Winter Home Staging – Bringing in More Light

"Ballard Design's SACHA Mirror placed just off the window helps reflect even more light into this dining room!"

“Ballard Design’s SACHA Mirror placed just off the window helps reflect even more light into this dining room!”

Light, bright spaces SELL! To prevent the dark and dreary days of winter from sabotaging your best staging efforts, follow these simple steps…

1) Encourage more sunshine! To bring in as much natural light as possible, take down
heavy window treatments, remove screens when appropriate, and give the windows a
good cleaning.

2) The most well-lit rooms have a good balance of natural, overhead, and surface lighting
to ensure an evenly lit space. Don’t be afraid to mix it up!

3) Need to lighten it up even more? Use brighter bulbs! A higher wattage bulb will throw
out an even brighter light! Just make sure to use a proper wattage for the light/lamp.

4) Reflective surfaces are sure to make a dark room sparkle! Mirrors, glassware, shiny
artwork, and glass-topped tables keep a space feeling light, bright, and inviting.

*Ballard Design’s SACHA Mirror, shown here, was placed just off the window and helps add dazzle and daylight to this dining room!

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Staging a Basement, Creating a Family Room THAT SELLS!

When it comes to staging your house for market, the more livable, finished space you can show a buyer, the better! And when it came to this basement…it wasn’t exactly the kind of space that would have a buyer “oohing and ahhing!” But we changed all that, and as a result, this listing had multiple offers within days and sold over list price!

In this case, low ceilings, dated paneling, and a cold tile floor were major turn-offs. With a couple of easy, low-cost fixes, however, this basement was easily transformed into a bright and cheery family room in no time!

I first tied it all together by painting the walls, doors, trim, and paneling a nice creamy shade of antique white. This was the best color choice to make the room seem much larger and more open, and to brighten it up since there were no windows. Next, I painted the ceiling and cleaned up the fireplace using a baking soda solution and metal brush.

After giving the tile floors a good scrub, I warmed them up with an inexpensive sisal area rug, then layered that with a faux-animal hide I cut out in the shape of a cowhide rug using a couple of yards of faux-fur found on clearance.

To add visual square footage, the sofa and chair were arranged on the diagonal. Not only does this layout open up the space, but it also draws the eye directly to the fireplace.

Lighting is especially important in rooms like this where there is no natural lighting to be had, so a floor lamp and table lamp were also placed on the diagonal to light up the furthest points of the room.

A glass top coffee table helps reflect the light and keeps the space looking open and airy, while silk greenery as well as black & white artwork placed over the fireplace, help draw the buyer’s eye around the room and make it feel more homey.

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While everyone knows that the square footage of a property is an important part of the home buying decision, very few sellers really take the visible square-footage of their home into consideration.

But what exactly is ‘visual square footage’ and why is it so important? In laymen terms, visual square footage is the perceived size of a home based on how large the space looks/feels when you walk in. For instance, I’ve seen many homes 1000 feet or less look and feel massive, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve seen homes I was expecting to be huge seem incredibly small by comparison!

The bottom line when selling your home is that the majority of potential buyers want space! Whether they are moving up or downsizing, most people aren’t looking for cramped quarters, regardless of the actual measurements of a home. They want to feel as if they have enough room to comfortably live in the space. This is where the idea behind creating ‘visual square footage’ comes in. That is to say, making a home look and feel open, spacious, and inviting, no matter the measurements.

This living room staged in one of my latest workshops conducted in Springfield, Illinois, is a great example of how visual square footage can effect the perception of a room. At first glance, this space felt much smaller than it really was due to having far too many furnishings and an unapproachable layout. By editing the furnishings and accessories, opening up the drapes to flood the room with natural light which also expanded the view, and rearranging the furniture to give it a more open layout, the visual square footage of this living area quite literally doubled in size!

While technically, the actual size of the room has not changed…the feeling of a larger and much more livable space has been created! We used the excess furnishings/accessories in other areas of the home that were lacking, which gave the home the added benefit of creating a sense of continuity between rooms, thus adding to the feeling of a larger house!

If creating visual square footage to a room is your goal, here are a few easy tips to help get you there!

1) Remove any area rugs over carpeting…area rugs over carpeting not only make a potential buyer wonder what you might be hiding, they also break up the layout of the room, thus making it feel much smaller.

