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Your Home, Your Design: How staging, designing and decorating bring “life” to a home

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From the smallest space to an estate-like home, design is personal. Whether you’re a do-it-yourself kind of designer or you hire one, incorporating your own personality into a space is important. It just feels better to walk around in it. Surrounding yourself with your kind of art, personal photos and sentimental items bought here and there makes one feel more at home in a home.

There are exceptions to that rule.

Home Staging

If you’re staging a home to sell, then the “personality” of your home – what makes it yours –has to be whittled down a bit. Transforming it into one that appeals to a broad group of buyers is crucial for showing, selling and commanding top dollar.

“I explain to my clients that how you live and how you stage to sell are entirely separate things,” said Elizabeth Baker of RE/MAX FullSail Realty. “You live to fit your current needs. You stage to appeal to the needs of the majority.”

According to the “2019 Profile of Home Staging,” by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Research Group, 83 percent of buyers’ agents said that home staging made it easier for a buyer to visualize a home as their own. From a seller’s perspective, 28 percent of sellers’ agents said they staged all their listings prior to putting them on the market.

“Staging matters. I had a listing that sat on the market prior to my staging – once I got my hands on it and staged it, it sold in four days,” Baker said.

Small tweaks can make a big difference. Baker said she had an upscale listing in James Island on the waterfront. “My sellers had the only red door in the neighborhood. I convinced them to paint the front door a coastal sea foam color. We got four showings within in a week and it sold. Colors matter.”

Baker has seen trends come and go in staging, but believes that cool, neutral colors work best with interiors. Her staging designs incorporate “close-to-the-ocean feelings.”

“Light, soft colors representing sea glass and coloring found around beaches are trending heavily in our market,” she said. “I don’t see the coastal theme leaving an area like Charleston. Frames, shapes and styles might change over time, but basic ocean-themed prints and elements work in this market.”

Baker advises two colors as a backdrop for staging. “Agreeable gray is extremely popular with builders and the general public,” she said. Sea Salt is another very popular color in the Lowcountry. Both are by Sherwin Williams.”

According the NAR’s report 25 percent of sellers’ agents reported that staging a home greatly decreased the amount of time a home was on the market and 22 percent reported an increase of one to five percent of the dollar value. Seventeen percent reported staging increased the dollar value of their listings between 6 and 10 percent.

“I stage an entire home,” Baker said. “Wowing buyers with a beautiful living and dining room isn’t enough. I don’t want them to be disappointed with the rest of the home. Staging is critical because it makes buyers feels welcome, warm and they can easily view it as a home, not just a property.”

Trends and classics

From small apartments to larger homes, the challenge of making a space your own is a large part of the joy of living in it.

The trends that come and go are normally ones that are “hot” because color and design in homes follows fashion. Boho chic, modern, bright colors or subdued ones – if they’re showing up on the runway, they are typically showing up in home design trends.

Upcycling old items and blending them with new ones is a design tool that never goes out of style. Sustainable materials are big in both building and design – a timeless “trend” that is here to stay. Curbed Magazine reported three years ago that people and designers are “obsessed with mid-century design.” Though many argue about just what that period comprises – some think 1930s to 1960s, while others believe it’s limited to the mid-40s and 50s – the design is clean lines with nature playing a large part of day-to-day living. Bringing the outdoors in through thoughtful design – large windows and doors, skylights and other elements remind us our living spaces are part of the overall larger living space – the world that we’re in.

Mid-century design is still in “vogue,” but overdoing it is not. Biophilia, a term first introduced by psychologist Eric Fromm meaning “love of life or living systems” is making its way into design. Designers are recognizing this concept when choosing organic materials – wood floors, stone, and plants – our connection to them isn’t a trend, but a lifestyle. Natural, organic, flowing, open – terms that are we often hear now – are here to stay. Feeling “connected” to nature is purported to reduce stress.

“Ultimately, it’s about how your home can contribute to your well-being,” said Jill Howard of Jill Howard Design Studio.

Howard studied at the New York School of Interior Design and worked with some of New York’s top designers. She opened her studio in 2012 at 54 Chapel Street and her portfolio includes clients from New York to New England, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Her “casual modernism” design style is a prime example of living in a home or space that exemplifies choosing pieces, colors and elements purposefully and wisely. Reflecting personal style, having fun with design and loving the space you’re in is good design. So are clutter-free environments that embody simplicity and clean lines, and make one feel good to be in.

“No clutter – most people want to simplify their lives, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a minimalist by any means. It does translate to owning fewer, better things. Getting rid of stuff is often the first step to creating a home that works for you and feeds your soul,” Howard said about how she helps clients define their homes or spaces.

The best-seller, “The life changing magic of tidying up,” is a prime example of how we gravitate to living within a space that feels clean, simple and personal. Good design is much like how we wish to live our lives – letting go of what doesn’t “spark joy,” and embracing what does.

