The Stagers - Episode #12: Matthew's Largest Staging Risk

Home Stager with Dezigner Digz

[Photo from HGTV's website]

I watched this episode of The Stagers while wiping beads of perspiration from my brow.  My hands were clammy and I found it difficult to grasp my pen for note-taking as I had a slight tremble.  Wondering why?  This was the second last episode of The Stagers for this season.  What's a person to do?  Just kidding of course, I'm not quite that hooked, but I will be sorry to see the season end. 

The Scenario

Matthew Finlason was the featured Stager for this property, and what a property it was.  A place I would certainly like to call home; especially once Matthew was finished with it.  He had 4 ½ days to stage a 2,500 square foot penthouse loft listed at $3.3 million. 

Here's a day-by-day glance at what took place:

Day 1

Matthew approaches the building and makes note of its curb appeal - great location and loads of exterior architectural features.  He goes up to the homeowner's penthouse suite.  Although not shown on T.V., Matthew would have arrived there by way of private elevator.  That's right; this beauty had its own personal elevator.  No awkward elevator conversations in this joint. 

Matthew meets with the homeowner for a tour where we, the viewers, are shown the starting point of the project.  There was a definite masculine feel to the suite with lots of hard edges, animal skin rugs, and a large, carved Indonesian headboard in the master bedroom.    

It wouldn't be the show it is, if Matthew didn't add some of his special brand of humour.  I have come to look forward to his little quips.  My favourite one this time around was his comment after seeing the property: "I'm feeling Afghan warlord."  Where does he come up with this stuff!  He also makes note of the fact that there wasn't a lot of furniture, yet there was a large piano in the room giving it a "007 feel" -another Matthew analogy.     

Now on to the yoga room - yes, a special room just dedicated to the practice of yoga.  Here we see Matthew lying on the floor (in his business suit) rolling on a bollster.  His spontaneity carries through into his staging as well.  It keeps things interesting.

After completion of the tour, the homeowner says his goodbyes and is left with these parting words from Matthew: "I will love it, I will take care of it - best of all; I'm going to sell it."  If only all Home Stagers on television had that much respect for the property.  I think it shows in the finished product as well.

Enter real estate agent, Lynn Johnson, recipient of the Top Producer Award of Excellence 4 years in a row for the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board.  She is also a Member of Who's Who In Luxury Real Estate. During her meeting with Matthew, Lynn talks about the value that staging can add to a property.  Could her belief in the worth of home staging be a part of her success?  I'm thinking so. Matthew really wants to impress her with this job and rightfully so.  Was he able to pull it off?  Read on. 

Matthew and Lynn discuss the project.  The homeowner had a very large carved totem pole in the suite which I thought was stunning - not painted, just natural wood.  Apparently this totem pole had to be lifted into the suite by crane from the exterior.  Lynn acknowledged that it was specific to the market, but was keen to have it removed.  Since it came in by crane, you guessed it; the totem pole would have to go out by crane.  I would be curious to know if the removal was built into the overall staging budget, because I can imagine it was quite costly.  We're talking one huge totem pole!

Day 2

Morning of Day 2 and Matthew is at Dekora's warehouse.  Matthew is met by Sarah, his Staging Assistant for this project and they begin to select their furniture.  Sarah is put in charge of selecting bedding and drapery.  She must also instil a girlie feel into the space.

Discussion takes place on removal of the totem pole.  Sarah agrees with Lynn, the agent that it should be removed.  Ron, Dekora's Staging Manager, explains to the team that removing the totem pole will be a logistical nightmare since all of the furniture will have to be removed in order to get it out.  I don't know.  If it were me, I would have liked to work with the totem pole.  Of course I realize that I'm speaking as an armchair critic.  It's easy to give suggestions when you aren't physically in the space, but I thought that the totem pole would have made such a striking statement.  As a big fan of west coast native artwork (I have a few pieces myself, but of course nothing of that magnitude) I have a pretty good idea of its worth.  I think if positioned correctly, it would have spoke volumes as to the luxury and opulence of the space.  I guess this would have been my "risk piece" on the project.  Matthew has one of his own that we will find out about later as well. 

Matthew and Sarah are now at the property and are getting things underway.  Matthew voices his concern that he hasn't thought of artwork yet and that there is barely enough in the budget to cover artwork for the kitchen, let alone 2,500 square feet of space.  Matthew has heard that Lynn, the agent, loves art so this is troubling for him.

