Tiara Gunstone and Rachel Robichaud have a tradition: The founders of Crush home staging and design in Portland evaluate every project before they say they’re finished. They won’t stop styling furniture, highlighting architectural features or using design tricks to make a home for sale inviting until they can jointly say: “We totally crushed it!”
The design duo’s job: To elevate the appearance of a home with furniture, artwork, lighting and decor.
“Our style is approachable, modern-traditional and eclectic,” says Gunstone, an interior designer who worked at Atelier Ace, the creative agency behind Ace Hotels. “We are inspired by how something as simple as staging can totally transform a space while creating an emotional reaction from a future homeowner. This is what inspires us to keep ‘crushing it’ every day.”
Real estate experts agree that it’s worth the initial investment to decorate and declutter a home. On average, staged homes sell 88% faster and for 20% more than non-staged homes, according to Realtor.com.
Gunstone and Robichaud charge $150 for an in-person walkthrough of an occupied home and to provide a written report on suggestions to prepare it for potential buyers. They don’t stage occupied homes. There is no fee for them to consult on a vacant home in which they would prepare an estimate for staging it.
The two design and photo savvy professionals started Crush in 2017 and continue to be hands on. They laughingly recall how they used to haul couches in the back of pickup trucks and an old converted ambulance.
Gunstone is also a multimedia artist who likes to get her hands messy and Robichaud understands the value of client care after an earlier career in social work and merchandising. She owned Bridge City Mercantile, a curated gift shop on Portland’s Southeast Division Street.
Here are Tiara Gunstone and Rachel Robichaud’s tips to make rooms look more inviting for home shoppers:
We can’t stress enough the power of a fresh coat of paint. We always recommend painting walls a light neutral color when possible.
Our go-to off-white is Benjamin Moore White Dove, which has a slight warmth to it. But before you commit to a paint color, compare it against your existing trim color and wood tones.
Although some homeowners are apprehensive to paint everything white and light as it may sound boring or “cold,” this allows home buyers to see the space as a blank canvas for their ideas.
White not only neutralizes the space but updates the home while making rooms feel lighter and brighter.
We have found that reds, oranges, browns and yellows deter home buyers because these colors are hard to see past and they don’t photograph well.
Many homes suffer from a lack of good light. Painting is an affordable way to update your home quickly.
More homes than not seem to have that one dated dining room light fixture you’d find in your grandma’s home in 1989. We recommend switching out distracting fixtures in the main spaces.
When we do home consultations, we will make recommendations for easy swap outs that are affordable and ship quickly. When switching out light fixtures, it’s important to keep in mind the era of the home while also selecting something that will make it feel updated.
After each home we stage, we usually say, “Yeah, I’d live here.” Our favorite houses to stage are not the modern million-dollar mansions but the rough-around-the-edges dwellings that need some TLC.
Staging creates a visual of how the home can be setup and feel.
We always keep in mind the era of the home but also want to create a very approachable aesthetic that appeals to a variety of buyers. We keep our furniture fairly neutral then add pops of color and warmth through artwork, decor, soft goods and plants.
Staging will complement the architectural features of the home and can also distract from the negative ones.
It’s all about that first impression. The most important rooms to stage are the ones you can see the moment you walk in the door.
If you are going to stage, we recommend concentrating on the living room, dining room, kitchen and bathrooms and ideally the primary bedroom.
Due to the pandemic and limited real estate open houses, many buyers are looking more online. A photo of a home that is nicely staged will make a lasting impression on potential buyers compared to an empty space. We like to call it “magic” after nearly every home we stage has received multiple offers.
If staging isn’t an option with owner-occupied homes, we offer a home consultation walkthrough and write-up on preparing the house for sale.
Decluttering is number one. Personal photos, toys and overall clutter distract buyers from looking at the home itself.
Rearranging spaces to feel more inviting also is key. Adding plants or a fresh white bedspread make an impact in photos and home tours. This is also where painting and lighting recommendations help transform the home.
Real estate photos are more important than ever. Most buyers are looking online first because of pandemic limitations in addition to convenience.
Research shows that a buyer is more likely to want to see a home in person when there are good photos and staging compared to dark, blurry photos of empty or overly cluttered, unappealing spaces.
One of our favorite photographers in the industry is Spin Photography. Chuck Collier Schmidt’s images, which you see in this story, capture the home and its potential. It’s worth investing in good photos and some owners keep them as a reminder of where they once called home.
— As told to Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072
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