If you’ve ever wandered into an open house and been so drawn to the home's crisp, clean décor that you felt ready to move right in, you’re not alone. But here’s a dirty little secret: You may have simply fallen for a staging trick. According to the National Association of Realtors, 34 percent of all homes on the market are staged by professionals, who quickly swap colors, furniture, and accent items to make any home look and feel amazing. And the results pay off: Staging brings back a 196 percent rate of return for your investment, says a 2102 survey.
Want to snag that same look for your house? We asked professional home stagers to share their tricks and secrets.
1. COORDINATE WITH YOUR ART.
Your accent pillows should coordinate with the art you have on the walls, says Tiffany Arsenault, certified professional home stager and redesigner with Buyers Desire Home Staging Inc., based in Massachusetts. Arsenault likes to choose two or three colors from the artwork, then she purchases a solid throw pillow from the Burlington Coat Factory (“Before I was a home stager, I would have never thought to go there,” she says) and a patterned pillow from HomeGoods to go with the art.
Go with the 80-20 rule, Arsenault says. So keep the 20 percent of the items that you use 80 percent of the time.
3. CHOOSE THREE COLORS.
The biggest trick to model homes and staged homes is that there’s continuity and flow from room to room, says Julea Joseph, owner of Reinventing Space in Illinois. The way to do that is to follow the rule of threes: Choose three colors, and use all three in every room throughout the house.
For example, if you’re using gray, yellow, and white, then the living room should have gray walls, a light gray couch, yellow throw pillows, and a white rug. In another room, you should have different shades of the same colors (or even the same shades) mixed up throughout the room. “The whole house comes as an entity,” Joseph says. “Everything has to have pretty much the same theme—it can look a little more formal or a little more casual, but it has to have pretty much the same thread.”
4. MAKE EASY UPDATES TO THE KITCHEN.
Give the kitchen a facelift by swapping out the hardware and lacquering the cabinets with a fresh coat of paint, says Mikel Welch, owner of Mikel Welch Designs and the on-air design expert for The Steve Harvey Show. “These two things alone will make a kitchen look completely new and won’t break the bank.”
5. NEUTRALIZE YOUR WALLS
When you see a staged home, you’ll never see a super colorful wall or a colorful piece of large furniture. “You’ll never see a blue sofa in a large home,” Joseph says. That’s because it’s too jarring for the eyes. Instead, use neutral colors for your walls, such as gray, oatmeal, or cream, and save the pops of color for accessories such as your window treatments or small appliances.
6. PACK UP THE ART.
One of the reasons people love open houses is because the homes have such a clean, uncluttered look, with few items on the walls, Joseph says. “The counters are clear, the closets aren’t over-stuffed, there are pretty lines in the carpet because someone recently vacuumed,” she says. Joseph suggests packing up half of your art and putting it into storage or at least in the basement or under the bed.
7. PICK ONE COLOR FOR THE WALLS.
Not sure what color to paint your walls? If you’re struggling, you should commit to a subdued neutral (such as gray or cream) for the whole house. “The sunlight will make each room look different,” Arsenault says. Then, choose one shade darker of that same color for your master bedroom to make it look special, she says.