Home Staging Tricks You Should Know

I am in my third year of teaching and certifying professional home stagers in my unique proprietary system called Psychological Staging.

decorologist home staging tricks


In our latest course, we had a full class of wonderful women – from beginning stagers to experienced staging business owners.

eps staging training course3-day intensive home staging course at F&M Mortgage in beautiful Brentwood, Tennessee

We had a great time together – learning home staging tricks and techniques, discussing business models, and eating some good food!

eps stagers at puffy muffin in brentwood, tnlunch on the first day at Puffy Muffin


Here are a few home staging tricks we used:

1. Make Rooms Appear Larger by Using Light-Colored Props

You may know that the brighter the room, the larger it appears (and square feet sells). Some of the ways you can brighten a space may not be as obvious as opening the curtains and turning on all the lights. These EPS stagers learned these tricks can brighten any space:  use light bedding and pillows on beds and sofas, change out any dark lampshades with light ones, and check all overhead light fixtures and make sure all bulbs are working (replace with high wattage soft white LEDs if possible).

Here are some befores/afters of the rooms they staged:

2016-06-09 11.57.32before


staged bedroomafter


Some of the items that lightened the room include the lighter coverlet, bedding with a white background, white lampshades, and art with a white mat. Simple but effective.

white and blue staging bedding


2. Use Bookcase Styling To Command Sellers’ Attention

Really good bookcase styling and effective editing can make a messy eyesore into an architectural gem. Here’s a before/after of what our EPS graduates were able to do during the hands-on staging at the end of the course:

office bookcase before and after


This house had lots of bookcases, which were ripe with potential for adding upscale style. Just look at the difference staging made in this home office – here’s the “before”:

2016-06-09 12.06.12before


And here’s the after of the same space (professionally photographed, of course):

home office bookcase styling


3. Learn to play the hand you’ve been dealt.

In staging, that means working with what’s available and what’s possible in a given budget. In this home, there were two bedrooms without beds.

2016-06-09 12.07.24


We brought in some inflatable mattresses to establish room size (it’s hard to do that without standard furnishings to give folks a point of reference). Then it was time to get creative! Notice the mirror the room below:

2016-06-09 12.08.58


The stagers decided to use the mirror from one room as a headboard for the faux bed in the other bedroom they created.

home staging in process

in process

You have to admit, this is pretty clever for a teenage daughter’s room!!! This home staging trick made the previously empty room. I love how this space turned out.

mirrored headboard


4. Create Memories with the Details.

Tabletop staging with lifestyle props casts a perception of what it would be to live in this ideal home and is an important mental home staging trick I love to use. These styling details make what I refer to as “memory points” that buyers take with them after they tour the home. It’s what draws them back in their minds when reconsidering all the properties they have viewed.

tabletop styling


desk styling in home staging


staging bathrooms


and finally,

5. Break Up With the Sectional Sofa.

No matter how functional or comfy a large sectional sofa, it can really eat up floor space in a home. And it creates an overly casual look in a living room. Time to break it up! Here is a before photo taken with my iphone camera:

2016-06-09 11.55.06


Converting this behemoth into a long sofa enabled us to open up the space. And guess what else? It makes the home look more high-end. After staging, a skills of a professional photographer makes the staging results come alive:

home staging tricks and techniques for living roomsprofessional photography by Showcase Photographers

These new Expert Psychological Stagers™ knocked it out of the park, don’t you think? I’m so proud of them!

expert psychological stagers

UPDATE: The Expert Psychological Staging® course is now RESA®-accredited and available completely ONLINE! Find out what this certification training can offer you here.



  1. Phyllis E

    I love to see these before and after staging pics of occupied homes, especially as I am really getting ready to put my home on the market very soon. The home you all staged wasn’t really “bad” before, but you all made it so much better. You also convincingly demonstrated what a difference quality, professional photos make, too, LOL.

