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."