My name is Cassee Cunningham pronounced (Cassie). I am the owner of Stella Home. My process of staging is getting to know the space, light, architectural era updates and the personality of the community the house is located in. Once I feel I know the house, I then start to create a highly customized design palette.
I have chosen in my last renovation to paint all of my walls white. I chose white because I have beloved art work and a white background will help give the art a proper display home. There’s a reason why galleries choose white walls.
I mistakenly thought “how hard can it be to choose white?” famous last words. You could spend hours looking at all the colors of ‘white.’ I’m not even joking but I don’t want your head to explode so keep reading this blog. White is equally as varied in tone as blue, green, or any other color. There are warm, cool and neutral tones of white.
What white is right for you? It depends on your space.
Consider the light in the space you want to paint white, first. My house tends to be naturally a bit dark and cool in tone. I have a lot of tree cover and the house is facing some direction other than South (in which you would receive the most amount of sun and natural light). So I chose a warmer toned white to balance out the natural cool tones. Warmer toned whites tend to have undertones of pink, orange, red and yellow.
If you have a sunny space that receives a lot of light you will be happiest with a cooler toned white. Cooler tones whites tend to have undertones of blue, purple or green. You can see the differences when you hold the sample to a plain sheet of white paper.
If the light is just right then go with a neutral tones white.
Before choosing a white you also need to consider the purpose and feel you want the white to reflect. I’ve outlined a few likely scenarios for you and have made the work of choosing one a little less frustrating by sharing a few of the tried and true whites I use! (You are welcome)
Neutral whites are really the best for highlighting art. The bolder the better. If you wanna go glossy finish Neutral white is a great choice. The more gloss the more yellow the appearance.
Pure White SW 7005
Simply White OC-117
Warm Whites for a room that is more rustic. A warmer white is a great match. Warm whites are best for darker North facing spaces.
White Dove OC-17
Alabaster SW 7008
Cool White, best for South facing or very sunny rooms. Cool whites can read antiseptic if they are paired with a really sunny space.
Extra White SW 7006
White on White 30GY 88/014
I chose to provide easy to find paints. If you want to go higher designer end. There is a paint brand “Clare” created by designer Nicole Gibbons. This brand offers 3 types of whites. You guessed it. Cool, Neutral, Warm.
It’s a good idea if you can to TEST the white before you buy a lot of it. You can usually get samples. Paint a big section on the wall and see how it looks after a few days. Even better, paint a moveable sample so you can see how the light reflects in different parts of the room. Don’t forget to look at it in the day and night!
Sometimes the biggest difference between good and great is a subtle difference that isn’t obvious at first. Understanding the importance of color and light quality in a space is one of those things.
Now when I say light quality, I don’t mean the quality of the light fixtures that hang in your home. Don’t get me wrong. Lighting can do amazing things for a space but this isn’t about outdated ceiling fans or cool kitchen pendants.
Light quality is defined, in the book of Stella, as not only the amount of light that comes in the house but how it is refracted by what’s in the house.
When I started staging I learned the importance of this the hard way. Yep, I got it way wrong at first. I remember staging a brand spanking new home that had white clean walls, grey washed perfect floors and really shiny chrome fixtures and hardware. Now upon that beautiful canvas, I added muted neutrals, some worn brass and gold accent tables and natural warm tones like burlap and Jute. Muted means color that is softer or in between colors. Can you picture that for a moment?
Let me just cut to the chase, earthy and warm tones was not the right match for this home. Once all of the furniture was in place, I saw the error of my choice and hated it. Like I mean, “could-not-leave-it-that-way,” hated it. I changed the whole package out to sharp neutrals, meaning solid white and grey. Sharp neutrals have NO textures. I also brought in saturated color to add a pop and the space thanked me. By saturated color I mean solid tones that are very confident in their color presentation-Think BAM color!
Conversely, I have made the same mistake of putting ultra white shiny furniture in an older home and it’s just not a match.
There is of course some design leeway for introducing different tones, but the base of the design will look better if it speaks to the light quality in the home. Again, that’s the amount of light coming into the home and how it is refracted by what is in the house… like the fixtures, color on the walls, flooring.