2) Edit furnishings…by removing any unnecessary pieces while still showing buyers livable space, you are essentially creating the sense of a larger room!

3) Bring in as much light as possible…including natural light and lamps/overheads. Dark rooms tend to feel cave-like, thus making them feel much more cramped and a lot smaller.

4) Create a sense of continuity…which will make the room-to-room flow of the house much easier, thus making it feel more expansive. This can be easily achieved by breaking up matching furnishings and using them between rooms.

5) Minimize the paint scheme…and choose one main color that can easily flow between connecting spaces rather than painting every room a different color. This will further emphasize the continuity between rooms, thus making the entire home feel much larger.

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Why Staging Your Home for Market DOES Matter!

I just spoke with a homeowner yesterday who contacted me to schedule a consultation. Her home has been sitting on the market since January without even a nibble, and they have already dropped the price $30K. She said she didn’t call me in sooner because her husband told her, “Staging doesn’t matter.”


After a little research, her significant other had concluded that pricing, location, and features were all a potential buyer was really concerned about. And while I do agree that all of those definitely do play a factor, what about the first impression a house makes on that potential buyer? Or how the home feels? Is that first step in the front door inviting, or is it one big, ugly turn off? And when there is so much to look at in a home that has not been staged to sell, can that buyer even see the updates and positive features beyond that menagerie of chaos and clutter?

There is a Realtor I have worked for the past decade. I get a lot of business from him and we get along famously. Unfortunately, in all this time, only once has he called me in to stage a listing for him prior to it going on the market. Otherwise, I am always what might otherwise be considered, a ‘last resort’…you know, the person he calls in to work a miracle just before he’s about to lose the listing. And do you want to know something? Every single listing I have ever staged for him has sold in 30-days or less. Many of them within days or weeks. But in his mind, “Staging doesn’t matter.” Unless, of course, he is about to lose the listing.

Go figure.

If anyone out there can look at these Before and After photos and honestly tell me, “Staging doesn’t matter,” I’m gonna hang it all up tomorrow.  I’m definitely in the wrong business.  FYI – The house below sold for full price AFTER staging but BEFORE it officially went on the market!


Photos are the Property of Home Staging Expert and Center Stage Home, Inc.
Photos may not be re-printed without permission.

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The Perfect Dining Table for Staging!

Ballard Designs \”Round Party Table\”

Looking for the perfect dining room table for staging? Ballard Designs “Terrific Table” might fit your needs! Easy to transport, sets up quickly, can be dressed up or down, and looks amazing! Likewise, their “Round Party Table” is both sturdy and folds down with little effort so you can slide it into the back of your trunk or SUV and drive it right on over to your next listing.

I own several of these in different sizes, and with the many options they offer in table covers, they really can be worked into any design. These tables make ideal staging props and are a great solution for the homeowner who needs to change their formal dining room back into a formal dining room, those who just never invested in a table at all, or that vacant listing you are staging on a budget.

Any way you slice it, these reasonably priced tables are a great investment and one of my favorite finds!

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The ‘Partially Staged’ Vacant Home

Glass Pedestal Dining ONE

*Home Staged by Lori Matzke. Photo Property of Lori Matzke and Center Stage Home.

When I started in the Home Staging Business, the most frustrating aspect for me was that for every three inquiries I would get, two of them were for vacant listings. At the time, I did not offer furniture rental since I had absolutely no furniture to rent! It was an expensive undertaking for me with little to no profit, as renting furnishings ate up most of the budget for my clients.

That’s when I came up with my ‘Partially Staged’ Vacant Home Services. I realized quite early on that a home did not need to be shown fully-furnished to make a positive impact. The key is to add enough main pieces to give potential buyers a form of reference to show how their furnishings might fit, along with thoughtfully placed accessories to warm up the rooms and keep the buyer’s eye moving through the space.

For sellers on a tight budget, I recommend putting your money into the actual space. Fresh paint, updated lighting and hardware, new flooring, etc. are vital in preparing your home to sell. In other words…you can’t hide a run-down home behind a rented sofa. If it’s going to be either one or the other and you can’t do both, you definitely want to spend the money on making the house as presentable as possible before even considering adding furnishings to show. But if you’re simply budget conscious and the house is in great condition, the ‘Partially Staged’ vacant home is definitely a great, low cost alternative and offers a lot of bang for your buck!

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