Story By Elisabeth Lanier
Visualization: The ability to visualize – or to form a mental image or to envision. What, you might wonder, does visualization have to do with style?
Well, your ability to form a mental image, to imagine the possibilities, to see beyond what’s in front of you, could have a huge economic impact when it comes to buying property.
You see it a lot on the reality real estate shows on TV. Properties are all fixed up to be a nice vanilla box that is easy to sell. For the seller, this means spending the money to repair and renovate those things that you’ve put off. It also means that you, as the seller, may be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor for the few weeks that it takes to find a buyer.
But, if you, as a buyer, can include ‘fixers’ in what you tour, chances are you’ll get more bang for your buck. As a buyer, if you can look past the clutter, the dreadful paint choices, the incomplete ‘honey-do’ list, it puts you in a much stronger negotiating position.
Being able to visualize means that you won’t be constrained to tour only vanilla boxes that have already had money sunk into them. It means that you will be able to fix up in your own unique and authentic way. And, being able to visualize may mean thousands of dollars saved.
For some folks, visualization comes easily. For others, though, it can be hard to look past what’s in front of you. It takes practice.
Here are a few tips to help make it easier to visualize.
Look at more than just the immediate property. You know the old saying: location, location, location. A fixer in a great neighborhood is far better than a beautifully finished property in a so-so, or worse, neighborhood.
Look past cosmetic issues. Which is to say, look, instead, at the raw space in determining whether or not it will work for you. Remember: you can always fix bad cosmetics; it is more difficult, but not impossible, to change structural issues.
Cosmetic issues include things like bad wallpaper, peeling paint, chipped tiles, inadequate lighting, ratty wall-to-wall carpet, poor furniture arrangement, ineffective space utilization – even differing aesthetics. With the ability to visualize, every one of these negatives can be turned into a plus.
And, every one of these negatives was brought into play when we decided to make Galveston Island our home.
We looked at a lot of loft properties downtown searching for that precise blend of convenience and style that would work for us. But, had it not been for our ability to visualize, we would have overlooked the gem that turned out to be our perfect home.
When we toured it, there was little to recommend it to us except location and raw space. The first floor was poorly arranged for our purposes – the kitchen was practically non-existent, and what was there seemed haphazardly placed. The second floor was cluttered with furniture and the minutiae of another’s life. Wall colors were murky to us, and lighting was at a minimum.
Still, looking past all that, we could see the possibilities that bringing our own personal aesthetic to the space would afford.
Because we are a two-cook family, creating a kitchen space that worked was important. We re-arranged appliance placement, added an island, along with base cabinets and tall pantry cabinets, and installed inexpensive halogen track lighting.
The unit seemed very dim and shadowy to us – it has only two small windows and no direct sunlight – so it was important to boost the light level. I, who, as an interior designer, almost always recommend color, even just the palest wash, selected instead, a very white white, knowing that it would help to bring light to the space. Instead of picking some of the trim elements out with a different paint color, everything was painted the same color, walls, trim and doors.
I also chose to use three different finishes: pearl for the walls (which has a tiny bit more shine than flat, meaning that it’s easier to clean and that it has a slightly reflective quality to it – again to bring light into the space), satin for the ceiling, which, as you see in the photo, is the original tin ceiling, and semi-gloss for the trim and doors.
A functional kitchen, new lighting, lots of white paint and effective furniture placement throughout turned what, on first impression, looked unworkable into a warm, inviting and functional space.
So,if you’re looking for a new property, remember to visualize the possibilities. And if you simply can’t, take a design professional along with you – remember: visualization is what we do.
Elisabeth Lanier is an interior designer and space planner who, with her husband, is co-owner of DesignWorks, gallery and interior design studio, at 2119A Postoffice Street in historic downtown Galveston. She can be reached at 409-766-7599.