5 Easy Tips for Outdoor Summer Staging

Buyers are drawn to backyards in the summer months. These simple tips will help ensure a listing’s outdoor space looks inviting. Plus, learn how to properly fly Old Glory.

July 2, 2014

Just as summer marks a segue from basement birthday bashes and dining room celebrations, it also means sellers should adjust their staging strategy to include outdoor spaces — especially during the months that backyard BBQs and poolside cocktails reign. 

“It makes perfect sense to me from the point of view of preparing for a sale,” says Constantine Vasilos, interim head of the interior design department at Harrington College of Design in Chicago. “Just like indoors, you don’t want any clutter or a worn-out look in an outdoor space. You want people to feel comfortable.”

The staging strategy shift is genuine: Saber Grills recently surveyed 1,500 U.S. home owners, and 83 percent said that outdoor living space is their favorite part of their home, and 81 percent called their outdoor space “the heart of the home.”

These findings don’t surprise Vasilios, who owns a 1910 white stucco house with a small outdoor yard in Chicago. “In a typical house, the double door connects to the outdoor space, which becomes a wonderful escape from tensions and dilemmas of work,” Vasilos says.

Since the outdoor space is an extension of any home’s interior — whether it’s the porch of an old Victorian with a quaint swing, a postage-stamp backyard of an urban 1920s bungalow, or a brand-new rooftop retreat with an outdoor fireplace at a refurbished downtown city loft — it’s smart to apply the same decorating principles for the indoors to the outdoors.

5 Tips to Spruce Up Yards and Decks

1. Reupholster cushions and seats in need of updates or repair. Consider using water-repellent, UV-protected fabrics for slipcovers or fitted, zippered cushion covers. These changes will instantly update the outdoor space. “It makes it feel fresh and tidy, ready to use,” Vasilios says.

2. Repaint garage walls. “It’s a good investment,” says Vasilios. “You can feel the difference; it feels warm.” It’s also an update that takes little effort and money. A fresh coat will also spruce up your outdoor space. It’s important to keep the garage wall white; otherwise, it will look cheap and tacky, he says. Besides, the sunshine will reflect the white wall inside the home.

3. Play with neutral color in small doses outside. Paint a small section of a wood fence white, green, or blue in a large backyard. “Keep the color connected to nature; think of the calming feel of outdoor water fountains that are popular now,” he advises. “Just like a mirror or a painting is a focal point inside, the same applies outside,” he says. Avoid accent colors in a small garden or BBQ space; it’s too overwhelming. “With color, remember that the background is green —trees or plantings,” he says. One unobtrusive way to use blue is on the ceiling of a porch. “Think about the viewpoint of where you’re sitting when you’re painting.”

4. Lighting is important. “For the seller, indirect lighting is key,” says Vasilios. For starters, try inexpensive tea lights around tree branches or a trellis. Define a boundary around a table with lights. Sconces with reflectors are a top-tier way to light the outdoors. “They reflect onto the bushes,” he says. Eschew certain LEDs unless the outdoor living space has a contemporary vibe. Be especially wary of fluorescent lighting, which can kill a space with blue or green light.

5. Buy inexpensive plants. Vasilios likes white flowers such as white orchids to arrange strategically outdoors during showings. He especially likes to place them at entryways, where they draw the eye, or at the top of the stairway.

Flying the Stars and Stripes

Since Independence Day is around the corner, your sellers are likely to hang flags to celebrate the day the United States of America was initially formed. You also might be displaying the Stars and Stripes outside your own office or residence. Here are some patriotic flag etiquette tips to keep in mind, according to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The U.S. flag should always be displayed above ground. It should never touch the floor, dirt, or water. What’s more, the union side (the stars) should be in the upper corner. A flag displayed with the union side down signals distress.

If flown on a staff with other flags, the American flag should fly at the top

A flag that hangs over a street should have the union toward the north or east, depending on the street direction.

The U.S. flag should be displayed to its own right, the observer’s left, if it’s grouped with other flags. Other nations’ flags are flown at the same level. State and nongovernmental flags should fly lower.

The American flag should be displayed only during daylight hours (sunrise to sunset). It can be displayed at night if it’s illuminated.

The flag should be properly folded and stored when it’s not in use. Here’s an easy primer on the proper way to fold and store the U.S. flag.

freelance writer

Mary Beth Klatt is a freelance writer with a passion for architecture and home design.


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