When I ‘did up’ my first flat in 1999, I never imagined it would become an obsession. Every one of our homes has had a full makeover, and I came to realise that the simple act of staging can be more powerful (and certainly better value for money) than paying builders to extend and remodel.

 

I’m not an interior designer, but I do appreciate good design, and my greatest joy is being surrounded by beautiful things. When I retrained as a shoe designer in the early 90s, we were living in a rented flat and dreamed of the day we could have our own place. Our first purchase in Highbury and Islington received a budget makeover, but still wowed buyers enough to double its value in three years.

 

Our next place – a house in Muswell Hill, was tired and drab, so we set about beautifying it with colour, unusual antiques and lots of styling. The house ended up being featured in The Times Bricks & Mortar, and later Grazia magazine. The pattern was set, and I needed a new project to sink my teeth into.

 

That came in the form of a Cotswolds cottage near the pretty Gloucestershire town of Nailsworth. At the time I was into crafts in a big way, so the kitchen was always full of homemade cakes, displayed on vintage glass stands, homebaked sourdough bread wrapped in greaseproof paper and tied with red string, and pretty embroidery samplers made by my little boys. With the help of Farrow & Ball and a great local joiner, we again transformed the once house into a place worthy of photoshoots.

 

That came in handy when we wanted to move back to London, as the house sold within two weeks, despite the local market struggling at the time. I learned that staging may not always get you the price you want, but boy does it fast-track the process. I have never marketed a property that I’ve staged without it going under offer almost immediately.

 

That fact was reinforced last year when we put our Victorian terrace up for sale in the midst of Brexit uncertainty and at a time when London prices were in freefall This time we pushed the boat out and enlisted the help of an interior designer friend who, with a small budget and some stock pieces, turned our home into a place of aspirational beauty in a single afternoon. I admit we were almost tempted to stay when we saw how lovely our little house could look, but receiving an offer at asking price within three days soon changed our minds.

 

We’d been careful to price at ‘the realistic end of optimistic’, but I still didn’t expect to achieve a record price for the street, and £100k more than we’d thought possible.

 

Now that I’m a developer, with 30 units currently under construction, I’m determined not to churn out ‘vanilla’ homes. Our CGIs have already brought the first project to life, with carefully curated furniture and accessories creating the aspirational lifestyles buyers love. Homes are emotional purchases first and foremost, and forward-thinking developers understand that the cost of staging a property is invariably outweighed by the faster sales and higher prices. For me it’s a no brainer.

 

The following three pictures are of our project in Launceston, Cornwall. CGI images of the new-build houses. The site is currently a muddy field. Credit: Ademchic

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The following images are of our Twickenham house that we sold last year. The last two pictures show the living room post staging, and then once the removal men had taken everything out. Credit: Ademchic

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Claire Norwood is a Judge for the Home Staging Awards – More info and tickets here.

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