Put Your Best Features Forward: Simple Staging Solutions

Staging can help you highlight selling features that may otherwise be overlooked by buyers.

January 1, 2012

Your sellers may be covering up some of their home’s best features—literally. In your listings, don’t let clutter or poor design choices lessen the appeal of subtle selling points such as upgraded kitchen countertops, fireplaces, and built-in shelving units. Staging can put these features in the spotlight during showings.


Roomy Kitchen Countertops

Stage a kitchen so that it shows off counter space. Stager Anthea Click of Fresh Perspectives in Nashville offers three tips for countertops.

- Put extras away. Have no more than three appliances on the countertops—even fewer if the counter space is small. Remove extra items such as knife blocks, phones, and baskets, which will make the countertops look smaller than they ­really are.

- Highlight. If the home has a center island, make it a focal point with greenery, such as an orchid, or a bowl of fresh fruit. If the island is big enough, have place settings on display with up to three bar stools. If the kitchen doesn’t have an island but there’s space for one, bring in a portable one to add counter space.

- Add color. Try placing kitchen canisters on the counter for color, interest, and balance.



Hot-Selling Fireplaces

Fireplaces are on many buyers’ wish lists. But dated and dingy fireplaces can be a turnoff. These tips for staging fireplaces are from real estate pro Tori Lynn Wallitsch of Alliance Real Estate and Ross Designs Home Staging in Omaha, Neb.

- Accessorize. Try colorful artwork or a mirror hanging over the fireplace. Use accessories sparingly on the mantel. For example, try greenery arrangements or a decorative plate on a stand in the center of the mantel. Or display three candlesticks of differing heights, a vase, or smaller accessories on one side and leave the other side clear. To attract buyers’ eyes to the fireplace, try placing a colorful plant on the floor along the fireplace’s corner edge.

- Modernize. Remove dated brass screens. By spending $200 or so to replace the old screen with a new black or bronze version, you can instantly bring a fireplace up-to-date. Do-it-yourselfers may opt to paint the brass screen themselves using black grill or auto paint with a heat-resistant primer.

- Paint. A painted accent wall helps highlight a fireplace, bringing out the wood color and any of its architectural details. Try earthy, creamy tones for the accent wall, or choose a paint color two or three shades darker than that of the other walls to create monochromatic harmony in the room.

- Position. Make the fireplace the focal point: Angle furniture to either side of it, or place sofas perpendicular to it. Don’t block the fireplace with furniture.


Don’t Cover up Unique Home Features!

A wood-burning stove tucked away in the corner of a 100-year-old home became a selling asset with the help of stagers Heather Cook and Alana Merritt, co-owners of Rooms in Bloom Home Staging & Design Inc. in Kitchener, Ontario. Cook and Merritt cleared away the clutter and changed the original distracting orange hue to a soft neutral with green undertones, which brought out the stove’s wood casings, the floors, and architectural elements of the space. The room was then staged around the stove to make it “a feature instead of an obscured object in the space,” Cook says.


Checklist: 4 Quick Tips for Prepping a Home for Sale

Real estate pro and stager Barb Schwarz, founder of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals, recommends some of the following general staging tips in prepping homes for sale.

1. Super clean. Make the house shine from top to bottom. Don’t forget about cleaning the carpet, draperies, and windows, too.

2. Clear the clutter and unload some furniture. Remove unnecessary items from countertops, bathtubs, and shower stalls—areas that often attract the most clutter. Keep only the necessities. A decluttered home helps buyers mentally “move in” with their own things. You may need to rearrange or remove some furniture. Pieces that crowd a space can make it look smaller than it really is.

3. Prep your landscaping. Check gutters and roof for dry rot and moss, and ensure they are clean. Examine all plants: Prune bushes and trees, make sure no plants are blocking windows, remove any dead plants, and keep the lawn freshly mowed.

4. Add nice touches. Coordinate towels in the bathroom in one or two colors only. Keep accessories restricted to groups of one, three, or five items. Make sure all lights and lamps are on for showings, and set an inviting mood: Have soft background music turned on (such as light FM music).


Spacious Built-ins

Built-in bookshelves help feed another common buyercraving: the desire for extra storage. Don’t let sellers clutter shelves. Stagers Heather Cook and Alana Merritt of Rooms in Bloom offer tips for staging bookshelves and wall units.

- Accent key colors. When selecting knickknacks to display, look to the room’s color palette for inspiration. Select items that bring out colors in the pillows or wall art.

- Balance. To create a cohesive feel, all items should have similar visual weight, as either a group or a stand-alone piece. For example, hardcover books of similar sizes can provide the necessary structure and height needed to fill out the shelves and balance out small artwork or mirrors on the other shelves. While the bulkiness of the accessories should align, their height can vary to create an appealing, natural look within the shelves. Other good picks for staging shelves: Small-scale framed art, mirrors, candles, and small pots of greenery or flowers.

- Prioritize. Focus on the shelves at eye level first. The shelves above and ­below eye level shouldn’t be empty, but they don’t have to be filled to the same degree.


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