Home staging: why?
An empty home for sale could scare away buyers. ESPECIALLY when selling a gorgeous waterfront estate like 41 Torrey Rd in East Sandwich, MA (yes, that was a shameless plug). We’ve found that home staging is essential to keep buyers focused on the important aspects of a home for sale.
A strategically placed sitting area can lead a buyer to a stunning view, or a large piece of furniture can help them to see how big a room is. When a buyer is shown a well-staged “livable” space, it creates an emotional attachment. They can picture themselves cooking with friends here, relaxing with family there. The bonus? It also allows the seller to highlight the most important features, making sure the buyer doesn’t miss out on seeing – and appreciating – the most valuable aspects of the property!
What are buyers thinking when they see an empty space?
There’s a uniquely awful thing that happens when a buyer walks into a completely empty space…instead of seeing a home they would want to live in – could see themselves living in – instead of focusing on the aspects of the home that really sell it, they see the problems (they think) they need to solve. The newly painted walls become too plain. Every speck of dust is visible on the gorgeously redone floors. The windows aren’t frames for a view, they’re impediments to the buyers imagination. And, let’s face it, if a buyer has to “imagine” a space, there is almost no chance they are going to buy your property!
Our Staging Case study.
The property shown in the above image is a stunning waterfront home that is currently for sale. It’s located on 2 acres on idyllic Cape Cod, a vacation destination just south of Boston. The owners of the home remodeled, refinished, repainted and generally updated the entire property. The house is over 8,000 square feet and had been on the market for a few months without any staging. Although the property is gorgeous and features incredible ocean views from almost every room, the lack of any furniture or decorative touches defined the space more than the natural beauty outside.
When I first went to the house, I quickly lost track of rooms and, even though the views were great, I found myself trying to figure out where I was and where I had been…”wait, is this the third bedroom or the fourth?” I immediately went negative even though I was surrounded by beautiful finishes and gorgeous views. The first thing I did was talk to the owners about staging. They were concerned about costs but recognized the importance of highlighting the things that made the house so special and agreed to let us stage some of the key rooms.
So, now I’m going to take you on a brief tour and show you images before and after staging. Ready? Ok, assume we just walked into the front door…
The image shown on the right is the area you first walk into when entering the home. I absolutely love the main staircase (this house has two to the 2nd floor) and the French doors that frame it. See those open doors to the right? We’re going there first!
*Please note: when viewing images beyond this point, please use the slider to see before and after images.
This dining room is located to the right of the entry and the main staircase. We placed decorative items on the shelves and on the fireplace mantle. We didn’t put any family photos or things that would cause the buyer to stop and look (keep them moving!) or worse, think of the home as somebody else’s! We always want our buyers to be able to envision themselves and their own family in the space. We put a few plants in a positive Feng Shui area to give the room some living, natural color AND some good vibes! We staged a nice semi-formal dining set up – including, yes, an empty bottle of wine. Did I drink it? Yes. it was delicious and I did it for good cause. This room went from empty and a little cold to interesting, cozy and – thanks to my recycled wine bottle – relatable. You’re welcome.
If your dining room chairs are old, stained, tired or even if they’re just too busy or polarizing of a pattern and you’re looking for a more consistent, clean look, dining room chair covers are an inexpensive and easy solution. Decorative place settings like these silver charger plates add a simple element of sophistication to a staged dining room table at an attractive price point. Another inexpensive way to add simple sophistication to a dining room table is by rolling cloth napkins and holding them with napkin rings. Finally, why not splurge a little and enjoy a nice bottle of wine (it doesn’t have to be Opus One, but please do NOT stage with Two (or even Three!) Buck Chuck and then recycle the bottle on your staged table! Talk about a win-win!
The butler’s pantry is essentially a hallway between the kitchen and formal dining room that is used for food preparation, drinks or whatever the owner sees fit. Just adding a few cutting boards, serving trays, beverages and a never spoiling fruit bowl (ie plastic) made a huge difference in how this space is perceived. When a buyer walks through, they won’t question the point of this super-functional area…now they will wonder why they don’t have one of these in THEIR home!
Bamboo Cutting Boards may be perfect for slicing, dicing and chopping, but they’re also nice looking an invoke a sense of utility and usefulness! Just like cutting boards or a simple paper towel holder, a nice set of cotton kitchen towels in a neutral palette goes a long way toward suggesting to a buyer that this is a “livable” space.
This kitchen is amazing. I LOVE the open floor plan, the wood beamed ceiling, the huge river rock fireplace and just all of the space. But, again, that much EMPTY space can turn into a negative (same thing if it’s overly cluttered – sometimes staging means eliminating!) To make the huge island and long counters seem user-friendly, we just added a few personal touches. My favorite is the cake tin that says “OMG CAKE” on the front! The tall plant and wooden bar stools bring some organic energy into the big space and the little touches – spices, a few specialty cooking oils, and some nicely displayed wooden spoons – help our buyers to imagine cooking a great family dinner in this space! Remember, there are always strategies to every room. Always think about the best parts and add, move or remove things to help make a certain area more desirable.
