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LOCAL STORIES

September 12, 2023 at 9:06:44 PM

Poet With a Painterly Touch:

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A Home Stager's Origin Story

Published on:

September 12, 2023 at 9:06:44 PM

Ignite Business Insider shares the stories of businesses that are making an impact in their local markets. We highlight their stories in order to inspire entrepreneurial growth and to let readers learn more about businesses across the world that are growing and scaling.

Featuring

Robin DeCapua

Owner/Designer

Madison Modern Home

Thank you for taking the time to sit with us and share your story. Can you share a little bit about you and your company?

We're a family-owned home staging company based in Los Angeles. My daughter Rachel Moore is our lead designer (and resident taste-maker) and my son-in-law Ernie Rodriguez is our general manager, handling finances, client communication and our ever-changing calendar. Our staging associate Marielos Bonilla provides warehouse and destaging support. We've been at this for over a decade, but the seeds of this journey began as early as 2008. Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I realize that a small dream that began as a "maybe we could actually do this" moment has now grown to a reality. We serve all of Los Angeles County (which is huge!) and specialize in vacant full stagings, bringing our signature curated style to each and every project. We own all our inventory and we lease a 7,000 square foot warehouse in which to store it. We're excited that we just hired three new movers, so we're growing our staff and we're ready for whatever comes our way!

A question so many people are interested in, is how you got started. Can you share a little bit about what you were doing before this, and what that moment was like for you when you decided to start this new journey?

I come from a background in marketing communications and graphic design. In fact, before starting our home staging company, I had already spent over 30 years in advertising, PR and marketing. I've always been drawn personally to art, architecture and decorative objects. But I'd considered it just a hobby and a relaxing pursuit -- haunting thrift shops for treasures was a fun pastime. Never did I imagine I'd ditch my former career for a new one with such artistic and entrepreneurial potential! In 2008, I got into reselling vintage art and decor on eBay and considered whether I should be an art dealer. At about that same time, Rachel was exploring a transition from graphic design to interior design. I said to her, "Hey let's redecorate your sister's room while she's away at college and do one of those HGTV reveals when she comes home for Thanksgiving." A passion was born that day. We scoured Craigslist, thrift shops and curbsides for potential furniture and decor, my husband Jerry repainted an existing IKEA bed, and we transformed this simple bedroom into a Hollywood Regency style escape, complete with Mid Century modern touches and a bold color palette. That was it. We had officially caught the design bug. It's like from that moment on, we were hooked! Simultaneously, we started to hear about house flippers like Better Shelter who were doing fascinating curated home stagings as part of their process. We saw vintage surfboards standing up in corners, cool vintage oil paintings and high personality rooms. It looked like a lot of fun and certainly satisfied our creative instincts. Fast forward a few years later and I was finally ready to quit my day job as a marketing manager. We'd had a few staging jobs we found through friends of friends and a presence on Thumbtack. The die was officially cast -- I was now a home stager, so the pressure was on to get clients and make money. I had $13,000 in unused vacation pay from my job (I know, I never took enough vacay time!), but that seed money really came in handy because it kept me afloat while I got to work building the business. I set up a website, put up our Houzz profile and got really active online (my marketing background proved super helpful here). Our investment in an online presence right off the bat helped secure us and I never regret those early days when we often wondered if it was all worth it!

Let's take a little bit of a detour, and rewind the clock a little bit. What did you want to be as a kid? And how did that influence the person you are today?

As a kid, I toyed with the idea of being both a painter and a poet (couldn't choose between the two so I chose both) and living in a fabulous atelier in Paris, of course. When I was seven, my dad got a job in Athens so we as a family picked up and moved to Greece for two years. We traveled to many European countries during that time and I soaked up every bit of it -- sights, sounds, tastes and smells. That experience became indelibly etched into my brain and has informed so many of my tastes and sensibilities. I realize now in retrospect that I have always been fascinated by interesting movie sets and memorable architectural moments.

Have you fully let go of that childhood dream? And where do you see yourself going in the next ten years?

My childhood dream of being both a poet and painter is very much alive within me. It has actually played out for me in terms of creating poetic rooms with a painterly touch. I think of a story I want to tell in a room I'm staging all about the perceived inhabitant of that room. Every detail has significance -- whether it's a book title or a little ceramic bowl. Each item is a piece of a larger puzzle that is this imaginary homeowner. I like to think that the final product of a staged home should look like the really interesting and well-traveled person who lives there has stepped out briefly and you're allowed to step inside their life for a moment. I hope to stay involved in home staging for the next 10 years. I'm about to celebrate my 69th birthday later this month, and many of my contemporaries are either already retired or pondering it. I really don't want to retire. I kind of see myself as becoming a world-traveling "source-eress," or buying agent for the company. From road trips to the Midwest to pick up Mid Century modern pieces to walking the aisles of the Paris flea market, I want to travel, get paid to do it and write off my expenses. A girl can dream, can't she?

