Struggling to sell? Home staging can help...

 

Remember I mentioned in my last post that I helped a client transform her home? (She was struggling to sell despite a highly sought-after location, despite marketing it through the best local agency and despite dramatically reducing the price.  It was on the market for 5 months with lots of viewings but not a single offer.)

Here is the most recent news.... After the low-cost refurbishment and staging, she had two good offers in less than a week of it being back on the market and accepted one of them by the end of week one.

How amazing is that?  It does make you wonder whether using an Interior Designer can indeed increase the value of the property and make it more sellable when it comes to putting it on the market.

This is particularly important in today’s competitive housing market where first impressions really do count. An Interior Designer can work with you to help turn your home into a more ‘desirable’ property, especially if your home isn’t selling as quickly as you’d like.

Here are some useful tips for homeowners putting their homes on the market.

Focus on things that add value

If you have any budget to do small renovations and improvements, use it for things that add value to the property - good flooring, storage, electrics, etc.

De-clutter (but keep personality)

Try to look at your property with a new pair of eyes and see it from a buyer’s perspective.  Would they want to see all the excess stuff that has accumulated over the years?  Probably not, so put it in storage, or find a new home for it.

Decluttering, though, doesn’t mean making property bare and impersonal.  People need to be able to envisage what the property would look like if they were living there and they often find this difficult, so make it easy for them.  When I helped the above mentioned client to prepare her home for sale, I didn’t make it generic and soulless.  I took some calculated risks and added a bit of pizzaz and personality as it wows buyers and gives them ideas as to what they might do to this property.

People are often buying into a lifestyle as much as a property. Give them that instant feeling of wanting that lifestyle. 

Fix and repair

Make any minor repairs necessary – holes in walls, broken door knobs, etc, etc. There will always be buyers who want to move in without making changes, so make it easy for them.

Clean

Clean everything like you have never cleaned before!  There is nothing more off putting than a dirty home.  Get rid of limescale, clean and repair tile grout, wax wooden floors, get rid of all odours, hang up fresh towels.

Freshen up your walls

Give the walls a fresh lick of paint.  Try to keep the canvas stylishly neutral (and when I say "neutral" I dont mean builder's magnolia) and add some splashes of colour and pattern in accessories.

Think of good lighting

Think about light in your house.  It so often gets neglected and the property appears gloomy and uninviting.  Wall mirrors make a room look much bigger and lighter. Consider putting some up, especially in smaller rooms or hallways.

Clean windows inside and out, and replace any broken light bulbs. Ensure that you have lamps on in any dark corners.

Deal with odours

Bad smells are the single biggest turn off for prospective buyers. Deal with them! 

Conversely, good smells subconsciously make your home more appealing. Think plants, flowers, candles, fresh coffee.

Create curb appeal

Think about curb appeal – after all, this is the first thing viewers see.  Tidy up your front garden or driveway, put a couple of plants and paint your front door an attractive colour that goes with your property. 

Make the most of extension potential

If your property has some conversion or extension potential do not necessary do it yourself (as the potential buyers might have different ideas about how to configure and decorate that space) but consider getting planning permission.  It won’t cost you much but it might hugely increase the appeal to potential buyers. 

Help estate agents do their job well

If you work with an estate agent don’t rely just on them to sell your property in the right way.  Tell them what things to say, what to highlight and what to downplay.

Think of all the downsides of your property and have convincing answers to all those tricky questions ready.

Sometimes, however, it takes an independent eye to help turn things around, which is where an Interior Designer can help. There are so many things to consider when selling a property these days, especially as buyers become more demanding and astute and the market more saturated and competitive.

Please, do get in touch if you want your house to stand out from the competition but feel nervous about making mistakes and wasting your money on the wrong things.  I know how to make your property desirable and highly sought-after...

Speak soon

Elena

 

Is Your House Not Selling?

Hi everyone

Two months ago I was approached by a lady struggling to sell her cottage in a very desirable area.  It is not a huge property but it has prime location, period character, and could be a perfect home for a single professional or a young couple.

When I first saw the property I struggled to see its appeal - it looked dated, neglected and quite depressing, to be totally honest.  If it were a development project you could argue it is not relevant but the kitchen and the bathroom were fairly new and in a good condition and there was nowhere to extend so it was not your typical development project material. 

Plus, for a lot of buyers this is a transitional property where they live for a couple of years until they start a family and move out of London into a bigger house.  And I think, those are the kind of buyers who want to walk in and see themselves living there.  For them, that property would have been a turn-off.

Plus, I always think there are two types of buyers - those who buy with their head and those who buy with their heart.  The latter ones would have been lost the minute they walked in through the front door.  And you cant afford it when you are trying to sell a property.