Day 3

The day begins with Matthew lamenting about the artwork.  He phones Jay who is a fellow Dekora Stager and also happens to be an artist which I wasn't aware of.  Matthew leaves Sarah at the property to start staging the bedrooms while he heads over to Jay's place to see if he has any art available.

I have to say that I was very impressed with Jay's style.  He is one talented artist for sure.  I think Matthew called in a favour on this one, I'm not sure what Jay charged them to rent the pieces, or if it was pro bono.  Jay even went so far as to join Matthew at the property and assist with the install of the pieces.  I have only seen Jay on I believe 2 other episodes and I found him to be quite quiet.  He opened up to the camera this time around and made a great addition to the team.  If the show gets picked up for Season 2, I hope to see more of Jay.

While Matthew was out with Jay, Sarah makes the call to switch the beds in the 2 bedrooms.  It was a great idea, because the bed with the carved headboard was then put into the smaller room, leaving the master bedroom open to becoming more feminine with lots of throw cushions, drapery, etc.  The gamble paid off and Matthew was pleased with the outcome as well.  The rest of the day is spent staging.  They work so well together.

Day 4

Sarah is at the property supervising the removal of the totem pole.  The homeowner was there as well to assist. 

Matthew is still in need of one major piece of artwork for the entryway.  Off he goes to the gallery.  He finds an abstract piece with bound hands.  It's the right size for the entryway but he feels that it's a risky piece to choose.  After a lot of thought, he decides to go for it and states that it's his biggest risk in staging to date.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, so to speak, the totem pole is now gone.  Sarah goes shopping for draperies and accessories.

Day 5 - Reveal Day

There is still a lot to be done before the homeowner arrives.  What to do with the flat screen T.V.?  It finds its home in a closet; probably a wise decision.  The team applies some feng shui principles to the space as they feel some negative energy.

There wasn't a chandelier in the dining room, so Sarah comes up with a fantastic idea to use several crystal candleholders on the table with long, tapered candles.  It was like a reverse chandelier or candelabra.  Sarah fittingly named it the "tableabra".  It was a very effective centrepiece.

The homeowner arrives along with Lynn, the agent.  She feels that the painting in the entryway is too risky.  I have to say that I agreed with her.    Matthew referred to it earlier as a triumphant piece.  I guess this is where artwork is such a personal thing.  Everyone has their own take on it.  It was definitely an interesting piece, but I found it somewhat unsettling and thought it was a big chance, especially for the entryway where that all important first impression is made.  I'm assuming that the artwork was changed out.

Lynn was thrilled with the transformation, whereas the homeowner was in shock.  Matthew says: "We've erased your life.  You can forgive me once we sell it."  The end result was a very big departure for the homeowner from his design style, but as time went on he warmed up to it.

End Result

The homeowner postponed selling to do some minor renovations.  The new projected listing price was going to be $3,500,000 ($200,000 more than the original list price).  They didn't state what renovations were going to take place.  The staging cost for this project was $6,000.

Did the homeowner warm up to the point of not wanting to move?  At airing time, the property had not yet sold.  Matthew's last words were "I think he doesn't want to let go." 

My Final Thoughts    

When I wear my Home Stager "hat", I'm very interested in the technical part of the show.  They did a great job of detailing their course of action, for example, the removal of the totem pole.  I was glad that they left in some detail about that as those are the things that I want to know about.  This episode was also interesting for those watching that are not in the industry.  There was enough drama and humour in there as well as some great tips to keep them entertained as well. 

If you can keep the interest of both the general public and your industry peers, you've hit the mark as far as I'm concerned.  This episode did just that.

Dezigner Digz is a home staging and interior decorating company located in Burlington, Ontario and servicing Ancaster, Hamilton, Aldershot, Burlington, Waterdown, Stoney Creek, Bronte, Oakville, Milton and surrounding areas.  The owner, Charlene Storozuk, is a member of the Real Estate Staging Association and is the founder and current President of the Halton & Hamilton-Wentworth Real Estate Staging Association.  For more information about us, visit our website at


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Margaret Oscilia
Creative Concepts-Home Staging and Contracting, Salem Oregon - Salem, OR
Home Stager, Salem Oregon

I haven't seen this episode, but love reading your commentary on the series -- even better than watching the shows!  We quit watching after a few episodes because of the drama and some of the editing that makes the stagers not appear in a good light!  Thanks for the "cliff notes"!

Sep 18, 2008 02:53 AM #1
Ginger Foust
Certified Staging Professional - Oakhurst, CA
Home Stager Oakhurst CA, Dream Interior Redesign & Staging

Charlene...again I missed this episode as I'm in Hawaii and the 3 hour time change has me missing most of the programs that I'm regularly watch...drat! 

