Interior Design

How to Stage Your Home so You Can Enjoy Living in It Now, but Also Be Ready to Sell at Anytime

Staging homes has been part of my real estate practice for the last 17 years. It became especially relevant after the last economic downturn. When it was a Buyers’ market, with much inventory for Buyers to choose from, real estate became a beauty contest and a price war. I was business partners with my Mom at the time, and we started staging homes to help them show better in online photography and in person. It took a little bit of extra work and investment, but it paid off. We helped our Sellers get offers and deals done when very few escrows were closing. Fortunately, like everything in life, things changed and got better, and the market became more balanced for a brief moment before the pendulum swung again and went back to a prosperous Sellers’ market again. But the results we saw from our staging efforts stuck with me. I have been staging every single one of my listings since then.

My garage is crammed with my staging inventory, and helping clients transform their home prior to putting it on the market is one of my favorite parts of the business. I enjoy the process, and the results, but one of the most unexpected pleasures is the reaction from my clients. Even the ones who are somewhat hesitant or resistant in the beginning say they wish they had staged their home a long time ago, and they really enjoy living in their homes in a new way. Sometimes when those Seller clients become Buyer clients, I bless them with the gift of a staging consultation for setting up their new home. Not everyone needs it. Clearly, there are clients who are naturally talented at interior design and have a knack for it, but I can honestly say that the majority of people do not. Myself included. I have to work really hard at it, but I have learned so many essentials of staging along the way that I have become good at it. Since we are all at home currently, and many people are engaging in home improvements to fill their downtime and take advantage of this season, why not try staging your home and see how you like it? I would definitely suggest starting with one room at a time so it is less overwhelming. Here are some basic steps to get you going:

Consider Flooring Choices

This is an essential starting point, and obviously your budget will impact what you are able to accomplish. From my experience, it is almost always worth the investment. Your home is one of the largest investments you have, and keeping it up to date will help protect and preserve the value.  You can also break projects down and do them over time. Flooring is probably the most expensive thing to change, besides a kitchen or bathroom renovation or new roof. Sometimes, just deep-cleaning grout, shampooing carpets, and refinishing wood floors can go a long way. Sometimes that is not enough, especially if your flooring is out-of-date and/or showing signs of age. If you are going to go to the trouble of replacing floors, make sure the new floor you choose will have longevity and stand the test of time. Hardwood is always a classic choice that will not go out of style, and it can be refinished in time if needed. However, here in our humid island climate on Kauai, it may not always be the best choice. In recent years, product development and innovation have brought forth some very cool choices in Luxury Vinyl Plank, which is one of my favorites.  Quality DOES matter though. For LVP, I like a product that has a cork underlayment. It is waterproof and feels great underfoot. It also helps hide any imperfection in the subflooring if you live in an older home. Don’t be afraid to consult with an expert to guide you with this process.

Lifeproof Luxury Vinyl Plank flooring is pictured above. It is durable and waterproof, and feels good underfoot.

Evaluate Paint

Paint is a relatively inexpensive fix and is easy to do yourself if you desire. I personally love painting because it gives me instant gratification to see the results. It is important, however, to have it look good, so be sure your cut in lines are crisp and not sloppy. Beginners should be sure to tape off appropriately to achieve this. There are some amazing video tutorials on YouTube. For the last several years, monochromatic schemes have been popular. Greige is a popular choice for walls. When combined with white trim, it really pops. One of my favorite shades is Sherwin Williams “Agreeable Gray.” It has just the right amount of pigment without being too dark.

Sherwin Williams “Agreeable Gray” was freshly painted on the walls in this island home before we listed it.

Look at Your Plumbing Fixtures and Lighting

First of all, make sure your fixtures aren’t rusty. If they are, you should replace them. It is really nice to have a consistent theme throughout the house, including plumbing fixtures, towel bars, door handles, cabinet hardware, and lighting fixtures. Depending on the style and architecture of your home, finishes like Oil-rubbed bronze, Satin Nickel or Chrome can be complimentary. Look to Pinterest again for some inspiration. We are not seeing a lot of Brass in contemporary design, although a more weathered looking gold can be fun when mixed with more modern colors, like gray or navy. Do things if stages if needed. You can shop around online for good values. I actually have a client who spray painted all of her brass fixtures to look oil-rubbed bronze in her million-dollar view home, and you never would have known.

