91 – Case Study: Dimitra Oldham

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property stylist and a renovator

In this episode, I have a special guest in Dimitra Oldham. Dimitra is the Founder & Creative Director of Staging Designs, a Property Styling business based on the Upper North shore and primarily servicing the Upper and Lower North Shore as well as the Northern Beaches Market.

Dimitra did one of our early training and utilises her skills for staging properties for sale and renovating for clients.

Listen to Episode 91: Case Study Dimitra Oldham

Podcast: Download (Duration: 26:20 — 26.25 MB)

Episode Highlights

  • [00:00:45] A property styling company in Sydney
  • [00:00:57] Styling for over 15 years, initially started renovating for investors
  • [00:02:55] Featured in “Property Stylists Australia 2020” by Naomi Findlay
  • [00:05:03] Styling as a really essential part of the selling process
  • [00:08:43] That subconscious feeling people get when they walk through a styled home
  • [00:10:11] It is critical to actually have styling specific training
  • [00:13:01] Looking at it from the buyer’s view
  • [00:15:29] Appropriate styling for the property and the market
  • [00:15:51] Style trends
  • [00:18:38] How the buyer will feel when they’re going through the property
  • [00:22:32] Wall art favourites
  • [00:23:19] The Reno Library
property stylist and a renovator

Transcription

There are lots of things that you need to take into account when you’re styling a property for sale. And so I think one of the components that often gets missed is that people sort of assume that having styling, having design training is all that they need. But it’s really critical to actually have styling specific training that can really show you in it and provide further information in terms of things you need to be considering when you’re styling for sale.

Intro

Well, hello, everyone. It’s Bernadette back with another episode of She Renovates. Today, I’m interviewing Dimitra Oldham. Dimitra did one of our very early training and utilises her skills to stage properties for sale, and she also renovates for clients. Now, Dimitra caught my eye when she was recently featured in a book celebrating high achievers in the Australian Institute of Home Staging which is a business owned by Naomi Findlay. Now, Dimitra built a very successful business and I think you’re going to enjoy this episode.

Bernadette: Well, hello, it’s Bernadette back with another episode of She Renovates. And today I have a guest in Dimitra Oldman. So Dimitra was one of our very early students. She came through our training quite a few years ago. Dimitra is a stylist, a property stylist I guess you would say and a renovator. And I think she sort of demonstrates how incredibly versatile the skills that we nurture are and can transfer and enhance quite a few different career paths. So, Dimitra’s built a successful business. And I’ll let her tell you a bit about that in a minute. And over to you, Dimitra. So do you want to firstly tell us a bit about what you do?

Dimitra Oldham:  Hi, Bernadette. And thank you so much for having me on the show today. Yes, certainly. I have a property styling company based in Sydney up on the north shore at the moment. And we service a lot of the up on the north shore and those in lower north shore and northern beaches. My background is predominantly I’ve been styling, I guess, for about 15 years now. I started off while I was in the U.S. We were living over there for a few years and then brought that back with me to Australia. Just over the amount of time we just sort of built up a business. We initially started with renovating properties for investors to be able to increase their rental returns and their profits, their capital in their properties. And then as time sort of got on, the property styling business started to develop further along the way.

And so our focus has been more in that area. And so we’re sort of doing probably less renovations as such at the moment. But we do still sort of incorporate part of that into what we do in terms of how to best prepare a property to go to market. And so a lot of the work and things that we now recommend is more just around the minor facelifts and those sorts of things.

Bernadette: Yeah. Well, usually when you’re going to market that’s probably all you have the energy for. And also, it’s usually the best bang for your buck isn’t it? To do a minor makeover?

Dimitra Oldham: Absolutely. Yeah, that’s right. It’s just about identifying where the best places to spend that money and make sure that you can hit the market with the property at its best, with the lowest amount of input in terms of financial cost.

Bernadette: Yeah. And so just jumping back a minute. So the reason, well, the thing that piqued my interest is that you were featured in a book called “Property Stylists Australia 2020” and I’m assuming that was produced by Naomi Findlay, right?

Dimitra Oldham: Yes, that’s correct. So the book was produced by the International Institute of Home Staging.

Bernadette: And it’s a very beautiful book and it’s always nice to have that solid representation of what you’ve achieved. So, yeah, I think that’s awesome.

Dimitra Oldham: Thank you. Yeah. It’s hard to sort of sit back and actually look at that in a way is sort of putting yourself out there but it’s wonderful. There’s some beautiful stylists in there and this amazing work. And so it’s great to share our core driver, what drives us and how we sort of got to where we are and also be able to help provide inspiration for lots of others wanting to come into the industry and that sort of thing and other aspects.

