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Home Staging 101

Thank you so much for all your questions after last week’s post on home staging! We talked about whether it’s worth it to stage your home to sell, using our Flip House as a case study. I heard from several of you here and on Instagram, and I’m thrilled to share more information with you now about how to actually accomplish the staging.

So we’ve established what home staging is and why it’s important when you’re selling your house. (If you missed that post, check out To Stage or Not to Stage.)

Now, what do you do about it? Do you hire a professional home stager? I actually think that’s a great idea, and usually the investment will pay for itself in reduced time on the market.

But if that’s not your thing, or you think you can’t afford it, I have some great ways for you to do it yourself. (You know I’m all about the DIY here on this blog!)Home Staging 101 - how to stage your home to sell it more quickly and for more money

First let me break down the basics of staging to sell, and then I’ll give you some guidance on how to do it yourself.

The 5 rules of Home Staging:

  1. Declutter. And I mean be ruthless! Rooms should have only the necessary furniture, with only one or two items on table tops, dressers, etc. If you’re living in the house while selling it, keep the items you use every day in a bin that you can easily toss everything into and slide under the bed or in a closet.
  2. Remove personal items. Buyers are trying to picture themselves, not you and your adorable family, in this house. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Pictures, postcards on the fridge, kids’ artwork, and anything else that screams “Someone else’s family lives here!” needs to go.
  3. Think like an outsider and remove anything that might offend a buyer. As for you and your house, that’s wonderful if you serve the Lord, but consider that your buyer may not share your faith and may be turned off by similar proclamations. Also, the vegan PETA animal lover who’s touring your home may not appreciate your totally on-trend cowhide rug.
  4. Repaint walls, if necessary, in neutral colors. This one always gets a lot of discussion, and there are exceptions to every rule. But it’s usually safe to say that painting your red bedroom in a calm gray will be helpful. You’re not trying to win a spot on an HGTV show, you’re just trying to appeal to as many potential buyers as possible.
  5. Focus on the important areas. Kitchens and Master Suites sell houses, so make sure you put your efforts in both places, as well as the living room. If you’re selling a vacant home, you may not need to do anything else. If you’re living in your home, then #1-4 still apply to every room in the house!

I can hear you now, saying, “That’s great Meredith, but what do I actually DO with my furniture to make it looked staged?”Living room staged to sell

Well, I’m glad you asked, because I’m going to tell you. Here are…

The 3 Lesser-Known Rules of How to Actually Stage Your Home:

  1. Make groups.
  2. Use close colors.
  3. Create meaning and purpose.

Make Groups

Whenever you have items of similar function or design, try to group them together rather than spreading them out. This goes for seating, accessories, art, and just about anything else in your house.

For example, instead of having two chairs on either side of the couch, try pairing them up, perhaps with a small table tucked in between. This gives you a cozy seating area that’s ready for friendly conversation. It feels inviting, which is exactly the intangible sense of home that you want to convey to buyers.

The same idea goes for accessories. If you have a few items you’d like to display on your kitchen counters or island, pick one or two spots to focus on and group your accessories together in these areas. The rest of the counters should be completely clean and empty. This gives your eye a place to land, rather than bumping all over the place and feeling scattered.Home staging with a white kitchen and gray granite countertops

Similarly, instead of scattering art across several walls, try grouping it in a collection. It will feel more thoughtful and less haphazard. It’s OK to have empty spaces on your walls and table tops. A few cozy groupings, with plenty of empty space around them, feel more substantial than several items spaced out.

Use Close Colors

Without getting into a whole discussion on color theory here (that’s a subject for a whole ‘nother blog post, or twenty!), let me give you a little psychology behind color. Colors that are close to each other on the color wheel have a calming, harmonious effect on the brain. Colors that are opposite each other tend to have a jarring or “wake-up!” effect.

So, while you may love the vibrant reds, earthy yellows, and cobalt blues of your Talavera-tile-inspired kitchen, just know that buyers may react with shock and awe, and not in a good way.

Color-loving home owners have balked for years at their realtors’ advice to repaint in boring colors (I know because I’m one of them. The home-owner, not the realtor.)

