Thumbtack Best Pro of 2015
Remodeling and Home Design


Anatomy of a Vacant Staging

I completed the staging of a vacant home a few days ago that illustrated many of the challenges faced in our industry. To the uninitiated, vacant staging refers to the process of furnishing and accessorizing a home in such a way that it reflects a certain universal ideal of what home buyers aspire to, highlighting the home’s best features while minimizing those that may be deemed less desirable. The goal is to evoke an emotional response from a potential buyer, allowing them to picture themselves living their ideal life in THIS home.


The first problem faced when staging a vacant home is cost. While it is not necessary to bring in all the furnishings needed to reside comfortably, you do need enough furniture to suggest comfort, and to illustrate how spaces might be utilized. Whether renting or purchasing, furniture is expensive. Few people realize that most rental furniture companies require a 3 month minimum charge, and pricing is structured so that they recoup the suggested retail price of rental furniture in about 6 months, meaning that when renting, you are typically paying a minimum 50% of suggested retail, plus tax, delivery, and often an insurance surcharge. Professional Home Stagers usually qualify for some type of discounts from these rental furniture companies, but the savings are minimal. Also, selection is limited, and the styles usually skewed to serve a lower end market. Then there is also the cost of accessories, art, lamps, rugs, towels, bedding, and staging services to consider.


Many home stagers carry their own inventory of furniture, but this requires a larger operation able to provide the logistics and staff needed for warehousing, delivery services, insurance, etc., all of which is reflected in pricing as well, although often less than that of rental furniture companies.


My company falls under the category of stagers who inventory smaller furnishings and accessories used to augment rental or purchased furniture, which I offer at a flat monthly rate. This allows me to stay lean in my pricing, and to save my clients from having to rent or purchase many of these kinds of items at a much higher cost. Often, rather than renting furniture for my clients, I assist them in purchasing quality used, clearance or discount furniture suited to their property’s unique needs, and then fill in with my own inventory. Frequently, this furniture sells with the home, and what does not sell can be sold to used furniture stores or on Craig’s List, somewhat reducing the overall cost of staging. Yet other times, in much the same way as with Occupied Staging projects, clients will want to use furnishings they already own to save some cash, and this can be the most challenging for the stager, because the items may not be the ideal in style, color, condition or quality. As a stager, I work with what I must, and such was the case with this project.


Below are photos of the furniture they wanted to move from a small investment condo they owned to the vacant home. These are all inexpensive items from IKEA, most of which had seen better days:

ikea-sofa bed-and-chair table-and-bookcase ikea-media














Here are some before photos of the property:


dining great-room great-room-2 gr-niche mbr mbth gbth













In addition to the existing furniture items being of substandard quality and condition, they were also not the appropriate style for this more luxurious and traditional home. Accessorizing and augmenting with higher-end, more traditional furnishings would be key to presenting a home that would appeal to buyers. I had my work cut out for me.

First, I would need a nice dining set for the large dining room. Also, there was a large recessed area in the huge great room that needed a purpose. Counter stools were needed, and a nice entry table. Thankfully I was able to convince the homeowners that the tiny IKEA table and chairs were not going to work in the breakfast area. Off I went to scour my favorite used, clearance and discount furniture stores. Below are the photos of what I found:

breakfast-set dining-set server-and-hutch entry-table bar-stools















Finally, with the magic of accessorizing, the finished and staged product:

entry-and-niche dining-rm dr-and-gr gr-2 breakfast sofas kitchen mbr2 mbr3 mbth2 mbth3 gbth2




























Note the use of numerous decorative pillows and a beautiful faux fur throw to punch up the look of the sofas. The iron scroll base of the floor-model clearance breakfast table set coordinates beautifully with the chandelier and the style of the home. The $299 bargain-of-a-lifetime sideboard and hutch is the perfect solution for the recessed niche in the great room. Beautiful accessories and a balanced arrangement give the IKEA bookcase presence. The $899 dining set and chairs looks much more expensive, and showcases how spacious the dining room really is. This staging job resulted in an immediate referral from another Realtor in need of staging services.


True Costs vs. Resale Value regional charts!


2016 Parade of Homes Magazine Cover


Imagine my surprise this past Saturday when, while reading the paper, this magazine fell out featuring a photo of one of my models! Some of the furniture and items have been slightly rearranged since I completed the work last June, but I know this home, and the one adjoining it, intimately. This photo represents my most frustrating, exhausting, terrifying, educational and personally rewarding design job to date. To say the learning curve was steep would be a vast understatement. I experienced the full gamut of harrowing challenges in completing this project,and I am grateful for the lessons, opportunity, and limited recognition it provided. I will probably never agree to do it again.


