Staging Your Home With What You’ve Got

If splurging for a stager is out of the question, we’re doling out professional advice for free.

Photo courtesy Meridith Baer Home A coat of paint reveals this bedroom's stunning architectural attributes like wainscoting and the tongue and groove ceiling.  

Selling a home can be one of the most stressful milestones in a person’s life. Not only are you staring down the barrel of yet another move, but you also have to deal with the anxiety that comes with showings, open houses and even the random drop by in spite of the “shown by appointment only” caveat on your for sale sign. 

Hiring a professional stager is a fine idea, especially for their fresh perspective. We understand, however, that it can be cost prohibitive. There are plenty of simple fixes that cost little to nothing using the resources and furniture you already have. 

Get Packing 

There is no simpler way to put this: Once you put the sign in the yard, you don’t live there anymore. So, get packing. 

“We want buyers to imagine themselves living in the home and not to focus on who lives there now,” said Annie Pinsker-Brown of Stage to Sell/Los Angeles Home Staging.  “In bathrooms, buyers don't want to see your makeup, toothbrushes and lotion bottles. Put everything you use on a daily basis into a plastic bin and clear out a space in your bathroom cabinet for that bin so you can put it away quickly on the day of a showing.” 

Photo courtesy Meridith Baer Home Our stagers advised using simple window dressings to reveal architectural details and to let natural light in. The mantle, window casings and molding are highlighted by a contrasting yet understated shade of paint. 

Pinkser-Brown recommends placing a nice soap dispenser, one folded hand towel and perhaps a simple orchid on the bathroom vanity. 

Pack up family photos, toys, any clutter, from your home. We know you’re proud of your massive snow globe collection but seeing them could elicit packing anxiety from a potential buyer. And you have no idea how long people can actually stare at your photographs. 

Clean Up Your Act

Every surface in your home should be cleaned. We don’t care if there’s not a spot on your sofa – vacuum it. And when you’re done, vacuum it again. The first pass kicked up a lot of dust; the second pass will hopefully trap allergens, pet hair, dust mites or anything with the potential to trigger an allergy attack. Give your house the white glove treatment. 

If bleach and a blowtorch were used to clean any surface, go back over it with a cleaner such as Meyer’s Lemon Verbena to take away the antiseptic smell. You don’t want buyers to think that Dexter lived there. Slow simmer cinnamon sticks for the ultimate Betty Croker affect. 

Time to Change 

Rearrange existing furniture so that it makes cohesive sense. Find the room’s focus, like a fireplace or a window. Dining room tables should be centered with the lighting and the chairs balanced. Remove extra items like highchairs or folding chairs you bring out for extra company. Determine if there is too much furniture in a room. 

Photo courtesy Designed to Appeal By simply removing the clutter, this home's entryway is now ready to make a first impression on potential buyers. 

Picture Perfect

Now, your Realtor will want to take lots of photos, which can be the first impression the home makes. 

“As a stager, one of the most important things I consider when working on a home is how the camera lens will see the various rooms,” said Pinkser-Brown. “Certain things tend to draw the eye in a negative way in a photo that are not necessarily as noticeable when you see them in person like small patterns.”

Patterns in items like wallpaper, bedding and curtains can dominate in a photo, so try replacing patterned items with solid ones. Change out loud paisley fabrics with a simple white blanket. 

“Another thing that has to go are any small figurines or collections. One or two large decor items are always going to photograph and show better than several small ones, which tend to read as clutter,” said Pinsker-Brown. “So clear off the small porcelain dolls, the tiny ceramic figurines or the hundreds of DVDs on your bookshelves.”

Let the Sunshine In

Sometimes simply removing dated or heavy draperies can instantly transform a room. Your home should be flooded with as much natural light as possible. Heavy valances and swags also have potential to hide your home’s unique details like window casings or leaded glass. 

Photo courtesy Stage to Sell/Los Angeles Home Staging The client's furniture is now staged to create a conversation area and their existing accessories are placed tastefully (and sparsely) around the room. The painting brings your eye to the fireplace. 


“If your curtains have a small pattern or if they make the room look dark or dated, they should go. Otherwise drapes can really help to give a room a more complete designer feel,” said Pinkser-Brown.

Old Paint

Roll up your sleeves, little doggies. A single coat of paint can be like an instant facelift for your home. However, stay away from purely white walls unless your home is very modern and has a gallery feel.

“Bright white is great for trim -- baseboard, molding and doors -- to give a crisp fresh look, but if both the trim and the walls are white, there is no contrast and architectural details get lost,” said Pinkser-Brown. “A light or medium taupe, tan or gray will warm up a home and create a neutral backdrop that buyers will love.” 

Don’t Kill the Messenger 

Last and not least, if someone wants to see your house at a moment’s notice, don’t get flustered and mad at your Realtor. Their job is to sell your home. 

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