That being said your synopsis was great and since it was Matthew at the helm I'm sorry that I didn't see it.  I'm trying to visualize the totem pole and his special foyer art.  I hope that these programs are rerun somewhere, sometime!

Thanks again for taking the time to do this! 

Sep 18, 2008 05:02 AM #2
Charlene Storozuk
Dezigner Digz - Burlington, ON
Home Stager - Burlington Ontario

Margaret - Thank you for your kind words about my reviews!

Ginger - Hawaii - lucky you!  The totem pole was spectacular.  I would have loved the challenge of incorporating it into the space.  Hopefully you'll catch this episode sooner or later in a rerun. 

Sep 22, 2008 09:07 AM #3

Great review Charlene. Saw this episode down here in California last night on HGTV here. Great review. Wow what a talent Jay has...just my style of art.

What is his full name, does he have a website...not sure if I can afford any of his work but would like to know and see more. Any ideas or links?


Sep 24, 2008 03:33 AM #4
David Moon
First Impressions Home Staging & Interior Redesign - Charleston, SC
First Impressions

Derek: Jay is Jay Hodgins. He's also appeared on at least one episode of HGTV's "This Small Space". The HGTV website gives the following as his contact info, but there's no telling if it's current:

Jay Hodgins Design
234 Davenport
Toronto, ON M5R 1J6
Phone: 416-928-2067

Sep 24, 2008 08:51 AM #5
Linda Sticklin
Home Staging & Organizing - Berwyn, PA

I only caught the end of the episode, but my impression of that artwork he hung in the entry was that it was CREEPY! It definitely needed to go.

Sep 24, 2008 09:05 AM #6
Wendy Timmons
Move Home Realty - Temecula, CA
Temecula Realtor

Hi Charlene! It is on here tonight, so I skimmed the post....... I will check back tonight to see what I might have missed. Your commentaries are almost as good as watching :)

I like the episodes with Matthew the most because he is funny but you can feel his passion for staging :)

Sep 24, 2008 09:25 AM #7
Matthew Finlason
Featured Designer on THE STAGERS - Los Angeles, CA

Again, thank you everyone for your interest in the show which has been renewed for a second season.   to answer a few of your questions:

1)  I loved the Totem Pole - I did, however, acquiesce for three reasons.  One, it terribly overpowered the space and when it was removed the percieved space was doubled.   Two,  it falls into the realm of religious iconography having a native spiritual suggestion - far from neutral.   Three,   Lynn Johnson wanted it out and what Lynn wants Lynn gets in my books - she knows her game and a good stager  must follow the instincts of a great real estate agent.


3)   Yes the entry art was creepy.   Bad choice.  Definitely "not" staging.  A huge risk.   Being  'sensitive' to clients and their spaces,  I think it was premonitory of a client "bound" to his property.  He didn't want to let go I believe as it can happen with those who invest so much into the building of their homes.   As strange as the piece was, it somehow comforted the client, which I will point out is NOT the point of staging.   His lifestyle was eradicated by my staging and shows how traumatic it can be selling ones home and letting go and how must take great care when working in their personal spaces.


Thank you all,


Matthew Finlason

Sep 25, 2008 10:00 AM #8
Matthew Finlason
Featured Designer on THE STAGERS - Los Angeles, CA

Sep 25, 2008 10:46 AM #9
Charlene Storozuk
Dezigner Digz - Burlington, ON
Home Stager - Burlington Ontario

Derek - Thanks!  I totally agree with you - Jay's work is my style of art also.  I see that David and Matthew have supplied some contact info for Jay.  If you get a chance, email me and let me know what you find out.

David - Thanks for coming to the rescue again!  :-)

Linda - I didn't care for the artwork in the hallway either.  Like I said in my post, I found it unsettling.

Wendy - I'm glad you're enjoying the commentaries.  Matthew definitely has a passion for staging.  It shows in his work.

Matthew - I was so pleased to hear that the show has been picked up for another season.  You make good points about the totem pole.  I guess in person it was much more overpowering than it appeared on television.  You're spot on too that it may not be perceived as neutral.  Thanks for sharing your take on it.  By the way, you have great insight into the sensitivities involved in working with someone's home; especially when they have to move on.  It shows in how you treat the homeowners on T.V.  


Oct 02, 2008 01:01 AM #10
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Charlene Storozuk

Home Stager - Burlington Ontario
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