Nearly 83% of top real estate agents say that a staged home will sell faster than an unstaged home, while 67% believe staging boosts your sale price as well, according to to HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights Survey.
“When buyers walk into a house, they want to it to feel homey. Staging creates that. If sellers don’t do a proper staging, it can definitely hurt that ultimate goal for a full price offer.”
The thing is, while most of us can tell when a room doesn’t look great, few know exactly what to do about it or where to start.
We spoke to three home stagers at the top of their game, who walked us step by step on how to transform awkward, dull, or otherwise unmarketable spaces into gorgeous showrooms. What better way to learn than with real examples? Check out these home staging before and afters for some free lessons from the pros.
Staging Case Study #1: From cold commercial office to welcoming residential bungalow
Larissa Barth, owner of Sacramento-based Alexander and Jones Home Staging, was enlisted to stage a bungalow zoned for both commercial and residential. When she walked into the space, she knew it was in the midst of an identity crisis.
“It was a little bungalow cottage located in the downtown area, and it had been used for commercial, but it was still a little cottage,” says Barth. “It was very confusing before staging.”
It came with all the trappings of a home, including a fireplace and full kitchen but was outfitted with office-esque accents, which Barth described as “gray on gray on gray.” This half-office, half-home hung in limbo, stuck in no man’s land.
Barth decided the best approach was to turn the “almost office” back into a full-fledged home. That meant incorporating friendlier elements, and combating against some of the vibes in the space reminiscent of Dunder Mifflin. Because the space was so drab, they brought in pops of color in the furniture, and incorporated area rugs to detract from the corporate wall to wall carpeting.
- Incorporate bold pops of color to offset neutrals.
Barth pulled in pops of green and blue throughout the living room to contrast all the gray tones.
Large pieces, such as the couch and coffee table, stayed neutral, but bold blues on textured accent pillows and abstract art on the wall infused enough color into the place to really liven it up.
“I went with blues because blue is a very comforting color,” says Barth. “It evokes a positive emotion out of people, and is very calming.”
- Warm up your lighting.
The cottage had harsh halogen lighting, so Barth kept the blinds open to welcome in natural light, and opted to use warm bulbs to create friendlier lighting.
Warm lighting, with color range between 3,000 to 4,000 Kelvins, creates a cozy atmosphere that can help visitors relax and wind down, combating against the colder aspects of a space.
Get a pack of 12 and switch out all the bulbs in the room to cast a warm glow, or opt for higher-end “smart bulbs” which can create a range of different color temperatures.
- Create texture with cozy rugs.
Bringing in cozy, textured rugs, “deflected from the fact that the space didn’t have any warmth to it,” Barth explains. The lush area rug also helps to define the living room as its own distinct area.
- Select furniture with clean lines for smaller rooms.
Barth aimed to make the bungalow feel like home, but because the living room was on the smaller side, she selected a few large scale furniture pieces with clean lines as to not overcrowd the space.
That meant avoiding overstuffed, bulkier-style couches such as Chesterfields, or English Arm Rolls that loungers end up sinking into seconds after sitting down.
Stick to smaller sized couches with low profiles and less stuffing, like Mid Century Modern couches or stylish wood framed loveseats. Bottom line: they couldn’t have anything in the space that photographed as big or overcrowding.
“When I think about what needs to be in the space, I keep in mind the photographs,” reasons Barth. “It’s really important to bring enough to draw the eyes, without things feeling messy.”
Staging Case Study #2: From vacant condominium to custom designed listing
VHT Studio, a real estate photography and visual marketing firm, has helped over 200,000 real estate professionals sell their properties. Recently, the studio worked with a client to transform their underfurnished condo into an Architectural Digest-worthy space, all through the help of virtual staging.
Virtual staging uses professional photography and digitally enhances it to stage the space with computer-generated furniture and decor. As long as you adhere to best practices, like marking the MLS images as virtually staged online, a seller can end up saving on staging in the long run, while appealing to a broader audience.
This particular spare room of the condo was a bit of a mess, explains Vince Collura, COO of VHT Studios. Both cluttered and cold, buyers weren’t sure what to make of the space, and it’s current state wasn’t exactly sale ready.
The TV mounted to face the couch suggested an entertainment space, but the cluttered desk in the corner made it seem like a workspace. Additionally, the desk’s mix of cords and computer accessories didn’t make the space feel warm or welcoming—visitors might feel as if they’re invading the seller’s personal space.
As it stands, there’s no idea for a buyer to hold onto in the room—the seller wasn’t giving buyers the space to imagine themselves there.
“When a seller has a cluttered and messy home… you can digitally wipe surfaces of all personal effects and knick-knacks so buyers can see a more spacious and visually appealing home,” says Collura.
With staging, this particular space became a true guest room, instead of a room without a clear purpose. Low profile furniture coming up to the exact height of the windows drew visitors’ eyes outside to the view, and the modern chaise in the corner evokes a sense of calm and peaceful relaxation. The framed images of organic matter and seashells call to mind an organic and natural getaway in the middle of a busy city.