Here’s another example to make sure you ‘get it’. Let’s take a 1950’s ranch home with lower ceilings, warmer wood tones of trim and flooring and fewer windows. In that case it is very complimentary to the light quality to add muted neutrals with warm accents and fun textures.
Got it now?
Knowing when to use high contrast(White is white and dark is dark but it doesn’t have to be black), saturated color, neutrals or sharp neutrals, earthy and warm or modern and cool can take a good space and make it great!
I encourage you to take a look around your home and make sure the design matches the light quality. If not, that may be the missing link you have been searching for! Of course, I am happy to help you if you are just ready to move on. Let’s get to staging your current home so you can find a new home to love.
People ask me all the time, where to buy furniture. I purchase furniture for staging quite frequently so I’ve become a bit of an expert. There are two things you can be sure of when you ask me that question.
I’m not going to send you to a big box retailer cookie cutter furniture store.
My answer to that question is always another question. “Whatcha lookin for?”
As a stager, I am typically looking for a specific design style, like lux chic for an Uptown loft. That design style is my chief guiding criteria for where I go. I am always price conscious but look and style is first. If you are buying pieces of furniture for your home and life, you will need to consider comfort, quality, durability, price and of course style!!!
If you need bigger pieces like couch and comfy chairs I recommend these options.
Hickory Furniture Mart: This is a great place to visit just up the road from Charlotte in Hickory, North Carolina, because it offers lots of independent stores with deep discounts. Saving a little money while you are stylin’ is a bonus! The collection of stores at the Hickory Furniture mart cover different styles and price points. Some of the furniture is made right here in North Carolina. One of my favorite stores is Good’s Home Furnishing. This store offers really plush lux furniture.
Interior Define: Ok, technically this isn’t a local retailer but I can order it without leaving my couch so, there’s that. This is an internet company that I just ordered from. I love it! You design your furniture fabric, feel, look, and size and they custom make it. It takes a while to get your piece delivered but you will be pleased and it’s price reasonably.
For fun pieces like a cool bar or coffee table or console or whatever you want that isn’t going to get sit on… you have a lot of options. These pieces will get less wear so they are more likely to stand the test of time and can be sourced from all kinds of fun places.
Sleepy Poet: I love it, you know I do. If you have never been to this huge warehouse of vendors you are missing out. It offers cool flea market like finds. From Shabby chic to glam 50’s fab, you can find everything you can think of. There are 2 locations to choose from.
The Depot: Located in Concord, The Depot is also a vendor based warehouse full of mostly pretty/girly shabby chic and cute antiques furnishings. It also has Chochkies galore!
Slate: Consignment shopping has never been so sophisticated. You can really get WOW furniture and artwork in this store.
Keep in mind, my furniture doesn’t have to be comfy or durable(though you can bet it will always look amazing which is why my stages are so effective). That furniture lives in a vacuum of no kids or pets or real life. Yours on the other hand, well, check out the places I’ve mentioned above and I feel confident you will find what you are looking for!
I always incorporate plants in my stages. Plants immediately fill a space with life, texture and feeling. Everything you want in a room, right? The right plant in the right spot can feel more like a piece of art work. My preference, of course, is fresh and living. In fact, I use fresh real flowers as often as I can, but in lieu of that I use faux plants. Yes, I said faux. Now wait a minute. Get that vision of plastic, fake flowers out of your head. Modern faux plants are so realistic most people would never guess they are fake. Too many people make the mistake of adding plants as an afterthought rather than as a true element of design.
I never stage without plants and I don’t stop at one. I add plants in every corner, on a book shelf or horizontal surface like coffee tables and flower arrangements on kitchen and dining room tables. Here are a few of my guidelines.
Fresh is best
Flowers are great for brightening up any room. The only problem is they don’t last long. A great alternative for a fresh display is fern clippings. There are different types of ferns that look so beautiful green and fresh, and they last seemingly forever. Sometimes they last so long they sprout roots to transplant as a potted plant. When you start really looking at fresh plants you’ll notice various shades of green and other colors that can enhance the color in any room. As a bonus, research shows that living plants reduce levels of carbon monoxide from indoor air by 90 percent improving attention, and overall health.
