Cindy Lin, Founder, Staged4more

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Design Process, Remodeling and Artwork

Design Process, Remodeling and Artwork


If this is the first episode that you are listening to, this show is all about learning how to create a beautiful home, whether it is for selling or for living. On today’s episode, I’m going to talk about the design process of pulling a home together and talking about artwork, which is something I think a lot of homeowners get stuck on. They are not sure what to put on their walls. So I’m going to talk about that today, and give you a few ideas on what to do.

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You are listening to the Home Staging Show podcast, and this is Season 2, Episode 6! This is your host, Cindy Lin.

If this is the first episode that you are listening to, this show is all about learning how to create a beautiful home, whether it is for selling or for living. On today’s episode, I’m going to talk about the design process of pulling a home together and talking about artwork, which is something I think a lot of homeowners get stuck on. They are not sure what to put on their walls. So I’m going to talk about that today, and give you a few ideas on what to do.

Hey guys, welcome back! It’s another episode of my solo show. I’ve been trying to do more interviews, if you have a specific topic that you want to learn more about, or you have any ideas for guests, please leave a comment in the show notes, and I’ll look for some awesome guests.

It’s been a surprisingly busy season, normally this time of the year, things are winding down, but I am still seeing a lot of activities on the market. As many of you know, my staging company Staged4more is turning 10 in a few months, so definitely there are a bit of reflecting on the business and seeing how the directions will go for the future. We are definitely changing a bit of directions next year, and one of the major changes we started with is to give EcoJoe a little bit more love and independence from the staging company. For those of you who are not familiar with EcoJoe. In real estate, there is this superstition to bury a Saint Joseph statue for good luck in selling your home. You would bury a statue of Saint Joseph and pray to him for good luck in selling your house. We had designed and manufactured an eco-friendly version named EcoJoe, who is made with 100% clay. He is all natural and won’t harm the earth. You can find out more about him on our website at

I literally just finished redoing the EcoJoe website yesterday. It is still a work in progress, where I’m working on a private area just for the wholesalers, but it is coming along nicely. We are also planning to add more to the EcoJoe shop, to make it a more robust resource and webshop so we can provide helpful tips, products and courses to help people sell. That’s really the overarching idea behind everything that we do. As you know, I feel very strongly about the benefits of home staging and it’s become a mission to do more education on that.

So on today’s show, I want to talk about styling and decorating and pulling your house together. I was listening to this podcast, Elise Gets Crafty, where she interviews creatives about their work. On this particular episode, she was interviewing the husband and wife team bloggers behind Young House Love. They were on the show to discuss and promote their new book Lovable, Livable Home. If you are not familiar with Young House Love, it is a blog where a couple documented their process and how they remodeled their homes. They used to blog everyday and they DIYed a lot and documented pretty much everything. The blog then got turned into their first book, now this book that they are talking about on the show is their second book.

This particular show was more about how they wrote the book and their approach but I got pretty inspired listening to it, because I love their thought process and thought their philosophy behind the book was a very approachable way to design your home. It also just so happened that I was at a family event this week and I was surrounded by family members asking me design questions, specifically about empty walls, which is also something I see a lot of first time home owners and sellers struggle with. So I thought it would be a perfect time to talk about this. I also saw quite a few remodeled projects this week, so I want to chat about remodeling for a little bit, since we also discussed it with Michelle Finnamore in last week’s podcast interview. That was a great episode for both homeowners and home stagers. If you haven’t checked it out, definitely give it a listen.

So, the first thing I want to talk about is what is “perfect?” I think a lot of times, we have this idea in our head that we want our home to be perfect, our job to be perfect and our lives to be perfect. Well, I can’t really help you with the job and lives part, but I can help you with the home part. A lot of times, we don’t realize that design can be a long term game. But it doesn’t have to be painful like forcing yourself running through an entire marathon in one sitting. Design is really a process. It takes time to not only figure out what you want, it also take time to hone and grow your aesthetics. Your lifestyle will change as time change, so it is important to keep that in mind when you make design decisions. This is why I am a big fan of experimenting and playing. I think that’s probably one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned doing visuals at Anthropologie. Before building a full display, we generally draw out the concepts on paper, prototype it, like building a small scale one, and figure out how we can take this on a large scale and if it can be scaled. It is the same when it comes to design. What I really loved about what Young House Love people talked about was that they approach redoing and remodeling their homes in phases. You go from phase 1, like maybe something really small like changing the hardware, then repainting one cabinet, to changing out the entire kitchen cabinet, the higher level stuff. I like this idea a lot because this is a great way to make something that seem very daunting way more approachable. While you are walking yourself through the different phases, your skills and abilities will also improve and grow. Then the harder projects will seem less daunting to you then trying to tackle it head-on in the beginning. Think about it like playing a video game. Like Super Mario, the only video game I know how to play. You have to follow the levels and work your way up to save the princess.

