Decorating Coaches transform homes

By on August 31, 2012

Photo:The Decorating Coaches, Mary Lynn Gehrett (left) and Chris Katkus, in action.
Courtesy Photo

by Susan O’Neill

ELBURN—Kim and Steve Warner have lived in the same house in Geneva for 20 years. They raised four children in the house, but now that their children are grown, they want to downsize and move into a town home.

Kim’s Realtor said she should hire a stager to get the house ready before she showed it. Although the Realtor had her own stager, Warner said she had read an article about Elburn residents Mary Lynn Gehrett and Chris Katkus and their new business, The Decorating Coaches. Warner said she liked what she read, and soon, Gehrett and Katkus were doing a walk-through of the Warner’s home.

Katkus explained that staging involves taking a home that is ready to sell, paring it down, taking out the clutter, repairing and neutralizing it to make it the most attractive to the general public. With the use of a comprehensive check-list, Gehrett and Katkus spent several hours with Warner, making notes on what should be done to get the home ready to market.

“A staged home is appealing to a buyer,” Katkus said. “It showcases the home’s best attributes and gives the potential buyer a vision of ‘home sweet home.’ You want the buyer to say to themselves, ‘I could live there; I could see myself there,’ she said.

On the other hand, you don’t want to pare it down too far. Warner said that she has seen some homes where the rooms look larger, but they are bare and not inviting.

“It looks like they can’t afford to live there,” she said.

Gehrett and Katkus met while teaching at the Cowherd Middle School in East Aurora. They discovered that they had a mutual love for design and began talking about a possible business based on that passion.

“I’ve been doing this my whole life,” Gehrett said.

When Gehrett was a child, she would redecorate her bedroom when the seasons changed. When she married, she and her husband built their dream house. Their home was featured in the November 2008 issue of the Country Sampler magazine.

Katkus, who continues to teach physical education at the Aurora school, not long ago took classes in drawing and painting with acrylics.

“That opened up a whole new world for me,” she said.

Some of her paintings have been displayed in local libraries, including the Sugar Grove Public Library. She was awarded second place when she entered one of her paintings in the competition at the DeKalb County Fair in Sandwich. Gehrett’s artistic endeavors include traditional rug-hooking. She dyes her own wool, and creates her own designs for some of her creations.

The two women decided to blend their “coaching” and communication skills that made them successful teachers with their creative flair and eye for color, design and style to create their new business venture. They obtained a certification in professional interior redesign and professional real estate staging from the Staging and Redesign Academy in Crystal Lake, then worked on getting the word out.

Their staging services provide practical advice for making a home more attractive to a broader range of potential buyers, increasing the odds that it will sell more quickly. According to Gehrett, staged homes sell 30 to 50 percent quicker than non-staged homes.

To stage the Warner’s home, Gehrett and Katkus rearranged and placed things differently throughout the house, adding accessories and various touches in the rooms as they went.

“You wouldn’t believe the transformation,” Warner said. “It looks like a different house.”

The Decorating Coaches’ home redesign services use the homeowner’s existing furniture, art and accessories in new and different ways to “jazz it up, pizazz it up, and not cost you an arm and a leg,” Gehrett said.

“We will work with people according to their budget,” Katkus said. “We can even just do one room at a time.”

Their services begin with a consultation and a check-list. Katkus said they will ask about the customer’s desires and needs for the space, and from that, develop a plan. Once the plan has been finalized, the client can either hire them to implement the plan or they can do it themselves.

“Whether you are looking for a small change that makes a big impact, or getting your home ready to sell, the Decorating Coaches can assist you,” Katkus said.

For more information about the Decorating Coaches, contact Mary Lynn Gehrett at (630) 272-8030, Christine Katkus at, or visit