A Celebrity Home Stager Reveals What It’s like to Decorate for Meryl Streep and Geena Davis

“We’ve used people’s Oscar statues for decoration,” says “house whisperer” Meridith Baer

Thinking about selling your home? There are a few things you should know first, according to A-list stager Meridith Baer. 

Baer, who calls herself a “house whisperer,” is the founder of Meridith Baer Home and one of the most sought-after home stagers in the nation. She curates luxury spaces that help potential buyers to better envision themselves living there — which often leads to homes selling faster and for higher prices. 

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“It’s really about making a decision, giving it a look,” she tells PEOPLE of her method for decorating the homes. “We want to open the aperture so that as many people as possible could imagine themselves living in the space.” The key, she explains, “is comfort. We want them to really be able to see themselves in that space.”

Home staging

Geena Davis’ Staged Home

| Credit: Lee Manning. Inset: Steve Granitz/WireImage

When it comes to staging celebrity homes, Baer says leaning into their star status is always a plus.

“Anything that we can use that will readily identify them, we take advantage of it. If you’re going to sell, sell with all your might. And so we’ve used people’s Oscar statues for decoration.”

Home staging

While she normally recommends putting away personal items such as family photos, for celebrity clients she suggests the opposite. “We go out of our way to just put things around that will identify them, because really, if it’s a celebrity home, you’re probably going to get more money for it. So why not?” 

Home staging

Home staging

Baer’s wide-ranging client list, which includes the likes of Meryl Streep, Geena Davis, Jonah Hill and more, gives a glimpse into the variety of spaces she’s curated over the years.

Originally a screenwriter, she stumbled into her career path when she spruced up an apartment she was leasing and did such a good job that the owner asked her to leave so they could sell it. She began doing the same for friends, whose houses began selling rapid-fire, and soon, she tells PEOPLE, “showbiz people caught on” and “all of a sudden brokers were calling me and saying, ‘Would you do this for me?'” 

She quickly grew a roster of celebrity clients, telling PEOPLE, “not all celebrities live as well as you think they would. So, interesting enough, I would make their home into their [public] image. They would tell their friends, and that’s how it all got rolling.”

When staging a home, she believes in telling a story of the lifestyle that the home would create. “Whenever we go into a home to stage it, we imagine what it would be like to live there. And we’d almost make up who we thought would be living there.”

With her celebrity clients, she often channels their most recent or well-known roles. “It’s just a continuation of being a writer in a way. Writing a story of how to live,” she explains. 

Home staging

Credit: Travis Mark for Sotheby’s International Realty

One of her favorite homes to work on was Meryl Streep’s, she tells PEOPLE. “She had a gorgeous apartment in Manhattan, and that was fun because we just made it incredibly sophisticated and elegant like she is. I mean, I’m such a fan of hers. And she can be anybody really. So it was just really fun just to imagine her living there. It was very exciting to do.”

For those looking to dress their homes who don’t happen to be internationally acclaimed stars, Baer’s top tips are: neutralize the space, consider a fresh coat of paint and don’t draw attention to the bathrooms or kitchens.

Home staging

Credit: Travis Mark for Sotheby’s International Realty

“I always say spend money on paint. Honestly, it’s the best investment if you want to invest before you sell,” she shares. Don’t bother spending money on redoing kitchens or bathrooms, she adds, because “someone else is going to come up with their own idea. They might just rip out what you’ve just spent all the money on.”

In fact, she suggests making the bathroom — especially if it’s older — as discreet as possible, using stacks of white towels to cover any old tile. “If it’s an old shower we’ll hang a towel over it. We do as much as we can to just camouflage the room.”

Home staging

Credit: Travis Mark for Sotheby’s International Realty

In main living areas, Baer says that testing new layouts by shifting around the furniture can help create new perspectives. Small changes like flipping the books on a bookshelf — so that the spines face the wall — creates a more streamlined aesthetic, while helping to further neutralize the space. 

Good lighting is also key, says Baer. Update outdated fixtures and remove any heavy curtains to help let in as much natural light as possible. 

“I think the bottom line is that what people really want when they’re looking for a home is a home,” she says. “They want a place that they can just imagine themselves being happy. Someone’s going to walk in and they’re going to fall in love right away. They are going to know. They’re going to say, ‘This is it.’ All they need are their slippers and their toothbrush. That’s what people want.”

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