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Your Life Calling

Reinventing Herself as a Home Stager

Former stay-at-home mom finds her dream career: Rearranging decor for houses going up for sale

Catherine Silverman's life has gone through many stages: world traveler, press secretary, stay-at-home mom, interior designer. But it wasn't until she was in her late 50s that she found a career that proved to be a perfect fit.

In 2004, Silverman began working as a "home stager," someone who arranges furniture and decor in a way that makes a for-sale house more appealing to potential buyers. Her business has been a resounding success: In the course of seven years, she has gone from doing three or four jobs a year to three or four a month. Working in the Washington, D.C., area, Silverman, 64, stages for every type of home, from small condos to expensive mansions. She talked to "Your Life Calling" about her road to reinvention and about advice she has for others looking to try something new.

Q: You say that moving around a lot as a kid helped you prepare for your career as a home stager. How so?

A: My father is a journalist, and we lived all over the world. And every time we moved, within a very short time, the house looked like our home because my mother would make it so. Obviously she purchased different things at different times in each of the countries, but there was a core mass of furniture that she had that she used every time. She just made do with what she had. It was important for me to see that you can do something, make something look good, and you can do it quickly. In some ways, that's a lot more creative because you have to work with what you've got.

Q: You spent some time in the '70s working as John Glenn's press secretary. What was it like working on Capitol Hill?

A: I loved it. My job was very creative, and it was also very exciting to be working for someone who was not only a great boss and an excellent senator, but a famous American.

When you're working as a press secretary, you have a deadline. You have to get the press release out, or you have to get the interview scheduled and done. To some people, working under the pressure of a deadline is stressful and difficult, but for me it's extremely stimulating.

Q: Fast forward a bit: After 10 years on the Hill, you decided to stay home and raise your three children. What were you doing in your downtime?

A: I'd always been interested in interior design, and as the kids would go off to school in the daytime, I had a decent chunk of time to pursue that. In the beginning it was a lot of fun, but I soon found that it was not satisfying for me because there was no closure. There was a beginning, but there was no end! And that got to be very draining and exhausting, and because I couldn't do it full time, I really didn't feel comfortable taking on a lot of clients. A lot of people wanted someone who was at their beck and call, which I totally understand. But then out of the blue, a real estate friend called me in and asked me to stage her house.

Q: Had you ever heard of home staging before that?

A: No! But I tried it. I brought some furniture in — and then the house sold in three days. And I thought to myself, "OK, now I know what was missing in this interim period." For the first time in a long time, I had the same kind of positive feelings that I'd had when I was working up on Capitol Hill. They gave me a job, I had a deadline and I did it. The house had to get on the market by a certain day, I had to get the stuff in on a certain day, I did it, it sold and it was very exciting.

Next: You have to be careful not to offend people. >>

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