My favorite spot for fresh flowers in Charlotte is the Kings Rd. Market when it is open during the season. There is a family that sells the most beautiful assortments for relatively cheap. I splurge each week here for my own home. Another great, perhaps unexpected place to buy fresh flowers is The Fresh Market grocery store. They have a really good assortment of bouquets and filler greens in case you want to make your own bouquet. I will buy a bouquet and filler ferns and baby’s breath and make more than one bouquet.
Faux is Fab
I use faux plants in my stages for obvious reasons. They never fade or wilt. They provide the same design impact as fresh and no real plants are hurt in the process. If you don’t have a green thumb this is a safe bet. Trust me, dead or wilted flowers do NOTHING for a space. If you want to stage because you aren’t going to be in the home while it’s on the market, faux is an especially great option since you probably won’t be there every day to water and care for real plants.
I have a few favorite spots to purchase my faux plants. Michael’s is great for artificial flowers and stem plants. World Market is good for larger faux plants and it has some really interesting containers for plants, too. At Home has the largest display that I have found for artificial plants.
I’m all about fresh and living, but for the stage it’s better to have faux green than no green. So GO GREEN in 2019!
This is the third year in a row I’ve posted about our historic home renovation and finally I can say it’s done… Kind of!!! At least, on the inside. (Cue the applause!)
Reflecting back on the last year of this huge project, it feels great to have it in the rear view mirror, finally. The interior phase brought this charming 1922 home into a modern era. The Jennie Alexander house has been given another 100 years of life.
Her facelift would make any surgeon proud but the most important things are the improvements that aren’t sexy. When we purchased this home we agreed to purchase “as-is.” That was really brave or incredibly stupid, still not sure which, but we got her. One of the reasons we felt somewhat secure is that the previous owner reported having updated the electrical. As it turns out, the electrical was not only NOT updated but what had been “updated” was unsafely spliced using the non-updated knob-and-tube wiring, thus rendering the whole house electrical system unsafe. I know, I had to remind myself to breathe through that whole fiasco. But it’s a NEW day! We now have a fully updated, to code, electrical system.
Trust me, that’s going to make me sleep a lot better here.
In addition, we replaced the shingle roof with a full metal roof. This roof is warrantied for 50 years but will last for well over 50 years. The metal roof is energy efficient and fire coded. Fire coded means it will not burn our house or spread a fire. Whew!
Now to the fun stuff.The design inside the home centered on original aspects of the house. We kept a really clean color palette to highlight the woodwork, windows, and ample spaces.
We splurged on color in the focus wall in the kitchen with brilliant tile work including handmade tiles by local artist Angela Clousher. I love that we found a local creative genius to give us a look we love. Seriously, my heart melts every time I look at that wall! And that stove… really.
Can you say counter space for days?
Oh, and did I mention I have not one but TWO islands!? Dreamy!
We used strong dark colors on 2 walls in the main living space to accentuate our large art pieces by Chris Watts and Isaac Payne.
Is that a table worthy of many dinner parties, or what?
Our next phase of work is on the outside. We have worked with a landscape architect to create a beautiful update to our outdoor spaces. This plan includes iron handrails and new patio areas.
We are also going to paint the exterior of the house.
Going forward, I don’t think we will ever really be done with this house but it’s ok. Future plans also include a wine cellar and updating the back cottage.
We really feel very lucky to have found our home in the amazing Elizabeth neighborhood and are enjoying the fruits of our labor. As painful as it is in the process, making a home perfectly yours is always worth it!
Whew it has been a creative bootcamp over here at 5 Points Realty. We have been hard at work flexing our messaging muscles to bring to the surface 5 Points Realty most genuine brand. It was a task we didn’t take lightly. After all, 5PR has been a staple of the Charlotte real estate scene for years. We didn’t want to ‘mess up’ an established and respected brand.