The living room of the same condo suffered the opposite fate of the spare room. “Rooms that look vacant, unfurnished, or not furnished enough can appear cold and unwelcoming,” says Collura, and the furniture wasn’t the proper size in the space. The room was awkwardly arranged with everything against the walls, and didn’t have enough furnishings to make it feel lived in.
Using virtual staging, Collura added size-appropriate furniture and accents to make the space warm and lived-in, but also modern and clean.
What’s more, “not all buyers have the same taste, so the flexibility to appeal to the broadest audience possible through offering different styles and design of the same room.” Instead of a costly trial and error for the stager, virtual staging makes it easy to switch up designs and styles to appeal to different types of buyers.
Whether you use virtual staging technology or traditional staging techniques, the design implemented by Collura speaks to strategies any seller can use.
- Stage with purpose.
Spare rooms can become catch-alls for homeowners, but when a buyer considers the space, the office/spare room/storage area can read as confusing, cluttered, and unappealing. If sellers choose to stage a spare or bonus room, pick a purpose and stick with the theme. Turn the spare room into an office or a bedroom, but not both.
- Don’t underfurnish.
In the above example, the living room before wasn’t overly cluttered or filled with personal effects, but it’s lack of furniture made it appear cold to buyers. Finding the right size furniture to fit the space, as well as the distance between furniture can make all the difference. Want buyers to feel comfortable in a living room?
Stick to these spacing guidelines from the award-winning team at Ballard Designs:
- 14-18 inches should be between the sofa and the coffee table, giving people enough space to walk through, but still close enough to put down glasses on the table if they’re sitting on the couch.
- Allow for 30-36 inches between seating. This makes it close enough for people to talk, but far away enough that someone can walk through the two pieces of furniture.
- You want 12-24 inches between the wall and a room-sized rug. This gives the illusion of it covering the space, but doesn’t make it look like the rug is too small.
If you struggle to fit all your furniture within these measurements, chances are you have too much. Leftover with a ton of space after laying things out? You could be leaving the room under furnished.
- Focus on photos.
A great image on a listing can sell a property, especially when there’s less chance of drive-by traffic, such as with a condo or apartment.
There’s not much to see from the outside, so wowing online visitors into seeing the space with their own eyes is essential.
While virtual staging might not be for every seller, it can create incredible listing images that show the potential of the space, without expensively overhauling the property.
Staging Case Study #3: From well-loved to light and airy
When Justin Riordan, founder of Portland-based Spade and Archer Design Agency, was called in to help stage a property in Seattle, he wanted to turn the well-used property into clean slate for potential buyers. It had the specific touches of the current residents all over it and would need to appeal to a broader audience to be marketable.
The den was well proportioned, but dark and dated. Its dark accents and old-fashioned seating made it feel more like a cave or room for catch-all furniture than a space where you would welcome guests. Window coverings and heavy accents around the room gave the area a stale feeling. The space suited the sellers during their time there, but it was time for a refresh.
“This home is a perfect example of what minor renovations, fresh paint, and professional staging can do—turning this $850,000 valued-property into a $1,200,000 sale,” explains Riodan.
“In combination with removing all window coverings, letting in natural light onto the new white walls turned this well-used family home into a bright and shiny opportunity for a fresh family to move in.”
By swapping the comfy leather couches for updated furniture, and removing the TV in the corner, the room became a welcoming living room instead of a stale den. Overall, the clean and refreshing atmosphere makes it easier for buyers to envision themselves leaving a mark on the space.
- Let the light in.
Remove heavy curtains or window treatments and play up the natural light in the room to make it appear larger and brighter.
Ample lighting helps buyers appreciate every detail in the room, while the illusion of more space evokes a sense of calm and openness.
- Remove bulky furniture.
The dark leather sofa and easy chair previously occupying the room certainly looked comfy, but their size and heft brought the energy in the room down. It wouldn’t be hard for a buyer to imagine parking on the couch for an afternoon of binge-watching.
But, swapping those trusty leather pieces out for trim and sleek modern designs breathed new life into the space, making it feel lighter and more energetic. The room now feels full of possibility.
- Apply a fresh coat of paint.
Buyers are looking for a fresh start, and a new coat of white paint can transform nearly any space, making the biggest impact with the smallest budget.
Moving from an off white to a bright white (like Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace) can help modernize the space without making it feel too sterile. Just a few shades lighter, and the white walls become a feature in the room instead of fading to the back.
- Open it up.
With the simple step of removing the door to the kitchen, the space feels larger, and has a better flow to the rest of the house.
To some sellers, staging might feel over the top—after all, it’s a home buyers are looking for, not a movie set. However, staging sells, says Gilmore.“I know with sellers there’s a lot of emotions involved but at the end of the day, you are selling something, and your house (is) that product.”
Header Image Source: (Francesca Tosolini/ Unsplash)