I’ve been addicted to decorating since I was a kid, and I’m curious if you’ll see a bit of yourself in my story.
I remember insisting that my room be painted a deep turquoise, and my rattan headboard white, because I could totally picture how one would stand out against the other and compliment the pale creamy-yellow duvet.
At the risk of revealing my age, I’ll admit it was the 1960s. Even now I can see that decorating scheme in my mind’s eye, and it still looks cool.
As a teen, I painted murals on my bedroom wall and also the high school cafeteria.
In my first marketing coup and “payment” for my creative talent, I managed to convince the vice principal of the high school to exempt me from swimming as reward for decorating the cafeteria.
Hey if you don’t ask, you never know!
Then came adulthood and a series of rental apartments.
Finding the perfect bedding, shower curtain and towels were always highest on my list of priorities since I had almost no budget for furniture and painting the actual walls was against my rental agreements.
When I finally became a homeowner with my first real estate purchase at the age of 29, I was in heaven!
There was still no real decorating budget for my tiny condo, especially since I had just quit my 6-figure job as a Marketing Director to become an entrepreneur.
No matter; with a few cans of paint and the right accessories, I could create magic.
I even managed to get about 12 years of use out of the ugliest sofa you’ve ever seen by putting a piece of plywood under the sagging cushions and covering it with a huge canvas painter’s drop cloth.
Sounds like something a home stager would do, right? I hadn’t even heard the term at that point.
About 7 years later, I had created as many different looks as I could think of for my condo and it was time to move so I could get my next decorating fix.
Condos and houses seem to speak to me and I knew I had reinvented the same space as many times as I could.
Within the next 4 years, I bought, decorated, and sold 5 more real estate properties, living in them all along the way! It was not until the last one that I realized I was born to be a home stager, and launched my home staging and redesign company Six Elements Inc. with no more information than:
- Knowing I was talented at quick makeovers and decorating on a shoestring
- Knowing I could decorate a home to appeal to buyers
- Wanting to keep decorating without having to keep moving all the time
- Believing I could use my marketing talents to market myself and my home staging services
- Believing I could make relatively easy money selling my knowledge and expertise to home sellers who wanted to sell their homes fast and for top dollar
Many Staging Diva Students and Graduates have told me similar stories of knowing they were born to decorate.
Some rarely played with dolls because they were too busy decorating and redecorating their doll houses. When I heard that, visions of cut up Kleenex boxes and creative uses of empty toilet paper rolls came flooding back to me as I remembered the complex floor plans and “furniture” arrangements I’d lay out on our basement floor!
Even then I recall thinking real Barbie® houses and furniture were kind of lame because there was no creativity to it (or at least that’s what I told myself because there was no way I was getting the real thing!).
The funny thing is, ever since I started my home staging business in 2002, I haven’t had the constant urge to move anymore! I’m convinced it’s because I can get my decorating fix working on my clients’ homes.
And it’s actually quite creative having to make something beautiful out of furniture I might never have picked on my own.
Did you start decorating when you were a kid? What’s your first memory of decorating or realizing it was something you just “had” to do? How do you get your decorating fix now; are you a home stager? Please share your story by commenting below!
Debra Gould, The Staging Diva®
President, Voice of Possibility Group Inc.
With an MBA in marketing and hundreds of home staging clients, internationally recognized home staging expert Debra Gould, The Staging Diva, is uniquely qualified to train others how to start and grow a profitable home staging business. Her Home Staging Business Training Program has over 30,000 students in 23 countries.
Kathi Howland - Nicole Interiors Home Staging says
Your article on this topic sure brought back a floodgate of memories for me.
I was constantly rearranging my bedroom. The barbie thing? It’s like you were describing my own childhood.
I’m not sure I can pinpoint my first concrete memory of when I knew I just had to do it, but my mother was the same way. I’d help her re-configure rooms in our house. Of course, she didn’t realize back then (in the 1970’s) exactly what it was. She just couldn’t stand looking at a room the same way all the time and frankly, even as a child, neither could I.
I feel the same way about staging people’s homes to “get that fix”. It’s a feeling of accomplishment and it makes me feel good to know I helped someone with their own decorating/redesign issues.
