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The Property Styling Company..

It’s the weekend and I’ve been up since the crack of dawn packing my car with all sorts of gorgeous accessories, collecting fresh flowers, buying fruit and making sure every item on my long list is present and correct. Working on a Saturday or Sunday is something of an occupational hazard for me as that’s when most of my clients tend to be ‘at home’.

I love everything to do with Interiors and Design but my passion is really for ‘Property’; marketing, styling, selling and (when it’s called for) finding!

I’ve specialised in Property Marketing, you may know it as Home-Staging (but with a strategic twist) for years now and the thrill of achieving a great result for my clients is still unbeatable. Whether they’ve a property just going onto the market, a home they’ve been unable to sell for a while or a house they moved into but never really settled in, the starting principle is the same, a good poke around and a proper ‘fact-find’.

Today’s styling project is the culmination of a good few weeks of hard graft. 

The house is a substantial 5 bed (Victorian) period property in Bath.  It has been their happy, family home for approximately 25 years. Although their children have long since moved into homes of their own, it’s a big wrench for the owners to consider leaving the house behind. Ideally, they’d like to downsize, put a bit of money in the bank, move further out into the country, perhaps embark on a small renovation project and enjoy an early, well-earned retirement.

Our first meeting at their property was for me to appraise the house by analysing the property through the eyes of a buyer, find out their objectives, talk through strategies for attracting their target market and give them a winning edge over similar properties for sale. A great deal of our time was spent discussing Estate Agents; those considered suitable to sell the property and the price range my clients felt would be acceptable to them.

I took copious notes for the follow-up report and numerous photos as a reference for styling and staging. As it had been their home for a long time, they had, like all of us, built up a collection of ‘family treasures’ and found themselves custodians of larger objects like ski’s, framed posters, boxes of clothes, books and bits of furniture the kids still wanted but had “no room to store” in their own houses! They were also concerned about the decoration in some of the rooms, did they need to paint, re-carpet, dress the windows, fit a new bathroom or de-clutter?

As with many period properties the house had a few quirks and foibles but was essentially a well cared for, comfortable, elegant home. I’d spotted one or two (essential) minor upgrades on my initial look around but the majority of work was ‘clutter clearing’ (not that this was in any way a messy home) and redefining three (mostly unoccupied) bedrooms. Happy to indicate a small budget for upgrades and staging items, the couple were keen that any furniture and accessory purchases could be used again in their next home or agreed as part of a rental package (hired from me) if they so chose.

Having received my Home Sale report, they’d spent the intervening period working through my recommendations; sorting, storing, decorating and cleaning the house from top to bottom. Estate Agent valuations were booked and all that was left to do was the final room styling in preparation for the marketing photographs.

Where possible I like to work with a professional photographer, one experienced in commercial photography rather than family portraiture and preferably a patient photographer. I often spot something after the shot has been taken that I don’t like, need to change or “would be better over there”!

On site I meet up with Bruce Bolton, (www.lanternphotography.co.uk) he’s keen, early and I’ve yet to begin.  Luckily, he and the owner discover a passion for racing cars which allows me enough time to unpack and get started. We’ve allowed only 2-3 hours.

Much of the main furniture re-arrangement was completed in advance; we needed a new double bed for one of the rooms and some curtain poles put up elsewhere. Now also in-situ, I’d previously sourced bed linen, lamps and light-fittings too.

Concentrating on the Living room and Dining room first, I arrange flowers, hang pictures, re-position key pieces of furniture and decide which lights to leave on. Bruce is anxious to get ‘snapping’ so I move onto the kitchen. This room is the most contemporary part of the house, all gleaming surfaces and shiny glass. Already a very stylish space, other than deciding which accessories will further enhance the ‘lifestyle look’ there isn’t a lot else to do in here.

The patio and garden have previously been tweaked by the owners so photographs are taken of this area next. The sun keeps disappearing behind a cloud, not ideal but at least it isn’t raining – we want light, bright, shots, seasonal of course but sunshine makes a huge difference to the appeal of any property image.

Thankfully styling the rest of the house goes smoothly. The cushions I’d purchased for the Master Bedroom are such a perfect match to the owner’s originals anyone would think it had been planned in advance 😉 I’m very pleased with the overall look and feel of this room.

