Add Some Big Deal Drama to Your Staging

Thursday, September 30, 2010
It doesn't take a major overhaul to make your
home special. It's easy to add things like plants, lights, rugs,
pillows, and some snazzy new hardware.    
You've decluttered and cleaned.  Now it's time to add some razzle-dazzle.  Here are my ten favorite staging products that make big impressions.

1. Easy Lights

Add some sparkle to your kitchen with a set of five cute, inconspicuous, wireless puck lights under the kitchen cabinets.

For about $46 your kitchen work areas will look larger, cleaner, and more modern.

These lights have three settings.

Set them on high when your house will be shown. Each light uses three AAA batteries, good for 60 hours. Find them by following this link for Lamps Plus, or at local home improvement stores.

2. Big Sparkle

For unsurpassed glamor, nothing beats a crystal chandelier.

You may think your home's style doesn't support this kind of old-world lighting fixture, but you could be wrong. I once sold a modest house to a woman who later told me that as soon as she saw the crystal chandelier in the dining room, she knew she wanted to buy the home.

Old homes, new homes, small homes, big homes, all get a major dose of high style from a lighting fixture like this. You can buy an inexpensive knockoff at a big-box store or shop second-hand stores and Habitat for bargains. Often outdated chandeliers can be brought to life with paint and bead or crystals. Check my Pinterest Board for Chandeliers to see tutorials and ideas.

Chandeliers aren't just for grand foyers. Hanging light fixtures add
drama and sparkle to almost any room where
they don't get in the way of foot traffic, or block a view. Photo:BHG  

3. Giant Greenery

Whatever money you spend on a giant plant in your staged home will be money well spent.

You can go for faux, or you can invest in something that will take some care, but love you back.

Look for something of quality if you go the fake route. An 8-foot tall bamboo plant costs about $250 from places like Target and you will have it forever, looking as fresh as you please.

Plop it into a large planter or set it on a stand or low table to make it even more wow!

4. New Rug

When a room has really nothing special to recommend it, it's time to bring in an area rug.

Spread one at the foot of a bed, or under a dining table and chairs, or in front of a sofa and club chair, and you've anchored the whole room. It needn't be special -- nothing antique or hand-tied or one-of-a-kind. Shop the discount stores.

5. Big Welcome Mat

Along the same lines -- underfoot -- you'll get a home viewing off to a great start by laying a real welcome mat out front. Down with meager mats, and up with something all statement-like, something designed to be used outdoors. Shop online and check your local sources, too.

6. Stainless Finish

Are you wishing your kitchen had stainless appliances? You can give your white, black, or other appliances the look of stainless with a product called Liquid Stainless Steel. It's paint made from actual stainless steel powder suspended in a water-base clear finish that dries as hard as an automotive finish.

I have not used this product, but my research tells me the results are very good. No one is having any problems with it. Cleanup is with soap and water. If you have a weekend and $150, you could convert the surfaces of a dishwasher, stove, and refrigerator to stainless.

The only downside is that next to a genuine stainless surface, it won't be an exact match.  Read all about it at 

Although this room by Rita Chan looks gorgeous without these 
two generously-sized pillows, they do 
add another layer to a simple seating area, 
making it look more colorful and interesting.   

7. Snazzy Pillows

I'm a huge fan of pillows, and if your home is lacking some, you are missing an opportunity to perk up your space. 

Pillows will unify a color scheme, soften the feel of a room, make mismatched furniture look perfect together, freshen up an outdated room, and add that special decorator detailing that upgrades a room and makes people want to linger. Buy them in pairs for a classic look.

My eBook for DIY home staging tells you how to make your own for pennies (or less!). 

8. Slipcovers

Another high impact purchase for a living room is slipcovers. The ambitious will sew their own, the wealthy will commission custom-tailored, and others will order adjustable versions online. Surefit brand always looks good. A cover for a standard size couch will set you back about $60, and a large upholstered chair about $40. And you can make them match! Money spent on slipcovers is like money in the bank.

New handles and other hardware, plus soft towels are
a small but important part of what makes this bathroom appealing.  

