There are enough television shows and magazine spreads about home decorating that many of us probably assume we have the basics down pat — declutter to the nth degree and clean, clean, clean, then apply your “neutral with pops of color” philosophy, swap out some personal items and artwork with items that have a bit more mass appeal, and you’re all set! Right?
In some cases, that might be all you need, but in most homes, there might be a little bit of shopping in order before you’re ready to list that house for top dollar. That doesn’t mean you need to buy an entire new living-room furniture set (though if you were already thinking about it, this might be a good time …) — there are plenty of affordable ways you can pretty up your space. Assuming you’ve done the deep cleaning and decluttering that’s absolutely critical to a successful staging job, consider adding these items to your shopping list as you’re preparing to stage your home.
A Toy Chest
Okay, this might not be appropriate advice for everybody … but where it is appropriate, it’s sorely needed. If you have children or pets living in your house, one of the most difficult things about selling is keeping all of their stuff corralled while you’re showing the house to prospective buyers. And if you don’t already have a toy chest, you’ll quickly learn why they were such popular items in kids’ rooms for so long: You can stash a ton of stuff inside them and they look great on the outside.
Think about the big challenges to keeping your house showroom ready at all times. If one of the things that you’re constantly doing is picking up toys or belongings in common living areas, then consider acquiring a chest or toy chest and using them as your main method for a quick cleanup. Don’t forget that part of staging is typically also eliminating items from your house, so think carefully too about where to put the chest. Ideally, you can remove a couple of items of furniture and replace them with the chest.
When was the last time you bought yourself a new bedding set? We’re not asking to make you feel bad, but if it’s been a while, then your bedroom will probably benefit significantly from an update. Don’t overthink it; this doesn’t have to be the ultimate bedding set that perfectly encapsulates your personality and expresses why you loved living in this house so very much. It’s hard to go wrong with a crisp white or a neutral gray shade on your bed; as long as it looks fluffy and clean and inviting, you’ll be in good shape.
This might also be a good time to update your pillows if they’re sagging and unsupportive. And don’t forget about the dust ruffle — if yours is torn or stained or otherwise looking shabby, replace it with a newer version or just get rid of it.
Remember that your goal is to make any prospective buyers feel comfortable and at home when they walk through your house, and nothing makes a bath or shower look more inviting than a pile of fluffy folded towels. Can yours at least play the part without a stunt double standing in?
If you haven’t taken a close look at your towels recently, you might be surprised what you see when you pick them up and give them a close inspection. Hems unraveling, faded colors or sad and limp fabric are all good reasons to upgrade your towel situation, or at least break out the “fancy” towels from wherever you’ve stashed them in the linen closet.
It’s possible you already have some paint lurking in your closet that you can use to touch up any dings in the walls, and you should definitely do that. But while you’re breaking it out, why not consider updating the paint scheme as a whole? Paint is one of the most affordable ways you can refine and polish the whole look of your home, and if you’re worried that your home doesn’t have enough personality, then paint can also be a good way to give it a little glow-up without breaking the bank.
Talk to your agent about which colors will present your home in the best light and get their opinion on whether it would be beneficial for you to update your home’s look.
One very easy way to make a living room set look brand-new and fresh is to buy a new set of throw pillows. The pillows are the first parts of your couch to start showing wear and tear, from fraying to stains, and depending on the estate of the rest of your upholstery, you may be able to get away with a thorough cleaning/vacuuming and a new set of throw pillows on the sofa.
We’re not talking about light fixtures, necessarily, although those can also be excellent ways to help showcase your house to its best effect. First, you’ll want to assess how much light you have (and how much light you need) in every room in your house. Ideally, your home will feel airy and bright, and light is a major contributor to that atmospheric and elusive tone. If you walk into a room and it always feels dark and drab, then maybe investing in a table lamp or floor lamp will help alleviate some of that downward “pull” you experience when you walk in.
Another issue you might have is that you’ve got plenty of light fixtures and lamps in your home, but the light itself looks too harsh. It’s quite possible that you’ve got the wrong kind of bulb for the type of room in the fixture, or that you just invested in the cheapest possible bulbs (it happens!) without really thinking about it. You’re aiming for soft light, so look for warm-glow or soft light bulbs (you can get these in LEDs, too!).
The common advice that you hear when you’re staging a house is to remove, remove, remove — and you definitely should be doing that as much as you can. But one area where people may have an opportunity to add some items (an don’t) is the floor. A well-placed rug draws the eye down a hallway toward the armchair by the fireplace or provides some distinction between the living room and dining area in an open floorplan.
Many sellers worry that their home appears too small — it’s not always easy for buyers to really understand how big a room is because it’s full of things, which is one reason why decluttering is so important in the staging process. Another very well-known way to help expand the look and feel of spaciousness in your house is to add some mirrors. Hang one over the sofa or fireplace in the living room, on the big expanse of wall in the hallway, or on the closet door in the bedroom. Think about how mirrors reflect light, too, and place them accordingly; you’ll probably find opportunities to brighten up a room even more if you can combine your lighting efforts with a well-placed mirror or two.
Small Tables or Shelves
One problem with decluttering while staging is that sometimes you find you don’t have a lot of opportunities to showcase some of the niceties that would appeal to buyers. In most homes, flat and clean surfaces are in short supply; just think of how the coffee table and dining room area get overrun with homework and grocery dumps, not to mention office spaces.
Take a look around your almost-staged home and ask yourself if there are enough clean and shiny surfaces to display a plant or a vase of flowers. You’ll want to add some as your final touch on the home, and you won’t want to go overboard, but if you can’t find one spot per room to place an eye-catching detail, then you might want to get a small table or shelf to provide that surface for you.
Vases or Pots
The mass appeal of plants and flowers mean that they are a universally beloved way to stage a house. And that means you’re going to need things in which to put those plants and flowers. Glass vases and ceramic pots are abundant and cheap; you can pick them up at home improvement stores or nurseries, garage sales, and thrift stores, and so on. Try to find enough to have a potted plant or vase of flowers in most rooms of your home.
One beautiful finishing touch you can put on your space is a bouquet or two of fresh flowers strategically placed throughout the home. Something about flowers or live plants inside helps to create a calming environment, and if you’ve taken the standard advice to outfit your house in mostly neutral tones, some pops of fresh flowers on clean, shiny surfaces will help pull the whole look together — and when buyers walk through the front door, they’ll find themselves breathing big sighs of contentment.
Photo by Mark McCammon