What can be said about the year 2020 that hasn’t already been said? It was a year most of us would like to forget and so writing a “Best of” blog seems counterintuitive, but it was also our busiest year yet at UpStaging. We staged more homes- 60 to be exact- than any other year and managed to do it in only 10 months, as two of those were spent in lockdown wondering whether or not we’d ever stage again. The Toronto market ticked on despite significant uncertainty and we found ourselves trying to keep up. If you were strictly looking at the numbers, 2020 was pretty great, but even dumpster fires look pretty from a distance if they burn bright enough. We couldn’t be happier to be ushering in a new year, but wanted to share some of our favorite stages of the last one, as these were some of the tiny triumphs that helped us make it through.
1. 82 South Kingsway
2020 started off looking pretty bright. We had just arrived home from a team retreat in Mexico and had a new shiny listing to stage. 82 South Kingsway was daunting in size, but so spacious and beautiful that we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it. From the turret out front to the magnificent hillside gardens out back, we just wanted to do the home justice. Lisa navigated a record setting sale in a matter of weeks and though staging likely only played a very small part in it, we were proud of the job we’d done and thrilled with the end result. Larger homes take more effort and planning to execute and they often take longer to sell. The quick and impressive sale of this home was a great way to start the year and was a sale we’d remember in the dark days that would follow.
2. 99 Coleman
Some properties are fun to stage because they’re simply so different. That was the case with 99 Coleman. It was a loft like space on the main floor of a building that wouldn’t get a second look. The interior was unlike any I’d ever seen having so many different levels and the most unusual and amazing bathroom I’d ever seen in a condo. Nothing about the space was remotely cookie cutter and so we knew the staging couldn’t be either. We pulled together a look that was eclectic and colorful, like the space itself, and were really pleased with how it turned out. The sunken living room was framed with a rug that looked like a colorful picture and the raised dining room was decorated with a circular glass table to showcase the light coming in from the patio. We’ve never staged a space like it and I’m not sure we ever will again. A lucky buyer snatched it up in no time and we found ourselves trying to recreate the look in several other properties as the year continued, always a sign of successful stage.
3. 406 Clendenan
Everyone loves a great before and after and that’s why we all loved Clendenan. The pandemic was just beginning when we first saw the space and no one knew what the market was going to do. We decided it would be best to plough ahead and got busy transforming the narrow Toronto row house from top to bottom. The result was a quick sale that brought us a great sense of relief given the seriously uncertain times. The living room and master bedroom had beautiful built-ins that weren’t showing their best and the layout of the main floor needed some adjusting. Though it wasn’t easy on the sellers to pack up most of their lives before we arrived, they held their end of the bargain and were over the moon with the result- just the way we like it.
4. 231 Fort York
Some condos have a killer location or undeniable charm working in their favour that make our job easy, and some condos have everything working against them. That’s how we felt when we first walked into a two-bedroom condo at Fort York with the best view of the Gardiner expressway I’d ever seen. This two-bedroom condo needed to shine brightly inside to help potential buyers forget what lay right outside their windows. With that in mind we made the entrance feel as grand as possible and added luxurious touches to the living room. Normally a T.V. wouldn’t be placed in front a window, but in this case, chopping off the bottom half of the view worked to our advantage. Replacing the bedroom furniture made them both feel more spacious and before long we had a sale. The property had previously been listed with another brokerage and didn’t sell so we chalked this one up as a staging win and bid the highway view farewell.
5. 1029 King St W
Lofts are always fun to work on because of how cool they are. Soaring ceilings and walls of windows combined with exposed ductwork and concrete mean that lofts have more character than other condos. That doesn’t mean they’re any easier to stage however, and just like other properties, it’s easier to remove everything and start from scratch when trying to get the best staging result. Lucky for us our client was all for it. There were several small repairs to tackle so we brought in some help and decided add painting a small accent wall in the kitchen to the list. Painting the wall a dark teal helped warm the space and would be our starting point for the design. The enormous windows let in tons of light but the footprint of the main living space wasn’t very big as is common in downtown condos. Solution? An oversized mirror that would open up the space and cover some of the concrete walls. Concrete elements can add a cool factor to the space but they can also make a space pretty drab in a hurry when there’s too much of it. As a result lofts usually need some elements to warm them up. Textured rugs, plants, wall coverings, and smart paint choices are easy ways to bring warmth to space and really helped make this loft feel like a home. Within a week someone new was calling it just that.
