - and it is just for an effect, it is not for "living" and certainly is not there to win a style award. And yet it IS tasteful and does the trick. 

And how about mixing woods?  I can hear the collective groan from decorators and designers all over America dismayed by the use of more than one wood color or grain in a house - and yet is the buyer purchasing the furniture? No - they are purchasing the HOUSE!  So - mix away, Stagers.  By the way, the eclectic look is IN so free yourselves from the "matchy-matchy" mental attitude.

I know there are cross over elements in Staging that are common with Decorating and Design, but what I see more and more are "Stagers" that are putting these "D" hats - trying to compete with that "look," which in true form misses the boat of Staging completely.  Yes we have to follow current color trends and styles with Staging, but not to the point where we over-do a Staging job, or get so wrapped up into the need for a particular style or look for our Staging, that we blow a budget, take too much time on a job, or forget that the average buyer is going to be in the house for a short period of time.  Our job is to highlight the best features of the house, minimize the distractions, and give a buyer a reason to purchase the house, not our stuff.

Now I can already hear some of you shaking your heads at my commentary - but take a look at some of the Staging that is out there and you tell me you don't think it has crossed into decorating.  It might look very nice - I am not saying it doesn't - but is it overdone?  And ask yourselves, "Is this what we want?"  Do we want the public thinking Staging is like decorating - and therefore you need to pour more than is needed into a house for sale or not bother because they feel their stuff does not measure up?

The television shows that are supposedly "about home staging" are really about remodeling, redesigning and decorating a house for sale.  Tell me I am wrong.  I watch them just like you do.  These shows deliver the wrong message to the public and I yearn for a show on Real Staging - where purging, packing, and creativity are the focus.  Not one of these supposed shows on Staging is really about Staging.  That is a tragedy in my book.  When will we wake up and begin to demand that the reflection of what we do is accurate?  We were so happy to have "some" coverage that we never stopped to consider "who is delivering the message?" For me, I don't want the designer on the "Designed to Sell" (you see - even the NAME is wrong!) representing what I do as a Home Stager.  How about you?  Are you proud of how we are represented on these shows as the caustic critics or devoted designers?

What I am concerned about is Stagers forgetting the true roots of Staging - and stepping into Decorating or Design shoes and walking a path away from the true goal of Staging.  Paths that end up making the staging more costly and time consuming than it needs to be.  I also wonder why some Staging classes feel the need to include information on feng shui, color analysis, spatial planning and the like?  Is this because there is the fear that if we don't "know it all" we cannot serve our client or are they too conforming to the misguided perception of what Staging is really about?  If a Stager wants to delve into redesign, that's great, and I think it's wise to carve out multiple niches for business, but if I want information on those things, I can read a book.   When I was trained, it was to learn to be successful as a Stager, I already knew how to decorate.

My advice is to stick to the true roots of Staging and remember what the goal is - get the house sold - not make it look pretty.  In the process of Staging, a house does end up looking wonderful, but the original goal of selling the space and the house cannot be forgotten because of baubles and bling.  Trying to apply the "rules" of decorating and design to Staging is like trying to fit a square block in a round hole.  It doesn't work and the focus becomes on the fit and not the finished product - the house.  Break free from the design or decorating mold, and express yourself freely with "simply Staging."

Posted by

Jennie Norris, ASP Master, IAHSP-Premier, SRS, REO, Owner & Principal Stager, Sensational Home Staging serving the Greater Denver region

  • International Staging Expert, Blogger, and Media Personality
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Rainmaker
94,194
Jennie Norris
Denver Regionnulls Premier Home Staging Resource, ASPM, IAHSP, ASP-SRS, ASP-REO
Sensational Home Staging

I agree there are different levels of Staging and yet someone that might cater to the higher end is not 'Better" than a Stager that caters to the average homeowner.  I don't like creating a caste system for Stagers and the notion that we even have to delineate what we do - Staging is Staging.  The TV Producers do like to entertain, but I don't know about the rest of you - we have fun in Staging and work hard to produce results.  I think the reality of the Staging would be of value - it is not so much that it is not entertaining than it is is misunderstood by the TV shows - that still try to make Staging fit the decorator mold.

- Jennie

June 09, 2008 10:14 PM
Anonymous #52
Anonymous
Karen Nardella SIFNH Common Sense Home Staging

Jennie, I could not agree more.  Simply, smart commen sense is always the best road.  Helping free someone of an overbearing task.  Having the ability to assist another soul with this "time to move, and how am I a going to get this done" thought process can and is so fulfulling and when done well is rewarding for both parties without all the glitz and glamour.  Initials are good after a name, but when the rubber meets the road, results are all that matter.  Yes, I agree a fair price achieved by the helper is good, but the prices for staging seem to being going up,up,up.   I guess it is a natural process.  I believe common sense is a gift that has lost its desirability over the years in a lot of areas.  or me, I'm sticking with my roots and in doing this hope to help others as I develope my niche within this wonderful field.   Helping others to realize their dreams and in doing so find mine.  Here is a poem, written by Barbara Hoeft and with her blessing, she has allowed me to use it and publish it.  I hope you will enjoy it as it speaks of the home owners point of view when it is time to move!

