Decorating an entire home down to the last uniquely personal and perfectly layered detail can feel like a long slog.
One with lots of failed ideas (that time I put the big screen TV in the tiny office!) and time-consuming missteps (ahem… bright orange paint in the kitchen).
But there is a quicker path to a great looking house without indulging in the trial and error of every “creative” inspiration you’re struck with.
To transform your home from odd and funky to clean and serene, take your cues from the world of home staging!
Done right, home staging allows anyone who walks in to a house for sale to see it at its best. Staging helps prove to wary buyers that the house can function as a comfortable home.
And instead of polishing it up and letting go forever, you’ll get to live in your beautiful home.
You’ll also have a great canvas for your own touches of whimsy and personality as you have time.
So what home staging steps reliably improve your home with the least amount of experimentation and labor?
Here are five options!
1. Turn your walls into a clean canvas.
Why? The human eye is annoyingly detail-oriented.
You could fill a room with the most beautiful furniture and accessories, but if the wall is punctuated with lots of flaws, that’s what you’ll see.
At some point, walls can’t be cleaned well enough, so you’ll want a fresh coat of paint.
What color should you choose? Home stagers usually recommend soft, neutral colors because they are easy to live with.
When you are planning on staying in your home, you can have fun with more daring color choices, but if you’re drawing a blank, choosing a neutral color that goes well with your home’s features and existing decor will give you time to consider other options while still enjoying comfortable rooms.
How? Take the time to patch, sand, and prime any holes and imperfections in your walls, then paint the walls your new color.
Go for a shade of paint that is muted, warm, and light.
Also consider painting your trim. It’s a tedious job, which means it tends not to get done as often as the walls themselves— yet clean trim and baseboards make a huge difference to the feel of a room.
Especially in areas of your home where you can see lots of trim coming together, making time to update dingy, dinged up trim will automatically lift the feel of your home.
2. Set up your rooms for maximum function.
Why? When you see a house for the first time, you expect the rooms to be furnished and decorated to match their intended function, right?
Bedrooms have beds, the dining room features a dining table, and hallways aren’t stuffed with odds and ends.
But often as you live in your home, furniture has a way of creeping around and ending up in unexpected places. You might have accent or storage furniture that doesn’t really make sense for how you use the room.
This makes your home feel less comfortable, because furniture shapes how you live there. If you can’t figure out how to use the room with just a glance, you may feel uncomfortable – even if you don’t know why.
How? Use each room for its intended purpose, then add a minimal amount of furniture for storage or secondary uses around that.
The formula for outfitting each type of room in your house is simple. Even the most elaborately designed rooms start with the same type of furniture.
The living room should have a couch and a chair or two positioned around a coffee table. And in the dining room you can get by with a table and chairs, and maybe a piece of storage furniture.
Bedrooms need a nicely made bed, a nightstand or two, and a dresser or similar storage for clothing.
While this is totally not rocket science, stagers frequently have to move and remove furniture to restore this arrangement in a house they’re prepping for sale — so it’s worth evaluating your home in the same way.
Then you’ll get to start decorating your home with a solid foundation.
3. Create a clear flow around your home.
Why? Just as each room in your home needs to do its job in order to feel orderly and functional, you must create clear and comfortable walking areas not just from room to room but also around each feature in your home.
When too much furniture in your home is positioned in a way that blocks access to doorways, windows, fireplaces, counters, and any other built-in feature meant to be accessed by people, you will instinctively feel crowded and uncomfortable.
And if the only way to walk through a room is through an arrangement of furniture instead of around it, you will feel like you’re invading the space — even if there’s enough clearance to move without bumping into something.
Finally, when you position furniture in a way that ignores the obvious architecture of the room (like putting seating in front of a fireplace and facing it away to the center of the room), you break up the intended focus of the room and create visual confusion.
How? As much as possible, leave a lot of margin around any built-in feature of your home that should be easy to walk up to and use.
While it’s tempting to put seating directly underneath windows in a room — like placing the couch under a large window in the living room — you’ll end up seeing and enjoying the windows more if they stand alone as their own feature that you can walk right up to.
In a small room you might feel like you have no other choice but to block features with your stuff, but if you have followed the advice above to go minimal with your furniture, you should have some wiggle room even at that diminutive size.
4. Add the right home accessories in right place.
Why? When you show your house to sell it, you want it to look cozy, inviting, and livable.
And the best way to do this? Finish off each room with comfortable home accessories (like throw pillows and a blanket on the couch) that encourage you to sit down and stay a while.
Wall art and small decor pieces bring the scale of an entire house down to the human level, and let you feel at home.
Now, when you go to sell your home, you don’t want to clutter your rooms with overly personal items — but when you’re staging your home to live in it, you have time to experiment with the amount and type of home decor to find your “just right” fit.
How? Start with the simplest of accessories, and work your way up to create layers.
On soft seating — anything you sit on from chairs and couches to beds — add both soft accessories like pillows and blankets and task lighting that makes those seats extra comfortable to hang out in. Then add artwork above to draw you into those comfy spots and create an atmosphere.
On hard surfaces — everything from kitchen counters to table and desk tops — add organization pieces that will help you keep those surfaces clear and easy to work at! Often you can add organization to nearby storage as well, like drawer dividers in your kitchen drawers, to make it simple to do a clean sweep of your countertops.
And consider making the work surfaces in your home more inviting by adding soft seating, task lighting, and a bit of art to make them more inviting and comfortable.
5. Store your stuff in a logical way.
Why? In day to day living, it can be tempting to just leave stuff out so you don’t forget where you put it. And when that all gets to be too much, it’s all too easy to sweep clutter into bins and drawers with no logic whatsoever.
But when you’re staging your home to sell, you might pack up and store away that extra stuff into neatly categorized and labeled boxes, since you’re planning on moving anyway. The items that remain are then easy to organize and put back into the proper place.
Why not enjoy that level of organization all the time? With a little bit of effort you can have a home that’s easy to clear up for you, not just showings.
How? First, take another look at the function of each room in your home. What do you plan on using it for? (Hint: how did you set it up in tip #2 above?)
When you know where you’ll be using your belongings, it becomes much easier to organize them, because you can see exactly how much space you have to get them properly put away.
And after you’ve assigned your stuff to a space, it’ll be easy to tidy up in a hurry — instead of strewing over any available surface or stuffing into any available storage.
Stage Your Comfort at Home
So now you have five clear options for whipping your house into a condition even a buyer could love — but you get to keep!
Let your walls be an asset and not a liability by getting a fresh coat of paint up on the walls and trim. For a comfortable feeling, go for paint colors that are soft, warm and light.
Make sure each room in your house clearly fulfills its function by focusing on placing the right furniture in the right places. You’ll make the most of each space when you get the foundation right.
Get a great sense of flow through your home when you stop blocking off areas with random furniture and storage that’s unrelated to how you use each room.
Highlight your clean space with a few key accessories that create a sense of function, comfort, and interest in each room. You can add more layers of personality as you go!
Finally, get your storage into shape by making sure you can easily put away loose items instead of storing all over the flat surfaces of your home. By grouping them logically in the place you actually use them, you’ll make it easy to reset to a calm, clean-looking home any time you want.
Start with one of these home stage tactics and you’ll see improvement in the feel of your home — no showings required!