In this case we took a very minimalist approach because this kitchen is filled with top of the line professional appliances and anchored by a huge center island. To humanize the space and engage our buyers, we strategically placed simple items such as spices, specialty cooking oils, and wooden spoons in a decorative glass jar on the kitchen counters. The best places to find great inexpensive home décor items are Marshalls, TJMaxx, and – my personal favorite – the always reliable Home Goods. You can’t really shop online because their inventory turns over – and every store may have different finds – so if you hate shopping, stick to our online links!
On the island, we featured a large plant and fun cake tin (OMG! CAKE!) – both picked up at Home Goods. We also put a few counter stools underneath – note: many people don’t realize that bar stools and counter stools are different heights, counter stools are shorter, usually around 24”, for counter height seating, while bar stools are taller, usually around 29”, for bar height seating. Make sure you know which one you need before you order
The image without the furniture is brilliant in itself. I already love my morning coffee, but if I could wake up every morning and have a warm cup of joe right there, I’d be thrilled and hey, that’s the emotion I am trying to get prospective buyers to feel. We realized, however, that this was so much more than a breakfast area and we wanted our buyers to feel the spirit of being in a big rambling house by the ocean…so after we added a farm table with a bench on one side and mismatched Captain’s chairs around the rest of the table, we laid out a “real” New England lobster boil/clambake! On newspaper, we arranged plastic lobsters, wax corn on the cob, faux boiled potatoes, empty clam shells and rubber shrimp (no, not the overcooked ones that Uncle Bob grills!). It evokes the feelings of a long summer day on the Cape filled with fun, friends, family and great food! How could you not want to be a part of that? Extra butter please!
Staging a real New England lobster boil and clam bake is a lot harder than you might think (and I’m guessing it’s something you’ve never thought of!). If you want to have fake food there are a number of resources online including, of course, Amazon!
This is one of my favorite transformations. We call this room the library, I’d like to call it MINE. This room is unlike the others as its walls are filled with built-in shelving, custom paneling and a cozy gas fireplace, all anchored by an amazing three panel window seat overlooking the pool and the ocean. When no furniture was in the room, it seemed dark and cold. Staging this room was the most fun, as the style was right up my alley! We didn’t want the shelves to look cluttered and we wanted to celebrate the nautical theme of the cape, so instead of just filling them with books we strategically arranged decorative items (lobster floats, sea glass, shells, a wooden shark, a treasure chest, a globe, etc) on the open shelves. We also put a big comfy leather club chair next to a library table staged with a decanter of scotch, an ice bucket, a couple of glasses, a tray of nuts, chocolates and caramels, a Cuban cigar, and a few books. It comes off as an elegant yet comfortable space to relax in.
Because we wanted more of a “lived in” look, a lot of the items used in the library were found in online local marketplaces, like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or even local thrift stores, which can be a GREAT resource for staging décor!
I love hanging out and I love spaces that allow me to do that. Right across the hall from the library is the smaller of 2 living rooms in the house. This would be considered a formal living or sitting room, while the other is more of a large “great room.” A fireplace with a brick surround and hearth anchors one side of the room but otherwise it almost seemed like a glorified hallway. Adding the furniture created a living space, one that you could imagine hanging out in with your family or friends. And ironically, once the space was furnished, the beautiful French doors became more of a focal point!
A great resource for inexpensive furniture is IKEA. If you live near an IKEA, we highly recommend going in and first visiting their AS IS section – every IKEA has one and they vary in terms of the availability of good finds, but you can often pick up former display pieces for 30-50% off! In our living room, we used an Ektorp Vittaryd White slip-covered sofa with some throw pillows found at TJ Maxx. We matched our sofa with an Ektorp ottoman and a couple of Kvistbro wire storage tables that we accessorized with Skogsklocka Throws. I really think the best thing about IKEA may actually be the names of their products…anyone who doesn’t agree is just a dumskalle.
This is probably one of the most beautiful master bedrooms I’ve ever been in, seriously those views are just stunning! This is also an example of how adding furniture can make a space seem bigger. That never made any sense to me, but now I get it. We put in a big king-sized bed with sumptuous bedding and lots of pillows and added comfy chairs, a small table and a rug to define the sitting area in front of the fireplace. Before it was staged, I thought it was a neat room, but now I’d like to pack my bags and move here! I can picture myself waking up every morning to that amazing ocean view, can’t you?
