The organization of elements in staging a home makes a difference

#649 in a series of true experiences in real estate
October 2012, Hills Newspapers

Not long ago, our stager, Sahdu Mannell, said to me, “I’m just waiting for someone to come to one of our listings and want to buy the whole thing – house and everything in it.”

And then it happened.

We listed a delightful 1936-built Berkeley house and the buyer said she’d love to have it all, it looked so good and she likes it so much. It did look good. Gracious and light, comfy seating in the large living room, steel window sash with green trees and garden outside every window. Two dining areas, formal and less so and perhaps best of all, kitchen and dining room both opening direct to a flagstone terrace and maple trees with garden beyond.

So here we were with an email from the buyer’s agent saying the buyer would like to have all that the house contained. Was she serious? Maybe she was simply being complimentary but our attention was certainly at a high. Would we be willing to let all the staging go?

Sahdu was intrigued. We began to run through in our minds all of the items in the house. There is a great deal there in the 2000+ square feet, 2 stories, 3 bedrooms – beds, desks, tables, all kinds of lamps, many small decorative items. I don’t think we’d ever thought about how many items it takes to stage a house. But Sahdu who lifts and carries each one, no doubt has. Staging is a very physical job. Carrying both ways, then carefully packing storing in between jobs, takes effort.

Sahdu often brings things from her own house, and sometimes we do too. We store the majority at our office. Still, house styles differ and require different looks. We don’t own nearly the quantity or variety we’d like to. We have frequently said we wished we had money and space for more.

Could we sell everything in this listing and have the fun of buying new? As a bonus, nothing would have to be moved back to storage.

We said no. There are too many irreplaceable possessions in the house, quite a few great rare finds and other treasures that belonged to our parents.

Sahdu stages differently than other stagers. Her houses look like she lives well in them. People ask us all the time if the owners live in her staged houses, they look that natural. She furnishes with comfortable, yet often edgy, mirrors, framed art, rugs and furniture that make everyone want to sit and stay. Each item is placed for maximum visual beauty. Her houses are spare but rich.

Also, she brings exceptional plants and flower arrangements, often flowing reeds and grasses combined with fresh flowers. These are arrangements you might expect to find in an art gallery or the lobby of a fine hotel.

There is one bouquet placed on the floor of the dining room in this house that I love. Tall metal vase, bronze-colored stalks of seeded grass spill over the edge, taller, more golden grasses above, dull green closed flower buds and russet Peruvian lilies, flower heads bunched together. When I saw this bouquet, I immediately called Sahdu to tell her how lovely it is.

No wonder the buyer wanted it all. The furnishings, flowers, art and textiles show off this house well. Visitors at our open houses were charmed by such beautiful composition. But we cannot replace Sahdu’s parents’ occasional table, my mother’s upholstered wing chair, Sahdu’s own Japanese tonsu chests, our friend Clyde’s famous designer dining table, a pair of chairs borrowed from Gretchen. Even smaller items like the applewood spline basket from Canada or the 1940s pottery given to us by a client, we do not know how we could find again.

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