6. 257 Humbercrest
Some jobs just make you more nervous than others. You can doubt yourself, or an agent can put the pressure of the world on your shoulders, stressing that ‘only the best staging will sell a place’, gee thanks. Humbercrest happened to be the home of my employers and owners of Brel, no pressure at all. Lucky for us their home was stunning and already had plenty of style. It was the ultimate party house if you ask me, an entertainer’s dream outback with large tiered deck, beautiful landscaping, hot tub and cabana. The chef’s kitchen was open to a massive living room with a wall of windows to the backyard and a full basement dedicated to entertainment. The master bedroom didn’t disappoint either with an impressive walk in and en-suite. We just had to fill in some gaps and help paint the picture of all the fun that could be had there. We knew first hand what fun the space was and were all going to be sad to see it go, but fortunately for everyone involved, it sold in a matter of weeks and we all exhaled. By no means the most difficult stage, but a stressful one all the same, and memorable because of how much we loved the home.
7. 530 St Clair
Condos are usually my favourite kind of properties to stage because you can make a significant impact without too much effort. The small footprints and limited layout options mean you can usually make a great deal of improvement simply by bringing in pieces that fit and look better than what’s already there. The condo on St Clair was a great space to begin with and only needed a little reimagining to really shine. Because condos usually have walls of glass, you don’t always get the opportunity to add colour to the walls by hanging art, so we like to use bright rugs that act as art to ground a space and add visual interest. That’s exactly what we did in this space and then carried that colour up onto the couch and brought elements of it into the bedrooms. When you’re working in a condo it’s usually best to carry the same colours throughout so the rooms feel connected. Bedrooms that connect to living spaces shouldn’t seem out of place if doors are left open and you can see into them from the living room for example. Using what we’ve learned from the many condos we’ve staged over the years, we brought our A-game to this space and found ourselves planning the de-stage within days of finishing.
8. 1A Dale
We decorate homes all over the city but there are certain neighborhoods we just don’t work in often. Rosedale is one of those neighborhoods, so we were excited to explore an enormous condo that almost seemed out of place along a street lined with mansions. The posh Toronto neighborhood lies just north east of Yonge and Bloor and doesn’t have a lot of condo buildings. 1A Dale is one of a few and was one of the first in the area. They simply don’t build them like the use to. This place was enormous and had the footprint of a small home. The owners moved out entirely before we began and though the unit would probably receive a renovation after purchase, we knew there was a lot we could do to make it appeal to a younger buyer who may need to live in it for a while before renovating. We left our condo-sized furniture behind as we began planning for what would be a monster stage. A grand old condo in a grand old neighborhood required some grand pieces that would all need to fit into a not so grand and very old elevator. After a few close calls, we managed to get everything up and in and were thrilled with the result. When you have a grand space your options are endless- there are more than a few ways to lay everything out- but that always makes the stage more fun. We mixed new and old pieces and hit just the right note as the condo sold on offer night.
9. 64 Royaledge Way
As previously mentioned, we decorate all over the city, but generally speaking, the city limits are as far as we go. When a beloved member of a team was tasked with selling her childhood home however, we ventured to the great unknown that was Waterdown. It turns out it’s a pretty charming place and the home was a lot of fun to work on. As with any home that’s been lived in for a while, some de-cluttering was in order but we ended up with a great canvas to work with and were all pleased with the result. We converted some rooms back to their original use and brought a touch of downtown living to Waterdown. We may have had a family connection to this one, but the client was truly pleased and the sale happened quickly, taking away some of the stress that comes along with selling. We helped make saying goodbye to the family home a little easier and swifter and were happy to discover such a charming place a short commute away.
10. 234 Rosemount
I’m not sure if other cities have this, but Toronto has a distinctive kind of home known as a ‘Toronto home’. They’re usually made of brick, narrow, long, and share at least one wall with another home. 234 Rosemount was a quintessential Toronto home that had been renovated, top to bottom in fact, and done well, a rarity. It was also lived in the way people usually live, with things that don’t always fit, clutter, and pets. The goal of any home staging project is to make a home looked lived in with style, but of course, no one really lives the way we stage a home, it’s an illusion. We cleared the house of almost of everything and then got to work making the home looked ‘lived in’. Dark blue walls and lovely gold hardware throughout meant the owner was aware of current trends when she renovated and gave us a great base to work with. The home office was decked out to appeal to anyone buying during a pandemic and we used our favourite curved pink sofa to soften the living space and contrast the deep blue walls. If I had the money I might have bought the place myself, but I was beaten to it by an eager buyer ready to live the Toronto dream.
It was a year unlike any other and we were incredibly grateful to be busy despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic. Staging proved to be an important part of the listing process even as people stopped attending open houses and we’re betting that trend will continue. The ability for people to imagine themselves living in a space impacts the likelihood of them making an offer and staging can do wonders for the imagination. We look forward to reimagining even more homes in the New Year as we all begin to imagine our own lives returning to normal as soon as possible.