A Case for Decoration

Lately I’ve noticed a trend with the questions my clients ask during consultations and I have developed my own personal little theory behind it.

They’ll ask me questions like, “Should I install crown molding in here?” “Should I replace this countertop and introduce stone?”, “What about a tray ceiling?” Endless and many expensive ways to update your house.  My theory is, it’s much easier to spend money on things like molding and new countertops because as much as those decisions can be difficult, they are not usually as hard as decorating your house from scratch. So you put off buying new furniture because, well, there are too many options and it’s easier to do nothing than make a decision. And you spend your money on molding instead.

But do you know what sells your house?  The atmosphere which only gets created when you decorate. You can have the most beautifully designed house but if you spend all your money on renovations and are left with no money for furniture you are truly selling yourself short. Are there exceptions to this?  Of course, for example, a cramped old house with new flooring or walls taken out to create a better living area and so on.

Generally though, let’s assume your house is NOT the exception. Let’s assume you have a perfectly acceptable kitchen for example but it’s just dated?  Better to paint the cabinets and hire the help you need (if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself) to decorate and finish your house because that is what will make you happy when you walk in the door, more than brand new cabinets will. Maybe.

When you look for a new house to buy, how fast do you know if ‘this is the one’?’ Is it after you flush all the toilets to make sure the plumbing is working properly? No. You know pretty much the moment you walk in.

The feeling of a house changes so drastically to fabulous after it’s decorated—which is why staging generally sells a house for more money—you will wonder how you lived so long without it.

I know the other obstacle is your husband who understands nailing something down to the house way more than new drapery, but I’m just sayin’. He will love it as much as you when it’s done.

There is no point trying to decorate your house yourself if you simply don’t have that particular creative gene.  You’ll end up with brown when you should have picked white, white when you should have chosen gray, green when it should have been blue, a solid, when you should have chosen a pattern to tie all your solid colours together to get a more custom look. The list of choices you need to make before you arrive at your finished room is much longer and more complicated than you might think.

So when your husband or partner says “Why can’t we do it ourselves?” Ask if you’ve seen any of her work published anywhere and tell her to read this post instead. Okay maybe not every man feels this way but 99% of the women I talk to struggle with the same dilemma!  So hope this helps add some decor to your house!

If you would like to create atmosphere in your new house, contact me.

Related posts for men especially:

An Open Letter to my Lover on Decorating
Happiness is. . . A Happy Wife
Danger. . . The First 24 Hours after you take Possession
Atmosphere. . . The One Thing you Cannot Buy

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  1. I agree that first impressions are very important and bad decor can make a potential buyer decide to not consider the house especially if it's something that stays with the house (i.e. weird paint color, flooring). Good staging can also make a buyer look twice at a house that they might not have considered.

    I also agree that you can make your house beautiful regardless of the outdated or shabby "bones" of the house, we are in the process of doing that right now.

    However, a savvy home-buyer should be looking past the decor at what's going to be left behind when the seller moves, and in this market, it pays to make those upgrades. Instead of buying a $3000 sofa, perhaps consider buying a $1000 sofa that looks just as nice, and spend the rest of that money on upgrades that are going to help you in the long term.

  2. Maria, I love your post. I think it's bang-on!

    Re: SJN and Donna Frasca's comments… as a stager I have to disagree. Staging is not decorating, it is marketing. The basis IS to create a 'feeling' that appeals to buyers – an empty room doesn't do that. With staging it is about removing distractions, but it is also about intentional placement where less is more, and the eye is deliberately guided to the architectural features. In staging the eye is not meant to rest on the 'things' in the space, whereas in decorating, stopping to ponder and admire the 'things' is part of the story. Beige is not necessarily the first 'go to' neutralizing colour anymore, and infact, to stage for the current economy, we are looking for unique one-off pieces to set the home apart because everyone is neutralized out. And seriously, it's surprising how many buyers really DO NOT have any vision, DO NOT see the crown molding, DO NOT notice the closet organizers, etc. Staging is temporary; it suggests a lifestyle that you as a buyer 'could' live, but it's a general story that's told. Decorating is all about you, your story, and creating a comfortable space for the way you live, and for you to enjoy…

    Write on Maria!

  3. I love this post. I agree with you completely. And Sheila Zeller is spot on that many buyers do NOT "see" the details. I have a dear client who has been in her home for almost 5 years and she had never noticed that her kitchen cabinets have two door styles until we were discussing some changes.

  4. Lacey from Weekends at Home

    Love the images in this post… especially the first one.
    I think there definitely has to be balance between the two. Living in a house that is over 100 years old, there are some projects that definitely have to be tackled, but that doesn't mean I don't decorate all the way. However, I don't quite have the budget to decorate as I would love to nor restore and renovate as I dream to…