Thinking of selling your home? Or just giving the place a makeover? Choosing the perfect style can be a daunting task, but with the know-how of Selling Houses Australia’s Shaynna Blaze, you’ll feel at an instant advantage. We recently chatted with Shaynna to get her top design and renovation tips.
What home décor trends are popular for 2016?
There are definitely a lot more traditional styles. We’ve gone through a lot of Scandi, and I am so glad that is gone; I am so over that. People just caught on because it was a very easy one; there was a lot of knock-off furniture associated with that, and it has just been overdone. Not to say you can’t use that retro mid-century style, but it’s really looking at traditional elements of the interior: beautiful pieces that have a bit of history to them. I think that when there is a lot of uncertainty in the world, we look at things that have familiarity to them. Things that have age and time to them create that sort of trend, so that is where we are moving at the moment: having traditional features and pieces, but mixing quite a lot of modern stock elements with them too, to balance it. Eclectic has been big for so long it becomes a different kind of eclectic too. It becomes a simplistic eclectic in the fact that you can mix quite a few different styles together but you pare it back, don’t make it fussy. You just have a couple of features and you keep it very elegant, so I think we’re going to see a lot more elegant interior these days.
“If you’re colour-phobic, just get over it first of all.”
Adding colour to a home can seem daunting, particularly if you’re drawn to a simple palette of black, grey and white. What tips to you have for those who are colour-phobic?
If you’re colour-phobic, just get over it first of all. Colour is so interchangeable! Try putting colour on your walls. I’m standing here and I’ve got a navy wall at the moment, a navy couch and some bold artwork in front of it and it puts so much energy in the room. When I change my mind, I can paint the walls white and the couch and the artwork still work. So, the elements of colour are about putting energy in the room and about putting in life. I think the main thing is, instead of fearing colour, embrace the happy side of what you want that room to bring, and it will actually make sense. When you want to put colour into your room just think about how you want to live. Do you want to be happy? Do you want to be joyous? And look for colours that make you joyous. By putting those elements in your room, whether it’s a vase, a lamp, something like that, it changes your attitude. I think people need to just get away from pitch perfect, which is sticking to the white and the greys as neutrals, and put the colour in your home to create joy.
Smaller items like pillows and throws start it. I have a lot of people telling me the ladies will love a colour, but the husband is scared. Just sneak a pillow in every second week, add this and that. That’s the way to get good layering as well; not trying to get it all in one go. If you’re fearful of that and scared to make it, just look at the cushions or look at a great piece of artwork that’s going to make you feel good and make you love the colour palette. Then, just start looking at it and think, “I like the pink in this picture, I might get a pink cushion,” and then you just start creating different layers into the room.
Is there one key piece that you find immediately improves a room?
It depends on the room. I would say to people: invest in pieces. Key pieces should be able to be interchangeable. A beautiful occasional chair can go into any room in the house, or spend money on some beautiful lamps. Those are the key pieces that I ask people to invest in. Find a piece that is not a trend piece. Find a piece that you love and it says you. Don’t care if everyone hates it. That way, the key piece becomes interchangeable in the whole house. You can use it in the living room, in the study, in the bedroom, rather than looking at something that’s going to make you always make sure you have the right rug or the right cushion. I really try to get people to try and stay away from that feeling.
One of the common themes in many of the houses you’ve worked on is clutter. For those that just can’t bear to part with their belongings, how can they use their space to its full potential without actually going through the de-cluttering process?
That is pretty hard. You start creating groupings. Rather than lining things up on shelves, create small groupings. Rather than making things feel all over the place, just put it in clean areas. I think the de-cluttering process is the hardest thing in that you want your stuff around. I think what you have to look at is, “What are the bits that I love at the moment? What do I like?” and put the things that you’re not attached to at the moment into boxes. You can’t throw them away, but put them in boxes under the bed or in the garage and cycle them. Don’t feel like you’ve lost them. The big thing in feng shui is the mentality that visual clutter creates a clutter in the mind. And the more that you can get away at the stuff you see at an everyday level of clutter can actually make you more efficient. You don’t have to get rid of your stuff, just cycle it. I do that all the time, I have boxes of stuff everywhere. My husband still has t-shirts from when he was about 15 years old, so I’ve got a few boxes of stuff that he can’t let go of.
