A few years ago, home design expert and real estate journalist Melissa Dittmann Tracey had a homeselling conundrum.
She and her husband both worked in the city of Chicago, 45 minutes from their suburban home. When they put the house up for sale, they needed to figure out how to handle two lively dogs during showings. Rushing home every time a buyer was interested in a tour wasn’t practical. Nor was having a pet sitter on call—or boarding their pets every day.
So Tracey came up with an ingenious solution.
She decided to stage her dogs—buying them matching sweaters and placing them behind a see-through barrier in the laundry room.
“Every day before I left for work, I posted a sign inside our home by the entrance,” says Tracey in the first episode of her new podcast, “The Housing Muse Podcast with Melissa Dittmann Tracey.” “The sign read ‘Welcome to our home. Pardon our barks. We’re Oscar and Bailey, and we’re excited you’re here.’ ”
The Traceys received two offers on the house resulting from showings when the dogs were present.
“The Housing Muse Podcast” is receiving rave reviews on Apple Podcasts, and host Tracey—who is also the creator of the popular blog “Styled, Staged & Sold” and a regular contributor to REALTOR® Magazine—offers a wealth of house staging tips for listeners.
Tracey also examines the hottest home design trends on the podcast. Recent highlights include paint choices inspired by the Roaring ’20s, multifunctional furniture for the home office, and the latest options for kitchen countertops. And she takes a lighthearted look at some common DIY and design failures. Among the not-so-hot trends that Tracey has singled out in recent episodes are millennial pink (especially in the bathroom) and “hairy” chairs—faux sheepskin chairs that can become matted. As Tracey says in the episode titled “Top 10 Worst Home Design Trends, 2021 Edition,” “You should never, ever have to comb your chair.”
Culture Scan caught up with Melissa Dittmann Tracey recently and got the inside story on the popular podcast.
How did your love of home design and staging develop?
Over the years, I’ve moved from coast to coast and places in between—all throughout the U.S. I developed an appreciation for real estate and home design after watching home stagers in action make over spaces. Often it’s just a few tweaks, and it can make all the difference to a space! It’s truly showing a home in its best light. It’s a shame that some homeowners don’t get to see that until they actually put their house on the market! I want to help homeowners appreciate their home more while they’re still living there.
How has your experience as editor and producer on the “Hot or Not?” segment on NAR’s “Real Estate Today” radio show prepared you to branch out to your own podcast?
NAR’s “Real Estate Today” podcast and radio show is a fun weekly segment that offers a chance to put the latest home design trends to a test in a quizlike format. White roofs—hot or not? Speckled granite—hot or not? Velvet sofas—hot or not? My responses are based on what’s trending, factoring in home designer input, consumer and remodeling surveys, and more. “The Housing Muse Podcast” is my chance to go more in-depth on these topics and to interview experts throughout the housing industry.
Do you know what stings? When I’m on a “Hot or Not?” episode and the host, Stephen Gasque, asks me about a trend that I know I have in my own home—and I have to then say “not” (such as speckled granite in the kitchen!). That’s tough. But hey, I’m here to report on the trends; I don’t always follow them myself! Some are too much for me—wallpaper on the ceiling?! Not a chance!
What is your recording studio like? Have you experienced any work-from-home challenges when recording?
My home office, which is also my podcast studio, is light-filled with a big window, a crystal chandelier for some added bling, a tropical plant (because I used to live in the desert), and a favorite piece of artwork that I found at a boutique—rolled-up music lyrics that were made into a wreath.
One of the biggest challenges of recording from my home office is my dog (yes, the dog I staged!). My dog has separation anxiety, so if he’s not near me, he howls. So I let him just sleep at my feet while I’m recording. Well, I was doing an interview for the podcast when he starts to snore—loudly! I tried to wake him, but he wasn’t budging. So on one of the episodes—I won’t say which—you can hear a dog snoring faintly in the background!
You are well-known as the creator of the popular “Styled, Staged & Sold” blog. Can fans of the blog look forward to an expansion of some of their favorite topics on “The Housing Muse Podcast?”
Yes, definitely! I found so many people were reaching out to talk to me more about the trends on the blog that I decided to start a podcast to do exactly that—talk about them.
One of my favorite podcast episodes was inspired by a recent “Styled, Staged & Sold” blog post, “4 Simple Ways to Show Off the Kitchen.” I had home stager and designer Krisztina Bell on “The Housing Muse Podcast” to talk more about these kitchen trends … is granite really heading out? Will trendy gray or blue cabinets stand the test of the time? The blog was the perfect place to spotlight the trends and show them, and the podcast gave me the chance to hear more from Krisztina about the staying power of these trends and their value from a real estate perspective.
What do you hope listeners will come away with after streaming an episode of “The Housing Muse Podcast”?
I hope they can gain new, practical ideas for their own home. Your home is a reflection of you. It can be a valuable asset, too. So let’s make it look good, and not let it get outdated or overlooked. You don’t have to spend a fortune to do it, either.
“The Housing Muse Podcast” is an opportunity to share the “best of” stories and insights from the real estate and home design industries. And I hope after each episode, you take away a new design idea, a new appreciation for your home, or a tip that helps you buy or sell smarter.