Cathy Di Leo
Author Archives: Cathy Di Leo

Home Staging Essentials

As a Realtor, I’m sure you’re always trying to find that “Thing” to set you apart from the other Realtors in your area. You’ve carefully crafted a listing package that gives you differentiation and shows potential clients that your services far exceed the services of other Realtors. Whatever your marketing strategy, Staging Walk & Talks are just one of the many Home Staging Services I offer and a great way to add value to your listing package without spending a ton of additional marketing dollars. I’ve also included some of my favorite staging essentials below as the beginning of a shopping list! Share this with your sellers and get the most from your listings!

What is a staging Walk & Talk? It’s a 2 hour tour of the home (inside and out) to identify what needs to be done in order to photograph and list the home. As an HSR certified staging professional, I am trained at how to view the home through a “buyers” eye. I provide objective recommendations on what needs to be done to sell the home faster and for the most possible money.

Ninety percent of potential buyers are looking on line at listings before choosing homes they want to visit. Additionally, they’re only picking a hand full of homes to see in person. Once inside the home, buyers know within 10 seconds whether they’ll make an offer. Regardless of the market conditions, creating that emotional connection with buyers is what produces results and offers! Fast sales for the most money possible= happy clients!

When I’ve completed a staging Walk& Talk, sellers will have a 14 page comprehensive list of EXACTLY what needs to be done to prepare the home for sale. This could include decluttering, painting, adjusting the flow of furniture and purchasing some small items to freshen the look of the home. Staging does not need to involve emptying the home. In many cases, I recommend that the home owners leave furniture in the rooms so prospective buyers can get an idea of the size of the rooms. Occupied homes can be staged using items the owner currently has, and adding a few accessories to update the look. Small items like towels, lighting, greenery and rugs photograph great and add that extra layer of detail to a home.

Here is a basic list of items I use to get started with staging an occupied home. This can be passed along to sellers and allows them to easily click the shopping links to purchase. Items used in staging don’t need to be expensive so purchasing from Amazon, HomeGoods or Ross is my recommendation. I white comforter and shiny lamps can go a long way in making a room look great in photographs!

By bringing in an “Expert” to stage your listings, your credibility with the seller is automatically elevated.  Professional stagers go through hundreds of hours of training in staging and many times hold additional certifications in color consultation and design.  You have to maintain a strong relationship with the client in order to make it through the entire escrow process. Use the home stager to address sensitive issues and to facilitate hard conversations about preparing the home to sell. Stagers can take the “heat” off Realtors so they’re better able to focus their area of expertise- selling homes!

Click Here to schedule a 2 hour Staging Walk Through

2021 Mother’s Day Must Haves!


It’s that time of year again! The time when we set aside a day to honor the glue that holds our family together! The “Chaos Coordinator”… “Uber Driver”… “Miracle Worker”… the one person who knows where everything in the house is located! I’m sure a mere day doesn’t begin to show her how much she’s loved and appreciated!

Now, I know from experience that 95 percent of the men, women and children will be shopping on Saturday night the day before Mother’s Day. I’m not here to judge, but you know who you are! Ask yourself this: “By shopping on the day before Mother’s Day, do you get a great selection of fantastic gifts?” or “Do you get the best of the worst gifts that are left?”

My shopping expertise is not just limited to home decor and furniture! I’ve got your back and decided to give you my top 2021 picks for Mother’s Day Must Haves! This board has gifts for every budget and I’m sure there’s something here that any mom would love!

If you shop now, you won’t even have to leave the house!

Tampa Interior Decorator, Cathy Di Leo wins Best of the Best for February 2021!

As a Tampa and Wesley Chapel interior decorator I was so honored to be named the one of the “Best of the Best Home Interior” decorators for the month of February 2021 by Home Staging Resources.

The HSR Best of the Best awards showcase the decorators and stagers that are among those certified by Home Staging Resource under the guidance of Audra Slinkey. Winners are hand-picked by four judges out of hundreds of photos every month!

