We recently spoke to Jeff Lewis, Interior Designer and Reality TV Star, at the DWELL on Design conference in Los Angeles and asked his advice on how to get your home looking its best to sell. In addition to working on three TV shows, "Interior Therapy," "Flipping Out" and "Property Envy," Jeff just launched his own paint line Jeff Lewis COLOR that provides a beautiful palette of muted neutrals to choose from. Known for his directness and (sometimes brutal) honesty, Jeff calls it like he sees it and tells us what works when staging a house.
Get Rid Of Clutter
Editing is number one, as in PURGE. On "Interior Therapy" we take everything out first so we can start with a blank canvas. Then we sort into three piles: save, donate and trash. We'll decide what you have an emotional connection to and bring back some of the pieces to implement into the new design. We don't start over completely. Jenni (Jeff's assistant) and I have a rule: if you bring something in, you have to take something out. Plus, it's very hard to effectively clean a house when you have too much furniture and clutter.
This should go without saying, but giving your house a thorough cleaning is a must. Trim your trees, pull weeds, paint any peeling trim, clean windows and screens, remove damaged screens – make it spotless. You want it to look big and expansive. Hire a professional cleaning service if you have to. Also, take out personal artifacts or anything that could turn off the buyer, such as family photos. Making your house clutter-free and sparkling clean is a must.
Keep the backdrop neutral and bring in color through accessories. I created my own paint line, Jeff Lewis COLOR, because I wanted to simplify the process and provide a palette of muted neutrals for people to choose from. For years I went through many different paint companies and colors and it was overwhelming. All 32 colors have been curated by me and go together, so you can use different colors from my line in different rooms. Neutral colors will give you longevity, work with a variety of styles and aren't going to offend people.
Begin Staging and Bring Back Some Furniture
You want someone to come in and see a very clean palette and, really, less is more. People want to know where they're going to put their bed, their TV, where they're going to sit and have dinner, but that's it. Most people have a few good things that you can work with. However if something is really big or heavy and doesn't work with the house, I'll recommend a stager. I used to do it myself when I couldn't afford to hire one. You can go to furniture rental companies and solicit help from the people who work there, which can save you a lot of money. You can also hire a stager or designer by the hour, if you need advice on what to keep, how to arrange the furniture and make it more open and appealing. Many designers work by the hour, including me. A well-staged house sells faster than an empty one.
Start with a neutral backdrop and bring in your color through rugs, throw pillows, coffee table books, flowers, photographs and art work. All those things can be moved around. We use a lot of black and white photography, but be careful with art – people can be repelled by certain colors. You want to appeal to a large audience and not go crazy with a specific or bright color that might offend people.
Bring In Flowers And Plants
A space is never quite right without plants, flowers and living objects. At the very end of a project, we always bring in fresh flowers and plants – living, nothing fake. It brings color, texture and life to the room. I love orchids and peonies. Just by editing, cleaning, bringing in flowers and candles – that's all really important.
Don't Spend Too Much Money In One Room
That's the number one mistake most people make when preparing to sell their house. I've always said people spend too much money in one room (kitchen!) and then they don't have enough to finish the other rooms properly. It's very, very easy to get sucked into amazing appliances, but you're not going to live there, so don't go crazy and budget your money throughout all the rooms in the house.
It's important to make a good first impression before buyers even walk into your house. Start by trimming your trees, which brings more light into the house and makes the house look bigger. Plant flowers, put in a new lawn (sod is only $1/sq. ft.), paint the front door and flank it with potted plants, repaint trim or stucco, get new house numbers and mailbox (if necessary) and replace light fixtures. Even if you don't replace all the lights, do the porch light. I also like to add a couple of low voltage lights at night (Malibu light sets under $100), which gives a house curb appeal at night. Outdoor lighting is key. These simple and easy tricks make a big difference.
Tune in to Bravo on Tuesday nights to watch Jeff Lewis delve into people's issues while redesigning their homes on "Interior Therapy," and improves both their home and relationships. Jeff says the structure of the show is much looser this year and much better.
Liz Laing is a writer, web designer and photographer who lives in Los Angeles. Her latest projects may be followed on Liz Laing.
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