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Beware! The Top 20 Tacky Staging Techniques

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Home staging should show off the great features of your listing and diminish the negative ones, not create a phony atmosphere. It's all about marketing that feeling of the good life and what is possible for the room without going overboard.

A home should never look like it's been staged.

20 Tacky Techniques:

  1. Napkins stuffed in wine glasses (Creates a phony atmosphere.)
  2. Place settings on a table or bar (Nothing says, "This home has been staged", more than dishes, stemware, silverware, and napkins.)
  3. Old bath towels hanging on a bar with ribbon (Old towels will not give a buyer the spa feeling, even with a ribbon.)
  4. Single piece of artwork on a wall with nothing else in the room (Buyers will only see the art and not the room, especially online.)
  5. Furniture store tags on items that are for sale (Staging should be about the house and not what furniture is being sold by a store.)
  6. Old, dirty rugs (Rugs should only be used to define space or add color. Buyers need to see the floors and what they are buying.)
  7. Dusty, plastic trees with only a few branches (I don't mind trees, but they have to look nice.)
  8. Cuttings from bushes and branches brought inside (Will wilt rapidly, and it will take the eyes away from the room.)
  9. Accessories that have nothing to do with the style of the home (Example: You can't take a country look and put it in a contemporary house.)
  10. A card table with a sheet covering it in a dining room (A cheap look and does not represent the room dimensions.)
  11. Plants or greenery over window treatments (Shows off bad decorating, and again takes the buyer away from the overall room.)
  12. Plastic patio furniture inside that is covered or not (Just don't!)
  13. Cheesy old lamps (Get the granny lamps out.)
  14. Cheap plastic flowers (What I like to call "forever flowers" usually found at dollar stores.)
  15. Sofa covered with a sheet as a slipcover (Planning on painting anytime soon?)
  16. Blow-up beds (From personal experience: blow up beds will only stay fully inflated for a short time no matter how expensive they are.)
  17. Plastic fruit (Fruit can be done right, but the majority of the time it looks tacky, creating a phony atmosphere.)
  18. Breakfast tray on a bed with tumbled wine glasses (Creates a phony atmosphere.)
  19. Only two chairs in a living room (This will not give a buyer a sense of the space.)
  20. Wine bottle sitting on the edge of a garden tub (Creates a phony atmosphere.)

Tacky staging can spell disaster for your listing. Why? Because we remember tacky! What you put in the home is the perception of what the value of the home is worth. Your poorly staged listing becomes, "That house with the saggy, deflated blow up bed," or "That place with the cheesy lamp like the one in my parents' house."

If the accessories and furniture looks like you got it out of grandma's attic or down the street at a yard sale, the buyer could expect a yard sale price tag on the house. It is better to leave a house empty then to use bad décor! Staging should enhance the architecture of the home, not show off poor decorating ideas. Bad staging draws attention to itself - and distracts your buyer from your listing!

Please understand the quality of a good home stager.  Know what services you are having your seller buy and who you are recommending. They will be worth their weight in gold.

Helping you get your listing SOLD,
Angela Voss
Designology Home Staging


Joan Inglis, Master Accredited Staging Professional
Carolina Spaces, LLC www.CarolinaSpaces.com - Charlotte, NC
Home Staging, Model Merchandising, Interior Design

Sounds like you also are fed up with bad staging.  I commonly see these things on your list plus a bath towel lumped in the corner of the bathroom floor to give it a lived-in look.  And - if you can believe it - dog biscuts scattered on the kitchen floor around a stuffed dog!  

May 25, 2010 12:48 AM
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce

Staged or not...dirty or worn anything looka tacky....too many bites from our artificial fruit...guess that part doesn't look sooo artificial.

May 25, 2010 02:40 AM
Gary Pike
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers - Powder Springs, GA

LOL as I read these and immediately started recalling homes that I saw most of these items mentioned in and yes I identified them as tacky, however, I do remember them as opposed to other homes.  Thanks for posting.

May 25, 2010 03:02 AM
Mona Lisa Harrison
iSellHouseUpstate.com - Greenville, SC
The Help You Need To Sell Your House

And the list could go on..........

I find that my most effective work as a stager is editing. In occupied houses, most folks just have too much. Take out the tacky, overscale, worn out and leave the best stuff. 

