STAGING SMALL SPACES. PART 2--INVISIBLE BARRIERS (OR WHY DOES THE SPACE FEEL SO SMALL?)

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Home Stager with Rose-Colored Staging

Staging Small Spaces can be a challenge!  As a stager I often rearrange furniture until it feels and looks "right" to me but I sometimes find it difficult to explain the "why" behind it.  This is an extremely helpful post and great visuals too!

 

Michele Rose is a Realtor and Professional Home Stager in Burlington County, NJ. She has been assisting both buyers and sellers with their real estate needs since 2004. In 2007, she founded Rose-Colored Staging, a home staging and redesign business, to help sellers successfully market their homes with professional home staging. She also stages listings for fellow agents, getting those listings sold!

Original content by Janet Jones

STAGING SMALL SPACES.  PART 2--INVISIBLE BARRIERS (OR WHY DOES THE SPACE FEEL SO SMALL?)

My previous post, STAGING SMALL SPACES.  PART 1--FOCAL POINT, was an initial look at why the sellers should have staged this small second bedroom in their 950 square foot 2-bedroom, 2 bath unit before listing it for sale.  Having addressed how to correct the focal point, let's look at another issue--size. 

Why does this room appear to be much smaller than it actually is?  This room has what I refer to as "invisible barriers".  This is where furniture blocks the views of corners and/or walls, or constricts/prevents access to part of the space.  Wherever these occur, our brains construct a sort of invisible wall, and we experience the room inside of these "invisible walls". 

Seeing it is probably easier than explaining it.  Let's look at the room in detail:

  • First, we have that dark cabinet in the corner.  Dark objects appear to "advance" so not only is it blocking the view of the corner, but it seems larger than it is.
  • Second bedroom originalOn the left side of the room is a dresser.  A standard dresser is 18" deep, so literally 18-20" of depth gets subtracted from our view, because with the TV (an advancing dark object) the whole unit has the visual footprint of an armoire.  You can't see the wall behind it so our brains register an invisible barrier at the front of the dresser. 
  • A sofa or love seat is generally what I refer to as a "see over" piece of furniture; i.e., since you can see over it to a wall it doesn't create a barrier.  However, by positioning the love seat in front of the window the sellers have created a true barrier.  Since you know you need to access the windows and window covering you actually start experiencing the space as ending in front of the love seat. There is no space on either side of that love seat that allows access to the window wall. 

Second bedroom originalThe photo on the right shows what your brain is actually registering upon entering this room.  I've made the invisible barriers quasi visible. 

Now, look at the red area on the floor--this is the visible floor space. This is also what our brains are using to "measure" the space.  There literally is no place to walk here.  Our brain takes all of these elements together--invisible barriers and visible floor space and returns one simple word, "small". 

It's pretty simple now to answer that question as to why this space feels like it does.  A few  simple decorating decisions that met the homeowners' needs now unfortunately communicate a totally different message to buyers. 

The computer-generated "after" I did of this room has quite a different feel to it:

Second bedroom


  1. All the corners are visible.
  2. All of the furniture is "see over".  Since you have no reason to access the wall behind the love seat there is no barrier created by placing it along this wall.  This is further reinforced by the fact that you can see over the arm of the love seat to the corner of the room.  The TV is on a low cabinet which allows you to see over and around it directly out to the view of the mountain.  (A wall-mounted TV in this space would probably block part of the corner.) 
  3. Notice the difference in the amount of visible floor space, highlighted in red, as compared to the original photo. 

If you want to make any small space appear larger then consider how you can incorporate these three concepts into it.  And remember that every space is unique so these concepts should only be applied after taking the entire space into consideration:

  1. Try to clearly see all four corners.  Remove furniture and items such as potted plants that are great for decorating but not for selling. 
  2. Expose as much of the the walls as possible by using "see over" furniture.  Remove large-scale pieces of furniture that "subtract" wall and floor space by creating invisible barriers.  This includes things like removing the tops from buffets and taking TV's out of armoires and/or entertainment systems and placing them on low stands. 
  3. Open up as much floor space as possible.  Remove extraneous furniture and/or opt for furniture that has low visual weight--like the glass side table in this rendering.  Seeing through furniture prevents it from creating invisible barriers.   


The final part of this series:  Furniture arrangement. 

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