You also don’t have to make things perfect on the first day, but you can make it livable on day one. It’s definitely a process where you move from phase 1 to phase 2 to 3 and so on. Do things in steps like starting from changing hardware and then build upon that and play with different solutions. And I’d say definitely try before you fully commit. Like painting, I always recommend painting one corner first to test the colors then fully commit if that’s what you want. It’s the same thing about testing trends. There are a lot of cool DIY stuff out there, like you can paint your walls in an ombre. It may look awesome on Pinterest, but then you may end up hating living with it. So you never know until you do it. And through this process, it will also help you define what is perfect for you.

This same idea can also be applied to staging your home. A lot of time I see people get stuck because they feel overwhelmed. If you approach things in phases, it will help you digest it and break the tasks down.

The second is your purposes. This sounds so like one of those new age books but what I meant is that what is this room for, how are you going to use it and how does this fit into your overall lifestyle. One of the things that really struck me about the interview is that the authors/bloggers from Young House Love really talked about laying out their book by purposes and different audiences. And I think that’s really important for you when it comes to your home design or your home staging process. Obviously for staging, it is different than you living there because staging is all about the buyers. You are selling a lifestyle to them and you want to make sure that your staging will highlight the lifestyle that you want to sell. For living, it is different. It is about you.

I want to chat about remodeling here really quick, since I was asked to do estimates for a few staging projects this week and I have basically seen a wide range of spectrum this week. I think it is great that you are remodeling your home, but if you know you will be selling the home down the line, you really have to think about the return on investment. One of the most painful mistakes I’ve seen homeowners make is that they over-remodel or select finishes that are expensive but are so disconnected with each other, you are not getting a great overall effect. When you remodel based on a very specific taste, the more specific that is, the harder it is to sell. I saw a house this week where they had textured accent walls with light speckles in them. That is a very specific taste that not everyone will appreciate. It was also difficult and expensive to update. So you have to also think about maintenance issues. Like the white marble countertop is incredibly popular, especially in interior blogs and magazines, but they can also be hard to maintain. I was on a photo shoot recently. The house was pretty well photographed. It just had a feature in Domino magazine before we were shooting for a book. The homeowner had a beautiful white marble counter top that just got finished. We were shooting a brunch scene where we had these glasses of juices. Because the acid in the juice, it left these rings in the countertop, even though the glasses were only there for about an hour. If you want to use finishes that are harder to maintain, these are the homework that you need to do to make sure that you can keep the finishes that you want. No matter what finishes you use, there will be a certain level of maintenance. Obviously, some are more and some are less. So when you make these type of decision, you need to think about how you can get the best return on investment, whether it is monetary or emotional returns.

If you haven’t listened to my interview with home seller Kirstie, check it out here. In her episode, she talked about her remodeling process and how it took them 3 years to stage, making the decisions for buyers but finding the whole thing to be well worth it, especially staging is not popular in their area.

This bring me to my third point, which is being thoughtful in your process. The thing is that the more homework you have done, the more you can manage your budget and timeline, and avoid disaster. You always want to make sure you have clarity on what kind of results you want to achieve. I say this to you because I learn this the hard way many times. I find that every time if I walk into the project blind, not knowing what kind of results that I want, it usually is a little bit of disasters. You don’t need to make crazy investments until you see your needs. You can always make bigger upgrades down the line, you don’t have to do it all at once. It is the similar process for getting your home ready for sale. If you are updating your home, research the current trends and make educated decision. Most of the time, you get most ROI from kitchen and bathroom remodels. Things that save a chunk on utilities bills, low-maintainence are usually the winners. And surprisingly, just because the project is expensive doesn’t mean it will get you higher returns. Actually minor improvements can get you more returns. According to Remodeling Magazine’s annual analysis of cost versus values, a quote unquote kitchen facelift, meaning painting, refinishing surfaces and upgrading appliances, will return more than a full redesign.

