I have a confession. I'm not the little Miss Know-It-All that I pretend to be.

When I'm staging a home, I have to experiment. I have to try different furniture arrangements, different lamps, different plants, before I  get it right.

I have to go online and research new cleaning products, tutorials on repairing furniture, and best sources for drapery hardware.

I have to soak up every store display, model home, and televised makeover that crosses my path.

I haunt the bookstore. I go to the library every two weeks and bring home an armful of books about interior decoration, home repair, crafting, and landscaping. These constitute the bulk of my bedtime reading.

Last month I brought home a book so interesting that I decided rather than read it with the sense of urgency that comes with reading library books near their due date, I would actually purchase it. So I ordered a second hand one from Amazon.

What? You didn't think I'd buy NEW, did you?

Now I have my own copy of Stylish Solutions, by Elizabeth Gaynor and Kari Haavisto, published by Random House in 1998.

The date is important because although it is 13 years old, the photos look as fresh as any in the monthly shelter mags.

The decor is classic without being stuffy or fussy.

Most of the photos are shot in designers' own homes, and in the homes of architects, stylists, art directors and the like -- talented people, people with style. People who would start bidding wars if they listed their homes for sale.

But what really captivated me was the elegant writing. Here's a sample of what the authors have to say about fireplace mantels.

"A Fireplace gives presence to a room and prominence to a wall. If you have one, you can't ignore it, but that doesn't mean all adjacent furniture must be oriented in its direction. If you don't have one, you can bring in a mantel, old or new, just to give a room a bit of architecture. A chimneypiece can be highly ornamental and require very little embellishment, or be very plain. It provides a natural, although expected place to hang a large mirror or painting. A mantel is really a shelf of sorts, as welcoming to found objects of almost any height, artfully arranged, as to valuable antiques."

Now, really, that's almost everything you need to know about mantels, in a nutshell.

Besides an introductory paragraph that kicks off each section -- coffee tables, sideboards, sofas, bookcases, mantels and beds -- the bulk of the book is photos with "deep captions," informative, descriptive captions.

Here's another sample I photographed from my newest book. I don't have a scanner, so I apologize for not doing justice to the photos. But, notice the richness of textures and the variety of materials here -- glass, wood, metal, vegetation, fabrics, all with generous proportions. 

 What home buyer wouldn't fall in love with a spare bed tucked cozily into a corner, filled with fluffy pillows and topped off with a bookshelf for a headboard?

Here's another bedroom worth imitating for staging purposes. The lines are clean, and the color scheme is contemporary. There are plenty of places for the eye to rest, and the artwork isn't distracting. 

Whatever you read, and wherever you go, keeping an eye out for ideas is going to help you stage.

If you expose yourself to examples of timelessly stylish decor, your eye becomes accustomed to what works and what doesn't, so when you're tweaking your own staged rooms, you'll know when you've got it right.

There's more help available in my own eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar. It's written just for homeowners, realtors, home stagers, builders, decorators, and others preparing homes for sale. You can download it now, and start seriously staging right away, the right way.