Bernadette: Well, I guess really talking about the drivers behind the styling. What you’re trying to achieve, which is I think a lot of people think that styling is just a bit of furniture and a bit of. But it’s a really essential part of the process, isn’t it?

Dimitra Oldham:  It’s absolutely critical, honestly. I so much refer to some of my clients sometimes when you’re trying to sell a car, for example, if you’re selling your car, you’re going to wash it. You’re going to make it look amazing. You’re going to detail it. Depending on the value of the car, you might even detail the engine, a whole lot of other series of things you’re going to do. So why are you doing that? You’re doing that because you’re wanting to make the most of it. You’re wanting to share it as being the best you can be in order for you to achieve the best price for it. And why not do that for your home? That’s exactly what property styling does for your home. You don’t want to go to market and leave things unattended and then you’re just risking not actually getting the maximum return on your biggest asset most of the time.

Bernadette: Yeah, that’s interesting, isn’t it? Because I occasionally – not very often, thank goodness – I will come across a renovator who has tried to sell their property without styling. And I’ll say to them, why would you even do that? And the answer is, “We blew our budget and we’ve run out of money.” And so, I think we know that statistically that styling will add at least 10% to the property to the sale price. And so by not styling, not only have you got a blown budget but you’re also going to take 10% off the price, the sale price. So it’s just madness. Yeah.

Dimitra Oldham: Absolutely. Yeah, that’s exactly right. And the amount of times that I hear people say, “Oh, it’s a brand new unit, I don’t need to style it. It’s you know, people will just see what it’s gonna be like. It’s amazing, you know.” And it’s absolutely not. No, it’s completely empty and uninviting and you’ll get the price reflective of that.

Bernadette: Yeah. One of the things that I think about styling, it is designed to create that lifestyle so people can see themselves living in it and they can see themselves living the perfect life. That’s the important bit because they say, “We don’t want a home that looks like it’s straight out of vogue.” Well, actually, we do. The reality is when you’re buying a home, but the other great thing about it really gives context to the spaces. I think it sort of tells the story, doesn’t it, about the property?

Dimitra Oldham: Yeah. It tells the story about the property. And it’s important to be able to visualise and see how people can actually live within that property. Not all spaces are easy to see how you would lay them out and how they would work for you and even when they are, a lot of the times people think that their furniture is smaller than what it actually is or that the room is bigger than what it actually is. And so when you kind of combine those two things together, people don’t visualise it as much. We’ve changed at a lot more fast pace in what we do on a day to day basis. And so if we don’t walk into a place and have it appeal to us and tell us that story, we get a very different feel from the space. And so we don’t really know how to best lay it out. And so then we start thinking about how we are going to do this. And is it going to fit this? And is it going to fit that? You don’t want people to be worrying about that when they come into your property. You just want them to ease their way through it. And it’s interesting because I’ve had many clients who said to me, “Oh, you know, I’m not sure I’m keen on this styling thing.” But I must admit, I do go into all the homes. And when they asked, they did look lovely? Is that even though I know that they look lovely? And that’s the thing. It’s the subconscious feeling that people get when they walk through a styled home and they’re not even aware that it’s grasping them in that way. And that’s when you know that the stylist has done a wonderful job.

Bernadette: Yeah, definitely. I’ve got my little list of questions that I’ve created for you, and we’ve covered off a few of them. But I guess what I’m wanting to do is for other renovators because I know a lot of our community that it’s the pretty that they really love and that for some renovators, going down the path of styling or staging business is on the agenda. So what sort of training do you undertake once, like you have your renovation training, but what training do you have in the styling arena?

Dimitra Oldham: I think it’s a very interesting question, actually, because I think you need a mix. I think you definitely need to understand the basic design principles and concepts and things around colour and space and those sorts of things. But I think the most critical component of all is actually having styling specific training that helps you understand how to rate a market. How to style a property for sale, not just interior decorating. You’re not styling the property to make it look lovely for someone who’s living there, for example. There are lots of things that you need to take into account when you’re styling a property for sale. And so I think one of the components that often gets missed is that people sort of assume that having styling, having design training is all that they need. But it’s really critical to actually have styling specific training that can really show you in it and provide further information in terms of things you need to be considering when you’re styling for sale. And there’s a myriad of things that need to come into play into that. So I think you really do need to be an all-rounder. It’s really not just one thing that you need to be sort of focused on. It’s really having a combination of skills I think that kind of culminates together.

