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How To Design a Forever Home vs. Property Styling to Sell

by Carlene Duffy
Posted: November 28, 2016

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The feeling of exhilaration that comes with transforming your interior can be oh so good. Yet, the process of trying to sift through and make sense of all the “rules” that come with home design and styling can sometimes be enough to immobilise us before we even start. 

In light of that, I’m going to lay out the differences between designing and styling your forever home and styling and designing a home for resale (home staging) – and in the process, hopefully, clear up some confusion. 

So whatever your end goal, you can go on ahead with your home transformation with confidence. 

1.    Paint colours – when to be bold and when to not

Couple painting the walls white

Here’s the thing, if you are renovating, building or simply property styling for sale, the paint colour you opt for on your walls is a no brainer. It’s got to be a white (or one of the thousand variations of it). The reason is because you are designing for broad market appeal and as a collective, the general public is just not ready for colour, especially in Australia. 

There are so many misconceptions about what different colours say about your space, that it’s just really not worth going there at all. More than that, colour is very personal and what you may love, others may loathe. 

So while white it is safe, possibly a bit uninspired and can be generic, this is not the time to start experimenting with colour. 

If you are designing your forever home or even your ‘for the next 10 years’ home,’ then that is a very different story. Go right ahead and get happy with colour on your walls. 

You see some rooms, especially those in low-light areas, are just happier rooms with a saturated colour on the walls, where white can appear insipid. Your forever home may be your only opportunity to really inject your personality into your space through wall colour so go for gold (not literally). 

The best news is, colour is really taking a stand in the world of interiors and we are seeing more boldness and richness on interior walls than ever before.

2.    Personalising, depersonalising and delayering

Carlene Duffy is property styling a forever home, with plants

I love nothing more than a home, rich in character, personality, originality, and even one which is a little bit polarising. I think this because that with all the design imagery at our fingertips we are starting to see the same old thing over and over again. 

However, if you have selling a home in your sights then it is perfectly acceptable and even a bonus that your home appears to reflect some generic choices. Because again, you are marketing to a broad market and buyers tend to like what they know.

Get more secrets, insights and advice about a career in the real estate industry here.

Potential buyers also tend to want a clean slate where they can inject a bit of themselves into their potential new home with ease. This means taking down family photos, putting away eccentric collectables and just generally omitting anything too ‘you.’ 

This type of editing actually has a bit of a ‘kill two birds’ effect because in the process of depersonalising, you also end up eliminating some layers. While I am all for ‘more is more,’ staging a home for sale requires doing your utmost to maximise space. Learn what else savvy buyers are looking for on their house inspection checklist.

So once you have positioned your furniture and furnishings to showcase how the space can be used, look at your space critically and consider deleting a few items if it means you can help open up your space. 

It might be a matter of removing a side table or omitting a throw blanket and some cushions. And when styling shelves, rather than pack them out, which I would normally love, less is more here. 

3.    Colour and your hard materials

Neutral colour palette kitchen

Much like paint colours, when it comes to resale, the colour scheme used for your hard materials should be a neutral and non-polarising colour scheme. 

For this reason, when choosing colours for your kitchen or bathroom cabinetry, stick to whites, blacks, greys or beiges or even a timber grain. Venturing too far beyond these can have buyers running in the other direction. 

Keeping it neutral means buyers can add their own colours through their furniture and furnishings as they please and without restrictions.

On the other hand, if you are renovating your forever home, don’t be scared to inject some colour into your materials. I recently designed a navy and white kitchen for my sister which although was nerve racking, it absolutely paid off and is the highlight of the house. What could have been a pretty plain kitchen, now has some spunk. You can find my pick of other stunning new colour trends for 2016 here.

Similarly, don’t be afraid of adding some colour to your bathrooms through your tile choices. There are some really beautiful subway tiles out there at the moment that come in a fabulous range of powder blue, sage green, navy… You can also revitalise your wall tile colour without the cost of a tiler.

4.    To pool or not to pool

Beautiful blue pool water and sunglasses

The word on the street is that pools don’t sell houses. It sounds crazy to me because I consider pools a luxury. But I will also be the first to tell you that they require a lot of ongoing time and money to maintain. 

So unless your buyer has kids, there is every possibility that they don’t want a house with a pool. This can often cut down your buyer pool considerably (pardon the pun). 

We, on the other hand, being Queenslanders, frequent entertainers, and with two kids, would go bonkers without our pool. Our kids are in it every day for about 8 months of the year. 

It is the easiest and best way to keep them and their friends entertained. From an aesthetic perspective, I love the sight of water from nearly every aspect of our house and find it especially calming. In the afternoon, the sun bounces off the pool water and reflects onto our ceiling, like beautiful dancing light beams. 

While interior design and styling can be a potential minefield, deciding first your long terms intentions for your home (will you stay or will you sell) is key to helping you make some crucial design decisions.

Inspired by all things Interior Design and Decoration? Discover all the career advice you need (and more!) from Australia's other leading Interior Designers here.


Carlene Duffy

Carlene is best known as one half of Michael and Carlene Duffy; the down to earth Gold Coast couple who shared their highs and lows with Australia on 9’s series The Block ‘Glasshouse’. The dynamic duo also featured in Renovation Rumble, and have together established their business ‘Cedar & Suede’.

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