So yeah, I would recommend really do your homework, find out what are the best ROI ticket items in your neighborhood, and invest your money wisely. So it’s like clothes shopping, you can get nice pieces at H&M or Zara that looks great but at an affordable price. But you really have to be selective and pick the ones that look expensive where the material looks quality. And make sure all the finishes that you pick will go together well and have style that last. Because I have definitely seen where there are lots of expensive things put together but don’t look great.

My last point about remodeling is that you don’t want to be the most expensive one on the block. You want to make sure your remodeling fall within the neighborhood norm. Because when you are the most expensive on the block, first of all, there are no comps, so brokers may try to negotiate the price down since no one else has hit the sales price where you want to be before in the neighborhood. Second of all, the potential buyers may not be able to afford the asking price that you want where you can recuperate all the money that you had invested in your remodel.

Lastly, I want to talk about art, because this is something I feel like a lot of people are afraid of. One of the most common things I see with first time home buyers selling their houses is that I don’t see anything on their walls at all. I think when you are in your 20s, approaching your 30s, you are making a little bit more money, it is a great time for you to start collecting art. We are not talking about things we hang in the museum, like a Monet or Van Gogh, but something that you feel personally connect to.

My cousin Eileen mentioned to me that she didn’t know what to do with her dining room walls. She wanted to buy art but she feels like she doesn’t understand art and she wants to buy something that really connects with her. Which I really feel resonate with. I have collected pieces here and there. They are mostly not expensive things, but they are illustrations that make me feel good, that I personally feel connect with. I like a lot of illustrations type of works. You can buy something that is unique or mass produced. It doesn’t matter. Art needs to make you feel something. I feel happy and inspired when I look at the artwork that I collect.

The other big thing about artwork is hanging them up. My cousin Amy has a pretty long wall in their living room. So it’s one giant long wall with a large sectional. It is often difficult and expensive to find one giant long piece artwork that will fit with the scale. When you hang your artwork, you want to think about how all the things on the wall, including the actual length of the wall, the furniture against the wall and your art relate to each other. The scale needs to make sense and that’s how the room will feel balanced. The most common mistake I see is usually either hanging art too high or the scale doesn’t work. To make the wall feel that you have filled it, you can do a grouping. One of the most fool proof ways to do that is that you can do cut outs. You can use butcher paper or something like that to cut out the size of the artwork and literally arrange them on the walls until you feel they look good to you. You don’t have to do artwork either, you can do decorative plates. I have this weird things where I collected plates and I would go to the sale section of Anthropologie and go through their plates on sales. I usually can find really good deals that way. And I put a plate hanger on the plate and hang them on the wall. You can frame kid’s artwork, beautiful wrapping paper, basically anything that has patterns, graphics and even magazine cutouts. I’ve also made my own artwork when I don’t have anything that’s the right size in my inventory. I once custom made these canvas and basically stretched patterned fabrics over them to use them as artwork. So there are tons of possibilities out there. You can definitely find a lot of great DIY tutorials on Pinterest as well.

The thing is that whether you are living or selling your home, styling is definitely a process. Go through it one step at a time and definitely have fun with it. Through your experiences, you can figure out what works and what doesn’t work for you.

So that’s it for today’s show, I hope you had enjoyed it and learned a few new tricks or two. And thank you so much for listening! If you enjoy today’s episode, please leave us a review and a rating on iTunes, Soundcloud, or Stitcher. This will help others finding our show and keep it going. As usual, feel free to ask any questions on the show notes or our private Facebook group. You can find the show notes by going to That’s it, have a fantastic week and happy staging!

Q&A: To Remodel or Not to Remodel?

Q&A: To Remodel or Not to Remodel?

Home Staging Consultations & ROI – Interview With Top Toronto Home Stager Michelle Finnamore

Home Staging Consultations & ROI – Interview With Top Toronto Home Stager Michelle Finnamore