I am on my third time around my own house. Right now I’m repainting and re-staging my home office. I love it and can’t imagine doing anything else. In fact, the only regret I have is not recognizing this was my career path a long time ago instead of wasting time in a soul sucking office job.
Debra Gould says
Kathi, I love what you’ve shared here! So perfect. I’m hoping others share similar memories, I just KNOW we all have them!
As to your final comment about your only regret being not recognizing this was your “career path a long time ago instead of wasting time in a soul sucking office job,” to that I’ll say, the good news is you found your dream and took action before it was too late! This reminds me of a great proverb, “the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the next best time is today.”
Patricia Ebrahimi says
Love this post and all the stories in the comments. Of course we all had these experiences as kids. Our talent is our passion and therefore what we are geniuses at, so it is freeing and not really work.
I was 57 before I felt free enough to lean into my passion and let it lead me. It was finding StagingDiva.com that secured my decision to move ahead with my legitimate staging business of now 8 years. As with many of us as well, I am multi-talented and had a long career as something else, boring or not. For me it was as a college professor, which I regarded as a form of acting really. Hey, it kept me going raising my sons!
But, oh there is nothing like the creative release of realizing your vision for a house, right!! Thanks Debra for the support these last years and the boost that got me started. I’ve myself and many sellers and Realtors SO happy.
Debra Gould says
Thanks for commenting and your feedback Patricia, I really appreciate it! You will be an inspiration to others who think it’s “too late” (or they’re just plain afraid) to try something new. How great it is that you dove into your new career and got to experience what you have these past 8 years.
I have some graduates who don’t even get going until their 70s and why not? If we’re healthy what are we supposed to do— spend the next 10, 20 or 30 years in “retirement” trying to fill our days with golf, bridge and grand kids?
The biggest secret to health and vitality (at any age) is loving what you do and being engaged with life.
Susan Atwell says
I guess I was always space planning and organizing things. I just loved thinking about my personal spaces like my bedroom, school locker, and dorm rooms.
As I got older I actually used to draw floor plans on graph paper. My parents liked to drive around on the weekends and look at model homes and that is how I would get my ideas.
My biggest memory with regard to my bedroom, is rearranging the furniture. I was always trying to make the room feel as big as it could. My mom loved decorating, so we did a lot of that together. She also sewed and I remember making quilts for my bed. Window treatments, bedspread, skirt, pillows were all made by us. My dad was extremely handy too. He was a great painter and even built a few pieces of furniture for me – to my specifications. Even then, I knew the value of using vertical space!
As I got older I planned my college dorm rooms all summer, and they always felt like home. Looking back now, I realize that I’ve been decorating, space planning, and organizing as far back as I can remember.
Debra Gould says
Susan, thanks so much for this window into the past and the influences that helped shape the wonderful talent you have today!
Stacy Goade says
I am addicted to decorating AND born to be a home stager. My mom worked full time when I was growing up in the 60’s and I think her MIA at home gave me lots of opportunities to arrange the inside of our home and work in the yard making it look beautiful. I don’t remember too many 5th graders who sat around and looked at hardbound books about trees and flowers! I still spend hours outside landscapping – I have a creative need and energy to rearrange the earth, too! I was the oldest for four children in our family and I convinced my mom to let me have my own bedroom so I could “study.” But what I really wanted to do was decorate my own space and sorround myself with the energy that suited me. I chose hot pink and lime green for bedding and curtains. I wanted white walls because the room was south facing and lite up so amazing like when the sun poured in through the windows. I talked my mom into ordering me “french provencial” furnishings from the Sears catalog and I got a canopy bed. I felt like a goddess in my own space! I kept my room neat and liked everything in just the right place – a detail oriented kid and a blooming home stager!
Debra Gould says
Stacy, your story SO makes me smile! The room you describe and color scheme would be totally in style today too!
I love beautiful landscaping too, but I don’t think I have any talent for creating it. When I walk into a room I can instantly see what to move around, outside, this just doesn’t happen for me. Especially since I have zero knowledge about what plants work in sun or shade, how much water they need, or how they’ll spread out when they grow. This is a special talent. Glad you have it!