Once again, IKEA came to the rescue in the Master Bedroom. For our big king-sized bed, we went with a Brimnes bed frame, bedding was from Marshalls, and pillows were picked up from Ocean State Job Lots, a store that is a strange cross between Home Goods and a 99 Cent Store! The sitting area furniture came from Marshalls and the rug was a clearance item from Bed Bath & Beyond. Always make sure you check the sale or clearance areas first!
This nice little loft sits at the top of the main staircase. By adding “mini-moorings” on each side of the entry to literally and figuratively “anchor” the space and then strategically creating a sitting area to take advantage of the view, we’ve helped our buyers to focus on one of our key selling points (yes, that is the ocean right there!). Pretty sure it will cause them to stop and enjoy the view…it worked on me and I know all of the tricks. Hmmm, not bad.
When you’re creating a seating area that is really designed to highlight a view, you either want to create an area so inviting that people will want to sit down or so neutral that they won’t be distracted. In the small loft we went for neutral and instead of using two easy chairs, we used an accent chair purchased on Facebook Marketplace and a pouf – typically an indoor/outdoor piece, this is almost like a stool but a little more fun! A simple woven area rug helped define the seating area. It’s always fun to incorporate pieces from local artisans if you can, and in the small loft we marked the entry way with two “mini-moorings” made by a local artist from real moorings and lobster rope.
This is one of four guest bedrooms in the house. It has an amazing view and it’s a very large room. By adding a queen size bed parallel to the windows, we not only highlight how big the room is, we also frame the view.
In the guest room we used an upholstered bed frame from Overstock. (Be aware that if you buy just a headboard, you’ll need to purchase a metal Hollywood Bed Frame to attach it to.) We mixed the bed with concrete and wood side tables from Home Goods and Coastal Shutter table lamps. We also purchased an old (I wouldn’t say antique) wooden dresser on Facebook Marketplace and changed the handles to match the gray bedframe and lamps.
Its subtle, but when dealing with bathrooms, it’s really important to put a human touch on the space. By adding some neatly folded towels, soaps or other (attractive and NEW) toiletries, it looks like an inviting bathroom as opposed to just a place to poop. HA – I thought that might make you laugh!
It’s amazing what a few small things can do to humanize a bathroom. In this guest bath, we simply added a simple IKEA Balungen toilet roll holder, and a few neatly rolled towels and nice soap from Marshalls. Stage your bathrooms like you’re preparing for house guests that you want to feel comfortable and welcome!
There are two lovely lofts in this home. Despite it being the larger of the two, it’s location at the top of the back staircase and the fact that it leads directly into the game room relegates it almost to glorified hallway status. The secret weapon here is (once again) the view! By creating a simple sitting area, we’re encouraging the buyers to think of this as a great place to relax and watch the ocean waves. See what we did there? We highlighted a desired part of the home – the windows and views!
As we talked about before, when you’re creating a seating area that is really designed to highlight a view, you either want to create an area so inviting that people will want to sit down or so neutral that they won’t be distracted. In the large loft we went for comfy and inviting. We purchased two oversized rattan chairs and a simple side table on Facebook Marketplace, then added some fun accessories like fluffy white footstools and fluffy white throw pillows. Sit down in these comfy chairs and enjoy the view! You won’t be disappointed!
This is a large room over the 3-car garage. While it still has terrific views of the ocean, it’s location at the back of the house makes it a perfect place to send the kids – big and little – to have some fun! We wanted to highlight just how big this room is, so we put in a regulation size ping pong table, as well as a table and chairs for games, a cabinet for storing board games, electronic games, etc. and a big TV. We even added a junior air hockey game for the littler ones. This is a really fun area and, as busy as we were, we stopped for a few minutes to “test” the ping pong table.
The game room was just a really fun space to stage – and, of course, we had to make sure everything “worked.” Ahem. The fantastic ping pong table is a big piece and really illustrates that this is a large space. The game table and four chairs are defined by the round rug they sit on. And a smaller air hockey game, purchased for just $10 on Facebook Marketplace, adds another element of space and fun. There is also an armoire to store games and accessories with a TV on top of it. Overall, it’s a big fun space and sure to capture the imagination of buyers young and old.
It’s a small addition, but some laundry detergent and supplies on the shelf, some clean folded towels – ready for the beach! – on the counter and a laundry basket of towels ready to be washed – we had so much fun in the pool! – all combine to make this utility room feel more like home.
The laundry room was a simple exercise…bring an element of life to an otherwise dull utility room. We added some empty (recycled) Tide and Bounce boxes and a few beach towels – some folded and some in a laundry basket ready for washing. The overall effect is subtle and simple but it makes the space much more memorable and relatable.
I hope you like what you see. I’d like to end this post with an image of the “great room” of this house. We would like to know what YOU would do with this space!
Also, if you’d like to see more of this gorgeous property, visit https://41torrey.com
Related Article: Hmmmm, waterfront homes, are they right for you?