9. Updated Hardware

One of the easiest ways to give your whole house a fresh, contemporary look is to replace brass hinges and doorknobs with polished nickel. Figure about $20 average per door for new interior doorknobs. Hinges will cost less than $8 per door.

10. Fluffy Towels

Finally, I'm encouraging you to get yourself to a bed and bath store, a department store, or a discount store like Marshalls, Kohls, or Tuesday Morning. Splurge on a couple of complete sets of great bath towels, the ones designed to be both thirsty and gorgeous. You know the ones. These are not for everyday use. These are the display towels that get put out when you have a house showing. Once your home sells, you can actually use them!  

The only trouble with adding these luxury touches to your home is that you'll hate leaving it when you sell. Relax! Plants and rugs and pillows and towels move with you when you sell your staged home.

Remember to download my eBook to see many more ways to increase the appeal of your home on the market!


You Can Make Outdoor Cushions

Monday, September 27, 2010
Readers of my eBook, know I endorse subtle colors and monochromatic color schemes for staging your home.

So, what's up with these razzle-dazzle, downright gaudy cushions I'm suggesting you make to stage your outdoor seating area?

The fact is the rules change as soon as you step outdoors. Highly saturated colors can hold their own under intense sunlight. Also, fabrics manufactured to be used out-of-doors always seem to feature bold designs and colors. Whether you choose awning stripes, solid colors, tropical prints or even florals, they're mostly big, stylized, and loud. Fun colors and wild patterns seem more ... well, fun.    

I decided to make my own outdoor cushions because I did not want to pay what retail stores are charging, and I had a piece of 4-inch thick foam in the garage, leftover from an RV we remodeled last year. The fabric for four cushions cost me about $30, easily what you'd pay for one equal-sized cushion.

If you want to give this project a go, the first step is to make a paper pattern for the cushion so it will fit the chair.

Next, draw the outline of the pattern onto the foam.

   Using an electric knife or serrated bread knife, cut out the cushion. Mr. Lucky shows how.

Lay the foam or the paper pattern on the fabric, and mark the cutting edge. I marked 3 inches out from the sides for a 4-inch think cushion (to allow for a 1-inch side seam). I set the front edge of the cushion 2 inches in from the fold, to accommodate the 4-inch thickness.  

Cut the fabric on the line. You might want to make one cushion at a time to doublecheck your measurements.

With rights sides together, pin the two sides edges, stopping where the edges begins to curve. Sew both side sides of the cushion cover, beginning at the front fold, and continuing to where the edge curves.

Open the front fold out flat, so the seam is in the center of a triangle that measures 4 inches across. Draw a line where you will sew to make a mitered corner. 

Sew across the flattened seam where you drew the 4-inch line.  

Clip the corner so the seam will lie flat when you flatten it and sew across it.

Sew a line of large basting stitches 1 inch from the raw curved edges on both top and bottom, beginning and ending where the side seams end. These stitches will help gather the fabric to ease around the back curve. 

Turn the cushion cover right side out, and slide the foam into it.

Pull the bobbin thread on each line of basting stitches, gathering the fabric to fit the curve of the cushion.

Fold the fabric under at the lines of stitching, and stick straight pins into the fabric and foam to arrange the gathers evenly across the back of the cushion.

Stitch both gathered edges together, using a blind stitch that goes from side to side, a slipstitch, or overcast.

Your finished back seam should look like this.  Your cushion is done. If you are making square cushions, all four corners will get the mitered treatment that this cushion has in the front, and you won't have to hassle with curves and gathering.

My new cushions really jazzed up our deck chairs, and made them much more comfortable. Some attention-getting colors in your outside living areas can help buyers see the beauty of your yard, deck, patio, or porch. I hope you'll decide to make cushions to help stage your home on the market!

I show you more ways to maximize your outdoor spaces in my $5 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. You can download the book NOW and start staging today.

How to Stage a Bedroom

Thursday, September 23, 2010
Bedrooms may not be the first room buyers check out when they tour a home, but how much they like the bedrooms, especially the master, has a major influence on how much they like the house.

How do your bedrooms look?

Let's run down my list of essentials.

First, the tangibles.

