We’ve all heard about staging a home to prepare it for a faster and higher priced sale by transforming the home into a more welcoming, attractive and visually appealing offering that anyone might want. Traditionally you would either declutter your home and rearrange your furniture to the best of your ability, or you would hire a professional staging company to sort everything out and truck in other furniture, art, lights, carpets and greenery to make your home more photogenic. There’s lots of online information about how to go about staging a home. For example, here’s a great article from Herd: The Houlihan Lawrence Blog entitled “21 Home Staging Tips and Tricks to Sell Your Home Fast”:
But its 2019, so technology has now started to edge its way in to the home staging business with “Virtual Home Staging”. After all, why spend time and effort decluttering knick knacks, repainting walls and rearranging furniture when you can do it all digitally? The photo editing technology has gotten so good that you can start with an empty room and fill it with whatever furniture you desire. You can show how a room would look if it was repainted or remodeled. You can even make the grass greener, the sky bluer and the time of day sunset. It’s easy; all you need to get started is to take a photo and upload it so that it can be edited.
If you really want to see the state of the technology, and what can currently be done with today’s software, here are the websites for the 12 market leaders in Virtual Home Staging:
I can see how virtual staging can be a very cost effective and useful tool for realtors and home sellers – but like most technology it can be abused. Here’s a great Wall Street Journal article that highlights the disappointment some buyers are having when they finally visit the properties that have been virtually staged – only to find out that the photoshopped images don’t match the actual home - “Buyer Beware: Hollywood Special Effects Now Permeate Property Listings”:
So, if you’re looking to sell your home, you might want to look into virtual home staging as an option to help speed up your sale and increase your price. Just remember that real buyers are actually going to eventually visit your home so the difference between the online photos and the reality can’t be so far apart that the buyers think they are visiting a totally different property – so perhaps what you really need is an Interior Designer to assist you (hint, hint….).
I’ve always been an advocate of using the latest technology to help my Interior Design clients get a better idea of what their design choices are – before they have to commit to painting the room, purchasing furniture, selecting fabrics or having me fabricate custom window coverings. In fact, one of the mainstays of my design process is to prepare computer design renderings of what the room would look like in different configurations and with different styles or treatments using the “Dream Draper” software. You can read all about how I go about this on my website’s “Design Renderings” page here.
I’ve also integrated the Color Muse device that helps determine, match and select colors of any object (paint, fabric, furniture, accessories, etc.,) into my business. Here’s the blog from 23 July 2017 on that.
I’ve even got some apps to allow me to take better photos on my iPhone and to edit out unwanted items in the photos before I load them into Dream Draper so that I can start with a blank canvas. Here’s the blog from 26 March 2018 on that.
But these days the technology moves so fast that now “Augmented Reality” (AR) is starting to make waves. What’s “Augmented Reality” - it’s a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of the real world, thus providing a composite view. Since smartphones and computers are becoming ever more powerful this technology is getting ready to explode – and not just for video games. Here’s a great example that I recently ran across: the Dulux Visualizer App.
“The easy to use app lets you pick a colour from anywhere, and, with augmented reality technology, allows you to see the colours live in your living space. You can save as a video or photo; which you can also share with your family and friends if you’re finding it difficult to narrow down your colour choice."
Here’s a link to their website if you want to see even more detail:
Ikea has even launched their new “Ikea Place” app:
“Available on the App Store, IKEA Place lets you virtually ‘place’ furnishings in your space. From sofas and lamps, to rugs and tables, all of the products in IKEA Place are 3D and true to scale so you can make sure it’s just the right size, design and functionality for your room."
I’m not sure where all this technology will end up – but these tools sure help with the upfront planning – and I’m sure that the emerging AR technology will make things even better. So, if you run across any great technology that you think would be useful in Interior Design drop me a note.
Yes, your closet can bring you joy! Organizing and figuring out how to stash your belongings is a common challenge to all my residential clients, so this week I want to tell you about the Elfa Closet System - which is a fantastic place to start.
Here is a photo of the Elfa System I just designed and installed this week (with the help of the closet design experts at the Container Store, the local retailer for Elfa) in a walk-in closet in a new apartment that one of my clients is moving into. Don’t you just love the look of a fresh well-designed and efficient closet? I can’t say enough good things about the Elfa system…but read on, I’ll surely try.
