Our exclusive interview with Kevin Htain and Pat Shankle
The depiction of home staging on television has come a long way since Sell This House. Now, many of the houses on HGTV are staged, especially on flipper shows. At 2019’s International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP) Conference, Melissa Marro, owner of Rave Home Staging, got the chance to sit down and chat with two of the HGTV home stagers behind Flip or Flop: Kevin Htain and Pat Shankle.
Both Kevin and Pat left careers in advertising to pursue staging. Now fourteen years into the business, they run their own staging companies and have achieved celebrity status among home stagers.
Joining Flip or Flop
Pat owns and operates Georgia Home Staging out of Marietta, Georgia. She was trained by Barb Schwarz and now works with an experienced team of six stagers and administrators. She had already staged for the hosts of Flip or Flop Atlanta, the Corsinis, many times when the show’s producer saw her work and invited her on the show.
Kevin runs Identity Home Staging and Design, based out of Long Beach, California. He got the opportunity to join the original Flip or Flop when the show was looking for a new stager to produce a Mid-Century Modern look for one particular episode. The house in that episode sold so quickly that the show kept inviting Kevin back, and 64 projects later, he’s still one of their featured stagers. Kevin’s work also appears on BravoTV’s Flipping Out.
Staging for a television audience is a little different from staging just to sell. One problem? Artwork that appears on the show has to be properly licensed. That means you can’t use mass-produced, stock art from retailers. It has to be original.
When Pat started staging for Flip or Flop Atlanta, she hadn’t painted since she was a child, but she decided to give it another try. Now, she loves setting up an easel in her backyard to paint for the show. Most of her work is contemporary, depicting muted scenes that can be used in a variety of homes
For Kevin, making his own art proved difficult. He found a collaborator, David Guerrero, who works alongside him on each house to match his color palette and create custom artwork. He also buys artwork in bulk from Artissimo, which sells quite large pieces that never made it to the mainstream stores for as little as $10 each.
Whether or not you stage for television, if you’re a home stager, you’ve probably gone to a house that was supposed to be ready for you, only to find out that it was very much not ready. When that happens to Pat and Kevin, they know that doesn’t change their deadlines. As HGTV home stagers, they have to stage as best they can anyway.
Strict production timelines also mean that Pat and Kevin have to be very organized. They’ve come up with a number of tricks and tips for packing and stacking inventory efficiently. Got too many pillows? Flat-fold and organize them by color into different cubbies. Tired of dusty, dinged-up lampshades? Protect them with pedicure spa liners.
But not everything can go to plan. Sometimes they have to improvise. Once, Kevin was out of artwork and needed to do something with a very long wall. So he staged it as a music room and hung old records as wall decor. It wasn’t his proudest moment, but it worked, and the house sold.
Good TV versus Reality
While it’s generally a good thing that home staging, especially well-done home staging, is getting more attention from television networks, it has also produced some misconceptions.
Kevin said that the prices you see on TV often aren’t realistic. The shows display prices that make for good TV because they imply an element of risk or drama, but they’re usually either over or under what the staging actually costs. That can make it difficult to convince a potential client who’s seen underpriced staging on television that the price you’re charging is fair and realistic.
But Kevin and Pat have seen huge benefits from becoming HGTV home stagers. Beyond their celebrity status among stagers, they’ve gained a greater reputation among realtors. Agents like being able to say that their stager’s work appears on national television.
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