Sprucing up a home before putting it on the market is hardly a new idea. Most of us have been through the process of repainting walls, replacing carpets, scouring kitchens and bathrooms and meticulously manicuring the yard.

Today, many home sellers are going a step farther: hiring an expert to come in and set the stage, to make their homes more visually and emotionally appealing to buyers. Staging professionals are like personal trainers...for the home. These home makeover artists have become increasingly popular as buyers have become more discriminating – perhaps due to a wealth of decorating programs on television.

Stagers usually have a background in interior design and they have the ability to look at your home objectively, without the emotional attachments that may color your own judgment.

To make a home feel more spacious, they often begin by removing some furniture and rearranging remaining pieces more attractively. If the furniture is outdated or incorrectly sized to the room, some stagers will go so fa as to lend homeowners more suitable pieces.

Counters, dressers and end tables are also de-cluttered. Personal collections and photos are limited. Unique collections can distract buyers, causing them to notice the home’s contents more than its features. Family photos may make it harder for buyers to picture themselves in the home. Because storage is always an important issue, they also clean out and organize cabinets, closets, storerooms and garages.

To make the home feel airy, stagers may remove heavy window coverings, open blinds and suggest repainting walls in lighter, neutral colors. To make it brighter, they might bring in additional lamps or add rope lighting behind molding or under upper cabinets.

Stagers may add pizzazz with new bedspreads, slipcovers, accent pillows, colorful towels and area rugs. Some lend homeowners attractive artwork, accent pieces and live plants. No detail is overlooked . . . whether it’s a new doorknob and a seasonal wreath on the front door, updated faucets and hardware in the kitchen, an arrangement of candles in the bathroom or a bouquet of fresh flowers on the dining room table.

The before and after views shown here provide a vivid example of the difference staging can ma

Existing furniture has been angled to create interest and emphasize the fireplace. A baker’s rack replaces a country-style shelf unit and accessories have been regrouped and supplemented.

This picture shows a complete transformation with a roomful of new furnishings, accessories, plants and candles.

Steps Deb Took

Deb Kirchner, Home Furnishings Director for Mulhall’s Nursery in Omaha, Nebraska created two degrees of staging in this home.

“My first objective was to rearrange the major pieces of furniture,” Deb recalls. “ Most people have their furniture squared off. It’s much more interesting to angle them around a focal point – in this case, the fireplace.

“To create a more comfortable feeling, I added a coffee table in front of the couch. I removed a floral arrangement that needed to be updated. That’s the kind of thing people have around so long that they don’t even see it any more. And it demonstrates the advantages of having a new eye come in and see what needs to be changed.

“I also replaced the country-style shelf unit with a baker’s rack, which coordinated better with the rest of the home. As is often the case, the homeowners had been updating rooms one at a time. So the rest of the home had a warm Mediterranean feel.

“After demonstrating the impact of these minimal changes, I pulled out all of the stops. I brought in the same reds, yellows and blacks found in other rooms. First, I added a tailored, yellow leather sectional. Then I added a red floral cuddle chair, a new rug, different end tables, artwork, and an ornate black screen – to hide the television set.

“My final step was to bring more warmth into the room. I accomplished this with lovely lighting, plants, unique accessories, candles and potpourri. I can’t overemphasize how important attractive lighting and pleasant scents are when you’re selling a home. And unique accessories, properly placed, bring personality to a home.”

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