    I’m just wondering—do you typically go through someone’s home looking for pieces of furniture and accessories that can be used elsewhere, or did you bring in all the new accessories and furniture we see in the photos?

    I am surprised to learn that a sectional sofa, even a nice, tailored one in a large room, such as shown above, is not good for home staging purposes! We have a small (89″ x 89″) sectional in our very small, awkward family room–now I am wondering if I should get rid of it. It is the only seating arrangement that we thought looks ok and works and works for tv/fireplace viewing. (If we put a sofa across from the tv and fireplace wall, it would have to be pushed against the wall without room for even an end table!) In a small room, is it ok to keep the sectional and go for the “Cozy” look if you will never, ever make it look large and spacious anyway (or even medium sized and spacious? ? Just wondering. Thanks.

    • Kristie Barnett

      The house we staged is a very nice (and expensive) house. I always go through the home and try to find as much as we can possibly use that is already there. I only bring in props that are needed. What you see in these photos are all the homeowner’s own furniture pieces and much of their own accessories. We did, however, bring in some additional on-trend decor items to lighten and update it a bit.

      As for the sectional issue, I prefer to break up a large sectional into smaller pieces IF it’s in the living room. If it’s a secondary den, it’s not a big deal. But in the main living room, it isn’t ideal. You can simply take a section of your sofa off and store it to expand the sense of space in a small room. I will usually drape a throw on nice blanket across one end to cover the exposed connector for staging purposes. The more floor space you can see, the larger any room will appear – so that’s what I’m going for.

      I hope that helps! Good luck with your upcoming move, Phyllis!

      • Phyllis E

        Thank you SO much for taking the time to explain! The tip about draping a throw over the connector end of part of a sectional is helpful.
        I love your blog and look forward to your posts . I love your staging book, too.

  2. Sandy

    I feel a little sad that “bookshelves” aren’t for books anymore. Is it an e-book thing?

    • Kristie Barnett

      Unfortunately, most people don’t own many “real” books anymore. I often bring in hardback books for both staging and decorating, since using all accessories in bookcases can look junky. . .

      • Phyllis E

        I have noticed that ikea’s catalog seems to be the exception to this — they usually show their bookcases filled with books in their room photos!! Maybe it is a European thing, maybe because they sell to graduate college students on a budget, or maybe because they are selling FURNITURE and not the home?? We have a lot of books in our many bookshelves but I plan on removing most -esp. In the living room and I am studying examples of nicely staged bookcases, such as these here, to make ours look better.

        • Kristie Barnett

          Phyllis, I’m actually in the editing stages of a new video about step-by-step accessorizing and styling, which includes segments about bookcases, mantels, tabletops, etc. Coming soon!

  3. Cindy L

    Fantastic job! I love seeing the before and after photos with your narrative.


    • Kristie Barnett

      Thanks so much, Cindy! We had a talented group of stagers!

  4. kathleen barry

    I agree Kristie that you had a great bunch of girls with bushels of talent! Congratulations Ladies.

  5. Kelly

    Very talented group! Looks wonderful.

  6. Leigh Ann

    A lovely home made even more so. The professional pictures made such a difference. Love seeing the rooms transformed and lightened.

  7. Carol Clark

    Love the transformation!! I learned SO much in your course and staging an actual home made it all make sense. Your latest class did a great job. Bravo!! And a big welcome to the newest EPSers!

  8. Susan Davis

    Kristie, I love your posts. This one is a great example of what makes your blog, great! As an amateur, I’ve staged 2 houses (our own) with good results without thinking about why things work. This article told me. I made bookcases in our family room the focal point (just ignore that popcorn ceiling!), used white/light bedding & inflatable mattresses, created vignettes. I was preparing to paint a red (!) bath vanity a neutral color. Our agent stopped me, saying ‘people will remember this….” (haha) That house sold in 3 days: Your tips work!

    • Kristie Barnett

      Thank you, Susan! It sounds like you may be a professional stager in the making 🙂

      • Susan Davis

        I wish! 🙂


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