Once your home-for-sale is decluttered, cleaned, staged, and ready for showings, it may look a little too generic.

That's the time to introduce some personality, some minor focal points to keep people on a home tour interested.

Enter the bar cart.

It's one of the simplest devices to add the glamor and detail every staged home needs. It's easy to pull it all together once you know the elements that make for an appealing display.

The cart itself

Most carts have an upper and lower shelf. Some have an additional shelf or a drawer or closed cabinet as part of their design. Most have wheels. A cart without wheels is considered a beverage bar, and can be just as functional and stylish.

Choose a cart that suits the room. If you need to fill an empty corner of your homey kitchen, you'll want something different than if you're dressing up an alcove in a formal dining room or that space under the stairs in the basement family room, or even the boring wall in a home office.

A room that lacks some glitz or shine will benefit from a traditional metal and glass beverage cart. A room that needs some weight needs a more solid model, a real piece of furniture. And a room that just needs an end table is a candidate for a small, round bar cart.

Whatever style you choose -- and there are many -- anchor the cart visually to its surroundings if it is against a bare wall. A wall-hung work of art or a mirror is a great background.

Can you pull together a makeshift bar cart from a bookshelf or oversized tray on legs? Probably, but it won't have the same vibe as a sexy chrome model with big wheels, or a vintage bamboo beverage stand on copper casters. Depending on your needs and the style of your home, you can find new, good-looking, new carts for as little as $40, and less if you shop thrift stores or garage sales. 

A cart can be packed tight and organized, 
or sparsely equipped and
loosely arranged, like this one from West Elm.

But even if you decide to spend more, don't feel guilty. This is one piece of furniture that's small, versatile and always in style. In other words, it's an investment piece.

Start with a tray

Just like styling a coffee table or a bedside table, styling a bar cart gets a whole lot easier when you begin with a tray. Don't play matchy with the bar cart. Instead, choose a tray that contrasts in shape and material -- a round Lucite one on a square wooden cart, or a rectangular metal one on a round glass cart, for example.

If you go with more than one tray, they don't necessarily have to be a set. Also, a decorative box or basket with low sides can stand in for a tray.

The tray will make an assortment of items read as one unit, and that's always easy on the eyes and makes sense for home stagers. You get to choose the props that go on your staged bar cart because a cart is never a substitute for a liquor cabinet. Technically, it's a station for entertaining and in the case of home staging, it's a device to set the mood for home buyers on tour. It helps them picture themselves relaxing and entertaining friends and family in style.

Duplicate bottles give some order to your assorted
collection of bar cart essentials. Photo: One Kings Lane.

Add some big bottles

You'll need an assortment of bottles to make your display striking and all Hollywood. These can be commercially- or DIY-labeled bottles of beverages like scotch, vodka, rum, gin and whiskey. Or they can be partially filled pretty decanters, or bottles of wine. Some bottles of mixers like colas, ginger ale, and tonic water are always good fillers. Of course, a few large bottles of a status brand spring water or mineral water are always smart additions.

Don't feel that you need to actually create a functioning beverage center as though Don Draper and his office mates were going to visit. Your cart can be a simple wine bar, or a selection of juices and soft drinks, fun glasses, straws, coasters, and an ice bucket. Another possibility is to stage your cart as a coffee station.

I never recommend using anything but water in bottles on display in a staged home on the market. It's just too tempting to people on tour of your home. Add plain or appropriately colored water to empty bottles according to their labels. Keep your expensive liquor out of sight.

Glassware should be special

This is not the time for dull or random glasses. This is the time for a sparkling, new set of highball glasses or champagne flutes. A few goblets or pilsner glasses can be part of the mix, but you don't have to set out an entire collection of different types of glassware. The keywords are clear, pretty and shiny.

Since real estate agents can't be expected to police your valuables when showing your home, fine crystal is too valuable for staging, so pack it for your move.

To keep your display from looking too scattered and distracting, have multiples of each glass type you choose. For example, a row of identical tumblers will help pull together a cluster of assorted bottles, giving unity to your staged cart.
This set-up from Target has some attitude!
The black and white palette gives it an uptown look. 

You'll need an objet d'art

Every display needs something unique. Hunt your house or second-hand stores for a filler piece with some heft and whimsy. Some possibilities: a vintage lamp, an unusual ice bucket, an animal sculpture, a one-of-a-kind basket, a bartender's manual, or book of toasts.

Don't make your bar cart accessories anything precious or small, like an heirloom corkscrew or cute shot glasses. These are the kinds of things that can too easily disappear into people's pockets. Crazy, but true.

Add greenery or seasonal flair

Depending on the time of year, you may want to dress up your staged cart with a seasonal touch or two. In spring, some flowers (even silk ones) are a refreshing touch. In summer, a plant or some flowers are perfect. Autumn's cozy accessories are candles, books, and hints of the harvest. Add a winter topiary or poinsettia during the winter holidays. A home that shows seasonal touches is a home that looks lived in and loved.

You may even decide to select your beverage choices to reflect the season -- spritzer makings in July, and festive drink mixes in December.

Just the look of a stack of beautifully gift-wrapped packages can make people happy. And always in season is some greenery. It doesn't have to be complicated. 

Coordinated colors and the absence of small stuff
help this arrangement look tidy.

Lemons and/or limes complete the picture

Since lemons are one of my favorite staging props, I'm not going to ignore them here. They're made for the bar cart! No matter what kind of container you put lemons or limes in, you can't go wrong. I'm going to suggest faux fruit because over time it never needs to be checked for mold the way fresh fruit would. Today's fake fruit is absolutely convincing.

There's something welcoming and yet sophisticated about even a modest bar cart. I think you'll have fun styling it if you decide there is a role for one in your home staging.

Get the look, get the book

If you are planning a homestage, you need my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar.  I guarantee you won't be disappointed with all the insights, formulas, tips, ideas, and advice I've learned working in real estate -- experience I am happy to share with you. You can download it now and start your smart-staging today.