A Christchurch staging company is a master of illusion
So, you want to sell your house? First step: go outside, take a deep breath, then re-enter. Look around with fresh eyes, taking in the macro and the micro – the big picture and all those tricky corners you have been disguising for years.
Better still, enlist another person to come and look at it for you. They will see it as you never will, no matter how often you try. In today’s fiercely competitive selling market, home staging is the choice of many. This means hiring someone specialising in interior design to give your home a swift makeover, so it will look fabulous in real estate brochures and appeal to viewers at an open home.
Home stagers assess your home, then bring in items to “dress” it – from functional furniture and occasional pieces, such as coffee tables and bedside tables, to flowers, bedding and even magazines. If you are still living in the house, they will work around your items, suggesting what to leave and what to put into storage.
Paula Comber, of Comber and Comber Interiors + Home Staging, never planned to go into interior design, but fate conspired otherwise. Straight out of school, she took up hairdressing. A few years on, she was operating her own Rodney Wayne salons, one in Eastgate mall and another in Northlands. At the same time as working in the salons and, by then, raising three children, Paula and her husband, Carl, were buying and renovating houses for sale.
Paula realised she had a flair for renovating and starting a business based around it was the next step.
“I had a lot of people asking me to do their houses, so I thought if I’m going to do it as a business, I want to have a formal qualification,” she says.
She completed an interior design course at Ara, then set up Comber and Comber in 2006 in a Salisbury St showroom above Vaughan Antiques. After the earthquakes, the business relocated to The Loft in Yaldhurst, a renovated 200-year-old barn, and for the past four years the working studio has been the historic Red House in Redcliffs, close to the Combers’ home. Carl, who had been working as an auditor for the then Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, joined the business full-time three years ago.
Primarily an interior design company, Comber and Comber has a staff of seven, including two qualified interior designers, as well as Paula and Carl. One team member with a mobile van dedicated to window treatments and a home-staging team work on the two separate arms of the business, Drape It and Stage It. The company also dresses interiors for architects for photoshoots, and sets up entire show homes for building companies.
In approaching a home staging, the team take in room sizes, dimensions and style, and talk to the agent and owner about how they want the house presented. Then it’s back to the warehouse to select items to complete the job. For a partial stage, they need to make sure the balance is spot on.
“You don’t want it to look like you’ve got two different houses there. Everything’s got to be carefully blended through.”
The home should feel like somewhere you would want to kick off your heels, sink into a chair, and relax.
“The whole idea is to make the place look decluttered and spacious. As a homeowner, you’ve got to get it around your head that you don’t want to have it too cluttered and too personal.”
Home stagers will limit the size of beds in rooms and introduce pristine, stylish manchester and fluffy pillows to make the room inviting. They use faux foliage and flowers, which do not drop leaves and petals, and hang fresh towels in the bathroom. Toilet brushes and messy shampoo bottles are put away.
“Get them out of sight. Pare it right down.”
Just over a decade since she founded the company, Paula is busier than ever, still renovating houses with Carl, providing industry feedback on the Ara interior design curriculum, running the business, designing and overseeing large jobs. She and Carl also built a multi-unit building recently.
“We take each job as it comes. For show homes, we get a big lead-in time and that could be a couple of months. But an agent might ring us one day and we’ve got a big enough team and enough stock that we can have it staged for them the next day,” Paula says. “We know they’ve got deadlines and we will help them meet those deadlines. We will never say ‘no’.”