You made that?!

During a staging consultation in Warwick Grove, I had the honor of walking through the home of George and Nancy Younes as they prepare their home for sale. After a few comments of, “You made that?” I knew I had a column’s worth to share.

Surrounding yourself with things that you love is what makes a house a home. Seashell and beach glass from beach vacations adorn a mirror. A collection of handkerchiefs, once framed, becomes a work of art. The laundry room pays tribute to the family business. Check out Nancy’s handy work as she explains the story behind the craft. Yes! Their home is for sale.

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    The shell mirror is a collection of shells and glass collected from Fire Island, NY and Florida beaches. Happy childhood memories of endless walks on the beach hunting for sand crabs, and splashing in the warm pools formed during low tide. Looking at the mirror brings back memories of ferry rides, crabbing at night off the ferry dock, clamming in the bay, walking barefooted with the red wagon on the boardwalk. My siblings and I often painted some of the shells collected and sold them at the dock to visitors. These memories were enjoyed by a second generation and continued after our parents retired to Florida with its beautiful beaches.

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    The many handkerchiefs belonged to my husband George’s mother. They were given to her as gifts from her many business clients over the years. As a resident buyer in the garment industry she purchased merchandise for clients both domestically and overseas. She really was the E.R.A. before the “Feminist Movement” became a household name. Our recollection of her was always in a dress, heels, hat and gloves. “Hankies” were always in her handbag. These beautiful handkerchiefs are displayed in the frame and adorn the wreath.

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    My husband and I owned two Laundromats in New Jersey for 15 years. Nancy’s Wash and Dry Cleaning was our flagship store in Little Ferry, NJ. Sunrise Wash & Dry cleaning was in Palisades Park, NJ. George was so proud to say that he put my name in lights, not on Broadway, but on Washington Avenue. At one time we were the largest in Bergen County. I thought it would be a nice tribute to our hard work that I adorn our laundry room with memorabilia of that time in our lives.

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    I belonged to a small craft group called the “Crafty Critters”. We four women met in the evenings to work on various projects that we sold at numerous “Juried” craft shows. Items included ribbon & grapevine wreaths, ornaments, birdhouses, hand decorated mailboxes, and garbage cans. We made our own version of the cabbage patch doll. The eyes were embroidered, the body was sewn and stuffed & hair was created with yarn. Each were dressed and assigned names. Of course our kids got dolls as well.

My 10-year journey in the Staging business

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Ten years ago I started my own business. Like anything worthwhile in life, being a small business owner has its ups and downs. Being the first person in this area of the Hudson Valley to offer professional Staging took a lot of convincing. It still does.

Organically, I was meant to do what I am doing. As a young girl, I loved rearranging my room. In high school, with a strong interest in art, I remember designing a room for a project. My teacher said I was a natural.

One thing I truly believe, when something is meant to be, it will be. The universe has a way of grabbing your attention, providing endless opportunities. Thankfully, I listened.

It would take years before I studied interior design. At 39, I went back to school on a part time basis. The Sunday New York Times somehow ended up in my home and I read an article on Real Estate Staging, I registered for training. Soon after, I trained to learn Redesign.

In 2005 I started my business. A reporter wanted to do a piece on my unique services. Problem was, I didn’t have any clients yet. Not wanting this opportunity to pass up, I suggested the paper run a contest for a room redesign. The editor loved the idea.

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Based on photos, I selected the winner and ended up on the cover and centerfold of the Home section. I made suggestions for every contestant over the next few weeks, which turned into my Claudia’s Corner column. Today it runs every other Sunday in the Times Herald Record’s Home Section.

At the last minute, I was asked to fill in as a speaker for a Hudson Valley Builders Association meeting. The idea of public speaking terrified me. The late Jean Rowe, past executive director, would not take no for an answer. She wanted a power point, which I never did. She told me to find someone to show me. My children showed me.

To this day, I think fondly of Jean Rowe and how she pushed me out of my comfort zone. The presentation was a success. I don’t remember much of that night due to nerves but I do remember what Jean said to me after the presentation. Jean hugged me and said, “You did an outstanding job! It was informative with a lot of photos. These builders are visual so they needed the power point, which is why I insisted on it. More importantly, you held their attention. I watched the crowd and every one of them was listening to you.”

A few years ago, I was asked to teach a staging class last minute, the scheduled instructor pulled out. With a busy schedule, I found myself agreeing to teach a 6-hr class and putting together another Power Point. I now teach at multiple locations and have shortened the length of time of the class. These classes are geared for the home seller before they put their home on the market.

It was an honor to be nominated by the NJ Chapter of The Real Estate Staging Association and ended up winning 2011 Professional Stager of the Year in the Northeast. Entering on my own was not even on my radar.

The best parts of the last decade are the people I had the honor of working with. There is nothing more personal than working with someone in his or her own home. I would repeatedly hear, while preparing their home for sale, “We should have been living like this all along”.

During a few recent classes and consultations I find myself repeatedly saying, “Cream always rises to the top” referring to homes for sale. The success rates are quite real and tangible if you know the formula of how to properly market a home for sale.

A special heartfelt thank you to all who played a part in this journey and to the many opportunities that presented itself.

Staging instructor: Christine Rae
Redesign instructor: Ann Anderson
Reporter, Times Herald Record: Deb Botti
Former GO Home and Features Editor, Times Herald Record: Karen Harris
Past Executive Director of Hudson Valley Builders Association: The late Jean Rowe
My Power Point Instructions: Aston & Preston Jacobs
SUNY Ulster Kingston Continuing & Professional Program Coordinator: Linda Corsones
NJ Chapter of RESA: Fondly known in 2011 as the Jersey Girls plus 1 (I was the plus ‘1’ from NY)

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Definition of Staging: The act of preparing a home for sale in the real estate marketplace. The goal is to make a home appealing to the highest number of potential buyers, thereby selling a property quickly and for more money.

Definition of Redesign: is using what is in the home to create a fresh new look.
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