One of the team shares her first impression.

It was November 2007 when I met Valerie Cummings. I was immediately impressed by her upbeat personality and her passion for her work. It was infectious and we hit it off immediately. I was brought in to help Valerie with various staging jobs she had going at the time. I had been trained in Interior Decorating at George Brown College and, while I felt I knew the principles and theory of interior design fairly well, I was surprised at what interior decorating and home staging was actually like in real life!

before and after photos of the dining room

I think the biggest transformation I have witnessed was of a small two bedroom home in downtown Kingston. While it was located on a lovely street with a great school nearby, I looked at its unassuming exterior and thought “What makes this house special?” Valerie took me inside so we could get to work.

The first thing to strike me was the tiny side entrance that led into a boring, plain kitchen. The kitchen windows overlooked a sad patio covered in snow and a garbage bucket filled with frozen garbage. Not appealing. As we walked through to the living room, I gasped. So TINY! There was hardly any furniture in the room to give my eye perspective and I struggled to imagine anything fitting in there except a sofa and maybe a side chair! The dining room was also small and separated by a dated glass-block partition. I immediately thought 'Renovation'. Leading off the main living room was a small sitting room with a lovely fireplace. While I could definitely see the potential in this room I wondered if the potential buyer would be able to see past the giant desk that was blocking this lovely fireplace.

We travelled up the narrow staircase to the second level and found a small bathroom. It was quite boring with white walls, vanity, linen closet, and then I looked down to see a bright blue-tiled floor. It was so distracting I couldn't take in the rest of the room. I started to worry “How will we make sense of that floor?” as we moved to the next rooms. The two bedrooms were both painted in bright, bold colours. These rooms would definitely not appeal to everyone in their current condition. My thoughts, as we ended the tour, were that we definitely had our work cut out for us.

In the following days we tracked down rental furniture with slim, clean lines and a glass-topped coffee table which would take up less visual space in the small living room. A round dining table in the proper dimensions was rented for the petite dining room, and the glass blocks were removed from the dividing wall leaving a lower, more sophisticated partition. We brought in several props and accessories to fill the spaces and make the rooms more …comfortable and inviting. Artwork was re-positioned, storage spaces de-cluttered, closets organized, even the back patio was cleared of snow! We were thorough in making sure no stone was left unturned.

before and after photos of the bathroom

In the meantime we could see the house being transformed with colour as the painters worked their magic. The soft neutral palette was paired with spa shades of blue-grey which flowed through the house. The stairway appeared wider, rooms looked larger, and most of all, the house began to look up-to-date.

The bathroom had its own design makeover by adding a mosaic tile countertop to the vanity in soft natural stone shades. The walls were painted in a neutral shade to complement the countertop, and a white shower curtain finished the look. The room now seemed less clinical than it had before.

We removed the existing bits and pieces of furniture that we were unable to use in other parts of the house and started positioning the rental furniture to make sense of the spaces. Right before showings we added fresh flowers, a delicious chocolate cake in a glass dish, and chocolate bon-bons throughout creating an experience for all the senses!

I took a moment on the last day to do a final tour. I was amazed that a house that I would have dismissed initially was now a warm, comfortable home ready to be occupied. I could even imagine myself living there! I had to hand it to Valerie. From start to finish she was undaunted. A house that wouldn't sell during the previous season received two offers in the first two days of hitting the market after we had staged it. It seemed impossible to believe! While I was doubtful during my first viewing, I am now transformed into a believer. There is nothing more important than a great first impression.

Anna Shepherd, one of the team at First Impressions