Last summer the unthinkable happened — the unthinkable for a designer, anyway. I bought my first home in Waco … without seeing it in person. I reviewed a few blurry photos featured on the home’s online listing while in my rental apartment in California and had a brief virtual walk-through via FaceTime. But the first time I laid eyes on my 1950s bungalow was on closing day.
The online photos showed an interior with a hodgepodge of too-small furniture pieces, dated paint colors and poorly lit bedrooms. It was no wonder this house was still on the market. The staging, or lack thereof, left much to be desired for the average homebuyer. Most would have skimmed the photos and politely passed on the property.
However, my design-senses were tingling, and I was able to see beyond the clutter and appreciate what was truly there. Behind the cacophony of chairs in the living room were tall, dramatic windows highlighted with crown molding. The peach walls had major potential with a fresh coat of paint. And the poorly lit bedrooms actually had lovely natural light from multiple windows that weren’t featured in the photos.
Despite the less-than-stellar presentation, the home’s potential was spilling out through those photos like sunlight peeking through tiny cracks —cracks that would be imperceptible to most homebuyers. My husband and I decided to make an offer and go for it. And the rest, they say, is happy homebuying history. We bought the home for a fantastic price, and I literally cried when I walked in the front door for the first time. I love this house so much you’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.
Not everyone has the design eye to see past the unsightly, and that’s why home staging has gone from a luxury to an arguable necessity when selling a home. Check this out: Realtor.org says the average staging investment is between 1 and 3 percent of the home’s asking price, which generates a return of 8 to 10 percent.
Do I have your attention now? I’m totally on board with that kind of ROI. Home staging is a seller’s secret weapon, and the results are absolutely worth the investment.
There are the common sense home staging tips we’ve all heard by now — declutter, remove family photos, paint the walls in neutral colors, take care of minor repairs. Those are no-brainers. But how can you go above and beyond to rock the socks off a potential buyer in photos and in person? And more importantly, how can you create a stunningly staged home that still feels real and not like a beige-washed minimalist museum?
Start at the front door. If it’s not an attention-getting beacon of awesome, you’re missing an opportunity to welcome potential buyers and set the tone for what’s inside. A bold, deep or high-contrast color on the door says, “Hi there, Potential Buyer! I’m stylish and chic, and you’re gonna love what you see inside!” (Am I the only one who anthropomorphizes my home? Is that a designer thing?)
Classic red is always a good idea for a front door. It’s like a swipe of lipstick, timeless and polished. I also adore charcoal gray, especially when paired with lighter gray shutters, and even sophisticated navy looks dynamite on a door. The best part about creating a statement-making front entry is that it’s a simple fix which is low cost and quick to pull off. Super win.
Once potential buyers have passed through the front door, please do not turn off this now-charmed person with a stale living room arrangement featuring a matched set of furniture. Gone are the days when buying a matching sofa, loveseat and armchair was en vogue. Same goes for the matching headboard, dresser, nightstand combo. While you don’t need to replace your coordinating pieces in order for your home to be well-staged, for a fresher look, break up the set by mixing and matching them with other pieces from your home. The often underused loveseat may be better suited in the master bedroom, while a matchy-matchy bedroom chest of drawers can find new life in a hallway or landing.
Get creative and play with what you have. You may be surprised what a new approach to your existing furniture can do to update the look and feel of your home.
Now that you’ve nailed a new furniture arrangement, it’s time to take a look at your rugs. Like, really look at your rugs. Chances are, they’re much too small for your space and are actually making your rooms look smaller. The ideal size for a living room rug should leave a border of about 18 to 24 inches of flooring around the edges of the room, and at minimum, the front legs of your furniture should be resting on the rug. This likely means that an 8-by-10-foot rug or larger is what your room is calling for, not that woefully inadequate 4-by-6-foot one that barely peeks out from under your coffee table. Say goodbye to that sad little guy, thank him for his service if you’re into the KonMari Method, and invest in something better suited to your space. You’ll be amazed at how much more finished a room will look with the right-sized rug. Go big or go home.
Finally, fresh flowers are a must. Spend a few bucks on something simple and brightly colored with a hint of greenery. Did you know smelling flowers releases endorphins? And that each flower arrangement on display directly increases the sale price of a home by 1 percent? (Kidding.) The dose of happy juice that gorgeous florals provide won’t directly increase any offers, but this eye-catching element is only going to help a potential buyer feel at home.
After making these minor design tweaks, you may not even want to move. Picture it now — what would your home look like with an eye-catching front door, a fresh furniture arrangement, the right-sized rugs and a lively arrangement of fresh flowers? It would look — and feel — pretty freaking awesome.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You don’t have to be selling your home to put these tips into play. The secret sauce of home staging is creating a look that’s fresh, decluttered and livable, and that’s how I believe a home should look and feel every day. Don’t wait until you’re selling to make minor improvements to your decor. Fix that pesky broken door hinge now. Paint the living room a pretty pastel hue now. Declutter your overstuffed bookshelves now. Have fun with a new furniture arrangement now. Because you know what? Improvements to your home mean improvements to your life.
And if you are selling a home? Go get that 8 to 10 percent price increase by staging your home well and featuring it in its best light. Not everyone can see past peach walls and an overstuffed space, so take care of the turn-offs. A design pro can help by coming in with fresh eyes and a toolkit of tried and true tactics. A few small changes can totally transform a buyer’s perception and create a livable home you might never want to leave.