The winning photo (featured above) has a really funny backstory you can read all about by clicking here. I’ve been so fortunate over the last year to have the opportunity to decorate and stage some amazing homes. Even with the pandemic, my clients have been amazing and business has been fantastic!

What an honor it is to be on this list and to have the opportunity to create beautiful homes!

E-Design?… What The Heck Is It?

click here to learn more about E-Design Packages

When I tell my clients that I offer E-Design services, the first thing they ask is… “What is E-Design?”.  Think of this as the most convenient, collaborative way for you to redecorate your space!  Many people have heard it called Virtual Decorating or Online Interior Decorating.  E-Design is convenient, affordable, and faster than traditional design services because there is a true partnership and collaboration between the client and designer.  Most of the work is done virtually through email, video calls, text, pinterest and the Design Files program so the benefits to the client are flexibility, faster turn arounds and affordability.

How Does It Work?

The Questionnaire

A questionnaire is filled out online which covers everything from timeline, budget, color, style, who will use the space and why you’re wanting to decorate.  From there, I schedule a video call with you so that I can see your space and go more in depth about the goals for your project.

Your Homework

I give you directions to measure your space and take plenty of good photos and make note of any existing pieces you want to work into the new design.

Secret Pinterest Board

I create a secret Pinterest board that only you and I can see.  This is a GREAT resource for us to share inspirational ideas for your room, and to make sure we’re traveling down the right path to creating the perfect design.  The more information we share, the better your design will be!  (This is particularly important if you purchase my Basic Eye for E-Design package because you only receive one board with NO revisions).

Mood Board Creation

Based on the package purchased, you’ll receive a set number of mood boards.  A mood board is created in my Design Files program virtually and will be the core to turning inspiration and ideas into your room design. Boards are created based on answers in your questionnaire, your Pinterest saves and inspiration photos.  My signature Lay It Out For Me E-Design package is the best value and allows for 1 revision.  I like to make sure we are vibing with the color, pattern and general direction of the space before delivering your final board. Have fun with this and take the time to provide feedback! This is as much your design as it is mine so the more feedback the better!

The Deliverables

I have several package options that will fit the needs of a variety of clients.  I also offer a-la-carte services such as shopping, lighting mood board, rug mood boards etc. If you have a room that is in need of a little extra help, just let me know and I can better customize your package to your specific needs

The Execution

All my packages include shopping lists and links to purchase product.  After receiving the final mood board, you’re responsible for purchasing the recommended items at your leisure and decorating the room once product is received.  I offer an optional Post-Design virtual call with my signature packages that allows you go call me for decorating advice if needed.  This call is for me to advise you on hanging artwork, styling your accessories or to address any remaining questions you have about finishing your space.

Is E-Design Right for Me?

Hire An E-Designer If…

  • You can measure and photograph your space
  • Pinterest is your friend and you’re able to use this as a tool to communicate your vision, inspiration, furniture and décor ideas.
  • You want a design plan narrowed down within a few weeks
  • You want to shop retail, can order products on your own and are able to handle any returns/exchange

Talk To Me About Traditional Design Services If…

  • You need or want more of a personal touch
  • Desire in-home consultations
  • Need or want someone to take detailed room measurements and photos
  • Would like to receive a discount on furniture purchases
  • Would like for someone to handle purchasing product for you

Common E-Design Misconceptions

Even if you are just now hearing about virtual interior design it is already causing a stir in the design community and beyond.  I think it’s important to address some of the impressions that are currently out there and provide a bit more background about E-Designers in general.

If you’re new to E-Design, it doesn’t necessarily mean that E-Design is a new concept.  Online decorating sites have been around for a few years and are increasing in popularity; giving more credibility to E-Design as a decorating option.  With the recent COVID epidemic, virtual/ online decorating has exploded and gained even more popularity since it’s business model supports social distancing and online collaboration.

We Are Stealing Traditional Designers’ Work

E-design and Traditional Interior Decorating appeal to different types of clients.  E-Design clients are typically very savvy decorators that just need some professional pointers or the confidence in knowing their ideas will come together with a beautiful result.  Because online design boards are very fluid, results are immediate. Clients have full visibility to budget, sourcing, and design elements and when completed, the decision to purchase everything at once, or in stages based on their timeline.

