The Perils of Staging a House

stag·ing  \ ˈstā-jiŋ \


The act of sweating your ass off to fill an empty house with furniture and decor in order to help sell the property faster by allowing potential buyers to envision what their future home may one day resemble.

You know how when they shoot commercials for restaurants they slap a little glaze on the food, maybe even a little paint just to make sure that steak you think you want turns into that steak you NEED once you see it on screen? That’s basically what staging is but for houses. A realty company has a listing they want off the market quickly so they call us to inject a little beauty into those stale walls. Sometimes we’re staging a one bedroom condo, other times we’re staging a 40,000 square-foot mansion, but they all have to be treated with the same respect, care, and (let’s be honest we’re flipping houses here) urgency.

We’ve been staging for quite a while now but in the past few years, that side of the business has really blossomed. Something should be said for having the opportunity to consistently be experimenting with new design ideas different styles of homes, but something should also be at least mentioned about how much of a pain in the ass it is to haul an entire bedroom set up three flights upstairs after sitting in L.A. traffic for two hours with no air conditioning. It’s a fun job but it’s still a job.

Recently, we had a job in a two-story condo in Marina Del Rey. Nothing too spectacular, a standard three bedroom, two bath and a small patio, but it was bare. Occasionally when we attack these jobs the previous tenants might still be living there, so we only have the living room to set up or we have their furniture to use. This was not the case here, so we needed to furnish the whole home. I’m talking sofas, loveseats, shelving, beds, deck chairs, lamps, paintings, plants, chairs, dining tables, side tables, end tables, all kinds of tables.

By hour 14 we had the place looking like a full-fledged home and by hour 40 it was off the market. A testament to a job well done, but also meant we needed to have the place completely cleared out that afternoon.

When you stage a house you can’t just wait around for the place to sell. Life and work need to proceed as usual. So when a house goes off the market we pull as much stuff out as possible whenever we find time during the day.

Mkayel, a longtime friend, and frontrunner for “most handsome designer in Los Angeles County” who has worked for me for years decided to swing by the condo later that day and take out what he could. He backed his pickup up to the door, waltzed on inside and started hauling stuff out of there in a frenzy. What he didn’t take into account was the silent alarm.

The truck was filled and stacked by the time Mkayel had begun hauling a white sofa outside on his own. He had successfully put one side in the back and was doing all he could to keep the opposite side elevated and off of the dirt below when a fleet of LAPD squad cars complete with air support had Mkayel surrounded.

You have to understand that from the perspective of the police it really did look as though Mkayel had been caught in the middle of smash and grab job, so when they asked him to put his hands in the air they expected him to atone. But you also have to understand that from Mkayel’s perspective, these people were standing between clocking out at 6 or clocking out at 8, and there was no chance he was about to let a pristine white sofa fall to the ground just to prove he wasn’t a threat. He assured them he was the interior designer and demanded they call the realty company while he continued to tie the furniture down in the truck, and once his identity was confirmed a few of the officers even helped him tighten the knots.

This is merely one of a hundred stories I could tell about the ups and downs of the decorating world and I’ve included some of my favorite images from our staging jobs in this post to prove all the bullshit is worth it in the end.

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