If you can keep your decor to only these items, so much the better, unless you have a large room to furnish.

The bed  

Whatever the style of the bed itself, dress it up to look inviting.  Bed-in-a-bag is the easiest way to go, but you can put together your own combination of bed covering and pillows.  Stay away from dated colors and styles.  Avoid anything too girly or too dark.

A Mirror  

Every bedroom needs a bit of sparkle, and a mirror, even a small one adds that.  If possible, position it to reflect another window, not the bed itself or a light fixture.  Mirrors are common at second hand stores, so you have no excuse for skipping this step.  Paint the frame if it needs prettying up.

Bedside table  

A small bedroom can be staged without a dresser to give it a larger feel, but you'll still need a nightstand or table of some sort.  You can get creative with your choices because you needn't have a traditional matching set.  A larger bedroom does call for two.


Floor lamp, wall lamp, table lamp -- whatever you have, place it near the bed. It's only logical.  Overhead illumination and natural lighting are important, so do your best to maximize them, but a lamp makes a room feel cozy, even when it's off.


No staged room is complete without some suggestion of greenery. Make it flowers, a plant, or just some leaves. Even if it is faux, a plant makes a room come to life.


The last of our tangibles is some sort of wall decoration. Look for restful scenes or soft abstracts.  Black and white prints or photos always add a sophisticated vibe, and a wall-hung quilt adds a homey touch.

Despite some dark colors, this room feels light and airy. All the essentials are here for a successfully staged bedroom. Photo:

The "felt factors"

Besides the tangibles, bedrooms benefit from certain intangibles. The first of these is a sense of luxury. Both the photos above capture that feeling through their reliance on textures and attention to details.  Simplicity is luxurious. Layered fabrics are luxurious. Dramatic lighting is luxurious. What luxury touches can you add to your bedrooms?

Another intangible is the absence of any reminders of the world outside. If there is a garden view or water view, that adds to a feeling of special-ness to any bedroom.  On the other hand, a television, exercise machine, computer, or a work desk only bring the outside and its responsibilities in. Adults look for a retreat when they picture their ideal bedroom. Does your staged bedroom feel private and secure?

Don't forget the intangible of scent. As evocative as they are, scents should be a part of the staging package.  Keep them light and clean, never overpowering. Using essential oils lessens the chance that chemically-sensitive people will have problems touring your home.

The colors 

Lastly, review your color scheme to eliminate any unpleasant color combinations. Grey is the new trendy color for home furnishings. It's restful and adult-like, so if you're planning to paint some bedrooms, look over the thousands of greys available.

Soothing colors, abundant lighting,  flowers, paintings, and mirrors  
These bedrooms are stage-worthy. Photos: 

Tempt them 

Do your bedrooms seduce buyers or put them to sleep? Bedrooms can be the easiest rooms in the house to stage, so they are a good place to start if it's time to begin staging your home for sale.

I give you lots more ideas on how to make the most of bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and every other room of your home in my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar. Don't stage your home alone, when I can help you!

Staging Styles that Work: Mid Century Modern

Monday, September 20, 2010
I am a hopeless maddict, a fan of the award-winning television show Mad Men.  What's not to love?  Stellar acting, fascinating plot lines, poetic dialogue, sexy wardrobes, authentic period details, and oh yeah, the mid-century decor.

Designing a set for television or movies is very much like staging your home to sell.  You're creating a backdrop, one that sets the tone and draws in the viewer, just the way home staging draws in a buyer.

What Makes Mid-Century Work

Most interior design from the 50's and 60's, with some exceptions, is especially suitable for home staging.  The furniture design features sleek lines, the fabric patterns highlight handsome geometrics, floor plans accent open spaces, textiles boast both smooth and nubby textures, and accessories emphasize clean shapes.

If your home is a ranch, or if your next home is likely to be a ranch, investing in mid-century furniture makes sense. Originals are still available, and reproductions are common. But furnishings from this period work well with other architectural styles as well.

Best Tips

Not every idea from home decor in the '50' and '60s will enhance your home on the market. It's important not to look like your home is stuck in another era. 