E-Design Decorators Are Uneducated

My path to interior decorating has not been a straight line and it’s not something I keep secret.  I was an art major in college for 2 years studying design, painting, drawing and architecture prior to earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a Major in Marketing. After college I was fortunate enough to follow my dream of being a retail buyer and working for some of the top fashion retailers in New York and San Francisco in their corporate buying offices.  My responsibilities ranged from product development, sourcing, buying, strategic planning, and merchandise planning, to store management.  From this experience I was able to create products and dictate fashion trends that translated nationwide. If any of you purchased polar fleece from Old Navy in the 90s as an “Item of the Week”… you’re welcome!

At this point you’re probably wondering how this is all related to E-Design… WELL… After 15 years in fashion I found myself in Tampa Florida, which is not exactly known as the fashion hub of the US.  I went to work in the corporate buying office for a large local furniture and décor company, that I realized much of my fashion industry experience translated to home décor.  I immediately started to get my education and certifications in Interior Decorating, Home staging, Interior Color Application and E-Design.  I built my business because, like my clients I wanted flexibility in location and hours.  I love that I can work conveniently and affordably with clients and still create the perfect space for them!

E-Design Is Easy

False. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to create design boards.  I customize each board based on my client’s vision.  Just because I’m not coming to your home with samples doesn’t mean the boards are easy.  The design process of getting room inspiration, shopping, and working with clients is still the same and takes hours behind the scenes to complete.  The method of procurement and way we interact are the only things that change E-Design vs traditional decorating.

I Can Perform Miracles

I pride myself on working within my clients’ specific budget requirements and curating product from multiple sources.  However, I cannot realistically furnish an entire living room from scratch for $1000. Technically I could, but in the end the quality of the furniture would suffer, and your design would look like a college dorm room.  Because of this, I provide a budget calculator so we can level-set the budget expectations together and create a result everyone is happy with.   

I’ve Personally Seen and Tested All The Products I Recommend

I’ve work with many products and have a list of preferred, trusted vendors that I trust.  Have I seen and touched all the items on your boards? NO.  If I have any questions about quality, texture, or colors I’ll sometimes order swatches or do more research, YES.  But this is an exception and not the rule.  At the end of the day, I cannot personally guarantee the color/texture/quality of every item.  Nor can I guarantee the availability or the shipping times for products.  I seek out companies that offer preferred terms for designers, reliable delivery and returns but have no -authority over the third-party companies.

I Can Read Minds

I ask a lot of questions of my clients and have both written questionnaires and Facetime meetings to understand the specifics of each project.  I even take it a step further in setting up a collaborative Pinterest board for each client to pin inspiration or specific elements they want included into their design.  These tools are used for me to deliver the perfect design for my client, not for my clients to do my job.  I’m very upfront that E-Design involves more client collaboration than traditional decorating since we work virtually.  If you desire direct communication with me, I offer packages that address this need.  My goal with all clients is to deliver the perfect design and I’m unable to do that if I don’t know what the client wants the end result to look like.

E-Design is not for everyone, but it’s a GREAT option for the right client.  If you want design direction and expertise but don’t mind being involved in the process to prepare, manage and execute the project, then E-Design is the perfect service for you!

Time’s Up on Tuscany Decor!

Peanut butter brown…gold or burgundy paint…Faux Finishes…

wrought iron chandeliers with 12 tiers weighing 800 pounds, window treatments with fringe, fake plants on the tops of your cabinets, metal wall décor, dark wood kitchens…oh how the Tuscany Style from the year 2000 haunts us!  

If you’re like the majority of my clients, you’re watching HGTV getting depressed.  Moving or building a new home seems easier than remodeling, but is not always the answer.  If you’re in a great neighborhood and love the bones of your Tuscan style home, fear not! Updating is not as difficult as you may imagine.  You can go at it alone or click here to schedule a free discover call with me.  

