WRITTEN BY CONNIE ADAIR
Stager/organizer Nina Doiron, president and lead designer of Istagenorganize.com of Toronto, says her No. 1 recommendation is to declutter. But that doesn’t mean buying a bunch of storage containers, filling them up and putting the containers in the basement. She says when homes are staged, the space is decluttered and the items are taken right out of the house. By removing clutter your house will seem larger and you’ll have more usable space than you thought you had.
Donate, give away or recycle items you no longer use or want. There are always people who can use it, says Doiron, who recommends that homeowners declutter two times a year.
“A tidy space means that everything should have a home. I only recommend purchasing a storage solution once the decluttering is complete. If you buy a storage solution beforehand, you’re just adding another piece of furniture to the space. Often once you declutter, you’ll find that your existing storage solution is enough,” she says.
Paint is an inexpensive way to update and refresh a space. “Paint ages, yellows and the sun can fade it,” she says. If you’re handy, it can be a cost-effective project because paint will only cost a couple of hundred dollars per room.
Staging employs lighter paint shades to lend an airy and spacious feeling, but when redesigning for your own enjoyment, go with your own personal sense of style. Doiron says she had clients who want to paint their homes grey. “I asked, ‘do you like grey’ and they said, ‘not really’. I said trend or no trend, do what you love because you will be living in the space.”
When she does a colour consultation, she asks clients what colours they gravitate to and which ones make them happy. “I also look around their space. People tend to buy things in colours they gravitate to.”
There is a way people can use their favourite colours to give an updated look, even if they aren’t considered “in” colours. For example, they may like green, which is not on trend right now. However, they can use a shade of green that gives a sense of being on trend but reflects their own style.
“Painting the cabinets and cupboards is a really inexpensive way to update the kitchen, especially if the hardware is changed as well,” she says. “Despite what’s been said, it’s not a crime to paint over wood.”
If homeowners decide to go with a light paint colour, even if they prefer darker shades, they can use the latter for accessories instead.
“Accessories allow you to bring in your own personal style and colour.”
They add interest and wow to a space, but the key is to use them sparingly. Less is more, she says.
Since well-lit spaces tend to look larger, she suggests putting maximum wattage bulbs in lamps and light fixtures. For those who prefer low ambient light, dimmers can be added so lights can be turned down as desired.
You may also want to look at replacing light fixtures and lamps. Light fixtures can date a house. The good news is that lighting can be swapped out relatively inexpensively. To save money, plan out your light fixtures throughout the house, then have the work done at the same time so you only have to pay the electrician to come out once, she says.
For smaller spaces, add a decorative mirror (limit to one piece per room) to reflect light and make the space feel less heavy.
Great places for mirrors include over the fireplace mantel, in the foyer and in the dining room. A statement piece can be placed over the buffet to add a touch of sparkle. In dining rooms and kitchens, ensure people don’t face their reflections.
Fresh linens and towels are another way to freshen a space. Doiron also suggests getting in the habit of making the bed and keeping things off the floor. Keeping spaces neater will make your home feel more relaxed.
In homes staged for sale, personal pictures are removed. If you’re not selling your home, remove the pictures scattered throughout the house and create a gallery wall instead. Strategically placed frames add interest and a focal point, but don’t use them in every room. “Search online to get information about the best height to hang” pictures and artwork, she says.
Again, think minimal. “It’s not necessary to display every photo. Change out photos as the kids change,” she says. You will appreciate the photos and it won’t be overwhelming.
As for the exterior of the property, keep everything neat and tidy, she says. “Remove dead plants and empty planters. Curb appeal is appreciated by all.”
Start by creating a plan. “If you have the resources, do the painting, flooring and lighting at the same time for continuity, then tackle one room at a time,” Doiron says.
If you are planning to paint, clear out the room as much as possible, she says. Go through everything in the room and decide what you’re going to keep and get rid of the rest. Once the space is decluttered, you can look at redecorating with the pieces that are left,” she says, “or buy a few new accent pieces to add interest, light and a focal point to the space.”