Good Home Staging is a feeling

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I’ve been trying to find the words to explain the difference between a well staged and poorly staged house.

I realised today that I can’t find the words because good staging is a feeling.

I think we’ve all experienced walking into a property that on paper doesn’t tick all the boxes but that just ‘feels right’.  It’s something to do with seeing a glimpse of the type of life that you could live if you bought the house, the kind of person you would be. It’s aspirational yet achievable. I wanted to buy a house once because the laundry cupboard was filled with labelled baskets of beautifully pressed linen and the sofas were squishy and piled with ticking fabric cushions. The fact that the swimming pool was open to my toddlers and the house was in a flood zone didn’t seem to enter into my decision making process (although luckily my husband was more level headed). I honestly saw myself as Rachel Ashwell, wafting round in my faded jeans, gypsy lace top and bare feet. I don’t think that the house I fell in love with had been staged. Maybe it had. That’s my point. It wasn’t at all obvious and I didn’t think about it. I just saw a comfortable, stylish family house and I wanted a piece of it!

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“This house has been staged” is the worst thing you could say to me. I want people to think that the house is owned by stylish and tidy people and that they could live that way too if they bought the house. Susan Atwell, a fellow stager, explains it as “if it looks staged we did it wrong” and Debra Gould from Staging Diva writes “bad staging is when everyone walks in and says ‘this house is staged’  So what makes a house look and feel ‘staged’

  • Staging 101 Cliches.  Tables set with best china, breakfast tray on the bed, ice bucket of champagne and glasses on the patio (or worse, in the bathroom) and my personal pet hate (as my stager friends know and tease me about) – throws strewn everywhere. We don’t live like this in real life so we don’t need to stage houses like this
  • Furniture that doesn’t go with the style of the house.  There’s a lot of modern, scandi looking, glossy white staging inventory out there. Fine in a modern 2 bed apartment. Screams ‘staged’ in a Heritage house.
  • Furniture that doesn’t go with the price point of the house. If you are staging a modest cottage then high end furniture that the owners could never afford just ‘jars’
  • Some stagers feel the need to over accessorise every available surface.  Look at all my stuff! Look at my styling skills! No thanks – I’m trying to look at the house
  • Conversely to save money many houses are staged on a shoestring budget. With the barest level of furniture and scant layering from accessories the house can only have been staged. I say shoestring but I’ve also seen very sparse styling from high end staging companies
  • The ultimate ‘this house has obviously been staged’ mistake is to only stage a couple of rooms. To be avoided at all costs

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So, knowing the above, how do you stage a house so it doesn’t look staged? Cindy from Turnkey staging in Seattle says that “you know you are done when a space ‘feels right'”  OK, back to a feeling!  Let me try and put some words and actions around that

  • I don’t believe people buy perfect houses. I think they buy comfortable, real, liveable and happy homes.
  • It’s really important to get inside the demographic and lifestyle of your most likely buyer. This means that you will add in a big family dining table, or a homework space, the rumpus will have board games and the ‘right’ cook book will be on the kitchen counter.
  • When staging an occupied house think twice about storing all the furniture and hiring everything from scratch. Think of ways to use some of your client’s furniture but maybe in a different room or in a new way. If you are hiring furniture it doesn’t all have to be display house ‘matchy matchy’  or all in the same timber. It needs to feel as though the house has evolved over time, which most houses have.
  • Listen to the house. Think about how it needs to be staged and the look and feel you want to create. I’ve been told many times that the houses I stage all look so different. This is because every house is different and needs to be treated differently.
  • If you hire furniture, and if at all possible, make sure you have access to a wide range of furniture and styles. That way you can deliver what’s needed rather than ‘what’s available’
  • Pour yourself into every job you do. Never just go through the motions. Keep going until the staging ‘feels right’

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So, what does all the above mean anyway. Why is it important?  The reason houses are staged is for a quicker sale at a higher price. If the staging is too overt and cliche or if it’s too sterile and ‘staged’ the buyers are going to be alert to the fact that the property has been staged. If the staging has been done well and the buyers don’t even think that the house has been staged then their response will be to the house and not the staging. They will fall inexplicably in love and won’t be able to explain why and that’s the ultimate feeling.

I’m Imogen Brown a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. If you are staging to sell your house but you don’t want the staging to scream ‘staged!’ then give me a call on 0432994056 or contact me through my website

Further reading:

Staging Diva: Great home staging is invisible

Home Staging Brisbane: Stager as House whisperer

Real Estate.com: Home Stager as cupid

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