Part 3 Paint colours and Outdoor spaces

5.Tone it down:

Our personal tastes in décor vary greatly however when photos are taken of a home and you have strong colors on the walls what you see is the colors and not the house or room. Highly recommended is choosing to repaint rooms that are richly or boldly colored (especially main rooms) to a more stylish neutral tone and that is not necessarily white.


Earthy tones and rich mid tone neutrals create a backdrop that makes the rooms look large and inviting without being stark. Even a deep earthy tone can be lovely as long as there is little else in the room to clash with the colour and a good piece of art work to set off the room.

 6. Outdoor spaces:


Whether you have a yard or a small balcony you want to create an atmosphere that invites a buyer to enjoy the spaces. Decks should be cleaned and stained, Flower pots placed as accents on patios and decks, grass cut and gardens weeded (you don’t want it to look like it is high maintenance ). Play up small spaces with a café table and chairs ( even a place setting) so a buyer sees that  it is a lovely place to have a coffee or a glass of wine”


Many times a garden extends the indoor space – if you are selling in the summer have the door open so it is easy to walk right out into the terrace or garden.

An easy fix to privacy issues or to disguise items that are not as visually appealing the use of potted cedars , grasses or trees works wonderfully with out spending a fortune.

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Part 2 Cleaning and Closets


4.Cleaning: This is something that is so important.  Most people do not think it is that much fun to do and I found found they are correct in this. Even though we think our homes are clean using a cleaning company just before you go to market or the photo shoot is worthwhile. Photos and video’s take close-ups of such things as taps and flooring so everything should sparkle. Even if a kitchen or bathroom is dated, if it is clean it makes a huge difference in the eyes of a buyer.

Image result for messy closets

3.Open those closets and cupboards:  Buyers will look in your closets and pull out built in drawers. Closet space is a big selling point for buyers so show your closets off to full advantage  aim to have around a quarter of the space open for the impression of spaciousness.  Not every one has huge closets or California closets but even a small closet can be made to look spacious and useful.



FT columnists Lucy Kellaway and David Tang correspond after visiting each other’s homes
Dear Sir David

It was great to meet you this morning and thank you both for visiting me in Islington and showing me all three of your splendid London homes — in Chelsea, Piccadilly and Hyde Park. I expect you noticed that I am an exceedingly nosy person, so you can imagine what a kick I got out of seeing your priceless furniture and paintings, inspecting your bookcases and — this was the bit I liked best of all — rifling through your cupboards and drawers.Yet I hope you won’t be hurt if I tell you how relieved I was to get back to my own empty kitchen afterwards. I made myself a cup of tea, closed my eyes and sat quietly trying to collect myself before writing to you.

Lucy Kellaway in the kitchen of her home in London©Victoria Birkinshaw

Lucy Kellaway in the kitchen of her home in London

In advance I had been warned that your approach to interior design was maximalist, but nothing had prepared me for the sheer volume of stuff you own. Your wife, who is a devotee of yoga, tells me that there is not enough floor in any of your houses on which to unroll a yoga mat. Sometimes she pushes the table to one side in the dining room in Chelsea, but even then there are chairs, enormous chandeliers, sideboards, occasional tables, paintings in bubble wrap leaning on the walls, seven hats, half a dozen Chinese clocks and a lot of electric cable. And it’s the sparsest room in the house.

I gathered from our conversation that you have five further houses — two in Hong Kong, two in Beijing and one in New York — and that a similar approach to stuff is evident in all of them. In addition, you have three warehouses to store additional belongings (two of which you have kept secret from your wife). Far from getting rid of things, you tell me you adore shopping and are adding to the pile. While your driver was taking us from one house to another, I overheard you saying you’ve just ordered another 12 shirts. What is it all about?

I know the question of clutter is partly a matter of personality. But wouldn’t life be simpler if you got rid of some of it? And not just simpler, wouldn’t you be able to appreciate the beauty of some of the things you owned, if there wasn’t so much of it?

As I explained to you earlier this morning when you inspected my house in London, I am a recent disciple of Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying guru. Last autumn I read her declutter manifesto, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, and since then I have applied her simple test to everything I own. I have sifted through all my belongings, asking of each item: does this give me joy? If not, I carted it off to the dump. As not much of what I owned gave me joy, my house is now almost empty, which does give me joy, in a surprisingly large quantity.

