Home Staging Ideas You Won’t Hear About on HGTV

Right. This doesn’t look like the homes you see staged on HGTV. Please read on to find out why some of their home staging ideas suck and then some practical tips that the professionals adhere to.

Below is more like how a “staged” home should look, IMO.

Hint: And that is neat, stylish, pulled together, and like somebody actually lives there?


0514_FEA_Susan-Greenleaf_LonnyThe home of Susan Greenleaf – Lonny Mag

Do you remember in the not-too-distant past, a time when we sold our homes without a home stager? Then, someone got the idea that they could start a business helping people fix up their homes for resale. It IS a great idea. It IS a great service, but here’s what some people don’t realize.





You are going to get it ALL back and then some, in the back-end.

If you do it right.



Oh, and just so you know, per my HGTV rant about the ways they mislead LIE to us, you cannot get your home ready for resale with only $2000. That is pure fantasy. (I know that you already realize that.)


I don’t even like HOW their homes look which is bland, boring, and often sterile. Plus, some of their advice, quite frankly, makes me wanna throw something really heavy at my TV.

So, before I get into what you need to do, I’m going to remind you of some of the nonsense we are subjected to with alarming frequency.


(home staging ideas you need to steer clear of )

  • make it completely devoid of any and all personality because we don’t want it conflicting with our buyer’s personality.  Please remember. Buyers are very dumb and won’t be able to see past your crap to be able to imagine their own crap in what might be their new home.
  • do not have ANY photos of yourself, your mom, your dad, your kids and especially your pets. That way, they can tell all their friends what a cold unfeeling bitch you are.
  • be sure to put up one of these cheap [and cheap looking], boring, generic black chandeliers. These need to go in every single dining room that’s staged or you will TURN OFF the buyers! (yawn…)



  • A popular HGTV designer actually said this regarding a “clever” solution for a cheap window treatment idea. [I am pos. that they gave her a date rape drug before she wrote this]

“Here’s a trick:



First, apply a hook-and-loop fastener to the placemats and attach them in a row to a basic curtain rod. Now that the placemats are attached to the curtain rods, pin them together at the bottom, and you’ll have a stylish valance that costs about $12″



How adorable! Buyers absolutely love this shit! And it’s going to look so fabulous with the new stainless steel appliances, graaaaanite counter tops, and cat-puke-beige walls.

However, beware, because you must not be too “taste specific.” Although, exceedingly tacky is okay, I guess.

Gawd. I must stop this!

Sorry. I did not intend to make this another HGTV bash, but blimey, they are really asking for it!

Alright, let’s get serious now. :]

Do you need to hire a professional stager?


Probably, but not necessarily. First you have to hire a KILLER REALTOR. and I mean one who sleeps with her cell phone surgically attached to her ear. We had one of those and I can’t recommend her highly enough. If you live anywhere near Northern Westchester County, New York and need to sell your home, call Angela Kessel.

She’s pretty and really smart and she will sell your place in about two [sometimes it’s three] seconds and get the highest dollar the current market will allow. She returns your emails, even before you hit send. She made the entire process as easy and uncomplicated as could be. HOWEVER. We listened to everything she told us and did what we were told to do!

You can get a lot of FREE HOME STAGING ADVICE from your professional realtor.



again, you have to LISTEN.

Sorry, if I sound like a patronizing first grade teacher, however, I have seen and heard too much and won’t mention any names but the first rule in home selling IS:



I know that you love it. I know that the reason you need to sell may be something that’s caused you pain. I know, I know, I know… You raised your kids there. You have 20 years of intense memories and you’ve fixed it up so cute. However, if you’ve lived in your home for more than 2 years, you cannot possibly be objective. Not, even me! No one is!

You must detach and unhook.

Go to therapy if you must. I am looking out for your pocket-book here. And your emotions are possibly going to render it penniless. Please don’t do that. Get great advice and follow it to the letter.