MOVING TIME!  (Downsizing)

The time is near to presevere,  to unabashedly shed a tear.  There's work ahead, it is most clear, for moving time will soon be here!

There are pans to pack, dishes to wrap, pie plates to stack-no time for a nap!

You will find perhaps, you can beat the rap by taking it easy before you snap!

Many a night you'll stay awake dwelling upon just what to take!  Many decisions you'll have to make, seeing as there is so much at stake.

Of linens and towels have you too many?  Should you take them all or not any?  Will storage cost you a pretty penny?  Should you bother to take the roof antennae?

Then there is the garage that needs attention, so much stuff there, it is hard to mention.  Then up to the attic you'll make your ascention taking a deep breath to relieve your tension!

What do you do with excess clothes, seldom-worn shoes and chapeaus?  Need the snow shovel and garden hose?  Do you really need those old radios?

What will you do with that old pool table?  How many boxes will you have to label?  Who'll be there for you, willing and able, to help you keep your mental health stable?

From one who's been there. a bit of advice:

One day at a time will surely suffice.

Hope your house sells at the asking price, and that your new condo is cozy and nice!

It is at these most stressful moments that bump us in life when we need help.  Staging, in my opinion, is having the skills and experience and kind nature to see the stresses happening to another soul at this time of their life and offer (for a fair wage) assistance to make this bridge easier to cross.  Just wanted to share.  We hope you enjoyed the poem.  SIFNH Common Sense Home Staging and Barbar Hoeft a good friend.

July 20, 2008 07:03 AM
Rainmaker
168,625
Michelle Finnamore
Preparing your property for sale
in Vaughan and Toronto GTA

Read your comment on mixing woods in a room.

I learned a long time ago from Ray Staples...are all the trees in the forest the same colour?

Enough said.

July 20, 2008 09:24 AM
Anonymous #54
Anonymous
kathy mohr

ay yi yi!  definitely a tempest....two cents worth or less:

what is in a word??????  call it 'design....' if you like, but that may put you where Jennie doesn't want us to go...it IS the stager's 'creativity.'  so who cares what we call it?  you call it creativity, i'll call it design, and we'll all get along and keep our finger-wagging out of it. 

are there aspects of staging shows i'd love to change so they'd better reflect reality?  of course.  do i think we'd be further along as an industry without them, however flawed they may be from our insider perspective?  surely no one is suggesting such lunacy!

one of the most useful principles of great staging:  use the hand you've been dealt to your client's best advantage...whether it be your innate 'creativity,' your formal 'design' training, or imperfect but tremendously opportunity-expanding 'reality tv' which provides for 'teachable moments' and discussion starters EVERYWHERE we go. 

dare i NOT leave it there and expose which 'side' i come down by questioning one statement made early on? 

here goes: staging doesn't have its roots in design?   i would certainly agree that staging came about as a 'response' to the real estate industry.  if that's what is meant by where it has its roots, then i'll agree that staging has its roots in real estate...however, any time a wall is painted, a dust mite is collected, or a lamp is moved, that's a 'design' decision.  (a little humility always helps...and maybe it would help if we all started thinking in terms of 'little d' design.)

not all stagers with formal training came out of an ASP course, and not all ASP members were motivated to become certified or whatever the ASP term is, by real estate....many ASP members and most members of other staging organizations seem to be motivated and have their 'creative' roots in 'design.'  if you took away from the industry all those stagers who feel their roots are in design, our numbers would be dramatically reduced.  so, before we go demanding that tv stagings shows demonstrate the true reality, maybe we could work a little harder at checking our own industry's reality. 

July 20, 2008 02:37 PM
Rainmaker
94,194
Jennie Norris
Denver Regionnulls Premier Home Staging Resource, ASPM, IAHSP, ASP-SRS, ASP-REO
Sensational Home Staging

I am in an airport and on my TREO so will try to keep this short...I appreciate the comments all have made and specifically want to address the last poster, Kathy. If you noticed in my post I did not single out ASPs and would appreciate the same courtesy as this is not a debate about my training versus someone else's and I was not stating that this post was about cutting those with a design or decorating background out of staging.  I know you may not have been focused on that, but too many people on this site are ultra sensitive about what training they have (or don't have) and I don't want to go there in this post - thanks for understanding!

So now that is clear, what the post IS about is that design and deorating and staging are not all the same thing, in my (and many other's) opinion. Do decorators and designers get into staging? Of course, but I know that those that are staging are most likely approaching the whole process very differently than the other fields.

The TV shows are all about the drama of staging, or about remodeling with false budget expectations, and are misleading the public. My last 2 consultation clients both remarked that they were glad I was not like the people on TV.

So you can believe me or not and people can have their own opinions of course (that is what keeps life fun!), but the "art" of staging starts in real estate and begins with the understanding that we are not there to personalize and customize a space (decorating and design) but we are there to make the house or space appeal to all prospective buyers.

Jennie

July 21, 2008 08:51 PM
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Rainmaker
94,194

Jennie Norris

Denver Regionnulls Premier Home Staging Resource, ASPM, IAHSP, ASP-SRS, ASP-REO
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