With a limited budget I had to prioritise.  I decided to focus on lighting, flooring and smart but cost-effective storage, all those things that are essential for comfortable living but also things that add value to the property (after all, we had to keep an eye on the ultimate goal - selling the property!). 

Once I had the basics sorted out, I could then focus on pretty things and staging.  I am not a believer in painting everything neutral builder's magnolia colour.  I think the modern buyers are more demanding than that.  Without creating too much of a theme, I think you want to show people what they could do with the property, how they could live there, what it could look like... You need to create an interesting and aspirational look while still appealing to a very broad target audience.  Not an easy thing to do but if you do it right, it really works.

I was determined to change the colour scheme, using light but trendy neutrals and darker colours to give depth to the rooms, harmonise various clashing woods, install practical but stylish flooring, change the furniture and accessories style and introduce lots of mirrors to open up the space.

Enough of me talking, let's have a look at some pictures. 

The sitting room looked very dated and uninviting with drab yellow walls, tired old-fashioned furniture, red window blind, worn out carpet, poor lighting and lack of a focal point. 

This is what it looks like now... New wooden flooring compliments the old re-varnished pine doors, stairs and bannisters dark wood painted stylish grey, built-in shelves and various shades of blue give depth and interest to the alcoves, stunning Cole & Son feature wallpaper makes the chimney breast a focal point, the big lean mirror enhances the feeling of space while looking quite opulent and re-upholstered mid-century armchair with the new made.com sofa and a couple of scattered cushions and accessories complete the look that feels modern and exciting.

The narrow staircase with heavy dark wood and yellow walls felt heavy, and dingy.

The wood has been repainted - stairs in white and bannisters in grey and to save money on a runner (which we couldn't really afford) we had the runner painted in deep blue to prevent the look from looking too clinical and to tie in with the sitting room scheme.

The tiny landing now has a huge mirror (a charity shop find) which reflects the light and gives you a feeling of a more continuous space.  Clever trick to use!  You can never have too many mirrors (ok, almost never..)

Bedroom 1 had bare floor wood which I normally love but it was in a really bad condition and was way too dark for the property.  There were generally two many different types of woods in a small space which hardly ever works - it looks busy and heavy.  The layout was not ideal and the sticking out wardrobe not only was taking up too much space without giving adequate storage but also looked ugly.

The cold off-white on the walls looked clinical and... cold.

And this is what it looks like now.. Pale aqua walls look serene and the deeper-coloured fireplace with a mirror becomes more of a focal point.  The new built-in wardrobe (using IKEA carcass and fixtures) gives ample storage but looks neat and stylish.  The new layout with the chest of drawers on another wall works much better and the re-painted white bed with a floating white shelf, duck-egg dim-out curtains and scattered cushions in aqua and pink compete the scheme.

 

The second bedroom is a darker room and the white walls with lots of brown furniture and dark blue worn-out carpet looked very uninviting there.  Plus there was an exposed boiler with a desk underneath in a different type of wood to everything else sticking out.  You just didn't want to be in that bedroom...

And this is it with some tweaks...A warm grey on the walls, mirrors, boxed-in boiler, re-painted chest of drawers and a few pops of colour make the room stylish and inviting..  

 

Bathroom was too good to rip out (nor did we have a budget for a new one) - it just lacked character and felt desperately bland.  The same pale yellow paint just didn't work with the basic white tiles and all the accessories were a complete mismatch.

 

A lick of deep teal paint offset the white tiles nicely, gave the small room depth, interest and cosiness, a larger upcycled mirror increased the feeling of space and a few accessories made it all look smarter.

 

Hopefully when a potential buyer walks into this house now they will think:  "I can see myself living here...It feels good.."

Isn't that what it is all about?

Drop me a line if you have any questions and I will keep you posted on how we get on with the sale.

Speak to you soon..

Elena

How to Hire an Interior Designer

You’ve decided to hire an Interior Designer. Great news! This is a worthwhile, long term investment.  I like to think of an interior designer as you would of a good electrician or plumber – not a luxury, but a necessity in order to get a job done well. Red Adair once said that; “if you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” It certainly gives you food for thought.

So where do you go from here? The process of finding the right interior designer can seem a bit daunting, but my checklist and pointers will help give you some clarity and focus when making that all-important decision.

Getting started

First things first; start your research by looking at each designer’s portfolio and making a shortlist based on the styles you like. Take your time. Some designers have a definite look or style, which can be a great reason to go with them, or not. A portfolio with a wider selection of styles can highlight versatility and show that the designer can work on a range of property styles and projects. This is something you should focus on more if you want something unique to you.