Bernadette: I agree. And I do think that an understanding of the market is something that’s really sadly missing in a lot of stylists. I had a property stylist a couple of years ago now by a very well renowned, highly respected company. And they just really got it completely wrong, not so much in the style but how they place the furniture in the property. This property had a big downsizer market and we all know that downsizers have got lots of furniture and like, except that they’ve got to get rid of some of it but don’t want to get rid of all of it. And they had just filled the living room with furniture and it just looked cluttered. And that’s what I always say to our students, don’t abdicate responsibility to the stylist because they often have different objectives to what you have. And you’ve got to really make sure that they’re styling the space to tell the story that you want to tell, which is that this room is spacious. So, I think that’s a really critical skill that not a lot of stylists have.

Dimitra Oldham: And I totally agree with you here, Bernadette. I think that is one of the biggest components that is lacking in our industry. And I think that is because there is that crossover from the design industry into the styling. But I think that’s where people go down, is that they don’t then actually go on and do styling specific training to actually then provide them with that level and that component that they need about the property market and how they can incorporate that into all the different styles. I agree with you, I often come across some of the really big, massive companies in Sydney and they get it wrong because they are just focused on making it pretty and not necessarily looking at it from a completely different view, from the buyer’s view, for how it’s going to be the best way to present that company for sale. So that’s why it’s important.

Bernadette: Yeah, I think also it’s about the stylist because you have a background in renovating. I think that makes a massive difference. And because you understand what the market needs where someone that’s purely from a design background doesn’t have that awareness. So, I think it’s a thing that’s ingrained in like when you are doing renovations and selling renovations and you know the things that you need to be aware of, that makes a massive difference. So when a client’s getting you as a stylist, they’re getting the full deal.

Dimitra Oldham: Yeah, absolutely. And I mean I worked in the real estate industry for a little while and I worked out of the buyer’s agency. And so I got to really understand the property industry and the property markets in various areas that I now work in. And just looking at it from different perspectives of what buyers really want and understand and just having that overall knowledge is absolutely critical in our industry. We play a huge part in the sales process. We are a very critical component of it. And yeah, there’s a lot to consider. Definitely.

Bernadette: Absolutely. And in actual fact, in some projects, the styling adds almost as much value as the renovation. So that’s a very important detail to be aware of.

Dimitra Oldham: Yeah, definitely.  You don’t want to do the renovating and leave the styling off at the end because all your hard work is going down the drain or knocking down the drain. But you’re just not going to get the maximum return on it.

Bernadette: I always argued that you need that because you have a lot of costs with renovating that your buyer doesn’t necessarily want to pay like you’ve got to pay stamp duty and holding costs and selling costs and sort of independent of the renovation. So the styling helps with covering all that stuff. That adds to your costs in terms of delivering a project.

Dimitra Oldham: Absolutely. And as you say, it’s going to be appropriate styling for the property and the market. There was no point in doing the styling because it’s the cheapest way of doing it or it’s got to be appropriate for the market and for the property.

Bernadette: Exactly. Now, I thought we might just have a little bit of a chat about style. So what are you noticing about style trends at the moment?

Dimitra Oldham: I think there’s been a real push to or what we kind of see coming through. There’s a real relaxed kind of feel that’s coming through, a lot of nature is coming through in terms of the muted colours that we’ve got going on at the moment. There’s still a lot of the grays and the neutrals and those sorts of things. But they all seem to be very soft, calming, and nature-inspired. I think there’s also a bit of a push coming through in terms of wallpaper, interestingly enough, that we see come back. Everything in design comes back eventually. But less so in wallpapering your whole room. But more so about potentially doing a feature wall in some beautiful soft tones and things like that just to add some interest and character and whatnot into a property.

So there’s a bit of that going on at the moment as well, I think. But it’s interesting because, in styling, I actually try not to focus too much on a specific trend that’s happening at the time, because sometimes you can fall into the category where you actually polarize some buyers if you’re going down a specific, particular trend. So it really needs to then be incorporated into the property. And what’s the home like in the style of the property and where is the property located? So you can certainly incorporate components of what might be happening at bearing trends. But in terms of styling, we want to appeal to a broad market. So you definitely don’t want to just go down one path. I find the trend in styling is quite interesting because although, yes, we want to make sure that we’re current. I think you need to sort of pick out elements of it and subtleties and put that through your styling that works within your market and within the home that you’re doing and that sort of thing.

Bernadette: Oh, look, I couldn’t agree more. My concern at the moment is that everything is quite muted, like the general styling that we see around. And my concern about that is that lots of properties do look a bit same-same with the styling. And when you are selling a property, you want yours to stand out. So how do you do that when you’re going down that sort of muted path? And every property is styled in a similar way.

