An interior designer transforms care-worn homes for sale into high profile showcase listings.
Call it theater in the square. Beth Odence, home stager extraordinaire, is in her design center, a boxy, corrugated-tin workspace on Kidds Hill Road in Hyannis, surrounded by furniture and finishing touches that she has purchased, commissioned, or recreated. Creamy Belgian sofas are topped with pillows hand-sewn by local seamstresses. A long French table is casually set with a birdcage styled after a Victorian house and an Eiffel Tower lamp with a reed base. Art and mirrors hang from soft-colored walls.
Artistic, eclectic, and sumptuous, Odence’s business space could be a set from a staging of a Noel Coward play. “It’s kind of funky,” Odence laughs. “It suits us. We need a lot of space for what we do.”
Odence, an interior designer, has carved a niche in real estate throughout the Northeast and abroad. Most of her business is staging homes, preparing residences to improve their selling price on the market. One thing led to another, and soon, as Odence says, “staging opened up to interior design.” Producing unique furnishings for staging and interior design led her to selling pieces to private homeowners. “I couldn’t find things when I started to buy,” Odence explains. “It needed to be unique and different.” So she began creating her own furnishings and accompanying pieces.
It is an interwoven business that Odence has captured with a starry presence. She began her home staging business 10 years ago, as BjtOdesigns (based on her initials). Now in its 10th year, she recently renamed her enterprise Design No. 5, with an expanded vision. In home staging, it means constantly refining and creating pieces that are unique and represent the right ambience for a home on the market.
“A house shouldn’t look staged,” Odence says. “You want people walking out saying, ‘I love that house, I want to live there.’ In staging, quality and comfort really matter.”
The furnishings in Odence’s design business reflect her design sense: an uncanny blend of high end and artful. “Things come to us in a variety of ways,” she says. Auctioneers and appraisers, such as Doug Stinson—who is based in Lincoln, but frequently works on the Cape and Islands, scout pieces for Odence on travels around the US and Europe. Sometimes, she and her staff will transform the pieces for a cleaner or more upscale look. One project that was in her workspace on a recent afternoon, an early 1900s Victorian-style chair with turned arms, was being renovated by Centerville artist Karen Crocker, who works with Odence. “If you’re concerned about the environment, this is your place,” Odence says. “We recycle, redo, and reuse.”
Crocker and Odence also collaborate on creating pieces. A big curio case in the workspace is filled with fabric throw pillows in softly colored prints, hand-sewn by the two women. Odence also has hired Cape and Boston seamstresses to hand-sew hundreds of pillows for a new branch of Design No. 5 – private-label home décor, which also will include bed linens in beautifully textured, natural fabrics.
After launching her home-staging business, stepping into interior design was a natural. Odence’s first client, who lived in Chile, also had a home in Lexington. The homeowner brought in Odence to stage the house in preparation for going on the market. “It turned into a complete renovation and a $300,000 project,” Odence says. Thus was born her work in renovation management, acting as a liaison between the homeowner, architect, and subcontractors. Odence oversaw the budget, timeline, and interior design, ultimately saving the client a great deal of money. After the Lexington home’s complete makeover, “the clients decided they wanted to stay,” she says with a smile. She may bring in several members of her team to assist, including her two daughters with husband Philip—Clarissa, 26, and Charlotte, 24, who are consultants—and senior interior designer Erica Darnall.
Odence’s touch has rescued a good share of antique homes, particularly one old beauty that, once renovated, also took an unexpected twist. Carol Zais and other family members inherited the Andrew Lovell House in Cotuit, a mid-1800s farmhouse in Greek Revival style. Zais and her co-executor brought in Odence to stage the home in preparation for the market. Odence counseled the family to consider renovation—including a new white color scheme throughout and sanded floors—to open and brighten the house. Zais and her husband Adam, whose primary home is in Sudbury, were astonished when they saw the refurbished Cotuit house.
“She took a house that hadn’t been updated in at least 10 years, and was rented in summer, and made it look like it belonged in an architectural magazine,” Carol Zais says. “She took it from your typical summer Cape house to a standout show-stopper.” The makeover was a game-changer for the couple; they made an offer and purchased it. “It was a stunning reminder of why we loved the house so much,” Zais says. “We just had to have it.”
Paul Grover, a broker and co-owner with Robert Kinlin of Robert Paul Properties, with offices throughout Cape Cod and in Boston, frequently calls Odence in to stage a house going on the market for the owners. “It’s quite a success story,” Grover says of Odence. “There have been times I would say, ‘this property is not going to sell.’” He recalls a waterfront home whose beauty was marred by outdated, worn features and had been on the market for several years. “It had a beautiful water view, but you couldn’t see it for the curtains,” Grover recalls. Odence opened up the space through a few deft moves, including replacing dark Formica kitchen counters. “It made a big difference in how people perceived the house,” he says. “The owners got two offers.”
Odence’s uncanny business sense has guided her through her recent rebranding. Her sleek new business name, Design No. 5, was formed by several serendipitous coincidences. Odence explains: “It’s my fifth business; this is the fifth location associated with BjtOdesigns; and there are five of us.” She muses about another businesswoman who knew style: Coco Chanel. “Chanel No. 5 (the iconic perfume) was the fifth sample brought to Coco Chanel,” Odence muses. “If Chanel can do it, we can do it.”