Monthly Archives: May 2019

Vignette Staging for Beginners: Get Your Home Sold by Telling a Story


If you’re in the middle of selling a home, chances are good you’ve heard of staging. But what about “vignette staging”? Although it might sound strange, vignette staging is something you’ve seen before.

And that’s because it’s everywhere: in magazines, in real estate ads, and even at the mall. So what exactly is vignette staging, and how will it help you sell your home? Keep reading to find out.

What is vignette staging?

Vignette staging is all about creating small scenes, or vignettes, to enhance a space and make it more inviting. It can be as simple as a few decorative items arranged on a table, or it can involve an entire room. Either way, the goal is the same: allow the buyer to form an emotional connection to the space.

Decor expert Lynne Trinklein of Lynne Home Staging, in Milwaukee, has a few ideas for vignettes that work well in any space. Her No. 1 go-to decor item for creating them? Books.

“If you place a book open to a certain page, with a plant or binoculars—that evokes emotion or imagination,” she says. “They bring a lot of life and history and mystery to a space, and come in all shapes and colors.”

Trinklein also loves to incorporate vases and trays, and reminds her clients that things don’t need to be expensive to work well in a vignette.

“An everyday vase will work, even a Mason jar. Just cut some branches, and you’ve brought something organic and colorful into the room,” she says.

The secret behind great vignettes

Beyond creating appeal for your buyers, another way to think about vignettes is that you’re showing the buyer what can be done with the space. Think about an empty room. It could be a bedroom or an office, but it could also be a reading room or a crafts room, or even the perfect space to show off a rare collection. But without your creativity, the buyer won’t see this.

Richard O’Malley, an event producer in New York City, has similar views on vignette staging.

“It needs to be something memorable” he says. “You want to create something that shows people they can live in the space, something that makes them remember it.”

Trinklein likes to tell the story of the time she transformed an empty room by staging it with a love seat, a vase filled with paint brushes, and an empty canvas on an easel. It went from being a room that nobody knew what to do with, to an art room that contributed to a successful sale.

“That’s why staging is so successful,” she says. “Everyone wants a comfortable home. A room that’s empty or without accessories is cold, but once you add things, it becomes inviting. With staging, you enter a room and feel refreshed—and we all want that space.”

Get started staging your vignettes

Probably the best thing about vignette staging (besides the fact that it’s fun) is that you can easily do it yourself using household items you already have.

Get started while keeping O’Malley’s favorite piece of advice in mind: “Go for the ‘Gram.”

The idea being that if you can manage to create Instagram-worthy scenes throughout your home, buyers will be pulling out their phones to take photos, and then looking at them later on. This helps buyers picture themselves living in your home.

Here are a few pointers to get you started

Concentrate on a small space: There’s a tendency to try to make over whole rooms at once, but unless you have a hit show on HGTV (and a team of decor gurus to go with it), you’re better off starting small and focusing on one area of your home at a time.

Start with a few colors and a base: Choose a few colors that relate well to the room and to one another. Group things in odd numbers, and choose objects with a variety of heights. Try starting with a tray (or in the kitchen, a wooden cutting board), and build your vignette from there.

“This confines a space, while also adding another layer,” Trinklein explains.

Show off a collection: One of O’Malley’s favorite tactics for vignette beginners is to showcase a collection.

“It could be anything,” he says. “Maybe you have a collection of baseball cards, so you go to Michaels and get a bunch of frames, and then they don’t look like baseball cards anymore.”

Whatever it is, choose objects that will be recognizable to your buyer. While baseball cards are a safe bet, stay away from any collections that verge on the ultraspecific or taboo. Pretend it’s a family dinner: no politics or religion, and definitely no taxidermy.

Take a step back—and do it often:

Just like an artist admiring his masterpiece, take a bit of space to look over what you’ve created. This will alert you if anything is off or missing, or if your composition is becoming too crowded.

Go for nostalgia: This, O’Malley argues, is what’s really at the heart of vignette staging.

“Anything that rings nostalgic, that creates the same sentiment as baking cookies,” he says. (We all know the time-old trick of baking cookies during an open house; think of vignettes as the low-calorie version.)

If you can create a scene that makes your buyer want to sit down and stay a while, that’s when you’ll really know your vignette is working its magic.

The post Vignette Staging for Beginners: Get Your Home Sold by Telling a Story appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Lessons From Listing Photos: How a Chicago Modern Farmhouse Doubled in Value

It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pics highlight the home’s best assets.

