For the last five or six years this property gossip has mercilessly poked, prodded, joked and jived about the aggressively generic decorative handiwork of Staging Lady in a Pink Toyota, a fictitious home staging professional with an all but pathological thing for white slip-covered sofas, potted orchids, and throw blankets ever-so-carefully splayed on ottomans. Well, children, the real-life Staging Lady in a Pink Toyota does indeed have a thing for white upholstered furnishings—they're inoffensive and fit every style of home, she says—and the lady apparently never met an orchid she didn't like—they require little care and look exotic and important—but she actually drives a late-model Range Rover and her name is Meredith Baer.
A staged home, at its best, is specifically and very much purposefully designed to transmit a luxurious if slightly generic decorative quality that allows a potential home buyer to view the home without the distraction of clutter and daily life detritus of the home's occupant(s) and nobody does that better or more prolifically than Miz Baer, a former model and journalist who spent her childhood on the grounds of the prison at San Quentin where her father was an associate warden. Today, Miz Baer is a home staging industry pioneer and veteran with more than 16 years of experience who owns and operates an eponymous L.A.-based luxury home staging concern where she employs more than 100 people, including 18 interior designers. The decorative goods and wares of her trade are catalogued and stored in a 135,000 square foot warehouse just south of downtown Los Angeles (above). To put that in perspective, children, the average size of a Home Depot comes in at just 105,000 square feet. Oh, and P.S., she's also got smaller satellite warehouses in Bridgeport, CT and Boca Raton, FL.
It takes Miz Baer and her team just a couple of days to plan and execute the installation for an average sized house. A 10,000 square foot mansion can be done three or four days and it takes a week or maybe two to coordinate and install temporary decor for a 20-30,000 square foot mega-mansion. As y'all might expect, home staging is a fairly pricey proposition and the cost is almost always absorbed by the homeowner. A regular-sized home costs between fifteen and twenty grand to have staged by Miz Baer and, of course, the bigger the house and/or the more elaborate the installation the fatter the bill. She told Your Mama the most she's ever been paid to stage a house was about $250,000 to do up a large estate in the tony seaside community of Montecito, CA, but, when asked, assiduously declined to identify the owners citing a non-disclosure agreement "signed in blood and headaches."
Even though she's often hired to stage celebrity-owned homes Miz Baer says that she and her team usually deal with the famous person's people and not the famous person. However, sometimes a high-profile homeowner does want to get involved in the process. One client, the "former owner of a major baseball team," wanted to discuss every detail of the staging installation and a male movie star who Miz Baer described as "gorgeous" actually went to the Rose Bowl flea market in Pasadena with Miz Baer so that he could hand pick accessories and haggle with vendors.
Since most have their own team of well-compensated lady designers and nice-gay decorators Miz Baer says a rich and/or famous person is unlikely to buy a house-full of staged furnishings and/or accessories. They do however, sometimes cherry pick one or two pieces from the staged decor of a house they've bought. Architecture and design aficionado Brad Pitt bought a contemporary residence staged by the Baer team and purchased a tribal stool they'd put in the master bathroom. Reese Witherspoon dropped a wad on some vintage paintings hung in a house she bought and, in happier marital days, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver once toured a house staged by Miz Baer and snatched up $50,000 worth of antiques out of the house right on the spot.
In addition to staging homes for sale Miz Baer and her team also do up short-term luxury leases. This service, she says, is particularly popular in Tinseltown with wealthy divorced men, young starlets, sports stars, and others who require a fully-furnished rental on short notice and/or for a six or eight month stretch. Miz Baer snitched to Your Mama that she recently did a luxury lease for someone she would only identify as a "major baseball player" who asked that she furnish a second bedroom as a den with a sectional sofa that could turn into a huge bed so he could—ahem—entertain a more than one lady at at time.
In addition to her busy staging services Miz Baer and her staff currently appear on the HGTV program Staged to Perfection, a half-hour reality-based home make-over show during which Miz Baer's 18 designers comb through Baer's Brobdingnagian warehouse for just the right items for staging properties listed for sale around Los Angeles.