"We bake cookies."
"The music is a big, big deal."
"Keep a repairman on call."
It's the little things — like cookies — and the big things that matter when readying a home for show, be it for potential buyers or for showcase attendees, like for the 2016 Bellaire Fall New Homes Showcase, taking place Oct. 15-16 and Oct. 22-23. Between choosing the furniture and setting the thermostat, the elements that make a house inviting and appealing are nuanced, and home-owners new to the real-estate world can be unsure of how to proceed successfully.
Fear not: Scott Frankel and his team, Frankel Building Group, have some good ideas about staging a home. Besides creating truly remarkable wine cellars and getting props for their LEED-certified homes, the group has won the title of Houston's Best Custom Builder from the GHBA four times in the last six years.
We sat down with Frankel at 4931 Willow, a new home designed and staged by the Frankel Building Group, and got him to reveal some sweet home-staging secrets.
Here's what he says works — and what doesn't.
The General Idea: "Everything Should Look Subtly Nice." Think of the Restoration Hardware esthetic, Frankel says. Contemporary with rustic finishes. "Subtle and sophisticated."
Deep Clean: "Have a commercial cleaning company come in and steam clean, and vacuum everything," Frankel says. This removes cough-or-sneeze-producing allergens, especially if you have pets.
Avoid this Mistake: Don't get cheap with the furniture. "It needs to be awesome, but nothing should stand out. Not every piece of furniture is good. Just because you own a sofa does not mean it should go in this house," Frankel says. To keep costs down, furniture can be rented. "Furniture has a short half-life, though," says Frankel, so keep a repairman on call to come in for quick fixes.
Pets: And if you have a furry friend as a roommate? "Take care of that — that means get rid of the dog," Frankel jokes. Not really, but anything dog-related should be put neatly away or 86'ed. "It's the last thing you should have prevalent in your house. You can have a leash out, but most people want to buy a house because they also have a dog, so you don't want it to look like your dog dominated the house."
If You Do Just One Thing: "Budget for accessories," says Frankel. "Not gaudy, but you need to have accessories and pretty things like mirrors. Things that make the house look lived in and look sophisticated."
On Mirrors: They don't just make the room look bigger. "Mirrors, they're a big, kind-of-couture, sexy item people like to see," Frankel says. Interior designer Megan Tiffin curates touches like this in Frankel Building Group homes for powder rooms and master bathrooms, but she keeps it simple. "Flat mirrors with none of the big edges, like in the powder bathroom and master bath. We try to put some cool stuff in, but it's not super-ornate. Most of the things are clean and normal."
Don't Bother: Accent walls, people, are not a thing anymore. They're over, at least if you're staging a house for the viewing public. "A lot of people will really try to make something pop right at you right in the entry. I think that move can throw people off. I think that's the opposite of subtle. You want to leave the homeowner feeling like they're going to leave their mark on the house," Frankel says.
Ambient Beats: Honestly, the music is a big, big deal," Frankel says. "The easiest thing to do is pick a great Spotify station and run with it. You want to play things that are lively and poppy."
Keep it Cool: 67 degrees, to be exact. "With people walking in and out, you're introducing a lot of outside air," Frankel says, so he sets the thermostat low, and he sets it low early. The thermostat at 4931 Willow controls the humidity in the house as well. "You don't want it to feel musty."
Finishing Touches: "It'll smell nice, we bake cookies so the kids like coming by, all the lights will be on in the house, and we make coffee," Frankel says.
If you'd like to see this kind of interior design prowess in action, you can visit the homes in the Fall New House Showcase during the upcoming weekends. Ticket proceeds will benefit Evelyn's Park Conservancy, for the betterment of the five-acre public park on the site of the historic Teas Nursery.