This custom Chicago home hardly looked like a fixer-upper when the owners purchased it for $790,000 in 2017. Still, the functional but outdated features like the cramped galley kitchen and the spiral staircase straight out of 1991 left much to be desired.

The three-bedroom, 3.5-bath pad is located in Bucktown, one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods. So to match the local flavor (and meet the demands of discerning buyers), the house went through a series of major renovations. Now, just two years later, it has nearly doubled in value and recently sold for $1,330,500.

Curious about which updates made all the difference? According to our experts, here’s what the homeowners got 100% right.

Before: Exterior

exterior before
The old exterior is sterile and cold.

After: Exterior

exterior after
The new exterior is much more inviting.

It’s hard to tell these two photos are even of the same house, but take our word for it—they are.

“Often we see traditional homes get a modern makeover,” says designer Maryline Damour of Damour Drake. “This is a great example of how to use the bones of a modern house and give it traditional character through some key architectural details.”

Property stylist Karen Gray-Plaisted is impressed by the major updates to the exterior—and the impact they make.

“Moving the windows around is no small undertaking, but doing so enhanced the exterior and adds more light to the interior of the house,” she says. The windows and new roofline make the house look a lot more like what we think of as “home,” which is exactly what buyers are looking for.

Before: Living room

living room before
The old living room was gorgeous, but lacked warmth.

After: Living room

living room after
The new living room tempts you to sit and stay a while.

The original living room was modern and lacked soul before the renovations, but our experts are loving the changes, which include a brand-new staircase.

“While the staircase in the before photo was an architectural statement, the new staircase makes the space feel bigger as the eye travels unobstructed from one space to the next,” says Damour.

Other rustic touches like wooden beams on the ceiling and the brickwork around the fireplace alter the aesthetic of the home, making it feel more comfortable. Now, especially when staged with fiddle-leaf fig trees, contemporary artwork, and a crisp black and white color scheme, the design of the home channels the popular modern farmhouse style.

“This renovation took a modern interior and added traditional design elements and details that completely changed the look and feel of the home,” says designer Laura Hodges of Laura Hodges Studio. “The floor plan feels open and welcoming but also functional and practical.”

Before: Kitchen

kitchen before
The old kitchen was practical but small.

After: Kitchen

kitchen after
The new kitchen is a chef’s dream.

A galley kitchen is an acquired taste—some people are perfectly fine with them while others crave an open concept kitchen. The galley kitchen in this home wasn’t terrible, but it also wasn’t a very good use of space, so opening it up was a very wise choice.

“Kitchen updates are probably the best way to help a home feel more modern and fresh,” says Hodges. “The new wood floors, bright cabinetry, and upgraded appliances were all smart choices that add value and visual interest.”

Replacing dark elements like the cabinets and backsplash with white cabinets and natural stone contributed to the overall airy feel of the room.

“Carrying the wood flooring into the kitchen also helps the space feel more spacious by flowing with the rest of the home,” says Sally Williams, an interior designer with Colorful Concepts.

Before: Bathroom

bathroom before
The old bathroom was bland and nothing special.

After: Bathroom

bathroom after
Now, the bathroom is a sanctuary for relaxation.

The updated bathroom feels more like a spa than a room in your house—something our experts say will definitely attract buyers.

“A mix of tile, applied from floor to ceiling, makes the space feel luxurious, while the wood vanity is a nice contrast, adding warmth and character,” says Damour. “Removing the bathtub for a shower with glass doors and hanging mirrors across the length of the wall also help make the space feel bigger and brighter.”

Before: Roof deck

roof deck before
Before, the roof deck was impressive but sterile.

After: Roof deck

roof deck after
The addition of turf makes the roof deck feel more like a backyard.

The roof deck, which stands in for a backyard, was always attractive, but our experts say that adding bright green turf makes this space feel even more like an outdoor escape.

“Replacing the cold, unwelcoming gray with bright finishes brings this space to life,” says Williams. “The addition of the siding-covered overhang has added much-needed dimension to the facade and creates a welcoming spot perfect for a pair of rocking chairs. The turf is genius and allows you to imagine so many possible uses for this deck area.”

The post Lessons From Listing Photos: How a Chicago Modern Farmhouse Doubled in Value appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

How to Clean Out a Deceased Loved One’s Home Without Burning Out Emotionally


After the loss of a loved one, the thought of sorting through that person’s belongings can be heart-wrenching. But in many situations, there’s no time to delay, especially if you’re in a time crunch to get a late family member’s house ready to sell.

Before you embark on the emotional task of sorting through a loved one’s possessions, check out these tips from experts on where to begin the process, how to find support and resolve disputes, and—most importantly—how to take it easy on yourself as you grieve.