The only space that proves a bit tricky is the bathroom…. It’s quite small and trying to find an angle that isn’t all ‘bath’ or mainly a shot of the window is difficult.  I managed to source towels in pretty soft shades to go with the colour scheme and found some perfectly coloured accessories but unless we take a photo directly of them (which to show off the styling is fine) this room could look a bit bland.

In the end all rooms are photographed and we even manage to capture the front of the house with the sun shining! The result is exactly what I had hoped to achieve and thankfully my clients are thrilled.

Before I leave, my owners get a mini coaching session on how to conduct a perfect viewing.  Showing a 3 storey property can be confusing – do you start at the top of the house, in the middle or out in the garden?  I want to ensure they can successfully show the house to viewers (and the Estate Agents) without having to double back anywhere; ensure where they start creates the most impact and that they finish on a high to give them the greatest chance of achieving a faster and more profitable sale.

Back home, the worst part of the job…unpacking! I have to decide if I’m keeping any of the unused purchases for another project, re-wrap the delicate items, store all the bags and boxes and finally sit down to analyse the day.

Post Script:  All 4 estate agents that came to value were really impressed by the presentation of the property and dead keen to get the instruction.  By being proactive and having the house ready before they called in the agents, my clients could make informed decisions about the timing of the sale, negotiate fees and capitalize on marketing ideas.  

They sold quickly, for a great price and are now happily involved in turning their new house into their home!

Thanks to Bruce at www.lanternphotography.co.uk for use of his images.

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A couple of years ago, a colleague and I were approached to put together a package for styling newly refurbished student houses.  The Landlords had come to realise that upping the presentation of their properties scored major points with their target market.  Their houses stood out from the others available to rent and, enabled them to achieve a faster Let and demand higher fees.

We worked in 3 or 4 university cities on probably about 35-40 houses.  Whilst each area had major differences, all the properties we styled were very similar.  By viewing the company’s previous rentals we had a good idea of the look they wanted and by viewing competitors accommodation, in the same location, we also got a good idea of what they didn’t want!

Involved from (almost) the beginning, when walls were coming down and extensions were being built, the colour schemes, along with kitchens, bathrooms, appliances and flooring had already been chosen.  Our task, was to complete the furnishing of the student houses with furniture, artwork, accessories etc and successfully style them, within a very limited budget.

We worked with suppliers we knew and trusted to provide the bulk of the furniture; beds, sofas and blinds but our buying skills were tested to the limit as we tracked down decorative items and hunted out bargains.  Budgets only became available when the houses where nearing completion and often with less than a fortnight’s notice!

The hours were long, the work was stressful, the deadlines were tight.  More often than not we’d turn up with cars and vans packed to the gunnels only to find builders ‘finishing off’ and paint-work still drying.  Once I turned up on site at 6am to find a house full of snoozing carpet fitters (who’d worked late into the night) sleeping off their celebratory hangovers.  The end result though, more than made up for the inconvenience … well that and being able to indulge my passion for shopping with someone else’s money… even if I was on a bargain hunt.  Seeing the total transformation from grotty terrace to stylish student pad always made the job worthwhile.

Of course just improving the property presentation doesn’t necessarily guarantee a Let; good marketing, a proactive agent and creating a buzz, definitely helps too.  Once we’d installed, styled, itemized and taken marketing shots for the first house in each area, an Open day was held.  Nicely furnished, well equipped, clean and contemporary our houses were not only a hit with the students but the parents too!  Mums and Dads noticeably perked up when they walked through the front door – yes there was a premium to pay, more than 20% in some cases – but they’d rather their son or daughter live there than the dirty net-curtain clad property next door.

Our ’employers’ had researched their market, called in the professionals and offered something different.

Their houses were  cleaner, brighter and more stylish than many others on the Letting agents books –

They soon had something else too…. a ‘waiting list‘ of eager tenants!

If you need advice on styling, selling or buying property and would like to discuss working with me … my main website can be found at www.propertystylingcompany.co.uk. Contact can be made through this wordpress site, by email or by calling 07789 488446.

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