In her 14 years as an accredited staging professional and interior decorator, Julie Dana has seen it all — from small starter homes to million-dollar mansions, and everything in between. For each client, Dana provides step-by-step instructions for redecorating or staging their home to sell.
“My favorite part of the job is when people just feel so good about their house, either because they got a good amount of money for it or they now finally feel it’s their home and not their house,” said Dana, who launched her business, The Home Stylist, in 2002. “Many times after I help a person get their house sold, when they move to their next house, I’ll help them decorate.”
In many ways, the two facets of her business couldn’t be more opposite.
“Staging is more of a science,” Dana said. “We have statistics and data to back up some of the recommendations we would make. It’s very impersonal, and it’s about what would appeal to the masses or the demographic we’re going for.
“Decorating has much more freedom and creativity,” she continued. “It’s about tapping into the homeowner’s likes and wishes and dreams.”
For home staging, Dana has quite literally written the book on the topic: She’s the co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Staging Your Home to Sell. When she meets a new client, she’ll walk through every room in the house and issue recommendations, from quick changes to larger renovations in key rooms like the kitchen or bathrooms.
“It could be something as simple as removing half the books from the bookcase,” she said. “Or a bedspread with patterns on it — in a photograph, patterns always looks busy, so many times we just flip the covers over to the plain side, which didn’t cost anything to do.”
Her biggest piece of advice? Declutter. Clean out closets, pick up those long-forgotten piles of papers and put away knick-knacks. Plus, remove personal touches, like photographs and holiday decorations.
“I really try to detach the homeowner from the house,” she said. “Especially for somebody who’s lived there for 20 or 30 years, it’s a more of a mental switch in your head to know this is now a product you’re preparing to sell.”
Conversely, for those tackling renovations or redecorating this summer, Dana advises adding as many personal touches as possible.
“Make sure your personality shows through in decorating,” she said. “Make sure the things you love show through — your hobbies, your interests, your favorite color.”
She also suggests to not get hung up on paint colors and to start with statement pieces that define a space and set the tone, like a beautiful area rug.
“Most people think they should start with paint first, and I don’t,” Dana said. “I start with the most expensive, hardest thing to find, and then work my way down to the cheapest, easiest thing to find.”
Throughout her career, Dana has participated in several Decorators’ Show Houses and even served as a decorator for the Buffalo episode of Extreme Makeover Home Edition. And every day, she continues to help clients stage and style their property to sell for top dollar — or love their home all over again.