What, I wonder after my visits this morning, would happen if you gave your stuff the Kondo treatment? Would you end up chucking it all, too? Or does all of it really give you joy?

That’s all for now. I’ve been direct with you, and I hope you’ll return the favour. Tell me honestly — what did you think of my house? I really want to know. Please reply quickly


. . .

My dear Lucy

David Tang in the office/study of his Chelsea home©Victoria Birkinshaw

David Tang in the office/study of his Chelsea home

First, I only have three more homes, not five: two in Hong Kong and one in Beijing. And none in Noo Yawk.

But thank you for showing me your one home, whose manicured tidiness offered, I admit, a sense of calmness but also a feeling of tedium. There was no immediate excitement and few surprises, except for the oversized Victorian sideboard in your hallway, which immediately jarred with a lot of your G Plan-ish furniture.

The most important point about my visit was that it confirmed to me your embrace of Kondo for her dubious principle of joy through decluttering. Doesn’t that make you a slave to possessions when possessions should be our slaves?

Also, as a Chinese, I have never really trusted the Japanese. For a start, the world’s most cluttered department store, with far more stock keeping units than any other in the world, is of course Tokyu Hands. I love that store in Tokyo and spend hours rummaging through its vast range of goods. What would Kondo say about this quintessentially Japanese institution? She certainly wouldn’t be engaged as a merchandiser there. Imagine the horror of a total depletion of choices!

When my wife suggested to me the possibility of being “Kondonised”, I immediately resisted because I adore being surrounded by masses of stuff, so that I don’t have to be bored by looking at empty walls or pieces of furniture with nothing on or in them. Just think of the anticlimax of opening a large drawer only to find, as I did in your set of drawers next to your bed, just a few rolled up bundles of your husband’s monochromatic underpants — and a half empty drawer. If you opened mine, it would offer you a whole range of socks: from thick to thin, from long to short, from wool to cotton, from black to white, from yellow to blue, from plain to patterned. It’s like Aladdin’s cave and who wouldn’t want to stumble into Aladdin’s cave?

No, I don’t need tidying up. Beethoven never did. Nor Brahms nor Einstein. They all lived among piles of stuff. If such maximal environments were good enough for them then they’re good enough for me. Stuff the Kondo, I say.

Masses of love

Sir David Anthony Prise
Wing-Cheung Tang, KBE, OBE, Chevalier l’Ordre des 
Arts et des Lettres, DSc, BA

. . .

Dear Sir David

Lucy Kellaway’s trousers rolled up in a bedroom drawer©Victoria Birkinshaw

Kellaway’s trousers rolled up in a bedroom drawer

So sorry to have slightly overestimated the size of your property portfolio. In return, may I correct a couple of minor misapprehensions you have about my house? First, what you saw in the drawer were not my husband’s underpants but my trousers. Second, it’s Ercol, not G-plan. And, finally, my mother would have been most distressed to have her aunt’s 18th-century oak dresser described as an oversized Victorian sideboard. The reason it survived my recent cull was because it gave my mum joy. Kondo would not approve of such sentimentality, but I’m not such a slavish disciple that I have to follow her in everything.

I note you enlist Beethoven in your defence. Granted, he wrote some fine music without being a neat freak; but equally he didn’t spend his life wasting time shuttling between half a dozen different homes, and I very much doubt if he started each day dithering over a vast choice of socks.

Lucy Kellaway’s 18th-century oak dresser©Victoria Birkinshaw

Kellaway’s 18th-century oak dresser

You are evidently pleased with your sock collection, but your drawer was so full it was difficult to open; I bet there are 100 pairs at the bottom that you haven’t seen in decades. My objection to all this isn’t waste, it’s inefficiency. You told me that you recently bought a new suit and then promptly lost it. It took your wife and staff three days to search among the 100-plus you already own before it turned up. Isn’t that evidence enough?

And mentioning your wife again brings me to a final point. Your way of living imposes a cost on your family — and on your staff. When I asked your housekeeper if you should have less, she rolled her eyes in agreement. Perhaps in the end you and I are similar — both being selfish in imposing respectively extreme disorder and extreme order on those who live with us.

Should we both mellow a touch in their interests?