Danielle of "Creative Solutions" says
As a teenager I was extremely dramatic with my concepts of lighting and color and so aware of impressions others would have when visiting our home. I convinced my Mother that our living room would be so beautifuf if she would have it painted dark blue. The painter thought her teenager was a bit off….but he painted the room….then I placed an end table with an interesting lamp on it next to French doors, turned off the overhead light and went outside, leaving the front door open to see the effect if someone was to look in from the street. I repeatedly created little scenes of drama all over our home with paint and lighting, sometimes ending in trouble ..The midnight blue color lasted for only a few months…but now I am painting a bedroom the beautiful intense midnight blue and using mirror furniture in it. I will always need glamour in my life..it brightens up the world.
Debra Gould says
Danielle, I know what you mean about going outside at night to see what it’s like when you look in. My last house was a very modest semi-detached house. I bought it just as I was moving to a new city and starting my home staging business.I didn’t have any real budget for decorating it, but I used to smile whenever I drove up at night. Peering in from the street it was so clear that an artist lived there as there were bright colors and (my own) art on all the walls. Like you describe, it was very dramatic and brightened my world 🙂
Donna Dazzo says
Susan, your comment about drawing room plans on graph paper just brought up a memory for me. Recently I was going through my grammar school diary and found in the back of it floor plans for our bedrooms (we had 3 in our house growing up). It was very neatly drawn and clearly labeled with dresser, bed, etc. I know these plans were more about documenting our house than about space planning, but I must have had some knack for and interest in this, even back then.
Debra Gould says
Donna, now that you share that, I recall I did that too! When my teen was younger and interested in playing Sims, I noticed that most of her attention went towards building and decorating their homes rather than focusing on the people.
Peggy Wilcox says
Your article brought back a flood of memories for me. Growing up, we didn’t have much money but I remember my mom taking a round potato chip box and making Cinderella’s coach out of it for a box supper. I won first place! This attitude inspired me to look at the mundane and make something beautiful out of it.
Vaccuuming in our house was always an opportunity to rearrange the furniture! You never knew what it was going to look llike. I would even push the big piano around to suit my “taste of the week”!
Later, in married life I enrolled in decorating classes at the local vo-tech. I still use some of the things I learned there today. One idea was to remember to use furniture in different ways. After my last child was born, I bought a hoosier cabinet, and used it as a dresser/changing table for the baby!
Thanks for the memories!
Debra Gould says
Peggy, I’m glad I could help trigger those decorating memories! Thanks for sharing them with us.
Gary Baugher, An Eye 4 Change Home Staging says
Debra, I recall at a very early age going with my Mother to visit her friends. When we would leave, she was always amazed at how much I absorbed during the visit. I could tell her where every piece of furniture was placed, wall colors and how each picture had been hung. I even pointed out and asked, ” Why do they hang their pictures so high? ” Guess even back then I understood eye level.
Years later, I now in my 20’s convinced my Mother to sell our family home. Although she was not really sold on the idea, decided what the heck, it won’t sell anyway. I quickly began to prepare for the sale. We cleaned, painted and fine tuned every space inside and out. Our house was listed and SOLD first showing and a few days on the market. Needless to say, Mother was in shock. Keep in mind this was the 80’s before staging was a big deal or I even understood the concept. Perhaps then I should have realized my talents. Hmmm, I could have been The Staging Dude! It has been fun going down memory lane. Debra, Thanks for the post.
Debra Gould says
Gary, what an awesome story! Thanks for sharing!
Red Barrinuevo says
As a kid, home decorating have always been fascinating to me, “while my sister is excited going for sunday mass, im excited not for the sunday mass but for the fact that i have the whole morning to redesign our living room while they are out.”
At that time my mom just wont give in to me, she just wont believe that i have better understanding of arranging furniture at a very young age of 11. It is when we moved to a new house, when my mom finally gave in and trusted me to choose all the furniture, wall color, accessories and all. My moms friends were so impressed with our house that i started doing her friends house as well , my uncles house, cousins and so on. I did not stop since then, I didnt know i was doing home staging all this years and never thought that i can do it proffesionaly , its only when i read one of Debra’s article that i came across home staging. After taking the course, its just non stop for me, in one year ive already staged 4 homes, i have two big redesigning projects scheduled before the end of the year and recently i was invited to Alberta to do another redesigning project for a newly renovated house all expenses paid! Now i realized that when you start doing what you truly love, it will translate and the feeling of happiness is unbelievable. Being a stock trader and a home stager is not easy but i am having the best time! Opening my own company redesign4more is probably one of the best decision ever.. The best years of my life has finally begun! Thanks Debra!! I just cant thank you enough!