Let me give you a little history. 5 Points Realty was launched during the real estate boom in 2007 out of a shared a passion for all things architecture and design. Then came the bust of 2008. Charlie Miller, Edwin Wilson, and Michael Doney set their sights on a new future still believing in the growth of the Queen City. 11 years later 5 Points is ready for a new era of approachable and creative real estate and I am so excited to be part of it!
Being the newest member of this team I am honored that the ownership trusted me in this process. Yet another reason I am in awe of the way this company does business! The new custom logo and phenomenal artwork was headed by our own Justin James of Way James Marketing. You’ve seen his work before and both this site and my other one. The result is a logo and art work befitting of 5 Points Realty and the city that it grew up in.
Want to see it? drum roll, please (I’m jumping up and down like an excited kid!)…
Cool right?! Now that’s a logo you’ll remember!
Not surprisingly, the reputation and heart that 5PR has always had were the inspiration behind the new, colorful and well-earned smart look. I am thrilled to see a fresh style that reflects the true nature of this amazing group.
Everything from social media to website to blog writing to agent development to signage to… well, you get the point. It’s ALL new. What’s NOT changing, though, is the 5PR commitment to you. We wouldn’t change that now after almost a decade in business! I promise, 5 Points will still be the place buyer’s, sellers and the Charlotte community knows and trusts.
5 Points Realty is Fresh. Friendly. Proven. And now we are ready to share the updated look with the world. We’re unleashing a full marketing armada this month so you’ll be seeing it around town for sure!
We’d love to hear what you think so stop by and see us! 5 Points Realty has 2 offices in Villa Heights and the original office in the historic neighborhood of Biddleville.
I’ve staged dozens of houses in the last few years. Right now, I’m actually staging about one a week!
I love it when all of the hours of packing and moving and sweating are done and the fundamentals (couch, bed, tables) are in place. That is when I can start putting together. I move a plant from the shelf to the coffee table or adjust a book by an inch, or re-fluff a pillow. I get to see the house come alive! I walk around several times, looking at the space from all angles. I play with the mixtures of color and textures until everything is just right.
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned between the sweaty moving and the book shifting process that can help you decorate your own space!
Size Matters: It’s important to make sure your furniture fits the scale of a room. You want furniture that is functional and comfortable while still maximizing the space in the room. No one wants to live in a space that fills overloaded.
Define the use of Space: This is becoming a bigger issue as open floor plans and extra bedrooms are commonplace. It’s not only a good to help potential buyers see a home but also for the people who actually live there!
Use some color: Neutrals will always be in style but there are lots of ways to bring in color through pillows, artwork , lighting or centerpieces. Using the same color in the various ‘pops’ will actually unify the home.
Unclutter: I know you’ve seen this one before. It needs no explanation.
Funk it up: Don’t be afraid to try a quirky desk or mix up your chairs. It will make the space more memorable. Leave the matching of styles to a furniture showroom. These funky pieces can add a little whimsy and an element of the unexpected to a home.
Get Artsy: I love big art and I cannot lie! Art is really a statement about you and adds a focal point to a room. Art works best centered in an area or over whatever furniture is below. A good starting point is 60 inches from the floor. Smaller pieces make great accents and bring in color to a space.
Mix Textures: Pillows, throws, arts and centerpieces add visual interest to a room. Who doesn’t want to hang out in a home that is interesting?
Less is more: Entry ways, foyers, porches, and nooks are all perfect places to show your personality and create a welcome and inviting vibe. Functional is fine but oversized furniture, too many knick knacks, or anything that makes you feel cramped can quickly ruin a rooms clean and modern look.
Your bedroom: There is a reason those catalog photos of bedrooms make us ooh and aah. The easiest way to make a bedroom feel luxurious is to use simple white linens and some great pillows. Everyone likes comfy spaces!
The pictures in this post came from one stage. One stage that was so successful the home went under contract in a week! Maybe it was the location or the house layout was perfect for the family, but I like to think the staging made it possible for the new buyers to ‘see’ their future in the home.
Oh, notice there’s not one TV in the photos! The most common question I get from the folks that hire me to stage is, “Where’s the TV?” Here’s the thing. Staging is not about the reality of living in the space — it’s about the dream of living in the space. I never stage with a fake TV. Televisions although we all have them, I have 3, at my own home, are ugly. I stage with art work where the possibility of a TV might go.