In that vein, I am going to channel Angela and some other wonderful designers, stagers and realtors I have spoken with and learned from over the years and give you a list of what you can and MUST do to get top dollar for your home. And yes, most of this you are not going to hear on HGTV or in many other places either. And some of it is going to feel very scary, but just because it feels scary doesn’t mean it will hurt you. :]

  •  Assess the comps and come up with a FAIR MARKET VALUE for your home. It doesn’t matter how much you think you NEED or thought you could get 8 years ago. It is not 8 years ago. It is now and you have to price your home right, or it’s just going to sit there and go nowhere and you do not want that. It is death. If anything, you want to price it slightly below market value. If it’s truly a gem, [and it’s going to be] peeps are going to be clawing at each other to get a shot at owning this beauty.  And that price is going to go nowhere but UP!
  •  Come up with a reasonable plan for improvements that will yield the highest return.  Now, you can do the work yourself, but I recommend hiring a professional for most of this. This is where a home stager can be very useful. She can coordinate all of it, but please know that this is not inexpensive. [however, most likely worth it]

The more you can do yourself of the grunt work, the more you will save. Therefore, here goes with TEN+ Home Staging Ideas for the Serious Seller

  • Clean
  • Clear Out, Throw away and store as much as possible, OFFSITE. You want to create the illusion of space and that there’s plenty, plenty room for all of the new owners crap. If they come and see drawers and closets bulging at the seams, they are going to assume that this house lacks storage. And we can’t have that!
  • Clean
  • and keep cleaning. Make them windows sparkle like nobody’s business.
  • It is okay to have NO WINDOW TREATMENTS. [please, please… nothing tacky. If you don’t know if it’s tacky or not, please get professional advice on this.]
  • Clean
  • Repair everything that needs to be fixed. everything.
  • If you have a basement, be sure that it is Radon compliant and FREE OF MOLD!

Do you have any idea how many homes I go into that have musty smelling basements? Almost all of them! This is so basic and yet, it still confounds me.

  • Clean
  • PAINT—EVERYTHING.  Yes, you must, but if you don’t know what colors to use, then hire a professional for help with that.
  • Clean
  • If you have hardwood floors under wall-to-wall carpeting then get rid of the wall-to-wall
  • Any wall-to-wall that must stay must either be replaced or cleaned if soiled
  • refinish hardwood floors if necessary.


For a darkish color with a touch of red, but not too much red, please try Minwax

ENGLISH CHESTNUT. It’s my new go-too color.

For a lighter, warm stain, golden oak is very pretty, too.

Please remember to use oil-based poly, but you will have to go away for a few days.


Yes, what is it? :]

You mean we have to do all of this stuff like we should have done for ourselves but now we can’t even enjoy it– because it’s “not your home anymore?” AND, they might not even like what we’ve done, so shouldn’t we just let them do it themselves, after they’ve bought the place?

That’s a very good question. Thank you, however, the answer is an emphatic NO!


Because buyers want MOVE-IN READY! This is fact.  Even IF they change everything, they want it to look like it doesn’t NEED to be changed AND they want it to be gorgeous. And you are going to get some badass advice and they ARE going to love it and they are going to want to stay in it for a very long time!

Of course, you can never please everyone, however…

Look. The vast majority of people don’t even have one clue what they love until they see it. Some people do, but most do not. So, please rest easy. I want you to make gobs and gobs of money. Maybe it’ll help if you think of yourself as a FLIPPER instead of a SELLER. You are living in a fixer-upper, even if you don’t see it that way. And you’re going to make  it into something very special and will make a tidy profit. In other words, you’re going to LOVE IT AND LIST IT!

Alright. That’s enough for today… More home staging ideas coming soon!

Next, I am going to give you some home staging ideas that will further help make your home warm and inviting and full of YOUR personality.

What? Don’t buyers have a problem seeing THEMSELVES in YOUR home if there’s too much of YOU, in it? [eyes rolling]

No. Just put up lots of mirrors. They’ll see plenty of themselves. ;]

I think that buyers want to buy a place based on how it makes them FEEL. Yes, a huge part of that is visual, but another component is that they want a place that feels loved, taken care of and welcoming. THAT is what they want! Not some sterile, neutered, stripped-down, cold impersonal dwelling. They are buying a HOME and it needs to be HOMEY!


