Staging to sell: the living room

I admit I have not staged a house before but hey there’s a first time for everything! I don’t really see what the difference is from styling. Just use less stuff. What I do know is, you want to show off your home’s true potential… make it look good so buyers can see themselves living there.

The first time my client listed her home, her realtor took some pretty crappy photos. Not being an expert in this, it seemed like as a whole he focused more on her furnishings rather than the unique architectural features of the house and took the photos in bad lighting, at the wrong time of day. Here’s my favorite photo he took and listed. I don’t have a clue what it conveys to the buyer. Maybe he’s showing off the wallpaper or the closet, but my eyes go to the bust and the piece of furniture (and the trash can in the other room. Ooops!)


I wanted to focus on styling the room to make it more presentable for real estate photos (stage it for selling) and generate some content for the blog! 🙂

She has moved the majority of her furniture to her new house (the french country meets beach) but we do have a few bits and bobs to work with. Since I’m doing this for the heck of it, there is no money going in to buy staging furniture. So, what goes goes.

Here are the before listing photos.


See, like what is this really showing the home buyer? Her taste in furniture? I see the fireplace but he cut off the windows and height of the room. I don’t know, I just don’t feel like he really tried to show the whole space. It reads more like, “Hey, here’s how I decorated, look at these styled shots!”lr3

Again here. You get a glimpse into the foyer but the focus is more on the work of art.

The room is a long rectangle, and the furnishings (well, what’s left) are French antique. But isn’t that painting amazing? It’s still on the wall so, score, something major to wow house hunters. “Yvonne, our [insert local artist] piece would look so chic on this wall.” “Why yes, Thom. I was thinking the very same!” “WE’LL TAKE IT!”

It would be fun to throw in some more modern pieces but there aren’t any so there! Wouldn’t it look so great painted white, with some low-slung cushy velvety mid-century sofa against that painting? Or some sort of lumpy 70s/80s crusty brown number?  Maybe an all black, brown, ivory neutral room with highlights of pinks. And plants. Ohhh, I wish we could do that.

See how dark these images are? That’s not how you list a property!!

Here’s what we were left with when she moved:


I feel like my iphone shots better convey the space of the room than his wack listing photos do! Like I said, I’m no expert in this but I’ve perused through TONS of house listings for my own enjoyment/ when I rent and I want to see as much of the space as possible!

Furniture-wise there’s not a lot to work with. She could clear away every single thing. I wonder how many houses sell naked vs. staged. Does one do better than the other? Judging by those morons on House Hunters with no imagination, I’d say it’s probably better to jazz up your house with some furniture and style than leave it empty. “John, I can’t picture our life in this empty room.” “John, they have a sofa there. That’s where OUR sofa will go!” “Yes, Carol.”

I cleared away the clutter, searched high and low for any useful piece of furniture, art, books, etc. that has yet to be completely moved/cleared out (attic, basement, you name it). Luckily, she brought back her coffee table which really helped!

This is what I came up with:


I moved the sofa under the painting and flanked it with these marble-topped side tables. The homeowner was using them as plant stands. I have no idea if that’s their original purpose but I love how they look as end tables! The coffee table she brought back is heavy wrought iron with a glass top. I found that floor lamp down in the basement. I think it’s the perfect accent to the table and I like the height with those [Christmas] candles (haha!). Those are actually my brass candlesticks. I left the coffee table fairly clean because house hunters don’t need to see too much style or clutter.



All the greenery I used was found in the yard around the house. The magnolia blossom filled the room with such a beautiful smell! What a wonderful scent to welcome your guests! There’s also Japanese maple in that bowl.



I always enjoy a good mirror above a fireplace mantle. This thing was tucked up in the attic. Jim and I carried it down 2 flights of stairs. Okay, he carried it down. But I helped! It was monster heavy and really ideally should be hung but I think you still get the look that I was going for. It did not have vertical hanging hardware nor was I about to mount some giant heavy mirror on the wall of a house trying to be sold!


I wish we had smaller slipper chairs. These guys weren’t the easiest to work with. Caddy corner? Straight on? I went with on the diagonal to make the conversational area appear more intimate/closed in. The room is so large!


Here’s a pulled back shot. You can see the room is lacking furniture but I did try to create a conversation area. While taking these photos, I also tried to get as much architectural detail in as possible. There is a lot of molding in the house. Something the realtor did not capture! :\


Here is the other side of the room, with the little mirror nook. I almost left it empty but added a stack of wee books to jazz it up.


The marble end tables are a nice repetition of the marble in this little nook don’t you think! I totally planned that (actually I’m just now realizing that…hahaha…nice how things work out!)


Here’s a shot of the foyer. I threw in that rug and table to make it a bit more inviting. I believe that mirror is going to the new house.


One side of the room.

And now the other!


This table was under the little mirror arched nook but I moved it to this wall. This table is a good representation of my searching hoard. I found the painting in the upstairs sunroom, the lamps were all that was left in the master, the books were stragglers between the breakfast room, study, and random closets and table tops, the vase and that juggy thing were on the breakfast room built-in shelves, the butterflies were broken in a closet box, and the bust was on a mantle in the study. Wheeeew. Oh and the ferns from the yard! You can scrape together a table top if you search your house high and low 😉


This vase/urn majig was also in the study. I knew it would be great with some big structural plant matter. I don’t know what these are but in a pinch I think they did the trick! Whoever buys this house will have plenty of plants to choose from if they can’t make it to the florist: ferns, hydrangea, magnolia, those pink butterfly bushes, holly, lenton roses, and more.


I did snap some pics of the room with all the lights ON, which is how realty photos appear…


There’s two floor pillows to sit on as well. I didn’t want them to be too noticeable. But they’re there, behind the far chair. So, if someone did live in this space, they could sit about 6-7 people!

So, that’s the newly staged/styled living room. What are your thoughts? Did I show you the full scope of the room in a way that if you were a buyer you’d want to come see the house? And as a stylist, did I style in a pretty way given what I had? I wish there were more pieces to work with because this is the size of room where you could create zones.  A little sofa area in the middle like I did, some chairs off to the side under the windows, maybe build a huge built-in where I put the table and house your book collection! Loads of potential!

I’d love to hear your thoughts! And don’t worry. She has a new realtor!


2 thoughts on “Staging to sell: the living room

  1. Looks amazing. I love the tables next to the sofa. The photos make the room look so bright and inviting. The coffee table is perfect and keeps everything looking light and airy. You did a great job of decluttering and pulling it all back together. You have major talent, I hope word gets out in Bham.

    • Thank you, Sue! I love those end tables, too. I think they’re my favorite part of the room. I’ll keep chugging along, taking the steps to having this be a full time career!

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