If you’re on a tight budget, what areas of your home should you focus on first?
There are two main areas. I would focus on my bedroom first. That’s because you wake up every day there and you go to sleep every day there. It is so important to feel good at those times. So, you have to make sure the environment that you’re sleeping in feels good. If you’re on a tight budget, you start making yourself feel good, you feel better, and then you can move on. Then the next part is the space that you spend all your time in, which is mainly your lounge room or your kitchen. Look at the focus of one key area that you spend most of your time in when you’re relaxing. Look at the elements that you connect with every day. Look at what you touch on a daily basis that will give you joy, but it will also make sure that you’re feeling good every time you do something, so you feel like you haven’t compromised.
“Look at the big spaces that impact, which is flooring, walls, and tiling areas.”
DIY projects seem like a no brainer if you’re renovating on a budget; what small things can home owners do themselves that will make the biggest impact?
Paint is definitely the one because you can do it yourself. It’s a big canvas in your house, so that’s a very big thing. So, doing the paints and obviously cleaning the place. There’s so much you can do learning a skill like tiling, just a small project. For the first time I wouldn’t tile your whole bathroom, but just a splash back in your kitchen or something like that can be a bit of a project that you can do yourself. There are some incredible floating floors and vinyl floors at the moment that you can do yourself as well. Look at the big spaces that impact, which is flooring, walls, and tiling areas, and if you can do some of those areas in small doses yourself, you are going to save a huge amount of money.
Is there any one particular house this season that really stood out to you?
The house in Yallingup in Western Australia was a challenge because it was a gallery, but it was such an emotional one because she wasn’t well and she was so positive. She just didn’t want to show any drama that she was going through. What they were doing by selling the place was going to benefit her husband and family when she was gone. Here was this beautiful woman who was not just preparing the future but preparing for when she’s gone. It was a very beautiful emotional episode that I really felt privileged to do.
Working with so many different styles of houses, how do you plan renovations and décor changes that will have the biggest overall appeal to a variety of potential buyers?
What you’ve got to do is look at the trend. That is where you become available to pretty much everybody. People want to see what’s fresh and new, so you have to look at what’s happening at the moment. I think the main thing is, when you’re trying to appeal to a broad market, you’ve got to try and not appeal to everybody. It’s one of those great sayings: “if you try to appeal to everybody you appeal to nobody.” What you have to do is look at a simplistic style, a modern style which is classic, but make sure you have a few personal touches. I think just look at the basis of the style of what’s happening at the time. Everyone says they want modern. Well, modern means what is happening now. So, look at what has got the broad appeal. Start with that palette and build on it with a few personal layers, beautiful colours, things like that.
Have you ever come across a house that you just didn’t think could be saved?
No. I think every house can be saved; there is always something beautiful in it. Unless it is one that is completely ridden with borer and we just have to knock down the wood and everything. That’s the only sort of house that we can’t save.
“Make sure you spend your money in an area that you can complete.”
First impressions are everything. In your experience, what interior design elements do most potential buyers look for?
People look for a great kitchen and a great bathroom. They are really important. Also, in Australia and New Zealand, we love open plan living. Europe took a long time to get a hold of that. Also, there is the sense of light and space, it is so important for people to not feel crowded into a room. So, think of light and space. If you can create light and space visually, you have people already there.
Make sure you spend your money in an area that you can complete. If you do half the kitchen and half the bathroom, people walk in straight away and feel like they have two projects to do. If you finish one and it’s complete and no one has to do anything to it, people think, “Oh, well I just have to do the bathroom, I can wait a couple of years for that.” Whereas if you make them half functional, people think, “Oh, I have to finish off the bathroom and the kitchen.”
And is there anything that sellers should avoid at all costs?
Avoid gallery pictures and portrait pictures of the family. People don’t want to see your family in there. You don’t want them to feel like they’ve invaded the space.
Selling Houses Australia airs Mondays at 9.30pm on Living Channel