Interview

Splashing out with Helen Day

Claire Cole on April 10, 2019

Being creative is sometimes viewed as something that has to happen separately from being business-minded, but that’s not always true. Helen Day, owner of Splashed Out, has employed her creative talents to offer customers a suite of different creative services including fine art and murals, interior design and furnishing, and home staging. It has all come together over the course of a varied and interesting career, as she tells Asset in an interview.

Helen has always had a passion for the arts, and matriculated from the National School of the Arts in the early 1970s. She obtained early exposure to the discipline of space planning in the late 1970s when she worked in Eskom’s architectural department, and was tasked with planning all the new office spaces for the company when it relocated its staff from 12 buildings in Braamfontein to Megawatt Park in Woodmead. “We weren’t really sure how we were going to do it!” she laughs. “We got little plastic model chairs and tables, and worked on massive scale models of the various floors of Megawatt Park, and we planned everything out on the model. People then had to come and have a look, and approve the seating layouts for their departments,” she recalls. “Then, because it was in the days before CAD, some poor draftsperson had to put the model on the floor next to his drawing board and draw it all up so that we could place the furniture correctly on site.” Things have certainly come a long way since then!

Next, Helen spent several years of her career working in what we would now probably call the corporate real estate departments of companies such as Sanlam, and a couple of the big banks, doing space planning, interior design and selecting fittings, finishes and furniture for them. She then started her own space planning company, Spacejam, which she operated for about 10. She then sold this entity, and took an opportunity that came up to work as an estate agent for Pam Golding Properties for a couple of years, achieving Gold Club Agent status each year. Estate agency was a complete change, but it gave her a whole new idea…

“During my time working as an estate agent, I realised how difficult it is for an agent to sell certain houses. If they are in need of attention, or if they are unfurnished – or even just a bit cluttered and untidy, it makes things much harder,” she notes. With her design background and her natural feel for space planning, she started doing what has come to be known as ‘home staging’ for the properties she was selling. For the uninitiated, home staging can be described as ‘dressing up’ a property a little to make it more attractive – either reconfiguring existing furniture and fittings in the space to make it work better, or putting furniture into an empty property to give it scale and a more homely feel.

“It’s big overseas but it hasn’t really caught on here yet,” Helen explains. However, she believes that estate agents would be well advised to recommend the idea to some of their clients, because it can make all the difference in selling a property – whether it’s selling something that wasn’t moving, or getting a better price. “Estate agents put me directly in touch with the seller themselves, and I charge them an agreed-upon rate to stage their home until it is sold or until they advise me that they no longer need me,” she says. It costs the estate agent nothing, but can help materially in selling a house.

The most important aspect of home staging, she says, is not in creating a dazzling interior design, but in giving viewers of the property an appropriate sense of scale, and to help them imagine whether or not they could live in a space. This also means that the chosen furnishings and theming need to speak to the prospective buyer – not as showpieces but as pieces that they relate to in their own lives. “People must be able to get a sense of whether their own furniture will fit into a space, and whether they will be able to live there,” she adds.

While she didn’t ultimately feel that her heart was in estate agency, Helen decided to add home staging to her list of business ventures, as there was a clear need in the market, and started Splashed Out. Her list of services encompasses those mentioned above. She continues to offer the space planning and interior design services that she always did, but has added home staging, fine art and mural art to her offerings.

She works with developers such as the Abcon Group, for whom she has done corporate interior work on the Abland and Abreal side, as well as home staging for Craft Homes show units. She has put together designs for company entrance foyers, pause areas and common areas, which often includes selecting and purchasing everything down to the cutlery and kitchen appliances. She has brought her artistic side into the mix with corporate murals, and has also painted some large and beautiful murals for restaurants.

Helen would love to expand the business further, growing the home staging offering both to developers and individual sellers, as she believes that it can make a real difference. One thing that doesn’t need changing is the enjoyment that she clearly gets from her job – whether it’s buying and delivering cutlery and fridges for an office kitchen, re-imagining a space and making it better, or braving the heights in a cherry-picker to paint a mural. She is getting to explore her creative side along with her ability to run a business, and is having a lot of fun doing it.

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