Un-staged homes are like dressing up without makeup. They lack a finesse only the right flourish can fix (in the case of a house, this can be a trendy sofa or a chic accent wall). Selling in the near future? Becky Freeman, a.k.a. The Property Stylist, shares savvy secrets for putting a home in the best possible light. (Of course, it helps that the expert stager has a 4,000-square-foot warehouse filled with furnishings to dip into. But no matter: We can still take away some awesome tips and intel!)
Published Mar 21, 2021, Updated Apr 4, 2022
Meet Becky Freeman
After 10 years shlepping it as an interior designer in Toronto, Becky (with the good hair) Freeman went rogue: “I started The Property Stylist, a home-staging business, five years ago. “It’s so rewarding. After a transformation, sellers are so relieved and happy.”
Becky says most homes take a week to make over. Staging costs anywhere from one to three per cent of the list price. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, it can yield eight or 10 per cent in return.
Make a Smokin’ First Impression
You’re judgey. We all are. That’s why it’s important to create a pleasant arrival space. Becky brought cohesion to this foyer by painting it out white (it was previously a mix of red brick paired with beige walls). She replaced a dated fixture with a striking sputnik chandelier, and installed two inviting zones — one anchored by pretty pastel artwork — to remove shoes. A rug cozies up (and hides) the tile floor, and plants add natural panache.
Paint is Your Best Bud
The quickest, and least expensive way, to unify a ragtag space is with paint. “A sea of white makes everything larger,” says Becky of the foyer that once had reddish-brown doors, trim and baseboards causing the eye to jump all over the place. The silvery radiator was dull and also needed an update. “I always use a matte finish for the walls,” says Becky. “Not flat, which is scuffable. Matte has more sheen.” And for trim, Becky uses a satin finish for a pop of shine.
Raise the Drapery Rods
Fake that a window is larger than it is by raising the curtain rods, says Becky. Low rods is a bugbear the designer has seen too many times to count. (So is art that is too high. It should always be at eye level, she says.)
Becky also swapped out the ornate antique chandelier that was here. “It was too busy,” she says. And she added clean-lined, modern and neutral pieces that would appeal to a crowd. Key when staging to sell!
The decorating gaffe Becky sees most often? “Undefined zones,” she says. Buyers have to visualize where their belongings will fit in the space. Here, Becky created a simple, stylish dining area with a leggy mid-century-modern table (clunky furniture can make a room feel smaller). Flowy drapes, geometric artwork and an oversized plant in the corner round out the look.
Yes, You Can Paint a Tiled Backsplash
Kitchens are costly, especially when there are multiples like in this triplex. Paint to the rescue! “The cabinets were a light birch that looked too country-ish,” says Becky. Especially when paired with a terracotta backsplash, she notes. Becky painted the backsplash and cabinets white, and added black knobs for punch. A snazzy runner and tulip table warm up the space further, making it modern and fresh.
Swap Out the Faucet
Here’s a closer look at the kitchen. This matte, black faucet is much chicer than what was originally here. Amazingly enough, she didn’t change the countertop, which suddenly looked perfectly fine and no longer felt dated, now that the wood-toned cabinets were white.
Channel a Hotel Room
Staging a bedroom? Now is the time to take down the selfies, snaps at the beach and the life-size statue of Jesus that your dear granny gifted you.
“When we stage, we want to de-personalize. We want generic zones and to get the existing owner out of the space,” says Becky. That goes for Rover, too. “Pet smells are not okay.” Channel a hotel room with a come-hither high bed, like Becky did. She also tucked in a desk — she cleverly chose the spot by the window. It’s the first thing someone sees when walking into the room.
Bring in Hotel-like Textiles
Becky doesn’t always paint out wood (though she did change the hardware to black to update these bathroom cabinets). “In this case, we styled the bathroom with greenery and hotel textiles for a Zen feel.” But the biggest change? Painting out the dated pink tiles; a much simpler and less expensive resolution compared to a replacement job.
Incorporate Extra Work Space
“It’s so beautiful and bright,” says Becky of this sunroom that she and the seller opted not to paint white. “We ran out of steam,” she laughs. (And we’re happy she did. While dated tiles are one thing, it can be heartbreaking to see perfectly handsome wood coated in white paint.)
Instead, she turned the previously empty space into a work area and reading nook. “I try to put in as many work stations as possible.” Now that we’re all home so much, it just makes good sense.
So, did this house sell? You bet it did — in one day!