Ranked Best of 2015 by!

Best of 2015 Logo

We are proud to announce that Snapdragon Stage and Design has been recognized by the team at Thumbtack as the Best of 2015 in Home Staging in the Sarasota FL area! Many thanks to our wonderful clients!


The Importance of Planning When Shopping For Furniture


The kids are grown, and you have decided it’s time to re-decorate, or have purchased your dream home. You have been dreaming of your new heart-stopping space, browsing and pinning ideas to Pinterest, and now it’s finally time to start shopping!


But wait! Before plunking down your hard-earned cash, make sure that you have not missed one of the most important steps in decorating with furniture… planning! As an interior decorator and home stager I have been in hundreds of homes, and one of the most common pitfalls I encounter are rooms without a plan, which may result in furnishings that are too large or too small for the space, furnishings that don’t perform functionally or add to the ambiance of the room, or simply too much furniture.


Of course, the longer we live in a home, the more oblivious we become to its imperfections, and often our rooms evolve in response to our family’s changing needs and interests. All of this is normal, but a room with a well-planned layout can accommodate these changes much more gracefully than a room furnished in a half hazard manner.


When working with clients, one of the first things I do is measure the space, including doors, windows, hall openings, lighting, outlets and any other architectural features. I also measure any furnishings that the homeowners want to keep and use. Next, I recreate the footprint of the room to scale, which can be done on graph paper, or with a magnetic grid board, or with a software program. I use professional programs for designers which are packed full of features geared towards the design professional, and come with a price tag to match, but there are many simpler online programs available for homeowners, and best of all, they are free! Here a link to a list of’s top contenders:


Next, it’s time to play with furniture arrangements! Keep in mind, there are a few rules to follow in arranging a room. Here are some of the ones I find most useful:


1) Have accurate measurements of the furniture you are considering purchasing. Scale your floor plan furnishings accordingly so that you can see how they will fit in the room.


2) Know what functions your room will need to perform.


3) Don’t be afraid to change things up and move things around. It’s much easier to do on your device than with the actual furniture.


4) Identify the main traffic routes through the room, and when placing furniture, be sure there is ample space for traffic flow. (I like a minimum of 36” wide or more for main traffic paths.) Putting furnishings too close together or not allowing enough space for ease of movement throughout the room will make it feel small, cramped and claustrophobic. Don’t push furniture right up to the edge of door openings and hall entrances.


5) Typically the largest piece of furniture (entertainment center, set of bookcases, etc.) will look best when placed on the longest wall. These types of furnishings are called “case goods”, and I find it is much more functional and aesthetically pleasing to have only one or two larger pieces like this. Often I have seen rooms furnished with six or seven small pieces-bookcases, TV stands, hall tables, etc., and the result is disharmony. A large free standing or floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves, for example, will look and function much better than several small mismatched bookshelves lined up along the wall. Remember, a large part of decorating well is editing.


6) Don’t be afraid to “float” your seating. Furniture does not need to be lined up along the wall. Many rooms benefit from creating several separate conversation areas, which can often be accomplished by “floating” furniture in or near the center of the room.


7) Keep the room visually balanced- don’t have all of the furniture concentrated in one area. Use art and window treatments to help maintain harmonious balance.


8) Leave 12”-18” between the front of the sofa and the coffee table or ottoman.


9) When using an area rug, all the seating in that conversation area should have at least one foot on the rug. In other words, use a large enough rug for the space.


10) Unless you are trying to design a very formal space, don’t forget to try angling some of the pieces, which can help with traffic flow and will make a space feel more cozy and inclusive.


11) Keep the space between the bottom of the window and the floor in mind when placing furniture under a window. Ideally, the piece should just graze the bottom of the window, not project into it.


12) Use side tables and/or lamps whenever possible next to seating to provide lighting for reading and other activities. Make sure that you have an outlet close by for the lamp. (For floating furniture, this may be a floor outlet, or a wall outlet at one end.)


13) Dining tables should have a bare minimum of 24” space around them to allow guests to push out their chairs to enter or exit, although 36” or more is ideal. If others need to walk behind seated guests, 54”-60” is needed.


14) If using a rug in the dining room, it is ideal to have it large enough so that the back legs of the chairs remain on the rug when pulled out for seating. No one wants to “hop” their chair back over the edge of the rug once they have sat down when trying to pull up to the table. If this is not possible, try a rug that is 10”-12” larger than the table all the way around so that the back leg always remains on the hard floor surface.


Now that you have your plan, you are ready to shop for furniture with confidence, so go out and have fun!

