NOTE: This is the post that was retracted last month due to “specious” legal concerns. I was asked to hold the post until after the sale closed, which it did last week. Listed at $509,000 the staged property sold for 8 per cent over asking.
When home stager Dennis Battler showed me photos of his most recent project, a small semi in Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood, I was instantly struck by how much personality he had injected into the spaces. His blend of vintage furnishings from different eras mixed with industrial and rustic pieces revealed a very definite point of view that runs counter to everything you see on TV staging shows where the mantra is always, “neutralize, depersonalize and de-clutter.”
I was even more impressed when Dennis provided the backstory about a homeowner finding himself no longer able to care for and manage his house day-to-day and especially the challenging task of preparing it for sale. Dennis and the real estate agent rallied friends and neighbours who pitched in to strip and clean the property. Furniture was then borrowed or purchased for as little as possible on Craigslist and from thrift stores — the set of dining chairs was sourced for just $50. Dennis blended the wall colour himself from paint store mis-tints and although the hue is much darker than is typical for a staged home, it definitely adds personality and because it’s used throughout, it lends cohesion to the various spaces across two floors.
One of Dennis’s stipulations for getting involved was that he be left alone to work his magic. “Being questioned relentlessly, micromanaged, manipulated and/or doubted by a client is every designer and decorator’s nightmare,” he says.
When I toured his own small piece of the world, Dennis discussed his ability to tune-in to objects, to “listen” to things and intuit how or if they should be deployed in a space. The same intuition guided this staging exercise: “The pictures show well and experiencing the house leaves a very good feeling,” he notes. “Everything feels like it’s in the spot it’s meant to be in, each piece performs in relation to another, there’s a sense of purposefulness, which is quite striking when you consider the disparate array of sources.”
“I’m a space magician,” declares the stager, “There, I’ve claimed my talent! Can I help it if rooms and fabric and vases and cushions and furniture talk to me? Or that I listen to them? They’re my friends and I am theirs. Really, that’s the truth.”
“I relate to and treat houses like my children,” he adds. “Each one has its own needs, own merits and own desire for expression. My job is to love each house and encourage it to reveal itself. In this instance, I listened and provided it with what it was willing to accept, with what it needed and what I thought brought out the best in it.”
“Often staging and especially gutting a house disrespects the soul of the house. Both can be brutal and insensitive. This is more about house healing, giving the house (in the words of one viewer) a new life, to begin again with renewed dignity, beauty, peace and purpose.”
The real estate agent was dutifully grateful to Dennis for such a miraculous result. “It’s a very hopeful interior,” he observed. “Honestly, it’s beyond belief! I’ve been staring at the pictures of the house all night, especially the back bedroom with the dark grey walls and that pink chair. I just can’t bear to see it taken apart, I have fallen in love with it!”
Photos by Geoff Parkin/GP Photo