It’s the chemistry

Understandably, one of the biggest concerns is that the designer will create a home that’s not ‘me’ and ‘not to my taste’. A good designer will always start with an understanding of your style preferences.

Design can be very subjective, so it’s important you have a designer that understands you, but also isn’t afraid to push the boundaries a bit. After all, this is probably one of the reasons you hired a professional and is where they can really add value.

Finally, don’t forget that you will spend a lot of time with the designer during the renovation process, so it’s really important the chemistry works and you get on.

Money, money, money

There are Interior Designers out there for all budgets, even if you don’t have the kind of spend for shops on the Kings Road. Decide how much you have to spend and then have that conversation with the designer. By making it clear what your budget is from the outset, means the designer has a framework and can be realistic about what can be achieved within that price range.

Project timeframe

I’m not going to sugar coat this, but good design takes time. Patience is crucial. Completing a house renovation project to a high spec is a slow process, but well worth it. A committed designer will always say this. Be sceptical of anybody who says it can be done in a matter of a couple of weeks.

Credentials

You’re paying for a service, so don’t be afraid to check the designer’s credentials. Ask if you can talk to previous clients and if they have any testimonials they could send you. If a previous client is open to the idea, then visiting a completed project is an important way of witnessing the designer’s quality of work.  

The budget

There are many ways to pay for a designer and charging would depend on the type of project.   Short-term consultancy could be charged by the hour or flat fee, whereas renovation work may charge on a per room basis or a total project fee based on the scale of work and complexity of spaces involved.

…and relax

I hope these pointers will inspire your search and reduce any doubts or concerns you may have had about hiring an interior designer. The key thing is to relax and enjoy the process. Remember you are adding long term value to your property, which can only be a good thing, right?

Bye for now...

Elena

 

White Walls - Delight or Disaster?

The other day I went to see someone for a design consultation. 

The house was neat, well kept and very practical for a young couple but the rooms were fairly compact and most of them did not have an abundance of natural light.  However, most of the spaces, including a hallway, were painted pure white. 

It was the previous owners who did that and I can understand what they were trying to achieve – they thought that if they painted all walls white the house would look and feel spacious.  However, it felt clinical and uninviting.  This was the first thing I was aware of while being in that house.  

This is probably one of the most common conversations I have with my clients and "white works everywhere" is one of the biggest misconceptions of interior design. 

I mention it at my workshop and this is the design mantra I absolutely stand by.  White on walls can’t be a default choice (this is when you don’t know what other colour to paint them) but should always be a deliberate choice.

Don’t get me wrong – I am totally not against white!  When used well, it appears clean, crisp and timeless.  And it could make the space look absolutely amazing!  But only if you know when and how to use it.

Contrary to what most people think, it works best in spaces with a generous amount of natural light.  If you don’t use any other colours I would always advise using lots of texture to avoid it feeling flat and cold.

But if you are happy to embrace colour then white background could really help and make all the other colours pop.  Think how amazing colourful artwork would look against white!

Have a look at these stunning rooms that show how to use white to enhance the space. 

Image - Elle Decor  

Image - Elle Decor

 

Image - Elle Decor  

Image - Elle Decor

 

Image - Elle Decor

Image - Elle Decor

Image - Elle Decor  

Image - Elle Decor

 

If you dont have the space to show off white to its best advantage but would still like your room to look light and airy go for a gentle off-white.  It will do the trick but will look softer and more forgiving.

However, if you have a small light-deprived room don't even think about using white.  There are spaces you cant make light no matter what.  White walls there would look drab and dull. Instead, use rich colour or interesting wallpaper to create cocooning or dramatic effect. Plan your lighting carefully to create the right ambience.  Try it once and you will see what I mean. You will never want to consider white in a dark room ever again.

Check out these small dark jewel-like rooms.

 

Image - House Beautiful

Image - House Beautiful

Image - House Beautiful

Image - House Beautiful

Hope it all makes sense and gives you some idea of when to paint walls white  and when to avoid it.  

Speak soon

Elena

Hiring an Interior Designer - a Luxury or a Necessity?

A couple of months ago I had an electrician come to my house to give me advice on whether my patio built-in lights could be fixed.  He spent about 10 mins looking around and 10 mins chatting to me.  The verdict was that there was no easy fix.  I handed him £60 (his minimum charge) left with my non-working lights and no plan to move forward with.

This, along with similar experiences in the past, made me think yet again why people so happily pay an electrician, a plumber, a decorator, but when it comes to considering an interior designer, this falls into the category of luxury and something that ordinary people can’t afford.

I would argue that at a push you could paint your own home, and although, probably not to the same standard as a professional decorator, it could be done. And sometimes an untrained eye might not even spot the difference. And then you would probably redecorate again in 2-3 years’ time. 

