Photography: Audrey Cho
HGTV’s Monica Pedersen at Loomcraft in
Vernon Hills

The buzz word in interior design is “home staging”-or temporarily sprucing up a house on the market in order to fetch a higher sale price. HGTV has crafted a show around the concept called Designed to Sell and tapped for its new Chicago team a North Shore interior designer named Monica Pedersen. In real life, and on the show, which airs on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., the 36-year-old former model befriends fabricators, sews curtains, trolls outlet stores, and wields a multipurpose can of spray paint. Chicago tagged along on one shopping trip and picked up a few DIY tips homeowners can use to their advantage.

Start with fabrics, not paint chips. Pedersen says, “They add another layer of texture to a room.” With that in mind, at 9 a.m. on a recent morning she does a speedy walk-through of a house in Libertyville, then points her beige SUV toward Loomcraft, a fabric store in Vernon Hills. There she picks out a crisp brown leaf print; four yards in hand, Pedersen plans to devote two-plus yards to cornice boxes, which will frame the top edge of the windows, and to use the remainder for matching pillows. “Making a cornice box is really easy if you can handle a hammer and a glue gun. Just Google the words ‘how-to no-sew cornice box.'”

If furniture looks outdated, rent a few key pieces, Pedersen says, or find something cut-rate at a furniture clearance store. Less than an hour later, she is headed to the Wickes Clearance Center in Vernon Hills, where she seizes upon a red microfiber couch for $359 and a $229 armoire that she recommends sanding and repainting. She also spies an attractive round wooden dining table for $179 that, up close, appears bruised. No worry, she says. “Buy a mahogany pencil at the hardware store and fill in all the nicks.” After the house sells, the furniture can go into the new home’s recreation room.

Pedersen next tackles another key ingredient to dressing up a house: lighting. “Brass looks so eighties,” she says, recommending that homeowners replace brass fixtures with fashionable nickel or brushed metal. Or, make a simple conversion by spray-painting a brass chandelier black or a dark color-cord and all-and putting little shades over the exposed bulbs. Another quick fix: for attractive countertops, find a marble and granite fabricator in the phone book and ask for remnants.

“They’ll make a deal,” Pedersen says. “Then you pay them to cut a hole for the sink and faucet. You can do the six-foot vanity for $300, and have it in a week.”

Pedersen makes her final stop of the day at Home Owner’s Bargain Outlet, aka HOBO, a warehouse stuffed with off-price tile, faucets, flooring, and other materials. There she hunts for stylish, yet off-price bathroom fixtures and soon settles upon a small pedestal sink for $53 and a $249 curved-leg vanity. “That’s a steal,” she says. Then, at barely noon, she sets off toward Evanston, ready to tackle the second house of the day.

Monica Pedersen hunts for bargains at Wickes in Vernon Hills (far left) and the
Home Owner’s Bargain Outlet in Waukegan.

Pedersen’s Favorite Places

Universal Upholstery
(853 W. Dundee Rd., Wheeling)

Home Owner’s Bargain Outlet, aka HOBO
(2650 Belvidere Rd., Waukegan; other locales)

Crate & Barrel Outlet
(1860 W. Jefferson Ave., Naperville)

(645 N. Lakeview Pkwy., Vernon Hills)

Wickes Furniture Clearance Center
(351 W. Dundee Rd., Wheeling, and 700 N. Milwaukee Ave., Vernon Hills)

(750 E. Boughton Rd., Bolingbrook, and 1800 E. McConnor Pkwy., Schaumburg)