Barbara Corcoran on the benefits of staging to sell

I am only a recent devotee to the show “Shark Tank” so I have to admit that when I first watched this interview by Shell Brodnax, CEO of the Real Estate Staging Association, I agreed with everything that Ms. Corcoran had to say, but failed to appreciate the power of her statements due to her success and celebrity status. For those as uninformed as I was regarding Barbara Corcoran’s background, she currently appears as one of the savvy investors on ABC’s popular show Shark Tank. She began her real estate investment career in 1973 with a $1000 loan, and sold her Corcoran Group empire in 2001 for $66 million. She also happens to be my favorite of the Shark’s, due to her reasonable and compassionate demeanor on the show. Watch this video to learn Barbara’s views on the importance of staging.

5 Hot Tips For Staging To Sell!

living room


Spring is here, and the market is HOT! Just a few simple design tricks can help give your property the competitive edge and help close the deal at the highest possible price. Remember, staging to sell is a form of marketing, and you are preparing your “product” for the market. Here are a few easy tips to get you started:


1. Pack Now Rather Than Later

“Spacious” is the description that nearly all potential home buyers are looking for, although their definitions of this may differ. The first step to achieving a spacious feel is to begin sorting and packing those items which are not currently needed and can be stored until your move. While you may be very comfortable surrounded by your grandmother’s collection of antique teacups, most potential buyers do not have the ability to envision themselves living the life they aspire to in your home if it is filled with your personal décor. The name of the game in staging your home to sell is to create an ambiance that universally appealing and not too taste-specific.


2. Scale Back To Make Room

Another simple way to give the perception of a larger space is to reduce the size and/or number of furnishings in smaller (or even larger) rooms. This may be accomplished by simply putting some of your furniture or accessories in storage. This might also be the time to do a little bit of furniture shopping for your new home. Studies show that most potential buyers want to see, and are more likely to make offers on, homes with updated décor, even though they know that the décor and furnishings do not come with the home.

Make sure that the furnishings in place are the proper scale for the space, attractive and make sense for the way the room is intended to be used. For example, if you have been using the dining room as a playroom, be sure to pack up the toys and furnish it as a dining room again before listing for sale. This will make it easier for buyers to envision the room as they might arrange it once they’ve moved in, and will help to address such questions as “will my dining table fit in here?”


3. Spotlight With A Splash of Color

Neutral paint colors have long been recommended by real estate professionals to help a home appeal to a broader market, and this is still good advice, but you are not limited to just white and beige. There are countless pale neutral colors with just a hint or subtle color undertone to choose from, and keeping a monochromatic paint scheme throughout the home can make the space feel larger. However, a splash of color can be a valuable ally as well! Eye-catching colors can be very useful in drawing attention to aspects of your home that you want to emphasize. Use bright floral arrangements, throw pillows, art and/or area rugs to direct the eye of prospective buyers to features you don’t want them to miss, like upgraded fixtures, or flooring. This simple design trick will increase the “Wow” factor of your listing!


4. Update Lighting Fixtures and Fans

With the abundance of new, often “cookie-cutter” homes, townhomes and condos, especially in coastal areas, many buyers see the same styles and features over and over. One easy way to combat this and stand out from the competition is to upgrade light fixtures and ceiling fans. Replacing generic looking fans and basic ceiling light fixtures is a simple and inexpensive way to add both character and perceived value to your home.


5. Modernize

Especially in older homes, dated-looking outlets, switches, plates, door hardware and faucets can significantly add to their perceived age, and buyers will typically overestimate what it will cost to perform these updates. Even if they make an offer, they will discount the price by what they think the cost of the updates will be, and many will simply move on. For relatively minimal cost, old fashioned toggle light switches can be replaced with contemporary rocker or “Decora” style switches. Old outlets can be updated to three-prong with the help of an electrician, and switching out  inexpensive new outlet and switch plates will erase the years. Brushed nickel or stainless steel faucets and door hardware can replace dated looking brass, gold, or worn-out chrome. All of these improvements tell the buyer that your home has been updated and cared for.

To really go the extra mile, fixtures like touchless or motion-sensing faucets and light switches, and even built-in USB-charging wall outlets can be installed for a minimal additional investment.

New Pinterest “Create This Look” boards!