So, avoid the tacky, the small, the too-colorful.  Look for classic shapes exemplified in the pictures I've chosen. Look for soft colors and soothing shapes. Look for furniture with simple legs and either boxy or organic, amoebic shapes.

Say no to ruffled cafe curtains like Betty Draper had in her kitchen. Say no to the deep orange carpeting in the Draper living room. These styles just don't suit staging's low-personality purposes.  Ignore the dark paneling and plaid couches, and go for subtle fabric patterns like those pictured below.

Must haves 

Hunt for items like the kind of classy barware you'll find in Don Draper's office -- glass decanters, ice buckets and cocktail glasses.  Maybe you'll find a handsome gooseneck lamp or swing arm desk lamp.

Look for large abstract oil paintings, or make your own by imitating the kind of art popular at the time.  Look for sectional furniture, upholstered chairs, credenzas and cabinets with clean lines.  The popular period colors were warm browns, dulled greens, and murky blues, with accents of turquoise, orange, and yellow.


No matter what type of furniture you're using to stage your home, if you are adding to the mix, add something from the last century.  Because these designs are classic and because people are appreciating their retro appeal right now, your home on the market will look fresh and ever so slightly naughty, just like those Mad Men characters. 

How Staging Helps Negotiations

Thursday, September 16, 2010
Our condo sold, and we're reminded that every offer 
is a serious offer even if it sounds goofy.
Today I discovered yet one more advantage to staging your home for sale.

It gives you a distinct leg up in negotiations.

Two days ago we received an offer on the condo we have had on the market for 145 days.

It was a very low offer. The interesting thing is that the written offer came to our Realtor with a $5,000 deposit and the verbal information that the buyer planned to put the same offer in to another unit in the same complex if we refused the price and terms.

The terms included the demand that we provide a home warranty, and that we accept a lower selling price if the property appraised for a lower amount.

We didn't like the price or the terms. Nevertheless, we countered by reducing our listing price a few thousand, still nowhere near his offer.  He countered by raising his offer a few thousand, still nowhere near our adjusted price. We refused to go lower.

Here's where staging helped. We knew the other unit was not staged. Both units were priced about the same and have the same floor plan.

The knowledge that our property showed well provided the confidence to hold firm at our price. It was a showdown, and the buyer blinked. He agreed to our price.

Know When to Take a Risk

We knew we were gambling, that the buyer could walk away, and we might wait months for another offer. Rather than be hustled by his warning that he had a back-up plan -- buying the other unit -- we were comfortable waiting him out. We were comfortable because we staged, so we knew we had the competitive edge.

We've since learned that the reason our buyer opened with a low ball offer was that he had a relative advising him. When the deal looked like it wasn't going to happen, he told his adviser to step aside and he made what he knew was a more fair offer.

The lesson here: take all offers seriously because you never know where negotiations will lead.

Tomorrow we'll sign papers to seal the deal.  Another victory for effective home staging!

How to Help Your Realtor Sell Your Home

Monday, September 13, 2010
How you partner with your Realtor can determine how quickly and profitable your home sale goes.

That's because selling a house ain't like it used to be. Gone are the days when you simply phoned the local real estate office, talked to a broker, showed her the house, signed some papers and sat back to wait for offers.

So yesterday

The broker's job in the past was to fill in the MLS specifications, take a picture, put an ad in the newspaper, and wait for offers. That is all so last century!

I don't have to tell you what it's like today. Wicked competition, depressing prices, fussy buyers, and purchasing decisions based on virtual tours.

Don't even get me started on how important it is to stage better than the competition. Whether you have deliberately staged your home or not, face it, it's staged. It needs to be staged to sell or you're losing prospective customers.

Something else that's changed is how homeowners and Realtors work together. It takes cooperation and communication. Are you as a seller doing all you can to help your Realtor? Here is my checklist for smart behavior to get your home sold.

Let go

Trust your Realtor's expertise. You hired her because she's the professional, so listen to the advice you're paying for. If you want to call all the shots, go FSBO. Don't let your emotional attachment to your property color your decisions. Instead, be businesslike and take the suggestions you get on pricing and staging.


Keep your home show-ready. Clean it, or have it cleaned professionally, and keep it clean. It doesn't need to be health department approved, but it needs to look loved.

