The What, Why & How of Home Staging


The What, Why & How of Home Staging-2

If you’ve ever watched a show on HGTV you are probably familiar with the term “staging.” On Flip or Flop, where they gut and redo a home, they always bring in stagers to add furniture and decorative accents.  On Fixer Upper, Joanna always works well into the night (or so they have us believe), getting the home ready for the owners.  She is the one with the “eye” and the decorative sense, and she really excels when it comes to the staging of the home at the end.  Similarly, Hillary on Love It or List It and Drew & Jonathan Scott of Property Brothers, stage their properties after their respective makeovers.  The staging is what really makes viewers “ooh and ah” over the transformation.  But as we all know, HGTV isn’t real life, and staging, while essential for TV, costs money, sometimes lots of it. So, if you are a seller, should you consider having your home staged?  Does it pay off?  Are there different levels of staging?  The answer to all of these questions, is yes!  Yes, you should consider staging your home, because yes, it does pay off, but yes, there are different degrees of staging, and it doesn’t have to break the bank.

While on the TV shows, roomfuls of furniture are brought in, for most home sellers my recommendations involve what I would call “editing” and “decorative staging.”   In some cases, “room updates” might be warranted, where wallpaper is removed, bathroom fixtures are replaced, or kitchen updates are made.  And on occasion we might redo a complete room.  Let’s discuss what I mean by each of these.


Unless your home looks like it is ready for a photo shoot for a decorating magazine (from 2017, not 1979), I think every home can benefit from “editing.”  This is where a good real estate agent can begin to bring you value.  While most people have heard they should remove all personal photos (I think in moderation it is okay to leave them), removing furniture and decorative items can also go a long way, and be far more important than the personal photos.  Removing furniture can make a room appear more spacious and removing decorative items can reduce some of the “noise.”  Art can be a very personal thing, but unless it is neutral and complimentary to the room, it can be a distraction.  And sometimes people just have too much “art.”  You may be an avid reader, but bookshelves shouldn’t be cram-packed with dog-eared paperbacks.  Live plants should be limited in scope and limited to those that are healthy and thriving.  Kitchen and bathroom counters should be as clear as possible.  I know it may be convenient to have your coffee maker, toaster oven, blender, paper towels, knife block, etc all on the kitchen counter, but when you are selling your home, less is definitely more.  Be open to listening to your real estate agents suggestions ~ it’s not a personal affront to your decorating style, they are just trying to make your home show at it’s best.  In the photos that follow, I will highlight some of the changes I have made to a recent listing of mine.  I am fortunate in that my client has been very open to changes, and has been very happy with what I have done.

In an example of editing, this home has a beautiful front-to-back room with great light. This room started off with a piano, in addition to what you see in the before photo.  The seller had the piano removed, then I later removed some of the furniture and the large rug, which covered up the hardwood floors (which were in great condition).


Living room 2

And after:


In another example, I had a large cabinet and artificial plant removed that was in the kitchen area (to the left in the first photo), and replaced it with a small bench (which came from the living room…and you will see that light-colored rug in an upcoming photo, also moved to a different room).





Decorative Staging

Full-on staging is generally used for homes that are empty.  Furniture in a space actually makes it appear bigger (although too much furniture can make it look smaller).  But most homes don’t need a room to be emptied and completely redone.  What can make a difference, is what I call “decorative staging.”  This involves bringing in some decorative elements to help a space appear more cohesive or updated.  Here is an example of a bedroom where we did both editing and some staging.  We removed the black rug, the desk/chair the upholstered chair and the lamp (editing).  We then moved a light-colored rug (from the photo above) and a lamp from another room of the house into this room.  I replaced the decorative pillows with one from Home Goods, added a coordinating throw at the foot of the bed and a few decorative items on the nightstand (which the seller painted white).  Very low-cost, and I think the room shows as more spacious and up-to-date.




Bedroom #2

In the master bathroom, I simply did some staging of the tub area, including the shelves.  While this bath may need a more extensive update, what I wanted to do was draw attention to the fact that it could be a very relaxing space.  Many homes in this particular area have small master baths with only a shower.  This bathroom actually has a shower (to the right, unseen in the photo) and a tub, so why not play it up?



And after:

Master bath

Room Updates

This step is a bit more involved, and often involves kitchen and bathrooms.  In this house, the shared bath had a very small vanity.  Not only was it not very wide, it was unusually low.  It generated a lot of comments, not in a good way.  So I had the vanity replaced.  As part of this redo, I also had the storage piece above the toilet removed to create a feeling of more space (thank you to my colleague, Ruth, for the suggestion).  I painted the walls (yes, really) a lighter, more neutral color, and then did some staging with decorative prints and new towels.



And after:

Full Bath

While in this house the kitchen was already beautifully updated, sometimes it can pay off to add stainless steel appliances to a kitchen (especially if the appliances are a mix of finishes) or even change out countertops.  In a recent listing in our office they took out a dated backsplash, changed out the countertops from Corian to a black honed granite, added some stainless appliances and had a butcher block island refinished.  The home sold instantly.

Full Room Makeover

While generally the desired improvements can be accomplished by editing and decorative staging, in some cases it may make sense to makeover an entire room.  In this house we had a small fourth bedroom that had big, heavy furniture in it.  I had all of the furniture removed, and brought in a cute bed, chair (not in the photo) and a neutral rug.  From our trusty Home Goods I sourced a nightstand, lamp and a couple of small prints.





When it comes to getting your home ready for the market, a good real estate agent should make suggestions that will help maximize the selling price of your home.  Some of these tips cost nothing, and some may involve some level of investment (although some agents, myself included, have a stash of decorative items and furniture that can be used free-of-charge).  My suggestion to you is to listen and to be receptive.  It is not a critique of your home.  An agent is only trying to make your home appeal to the greatest number of buyers, which in the end, will help you to sell faster and at a higher price!

If you have any questions about buying or selling a home, if you are interested in learning what your home is worth, or if you have any questions about real estate in general, please give me a call (508-308-4436), send me an email ( or send me a message via Facebook.  I would love to help you!

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About Lisa Van Dore

I have lived in Sherborn, Dover and most recently North Walpole, for a total of 15 years (and counting). Having recently been through the process of selling a home and buying (and renovating) a new one, I understand the conflicting emotions of excitement and anxiety inherent in the process, whether you are a seller or buyer, whether this is your first home purchase or your tenth. I have a BA from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Indiana University. My early career found me working as a CPA, and later as the controller of Crate & Barrel. More recently I spent seven years running my own personal training business. I understand the hard work and dedication necessary to build a business and a reputation...most of my personal training clients came to me by referral and my first client was still with me when I decided to leave personal training. This speaks to the level of effort I put forth for my clients, week after week. On a more personal note, I raced triathlon for seven years and more recently completed my first half marathon. In my free time I enjoy cooking, reading, Maine, hiking and, in the fall, following college teams are the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and Texas Christian University (Go Frogs!).
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