By Leslie Feldman
When we think of staging a home, we typically picture reorganizing for a sale and a subsequent move. Well, not necessarily. The term “staging” came about when realtors realized that houses needed to look fantastic visually in order to sell. Professional stagers were called in, and homeowners were often shocked that their houses could look so good. With this realization came the decision by many to make these changes to their homes rather than move.
Local interior designer Mimi Campbell Leitzel of MCL Interiors works with clients to make them fall in love with their homes all over again. “Staging came in vogue about five years ago years,” explains Leitzel, who was born and raised in Havertown and now lives in Wyndmoor with her husband and two children. “My experience with staging has utilized the ‘selective removal’ of an overabundance of stuff and the careful re-deployment of existing pieces using fundamental design concepts and a smart approach to any expenditures.”
Leitzel applies her 25 years of experience in design, strategic planning and project management to all areas of a project, incorporating client’s goals to get the job done. Along with her residential work, Leitzel’s numerous commercial projects include restaurants, pharmaceutical and financial clients and physician offices.
“I always wanted to be a designer. I was born on a mission to improve spaces and environments and I love all the accoutrements that go with it,” says Leitzel. “One of my first projects was renovating my Barbie dream house.”
Leitzel believes many homeowners can benefit from staging to stay with minimal cost and effort. Some of the more common requests from clients are getting rid of clutter, creating a great room to replace underutilized formal rooms, repurposing an old television armoire that’s no longer needed because of a flat screen (and where to put the cable box) and how to create an overall palette with paint. “To prepare for a consultation with a designer, compile and prioritize a list of specific areas you want to focus on,” Leitzel explains. “Keep an image book of ideas, concepts and spaces that you like as inspiration and a starting point for new projects.”
Wynnewood resident Cathy Dernoncourt turned to Leitzel when she needed to begin incorporating furniture from her family home into her own two-story red brick colonial. While she prefers a mixture of furniture styles, she knew that this was an opportunity to re-evaluate how she was using some of her own pieces and to perhaps use them in different ways, for different purposes and perhaps in different spaces within her house.
“I was moving from antique oak furnishings in the dining room to a more traditional look with mahogany furniture with the addition of a piece from my father’s home and some pieces that I had been collecting for a couple of years,” she says. “Since this meant moving out a piece that had great sentimental value for me, I was simply stuck about where else I might use it without just shipping it to the basement.”
And there was the whole issue of developing an interior color palette. Cathy went from indecision to no decision: “I had not painted the interior of the house since I moved in and couldn’t get past how I might integrate the colors in the downstairs—the dining room, living room and stairway were all adjacent and needed to work together as well as blend in with the rooms on the next floor.”
Mimi and Cathy developed a plan that Cathy could implement on her own as well as call on Mimi to help her select fabrics, carpeting and whatever might come up in the future. “I wanted to get a put-together look that made the colors and elements flow from room to room, even though I was using a more eclectic approach with my furniture styles,” says Denencourt. “I wanted a space that was comfortable, and provided additional seating and conversation areas. Also, since I don’t have a family room, I wanted the room to have some formal feel to it as well.” She adds that by working with a designer in staging to stay, you get the benefit of their design experience and can avoid some expensive mistakes, like paint that just doesn’t work no matter how many sample stripes you may paint on the wall. “A designer can add perspective that you just didn’t expect,” says Cathy, “and that perspective can take you in a direction you might never have seen on your own. And I like the idea of having a plan that I can use over a period of time, of being able to do some things on my own and having Mimi’s expertise when I need and want it.”