Be friendly

Aim to always to be cheerful, and courteous. Don't make unrealistic demands for advance notice, extra open houses, daily feedback or special treatment.


Let your Realtor know where you stand on terms, timing and especially price. The Realtor should understand your schedule, how motivated you are, your bottom dollar, and whether you are able to offer any incentives such as owner financing, accepting property in trade for all or part of the sale, or help with the buyer's closing costs.


Tell everyone you know and everyone you meet that you are selling a home. Keep printouts of your home's specs handy so you can pass them on to interested people.  Many homes sell by word of mouth.  Refer anyone interested to your Realtor. Have her business cards with you at all times.

Be noble

Take the high road. Act with integrity. Never try to outsmart (cheat) the real estate company.  Play by the book.

Use tact

If you have a grievance, don't badmouth your Realtor. Instead, sit down for a heart-to-heart, and see what can be changed to make things better for both of you. If you're not happy, she's not happy.

It takes a team to sell a home in today's market.  Are you participating or just sitting by the sidelines?

I give more advice on getting your home sold in my $4.99 super-helpful, info-packed guidebook that's a 150-page pdf eBook, DIY Home Staging to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. I promise you'll be satisfied, or I'll refund your money. Click that eBook link to learn what you'll receive. You're just two clicks away from getting started with home staging that will sell your home!

Staging with Fake Greenery

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Whether you call them fakes, silks, artificials, or faux flowers, these "naturals" should be in your arsenal of props when it's time to stage your home for sale.

Even though they are not real, these touches of green add a freshness to rooms that can't be duplicated unless you replace them with healthy, growing house plants and fresh flowers.

As someone readying a home for the real estate market, and preparing for a move, I'm guessing you don't welcome the challenge of tending to houseplants (unless that has been your love all along) and of making sure your cut flowers look like they just arrived from the florist.

Enter silks

Although today they are made from synthetic fibers, these imitations of nature are still called silks by florists, craftspeople, decorators, and event planners.

They can come from the dollar store or be quite expensive. The price difference reflects how closely they mimic the real thing.

Since I encourage people to stage on a shoestring, I won't direct you to the high end retail silk floral websites and stores.

Instead, I encourage you to keep your eyes open for realistic flowers and greenery at garage sales, flea markets and second hand stores. Especially second-hand stores, where there is usually a box of these things in a neglected corner.

Often they are outdated, formal, dusty arrangements that can be bought cheap, taken home, pulled apart, rinsed off, and recycled into more casual decorating props.

I also believe that the bargains at dollar stores qualify for staging.

My rule is that cheaper greenery and flowers have a place but it isn't up close. These less convincing specimens are fine when viewed from a distance, but not so great sitting on the bath vanity or kitchen counter. I use them in flower boxes outside, on porches, and in out-of-the way locations indoors.

Styling is everything

Often it's the container that makes the whole arrangement classy. I look for these also at second hand stores. They needn't be fancy. Sometimes an old terracotta flower pot, metal bucket, or distressed wooden box is perfect for an orchid or cluster of ivy.

All you need are some chunks of dry floral foam, and some sheet moss to make some simple stems come to life.

The trend now is away from large, complicated, contrived arrangements, which most people associate with funerals, department stores and hotel lobbies.

Even a few stems in a glass vase filled with artificial water (a gel available at craft stores) gives a room the fresh factor so important to a staged house.

Here is a site to go to for ideas and supplies.

So, build up your stash of faux greenery and have fun making pretend plants and bouquets, ones that need no care other than a occasional quick rinse.

Hopefully, your home on the market will be sold even before they get dusty.

Get the Look, get the book

If you like these ideas I have for staging your home, there's more advice in my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. You can download it now. I guarantee it will make money for you!

Staging with Second Hand Furniture? Be Careful!

Monday, September 06, 2010
Bedbugs live off the blood of animals and humans, and they are ruining things for us recycling decorators.  
Today, class, we're going to be talking about bedbugs.

Pause for Eeeee-yewwwws.