“That means well curated and livable,” Howard said. “Not too precious. I love a light-filled room, with colorful textiles, natural elements, earthy textures and a mix of old and new, high and low.”

That mixture is the cornerstone of classic design. What changes are the hues that one mixes with those elements. Howard dissuades clients from overdoing “trendy” colors.

“People are asking for more color and I’ve found Charlestonians are not afraid of bold color,” Howard said. “If I know a specific hue is trendy, I’ll use it sparingly. Otherwise a room will look outdated in a few short years.”

Bold colors are most definitely making a comeback, especially with art and accessories. Designers love white and neutral walls because they serve as a beautiful palette against those bold, statement colors. Howard said that one of her clients has opted for a coral dining room. Coral is a modern yet classic design choice, especially in seaside homes.

“Charleston embraces color, which I love,” she said. “The biggest surprise for me has been the number of clients requesting modern interiors. I’ve designed more modern homes in Charleston than I did in New York. I didn’t see that coming.”

Hiring a designer doesn’t have the break the bank. Howard advises clients who may be on a modest budget to invest wisely. “Invest in a good classic sofa or chair. A well-made rug can last generations. Use your budget to buy fewer, better things. Build a strong foundation first – you can always layer over time.”

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Mixing it up

“All of our clients have such uniquely different tastes,” said Allison Casper, Director of Design at JacksonBuilt Custom Homes. “One common thread I see amongst all our clients is the need for large and open porch doors. Anything to help showcase a view, bring in natural light and extend a living space to the outdoors.”

Richard Jackson, President and Owner of the company also noted that unique and personalized spaces are a frequent request as well.

“Open floor plans continue to be popular but parlors and dens are coming back to allow for that space of the main living room for wine rooms, cigar room or movie room,” he said. “Unique spaces create that wow factor – floating stairs, custom gates and other special design features are what our clients request.”

Casper said clients continue to want walls of glass, slider doors or multiple glass French doors and accordion doors. With the Charleston area’s temperate climate and beautiful land and seascapes, it’s no surprise these design features are timeless.

What is changing somewhat is the more traditional Charleston interior design. Though that classic Charleston style continues to be somewhat prevalent, it is mixed with modern – now more than ever before.

“Overall, we’re seeing more modern elements being used in our homes with simpler trim, mixed metals, soft color palettes of white, grey and taupe mixed with a small amount of natural wood,” Casper said. “Though we’re seeing less cool grey tones and more of warmer, natural products. Blending white oak with brick or concrete, using mixed metals in plumbing and lighting, and adding more texture to walls and ceilings with unique trim applications or wall coverings.”

Wallpaper has definitely made a comeback in 2019. From florals to geometric shapes to vintage-style prints to bold and beautiful, its resurgence from the 70s, 80s and 90s brings about a more modern twist. Permanent or removable, it’s a trend to try and many are doing so. According to Jackson, shiplap is beginning to sail away.

“I think we are finally seeing that trend fade,” he said. “Unique and different wall treatments are taking its place.”

Casper agreed though she said that it’s not the same old shiplap as it once was. “The term [shiplap] has taken on a whole new meaning. We alternate board sizes, apply batten strips to variegate the pattern, run paneling vertically and try to think outside the box. Trim is a lot of fun.”

What about the trends in store for this the rest of this year and into 2020?

“The number of homes moving from ‘coastal contemporary’ to truly contemporary is increasing,” said Jackson. “We’ll continue to see the surge for outdoor living spaces.”

Casper noted that design incorporates much more than just beautiful design – functionality is key as well.

“We put a lot of focus on the main living areas,” she said. “With design at the forefront we push to make each space unique and functional for everyday living. 2020 will bring in more engineered and man-made products that have taken the tile and countertop world by storm. I’m seeing this type of product transcend into other materials in the home but each looking more authentic and natural. It’s a relief as a designer knowing each client is getting an extremely durable, maintainable product that’s attractive.”

Simple. Uncluttered. Sustainable. Sounds like the perfect design to live one's best life.


2019 Design Trends – what’s in and what’s out

IN                                                                                         OUT

Sustainable materials                                                   Eclectic clutter

Biophilia (blending life with nature/natural elements)   Gender-specific rooms                                                         

Maximalist art (bright colors, graphic patterns)             Minimalist art

Edgy, rich jewel tones                                                Cool grays

Jute, rice paper, clay                                       Shibori, mud cloth and indigo

Four-poster beds                                                         Fiber art

Boho vibe with modern – vintage & modern mix     Rooms without color or                                                                                          texture

Light wood floors                                                       Cherry cabinets

90 percent white-walls, 10 percent color,accessories     Mid-century modern                                                                                     everything

Source: Elle Décor, 2019 Designs Trends

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