Now, I have found that with successful people, there is always someone pivotal as either a mentor, parent, teacher, or someone that you look to for advise, that helped set you on this path. Could you share who that person was? And what impact that had on the person you are today?

I believe my mentor to be my daughter and design partner, Rachel. And she will tell you the same about me. We really have built this company together by the sweat of our brows, diligence, talent and hard work. I look to her for design inspiration every day and there's no one I'd like to work with more than her. I never thought we'd build a thing as satisfying and fun to do as this.

What was one take away that you learned from that person? And how did it translate into your business today?

From Rachel I learned to go into this business "design foot forward." Everything is subordinate to the design. That's why we've built such a following and a unique recognizable style. It does mean, however, that some of the more mundane business-y aspects of the work can prove challenging. When you're so strongly right-brained, it can be boring to have to put on your business-owner hat for a change. We'd rather be planning and executing stagings after all!

When we work with businesses, we focus a lot on their "Why?". What is your "Why"? What is the driver behind your company, and why you and your team wake up each day and give it your all?

I like to say, "We eat design for breakfast." And we do, literally. Each day we begin the day with an immersion into design influences, whether it's interior design books, blogs, Instagram or design mags, we obsessively search out inspiration, new trends, likes and dislikes to hone our craft. Our "Why" is really just that. Because the world needs beauty. We try to bring that sense of beauty and calm to each space we touch.

Let's dive deeper into your products and services. You already gave an overview, but how do your products or services help your customers? And what makes them different from your competitors?

Our product is that essential undeniable touch that says "Madison Modern Home was here." We've had people tell us they can instantly recognize a home we've staged by its look and feel. We also focus on customer experience. We want to be easy to work with, flexible, direct without being overbearing, professional and kind. We've been told we're one of the easiest staging companies to work with because we're all pretty level-headed and easy-going people.

Let's unpack that even further. Let's pick one aspect of your business. What makes it so unique? And how does it change you or your customer's experience?

Our inventory is unique. Because we're omnivorous in our sourcing habits -- shopping from everywhere all the time -- what our clients get is decades-spanning style that cannot be pigeon-holed. We used to call it a modern mix, but we're going to have to come up with another moniker. It's constantly evolving and pulls from the best of the 1930s,'40s, '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s. And if that's not enough decades to cover, I anticipate we'll be looking at what the '90s has to offer (just the good parts, I promise). This gives our customers -- both homeowners and realtors -- the benefit of our collective talent and experience and the unique opportunity to benefit from it financially through the successful and quick sale of their home.

Let's dive into your customer's journey a little bit. Can you share with us, how do your customers discover you and your brand? What are their next steps? And what is the experience you would like to see your customers go on, when working with you and your brand?

Many of our clients find us through a simple Google search, while a good portion are referred to us by satisfied realtor clients who pass along our name. We leave business cards at each staging that contain a QR code to direct them to our website. We've also had clients tell us they saw us on Instagram, and we've done extensive work to be featured in online articles as subject matter experts on design trends and home staging. In addition, we have over 100,000 saves on Houzz, a robust Pinterest presence, a growing list of Google reviews, and we regularly create blog posts about design topics or to feature homes we've staged. Our clients take the next step and fill out a contact form on our site where we offer a free quote. Our goal is to make the entire process smooth and seamless from start to finish.

Let's rave about your customers for a minute. Can you share a story about one of your clients or customers, that either touched your heart, or made an impact with you and your team?

We staged a home for a man who was handling the sale of his grandmother's condo unit. It was a luxury unit in a great neighborhood, but the empty unit looked a little forlorn when we first saw it. It needed a fresh coat of paint and a complete transformation through staging. We brought in just the right mix of pieces to show off the unique architectural aspects and soaring ceilings. After a successful and quick sale, the client thanked us profusely and gave us the most sincere compliment, that he wished his grandmother was alive to see the transformation -- and that she would have loved it. That story warmed our hearts and reminded us of how we can have a truly positive impact on people's lives.

Everyone likes an inside scoop. What detail or secret about either you, or your company, is something most people might not know? 

I think our "secret sauce" is books! We love using books in our stagings and we pay attention to the book titles as well. The titles need to be evocative and interesting, inviting potential buyers to experience the overall vibe of the home.

Final thoughts. What feeling or benefits would you like your customers or clients to take away when working with you and your team?

We would like them to feel like they'd want to work with us again. There's no greater feeling as a business owner than having people put their trust in you. Regular customers, the ones who want us -- and only us -- to stage their listings are pure gold!

Last question. How can people find out more about you and your company?

Our website is www.madmodhome.com, they can call us at (213) 820-0371, or email at hello@madmodhome.com

Thank you so much for sitting with us and sharing your story.

Thank you! This was a lot of fun.

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