To back up a bit…three of my current clients are working with new-build construction, and they all have the “golden opportunity” to start fresh with a closet system like Elfa. One project is a gut renovation and expansion, one is a two-bedroom luxury apartment, and the third is a whole-home new build.
Thinking through how they wanted to use their closets was the first step in my design process with them. We then progressed to detailed planning sessions to refine their storage needs, pinpoint critical design factors like who would be using the closets and their physical height and reach, and of course measuring the closets in detail to get every last inch of space working in an efficient manner.
Because of my client’s needs I’ve recently looked at several of the closet organization options on the market, and for my apartment clients recommended the Elfa system. Now that the Elfa system has been installed in the apartment, I can happily report I am even more impressed for the following 5 reasons:
You can check out the Elfa system on-line at:
If you have a Container Store near you, I suggest you visit them to check out the displays in the store. You can get a better sense by seeing the system in person, and you can get an idea of the cost for what you need from the sample displays. And for your shoe lovers, check out these cool shoe trays…I love it! Now couldn’t your master bedroom or mudroom closet benefit from a makeover?
Please note: I am not affiliated in any way with Elfa or The Container Store, so this is NOT advertising—I am just a happy designer/consumer. This blogpost is a product review. But I can help you figure out a closet system like Elfa for your particular storage needs.
Recently I’ve delivered a number of large projects. Coincidentally I also took a photography seminar with Boston Interior Designer and professional photographer Linda Holt; a fellow interior designer who showcases her fabulous, fresh and vibrant portfolio on her website (https://www.lindaholtcreative.com/). A perfect storm of events for this week’s blog post!
First, a little bit about Linda’s iPhone class and tips, or what she calls “iPhone-ography.” Cute! Linda gave a photography seminar to the Eastern Massachusetts Window Coverings Association of America (WCAA) Chapter, a professional group I belong to that is dedicated to education and networking in the window coverings and soft furnishings field. https://www.wcaa.org/AF_MemberCommittee.asp?committeeid=8
Linda’s seminar was held at the Duralee showroom at the Boston Design Center (BDC), a lovely place to shop for sumptuous fabrics in a bright and cheerful atmosphere in the Boston Seaport area. Here’s a link to the BDC (http://bostondesign.com/showrooms), which is open to the public for browsing, but if you want to purchase something you need to be with a designer that’s registered with them. So if you are interested in seeing lots of professional interior design products in one place, call me and we can go together!
In the photo above Linda is instructing our group (with our past Chapter President Gabe Fitzgerald on her right). Linda described that there are two parts to better iPhone photography: taking better photos in the first place, and then doing post-processing with easily downloaded and free/dirt-cheap apps on your phone. Linda’s first bit of advice was to take better photos in the first place, making sure to get your vertical lines actually vertical, with helpful gridlines turned on in your iPhone camera.…and do you notice how straight my (unretouched) photo looks? We had a great time setting up our iPhone cameras properly and testing things out. Check out Linda’s advice on iPhone photography on her website…you will be able to wow your teenager with your iPhone prowess (well, at least for a minute or two).
So what have I done to practice my new photography skills? When I delivered three projects last week, I decided to shoot the “after” shots with my iPhone instead of my larger Nikon camera.
Below is a family room in Lynnfield, MA for a lovely couple who wanted a relaxing, put-together and textural family room. The only thing they started with was the griege sectional. I suggested Navy walls to give some punch to them since they have incredibly large windows. I then fabricated cornices made out of Lafayette Manh Truc woven wood material (Kaliko Smoke) http://www.lafvb.com/woven-wood-shades and put those cornices over extra wide Sheerweave roller shades from Lafayette.
The couple was glad to have some privacy instead of their initial “fishbowl” setup, and the cornices on top added some textural interest without taking over with too much pattern. I also fabricated some new pillows to punch up the sofa, and the couple found a rug they liked to round out the seating area. Finally, my client accessorized the table behind the sofa himself—well done! All in all, a nice room, and a wonderful collaborative effort with some amazing and fun clients.
Curious about what the “before” arrangement looked like? Here you go:
The second project that I delivered last week was a new window seat in the same client’s kitchen. Here I made a tufted bench seat in a Crypton (spill-friendly) fabric with a faux roman valance over Comfortex Shangri-La horizontal shade. Think that it needs some pillows? You are so right!
