Some years ago when I was taking horseback riding lessons, I felt this unfamiliar and fleeting sensation that could only be described as getting the hang of it. In that same millisecond, my trainer, glimpsing perhaps smugness, knocked me off my high horse saying, “A good rider is not one who can ride a good horse and look good; it’s one who can ride a bad horse and look good.”
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Life. So humbling.
This maxim is reverberating in my head as I get psyched up to move next week into the fourth house I will stage to sell. House No. 4 will have design challenges. I don’t know what they are yet, but challenges come with every home along with the keys.
A great designer isn’t one who can make a great space look fabulous. A great designer is one who makes a house with issues look as if it fell from the pages of a magazine with the initials AD.
To gear up for my next staging project, I tap the vision of Beverly Hills interior designer and master home flipper Nicole Sassaman, whose new book, “100 Sassy Tips: Renovations” (Design Life), just came out.
We engage in a little shop talk then get right to down to business. I throw house problems at her like fast balls and she hits every pitch. That bathroom tile in colors that date back to “Miami Vice,” that hallway that looks as if it leads to the temple of doom, that picture window that looks straight onto the neighbor’s air conditioner, that column in the middle of the living room … where many decorators see obstacles, Sassaman sees opportunity.
“Don’t just focus on what’s there,” she says. “Focus on what could be.”
“Or divert attention,” I say. “Whenever I don’t like what I see, I put up a mirror to reflect something better.” It’s a cheap trick, I admit.
“In Los Angeles, where I work, the city is pretty built out,” she says. “I don’t have the luxury of working with new construction. I’m constantly having to work with and around design flaws.”
“I feel that way every time I get dressed,” I say.
“When I’m done, the former obstacle often becomes my favorite part of the room.”
Now that’s what I call talent.
Here are some common design challenges Sassaman and I have both run up against and some solutions.
“Look at these situations from different angles until you see all the possibilities,” she says.
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through marnijameson.com.