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Seven seconds. That’s all the time Leia T. Ward of LTW Design has to convince you to buy a house. And when the asking price hovers somewhere between seven and eight figures, that means she’s really got to work to make a great first impression. “Buying a home is about making an emotional connection, and most people know whether they’re interested in a house or not within seven seconds of stepping inside,” she explains.

As a home stager, Ward specializes in maximizing a home’s perceived worth, so naturally, we had to know her secrets for making spaces look their most luxurious. Even if you have zero plans to put your place on the market, these tips are worth banking.

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Austin Eterno

1. RECONSIDER YOUR LAYOUT

Walk through your home, and in each room ask yourself: What do I want to remember most about this space? Is it the fireplace? The view from the windows? That killer sofa you had custom covered in a banana-leaf print that would make Blanche Devereaux jealous? Whatever impression you want to leave with should be your focal point, and the best way to highlight it is to create a defined pathway toward it, Ward says. “If you have beautiful French doors, for example, you don’t want a sofa so close to them that you can’t fully open the door, and you don’t want to have to walk around the sofa to get to them,” she explains. “Lead people to what you want them to remember.”

2. Live with Less

In every room, Ward asks herself a second question: Why? “If anything in the room makes me ask, ‘Why is that there?’ it should go,” she says. A streamlined, more minimalist look can make a room appear luxe, but that doesn’t mean you have to skew stark or sterile. It’s more a matter of making sure everything has a reason behind its placement. 

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Austin Eterno

3. Ditch the Trendy Neutrals

Gray has been the new beige for years now—to the point that it has saturated the market. “People cringe when I say I like to paint every room white, but I think of the walls as a canvas,” she explains. It’s a shade you won’t get tired of, it flatters everything and it lets you easily make a room feel more navy, hot pink or whatever you’re into by just swapping out a few accessories.

4. Confine Your Color Palette

For clients who need a little splash of color in their home, Ward often convinces them to save it for two areas: bathrooms and the master bedroom. Why? Well, for the almighty seven-second rule. “People hardly spend any time in the bathrooms, and most people have decided whether they’re interested in a space by the time they get to the master bedroom,” she says. Even if you’re not selling any time soon, keeping the color story similar throughout the majority of the home can make it feel more cohesive—and those areas with color will have all the more impact (though Ward is quick to clarify that her definition of color is typically the “lightest shade on the paint chip”).

5. Maintain a Low Profile

People always talk about wanting their home to be “light, bright and airy,” and the quickest way to do that is to let in as much natural light as possible. Ward will often take down the window treatments in rooms to illuminate the space, and she’ll trade out the furniture for low-profile pieces that don’t block the view. Provided your view isn’t of a brick wall or a landfill, it’s worth playing it up to give your home that ripped-from-the-pages-of-a-magazine vibe. “When you’re selling a home, you’re really selling a lifestyle,” she explains. “‘If I buy this house, I’ll live like this’ is the mentality.” Now you can achieve it without dealing with closing costs. 

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