The first step in updating your home, is to determine your style and have a plan.  Whether your home is Transitional, Mid-Century Modern, Farmhouse or Contemporary, the style should be curated to reflect both your family’s personality and the style of the home.  Also remember to keep the chosen style cohesive throughout the entire home so there is a flow rather than a disruption to that flow.  

Updated paint creates a fresh bright look

“Update a home by using an outdated color or palette”, said no one EVER!  A good rule of thumb is that if it resembles peanut butter, you should repaint.  The tricky thing with homes built 15 years ago, is that the trim and wood colors are not compatible to today’s trends.  Many homeowners want to paint in the grays or cool colors that are trending and end up getting a result that doesn’t quite feel right.  This leads to having to repaint or live with a bad result.  There are some great warm neutrals that will give your home an updated look, but still match the undertones in granite and travertine used in Tuscan homes. Painted Accent walls and faux finishes are highly discouraged! Many people add an accent wall when they want a pop of color.  However, many times this is not done purposefully so it ends up giving a less than desired results.  Accent wall are a great idea, but need to be used to accent architectural features, or improve the space.  They are the exception, not the norm!

Consider table and buffet lamps for entryways to create a warm welcome.

Many of the mid 2000 homes I go into have very ornate vanities with gilded gold or tile encased mirrors. Even worse, they have a builder mirror that’s glued to the plaster!     Replacing this type of mirror with an oval or round mirror is an easy way to lighten up and modernize the bathroom. When considering paint for the bath, painting the walls and vanities will easily add value to your home.  Walls in blue are always a good choice and bathroom cabinets will benefit from paint if you’ve got dated, dark wood.  Add updated and coordinated cabinet hardware, towel racks, toilet paper holders, lighting and Voila!  No more Tuscany!

Bathrooms can be easily updated with paint, new lighting and fixtures

Kitchens are definitely an area of the home that echo the century in which the home was built. If you have carved grapes, ornate columns, or other decorative cabinetry, you may want to consider some updates.  While it can be more expensive and time consuming to update your kitchen, cabinets can be painted to completely change the look of a home.  If you’re not yet ready to commit to painting your cabinets, consider an accent color on the island.  These changes can be made easier than completing an entire kitchen renovation, and it’s a lot less expensive.  Even a simple change to the cabinets such adding or updating hardware can completely makeover the kitchen and get you a little closer to the modern era 

Kitchen update with paint, tile, cabinet and fixtures

Updating your lighting is another great way to give your space an updated look.  Change out that heavy iron multi-tiered chandelier with an orb or visually lighter iron pendant.  Lighting should create a focal point in a room without overpowering.  Pay attention to scale when selecting chandeliers. A good rule of thumb is to measure the length plus width of the room in feet. This should equal the width of a chandelier in inches.  It’s also a good idea to check the height of chandeliers above tables which should be no lower than 30 inches above the tabletop 

Pay attention to scale when choosing new chandeliers and pendants

A makeover would not be complete if we didn’t touch on furniture and accessories.  It’s time to say bye-bye to the leather furniture! Nothing sucks up the light in a room or screams Tuscany like a leather sofa.  I get it! Leather is exceptionally durable for families and easy to clean with pets.  However, leather isn’t your only option.  There are many performance fabrics in the market like Crypton and Sunbrella brands, for durable, stain resistant upholstered furniture.  Cream, Ivory or oatmeal are great color choices in updated silhouettes with track arms.  This can be as little as an $800 investment and will catapult you into this decade quickly. Keep the leather to a minimum and consider using it for an accent chair or a beautiful ottoman.  Add the finishing touch with metal, wood, glass and white accessories with a pop of color in your pillows and rug.. and you’ve got a fantastic looking space! 

Occupied home staged in Tampa FL

De-Tuscanizing your home may take some time, but keep in mind simple, clean lines with lighter colors is the key to catapulting your home into this century and adding value!

6 Biggest Home Interior Paint Mistakes

Many of my calls are from clients that have had a bad paint result or are just frustrated and overwhelmed with picking a color… There are so many resources for paint.. many my clients have spent hours on the internet in search of the best grays or the hottest trends.  While this is helpful and inspirational, it doesn’t always address the specifics of their home, and can many times end in disaster. 