I am going to close with something to prove my point.


About 20 months ago, a local newspaper asked me to come in and help out a darling young family that was trying to sell their modest townhouse in an expensive county.

THIS is how their realtor told them to “stage” their dining room. Poor people. They DID have some lovely artwork on the walls and were told to remove it ALL. WTF??? Oh, I could comment foaming diarrhea here, because there is NOTHING that is right. It’s a study in exactly what NOT to do in every aspect there is! And yes, the “fireplace” is a permanent fixture and it sticks out a good three feet into the room.


 The plastic on the air-conditioner is a nice touch, don’t you think?


 BTW, the home DID sell six months later, however, it was on the market for 18 months.


That’s too long. More coming soon, but pleeeease, don’t forget to clean, clean, clean!!! I don’t care if you live next to a toxic waste factory. Buyers want to live in an easy-to-maintain, carefree home. Even if it’s not, you must make them believe that it is.


And one last thing.


No one ever seems to mention this one obvious fact. If you’re a SELLER, that means that at some point, YOU were a BUYER.

I’ll let you chew on that and please let me know what you think!



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52 Responses

  1. We are in the process of preparing our home for sale. I got a chuckle from your article and you hit the nail on the head. This is the only home we have ever owned so we definitely needed the advise, because it can indeed be personal. I needed to hear that this home is not mine anymore…starting now. And yes this is the home we raised our children in. I am an artist and I’ve been toning everything down to neutral. My friends come over and are disappointed that my artistic touches are gone, but as you say, I knew the colors etc needed to appeal to everyone. Thanks for the advise. Question, I did remove personal family photos and all my art and replaced it with enlarged local scenery on canvas (we live in the mountains), but they are in color. Will that be a turn off?

  2. We are preparing our home for sale, and really needed a good laugh. Thanks so much for your HGTV home staging blog!

  3. This is the first blog I’ve ever followed — but your posts are hysterical and I am also a “Laurel” — how could I resist!?

    1. Hi Laurel!

      I have met either in person or online dozens of Laurels in my lifetime. And yet, other Laurels say that it’s very rare for them. Not sure why, except that I attract other Laurels!

      I feel a certain sisterhood for those who share a lifetime of wishing that the letter N would dry up and blow away. lol No offense to the LaureNs of the world, it’s a lovely name, but it doesn’t belong to us! xoxo

      1. “Meeting” you brings my list of “Laurels” to 4 — funny that you have run into dozens! And yes — while Lauren is a beautiful name, it is not ours — nor is LaurA, which I have been called at least a million times! (Exaggerate? Me?? Never!!)

  4. We watch all the shows on TV and see the beautiful staging that’s done. Our question is do they remove the furniture or do the people keep the furniture? Thanks

    1. Hi Mrs. R,

      Everything you see on TV is fake. It looks to me like they use the same crap over and over. I doubt they get to keep it unless it’s something permanent.

  5. I know its 2 years old, but fantastic article! I’m a real estate consultant and you are spot on that sellers NEED TO CLEAN! I can’t even emphasize that enough. If you really can’t do anything else, you can clean and get rid of visual clutter. SO many homes are put on the market filthy and I just don’t get it!! Obviously you do and I really wish more agents would. LOVE your blog!!

  6. I am still laughing. But all so true!! I have been teaching a home staging certification class for 10 years and I totally agree with everything. Thanks for making the truth so entertaining. I shared it everywhere.

  7. If the listing realtor can do the staging, more power to them.
    Professional home stagers do an awesome, necessary service. Just saying.

    1. Hi C,

      I hope that you don’t think that I am inferring that realtors actually do the staging. Oh no, not at all! But yes, they absolutely might make some suggestions. And that is for people not wanting to hire a pro. I think that most people should hire a pro, but the premise of this article is to keep a home personal and full of life; not some generic, sterile dwelling.