One of my favorites tools for communicating and managing products and ideas for decorating and home staging projects is Pinterest. By now, most people are somewhat famililiar with this online tool, but for the uninitiated, Pinterest is a virtual site where you can create separate “boards” and pin photos, articles and ideas from the web, photos or your own computer. There are a number of reasons why I think the Pinterest application is a wonderful tool:

First, it allows me to communicate with my clients using visuals, rather than trying to find the right words to communicate a visual idea. Since most of my clients don’t  know yet exactly what they want, I typically start by throwing a lot of “Pins” or pictures on a board that I create for them, then seeing what they react to, either positively or negatively. This helps me to quickly develop a clear picture of what their particular style is, and hone my selections to fit that style. A successful client board works a bit like a funnel, starting with me throwing a lot of stuff in it, and then slowly distilling it to the unique look of that client.

Then, because all of the photos are in one place, on a board where I can look at them all at once, it is helpful to get an idea of how the different selections pinned there may work together in a room.

Finally, it is a great organizing tool, because when you pin something from the web, it creates a direct link from your board to the source, where you can easily look up details such as price, dimensions, colorways, etc.. Of course, this is not true of items that you pin from your own computer or photos, so it is important to add any critical information to the comments and titles for those pins.

Here are a couple of boards from some of my actual projects, complete with “After” photos showing how the pinned items were used. To keep my projects on track, I typically start deleting items from boards that we know we are not interested in. The first board is a completed kitchen renovation and redesign project. The second is a home staging project. Feel free to steal my ideas- the links to the products are right there for you to use!


5 Elements of a “Dream House”

Below is an article by one of my favorite real estate bloggers, Tara@trulia. While Tara’s post is aimed at home buyers, assisting them in identifying those features which will be most important to them in their search for a new home, it is also important for the home seller, Realtor and Home Stager to keep in mind what these intangibles are that will help to attract the most potential buyers.

Dream House Intangible # 1 Tara identifies as “right-sized”- While the perfect- size home is different for each buyer, it is important to remember when selling a home that buyers typically want as much space as they can afford. Therefore, packing away clutter, lightening up, and presenting well-thought-out furniture arrangements that maximize the function and sense of space are critical steps in presenting a property for sale.

Dream House Intangibles #2 and #3- “Lifestyle” and “Provides Vision Fuel”- When a buyer shops for a new home, they are shopping for a way of life. The savvy seller recognizes this, and may provide written cues such as pointing out good school districts, proximity to the beach, etc.. Additionally, rooms and areas can be staged to suggest the kind of activities that buyers aspire to, like casual entertaining, lounging on a pool deck, reading in a cozy nook, breakfast in bed and so on. These are referred to as “emotional connections”,  and can play a very large role in a buyers decision. A Professional Home Stager knows how to add these “just right” touches that get buyer’s juices flowing.

Dream House Intangible #4- “Staying Power”- This intangible refers to the expectation that the buyer will be happy in the home for a minimum of 5 to 7 years. For a young family, this may mean room to grow, or for a retired couple, accessibility. The seller can assist the buyer by pointing out features such as these through written and visual means.

Dream House Intangible #5- “Resale Appeal”- It should be uppermost in a home buyer’s mind the re-sale value of a potential property at some point in the future. Some conditions are considered nearly incurable, such as a location very close to a railroad or in a high-crime neighborhood. Sellers of these homes will likely need to rely on heavily discounted pricing to sell, and will have to wait for the buyer who will accept these conditions in return for a rock-bottom price. Other difficult conditions for resale would be a very poor, disfunctional floor plan, or an unsightly adjoining property. These are conditions that are usually curable,  through renovation, landscaping, etc., but may be costly. If left un-addressed, home buyers will typically over-estimate the trouble and expense of the cure needed, and will either move on, or make a very lowball offer. Home sellers should make every effort to erase these question marks in buyer’s minds if they wish to sell quickly, and for the best price. Your Professional Home Stager is experienced at finding creative, cost-effective solutions to these kind of issues.

In preparing your home for sale, you should always enlist the help and expertise of a Real Estate Professional, who can help you to determine those features that resonate most with buyers in your area. Additionally, a Professional Home Stager is an expert at helping to present a home that has universal appeal, and will emotionally connect with the most buyers at a price that is typically a fraction of the return.

Relaxing Beach Getaway- Create This Look

Sarasota FL boasts one of the top-rated beaches in the world- Siesta Key Beach, known for it’s wide swale of sugar-white sand. In renovating and staging this vintage condo for use as a seasonal rental, just steps away from beautiful Siesta Beach, we opted to capitalize on the rich history of the Sarasota area as a vacation getaway. Choosing a palate of sunset colors, we found it an easy task to find prints based on vintage Sarasota postcards as our design inspiration, offering a rich sense of place. Click here to see a slide show of the project . Follow this link to see some of the components of this wonderful vacation property. To rent it, contact Tami at The Crescent Arms

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