Here are the 6 biggest Mistakes I see my clients make when choosing paint color:

Mistake 1

All whites are treated equal.  Although all whites appear to be the same, they are probably the most difficult colors to work.  There are numerous undertones of whites and sometimes it’s very subtle unless compared to another white… which leads me to…

Mistake 2

Not matching undertones.  Undertones are colors that emerge when comparing one color to another.  Undertones can make a dated kitchen look even more dated or can bring an old, tired kitchen to life. It’s all about matching the undertones in the cabinets and trim with the undertones in the paint color to achieve a desired result.  I’ve never had a client ask for me to choose a kitchen paint color that makes it appear like a 70’s throwback kitchen.  But you never know!

Mistake 3

No Patience.  Paint needs to be viewed on a wall in many different conditions.  Daylight, Evening, Cloudy days and sunny days will all affect the perceived color of the paint.  For this reason, you should not be to quick to decide and live with a sample for several days before choosing.

Mistake 4

Putting Paint Samples Next To Each Other.  Putting up multiple colors right next to each other, complicates the decision. You compare the colors to each other rather than comparing to permanent objects in the room like trim and flooring.  Each color should be viewed on the wall by itself to get the full benefit of how the color will look in the space.

Mistake 5

Too Many Colors.  There are ways to accent a space while still keeping it classy.  Accent walls can be used to enhance a space, but it’s not always right for every situation.  If done incorrectly it ends up looking cheap and dated. The proper paint palette and application will create a purposeful flow from room to room and not choppy breaks in the visual field.  These multiple colors and breaks create anxiety and can be unsettling rather than draw you easily through a space.

Mistake 6

Clients don’t go Bold.  Being a lover of color, I love bold accent colors and bright, fun colors.  Don’t be afraid to paint with bold colors but be aware of the space.  You can use bold colors in a room where you want the space to appear smaller and cozier to create warmth.  You can also use bolds to feature some great architecture!  Don’t be scared but be purposeful.

Color can be your new BFF or worst Frenemy! Have fun with it, but most of all pick something you can live with and a color that makes you happy!

2021 Interior Paint Trends Released

I love color and keeping up with paint color trends!

 It’s fun to see how each major paint company translates the color trends of the year, and how those trends correlate or translate to interior design trends.  Behr, Sherwin Williams and PPG have already started to predict and release the hot colors for 2021.  The resonating theme of these top 3 brands is balance, comfort, peace and flow in our new unpredictable normal.  Nonetheless, it’s always fun to take our cues from the trends, using these as accent colors for that cozy guest room, or to create a dramatic office space!

PPG’s 2021 Paint Palette of the year incorporates oatmeal, ginger and blue.  All of these can compliment the grays… (yes I said gray will again trend for 2021).   

Sherwin Williams released their 2021 Colormix Forecast reinforcing “Rhythm is the secret to how the natural world stays in step. The same sense of balance applies to our personal sense of nature through how we live”.  With 4 different palettes; Sanctuary, Continuum, Tapestry and Encounter, If Sherwin Williams is right, “grays, muted blues, soft pinks, and whites” will soon be showing up everywhere.

Lastly, we have the predicted trends for Behr who based their color palette on “colors to elevate your comfort zone”.  The Casual Palette features warm neutrals in earthy tones while soothing blues and greens make up the Calm Palette offering peace and solace.  Tinted pastels in pink and blue bring soft pops of color to the Subtle Palette while the Quiet Haven palette makes a bold expressive statement with dark greens, blues and grays.  If you’re that person that loves eclectic color, then the Optimistic Palette is for you in oranges, purples, teals and blues. This palette will bring the fun and personality to any room!

One thing is for certain in this time of uncertainty, we need to take time for ourselves: re-balancing and prioritizing our health… whether that be physical or mental.  Color is a part of our mood; we feel it rather than think it.  Let it be an inspiration to you when to create the perfect space!

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