  8. What a great post Laurel! I have a love hate relationship with the real estate liftout in the Saturday paper. Where I live it is mostly high end homes that advertise because it is just so expensive to buy the print space and whilst I love looking at the high end homes for sale it annoys the heck out of me that they have all been stripped of their character. The furniture has come out of a rental warehouse and there are no personal effects on display which makes for a house totally without a soul. So many of the homes are clones of each other and if I wait long enough I will see the same artworks or furniture piece pop up in another house.

  9. Hi Laurel:

    Thank God. Sensible advice on staging/selling a home! I saw a NYT article recently about spending $20,000+ to stage a home by basically getting rid of everything! As you would say, WTF?

    I stumbled across your website through the Restoration Hardware post (which was brilliant). I’ve been saying that about RH for a while now myself. They like to sell what I call “40-footers”. Looks great from 40 feet away until you get up close and realize the only true thing about the chair is the fairly decent Belgian Linen fabric and the over-stuffed cushion seat. The “wood” frame? Not so much.

    I’m not a designer, but love interior design and truly respect what designers do. I live in Atlanta and have learned much from designer friends. I think I’ve learned well as you and I are most decidedly on the same page! (I, too, hate granite…see what I mean?) Love your blog and your sense of humor!

  10. This is so true! My mom has been a realtor in my area, Norco, California since 1976! We have seen some BAD ideas out there! My son has taken over her business and we still see these stripped down impersonal houses! He sold my home in Corona, California in 6 days. It was decorated tastefully and personally and was definitely clean and Move-in-ready! However, the woman who bought it went through the house telling my son (who she knew was the seller’s son) and told him everything she was going to change! She wanted MY house though because she could move right in!

  11. My husband always gets very nervous when I start to Clean, clean, clean as he knows

    we are about to sell the house.

    He has no say when or where we move ( I know you are feeling sorry for him,

    now) but, by the same token he doesn’t have to lift a finger to help. He walks into the

    ‘new’ house when the removal men have gone, just carrying his car keys.

    At our present home, the removal men saw it before he did.

    If he chose where we were going to live he’d just choose the house with the biggest

    wide screen TV even if it was on a motorway.

    It works for us.

    I recommend flowers coming from every orifice, when selling, actually, even when

    you’re not.

    Spray a little polish into the air. (sorry ozone), something I do if the vicar is coming to

    Tea or if I am pretending to have cleaned, when really I have been lying on the sofa

    with a big bar of chocolate & a good book.

    I also tell my husband to sit tidily when potential purchasers come to view. A concept

    he has failed to grasp.

    I love walking into a house to buy that hasn’t been ‘done’ or staged because the

    ability to ‘see past it’, is one of the most exciting things, in the buying process. I have

    never lived in a house that I haven’t ripped to shreds, to make it my own. It amazes

    me how people wanting to sell don’t even bother to stage & in England it is not

    uncommon when viewing to see mens underpants drying on the radiator. ( Don’t all

    rush over here, now).

    Such fun, as always, Laurel ! You make Good Advice into a 10 minute sit-com. I think a book should be next !

  12. Thanks for the great post!
    I’ll be retiring in 5 years and have begun the process of “redecorating for sale”. Gone are the venetian plaster walls in grey and gunmetal, the bathroom is being redone to feature modernised open spaces with a walk-in shower.
    Gone is the perfectly functional and modern but too dark kitchen. The garden is being replanted, and a sunroom will be added to the large terrace.
    Just the addition of the sunroom will pay for all of the other renovations at resale, and I will still have time to enjoy the new spaces!
    Last time I had the place on the market the potential buyers loved it but thought that it was too small so this time I have listened. As you have mentioned above, staging is very important to this process and goes way beyond just simple repairs and cleaning.

  13. Well all I have to say is thank you not every body follow your advices. I bought two houses for a steal because the others potential buyers couldn’t see past the dust, the family photos and the 5 litter boxes in one room :)))

  14. I absolutely HATE tablecloths, placemats and runners on a table unless you are about to sit down to eat. It offends me. For staging I would use tasteful, ie. Cloth placemats in an ecru color with matching napkins. I was the manager of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the Department of State in Washington, DC. I have seen many table scapes. If you are going for classic table dressing, that doesn’t offend anyone’s taste, ecru is your choice. It’s a very, very lite yellowish-creamy shade.

