Design + Architecture

How to stage a bathroom--with very little money

By Kelly Kreth  |
September 4, 2013 - 11:08AM

AFTER: Stager Cathy Hobbs was able to update this bathroom without doing a major overhaul.

Earlier this year designer/stager Cathy Hobbs of Cathy Hobbs Design Recipes was called upon to perform her stagecraft on an estate-condition two-bedroom co-op once belonging to the late Maurice Sendak, author of “Where the Wild Things Are."

Sendak's apartment had not been lived in for some time and the property (listed for $3.15m) had also not been updated in decades, including the bathroom (above).

With all proceeds from the sale earmarked for charity, the budget for getting the apartment market-ready was low, and renovation was not an option.

Cognizant of the reality that buyers want move-in ready apartments and that many base their buying decisions based on kitchens and bathrooms, Hobbs incorporated low-cost "refreshers" such as painting the face of cabinet doors, replacing door handles and installing new light fixtures.

The results are pictured above. Looks good, no?

Here's how Hobbs did it:

1. Replaced old, weather chrome hardware for affordable, yet attractive door pulls.

The pulls were purchased from Home Depot for just under $3 a pop, but other options include Gracious Home and Lowe's.

2. Covered peeling, old wallpaper with three coats of primer and repainted the entire bathroom.

Wallpaper, especially if it's been on for years as this was, tends to rip when you try to remove it, Hobbs says. One option is to glue down loose ends, prime and paint.  You can do it yourself or hire a painter, which would probably cost somewhere around $1,200.

To brighten up the room and make it feel bigger and tranquil at the same time, she chose  netural shades of Natural Stone, Loghan Blonde and Nantucket Sand  ($50/gallon) by Mythic paint, her go-to paint company.  ("I especially love that all their colors go on smooth and rich and are all eco-friendly, zero odor, zero toxic, zero VOC," says Hobbs.)  

"The general rule of thumb is to use 'staging safe' neutrals such as white, taupe and light grays," she says.

3. Primed and painted  cabinets

Painting tired cabinetry (around $500-$1,000) is a lot cheaper than replacing it-so that's exactly what Hobbs did here.

4. Replace outdated light fixtures

You can't see them in the pictures above, but Hobbs replaced outdated light fixtures with new chrome ones from Home Depot (pictured below, $63). 

"It is important to go with a timeless fixture that'll appeal to lots of buyers. The goal isn't to select something that is too specific or ornate, but more generic and modern in feel. Chome and nickel finishes tend to have a greater appeal than gold or bronze," she says.


BEFORE: The bathroom, like the rest of the apartment, was tired and in need of a makeover.

5. Change the shower curtain

Hobbs swapped the old, dark shower curtain out for a clean bright decorative one from Bed Bath & Beyond ($30), adding a modern element to the space as well as color and texture. 

6. Accessorize

"The reality is that when it comes to staging, a potential buyer has to be able to 'envision' themselves in a space," Hobbs says. "I use what is known as 'lifestyle selling techniques.'"

How this translated in this bathroom was a selection of big thick towels, fragrant and elegant candles as well as blooms on the counter top. Hobbs also recommends adding hand cut soaps and/or bath salts to make it seem more luxurious and inviting.

Related posts:

10 apartment staging mistakes that can cost you a sale

Dear Brokers: Please put the "real" back in real estate

How to sell an estate-condition apartment

NYC Renovation Questions: 7 things to consider before wallpapering your apartment

The 8 most common feng shui screwups in NYC

How to sell a NYC apartment




Kelly Kreth

Contributing writer

Contributing writer Kelly Kreth has been a freelance journalist, essayist, and columnist for more than two decades. Her real estate articles have appeared in The Real Deal, Luxury Listings, Our Town, and amNewYork. A long-time New York City renter who loves a good deal, Kreth currently lives in a coveted rent-stabilized apartment in a luxury building on the Upper East Side.

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