But if this is you, just remember that you may find a buyer who shares your exact same exuberant love for color, but statistically the chances are better that you won’t. So try to put your emotions aside, and think of it as a numbers game. You want to reach the most buyers as quickly as possible, not woo the one buyer who “gets” you.

So when I say “use close colors” I mean pick colors that are close to each other on the color wheel, or in the same family on a color palette card from the paint store.

Most paint stores and hardware stores have cards with at least 3-5 colors on one card. You can stick to one card, or pick a complimentary card and use colors from both. If you pick two or three related colors, You’ll add to the feeling of “flow” throughout the house.

Create Meaning and Purpose

When you’re arranging your furniture, keep in mind what you’re trying to “say” with the room. Buyers like to walk in and instantly understand what kind of room they’re looking at.

It may be useful for your family that you’ve turned the dining room into a home school room, but unless you happen to find a buyer with the same family values as yours, your other potential buyers might be wondering why there are school supplies and bookshelves in your dining room, rather than a buffet and dining table.

If you have a long, thin family room, consider creating “zones” so the buyer can see where the TV can go, and that there’s still room for a seating area. If your kitchen has an option for eat-in seating, be sure to show that with stools at the island.

Small spaces such as a kitchen desk or breakfast bar are often overlooked by buyers, even though they can be quite useful.Home staging to show buyers how the living room integrates with the kitchen.

You may want to ask an honest friend to come over and try identifying the selling points of your home. If they don’t pick up on some of the things that you think they should, it means you need more staging in those areas.

Don’t be afraid of furniture! If you’re selling an empty house, you should know that empty rooms look smaller than rooms with furniture. If you have a space that seems small, try adding furniture.

In our flip house, the empty bedroom looked a little small and underwhelming, until we brought in a queen-sized bed and two night stands. Suddenly the room looked much larger and more functional. Once you could see that the furniture all fit, with plenty of room for moving around and even adding more furniture, the room just opened up.Neutral bedroom staged to sell.

One Final Rule

There’s one last rule I want to share with you, and this one really is a hard and fast rule. Don’t ever use staging to cover up a problem with the house.

You can definitely enhance or play down certain undesirable architectural elements with staging, such as an off-center window or an awkwardly placed column, but never try to hide an actual defect. It will come out in inspections, once all the furniture is gone, and then it could cause problems with closing the sale. Plus, it’s just not cool. Don’t be that guy.

Whew! That’s a lot of rules! I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you, but that I’ve given you a good starting point for staging your own home. Good luck, and as always, I love to hear your questions and comments. Let me know if I can help!


Friday 20th of April 2018

Hi Meredith, I listened to the podcast (well, honestly, part of the podcast) that you shared on FB a few weeks ago and was interested in your blog. I'm so glad that I finally found it! Love your writing, advice, and just you!


Tuesday 24th of April 2018

Hi Helen, it's so wonderful to see you here! I'm terrible about FB, but this reminds me why I do try to keep up a little bit. So great to hear from you, and thanks for visiting the blog! Love you too, my friend!


Friday 10th of March 2017

Interesting! I have always wondered what goes into selling a home. I haven't had to do that yet (thankfully).


Thursday 16th of March 2017

Yes, the selling part isn't easy. But the staging part is fun!


Wednesday 1st of March 2017

These are great for staging, or even just when you're stuck on how to decorate a room! Thanks for sharing!


Wednesday 8th of March 2017

Thanks Emily! It's easy to get stuck, especially if it's your own space and you're used to seeing it the same way!


Tuesday 28th of February 2017

I still can't believe the fast transformation in this home. It's insane! It always surprises me too how much buys can't see a space for it's potential. I am sure most ran from our house when it was first on the market but it was all cosmetic. Congrats on your first flip!


Wednesday 8th of March 2017

Thanks Rachel! It surprises me how even I can underestimate a space when it's not staged, and I should know better!


Tuesday 28th of February 2017

Great post. Home staging is SO underrated, it's always a good investment!


Wednesday 8th of March 2017

Thanks Roxanne, even I should have known better but was surprised at how much it helped!


Creating a color-filled life. Conquering my little world one DIY project at a time. With lots of coffee and chocolate. Albuquerque NM. Pinterest ~ Instagram ~ Facebook