. . .

My dear Lucy

David Tang’s untidy sock drawer©Victoria Birkinshaw

Tang’s untidy sock drawer

So you wear the trousers. Nevertheless, since you snitched on me by telling my wife in a FaceTime conversation about my two hidden warehouses, perhaps I should, for the benefit of your husband, reciprocate your underhand move by exposing your confession to me that, when he is at work, you regularly select various possessions of his and secretly dispose of them.

I suppose I must take your word for it that your oak old dresser is 18th century, although it doesn’t detract from the fact that it is too rustic and bulky in your hallway. Even by your own admission, it deserves culling under the Kondo principle which does not allow for “transferred joy”, which you impute to your mother. It’s no good preaching the Kondo creed if you conveniently ignore it when it suits you. And there lies your Achilles heel: that your life should be shaped by an arbitrary evaluation against which you end up cheating.

As opposed to such a slippery slope, we keepers of possessions are free from any fetters — we have no urgency to get rid of anything at any time. We stand fast on what we choose to keep and have no compunction to act as hoarders. I call it lazy freewill which is a real luxury. If the price of this is to have a drawer jammed full of socks which might never see the light of day then I draw comfort from the fact that our ocean floors are buried with immense biodiversity of which we know nothing.

Furthermore, we love the serendipities and sense of frisson arising from the sudden discovery of things we had long forgotten. These are sensations you miss out on because you have thrown away most of your things and will never suddenly come across them again, and if you do remember any of them, you can only wallow in nostalgia and regret.

David Tang’s books and suits packed into a wardrobe©Victoria Birkinshaw

Tang’s books and suits packed into a wardrobe

You are mistaken that I live an inefficient life. As I buy almost everything in multiples, I have everything I need at each of my abodes. Hence, I hardly ever have to pack when I travel between Beijing and Hong Kong and London. I get on the aeroplane simply with my shoulder bag and luxuriate in the knowledge that I have everything I need at the other end. Ergo, I live a very efficient life involving lots of travel.

And you need not shed any sympathy for those working around me. They know they are not expected to do any real tidying up, especially with my books, pictures or clothes that happily remain piled up or stuffed up until further notice, which is usually a long time. Therefore, they only attend to surface cleaning, whose spring never seems to come. This laissez-faire attitude lightens their workload and I should be credited for being considerate.

So please, as your new best friend, even if we disagree on the stuff of life, I beg you not to slide down that inexorable path of gradual elimination. It’s a dangerous tendency to “tidy things up”, when that job should only be properly handled by the henchmen of the Yakuza.

Masses of love

Sir David Anthony Prise
Wing-Cheung Tang, KBE, OBE, Chevalier l’Ordre des 
Arts et des Lettres, DSc, BA

Photographs: Victoria Birkinshaw

. . .


The Art of Clutter


I  try to read both the  Sunday New York Times  and the Financial Times for the amazing House and Home section when time allows. I noticed that both have recently published articles about the joy of clutter and accumulation of items.

As an agent I spend a great deal of time helping Sellers get their homes ready for sale. I quite often go home thinking : I have got to get rid of my stuff! I get home, clean and tidy and then throw out some papers and then realize as I dust each one of my collectibles the memory of why I got them or how I got them comes back to me. Most signify something special to me –  of special times, of special people and of the times when I had no money and slowly saved to allow me to get something I really wanted . Each item has a  story that goes with it. Interesting of course possibly to me only but it is part of who I am and who I was.

So usually just throwing out the papers is as far as I get. When I read these articles ( posted separately ) I thought them worth sharing. They are both funny and interesting. We hear so much about purging and staging but not much about the art of accumulating your lifès events and  passages  through what you collect.

This is the New York Times article:

                Let‘s Celebrate the Art of Clutter


Written by Dominique Browning is the senior director of Moms Clean Air Force.

We are in a collective, and most unfortunate, paroxysm of guilt and anxiety about stuff.

This is a cyclical event, and here we are, back in the eternal return of the same. We are being barraged with orders to pare down, throw away, de-clutter.

Magazine covers advertise formulas for how to get rid of things (most of which involve buying new things for this purpose).

Entire books (books we will soon enough be told to toss) cover the subject. And, even then there is an “art,” a Japanese art, no less, to doing so (and we all know that any Japanese art is the most artful art of all).