If you need a stager to sell your home contact me at 704.330.8326.
So you want to work with a stager… now what? For most people, working with a stager isn’t a regular occurrence and like any ‘first time’, you might be a little apprehensive about what to expect.
It’s important everyone is on the same page in order to avoid potentially awkward conversations. Kind of like the uncomfortable conversation I had to have recently with a designer of a client. The designer was helping my client flip the home… selecting finishes and paint colors. In this case, she was my point person on the issue of the staging. The designer requested to see my warehouse ahead of time. No problem. We talked about styling and color for the stage design. All good. In turn, she showed me homes she had put furnishings in for this same owner previously. I welcome clients who have ideas, questions, and want to have some level of involvement. Ultimately, that helps me deliver exactly what they want! The rub happened when after placing my staging the designer moved everything around, edited out things she didn’t want in each room and demanded that I pick up the leftover items.
The whole thing made me realize that the staging system of operations is not a foregone conclusion. I take staging protocol for granted. If someone hasn’t used a stager before they would have no idea what the rules are.
Let me give you a little guidance.
Choose a stager who’s styling, not style, you like and trust. There’s a big difference. When people ask me my”style” in regards to my staging, I explain that I offer many different styles. My inventory includes contemporary to classic – Mid century to minimalism – shabby chic to SOHO. Most stagers offer an array of style options. The distinction between stagers is often in the ‘styling.’ This idea is more abstract, but a great example would be how I utilize spaces. I use a drafting table v. desks in my office spaces. I like to send a message of creativity instead of work. The styling sets the vibe. If you are aren’t sure if it’s a right fit, ask to see pictures of previous stages they have completed. If you have a positive reaction to a stagers work, they are the right stager for you. You know it when you see it. Once you hire them — trust they will bring that same design aesthetic to your stage.
There is a method to the madness. Watching staging being moved in, unpacked and shifted around is like watching sausage being made. It’s not attractive. However, after it’s put together it’s delicious (the sausage and the staging). If you are the homeowner, give the stager time and space to change and create. Don’t worry when you see bins and boxes spilling out in the living room. This is sausage being made.
Don’t move staging. It is perfectly fine to ask the stager about design choices and voice opinions. However moving, editing, or adding to the stage once in place is a no- no. Remember staging is about bringing a space to life and creating a beautiful and interesting story that pulls potential buyers in. Staging is not catered to the client’s personal taste. Talk to your stager if there is a particularly objectionable piece or set-up. Please don’t take it upon yourself to move it.
As a stager I am hired to showcase the best use of a space, create a beautiful picturesque design, and evoke a positive response from viewers. I always want the client to be happy with the end result and trust the process. You’ll like it, I promise.
Let’s hear it for summer! Sunshine. Relaxed routines. Trips to the beach.
You don’t have to go “away” to enjoy the lazy days of summer. So often we spend more time exploring places we don’t live. Perhaps we just assume that because we live here there’s no rush.
This summer I challenge you to make the most of your down time in your own town! I’ve made a list of 5 must do things that just might change your perspective about where you live.
Go to a Charlotte Knights Game. Baseball and summer go hand in hand and the Charlotte Knights are a great excuse to spend an afternoon or evening uptown. The game is a fun change of pace for a date night, night with friends or for the whole family. The stadium is great. The food is better than your traditional concession fare and the view can’t be beat! Grab a ticket and root root root for the home team!
Eat some ice cream. This should be mandatory for everyone. Any 7 year old will agree with me. What’s your favorite flavor? Charlotte has some great ice cream spots that offer way more than just the usual. It might seem obvious to put ice cream on a summer to do list but I encourage you to try a new place this summer. Don’t get it to go. Sit. Talk. People watch. Heck, get crazy and try all of the spots on this list …
Party in the Park. Summers are perfect for turning a regular old Wednesday night into something special. Charlotte is full of events thatspotlight live music or offer a movie under the stars. One of the most fun is at Romare Bearden Park. It’s a beautiful park in the heart of our city. You’ll find young and old dancing around by the bands. Local vendors offer food and drink. Here’s the schedule.
