Room by Room (& Top Dollar) Staging Tips

Thinking of selling your house & feeling overwhelmed about where to start?  Follow these room by room staging tips to help ease the pain (and, better yet, to get a top dollar offer).

Most people think home staging is cleaning, decluttering & depersonalizing. I prefer to think of it as creating a warm and inviting space for people to imagine the next chapter of their lives.  Nice, right?

We live in an HGTV, Pinterest & Instagram kind of world. Good design is easily accessible and most home buyers expect to see it as they house hunt. After a long day of house hunting, which house is your friend going to tell you about: the one with the sterile bathroom or the one with the spa-like retreat?

Let’s talk about focal point, scale and symmetry. I know that sounds intimidating but stay with me. Each room has a focal point (or one can be created with the right furniture arrangement), and it is usually obvious. For example, in the kitchen it is generally the island and in the living room it is usually the fireplace. Our design choices can highlight those focal points or diminish them.

As for scale and symmetry, you know you are in a room with both of these traits when you walk in and it just feels right. A room with the giant leather sofa complete with cooler armrests generally feels out of scale in a small room (or any room outside a man cave). Just like an 8×10 picture hung too high above the dining room side board is also out of scale.

As for symmetry, not all things have to be even or the same (do you hear that, kids??) However, some symmetry, such as beautiful opposing sofas, will give a room that designer appeal.

Here are some basic room-by-room tips that everyone can apply.  Yes, each room should be cleaned and decluttered. I know…that’s not my favorite part either. The first rule in home staging is: the packing and cleaning starts immediately!

Curb Appeal

“You get one chance to make a first impression!” You want the wow factor when potential buyers first drive up. People don’t want to see bikes, toys and juice box containers on the front lawn. Think clean, trimmed and landscaped. Don’t forget to freshen up the paint on the front door. If your hardware is out-of-date, it’s time to change it. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to change the doorknob, the front porch light fixture and house numbers. A little bit of effort can make a huge difference. Add pots of colorful plants and put down new mulch or pine straw. Also, don’t forget to change out your front doormat. No one wants to walk over an old worn out mat into their new home.


All entryways deserve some staging love, regardless of size. Your entryway should be both inviting and provide clean sight lines into the rest of the house. A chair in the corner or a side table anchored with a mirror or artwork is great if you have the space. However, a mirror or artwork works well alone in tight spaces.

Living/Family Room

You may have both, but many of the same rules apply. Make sure seating is arranged for easy conversation. You may already have all of your furniture pushed to the far walls of the room; and if you do, try bringing it in to create a grouping for conversation around the room’s focal point. You’ll be amazed how much bigger a room looks if the furniture is not pushed against the walls. Do you have an area rug? If yes, make sure at least the front feet of the couches are on the rug. Remove all of the toys, as this is not a playroom, but rather a place where family members can come and relax around a board game or a warm fire.


One of the most important rooms in the house and definitely one space where you will get some ROI (Return On Investment for those new to the biz). If your kitchen hasn’t been updated in a decade or so, try adding new cabinet hardware, update your lighting and freshen up your paint. Also, clear off the front of the fridge. No one wants to see your brother’s kid’s school picture and your vacation magnets. You will be amazed how much bigger the kitchen looks with just a few small updates. Next, clear off your counters. I know what you are thinking: “I’ll just leave the toaster because we use that a lot.” But even the toaster should go in a cabinet. You want prospective buyers to see their own toaster in your kitchen. If you have an island or bar, make sure this area is the focal point of the room.

Dining Room

So you don’t use it and you’ve turned it into an incredible craft room/playroom/hobby room/storage closet for all to see its contents. If this is true at your house, then it’s time to turn it back into a dining room. But, what if I don’t have a table? Now is the time to buy, borrow or rent one. Even if a buyer will never use the dining room to dine in, they like to envision themselves celebrating with family and loved ones around the dining room table. Try setting the table–you do not have to use fine china. Casual elegance will work best in most markets.


Make sure it is white glove clean and store all personal items. Buyers don’t want to see extra rolls of toilet paper and dental floss, plus you don’t want to give the impression of not enough storage. Think spa-like (candles and white fluffy towels), and absolutely no colored toilets!


Please do not pull your comforter/duvet all the way up to your matching pillows. Instead, think about folding the duvet halfway back and adding a throw and extra pillows. You’ll be amazed what a difference this makes in your listing photos. Symmetry is important with side tables and lamps. They don’t have to be the exactly the same but they do need to be roughly the same size. In the kids, rooms, creative storage is the key for toys.

Laundry Room

Clear off the tops of the washer and dryer and use baskets to store laundry and cleaning items. I once toured a house that my husband and I nicknamed “the house with a year’s worth of dirty laundry.” Make sure this is not the impression you give to potential buyers because after they’ve seen your mountain of laundry they may not be potential anymore


Consider packing up half of the contents. Let buyers see your closets, not your stuff.

Backyard, Patio, or Deck

As you are cleaning up the front yard, don’t forget the backyard.  Do you have a place to sit and relax or a place where future buyers can imagine grilling or hosting a summer party? Spruce up your patio furniture with new pillows, put out pots of flowers and set the table.

Home staging can seem intimidating. Just take a deep breath–it’s not as hard as it seems and, of course, you can always hire a professional to help you.