Staged To Sell

Above interior by Michelle Workman

Staging a great apartment isn’t about adding a few well-chosen pieces of furniture. Instead, it’s about capturing the imagination of buyers who might not realize the true potential before them. “The staging — whether it’s a full replacement of furniture in an empty home, or a reworking of existing furniture — gives buyers a vision of how wonderful the home could be when properly decorated,” says Shii Ann Huang, Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker in Corcoran’s Union Square office. “You’d be amazed at how buyers don’t notice the kitchen needs a renovation, when the right furniture, art and layout enhances the size of the rooms and dazzles the eyes.”

One key to achieving the room-enhancing effect Huang mentions is decluttering. This is arguably the most important step in the staging process, allowing you to notice the architecture of a space and creating a blank slate for adding furniture, art and accessories. Speaking of architecture, you’ll definitely want highlight any interesting features. The easiest way to do so is with color, though you’ll want to be selective in choosing hues. “Keep the tones neutral, but don’t be afraid to accent architectural details with color and tone,” says Laurie Messman, designer and owner of staging company Two Blu Ducks. She mentions using a richer color to emphasize a sleeping alcove, for example.

If you’re staging a small space, it’s likely that you’ll want to choose white paint for the wall. But, not all white paints are created equal. Messman opts for Benjamin Moore’s White Dove. “[It’s] a soft white without a ‘dirty’ cast. Super-white is hash — it really has to do with light and the space, but White Dove works,” she says.

Above, Benjamin Moore’s White Dove on the walls of this dining room.

While we’re on the topic of small spaces, there’s one staging pitfall to definitely avoid: The use of small-scale furniture. “When people have small spaces and they put in small furniture, it feels like a dollhouse. Be careful not to undersize and look at weight,” Messman says. She recommends instead choosing clean-lined pieces that don’t feel heavy, while also erring on the side of using fewer pieces in a room. “It’s better to have less than tiny,” she says.

While decluttering and toning down wall colors are almost universal elements of a beautifully-staged property, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to when it comes time to select furniture and accessories. The ideal look is one that feels authentic to the property — as if an effortlessly tasteful person lives there, rather than appearing like a showroom. (As for the current seller, Huang reiterates an important point: “Remember, staging is not for the seller’s pleasure or comfort. Some sellers dislike having to declutter all their treasure or change their crimson and gold kitchen colors.”)

The right luxury pieces also serve as signals for design-savvy potential buyers who might spend hours scrolling through Instagram feeds. For them, the stylistic potential of a space could be as important as the price. These buyers also have the visual vocabulary to recognize a designer piece, enhancing the true luxury of the property you’re selling. The attention to detail can yield incredible results, particularly for listings that have lingered too long on the market. “There have been times when a property sits on the market for months and then we get the listing, stage it and resell it fast and with a higher price,” Huang says.

Above interior by Kara Smith

Though finding standout designer items can require a little extra legwork, you don’t need many to make an impression in a space. (Also, if you decide to select pieces through Viyet, you can consign them back after your project to recoup some of your costs.) As you browse for furniture and accessories, consider styles that convey the right atmosphere for the right buyer. The historic details in a classic co-op might shine when accented with antiques, while contemporary open concept lofts get just enough edge with the trendier styles of the moment, like industrial-inspired light fixtures and mid-century accent pieces.

While you’re choosing furniture, pay special attention to lighting and artwork. “Chances are good that there’s not a lot of light in a space,” Messman says. Declutter any unattractive lights (like those ubiquitous IKEA torchiere-style floor lamps) that can distract from the space in favor of ones in a style that won’t distract from the space. When it comes to art, it’s less about personal preference and more about scale. “[Art] is often where people will go overboard,” she says. “If it’s ‘you’ all over, the space might not sell — it might be beautiful for an interior, but not for staging.” Instead, select fewer pieces in a larger size. Bigger mirrors are also a great option to use in lieu of art as well.

Taking a thoughtful approach to staging will definitely pay off when the right buyer can visualize themselves in the property. “Staging is all about reaching and attracting the widest possible audience for your home, so a little work and patience will most likely result in a quicker sale with a higher return,” Huang says. What could be better than that?

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