    Just found your post and have been reading since 5:00am, it is now 8:56am.

    Love your humor and sarcasm. You say what we are thinking. You are bold and brassy, my kind of people!

    Keep up the good work.

  15. Hi Laurel, I am a house flipper and I always stage my houses. Your comments are on target. No one wants to see mold in the shower, crumbs and dog fur on the pantry floor or ancient coats stuffed into an overfull coat closet. Also, if you have a cat, clean the dang cat box everyday and before a showing!! (If you have these problems and can’t sell your house, call a discount buyer like myself, as we take on even hoarder houses with gusto!) I stage all of our houses and they sell very quickly. They aren’t my personal home, but I try to make them FEEL like a personal home. A lovely throw on the sofa, an antique planter with a lush plant, color that carries throughout the house in subtle suggestions from room to room and lots of light! The right price, decluttered and clean, and inviting rooms sell houses.

    1. Hi Claudia,

      I just did two other posts about people selling their homes and the mistakes they make. Originally, I was going to include a place which had and I’m not kidding, about 5 cat litter boxes in one room. I thought better of it because they are obviously lower income people but still… not having a lot of money doesn’t mean the place has to look like that! Thanks for your lovely comment!

  16. Thanks. You are right! We bought our house here 18 months ago. Loved it straight away; the view, the openness and the fact that it felt like someone had loved it. It had those plastic stick on words in living, kitchen and bedrooms. You know “dance like nobody is watching”, “Always kiss before you go to sleep”. The bedrooms were painted with multicoloured stripes. The living room had a bright lime green wall with a plastic stick on tree and photos on the branches. NOT my idea of decor at all! BUT it was very clean and it felt loved. Somebody had spent a lot of time creating their home. You could feel that. So we bought it.

    We have since stripped everything back, pulled up carpets, painted all the walls white and the ceiling in the living/dining/kitchen room white because it was pine. Upcycled the kitchen and put our stamp on it. It is turning into our very much loved home. I watch those house programs here in Australia and cringe at the ideas they try to sell us. We put our previous house on the market and it sold 3 days later at the price we wanted. We were lucky to have fantastic tenants who made it look good too. But we had always kept it in good condition, never let it need painting or mending. I’m putting you on Pinterest. X Jenny

    1. Thanks so much Jenny! Those shows are written for the masses obviously. I guess for some people what they’re doing is certainly better than what they have. But still… Sounds like your new home is fantastic!

  17. Hi Laurel,

    Just saw you on Pinterest and had to sign up. You crack me up…will look forward to reading all your posts and may need to get some advice for wall colors throughout my house. Not in the mood to go through the process but would be nice to have some input from your analytic brain on cream/white walls.

    Take care,

    Elizabeth Green

  18. Laurel Bern,

    You are a hoot, and spot on. I’m a realtor of many years, from Boston to Florida.

    Thank you for all your information and the personal time that you dedicated to this site.


  19. Ha ha ha! You are a hoot! I could read just for your humor.

    You should talk to Laurie Laizure. She is dreaming of a website that kind of bashes the DIY home projects you see everywhere. You two could make a great team on that.

      1. It seems that you’re closing in on 18 by now, Laurel ~ please don’t lose that girlish charm! We agree on so much regarding home staging ideas and misconceptions. (AND not a HGTV fan!) I’ve been staging investment properties for myself and for clients for 20 years, and have bucked the conventional wisdom as well. I never agreed with the idea of depersonalizing a home; just be very selective about which pictures and items to display. They should always convey a sense of peace, family and happiness. And yes… #1 to sell a home is make sure it is clean, and #2 free of clutter! Just discovered your website today, and I’m bookmarking it in my “favorites list!”

        1. Yes, my birthday was in February. I’m 18 now. 😉 Ironically, was farrrrrr more serious when I was really 18.
          Thanks for stopping by and corroborating my findings. I sent the post to our realtor (the one with the cell phone surgically attached to her ear) and she loved it too. She has all of her clients read it who are resistant to ahem… certain necessary changes!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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