I know. Nasty.  But a fact of contemporary life.  After a near-absence of 40 years, these bloodsuckers are again infesting homes and businesses in cities across the country.  Entomologists (insect experts) are puzzled about how they have managed to suddenly proliferate, but global travel and bans on toxic insecticides are probably the reasons why.

For the sake of frugality, I have always encouraged friends to recycle, repurpose, and shop second hand for furniture. Now, we all need to be a little more cautious.

where they are

First, let's be clear. The bugs live in upholstered pieces where they can hide in the folds and crevices. Things like bookcases, wooden chairs, tables, vases, and such, are still relatively safe, as long as all surfaces are visible. Bedbugs live where they can't be seen, away from light and fresh air. But they come out of hiding when there's something to eat -- like food, pets, and you! Although they do not carry diseases, the bites hurt, and if scratched excessively, can become infected.

If the second-hand article can be washed and dried in the high heat of the clothes dryer, you can get rid of any bedbugs or larvae. Freezing also destroys them, so some people who love vintage clothing and textiles have taken to bagging, freezing for three days, then dry cleaning what they buy.

If you think an upholstered piece harbors bedbugs, you can rescue it.  There is an insecticide that kills bedbugs.  It's called Pronto and you can read about it at .

If you want to learn more about bedbugs and how to deal with an infestation, go to WebMD.

And here is an excellent article on keeping your home free of bedbugs.

I hope I haven't given anyone a case of the itchies just thinking about these creepy things. But if we are going to stage our homes, and do it on a budget, and be safe about it, we need to know about things like bedbugs.

How to Stage on a Budget

Thursday, September 02, 2010
You say you want to stage your own home? But you need to keep expenses down? Welcome to the club!

Prioritizing and creativity are your friends.

Kitchens and baths are your priorities.

These rooms are important to buyers and so that's where your attention should go first.

Elbow grease is free. Bathroom fixtures should sparkle. Kitchen appliances should gleam. Bleach is cheap and gets rid of mildew. WD-40 is cheap and makes things shine. Fine grade steel wool is cheap and removes lime buildup. Lemon oil is cheap and makes wood cabinets come to life.

Think bright and white to convince buyers rooms are big and clean.

Make sure your light fixtures in all rooms sport the maximum wattage allowable. Mirrors bounce light around and open up walls, so find a place for a mirror in your kitchen.

If you need to paint cabinets or vanities, roll up your sleeves, and save some money. Getting creative means you will recycle and find new uses for old things, like upcycling a dresser into a bathroom vanity.

Paint's inexpensive, so a fresh coat of a pale color on kitchen and bath walls is a great investment. Does the flooring look tired?  Peel and stick vinyl tiles are a great budget DIY fix.

Re-set Your Exterior, etc. 

Your second priority will be how your home looks from the street and in that all-important exterior photo that goes on your MLS listing. Get rid of everything distracting or messy outside your home, especially the entranceway. If you can't pressure wash, at least take a hose to dirt and a broom to cobwebs.

Back inside, evaluate your rooms. Are there too many small objects that make rooms look cluttered?  Is there so much furniture that rooms look small? Do some rooms need some fragrance help? Do the drapes block natural light? Have you decorated with dark colors that now need to be painted or slipcovered over?

You can learn to be creative by imitating the looks you see in upscale hotels and model homes, and by picking the brains of creative friends.  Try looking at your rooms as a buyer would.  Buyers want space and buyers like newness, so work to create those illusions.  Rethink the purpose of each room, and make the room's best use obvious to a buyer. 

Choose the largest and most attractive pieces of furniture you have for staging, like the oversized chair in the photo. Store the little things you want for your next home.

Shop your own home by moving furniture from room to room until you've achieved a happy mix. Don't be afraid to paint outdated things, including bookcases, chairs, end tables and even lamps and picture frames. White painted furniture looks clean. Black painted furniture looks sophisticated. White walls are always classic. Miniblinds do not go out of style, even inexpensive ones.

get the look, get the book

When you prioritize, clean, and use your imagination, you can stage on a shoestring. I hope these budget-friendly tips help you stage your home for sale like an expert. I give more budget-busting tactics in my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast For Top Dollar.

All photos: Country Living

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