Creating Ambiance: Professional Home Staging

Photos by: A.J. Harlond

Lisa McIntee, owner of The Staging Professionals, Niagara’s only full time, professional home staging company, is an award winning home stager. She recently won several awards at the 2014 Real Estate Staging Association Industry Awards, including Top 10 Best Re-Designs of the Year in North America, Top 10 Best Occupied Stagings of the Year and Top 10 Professional Stagers of the Year in Canada. Trained in New York and Toronto, Lisa is an expert at making homes look their best. We recently caught up with Lisa to chat all about home staging, as well as get a sneak peek at one of her beautifully designed rooms.

TM: Can you talk a bit about your background and how you got into home staging? Have you always been interested in home décor?

LM: I have such diverse experience ranging from retail sales and merchandising to importing to operations management for a public forensics consulting firm. However, from a young age, being creative was always my passion. I believe I was around 13 when I sold my first painting and also illustrated a book. I remember my parents (reluctantly) allowing me to select the décor for our bathroom renovation in my early teens. I fell into real estate staging after my daughter was born when I happened to see a commercial advertising the industry. It appeared to be the perfect fit and the rest as they say, is history!

TM: Can you describe what exactly is involved in staging a home?

LM: That is a tricky question as every home is unique but although the recommendations are customized to each home, the process remains similar in nature. We provide homeowners with a list of items to complete, often ranging from de-cluttering, painting, cleaning, and sometimes suggesting updates. Home Stagers are excellent resources and it is our job to not only have creative and affordable solutions to each problem, but the means and/or contacts to address the problem, if requested. Homeowners have the option to complete the work themselves or they can enlist our help to streamline the process. Once the initial recommendations are complete, we can proceed with the staging of the home. This may mean something as simple as changing bedding and adding a centerpiece to a dining table, or it can be installing an entire home worth of furnishings in a vacant home. Whatever the end result is, rest assured that a Home Stager has kept close tabs on the cost to ensure that the homeowner receives a return on their investment.

TM: How do you decide on the style for each individual home?

LM: The style for the home is often determined by the architectural style, layout and features of the home. However, the type of home will rarely limit our style options. The target market, price point and location can also weigh on the style of the home and often times we need to shift the style from to another in order to effectively market the property. The style has nothing to do with my personal taste or the homeowners taste for that matter. Working closely with the Realtors, we strategize as a team to focus solely on what will produce the best results for that particular home.

TM: What are the things that you look to change first in a home?

LM: This all depends on what the home owners goals are when selling their home but it is important to be able to recognize potential “deal breakers” first so they homeowner has the opportunity to deal with them and prevent a drastically discounted offer to purchase. Deal breakers can be anything related to the condition of the home that should be properly repaired prior to listing (items like water damage, safety issues, poor workmanship etc.), but deal breakers can also be something as simple as the cleanliness of the home. Once these items are addressed, we can then proceed to the staging of the home by creating flow, style and function using various methods of furniture placement and décor enhancement.

TM: Who would benefit from using a home stager?

LM: Anyone who is considering selling or leasing a property, and often times buyers, enlist the help of a professional home stager. Although our primary market is resale homes, our services aren’t limited strictly to real estate. Often homeowners are looking for a change in their home and they recognize that we are a good resource to help realize their dreams within their home by utilizing creative and budget friendly solutions. Builders, investors, realtors, homeowners, property managers, retail stores and restaurants are just some of our clients.

TM: How would you describe your personal décor style?

LM: What I love and what I live with are drastically different. My ideal home would be contemporary with clean lines, with a color scheme that provides tranquility. My own home is best defined as a style I call “Reality”. With 3 kids and a dog and a crazy work schedule, I’ve accepted this style and learned to make it my own! If I sold my home, I would need some serious staging!

TM: What is your favourite part of the business and staging process?

LM: I love challenging jobs where price points, location or unique features may present a challenge for marketing the home and will, without a doubt, affect the outcome of the sale when not addressed. I am lucky to work with outstanding Realtors who put their trust in me and the advice I provide to their clients. A strategic approach to staging involves collaborating with the Realtor and other resources when required to achieve an outcome that will provide the desired results for our client. The best part of the staging process is witnessing the homeowners reaction to the results to process produces.

TM: Can you talk about your best staging experience?

LM: One was my most challenging job to date, a $1.5M home that had been on the market off and on for years. The homeowners were extremely reluctant to step out of their comfort zone to implement our recommendations, but ultimately agreed to complete a list of items that would drastically change the style of their home. After completion, the home was sold within a week for full asking price and even we did not expect such a positive result so quickly!

TM: What does a typical day for you entail?

LM: I don’t really remember the last time I have had a typical day! Consultations, flooring selections, coordinating furniture deliveries, designing headboards, meeting with various vendors, speaking engagements, and of course staging homes, the beauty of this job is every day is drastically different from the next.

TM: What current home décor trends do you love?

LM: I am on the hunt for unique vintage and reproduction décor items that serve as conversation pieces in a space but also appreciate the glamour that contemporary pieces can add to a space. I also love a layered look; a tasteful blend of metals, fabrics and woods will produce a stunning yet timeless space. For staging, toning down patterns and mixed finishes may be required to effectively photograph and market a home, whereas trends for living can always be worked into a design seamlessly in a home and the sky is the limit.

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