A lot of the choices an interior designer helps you with are going to be there for years and years to come – thought through lighting, efficient layout, built-in storage, wooden floors, kitchen design, smart window treatments, etc, etc.  These are all the things that last for a very long time and don’t date if done right.  “Design adds VALUE faster than it adds cost”, said Joel Spolsky, and I couldn’t agree more.  Or another good one by Red Adair – “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur”.  Or do it yourself, I would add.

Great spaces do not happen by accident.  It seems so easy to put together a room… And yes, there is Houzz, and Pinterest, and lots of DIY home design magazines.  Yet most people struggle with this and can not make it happen.  Turns out there is much more to creating that perfect space than simply finding a Pinterest image or a Real Homes magazine tear out. 

There is scale and proportion, and balance and rhythm and texture, colour, light and pattern to take into account.  All those elements that, when considered and applied skilfully, turn a bland room into a functional, beautiful and comfortable space. 

Just think of all those times when you would bring a new chair home only to find out that the upholstery colour was off, the size was wrong or the style just did not work. You can consider yourself lucky when you can pin-point your mistake. But in most cases, people can not even figure out why a chair (or any other piece of furniture) does not work.  It just seems off, and that's it!  Yes, the chair can be returned, but the problem is still there: what kind of chair to get is still a puzzling mystery.  And that chair is only one of the hundreds of decisions you need to make when renovating your home. 

A professional can make things go so much smoother and easier.  Basically, all you want to know is IF your ideas are right. And if they are not, you want to know WHY. That's exactly what a designer gives you: objective opinions based on your situation (your room, your needs), what's current, the products that are available, how to marry a new piece of furniture with the existing pieces, and so on. Or if you genuinely don’t have a clue you want the designer to put options in front of you.  And don't worry!  A good designer won't let you make a bad decision and won't show you any bad choices! 

Just think of it this way.  If you make ONE bad purchase decision - that would have already paid for a designer. And if you are on a budget, you have no money to waste on mistakes.

And let’s face it – a property is most people’s biggest asset.  Do it once, do it right with the help of a professional and see what it does to the value of your property.  You might be in for a nice surprise (but it wouldn’t be a surprise for your designer).

So here is the truth - hiring an interior designer is absolutely worth it in the end. I would even go as far as to say -  think of an interior designer in the same way you think of a decorator, or an electrician, or a plumber.  It is not a luxury, it is a necessity!  And that is an unbiased opinion….

 

Speak to you soon

Elena

 

PS If there is anything you want to ask me about just drop me a line.  I would LOVE to hear from you..

 

 

Elena Romanova Interior Design Services

So my new website has gone live and here I am writing my first ever blog.

It feels like a new beginning and an opportunity to look back at my journey so far… Where did it all start?

I missed the chance to be born into a family of arts and antiques dealers, furniture restorers or accomplished interior designers.  So I can’t claim that I spent my childhood browsing through antique markets or fabric showrooms or doing my homework in the corner of clients’ living rooms while my mum showed them the latest fabric or wallpaper collections.

What I do remember, though, is spending days on end at builders’ yards and bathrooms and fabric showrooms, going through colour charts and tile selections, renovating yet another characterless or run down property while my friends were out having a good time.  

On graduating from university, I chose to join the corporate world, my only obvious choice at the time.  This started a career that would span two decades … but I still managed renovation projects in the background.

At a certain point, on maternity leave yet in the middle of my most ambitious refurbishment project, I realised that I simply had to pursue my obsession with all things interior design-related.  I'd noticed that I was turning into a “house stalker” - having that urge to peek into every house window to try and get a sense of how people lived and what they did with their spaces.  I talked to my friends for hours about 50 shades of grey and how subtly various shades differ from each other …

Seven years ago I took the plunge.  I earned my qualifications in professional interior design from the National Design Academy, quit the corporate world for good and set up Elena Romanova Interiors.

I did not know what lay ahead (and looking back I realise that this is the best way to be) – I was just so happy to focus full-time on what I loved most!  I was so determined to make a difference to people’s homes, their lives and their well-being. That’s right – I had the ambition of affecting people’s lives and well-being.  Some might doubt whether home decoration has any impact on how people feel but I genuinely believe that a home designed and decorated around your lifestyle, your likes and dislikes, and your passions will make a huge difference in how you feel.

I know how exciting and daunting at the same time decorating your space can be… I have been there. I’ve personally agonized over the same decisions my clients have to make so my advice comes from a place combining professional training and my own hard-won experience.

I started this blog to share this experience with you and help you on that journey.  And I also want to show you how enjoyable and fun this journey can be…

Watch this space for lots of decorating tips and trends!  And I would love to hear from you so, please, post any decorating questions you have.

Elena