With occupied consultations, I always begin by sharing with the client the difference I see between staging and design. I want them to understand that my role as a stager is to help guide them along a path to optimal home marketing, not to critique their design style or choices.
Here’s how I explain it to them … Design IS personal. It is about you. What reflects you. What speaks to you. What colors you like. How formal or casual your lifestyle is. Where you went to college. Your family’s greatest moments and favorite vacations. Where optimal sofa placement meets perfect family movie viewing. These are the details of design that are — and should be — reflected in your home when you live there. Your design choices tell your story and showcase your life.
But when you have decided to sell your home, it is no longer about you. So it should no longer reflect you. Staging IS NOT personal. It should reflect everyone, that is anyone who walks through your front door should feel an open invitation to make the space their own. Think luxury hotel or vacation rental. Those spaces are always comfortable yet contemporary, warm and welcoming, yet speak to no real specific audience or demographic. That is the atmosphere effective staging can create in your home even when you are still living there.
One of the first rules for creating such an environment is to neutralize and depersonalize. But I often get asked “if I pack away all the ‘stuff’ how can I make it still feel warm and inviting, neutral and impersonal, without appearing cold and uninviting?”
So here are 10 ways to quickly and easily achieve that neutral look in your home WHILE YOU STILL LIVE THERE so that it tells less about you and instead harkens someone else to make it theirs. (Side note: Now is a great time to get a head start on packing for your move. Overwhelmed at the idea of simultaneously purging and packing while still “living”? Rent a storage unit! Worth. Every. Penny. And totally preserves your sanity!) Back to neutralizing with ease and impact …
1. Front Door – Replace your front door mat with something that says “welcome” or “home.” A fresh clean mat will always give your front door an immediate lift and is much less personal than something that is either old and worn and/or has your last name or initial featured prominently. First impressions after all!
2. Empty Planters – Get rid of or hide planters with dead/dying/dormant plants. Ever been to a hotel and seen a barely surviving fern featured at the front door? I didn’t think so. Why would you want to buy a house with one?!
3. Photos/Religious and Political Symbols/Personal Accolades – Take out all personal photos unless they look more like art (i.e., a collage wall of antique family photos, a silhouette canvas portrait of your children standing on top of a mountain). Religious/political references while meaningful to you and weave the fabric of your family, may or may not appeal to someone else. Why limit the buyer pool just because their beliefs didn’t align with yours. So pack that stuff away. If you are left with large empty wall space, consider hanging a large piece of canvas art in its place. Adding a commanding focal point with a contemporary look will pull buyers into your on-line listing photos and add immediate interest to your room. You can find great pieces at great prices … Pier 1 (especially on clearance), Home Goods, Marshall’s, atHome, Target, and the list goes on.
4. Sports Memorabilia – A nod to the greats here and there or in support of your favorite alma mater isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But like most things in life, it needs to be kept in moderation. So don’t go overboard with themed merch spread across your home. You would hate to turn off a potential buyer just because they didn’t root root root for the home team!
5. Kitchen – Clean everything off your refrigerator … magnets, takeout menus, children’s artwork, photos, etc. A clean surface will make your kitchen look more spacious and open and will show better in your photos.
6. Kitchen Sink – Dishes? Yuck! Definitely a reminder of the dirtier, more stressful side of life. So keep the sink free and clear. No dirty dishes, no clean dishes, no dish soap sitting out, drying rack ready for use, etc. Keep it all stored away. And while you are at it, make sure there isn’t any food left out anywhere. It never looks as appealing as when it was first prepared.
7. Bathroom Toiletries – Remove personal toiletries from the bathroom vanities and inside showers/tubs (the half used bottles of shampoo, razors, bar soaps, colorful bottles, etc.) and your comfortably used colorful towels. Replace with a crystal bowl filled with pretty wrapped soaps (You know … the ones you get for gifts but never use? Perfect place and time to put them out!) and fluffy white towels. Keep a plastic bin out on each family member’s vanity for daily personal toiletry storage. Then stash them under sink s for quick “pre-showing” clean-up.
8. Water Closets – Hide everything from around your toilets (i.e., extra toilet paper sitting on top, trash cans, cleaning brushes, air fresheners, etc.). No one wants to be reminded of the chores and stinky side of daily life. They want a house that feels calm, peaceful, and stress-free. By hiding evidence that immediately makes you think of “work,” you help create this feeling of serenity.
9. Laundry – No one likes doing it. (At least no one I know, so if you are someone who does, my apologies. The reality is not many people looking at your house want to think about doing it so this tip still applies to you.) Keep it hidden … in a closed hamper, in your dryer, under a bed where it doesn’t show. Just make sure there aren’t piles of clean or dirty clothes serving as a beacon for “work” reflected in this home. I find a completely cleaned out laundry room generally shows best in photos and then a laundry room with VERY LIMITED SUPPLIES visible shows best for when buyers journey to the home. It just presents a “cleaner” look – pun intended!
10. The Myriad of Piles – Your mail, kids’ schoolwork, the books you keep meaning to read on your nightstand, etc. It always seems to pile up somewhere, often your kitchen or laundry/mud room counters. Or maybe on a desk corner or your bathroom vanity. Talk about things that make life feel more stressful! Go ahead and hide those piles … in a drawer, in a cabinet, under the couch cushions, wherever makes most sense to you. But keep them out of sight!
Of course, there is much more you can do to make staging a true benefit to your overall marketing plan. But by starting with the depersonalizing, you immediately make your home look cleaner and more appealing to a potential buyer. If you want help fine-tuning for maximum financial benefit, you know where to find us! We would be honored to help!