Home stager to the stars shares her top tips for selling your home

A 90-tree orchard, swimming pool and half a dozen water fountains are just some of the features that greet you when you arrive at home stager Meridith Baer’s Californian home.

Situated in a canyon on a quiet street in Los Angeles, the three-bedroom, four-bathroom property has been home to Meridith, 75, for the past 23 years, and she doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.

“I am madly in love with my home and it probably shows,” says Meridith, who has staged the homes of everyone from Beyoncé and Meryl Streep to Scarlett Johansson and Jonah Hill.

“You couldn’t get me out of here. This is where I’ll live forever. I live on a street where there are horses and you feel like you’re in the country.

"I couldn’t believe this was a street in Los Angeles, I fell in love the moment I walked on the street.”

Meridith purchased the property in 1999 after offering $100,000 over the asking price, and immediately got to work on creating her dream home within an idyllic setting.

“I built exactly the home I wanted to live in,” she tells us. “When I moved in it was falling apart so I started remodelling one part at a time and adding square footage.

“Then I realised there was this huge mountain behind my house, so I removed 300 truckloads of dirt and opened up a huge space and built steps up to a pergola and orchard.

"I have 90 fruit trees so it’s fun to go out and pick a lemon when I need one. I really am a big gardener so to me the most important part of my home is the outdoors.”

The businesswoman shares her home, which she describes as “modern ranch-style”, with her beloved cat Tiggy, who quite often steals the show during her shoots.

“She’s quite the model,” says Meridith. “Any time I photograph she gets right in the middle of the shot and upstages me.”

Meridith launched her staging company Meridith Baer Home in 1998. Fast forward nearly 25 years and she now has 300 employees and offices in LA, San Francisco, New York, The Hamptons and Miami.

“We’re generally brought in to furnish a property for sale by a real estate broker, or sometimes homeowners will call us directly,” she tells us.

“We look at a property and get an idea of what kind of décor we think will help sell it, then we give them a bid of how much it will cost.

"We have warehouses where we mostly manufacture furniture ourselves, so the designer will go in and tag items they think will work in the house.

"Then our crew will install it all. It’s rare you see an important home go on the market now without being staged.”

She continues, “How long the process takes depends on where the home is and the size. In Manhattan in New York, you have to have smaller furniture because the rooms are smaller and you have to get it into an elevator.

"We were once doing a property and the sofa wouldn’t fit in the elevator so we had to call a sofa expert – he came in and cut it in half then put it back together again! We never know what issue we might be dealing with until we get there.”

Some of the homes Meridith’s company stages can be worth upwards of $100 million.

“The most expensive ones have been a couple of hundred million,” she tells us. “I did this massive one in Montecito that was like a palace. Someone had seen a palace in Italy and wanted to copy it and it was extraordinary.

"We also recently did one in Malibu on the beach. It was $130 million and it had everything including tennis courts and the most incredible view.

"We staged it and they bought every single thing from the staging. It puts a big smile on our face when that happens!”

Previously a model, actress and screenwriter, Meridith stumbled into her new career path while renting a home in the Westside region of Los Angeles.

“I had been screenwriting for 20 years and I was leasing a house in the Brentwood area of LA.

"I found I was having more fun working in the garden and fixing up the house than writing,” she says.

“The owner of the house came to town and looked at what I’d done and said, ‘Oh my God, I can really make some money on what you’ve done. You’ve got to leave!’ The house was swept out from under me, and that’s how my career started.”

She continues, “I had to get out fast. I had a friend trying to sell a house he’d just built. I said, ‘How about I bring my furniture and art over and show people how they would live in this space?’ I did and within a week the house sold for half a million dollars over asking.

“From there, brokers who had seen my work started calling and asking if I would do the same for them and I just kept saying yes.

“I wasn’t just doing funky little houses, I was doing mansions. I had never studied design or taken a design class.

"As a kid my mum loved to flip homes so we would be moving all the time. She would let me rearrange the furniture. I never considered there was anything special about that.

“Sometimes I really do pinch myself,” she continues. “From time to time I go, ‘Who am I? How did this happen?’ It will be 25 years in January since I started my company, but it feels like 10 minutes to me.

“All I’ve done is work, and staging is not for sissies. It looks glamorous from the outside, but the truth is there are a lot of hats one has to wear. You have to have talent and be willing to work hard.”

Meridith has come across her fair share of challenging clients over the years.

“Some clients are very demanding,” she says. “I don’t mind demanding clients when they know what they’re talking about, but sometimes we’ll deal with someone who has some idea in their head and they’ll hire us, but then they’ll interfere and won’t let us do our job.

"If we have a difficult client, we just do the best we can. The hardest is people who just don’t understand design and don’t have good taste but have strong opinions.”

She continues, “The most difficult situation is a divorce. When you have two owners who are really angry at each other and you’re caught in the middle.

"If they’ve raised children in the home and there are a lot of memories there, that can be tough. The home is often their largest asset and they want to get top dollar for it so it’s pressure for them.”

When it comes to Meridith’s favourite things about her own home, she says she has a few.

“I would say where it is,” she explains. “I love the canyon. I love the sounds of the horses clip-clopping on the street and I particularly love to see the kids with their little riding hats.

"I also love the fact that each room looks out at a different part of the garden. My favourite room is probably my kitchen. I added it. It’s very airy and whenever I have people over it seems we’re in there most of the time.”

Other favourite features include Meridith’s art collection.

“I particularly like the painting I have in the corner of the living room of the men in a dark room,” she says.

“I was in New York about a decade ago and I was at a restaurant and there was this remarkable painting quite similar to that. I fell in love with it. I tracked down the artist, Brian Crotty, and commissioned him to do something similar.”

As for tips for those wanting to improve their space or trying to sell their home, Meridith says it’s all in the details.

“First and foremost, I would say declutter as much as possible. Take down personal items like family photos. You can have one or two, but when people walk into a home they don’t want to imagine you living there, they want to imagine themselves living there.

”If you have children, instead of having 75 toys in the bedroom, have the four or five cutest ones on display.

"A fresh coat of paint can also make all the difference, as well as fresh white towels if yours are old and beat up.

“If you start to get rid of stuff you don’t really want and just focus on stuff you love, you’ll probably be a lot happier in the home you’re in.”

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