The Treatment: Basic Staging

When putting your home on the market, the idea is to de-personalize your space and make it appeal to a majority of buyers.  Choosing a neutral palate will allow buyers to see the potential of your space, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be boring.  Often, a seller will ask me to give them specific recommendations, and they want to do it on a budget.  Here is what I call “the treatment”, a basic starter kit to staging your home to sell.  I’ve tried to make it so that the pieces are things you can use again in your next home.

1.  PAINT.  A gallon of paint will run you $30-40 and covers up to 350 sq. ft..  This makes it one of the cheapest and most effective things you can do to make a big impact.  Buyers might not consciously notice the paint (and they shouldn’t), but they get that subliminal “new car smell” feeling when they walk in.  However, you must take the time to prep your room the right way, because a sloppy paint job is a surefire way to turn buyers off.  They see a bad paint job and 1) automatically conclude that they will have to spend time/money to repaint it the right way, and 2) wonder what other improvements were done improperly.  When buyers see things that they will need to fix, they start deducting dollars from their offer, and often, they inflate the amount that it will actually cost.  So do yourself a favor, do it for them first and do a good job.   I highly recommend hiring a professional painting company, as it will save you time (and time is money)!

As for specific paint colors, here is a link to 12 no-fail paint colors.

Benjamin Moore’s Manchester Tan (HC-81) is a great beige, and goes well with most decor.

Photo courtesy of Liz Levin Interiors

Manchester Tan by Benjamin Moore.  Photo courtesy of Liz Levin Interiors

Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter (HC-172) is a warm gray (it has beige undertones), and is all the rage these days with the 20-40 year old set.

Photo courtesy  Beyond Beige Interior Design Inc.

Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore.  Photo courtesy Beyond Beige Interior Design Inc.

2.  WINDOWS.  Light sells, so maximize your window power!  Of course, make sure the glass is clean (both inside and out), and consider removing the screens if you have a room that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight.  If you have valences,  throw them away!  It makes your window and ceiling seem small.  When positioning your curtain rod, go high and wide!  Hang the rod about 4-6″  above the window frame (or halfway between the frame and the ceiling molding) to trick the eye into thinking you have more ceiling height.  Hang your curtains 3-6″ inches past the frame on each side to make them appear wider.  I love white curtains; they go with everything and make the room appear brighter.  Ikea’s Merete curtains are $27.99 for a pair, and are long (just make sure to use the no-sew, iron-on hemming tape that comes with it to adjust the length) or Target’s Grayson Grommet curtains $35-45 for the pair (depending on length).

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Ikea Merete curtains

Target Grayson curtains

Target Grayson curtains

3.  BEDROOM.  The issue I see most often is that the bedroom furniture is too large in scale for the size of the room.  Show buyers that you have plenty of space by relocating non-essential pieces of furniture to another part of the home.  If the culprit is your bed, remove the headboard/footboard and leave the mattress on the simple frame.  Then make your bed with neutral, crisp linens.  If you don’t have a headboard, embrace the throw pillow to give your bed some presence.  Generally, anything with the word “hotel” in it is usually a good bet.  When in doubt, opt for white.  Just make sure that any duvets or down comforters have a duvet cover.

Target Hotel 8 Piece Bedding Set in Silver $65-85.

target hotel

Anything from Target’s Fieldcrest Bedding line



Anything from Macy’s Hotel Collection

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Macy’s Hotel Collection bedding

Avoid these types of bedspreads, as they are very difficult to keep straight and can look sloppy.


Avoid this type of bedspread

A nice touch to add to bedrooms is a vase of fresh flowers on the nightstand for a feeling of luxury, and if you have the space, a bench at the end of the bed.

target bench

Target Threshold Extra Long X Bench

4. BATHROOMS.   Bathrooms can make a big impact with a few minor updates.  The idea is to transform it into a spa-like retreat.  Paint it a neutral color.  Throw away furry toilet seat covers and U-shaped floor mats. Stack some white, fluffy towels on the edge of your tub, or hang on the towel bar.