Entire companies are being built on the backs of a neurosis that makes us believe that the process of shedding is complicated to the point of paralyzing .

It is all pointless and misguided, and it is time to liberate ourselves from the propaganda of divestment.

I would like to submit an entirely different agenda, one that is built on love, cherishing and timelessness. One that acknowledges that in living, we accumulate. We admire. We desire. We love. We collect. We display.

And over the course of a lifetime, we forage, root and rummage around in our stuff, because that is part of what it means to be human. We treasure.

Why on earth would we get rid of our wonderful things?

It is time to celebrate the gentle art of clutter. We live, and we pick up things along the way: the detritus of adventure; the vessels of mealtimes; the books and music of a life of the mind; the pleasures of our daily romps through the senses.

In accumulating, we honor the art of the potter, sitting at a wheel; we appreciate the art of the writer, sitting at a desk; we cherish the art of the painter, standing in front of an easel. (By this litany ye shall know that I have many books, many paintings, many pots — and many more things I love.)

I can assure you that I know all about moving into less space, and different space. I am also here to tell you that stuff responds to mysterious forces at work in the universe in much the same way as do the moon and the tides.

No matter how much stuff you give your sister, still in her large house, so that you can fit into your cozier shell, within a few years I guarantee you will have new possessions winking happily at you from tabletops and bookshelves. And you will be glad to see them .

And yes, you will have bookshelves. Never enough of them. And more books, to replace all those books you gave away. That, too, is a law of nature.

The stuff we accumulate works the same way our body weight does. Each of us has a set point to which we invariably return. Each of us has been allotted a certain tolerance, if not a need, for stuff; each of us is gaited to carry a certain amount of weight in possessions.

Some of us, rare breeds, tend toward the minimalist; some tip into a disorder of hoarding. Most of us live in the middle range. How marvelous it is to simply accept that, and celebrate it.

These days, having moved several times in several years, I am still mourning the loss of a few things I ought never have given away. I am still overcome by object lust, from time to time. And I still want to fit yet another photograph or painting onto a wall.

Go ahead, call me materialistic. I’ll just wonder what you think you are made of.

I am not done with living. I am not done with my things. I love them, in fact, more and more each year, as I recollect the journey that brought us together. I will cherish them, till death do us part.

And rather than fret about my inability to get rid of things, artfully, graciously, or otherwise, I am not only giving in to the desire to keep getting stuff, but I am also fantasizing about how I am going to pass my things on to my children.

Who, I insist, must take them. Even though they are already, at the tender age of 30 (mere children!), worried about having too many things. They don’t know from stuff.

I want to affix labels underneath things, telling them that what looks like a stained and rickety table is actually a Chinese altarpiece from the Ming dynasty with rolled bamboo marble. And if you run your hand along the top of it, you can feel the gradations that come of hand-cutting and polishing marble.

And that staining happened because all that marvelous Chinese furniture of the upper classes was stashed in damp barns for decades, their legs in puddles of water, hidden from the authorities who considered them the artifacts of decadence and wanted them destroyed. That’s how powerful stuff can be.

“That tchotchke you think you’re going to put out on a tag sale table for $10?” I want to say to my sons. “That’s Nymphenburg. It is worth hundreds of dollars.” I found it at a tag sale for $10, and pounced.

I have started saying things to my sons like: “When I die, just please, rent a warehouse, and put everything away. You are too young to understand the value of what I have bought. Someday you will want these things, and you’ll only have to shop in your warehouse.”

Never mind that their homes may be full of their own things. I want to know, now, that forever after, I will be watching down on them from the walls and the shelves, having somehow transmogrified myself into my stuff.

Because I do believe that happens. We were meant to be together, and the cells from my sweaty palms, or the eye beams from my covetous gaze, will reside in my things forever.

That’s the idea, anyway.

There is a reason we talk about nesting. Next time you are out walking, take a close look at a nest.

Nests are full of twigs, bits of fluff, string, moss and bark. Stuff birds take home, and fit to a shape that accommodates their lives.

Some birds even press their warm bodies against their stuff as they are making their nests, molding them to the shape of their breasts, so that they file like… home

A home that is uniquely theirs and uniquely beloved.