Home Stagers . . . Decorator Wannabes??

Reblogger Kim Dillon
Home Stager with Creative Eye Home Staging

Deena Cottingham did an excellent job of explaining the differences between home stagers and interior decorators.  I especially love her last paragraph. . . .

Original content by Deena Cottingham

Okay, let's be honest . . . Is home staging just an "easy" portal to an interior decorating career? Afterall, it's all about re-decorating a house in a more contemporary style . . . right?

No, not at all. Home staging is more accurately thought of as a subset of the real estate industry. While the tools of the trade may look similar to those of a decorator, Stagers have a far different goal in mind.

Paint canA Professional Home Stager's priority is to bring greater market appeal to a property. Often this does involve advising clients to upgrade various decor elements that are otherwise out-dated. As a stager, yes I would recommend that you lose the tiny floral wallpaper in the half-bath, or the brass lighting fixtures in the kitchen. I'd probably pick on your Barcalounger, too.

But the reason I would suggest this is not because those things are no longer in fashion. I would make these recommendations because buyers respond better to properties that have been well-maintained. And believe it or not, having an updated decor helps communicate that essential message. If you've taken the time to replace a light fixture or two in the last 20 years, chances are good that you might have tightened a few toilet bolts a long the way, as well.

When staging a home, recommended furniture placement may also be very different from how you might live in a particular room. A good home stager will take into account how easy it is for at least 3 people to navigate through the property when viewing it. Usually this means that I will ask the home owner to remove all those little, extraneous pieces of furniture that come in handy when entertaining or watching the game. Yes, awkward furniture placements make for awkward showings! If the buyer doesn't actually enter all the rooms, they won't be buying your house.

And about that furniture, a Stager wouldn't simply choose a sofa based on color and comfort. We would choose a sofa that fit the room, first and foremost, and then the price point and style of the home. Luxury homes need luxury furnishings to underscore the value packed into the price tag. Small spaces require furnishings that are light in color, don't take up a lot of visual space, and are functionally cheerful.

As a Stager, I really don't care about how comfy that sofa is for TV viewing! It's all about allowing the home's architectural features to be the focal point (is that a window behind the big screen TV?). Furniture in a Stager's mind is simply a means to reinforcing a lifestyle message for the buyer, and showcasing the space that it resides in.

For selling a home, accessorizing is all about de-personalizing--not choosing the things that you love. The treasures you have collected on your last trip to Asia, or over a lifetime with sentimental value, are the first things to go from a home. When buyers get the feeling that they are invading someone else's space, they are out of there like a turkey before Thanksgiving. Probably not what you want when trying to sell your home.

Artwork, knick-knacks and even reading material need to be "safe and neutral" in their content. While a decorator would showcase these items, a Stager will tactfully suggest that you put Uncle Henry's self-portrait in storage, for the time being.

Bottom line? Decorators should listen. Stagers need to advise. Pretty and trendy may be your goal for decorating your home, but the Stager is ruthlessly objective in achieving "neutral". It is possible to make your home beautiful, and unsellable all at the same time! Choose the right professional for the job!


Deena Cottingham

GreenApple Staging & Images
Serving Calgary and Okotoks, Alberta


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Rob D. Shepherd
Windermere/lane county - Florence, OR
Principal Broker ABR, GRI

This is an area that I have zero talent. I am easily amazed at what can be done with just a couple changes.

Dec 07, 2009 02:25 AM #1
Athina Boukas
Virginia Capital Realty - Richmond, VA
Certified Residential Specialist (CRS)

Excellent post.  I have had to explain to some builders the difference between decorating and staging their model homes when they were using family members with "good taste" to "decorate" the models.

They ended up over accessorizing (clutter) and personalizing (to their taste) rather than the other way around.  Staging is like retail marketing. It has to be politically correct, neutral and non-gender specific.

I like your example about the 3 person navigation with furniture placement.  I never thought about that before.  Flow is very important.

Scale, like you mentioned, is important too. One builder's "family decorator" put the biggest armchair they could find close to the fireplace, suffocating the space in order to show that "there is space". I said "No, it shows that there isn't space!"

Dec 07, 2009 02:37 AM #2
Bogna, Vero Beach FL Vero Beach Decorator
Bogna Interiors - Vero Beach, FL

Deena gave a very acurate comparison !Thanks for sharing.

Dec 07, 2009 03:08 AM #3
Ann Dail
Baton Rouge Area Homes, Louisiana, USA, 225-761-0551 - Baton Rouge, LA
Broker/Realtor,CRS, ePRO, SRS, B.A.Chem

I liked your analogy that buyers want a well maintained home, and that modern decor indicates that the home is being maintained.  I had never thought of it that way before.

Dec 07, 2009 05:12 AM #4
Deena Cottingham
GreenApple Staging & Images, Calgary Staging & Photography - Calgary, AB
Home Stager & Photographer

Hi Kim, Thanks for the re-Blog and your comments! All the best to you for the holiday season!

Dec 09, 2009 02:24 PM #5
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