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By Emily Heffter

Meridith Baer was looking for a place to put 250 potted plants when she found her career.

She was working as a screenwriter and renting a house in Los Angeles. As a hobby, she fixed up her house and started potting some plants. Soon, she had amassed 250 of them.

“The owner came into town and said, ‘I love what you did. You’ll have to leave now, because I’m going to make some money on this,’” Baer recalled.

Meridith Baer turned a hobby into a full-time business staging homes for high-end clients.Today

The house sold, and Baer found herself with 250 plants and no place to live. She asked a friend if she could put them in the courtyard of a home he was selling in the Tiger Tail neighborhood. The home was vacant, so she moved her furniture in and made some updates.

His house sold way over asking price — in a bidding war. The real estate agent asked if she could do it again. That was 1998.

Today, Baer has more than 200,000 square feet of warehouse space filled with furniture, rugs, lamps and other accessories. Her business, Meridith Baer Home, has 135 employees, 16 trucks and a long list of celebrity clients.

She staged a house Brad Pitt bought years ago, and he fell so in love with a tiny wooden stool in the bathroom, he bought it from her.

One celebrity, who has a line of lifestyle items, asked Baer to sign a confidentiality agreement so that everyone would think the home was designed by the celebrity.

And when Baer staged Scarlett Johansson’s house, the actress loved it so much she decided not to sell.

One of Baer's staging tips: Paint the walls white, and use color in the accessories.Today

Having high-end clients means Baer gets to decorate a lot of high-end homes. She even makes her own furniture to fill them.

“I pinch myself, I’m having so much fun,” Baer said.

Baer offered some of her favorite tips for home sellers who want to do some basic staging on their own. Her recommendations:

  • Paint the walls white. Then use color in the accessories.
  • Take the screens off windows. “You get a crisper feel,” she said.
  • And her main tip: declutter. “Just thin everything out so that the home looks like the idealized way to live, so people can have the fantasy that when they move, they’re not going to have a lot of junk like we all do.”

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Emily Heffter, a reporter and writer for Zillow Blog, covers celebrity real estate, unusual properties and other real estate topics. Read more of her work here.