This photo shows how updated appliances, hardware, fixtures, and lighting can make a room “pop.” It is like the jewelry of your home.

Assess Your Furniture Placement

Look around the room. How much furniture is in the room? Usually too much. When it comes to staging, less is more. Spaces feel larger and have a better feeling when they are not over-crowded. Be honest. Look at pictures in home design magazines or on Pinterest for inspiration and a gauge. Sometimes, moving furniture can be a big help. Try not to block windows or pathways. There are some interesting philosophies on Feng Shui to explore and read about that can be helpful.

Furniture placement that invites gathering lends to a cozy feel in your home.

De-Clutter and Minimize

Sometimes it is helpful to take everything down and start fresh. Take all art off of walls, items off of tables, and place it in boxes or bins somewhere you can access it and carefully choose what you put back into your space. Give yourself a blank canvas to work with. The first time I staged my personal residence to sell, I boxed a lot of things up and put them in storage. We decided to take our house off the market after having a baby. After having our stuff in storage for a year, I realized that there was a lot of stuff I didn’t really miss or need. I ended up having my first and only garage sale and got rid of most of it. I don’t miss any of it!  To start off, maybe just store some stuff in your garage or attic and see how you feel about it being “gone” 6 months later. Using this two-step approach can ease anxiety about parting with your beloved possessions and works especially well in your closet.

Tabletops that are uncluttered and walls with intentional and minimal artwork are relaxing.

Cluster Favorite Things in Threes & Decorate

Now that you have a blank canvas, you can begin putting some warmth and personality back into your space. I learned the law of threes from a professional stager who was also a merchandiser for a major retail store. Group decorative items on a tabletop in threes, of varying heights. This may be a plant, a candle and a picture frame, for example. Freshen up rugs, pillows and throws, if needed. Try to have a consistent color scheme throughout the room. You will probably have more items to work with than you need. You can keep extra décor for later use, or you can donate or sell to someone who will really appreciate it. One of the best pieces of advice I adhere to when it comes to keeping clutter out of your life is to not hold onto something because someone you love gave it to you. Just because you love your dear Grandmother, you do not need to hold onto the ceramic knickknack she picked out for you. Take a photo of it if you must, but memories are internal and will always stay with you. Don’t feel guilty, and do not be afraid. Go ahead and live your life the best you can, but don’t worry about what others think. This may seem like contrary advice to staging your home, which sounds like something you may be doing for others, but in actuality, you will feel so great to have a fresh and renewed space, and enjoy being home to the max.

This photo shows the use of pillows and blankets tied into the artwork to add energy to the room. Tabletop decor in clusters of three are aesthetically pleasing.

As I mentioned above, staging is one of my favorite components of real estate, besides the people I am blessed to work with. I invite you to try some of these ideas in your home to help maximize the enjoyment of your space. It is also naturally part of the package of listing and marketing services that we offer our clients. It is never too early to begin preparing your house for the market – We find it takes most people anywhere from 30-90 days to get their home in optimum selling condition. I am happy to offer a complimentary staging consultation to any of our prospective clients. We are here to guide and advise. Call or email to set something up. 808.652.6212 /


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Beth Thoma Robinson, R(B)

April 23, 2020

Great suggestions, Brenna! I have started giving my clients Marie Kondoʻs book if they are having a hard time with de-clutter and minimize.

Brenna Harrington

April 23, 2020

> Thanks, Beth! I love that book – that is a great idea. Her series on Netflix has also become quite popular!

Sharib Nichol

April 23, 2020

I contacted him and he did some spiritual work for me. Two days later, my husband came to me and apologized for the wrongs he did and promise never to do it again. Ever since then, everything has returned back to normal. I and my family are living together happily again.. All thanks to Robinson buckler, I suggest you contact him. He will not disappoint you. Contact him now Robinsonbucler@ gmail. com .🙏🙏💓

Alexa Stevens

April 26, 2020

Great advice – and not just to do if you are thinking of selling. De-cluttering your space will alleviate stress you didn’t know you had! Also I think your experience with putting all those extras in storage is great too. I had a similar experience – when you take it out you think you just can’t get rid of those things but did you really miss them?? Thanks for writing this post. Looking forward to seeing Hawaii again…

Brenna Harrington

April 26, 2020


Brenna Harrington

April 26, 2020

> Yes, exactly!! It is freeing for the mind to get rid of the unnecessary. In times like these, you realize even more that what matters the most, is not your things.

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