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Styling for sale: 9 expert staging tips

By Mikaela Fowler

Styling a home for sale is a lot different to how you style it for yourself. The following tips and photos are taken from the new coffee table book, Property Stylists of Australia 2020, produced by the International Institute of Home Staging (IIHS).

Image: Styleness

Don’t style to the latest trends
Trends come and go and so it is important to style with items that are as timeless as possible. Select furniture that is neutral and classic with simple lines and then mix it with décor that is on trend, without polarising buying groups.

Ensure the house has a ‘soul’
It’s not only vacant properties that are presented with no furniture and accessories that have a lack of ‘soul’. Sometimes, the way we live means that we think our home is perfectly fine but it lacks ‘soul’, particularly in the eyes of buyers. By a ‘soul’, I mean that feeling you get when you walk into a home and get that comforting, warm all over feeling – the feeling that you would really like to live right here.

Buyers are not just looking for ‘pretty’ when they inspect a property. To ensure a buyer develops an emotional connection, three of the major senses need to be involved. Lovely, but appropriate furniture and accessories are just part of the experience. Creating the right environment with scent, touch and sight are all important to us. Try lighting a scented candle to begin the staging and styling.

Image: Staging Designs

Maximise the space
Less is more when styling to sell. Too much furniture or large oversized furniture can reduce the size of a room and too many accessories can make a space feel cluttered. Appropriately sized furniture needs to be placed so the traffic can flow within the property. Buyers need to feel that there is plenty of room and the traffic flows smoothly. Similarly, it’s great to have beautiful items such as books, vases, flowers, plants and cushions for the buyer to connect to but keep it simple and stylish with beautiful textures, so as not to overcrowd the area.

Stay true to the architectural design and location
When staging a property for sale, it is so important to style it in a way that is sympathetic to the original design of the property. A heritage house in the Hunter Valley will be styled differently to a modern new build beachfront property. The property is different along with the target market, and it needs to be styled accordingly.

This does not mean of course that we only use antique or dark furniture in heritage houses, it simply means we pay a ‘nod’ to the period by using a more classic style that will still appeal to a more modern buyer.

Pay attention to symmetry, proportion and balance
It is quite difficult to cultivate that homely feeling when proportions of furniture and symmetry are out of whack, or if there are too many furniture pieces in the one small room. Symmetry and proportion are important rules to follow so the space doesn’t feel cluttered – or for larger areas, to avoid the space feeling completely empty!

Image: Tweak Home Staging

Style using layers, textures and organic elements
Start with a base and build the layers from there. Layers can be created with flooring, furniture and drapery or a rug, sofa and cushions or coffee table, tray and greenery. Layers are just as important in the lighting options used in a room. They consist of task lighting, ambient lighting and general lighting. These layers help easily explain the function and set up the desired ambience of the room.

Including textures within the layers provides a visual diversity, giving the eye many exciting places to settle. Textures help create the exact feeling you are wanting in each space and are perfect when styling for particular seasons. Light cotton and linens with smooth silks for the summer and chunky knits and plush cosy velvets for the winter.

The final touch is to add elements, and the first one is always greenery. Plants play an essential part of styling. They bring life, colour and texture to the room. By combining organic elements such as wood or shells and adding a metal element, you achieve layers and a diversity of textures in the styling.

Image: Right at Home Staging

Integrate the colours of a space as central source of inspiration for the colour palette applied throughout the room or the story/personality that you are trying to create. A related colour palette partnered with techniques such as layering, or complementing accessories that use textures, shape, colour and visual interest, create a flow-on effect from room to room, and keep all spaces working cohesively together.

Good return on investment
The word ‘investment’ is a very accurate descriptor of how staging and styling to sell should be assessed. That is exactly what it is, not a cost or a price – it is an investment in realising the highest sale price that would be paid by a potential buyer for the property. Spend those staging dollars in the areas that are the primary focus of the potential buyer pool. There are however absolute ‘must do’ areas, in my opinion. These include the master bedroom, living areas, any room or area directly off the front entry (including the entry and home office), dining spaces, patios and decks (especially in the nicer weather months).

Make an emotional connection
This final golden rule is one that can truly make the difference between buyers wanting to buy your home or looking elsewhere. Everyone leads busy lives and more and more buyers want a home to feel like a sanctuary, so the little details matter and are key to making that connection with a buyer.

Think of it like decorations on a cake. The cake may taste delicious but without any decorations the cake will look bare and not as enticing.

The decorations for your home are all the little things, like the decorative cushions on the bed that provide a luxurious, relaxed feeling, reminding people of hotels and holidays. It is the touch of greenery and plants through the home that help to add life into a space. It is the textures and patterns in the soft furnishings and decorative accessories that can provide that homely feel.

It’s the combination of these small details that creates a cohesive and inviting space that showcase the aspirational aspects of the property and the lifestyle buyers can emotionally connect with. Remember, first impressions are everything, so make their first impression a lasting one!


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