Meet the Former Screenwriter Who Stages Homes for Beyonce, Scarlett Johansson
Meridith Baer also has worked with Shonda Rhimes on a home staging as well as the decor for a party the TV mogul threw for President Obama: "I never met a home I couldn't improve"
This story first appeared in the Jan. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The ultimate occupational hazard: Meridith Baer hates to leave her own house. "Every room looks out on its own garden area, and every room in the house has a view," the interior design guru says of her spacious Brentwood digs. "It's beautiful and warm and cozy, and whenever people walk in there, they just go, 'Wow.' "
That's precisely the reaction the founder and CEO of Meridith Baer Home -- a home staging, luxury furniture leasing, interior design and event interiors shop -- hopes for when she does leave her house to work on her company's myriad and massive projects. In 2014, MBH tallied 1,200 home installations: Sellers hire the firm to prep and stage decor to expedite, secure or maximize a sale. The industry and celebrity clients for whom she has worked include Scarlett Johansson, Matthew Perry, Mila Kunis, Leslie Moonves, Elon Musk and UTA's Jeremy Zimmer. When asked to describe the design philosophy that drives $2 million in sales per month, Meridith uses such words as "eclectic," "transitional" and "simple" before offering up a pair of non-negotiables. "It has to be elegant and it has to be comfortable," says the designer, 67, a former actress and screenwriter (her biggest writing credit was the 1992 George Clooney starrer Unbecoming Age). "But don't make it look designed."
Baer, who parlayed a natural talent for interiors (first noted by a former landlord) into a new career at age 50, relies on her nephew, Brett Baer, 42, the company's president, to shepherd its business activities and expanding empire. "There's something about walking into one of [Meridith's] homes where there's not this massive flood of information," says Brett, who has worked with his aunt since 2004. "There's a simplicity and a clean feel to it."
For Charles Shyer's staging, Baer added some of his own film memorabilia.
The logistics are more complicated. MBH employs 175 staffers (including 25 designers), owns 18 moving trucks, maintains 225,000 square feet of inventory with warehouses in California, Florida and Connecticut, and manages projects in such locations as L.A., Manhattan, the Hamptons, Northern California, Montecito and San Diego, as well as a burgeoning business in Cabo San Lucas. Projects can last from a few weeks to months and range in price from a modest $10,000 to $200,000. MBH is in discussions to design an estate in Fiji and by year's end, Meridith will travel to Bali and Hong Kong on a buying trip. She recently furnished a luxury lease for Beyonce and Jay Z and has worked with Shonda Rhimes on a home staging as well as the decor for a party the TV mogul threw for President Obama.
Baer's biggest sale so far -- a home she staged that sold for more than $100 million last year -- took months to pull off because custom furniture had to be made. "I definitely have been in homes where I kind of go, 'Oh God, I want to get this done fast and get out of here,' " she says. "But I honestly, I never met a home I couldn't improve."