Dimitra Oldham: I think for me the most important part is how the buyer will feel when they’re going through the property. We do want to sort of neutralize it but you can have pops of colour in some market and that’ll work really well and in other markets it won’t work so well. So you do have to style it to your market and it might end up being somewhat similar, I guess, if you’re working in a particular market. But I think at the end of the day, it comes back to the most critical thing is it’s not just about the photos that people see online. The photos are one thing but it’s more about the connection that they’ll get when they walk-in through the home. And I think that’s where you can really differentiate each property and that’s where the property will come alive for the buyers. And that’s what I sort of do going through as we style our properties.

Bernadette: One thing that I like to do is actually consider the styling when we’re putting together the renovation plan just because you sort of have to think of them both like working together so, for instance, when I’m thinking about what paint colour we’re going to do, how will the furniture sort of look against that colour, like we do use neutral colours but even so, whether you go for white or you go for gray. I’m not so much beige these days. But how that’s going to look with the furniture and what’s going to make a pop and what sort of artwork will work with that. So I do find that’s something that you need to think about upfront and also with bathrooms like we’re doing a bathroom at the moment. And I really do not want to go black or gold tapware, well, black because I feel like it’s had its day and gold because I feel like this particular property is in an area that’s like it’s very CBD. I think that likely it will have a professional couple living in it. And while I always like my renos to err on the feminine side, I don’t want to go too much that way. So I’m thinking, “Okay, so the next thing is brushed nickel”, I think that’s what I decided on. But when it comes to the styling, it’s going to be quite similar. White, gray grout, brushed nickel tapware. So the styling is gonna be the thing that brings the colour into the room.

Dimitra Oldham: Yes, definitely. And also the textures of everything that comes into the space as well, whether it be tiles or whether it be rugs, whether it’s cushions. So that’s another element that can be introduced that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a gold color or whatever, but bringing it together as well can also add another layer of interest and depth into the styling and help to make it great as well.

Bernadette: Yeah. And so one of the things that I think is really great with styling is the wall art. I think it really does give an area a personality and I think that’s the thing that’s going to. I know it’s about when people walk in the door, but they don’t walk in the door unless they’re pulled out, they browse on the Internet with the images and I think that’s one thing that does really capture the buyer. Have you got any favourites in terms of wall art?

Dimitra Oldham: We’re actually really lucky. I think we’re actually quite spoiled with wall art. I think there are lots of suppliers. You’ve got your Warren Brooks. You’ve got Designer Boys, of course, which are always amazing. I’ve got to say, they’re probably one of our favourites. Yeah, we love Designer Boy artworks. They’re just so versatile and just have the flexibility to change the framing on different prints and things and just give things a completely different look and feel. So yeah, when we are always in a hurry or stuck or anything we can always go to Designer Boys, we just know that we’ll find something there, they’ve got such a big selection and they’re always great with their turnaround time for us as well. But we are very spoiled, I think there are quite a lot of places out there with lots of art.

Bernadette:  Definitely. Well is there anything I should be asking you that I haven’t?

Dimitra Oldham: Not that I’m aware of?

Bernadette: Well, listen. Well done, Dimitra. Dimitra was a little bit nervous about this interview, so I think you’ve navigated it quite well. So how do our listeners find out a bit more about you and your business?

Dimitra Oldham: Look, definitely jump on our Instagram page. That’s always a good spot to have a look at what we’re up to and get lots of inspiration and things. I must admit, sometimes I get a bit slack and not have time to post regularly. Apologies for that. But there are always lots, lots on there to look at. Obviously, our website as well.

Bernadette: Yes. Can you give us your URL and your handle?

Dimitra Oldham: Yes. So our website is stagingdesigns.com.au . And our Instagram handle is Staging Designs.

Bernadette: Beautiful. Well, thank you for coming and sharing your expertise. I’m really impressed with how much you have grown and how amazing a business that you’ve created. And you should be very proud.

Dimitra Oldham: Thank you so much. It’s been a real pleasure. And yes, thank you for those beautiful kind words.

Bernadette: No worries. Thank you, Dimitra. Take care.

Dimitra Oldham: Thank you, Bernadette.

Bernadette: Okay. I hope you enjoyed that. If you are not already a member, I want to let you know that we have a free membership for podcast listeners called The Reno Library. And in it, you will access all the show notes and resources from every episode we have ever published. We’re getting quite close to the century so there’s quite a lot of resources in there. If you’re not already a member, please go over to our website. Follow the link from this episode and join up to The Renovation Library.

See you next week.

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