Styling to Sell

Published on 11/10/2014

Property stylists are becoming more mainstream as savvy homeowners look to give their homes an edge in a competitive marketplace, writes Paul Best.

Once the preserve of prestige properties, having a home professionally styled to sell has become, well, increasingly commonplace.


More and more savvy homeowners across the city, looking to give their property an edge in a competitive marketplace and maximise its value, aren’t thinking twice about calling in stylists and home stagers to help give their residence a face-lift – anything from a cosmetic touch-up to a full-scale makeover.


“What’s changed in the last 10 years is that it’s become much more mainstream,” says Lisa Hipkins, who runs styling outfit Hiphouse with Heidi Groen. “It started with high-end homes but now it’s everyday (places). We do a lot in the middle suburbs.”


A major component of styling is refurbishing a home with decor – furniture, colour-matched soft furnishings, artwork and the like – that fit the style and architecture of the home. In many cases, particularly with new homes, this involves a wholesale set-up.


With older homes, property stylists are more likely to supplement, upgrade, rearrange or replace chattels, depending on what already exists. Sometimes, furniture is worn and cat-scratched, outmoded, the wrong tone or scale. If a table’s too big or a rug is undersized, for instance, the room can appear smaller. They’ll focus on high-trafficked areas, such as living and dining rooms as well as kitchens, bathrooms and master bedrooms. “Deals are made or lost in kitchens,” says Keyhole Property Investment’s Melissa Opie.


But stylists are quick to point out it’s not simply about wheeling in new sofas with some lamps, cushions and a throw rug. Fiona Mallinson, a senior stylist with Melbourne Home Details, says it’s about improving flow, making sense of difficult spots (fashioning a study nook from a dead corner, for example), creating points of difference between spaces and visuals that tantalise the eye. “It’s finding the best way the house can be used,” she says.


Neutralising spaces, through de-cluttering and de-personalising, is crucial. Often larger families with small children will move out during the campaign, placing in storage what’s in the way. Splashes of colour (flowers, fruit), warm and welcoming accessories and small details (fragrant soaps, hand-rolled towels, open cookbooks) are important too.


“Our job isn’t to make the house look pretty,” stresses Hipkins. “It’s to make the house look sellable (and) as attractive as possible to the broadest audience possible.”


Agents recommend styling because it produces winning campaign shots and bestirs buyers’ pocketbooks. “You aren’t buying four walls and a ceiling, you’re buying a lifestyle,” says Marshall White agent Kate Strickland. “We buy houses on feelings and emotions.”


At the same time, Jellis Craig’s Richard Earle says it’s essential to project an idyll without stripping charm and character. “Some buyers prefer to see the odd crack and blemish.”


Of course, styling a house properly costs. Consultancy fees vary but typically ring up a few thousand dollars, before rental and storage charges and any purchases. In addition, styling frequently involves more substantial sprucing: a fresh lick of paint; installing carpets, blinds and surfaces (a stone bench in place of laminate); and general repairs.


With our love of all things alfresco, vendors are also increasingly investing in styling the outdoors – returfing, repaving, adding plants, trees and furniture. “You’d be amazed what a big difference a high-pressure clean makes,” says Brent Parsons, whose company Phipps Parsons handles general livability people both aspired to and desired. Auction October 18, 1.30pm, Marshall White Brighton, 0400 125 946.


Style counsel – 10 hot styling tips to sell your property


Neutralise rooms – strip the house of clutter, personal items from bathrooms and anything that interferes with buyers imagining themselves living there.

Ensure furniture and soft furnishings play to the property’s architecture.

Scale furniture to fit spaces – smaller if the room’s tight (a double bed instead of queen-size), bigger if it’s cavernous.

Create an open-arm welcome – keep spaces fluid and open. Don’t back a sofa, for instance, to a doorway; don’t simply push furniture against the wall to create roominess.

Add “pops” of colour – flowers, fruit, anything that brightens and lightens the house.

Invest in new accessories – cushions, throws and rugs can transform rooms (and hide stains).

Give the house a fresh, new look and smell – a coat of paint (especially the front door), new carpets and, externally, a high- pressure clean.

Keep driveway clear of cars.