Go to the airport. What?? Yes. Go to the airport. All the extra summer fun can add up to big bucks. Charlotte Douglas International Airport is one of the few airports in the country that has a public overlook area and it doesn’t cost a thing! Take a picnic or just sit on a bench and feel the vibration as massive jets fly take off and land before your eyes. It’s a cool experience for the young and old. One important thing to note… there’s no bathroom so go before you go.
Take a walk. Charlotte parks and neighborhoods are wonderful places to explore. I know the Carolinas get hot. Some days it’s so hot you might think it sounds like a better plan to stay in the air conditioning. Stay inside though and you might miss the new flowers planted on the corner. You can’t pet your neighbors cute dog inside. Introduce yourself to someone new. Meet a running buddy. or stop in at that local business you’ve been too busy to stop at when you are in your car. It’s like a social outing and your exercise all at the same time. Of course, if you are going to walk in the day, make sure you bring a bottle of water.
Our area has a lot of great attractions to enjoy during the summer… museums, theme parks, spray grounds. My list may be a little unconventional but give it a try and let me know how it goes!
One of my favorite things about staging is that it gives me an excuse to hoard cool, seemingly useless, treasures. Outdated or misunderstood prints and wall hangings, old postcards, clocks that don’t work, a metal ceiling fan vent from the 50’s that’s dented and rusted, and a paper mache elk head aren’t just examples of such treasures. They are actually things I have kept and stored in anticipation that one day I will find the perfect use for them.
Like kittens and puppies, these items just need a good home. A great way to use these often misunderstood pieces is to include them in a wall collage.
I recently posted a photo on my Facebook page of a wall collage I finished for a home I was staging. So many people messaged me about it that I thought I would help you create a wall collage of your own.
Here’s how to do it. There is a little experimenting and personal preference involved to get it ‘just right’ but here are some general rules.
First, choose your wall space. The size of the space will determine how many ‘things’ you can include in the wall collage.
Next, choose what to hang.
Mixing the same medium is usually easiest–framed art, or photographs
If you want a cleaner look, frame pieces that are the same size and same medium, black and white photos with B&W photos and of course with same type of frame.
If you want a more boho (short for bohomenian) look, mix frames and mediums of art. graphic prints + photos + painted art + B&W etc. Never mind the frame type.
If you really want creative and boho add texture. Mix in metal letters or animal skulls, macrame art, empty frames are especially cool.
If you are like me, I have saved things from the trash that have no purpose other than they look interesting, like, fan vents old clocks that don’t work. I even saved a broken thermometer from a space heater. These are all game.
Plan it before you nail it.
Use the floor space below the wall space you have chosen and lay your pieces out on the floor. Play with arrangement. If you’re like me you will edit and add things.
If you’re going with the same size and type of frame for a clean look, choose a linear pattern and make sure to space evenly. Hang your first one and use as a guide for the corresponding piece beside, below and above.
If you are using different sized frames. Multiple frames look best when based around the following shapes: rectangle, diamond or square.
Groupings look most cohesive when frames are spaced tightly together (about 1 to 2 inches). However, if there is an extra large piece in the mix, give it a little extra room to breathe (an extra ½ to 1 inch should do).
Start with the biggest pieces first and then work around them if you are mixing sizes.
Plan out your collage on the floor by placing the frames on top of a big piece of butcher paper.
Fourth, take the test.
If you think you’ve got the look you want on the floor. Outline and cut out pieces on butcher paper that match your chosen pieces and tape to wall. Feel free to move the shapes around as you like.
Frames should hang at eye level.
If you are adding other than flat or framed pieces, you’ll have to use your imagination a bit.
Finally, hang time.
Once you feel confident about your collection, nail just above the cutout and replace cutout with intended hanging.
Try not to worry too much about messing up. You can always spackle and paint.
I love collections and collages. That’s why I am so excited that wall collages are trending in the world of design. It’s given new life to my collection of misfits. Whether you want funky or measured or modern, collages are a great option to consider. And I promise you, done right, it will give your guests something to talk about!