Practical Magic: Staging a Vacant Home to Sell – Part I

This is the first in a three-part DIY series on staging vacant homes

My husband, Chris, is a real estate broker and from time to time he has asked me to help him by staging vacant houses that he lists for sale.  In fact, this led to a small part-time business that I had for years – staging vacant houses for agents in his office and other offices nearby.

Although it is hard physical work, and usually with a tight deadline, I am always excited when Chris asks me to stage a home for him.

Maybe that is because the aesthetic that I aim for in staging is how I wish I could live in real life:  Everything is clean and fresh – warm yet uncluttered.  Of course, that is never going to happen at my house.  But staging is my way of living the dream – and it usually means that I get to go shopping.

Recently Chris asked me to help him stage a small starter home that he’d already had cleaned and painted.

Staging a home living room
A cozy sitting area in the small house I recently staged.

With a little muscle and imagination – and the right mix of furniture and accessories – almost anyone can stage a house.  So I thought that this little house would be a great example to use when talking about the why and how of staging a vacant home.  This post deals with the “why.”  But first . . .

What is Staging?

We will be covering this in more detail below, but for now let’s just say that staging is a temporary fantasy.  Furniture, art, and accent pieces are moved into a vacant property to make it more appealing to buyers.  And then once the property has sold, everything is moved out again.

Staging is not furnishing a house just for the sake of filling it up.  In fact, in some cases staging can be done very effectively using mostly art and accessories with just a few small pieces of furniture – as in this before and after example of another house I staged.

Tudor living room before

Staging a home: Tudor living room after

Why Staging Helps a Home Sell

At its best, staging speaks to potential buyers’ heads and to their hearts.  It helps them visualize what life could be like if they lived in the house.

Buyers are very visual, and staging helps them see all the possibilities of a house by:

Giving scale to empty rooms

Without something in the room as a reference for scale, it’s hard for the eye to see how large or small a room really is.   Empty rooms actually appear smaller than rooms that have even a little something in them.

This area in the living room looks small, or at best is hard to assess:

living room east wall before

But add just a few pieces and this little area doesn’t look so little anymore.  The ceiling even looks higher.

living room looking southeast after staging

And it can be really tough to imagine how to fit a bed into an empty bedroom.  Would a bed fit here or not?

bedroom before

Yes it would.

bedroom after

Playing up the positive qualities of a room

When I stage a room, rather than trying to cover up any negative aspects (a tactic that never works), I try to play up the room’s good qualities.

Sure this little kitchen lacks granite countertops, updated cabinets, and even a dishwasher.

kitchen before

But in the world of staging, that is part of the charm.  This cute little retro kitchen has been untouched by time.

I sewed these curtains using a vintage gingham fabric to provide a splash of color, but also to highlight the kitchen’s old-fashioned charm.

kitchen after closeup

Helping a buyer visualize furniture configurations.

This home doesn’t have a separate dining room or a kitchen nook.  But the living room is long and narrow.  And when furniture is added, not only does the living room look larger, but the staging shows the generous amount of space that could be used as a dining area.

living room before
East window before staging


Staging a home: Living-dining room
East and south windows after staging


living room west wall before
South window before staging


Dining room after
South window after staging


dining room after table detail
Dining area

A small buffet table is placed between the living and dining areas as a subtle dividing line.

Dresser turned side table

In staging as in real life, items can be repurposed.  This little buffet is actually a converted dresser.  It is lightweight and thus easy to wrangle for staging.   I shared this dresser makeover in a previous post.

So we’ve covered the main reasons that you would want to stage a property.  The fun really starts Part II of this series as we cover the “how.”  I share a few little tips and tricks I learned along the way.

Staging tip:

Attractive, lightweight, and versatile, small accent chairs are an elegant addition to any staging inventory.

Stained Glass Pattern Armless Accent Chair poppies aaccent chair jackie leather accent chair contemporary accent chair Coco accent chair, gray damask Charlotte Accent Chair

Stained Glass Pattern Accent Chair | Poppies Accent Chair  | Jackie Leather Accent Chair | Contemporary Accent Chair in Teal | Coco Accent Chair in Gray Damask | Charlotte Accent Chair

This post contains affiliate links which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on any of the above links.  See full disclosure here.

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