Less is More


Lila Francese, founder of OHI Home, offers insight into
what makes a house — and a life — more beautiful.


ila Francese of sought-after home staging company OHI Home LLC explains that “the goal of home staging is to suggest to buyers the home is livable in a beautiful, welcoming way.” Buying a home is an emotional process, she adds. “We want to evoke an emotional response to the property so it appeals to the buyer.” Studies show that it works. In most cases, a staged home sells faster and for more money than an un-staged home. We spoke to Francese about the art and business of home staging and she gave us some tips on how to make a home look its best — whether you’re looking to sell or just make life more beautiful.

Ventana Monthly: What inspired you to start OHI Home?

Lila Francese: Over a decade ago, my husband and I moved to Ojai with the goal to begin a new life with our 2-year-old daughter. … We loved the feeling of Ojai — the easy attitudes, the relaxed living, the idea that we had finally found what felt like home. We purged items from our former life in Los Angeles. The act of doing so made us feel lighter and unburdened. We became simplified versions of our former selves. Our

Ojai home became more personal. We began our design company, Ojai Home Staging and Styling, in 2009 with the intention to help others simplify, revive and renew their lives, too. Now, over a decade later, we have grown and become OHI

HOME, LLC — a larger version of our vision, but a company with the same true intention to help all of our design and home staging clients find their ideal lifestyle vision.

Do you work from a particular philosophy when staging a home?

Ten years ago, Lisa Gollinger, one of my best friends, came to work for OHI HOME. Being a former Ayurvedic practitioner and body worker, Lisa was always keenly aware of what a personal practice home staging and design was for our clients.

As home stagers, we work a lot with simplifying occupied homes before they hit the market. This de-cluttering process is often cathartic for people. We realized there was often a need for tremendous patience, deep listening and understanding of what “stuff” often symbolized for home owners. As a result, we partnered with a de-clutterer, Shelly Robertson, who was experienced in leading people through thinning out their lives; both giving away items and selling items they wanted to purge.

The preparation of selling a home isn’t always a happy process. In situations like divorce or elder care, packing up a home can be painful. Lisa coined the phrase “home styling for conscious living,” meaning, if we could assist design clients into really thinking about what they were adding to their homes, in the end, when they were ready to sell their homes, the load wouldn’t seem so mentally heavy. Lisa Gollinger became our head stager in 2012 and sadly passed away in November. We miss her every day but her “patient practice” is still a large part of our business.

What are some common challenges that you face when staging a home? People have far too much stuff. I’ve always liked the Scandinavian thought:

“Less stuff equals more space, which equals more life.”

Do you apply that principle to your own home?

As the years move forward I seem to be purging more and more of my “stuff.” I collect art and it’s hard to hold off from continuing to buy more. You couldn’t do what I do without side effects. My kitchen junk drawer is organized. I make my bed every day. Tidying up has become not what I do, but who I am.

What are some things that will never go out of style?

Cleanliness and orderliness are never out of style. If you own a Craftsman home,Craftsman furniture will always be appropriate.If you own a midcentury home, mid century furniture will always work. Let your furniture style reflect the style of your home!

What are some key things that make a home more inviting?

It is important to know that how we live in a home and how we sell a home are two different experiences. Many of our staging clients become friends and when they see my house they say, “Hey, your house isn’t all spring colors and white! You have lots of stuff!” I smile and say, “Yes, but my home isn’t for sale.” What are your thoughts about theMarie Kondo Method? It’s funny you mention that — I was fortunate to meet Marie this past year in Ojai. She is as joyful as her approach! I think it’s wonderful that her techniques are getting so popular. For those who haven’t read her book — do! It’s inspirational and encouraging.

If you could sum up your idea of a perfect home, what would it be?

The perfect home is a home that inspires you to live at your highest level with someone you love!

You are also the president of the board of the Carolyn Glasoe Bailey Foundation.

Yes, I am so proud to be the president of the board of the CGB Foundation and our new initiative, the Ojai Institute! We are committed to community at our art foundation. We have been able to raise money for artists and educational arts programs that were affected by the Thomas Fire. We have partnered with the VC Arts Council, local galleries, foundations and museums. We host the valley-wide Annual Student Art Show at our space in Ojai and we support and partner with countless schools to promote arts education and development. This work is so rewarding for me because it creates more cultural literacy in Ventura County and beyond. I feel the same way about our design and staging work at OHI HOME — we are blessed each day to be involved in the aesthetic of our community.

Front, center: Marie Kondo and daughter with, from left, Japanese artist Wataru Hatano, Francese, Wanda Weller and Arley Sakai. Photo courtesy of OHI Home