Total Home Makeover MagicPublished on November 23, 2007

  • Sweet dreams - This master bedroom feels fresh and new thanks to crisp linens and a stylish lamp mixed together with heirloom furniture. It’s the handiwork of Phyllis Grant-Parker of Ottawa’s Stage Rite. She recently transformed this aging one-and-a-half storey Alta Vista-area home into a first-time homebuyer’s delight. Photo by Mark Holleron

  • Coffee time - At the Alta Vista home, Phyllis and her team overhauled the kitchen, but maintained this built-in seating area. “We started out with a totally unworkable kitchen,” she says, adding they replaced the flooring, countertops and cabinets. “It’s unusual to have a house where the kitchen is completely non-functional, but in this case we decided to put a lot of money into it.” They revived the dining space with a fresh coat of paint, an elegant light fixture and an interesting table vignette. Photo by Mark Holleron

  • Home sweet home - It’s easy for an extra room to become a catch-all for storage. The Stage Rite team made the most of interesting architectural features, like the sloped ceiling in this child’s bedroom, by clearing out boxes and adding rental furniture. Photo by Mark Holleron

Are you looking for easy ways to spruce up your space? We asked Ottawa’s home stagers for advice that won’t break your budget. As décor experts who specialize in helping their clients get the most bang for their buck when it comes to resale, they’re armed with do-it-yourself solutions that turn inexpensive upgrades into big returns. What the pros do: Ideas and inspiration from 4 local experts Declutter

More than just clearing countertops and getting rid of knick-knacks and old newspapers, decluttering includes removing artwork and elaborate window treatments, along with a major overhaul of all cabinets, closets and storage spaces. Now is the time to pack away old clothing, invest in under-bed storage and purge anything you no longer use. Go room to room, section by section, advises Ann Max of Organized to the Max. “Touch each item for a maximum of ten seconds and decide if you’re going to destroy it, file it, or if it belongs in another room.” Debbie MacIsaac, a stager and owner of Personally Yours Interiors offers a simple rule of thumb for clutter-free décor: “If it’s smaller than your fist, put it away.”


It may take a lot of elbow grease, but a good cleaning can make a big difference. Or why not hire a professional service to do a thorough job, including carpets, inside cupboards and that annoying grout between the bathroom tiles. “Our slogan as stagers is ‘if you can smell it, you can’t sell it,” says Stage Rite’s Phyllis Grant-Parker. Sometimes you won’t notice that strange odour coming from the potato bin under the kitchen sink, but your guests certainly will. Take a squeegee to your windows, inside and out. Get into the cracks between the skirting boards and the hardwood. Anywhere you think there might be hidden dirt, clean it, seal it or paint it.


Often small, simple, do-it-yourself repairs can make a huge difference in the overall impression of the house. Start on the outside of the house. Nail down that loose board on the front porch, fix the doorknob and paint the mailbox. Inside, make sure there are no obvious cracks in the wall, squeaky cupboards or leaky faucets. “It’s very inexpensive to replace the bathroom mirror, do the caulking around the bathtubs and stop the door handle from jiggling,” says Phyllis.


“Look for things that date your home,” advises Phyllis, “and find ways to readily update it.” Kitchens and bathrooms are two places that really show wear and tear on a house. If you have rooms that are functional, you can freshen them up without breaking the budget. Cabinets in good condition can be painted and the hardware replaced to give the illusion of a fully renovated space. And don’t forget, a fresh coat of paint can go a long way. “I often work with three colours throughout the entire house,” says Phyllis.


Interior decorator Deborah Gerbis says proper lighting is key to creating the right ambience in the home, and is often a relatively inexpensive way to modernize. “Lighting is often overlooked, even in major renovations,” says Deborah. “But you should factor in five to 10 per cent of your overall budget and see what a huge difference it makes.” Don’t overlook electrical sockets and lights. Replacing the original 1950s switch plates and the bare bulb on the dining room ceiling can make a world of difference.


Fabrics are a great way to liven up a room and make it feel brand new. A good place to start is with window treatments and “there are a lot of inexpensive, ready-made options available,” says Phyllis. In the bathroom, matching towels and a new shower curtain can be the wow factor you’ve been missing. Cover an old dining suite with a table runner and a pot of fresh flowers. Give your bedroom an easy facelift with some fresh linens and multiple layers of cushions.


Sometimes turning the couch on an angle or getting rid of an overbearing bedside table can be all it takes to revitalize your space. Why not borrow a chair from the guest room to use as an occasional chair in the livingroom, or revive the kids’ old toy chest as a blanket box in the guestroom? “Don’t be afraid to move the furniture around and try new ideas,” says Phyllis. “Shake it up ‘til it feels right.” And if you can’t figure it out, call the pros to do it for you. They know how to work magic.

From blah to wow in one weekend:

One hour: - Create a simple table arrangement using seasonal colours - Bring the outside in with a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers - Drape a soft throw and pillows to add a luxurious look One day: - Hang new drapes high and wide to emphasize window size - Rearranging the furniture is the quickest way to transform a space - Don’t be afraid to subtract a piece or two to give some breathing room One weekend: - Nothing revives a room like a fresh coat or two of paint - Hang new shelves for storage and artwork to liven up a room - Paint your table or chairs to get new life out of old furniture

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