I tell my sellers to use these thoughts as their guide: does it add light or the perception of space? Remember what you are selling, the house, not the stuff.  Buyers may only spend a few minutes at a house, don't distract them with all the things in your list.

I go in to houses that have had a stager consult on and have to deliver the hard news that some of what was recommended is wrong.

For example. Comtempory home painted dark brown. Stager recommended they paint the front door and deep stoop celing black! Lighten up!

The only thing worse than ribbons on towels is raffia on towels.  I did hear that the reason some folks do that is to keep visitors from using the towels.

Thanks to HGTV, many sellers and agents are much more savvy about preparing a house for sell. Some however sincer their efforts, miss the mark.....bless their hearts.

May 25, 2010 04:50 AM
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

I generally have a poor eye for this stuff, but I do not think I will forget your list.

May 25, 2010 04:58 AM
Anna Dovger
Add Value Home Staging LLC, 281-704-6607 - The Woodlands, TX
Home Staging -The Woodlands, TX

Great post. LOL

May 25, 2010 08:58 AM
Eileen Begley
Coldwell Banker, DelMonte - Carmel, CA
Monterey Real Estate

Loved the "old bath towels wih a ribbon" one. Good list!

May 25, 2010 12:04 PM
Carol Schulenberg ASP, IAHSP (Ballantyne Home Staging)

Perhaps the most replied to post I've read on Active Rain.  Amusing post and I know many who swear by air mattresses also.  Makes me nervous, though.

May 25, 2010 12:06 PM
anna topolinsky
Images staged with flair - Saint Catharines, ON

This made me laugh so much!! It is very true that many of these staging strategies are not a good idea, I love the one especially of greenery over the doors!!! you would have to duck while going through the door in case of spiders crawling down!!


As for blow up beds I have used them in my vacant stagings with beautiful headboards behind them they work fine and I have never had a problem. Some of the homes I have staged in the past have had 4-5 bedrooms so the blow up beds come in handy.

May 25, 2010 01:07 PM
Terri Gogolen
Century 21 Crest - Ringwood, NJ

Thanks Angela for this post about tacky staging.  You have said all the things I have been thinking.  We have become so obsessed with staging that we are willing do tacky things in the name of staging.  And you are when you said "we remember "tacky".  Often my clients or I will name a home so we can refer back to it when discussing homes we have seen.  I can imagine my clients naming a home, the tacky home.  And I agree , I would rather see an empty sparkling clean home than a tackly staged home.

May 26, 2010 01:22 AM
Angela & Stephen Hardiman / HouseTie.com
HouseTie.com - Spokane, WA
When first impressions count...

HOLY COW! Boy, I left for a little R&R in Canada this past weekend and came back to amazing comments. Thank you all for your thoughts, suggestions, options, and stories.

I realize this was going to shock a few stagers and please a few agents. In my career, I have staged close to 600 homes. My style and taste in so many ways have changed over the years. I still consider this field still so new in the making, we're paving the way for future "Design Marketers" as I like to call it.

We are all exploring the best ways to sell a property. I probably speak to at least 5 people a month that want to get into the field. I tell them it's not all as it seems on HGTV. It is a real business, with real clients, real families that are hoping that what we ALL do will make a huge difference in their life. Study from interior design and not staging. Yes, there is quit a difference on how it is to be executed, but dig in to what is real, not an imaginary life.

May 26, 2010 02:50 PM
Palma Minnich
In2itive Design - Charleston, SC
Home Stager, Charleston, SC

When I got my very first call to stage a home my new client told me that they found me on the Internet. She asked me, "Do you want to know why I picked you? Because you didn't have one single picture that showed a tacky throw draped over a sofa or chair. I HATE those things. It's so contrived!"

Then she asked me, seriously,  if I had any fake green apples for her kitchen table!

May 27, 2010 05:21 AM
Michael Fontana
Round Rock Home Stager Austin Home Staging - Round Rock, TX
@ The Stage Coach

Great Post - Congrats on the feature.  I'll admit to the use of fake fruit and the occasional bottle of wine in the garden tub.  Thing is: I only started doing them because REA's requested them. Same with Vacant Vignette Stagings.