Stage your bathroom by stacking some towels on your tub

Place a candle on the counter.  Here are some other areas to address:

Vanity – If you have a wooden vanity in good condition but it looks a little dull, rub some Murphy’s Wood Oil on it to try to bring back the luster. If your vanity is looking more worn, consider undertaking a small DIY project that will definitely get you the return on investment.  Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations kits are sold at Home Depot for around $75 and require no stripping, no standing, and no priming.  I think that both white and espresso are modern and look good with most counters.

Lighting – If you have a light bar, consider replacing it with a more updated sconce fixture.  You can often find good deals at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or Costco for less than $50.

light bar

Light bars: just say no

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Hampton Bay 2-Light Chrome Vanity Sconce, $24.88 at Home Depot

Shower –  If you have a brass framed glass track shower door, which just screams 1980s, it’s simple to remove the frame.  Then, get a tension curtain rod and hang a fabric shower curtain (just make sure you have a plastic or vinyl shower curtain liner on the inside to prevent getting your fabric curtain wet).  Here are some shower curtains I like from Target:

 Threshold Color Block Shower Curtain – Black/White, $19.99

target shower curtain

Threshold Diamond Dot Geo Shower Curtain, $24.99

shower curtain 2

Finally, give your whole bathroom a good cleaning.  Limit the products you display on your bathroom counters…I like to keep hand soap, a hand towel and a candle on the counter and hide everything else.  The same goes for the products in your shower.  If you’re like me, you have multiple bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body scrub, and shaving cream all over the place.  For the showing period, try to fit everything in a bath caddy.  If your grout is discolored, I’ve heard Polyblend Grout Renew, $11 at Home Depot, works wonders even though it takes a little time to apply.

5. LIVING SPACES.  Again, make sure that your furniture fits the scale of the room and remove any unnecessary clutter.  Also, scale down on the personal photographs or collections you may have displayed.  The goal is for the buyer to picture themselves living in your home; you don’t want them focusing on who YOU are.  You may feel like since you’re neutralizing everything, your home may feel bland.  Punch it up with some accessories!  Mirrors, throw pillows, rugs, fresh flowers and plants, throw blankets and art are affordable ways to add color and texture to your space to give it a finished look.

6. OUTDOOR SPACES. If you have a yard, this is a huge selling feature, so show it off!  Do a general clean-up by weeding, removing leaves, trimming bushes, and add mulch to flower beds.  It’s a great idea to plant some seasonal flowers in pots (or pumpkins, or small evergreens) near your front door, and hanging an american flag out front is great way to add curb appeal.

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Simply mowing your lawn and keeping bushes and plants trimmed goes a long way to adding curb appeal

If you have a back yard or deck, create an entertainment area.  I love setting up a fire pit/chiminea area with a few seats surrounding it.  If you don’t already have outdoor chairs, you can find plastic adirondack chairs for about $20 each (Walmart, Wegmans, Target, Ace Hardware).  You could even use hay bales or tree stumps (just call a few tree trimming companies to see if they can save you some from one of their jobs).

Photo courtesy of ACM Design

Photo courtesy of ACM Design

You can buy a fire bowl from Target or Home Depot for around $100 or less, or you can create one with some stone pavers.  Obviously, you don’t want to put a fire source on a wooden deck, so instead, buy some lanterns and set up a cluster of candles on a table.

Borrby Lantern from Ikea, $14.99

Borrby Lantern from Ikea, $14.99

Threshold Jar Candle Holder in Seeded Glass from Target, $8.99-$16.19

Threshold Jar Candle Holder in Seeded Glass from Target, $8.99-$16.19

If you have a deck, some outdoor furniture will go a long way!  I love using outdoor rugs, string lights, and a table/chair set to create an inviting conversation area.

string lights

Look how string lights and a small table transforms a tiny side yard into a charming and valuable space. Work your space! Photo courtesy of

If you live in a townhome where your deck is right next to your neighbor, you can even build a curtain partition for privacy.  Ikea sells curtain wire that you can mount to a simple wood frame. Outdoor curtains are widely available and conjure up a cabana feel.

staging a deck

Staging before and after: an indoor/outdoor rug, all weather drapes, and a nice conversation area. Photo courtesy of HGTV.

If you’re selling your home in the DC Metropolitan area, please invite the Dawn and Kris Team over for some personal staging advice.  We can tell you which improvements to make to help you sell.  We also love shopping, so we can help you select items that will look great in your home.

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