Give yourself time, but don’t delay the process

At a time like this, sorting through your loved one’s closets and cabinets is probably the last thing on your mind. Don’t push yourself too hard to get started before you’re ready, but don’t put the task off indefinitely, either.

“It’s very individual, but if you can emotionally, it’s better to start cleaning out the house sooner [rather] than later,” says Vickie Dellaquila, a certified professional organizer and author of “Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash.”

“I’ve seen people that hold onto a house for years and years and work just a little bit at a time. For a lot of people, that’s harder because it keeps weighing on them.”

Dellaquila suggests starting with the easy stuff (e.g., things in the pantry or the garage). “Anything that’s low-hanging fruit that’s not emotionally charged,” she says.

As you begin sorting through sentimental items, give yourself time to grieve and experience your feelings; you don’t want to push yourself to make big decisions about what to keep and what to let go of before you’re ready.

“I remember when I went through my father’s items, there were days I just couldn’t bear to go through more of his things,” says Jen Robin, founder and CEO of Life in Jeneral, a professional organizing company. “There were some … items I was not ready to go through.”

If you find yourself hitting a wall, put items in a box and go back to them when you’re ready.

Ask for help

Clearing out a loved one’s home is a massive undertaking, but many people attempt to do it alone. Don’t underestimate the emotional (and physical) effort involved, and don’t be shy about asking for help when you need it.

“When we experience strong emotions, it’s harder to make decisions and think clearly,” says Lisa Zaslow, founder and CEO of Gotham Organizers, in New York. “Friends and professionals who are more objective about the situation can help get you through the process.”

Bring in a friend who can toss items like toothbrushes and expired food. For larger items, you may want to call in the pros. A professional organizer can manage the process from start to finish, while movers and trash haulers can remove the big-ticket items you don’t want, Zaslow says.

You can also work with estate sale professionals to help sell valuables, and shredding companies can come in to dispose of old papers and sensitive documents.

Keep it or toss it? How to decide when emotions are raw

When a loved one dies, the last thing we want to do is get rid of everything that reminds us of them.

“You don’t want to toss everything right away, because you’re not processing your emotions, so later you’ll think, ‘Oh boy, maybe I shouldn’t have let go of that,’” Dellaquila says. But, she adds, “you do not have to be a curator of your mother or your father.”

If you’re torn about whether to part ways with something, Dellaquila suggests holding onto just a piece of it—for example, keep a single place setting rather than the full china set. That way, you can hold onto an item that reminds you of your loved one without taking on something you don’t have space for.

Finally, resist the urge to keep anything out of obligation. If you won’t use it, let it go.

“One of my clients felt that she should keep some designer purses of her mom’s, even though she knew she would never use them,” Zaslow says. “Instead, I helped her sell them, and she donated the proceeds to a charity in her mom’s name.”

Get ahead of disputes

When siblings start sorting through a parent’s belongings, the situation can get tense. What if you both want that love seat or those crystal Champagne flutes?

One way to work through disputes: Take a gym class approach to divvying up items.

“The fair thing to do is put the items out and each person takes a turn in choosing one,” Dellaquila says. “I did that with my grandfather, who was an artist. We had a lot of sketches, and we went around and chose one, then somebody took the next turn.”

If you’re feuding over a single item that can’t be split up, you could attempt a shared-custody approach. But ultimately, you have to decide whether the item is really worth a bitter fight.

“Would your loved one really want you fighting over this china?” Dellaquila says. “It really is just a thing.”

For the living, death cleaning—a Swedish tradition that is catching on in the rest of the world—is one way you can spare your loved ones a future headache. The whole idea is to start cleaning out your clutter now. While you’re at it, you can even begin deciding who will eventually receive your possessions, beyond what’s designated in your will.

“A lot of people do that by putting little stickies on the bottom of items,” Dellaquila says. “Orange is for Mary, blue is for Mike.”

Give yourself space to grieve

As you make a plan for cleaning out the space, remember that you’ll also need time to step back to reflect and recharge. Biting off more than you can chew is a recipe for emotional burnout. Instead, give yourself limits from the start—maybe you clean only one room a day, or you work for just a few hours at a time.

“Creating a goal allows you to see small results and wins,” Robin says. “This is such a mentally draining process, so setting boundaries for yourself is very important.

“There is no easy process of getting rid of a loved one’s personal belongings,” she adds. “Make sure to take your time and allow yourself to feel all the emotions along the way.”

The post How to Clean Out a Deceased Loved One’s Home Without Burning Out Emotionally appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.