I'm going to agree to disagree with place settings on a table. If there's a formal dining room, and the owners have dinnerware, I encourage them to set the table.   That being said, never put table settings on a counter if there is no place to sit!

Lastly, Jenna #48 makes a great point - I've always felt model home designers must make money on every piece they put in a home.  That explains the "10lbs or Cr*p in a 5lb box" feeling you get in most of them. :P

The Stage Coach - Austin's Home Staging HandyMan!

May 27, 2010 08:10 AM
Rebecca LaBelle
The picture above this posting is fake staging. I am not sure what point of view this represents. Better to have greenery, luxury bath products and beautiful, luxurious towels. Staging is about the creation of a warm inviting rooms with comfort, beauty, and style. The buyers will be attracted to houses with emotional elements such as a beautiful table set for entertaining, a comfortable living room chair with table ad reading lamp accessorize with wine glass and novel. I staged a small home just this week. It is in the starter home category. I setup the dining area with a table cloth touching the floor, place settings, wine glasses, and candles. The pieces chosen were appropriate for this house. In other words no crystal, china, or sterling silver were used. This staging created an emotional element for potential young couple purchasing their first home. One other comment about throws over furniture --- they can look very warm and inviting when you live and work in snow country. Don't discount them in all circumstances. When marketing a home, staging is one of the marketing tools. Professional stagers don't use their grandmothers's lamps, worn towels, or inappropriate decor. Professional stagers create environments which will touch on the emotions of potential buyers. Respectfully, Rebecca Truckee Home Staging & Redesign
May 27, 2010 07:29 PM
Dana Smithers
PRES Staging Resource Centre - Vancouver, BC
PRES Staging Training, Redesign Training & Busines

Good post and some I agree with and some not. Like others I do use blow up beds and have never had a problem with them. I have used fake fruit when a house was being closed up for a month during December while the client was away and then reopened to showings in January. It's not something I normally use but I have had people want to take a bite of a yummy green plastic apple!

I have never done table settings other than a centerpiece. Many stagers do and I think it is personal choice. Builders doing show homes often feature this and I do think it looks great. If a family is living in the home daily it's a little hard.

Since I teach home staging I have to disagree with the comment about getting a certificate. Most students come to the courses with amazing talent, and some not. Those that don't are the ones that typically aren't going to make a living out of it. I always advise on-going learning in all areas of life.

Jun 11, 2010 11:55 AM
Wayne B. Pruner
Oregon First - Tigard, OR
Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI

I like your list and I will offer you 30% less for that couch!

Jun 11, 2010 05:07 PM
Kathy Booth

Good post, however as already stated above, professional stagers don't use their grandmothers's lamps, worn towels, or inappropriate decor. I have a vast inventory of up to date and neutral bedding, lamps, coffee and end tables, artowrk, AIR BEDS AND FAKE FRUT, etc. that do help in creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Jun 14, 2010 03:41 AM
Helen Breton
Main Street Properties - Pensacola, FL
Broker Associate

First I agree that not many stagers would be using half the items on your list. I think that part of staging is not only staging for actual in person viewings but also staging for photographs and virtual tours. Many times photo stylists will need to add an accessory to a photograph in order to get the eye to go to a specific focal point in the room or to keep the eye from wandering off. The corner of a book pointed in a certain direction, a throw over a bed or even teapot spout are just some of the directional items photographers and stylists use.  I suggest you post a list of your suggested Top 20 Tasteful Techniques. Please make the list as specific as your Tacky list is  - leaving out the vague ideas and suggestions such as "create an atmosphere of...." or "set a mood of...".


Jun 15, 2010 04:23 AM
Kristine Ginsberg
Elite Staging and Redesign, LLC - Short Hills, NJ
NJ Home Stager

I'm do glad I found this post - it's GREAT and so true. What's with all the fake fruite and ribbons on towels - doesn't even make sense.

Nov 09, 2010 03:46 PM
Sussie Sutton
David Tracy Real Estate - Houston, TX
David Tracy Real Estate for Buyers & Sellers

Great advise! I got my mom to remove the paneling form her home and re paint the entire home.  Then next move? I told my 83 year old mother that is was time to get rid of her home interior decor! 

Jul 15, 2015 06:07 AM