Editorial Note:  The Alicia Barrington/Houston Home Staging Group is currently busy writing their third book!   “Naked People Don’t Sell Houses – The Art Of, and In, Home Staging!” is slated for publication in the fall of 2014!

‘GO AWAY’

‘MAKE LIKE A TREE, AND LEAVE!’

‘NICE UNDERWEAR..’

Dearest Reader,

These are actual sentiments that I have found printed on doormats at the front door of my listings.  Usually, I find these doormats placed in front of homes that have been foreclosed upon – gee, I wonder why it didn’t sell?

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Whatever happened to the good, old fashioned Welcome mat?

Last year, Houston Home Staging was asked to do a three dimensional, artistic installation at one of Houston’s most prestigious art galleries. Entitled ‘Taking it to the mat…”; this installation provide Archway Gallery’s guests with an assortment of real life door mats. These door mats are an extreme representation of how an amateur home stager can insult the potential buyers of their listing. Many of us would think:

“Isn’t this a funny doormat, isn’t this funny doormat a clever gimmick that will surely make the buyers remember our house?”

No doubt they’ll remember the listing. They’ll remember the doormat. That ‘cute-little-gimmick’ will be remembered throughout the tour of the house, and not be forgotten. Instead of remembering your listing because of its wonderful amenities, your buyer’s will name your house by what they remember.

Buyer’s like to name the properties that they visit. Some of the more common names:
• The house with the red door.
• The house that smelled like cats
• The house with the red door, and even the door smelled like cats…….

Well, clearly we wouldn’t want your potential buyers to remember your house because of its offensive doormats. But what if your tasteful decorations are sending out a similarly subliminal negative message?

Let’s imagine that we’ve entered the master bedroom of a home that we just might buy. This room boasts a rather bodacious, boudoir portrait of the lady-of-the-house. Contemporary boudoir portraits will most likely not be lining museum walls any time soon. It’s not that it’s not art, nor artistic. It’s just that such artwork is created for a specific audience, and Peter Paul Rubens really has covered the category of booby babes sufficiently. Anyway I can assure you that the audience for boudoir portraits is not Realtors, and their clients (even if it is a Rubens)! What if the clients are from the clergy? Your beautiful, bodacious, boudoir portrait will most likely generate uncomfortable feelings, blushings, and thoughts about the various recreations that have been enjoyed in this master suite (slash) passion pit!
As Mel Brooks stated in History of the World Part One, ‘Everybody does it”. You know we’re in trouble if I’m quoting Mel Brooks, but it’s difficult enough to keep a man’s attention on the stainless steel, and travertine. Give a guy an ounce of breast, and you’ve lost his attention for the next fifteen minutes.

An insulted buyer or distracted buyer will ultimately cost the seller thousands of dollars. Home Staging, and the artwork utilized in home staging, must be attention directing, not attention getting. So let’s take a quick peek at how and why, naked people don’t sell houses!

Many Realtors will represent themselves as seller’s agents. ‘Selling’, is, for me, a verb. It is an action. It generally involves someone, communicating to someone else, the price, the terms and condition of the item being sold.. Someone who sells something, actively communicates the virtues of the product, thereby substantiating the value, and price of the product.

With 20% of the Realtors selling 80% of the listings, we must assume that 80% of the Realtors don’t sell, but LIST their client’s properties. Those 80% depend on the property to speak for itself. Sellers also foolishly believe, that their home speaks, for itself. Yes, it does. We can see that greeting your guests with an offensive doormat is clearly not the best way to greet your guests. Are dirty dishes in the sink any better? Does misplaced furniture send a subliminal message to your potential buyers? Are boudoir portraits telling us to come hither, or suggesting that we need to wash our hands after leaving this listing?

Home Staging is three dimensional art form, that then gets translated into a two dimensional media (the photograph for MLS/har.com). No longer are roosters, canister sets, and homey tea towels utilized in the staging of our client’s properties. The camera doesn’t like those things. While once considered the hallmark of a good stager, the cookbook-on-a-stand is as anachronistic as Peter Max, or LeRoy Neiman. While Messrs Max and Neiman are certainly icons in their genre, and Irma Raumbaeur’s Joy of Cooking is a must-have for any kitchen, we need our staging accessories to be attention directing and not attention getting.
So, in the execution of our stagings, we need to apply a certain artistic restraint. It’s not what we bring in, it’s what we leave out that makes us true decorative arts professionals.
We will most likely relegate any attention getting artwork to areas of the listing that we find to be dull, dreary, or in need of excitement. Great artwork in the right place, can send a listing over-the-top. Bad artwork in the right place – will be as memorable as a vulgar doormat!
Many times, I’m invited to consult in homes that have some formidable artwork. The owners of fine art (or what they think is fine art) will present their overly-niched-abode, bought-it-on-a-cruise-ship-artwork with the exclamation of how little they paid for it, or sometimes how much they paid for it, and don’t I know that it’s by some previously-unheard-of, but, up-and-coming artist that they feel I should know about.
I find it interesting that no mention is ever made of how beautiful their artwork is,
or what the artwork represents to the owner,
or the interpretation of the artwork in the owner’s opinion.
I suppose that I strike such an erudite stance that they presume that I know all there is to know about art. Well, I recall a certain gallery event where, after a couple (or five) glasses of wine I began introducing myself and my partner as the Dilletante twins – Marjory and Bertha Dilletante. Frankly, I’m one of those people who doesn’t know art, but I know what I like.