To try out my new photography skills and “TouchRetouch “ app I edited this photo directly on my phone using Linda’s tips. It was easy to get things straight, balance out the color, and do some magic with removing objects on the shelf with the app. Below is a straight-on shot of the bench:
The last project that I delivered last week was a set of woven wood cornices to a wonderful family in Weston, MA. My client and I searched for a cool “statement” chandelier over the round table in her eating area that is in the same space as her large gray/taupe kitchen. This “Sputnik” chandelier was just the thing to fill the space, and we decided on the cornices to visually raise the windows in the room with 9’ ceilings. Here’s the after shot, “straightened” just a bit by me on my iPhone:
I just love that floral arrangement….makes me think of ….SPRING. Just what we need this week, since there is still snow on the ground here in Massachusetts and it will be April this weekend.
Hope your week is a good one! Tomorrow I’m off to the 2018 International Window Coverings Expo (IWCE) in Tampa. I’ll be sure to take lots of photos with my iPhone and update you next week on all the new interior design products and looks!
The Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are urging parents and caregivers during October to check their window coverings for exposed or dangling cords that can pose a strangulation hazard to infants and young children, and to retrofit or replace them with today’s safer products. These organizations recommend that only cordless window coverings, or those with inaccessible cords be used in homes with young children.
For more information, here’s a link to the Consumer Product Safety Commission “Kids and Cords Don’t Mix” page:
Center Stage has many cordless options for cellular, roller, and sheer shades, wood blinds, and roman shades, including MOTORIZED control, and my vendors are offering significant sales in October and through the 4th quarter for cordless products.
You will be amazed at all the new products out there and the low prices for motorization. It’s now mainstream, just like most consumer electronics. And you can even recharge the batteries with a USB connector, which need to be done only about once a year, …how cool is that?
Call Barbara to get more info on all the promotions! Imagine the convenience of motorization and the peace of mind for your kids’ safety too.
Last week I was invited to a special open house and production facility tour at one of my favorite vendors, Comfortex, at their main plant in Watervliet, NY. I am a big fan of Comfortex for their quality, innovation, customer service, and their “made in USA” production. Plus, with their plant so close to Sudbury, they are practically local, with fast shipping times and turnaround.
The tour of the production floor was terrific! As an engineer, I just love seeing how things are made, and the Comfortex plant was a technical marvel. The thing to remember about this plant is that every item (very shade and blind) is CUSTOM MADE, with its own specifications, material, dimensions, and destination. So, it was fascinating to see how a factory (where you typically think of mass production runs turning out identical units) produces unique custom pieces in a timely manner and gets everything right and shipped out the door.
Here are some photos that show the Comfortex plant’s production line in action.
In addition to the tour, the Comfortex management personnel and their teams gave us an incredible showcase of their new products and fabrics - and their latest innovations in motorization. Below you see Nobina Preston, Senior Product Manager at Comfortex, demonstrate their new “wand” operated roller shade. It has a bit of a “Harry Potter” touch in addition to a cordless, child-safe operation. Touch the telescoping wand to the headrail, and you can control up, down, and stop. Combined with Comfortex’s ability to put any photo you like on a roller shade, I can see lots of possibilities for custom window solutions for the younger crowd! I was very impressed with the Comfortex custom photo printing capability, one that we typically see used to display company logos at coffee shops and other retail vendors. But how about shades for your child’s room with photos of your favorite vacation beach?
Although I really enjoyed seeing their new products, I was most impressed with the Comfortex production facility, their whole management, sales, and production team, and their dedication to producing a top-quality product made in the USA. Thanks, Comfortex, for inviting me (and lots of other professionals in the interior design business) to see your operations in action.
“Are you on Houzz?” This is a common question I ask my interior design clients during our first meeting. And, sometimes, they ask me the exact same question. Well, if this seems like Greek to you (what is a “Houzz” anyway, it sounds like a Dr. Seuss character!?), then hopefully this blog post will introduce you to the fabulous and free Houzz application and website which has MILLIONS of inspirational and SEARCHABLE photos (actually 14,690,857 photos the last time I checked) from which you can draw design inspiration. (Sorry for the shouting…but I LOVE Houzz…….there I go again).
