The house is the star (not the stager)

A conversation with another stylist at the furniture warehouse prompted this post. He was talking about a previous job as a merchandiser in a furniture store. His brief was that ‘the furniture is the star’ so any merchandising needed to support that. He left when his new boss arrived and started placing cushions on the TV units!

I said that for me, staging was selling the features of a house and showing buyers how they could live in the house and it wasn’t about ‘showing off’ my stylist skills and taking the buyers attention away from the house. I firmly believe that staging is there to support the house and not the other way round.

Let me expand on what I mean

Selling the features of the house (and not all your clever vignettes and box loads of accessories)

I always start with the house. What are the features I need to showcase? what does the house need from me in order to appeal to the most likely buyer?  Where shall I position the furniture and what colours and furnishing are needed in order to pull the attention to a great view, or lovely fireplace or wonderful ceiling?

The house below had an amazing bank of windows in the living area overlooking the Brisbane river.  It needed some seating but I selected 2 chairs instead of a heavy sofa, the colours were muted ‘river’ colours, I pulled the furniture off the ‘wall’. It was all about the view.

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This new build had an amazing double height atrium over the living room. A large piece of art helps to focus the eye onto this feature

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Queenslander houses have lovely features – high ceilings, fretwork, timber floors, lead light windows and VJ panelling. Again sympathetic furniture placement and appropriate furniture and accessories helps showcase these features

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I’ve just been hired by the owner of a Queenslander. He wrote “The property is charming but not ostentatious and we like the restrained, elegant look your work brings. Less is more”.   This is exactly what I’m trying to achieve when I stage. This is not about me taking the attention away by setting the dining room table or having elaborate flower arrangements or cluttered vignettes on every available surface. The trick really is for no one to think that a stager has been there.  “This house has obviously been staged” is the worst thing you could say to me!

Showing buyers how they could live in the house and the life they might lead if they bought the house.

Most buyers cannot imagine what an empty house could look like or where their furniture would go or if it would fit. My role is to show buyers the purpose and potential layout of rooms through furniture placement. For example a comfortable rumpus room in a family house, a small desk and chair in a teenager’s bedroom for study, a guest room within a family house, a homework space in a family room, a quiet reading area in a master bedroom.

The house below had an odd shaped but large kitchen. I wanted to show that this space was more than a kitchen/dining room and could become a comfortable and well used sitting area too.


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The space below was being used as a formal dining room when I first saw the house. With only 1 living area in a house built for a family I turned it into a 2nd quieter living area and positioned a family dining area off the kitchen.

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Context is everything.

I think a mistake that some stagers make is to force their style onto every house they stage. This may be because they have their own inventory so their modern and funky style furniture and accessories get used in an acreage property or 2 story 1980’s brick built house when it would be better used for inner city apartments. Or it may be because they love and are comfortable with a certain look (e.g. french provincial) they stage every house that way. Also a $400k brick built on an estate just outside of Brisbane needs to be treated in a different way than a $4m house on the river. You can’t use the same furniture and accessories for both. The aim is for the look to be real and achievable yet slightly aspirational.  Above all it needs to look appropriate for the house.

This high end bedroom in a $1.5m house looks appropriate but not if it was in a workers cottage in Oxley

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Conversely, the look in this $350k Acacia Ridge house wouldn’t work in a $1m dollar house in Ascot.

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I think, in summary that staging should be about showcasing the house and NOT the stager’s talents. Love the house not yourself : )

Are you a stager reading this, or a homeowner who has used a stager? I’d love to know what you think.

I’m Imogen Brown a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. If you would like me to showcase the features of your house when you sell then give me a call on 0432994056 or contact me through my website



6 thoughts on “The house is the star (not the stager)

  1. Wonderful article Imogen! Stagers really do work in the background. I know with any new build home around here, you want to showcase the craftsmanship of the builder and not the furniture. But many home buyers can’t envision the space without something in the room. Real estate is a very visual environment. Thanks for bringing this to light!

    1. ib69 says:

      Catherine, as with everything it’s a balance. Showcasing the house whilst showing buyers how to live in it, and get them excited by doing so!

  2. louisehouse says:

    Totally agree Imogen. It must always be about the house with consideration to the location, market value and likely buyers. Great article, as always!

    1. ib69 says:

      Thanks Louise. Hope 2015 has started well for you. Gone crazy here but at least there is stock back in the warehouse!

  3. I absolutely agree that the house is the star. As a stager I am only happy when the house sells – even though I know my job is done and I’ve done it well.
    A house I have just staged appeared on the front cover of the Real Estate section of the Coffs Coast Advocate and I’ve already been asked why there was no mention of Lorna Farrell Home Staging (myself, as the stager). I have to explain that we don’t want to scream “staged” when a house is up for sale. My job is to enhance and highlight the positive features of the property and to show how the spaces can be used. My name will only be attached to the property in my website portfolio.
    Obviously decorating to make that all-important first impression is crucial, but it must not take away from the real estate agents job, and that is to sell the property.

    1. ib69 says:

      So well said Lorna, I actually like being behind the scenes. I get my kicks from the sold signs, happy clients, repeat business and a full diary!

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