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Designer Meridith Baer’s home-staging empire began with a plant storage dilemma

Meridith Baer spent her childhood at San Quentin State Prison, the daughter of the associate warden. It was boring and bland, she said, but taught her how to “make something out of nothing.”

“The colors of the buildings are the ugliest you can imagine, so you just kind of want things to be prettier,” said Baer, who has moved on from her institutional beginnings to create a home-staging and design empire.

In 1998, she had styled her Brentwood rental so well, the owner decided to capitalize on the look and sell. Baer needed a place to relocate her furniture and 250 potted plants. Fortunately, a friend was desperately trying to market her house, so Baer decorated the space with her belongings “to save money on storage” and to help potential buyers “imagine what it would be like to live there.”

“You sell a house but you buy a home,” said Baer, 71.

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In a couple of days, her friend sold for $500,000 over asking price. Now 20 years later, Baer has traded in her 250 plants for a team of 250 employees — including 30 designers — and 20 moving trucks to create Meridith Baer Home, one of the nation’s premier home-staging companies, primping and prepping about 175 listings a month.

A sort of fairy godmother of home staging, Baer caters to clients who are often too busy to decorate, or lack the vision.

“If you’re a dentist or a brain surgeon, you might not know how to arrange furniture. We give them an idea of what it could look like, and answer the questions before they ask them,” said Baer, who’s also worked with Julia Roberts, Madonna and Elon Musk, among others.

MBH offers a variety of other services, including luxury furniture leasing and traditional interior design. There’s also the Instant Home— designed and installed in a couple of weeks — for those lacking the time or temperament to agonize over swatches.

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Recently, Baer said, her interests have shifted to “a lot of giving back.” As part of an affordable-housing project called ARCspace, she’s furnishing 10-foot-tall shipping containers, turning them into “really hip” permanent homes for the homeless in downtown L.A.

Meridith Baer is creator of Meridith Baer Home, one of the nation’s premier home-staging companies.

You have over 300,000 square feet of warehouse space across the U.S.

We’re in the process of getting a bigger warehouse on the East Coast, too — we work in Manhattan, the Hamptons, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and all over Florida. We also have a warehouse in Northern California.

What kinds of items would we find inside?

We have everything from African masks, anything you can imagine for a kitchen, great stuffed animals for kids’ rooms and antique primitive pitchforks. The accessory department is particularly fun, a lot of unexpected stuff. When a designer goes in, they start from scratch each day. They get an idea in their head and load up the truck, all in a couple of days.

What’s a timeless piece you can’t go without?

A white sofa. I find them to make the design very flexible, and you can change your style and colors as you feel like it. I don’t see design like, “I’ve done my house and that’s how I’m going to live for the next 50 years.”

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Tell me about some of your projects.

I did a really tiny, cute house in the Palisades where there was the challenge of finding the right sized furniture, as the ceiling was low. Then I did a $50-million house; it was like taking Versailles and making it warm. I have a lot of fun doing kids’ rooms. We like to make it sort of for the mom, so instead of having hundreds of toys in every color everywhere, we have a couple of cute, cute toys. I love it when we come back and the toys have been thrown around the room because it means we did our job.

hotproperty@latimes.com


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