Debra Gould says
Red, thanks for sharing your early childhood memories of those staging and decorating projects! And congratulations on all your success since completing the Staging Diva Courses. Don’t forget to post info of your success on my Facebook wall for your chance to win $25 in Staging Diva cash. You just need a sentence or two posted at:
Melissa Davis says
My parents knew I was the child destined for something in the realm of architecture. While my brother and older cousins built rocket ships or weird imaginary things/creatures out of Legos, I was the one who would built small single story bungalows complete with windows and doors and a nicely pitched roof.
I was also the child who wanted a “wall” built in the middle of her room to divide my “pretty” area (which had to be kept neat and it’s what everyone saw) from my “play” area (where the toys could be strung about with the books on the floor and I didn’t have to pick it up daily). Hence, my father built a floor to ceiling partition with a six foot wide center section with two foot “wings” on each side which looked like a bracket “]” The main part of my bedroom- with my white canopy bed and white painted dresser was part of the pretty section while behind the “wall” lay the piles of naked Barbies looking akin to the mass wounded soldiers scene in Gone With the Wind.
Enter the teenage years and the definitive taste I had for my Japanese inspired bedroom of grey and white with smatterings of red and black as accents. I will admit that my determination to have things flow a certain way would have me awake at 2am and shifting furniture and accessories around… until a rather sleep deprived yet beloved father would open the door at 2:30am and insist in his snore ravaged voice “Is this *really* necessary?!!” (For the record, I would plead yes and although I swore I would be even more quiet, my sentence would be “Bed. NOW.”)
Fast forward as an adult- yes, decorating and design is in my blood and genetic code. Combine that with the dogged determination to find the quality I want at a reasonable price and my mother’s Scottish ancestry is quite proud 🙂 My husband knows that I often have a vision of how I want a room to flow, how I want the color to work or inspire, and I will not rest until I find that artwork (or until I get pre-stretched canvas and create it myself).
This is my third “new” house but my fourth residence overall. I love choosing and creating from a blank canvas as I’ve done in my new homes but I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of updating a 25 year old townhouse (Pepto pink bedroom walls… really?! Oh thank goodness for primer). I love touring open houses, imagining what I could accomplish and then wondering why someone thought the creepy porcelain dolls in the corner of the living room were a good idea…
Debra Gould says
Melissa, thanks so much for sharing your story! I really appreciate it.
Claudia Rydel says
I love it and can so relate…reminds me that when I was single I would move every year telling myself the rent went up up time to move, in reality I wanted a new space to decorate.
Debra Gould says
Claudia, Thanks so much for sharing! I love your example and I know many of our readers will relate to that!
Angelia Richardson says
I started my own home staging business last summer, June 2015 and I’m building clientele now. I’m also a Real Estate Agent and I work a 9~5, so my schedule is always hectic. My goal it to run my business full time, keep my RE License active for referrals, and start my online home accessories business. I, like you, am addicted to decorating. And, home staging is a wonderful and exciting way to get your decoratin fix. I do a lot of staging to live after closing a property. Hampton Roads Home Staging and Redesign, LLC!!
Debra Gould says
Thanks for commenting and sharing your experience Angelia! Since you’re a real estate agent thinking of moving more towards home staging, you might find this article helpful. It’s part of a series I wrote for people in your situation:
What If I Have a Real Estate License and I Prefer Home Staging?
April Basten says
I’m so glad you told your story! I can SO relate! I grew up in that same era & had little to nothing to work with but my imagination… which has since grown with me. I have danced on shoestrings most of my life & have never really found my niche.
Between workplaces & homes, I have had my hands in plenty! There has been many an audience to my creations since I was little. My step-mom came to us when I was a teen & I watched her plan out rooms for home & businesses my dad had. She used graph paper & did cut-outs, also.
I used to re-arrange my room all the time!! Once I had my own places, I was in my glory to have a new area to work with! It didn’t thrill the guys to come home & find eveything moved so often, but they could always tell when I was bored or got that bee in my bonnet! LOOK OUT! I have had people visit my desks at places I worked… or come visit my office a couple years ago. People compliment what I have done in the halls of the apartment building we live in. I have helped friends & siblings with furniture purchases & arranging rooms. My aunt & I clean & rearrange her areas every season & we decorate during those times & every holiday, also.