First, some background. Houzz is the largest, most popular website that’s specifically designed for home interior remodeling projects. It consists of photos of interiors and products which are contributed by industry professionals (interior designers, like me, architects, and other trade professionals) who have their own pages on Houzz and post high-quality photographs of their projects. So, yes, Center Stage Interior Designs is “on Houzz” in the “Window Treatment” Professional area at:
When you go to Houzz here is my CSID page that you will see:
So what do I mean when I ask my clients, “Are you on Houzz?” I’m asking if you have already found Houzz as an on-line resource since you can register on Houzz for free and browse all the inspirational photos - even though you’re not in the design industry. You can look at sites like mine, look at the “Stories and Advice” area, post your own questions, shop, and best of all, collect all your favorite photos into “Ideabooks”. I have done this same sort of “inspiration mining” on Houzz, and in addition to photos of my own work that I’ve collected into my “Project” folders, I have also categorized interesting photos found on Houzz into a set of “Ideabooks”. Anyone can assemble photos into Ideabooks (similar to the Pinterest model) and then you can invite others to share and collaborate on your Ideabooks. Because of the way it is setup it’s a perfect platform for a client and designer to share ideas!
So, where did Houzz come from anyway? According to Wikipedia, “Houzz co-founders Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen launched the site in February 2009 as a result of their own remodeling projects. In addition to finding it difficult to communicate their vision for their home, they found it difficult to find the right professionals for their projects. What started as a side project to help with their own home remodel soon spread by word-of-mouth, and they began to receive emails from homeowners and home professionals outside the San Francisco Bay Area asking them to open more categories on Houzz and to expand to other areas. Houzz became a company in the fall of 2010.”
I first heard about Houzz in early 2011, and having lived in Silicon Valley in California until 2001, I saw why these tech guys would turn to the power of computing and the internet to squeeze every bit of decorating utility out of every square inch of the expensive real estate in northern California. It is incredible how Houzz has expanded over the years. In 2014 they “only” had about 4 million photos. Now, they have over 14 million photos and you can even buy furniture and home décor products directly from them. But let’s discuss the best part about Houzz for you: a searchable database of inspirational photos.
How to Search on Houzz:
2. For a more targeted search, I put in the following search criteria on the top search bar within the Dining area:
“Buckland Blue” “wing chair” traditional grasscloth
I’ve found that using a very particular name for a Benjamin Moore or Sherwin-Williams color (like BM Buckland Blue) will really zero in on rooms with a general color scheme that you are searching for, like teal. If you just put in “blue,” well, that will help a bit, but Houzz will still return thousands of photos. And voila, using this set of search terms here is the result below, down to 177 photos.
Look at that gorgeous color…would you be surprised if I told you my own dining room is teal (Benjamin Moore 2123-20 Caribbean Teal)? Just so soothing in a dining room, and a bit unexpected, and goes nicely with wood tones. Anyways, I digress, back to navigating Houzz…
So, how do you sign up to start poking around on Houzz?
Go to: https://www.houzz.com/ - and here's the home page that you should initially see:
There are so many features, you will just have to explore the site a bit.
Personally, I think that the real strength of Houzz is in connecting you with designers (like me) and local home improvement contractors. See the “Find Professionals” button on the bar across the top, right under the search bar. You can see samples of past projects to learn about the company’s skills and capabilities, ask questions, and read reviews from clients to find a home professional that is right for you.
If you are experienced using Houzz, you might wonder why you seem to get “outliers” in your targeted searches, inexplicably different than the style you are searching for. Well, like facebook and most other “free” websites Houzz has to have a sound business model to remain economically viable while serving the design community, and the insertion of additional “hits” is akin to advertising and the “adword” concept on Google. These “outliers” are generally paid placement ads that are on-target geographically (meaning that they will present additional local designers and home professionals to you from your area).
My 5 Tips for Using Houzz
Here are my top 5 tips to make the most of using Houzz for your home remodeling project:
I really encourage you to check out Houzz and all that it has to offer. Let me know if you have any questions……… and I look forward to connecting with you on Houzz!
Barbara Phillips, interior designer and owner of Center Stage Interior Designs, has delivered impeccable window treatments and design services to both residential and commercial clients in Massachusetts since 2001.