Hire a professional who isn’t too close to the property and can introduce a dispassionate eye; know the market you’re styling for.

Enter the house as if you’re a buyer not a seller.



Case study: What a stylist can achieve for you

Having decided to relocate to their native New Zealand with their three children, Sandra and Cam Downs knew they had one shot at selling the family’s renovated Californian bungalow in Glen Iris


“We needed to have the home styled to give ourselves the best chance of selling the property for the best price,” Sandra explains.


Although they had looked at magazines and shows about selling homes, the couple believed a professional touch was necessary, turning to Von Haus Design Studio interior designer Fiona Parry-Jones, who had worked on the couple’s renovation.


Parry-Jones altered the layout of the house, recasting a formal dining room as a second sitting room and a child’s bedroom as a guest’s, replacing the single bed with a queen-size and adding bedside tables and artwork.


Alternative furniture and artwork were also introduced to other areas of the house to lighten and modernise the place – including a couch for the sitting room, bar stools for the kitchen, a table for the hallway – with existing furniture stored. The Downses also bought soft furnishings.


With repainting, the couple spent $12,000 all up, including $1700 for the stylist. But the investment, says Sandra, was well worth it. Campaign photos, web video and inspections generated huge interest, with the auction smashing their reserve. “We received $200,000 more than we expected,” smiles Downs.




Cover property: 51 Normanby Road, Kew


Price guide: $2.7 million-plus


The cavernous rooms and spans of blank-canvas walls of this clean-cut contemporary four-bedder in Kew gave Votre Monde Interior Design & Property Styling license to – in its words – “go a bit nuts”.


“The property really lent itself to us going crazy…to push the boundaries,” says Jen Lawrie, Votre Monde designer and director. “We had to keep it contemporary with a sense of a humour, bring some colour, give each room a slightly different personality, while maintaining a flow from room to room.”


Styling the house from top to bottom, the team initially filled the walls with large vibrant canvases by Australian artists, befitting the modernness of the home, which made the walls immediately pop.


Furnishings were then added to complement. Furniture – sofas, chairs, tables, credenza, standing lamps…everything, all contemporary and owned by Votre Monde – as well as expansive rugs, whose bold tones purposefully played on the artwork. “We smashed together unusual colour combinations, pinks, purples, yellows,” explains Lawrie. “We wanted to be edgy…have fun.”


Jellis Craig’s Lloyd Lawton says the style – bold and beautiful downstairs, more tonal and muted upstairs – appeals to peak-income professionals in their 30s and 40s, with private school kids, who are “on-trend” with fashion and design.


“We want buyers to be emotionally attached, who can see themselves living there or aspiring to,” says Lawton. “It really drives the price at auction that last 10 to 20 percent.”


The property will be auctioned on October 25 at 2pm, Jellis Craig Hawthorn, 0403 229 433.




Or try these

10 Tynefield Court, Brighton


$2.4 million


This renovated five-bedroom 1950s home was styled inside and out to project a comfortable, easy-going lifestyle that prospective buyers could identify with. Each room was decorated with particular pieces of furniture and soft furnishings, carefully chosen for scale and fit, to give the house, as a whole, personality and livability people both aspired to and desired. Auction October 18, 1.30pm, Marshall White Brighton, 0400 125 946.




5 Charles Street, Prahran


$1 million-$1.1 million


This freestanding, three-bedroom Victorian only received a light, on-a-shoestring styling touch-up, something the agent always recommends as a minimum prior to sale. Here, it was to open up and freshen the rooms as much as possible: the kitchen table moved to the centre of the living area; a full bookcase put into a storage; a table and mirror added to the hallway; as well as new prints, towels and rugs. Auction October 18 at 12pm, Biggin & Scott Prahran, 0410 493 441.



63 Ludbrook Avenue, Caulfield South




With the tenants moving out, the owners had a choice of selling an empty Deco-styled brick home or having it staged. With the interior retaining many of its original features, Melbourne Home Details energised rooms with a modern rhythm and ambience – wan-toned decor (lounge suite, rug) with noisy accents (red cushions, vase, prints) – producing a bright contemporary counterpoint to the dark timber and brick. Auction October 25, 12.30pm, Garry Peer Caulfield North, 0422 339 791.

Paul Best- Domain

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