I have had people tell me they expect so much more out of me than being the quiet & humble wilting flower in the corner. This may be just the watering I need to bring me new life. I am a visual person, so between repurposing & recycling… I am hopeful to be able to use these talents in ways I never thought I would get paid for! I may not be able to have it all, but that’s just it… I don’t need it all… just a better slice! 😉 THANK YOU for sharing!
Debra Gould says
I really love your story April and appreciate you sharing. I know you’ll inspire others in this community! You’re definitely a natural, I think you’ll enjoy this story too!
lol. I did all of that too and decorated all of my friends bedrooms .me and my mom would make doll furniture,lamps etc.. even the fridge .saying Barbie just doesn’t know how to decorate.I did this as a very small little girl as well .my mom bought me a doll house you sit in that actually had working lights and 3 stories .I was in Heaven .I even got flack from friends as a Teen because I still played with Barbies they thought .as I was trying to explain,I was Decorating her house .she needs help .lol. I even took it to the Barn Yard as well .my mom bought me a stall and horses as a child ( play barn and horses) and I had to redecorate the Barn for the Horse .I’ve seen a pic on Pinterest of a Horse in a stall complete with chandelier and thought .yep that was my Horse .yes I have it bad .just wished I could make a living @ it .I would truly be in Heaven.oh,here’s the real kicker ,instead of counting sheep to go to sleep I decorated houses in my mind till I pass out .hahaha
Debra Gould says
Mattie, you absolutely CAN make a living at this when you have the proper business model to follow. I hope you’ll take a serious look at the Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program, so that you can finally have all your efforts pay off! Learn more about it here.
Michele Bates says
Hello Debra, I have recently retired from my corporate job after 34 years. I am 54 years old and really interested in home staging. I know I have a flair for this and would love to start my own business in this field. I have just signed up for your 12 tips and am researching to get more information on how to get started.
Debra Gould says
That’s fantastic Michele, I’m so glad that you’re wanting to reinvent yourself in retirement to have a new career doing something you love! That’s the case for so many of my students. You have come to the right place to learn exactly how to get started and how to grow a successful home staging business. You can read about the full Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program here.
Also, I think you’ll enjoy these articles:
Home Staging Career Perfect for Baby Boomers Nearing “Retirement Years”
More Baby Boomers Looking to Reinvent Career and Life
So glad you’ve also signed up for my free 12 Tips Jumpstart Course, enjoy!
Susan Young says
While I didn’t quite have the decorating bug that you had as a child, I do remember playing with an interior design set as a middle school child. I loved choosing and arranging the furniture and sketching out designs. I almost chose interior design as a college career, but went the marketing/advertising route. In early adulthood, my passion for decorating grew. After 20 years in the marketing field, I’m looking forward to starting a new career in design and home staging. I am looking forward to hearing your call and mini course this evening.
Debra Gould says
Susan, thanks for sharing and I hope you enjoyed the 5 Simple Secrets to Making Money in Home Staging mini course! I also took the path of a marketing degree and career. I think you might enjoy this article since you considered interior design school (I did too).
I was always rearranging the living room furniture & accessories. When I was a freshman in high school, my Dad worked at an apartment complex and brought home a spare roll of green & white houndstooth wallpaper. My
high school colors were purple & white, which looked really good with that wallpaper, so I papered the wall beside my bed… had a lavender bedspread, purple lucite lamp (1974), and purple/lavender throw rugs, and blue and green apothecary bottles with dried flowers in them (popular at the time). I loved that room!
Debra Gould says
Jaunita, thanks for sharing that! I love your story! Are you a home stager?
Wow! Love this article. Being conceived, born, raised and married nearly 20 years to the military, mom taught my sister and I how to turn a “living space” into a home. Believe me, sometimes it was, literally a hole, but mom would make it beautiful, and, being the oldest daughter, I was the one that helped mom the most.
Mom taught us that it did NOT matter where the military put us, what mattered was that we leaned to use what we had to make it beautiful. Always, the other kids whose father was stationed in similar quarters would walk through our home in awe of how it was transformed.