In my defense I do know a Monet from a Manet, and actually know who came first…..* (more on that later).

In my career as a home stager, I am invited to prepare a diverse portfolio of Houston homes. I was once met at the front door of a listing, by a lovely, genteel, grandmotherly type. The living room filled with Chintz. The dining room was filled with Chintz. Chintz here, chintz there, broken only by a coordinating – but not matching- plaid or geometric fabric pattern that adorned the many, many, many, frilled and tasseled toss pillows. The tour of the house included a visit through the chintz filled master bedroom. This room boasted the requisite white, fluffy, yappy dog, whose doggie bed rivaled the bedrooms at Versailles. There were many poppy flowers on the wallpaper, (and actually the yappy dog had left a few PUPPY flowers on the carpet) The bedding, and upholstered goods boasted so many flowers that that I began to feel like Dorothy as she crossed the field to gain entry to the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz.

The client recognized that her homage to Lady Bird Johnson’s wild flower program might not grab the attentions of full-price home buyers. She agreed that some beige would be a welcome relief! Feeling that I had won that battle, but suspecting that I may have lost the war I marched onward, and into the master bath room. Greeting me in the every-wall-was-mirrored bathroom was a three foot tall statue of a rather voluptuous woman. The mirrors multiplied this Sapphic beauty into a three hundred sixty degree panorama that continued on; for an infinity, of reflections.
The statue was a representation of a woman on her knees.
Well, actually, a naked woman on her knees.
Well, actually, a naked woman on her knees enjoying a moment of ‘pleasure’.

As you can imagine, I’ve not had much experience with naked women (writes Tom Scanlon). While it’s nearly impossible to make me blush, I fumbled, and fum-fahed to find a way of telling the client that the artwork we needed, needed to have more to do with Grandma Moses, and less to do with a Hugh Hefner centerfold. I am rarely speechless –I know a short story, but can’t tell one. Lacking the proper verbage I quickly blurted out the first thing that came to mind, that famous line from When Harry Met Sally:
I’ll have, what she’s having!
Naked women can be surprising, but naked men are most definitely startling! I really don’t care if you are Nelson Rockefeller. Yes, your Pre-Columbian art collection is stunning, but it has more Wang, than a Chinese phone book!

I’m sure that Mrs. Rockefeller demanded that the collection of Latin American Art be removed from her formal living room, to a place called San Antonio where she was unlikely to be annoyed by those fellas and their ‘stuff’!

I’m sure that more than one of the Rockefeller children, nieces, or nephews, nearly poked an eye out, while playing with, or near those fertility gods! So, you see, not only are male nudes inappropriately attention getting – they can be a health hazard as well!

It’s bad enough when the buyer’s agent has to explain to her broker that the client tripped on tatty carpet. Imagine how difficult it is to explain that, the client’s kid lost a tooth on a protruding phallus!
Many times, in an attempt to resuscitate a failing relationship, or marriage, couples will either:
• Get a new dog
• Have more children
• Buy a new house

Let’s assume that our formerly happy couple has decided to purchase a new home. Off they go on their weekend house hunts. Open house here, sample home there… At some point, they spot a for sale sign, and call a Realtor to arrange a viewing of the property. Everything is going well, until we come upon some naked people artwork. As everyone knows, men think of sex……. Well, they say every eight seconds, but we all know that men think of sex all the time.
It’s common knowledge that if it smiled at them most men would hump an orange! Men, also, simply, can not, ignore naked people. Doesn’t matter the gender of the artwork, or our sexual preferences, we look! Most men have figured out ways to sneak a peek at a forbidden naked image. We’ll do the bank shot: Pretending to comb our hair in a mirror or other reflective surface, we then take or have an eyeful of whatever nakedness is appearing on the opposite wall.

If we get away with our voyeurism we’ll be in quick agreement with our partner or spouse at how inappropriate the naked artwork is, or was. But deep inside everyone knows we love it. If we get caught looking – we’ll swear on our mother’s grave that we hardly noticed that buxom beauty that was bouncing off the bedroom walls. We’ll then quickly try to change the subject by remembering some other attribute of the property, such as, ‘Did you notice all of the space that you’ll have in the closet for your shoes and handbags………..honey?’

So if men always notice naked people, what do women notice. Women are really good at noticing men, who are busy noticing naked people. There’s really not a lot of porn created for women, because women have much more self-control then men, and frankly, most women would rather spend a man’s porn budget on a nice pair of shoes, or some chocolate, or the children’s education, or even world peace…….. yeah, silly stuff indeed!

We really don’t want your potential buyers to leave your house, get in their car, and instead of commenting about the granite and hardwood floors, the comments start:
“I saw you looking at that picture……! I thought I told you to fire that secretary…… what do you mean it didn’t mean anything…if she didn’t mean anything to you, then why didn’t you fire her….. yada, yada!

……….goodbye $100,000 kitchen, toot-a-loo $75,000 pool, arrivederci travertine, syonara stainless steel, hello divorce attorney! And for Realtors both buyer and sellers agents, you can kiss that commission goodbye!
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I could be wrong, but I suspect that Robert Mapplethorpe was not a Realtor. Neither was Picasso, and frankly of the three r’s, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Renoir, none of them were licensed by any Real Estate Commission to sell, or stage properties.

The bottom line (so-to-speak) is that, Naked people just, don’t, sell, houses…

And that, gentle reader, is but an example of the treats we have in store for you this year!

Warmest regards:

Alicia Barrington & Tom Scanlon

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