Their World’s a “Stage”
Q&A with professional stagers and redecorators Shelley LeBoff and Betsy Moreno Berger, owners of Design 25 based in Bedford and New Canaan, Connecticut.
Q. What is the specialty of your business?
Shelley: One side of our business is staging for resale and spec. The other half is redecorating. We started our business three years ago focused on staging, but our clients and their friends would see what we had done and ask if we could provide the same services for their homes. Homeowners usually say, ‘My house never looked this good.’ We started getting redecorating requests, and it snowballed from there.
Q. What’s involved in redecorating?
Betsy: We de-clutter, edit, and add what’s missing, such as new lamps, throw pillows, or a new rug. Since we use what the homeowners have in their homes, redecorating becomes a nominal purchase. Painting is an inexpensive way to redecorate with a huge impact. We painted a house in Bedford, for example, with all new colors to liven it up before resale.
Q. How does that differ from staging?
Betsy: In staging, we want to neutralize the house so the buyers can see themselves in the house. That means keeping family photos and tchotchkes to a minimum. We can do the work ourselves or we can give the homeowners a list of what they need to do and get rid of, whether it’s moving furniture, eliminating papers, putting pet paraphernalia out of sight, or removing Christmas decorations after the season ends.
Shelley: When we’re staging, we ask that homeowners defer to us because we know what buyers want. They want to imagine themselves in an organized home with an organized life. Everything has to have space around it, like creating a half-empty closet. When clients are redecorating, we work with their tastes and we try to make them happy. De-cluttering is a major part of what we do.
Q. How do you apply your staging skills to spec houses?
Betsy: In a spec house, we select furniture appropriate to the style of the house. If it’s a farmhouse, we might bring in pine or white shabby chic furniture, or we’ll use more traditional furnishings for a formal English manor. We want the spec house to look like a family lives there.
Q. Are there clear benefits to staging?
Betsy: Homes that have been staged properly absolutely bring in more money and sell faster. Many of the homes we’ve staged in the $1 million to $2 million range sold within two weeks or so. One house in the $8 million range was the only one in that price range to sell within the year. We help make the realtors’ jobs easier.
Shelley: We tell homeowners they’ll get back way more than they put in.