If you just gave me a doll house to play with, I was happy. And Barbie never got dressed until the house was done! GI Joe had to wait to pick her up for the date! (Mom didn’t believe in Ken dolls so, in order for Barbie to have a date, I would steal my brothers G.I. Joe dolls when they weren’t looking lol) and I never have to worry about what they look like because I see past the possible “ugly“ and see the beauty.
I remember one time when I bought a house that my daughter had babysat him. It was a very dark and ugly home but I love the floor plan. When she found out I had purchased it she cried and said she did not want to move. I told her she could live with my parents while I was working on the house and if she would give me two weeks then she could come over and visit. My parents went only a mile away and I would go home there to sleep after I was done with that days work.
About 10 days later my daughter decided to pay a surprise visit. As she walked into the home she exclaimed about the beauty and transformation of the home and how much she loved it. That was my moment to teach her that it didn’t matter what a home looks like, what matters is what you can see in it. I have helped to recently to get her home prepared for sale. We were both elated when, on the first day it went on the market, she had two bidders arguing over her home.
Needless to say, she excepted a bid the third day after it went on the market. Oh, her husband is also in the military and with 3 children of her own now, she is on her way to making a home whereever the military send them. ?
Debra Gould says
Laura, thanks so much for sharing your wonderful story! Clearly your mother taught you well and you’re passing it on to the next generation in your family!
I’m with you, it doesn’t take a big budget to make a home look beautiful. I love what you said, “That was my moment to teach her that it didn’t matter what a home looks like, what matters is what you can see in it.” This reminds me of another of my articles I think you’ll enjoy! Check out, “Home Stagers, Do Houses Speak to You?“
My mom took me to the library a lot as a kid, and one of my favorite books to check out was “Decorating Your Room” (this was in the late seventies, early eighties. We moved into a different house when I was ten and I wanted to paint my bedroom trim blue but my dad insisted it all be white, like the walls. In my first college apartment, I had to get creative with lightweight artwork (posters) and poster putty on the concrete walls, and use accessories to make it homey. The rough looking male landlord told me I had the nicest looking apartment in his building! The first home we owned was an old single wide trailer house, and I did everything to try to make that ugly little house pretty, and learned a lot along the way (always prime paneling before you paint it, lol ?). I have lived in my current home almost twenty years and nearly every room has been painted two or three different colors, not to mention sponge painting and wall paper border?. I have made window treatments out of tablecloths, sheets and cloth napkins, and love spray painting old shiny brass metal decor. I get a great deal of satisfaction from decorating, and even more from doing so frugally. I am so excited at the prospect of starting a career in home staging, as I can only redecorate my own home so much. I have had several friends and family ask for decoratIng help down through the years, and the best compliments I have received were that my home looks cozy and like it should be in a magazine. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise!
Debra Gould says
Vicki, I LOVE what you’ve shared here and I’m thrilled that you’ve found your way to home staging. You are really going to love taking all that talent you’ve been honing since you were a kid and transforming people’s homes.
Since I became a professional home stager and did my first client’s home in Jan. 2003, I’ve only moved to 2 other homes. Before I did clients’ homes I moved every 2 years or less cause I needed a new project. It’s great to be able to keep getting my decorating “fix” without having to relocate each time 🙂
One of the things I’ve always loved about staging is that it’s not about how much money you can throw at a project, it’s about the quality of your ideas. Some of my best (and most creatively satisfying) transformations have been working with what the client already has.
I look forward to the day when one of your projects WILL be in a magazine! Don’t forget I love to write about my students’ work. Feel free to use the “share your story” link in the sidebar of this article!
Patricia Jimenez says
When I was a kid (10-14 years old) I would grab the the Real Estate section of the Sunday paper. They always contained floor plans of houses in them. In pencil I would draw in furniture. Then I’d get the Sears and JC Penney catalogs and decorate them making lists to purchase including lamps, area rugs, etc.
Debra Gould says
Patricia, That’s AMAZING! Seriously, do you have any idea how unusual it is for a kid to do that?
This is such a great example of discovering your calling very early in life.
Really happy you found your way here and looking forward to seeing what you create following the Staging Diva business model. You’ll be able to get projects in home staging, interior redesign and color consulting using what you’re learning in the Program.
I really appreciate you sharing your story, I know it will inspire others. Thanks!