Occupied Staging – Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

When most people hear the term “home staging,” they think of vacant home staging. Vacant staging is when an empty property is staged with furnishings to enhance its appeal to buyers. Occupied home staging, on the other hand, is when the property is NOT empty. The seller is still actively living in a home full of furnishings, and a professional stager is hired to use mainly what is in the home to improve the appeal of the lived-in home to buyers.

occupied staging

In many ways, occupied home staging requires more skill and resourcefulness than working with a blank slate. Can simply rearranging furniture and decor make that positive of a difference? It certainly can, but sometimes you have to “rob Peter to pay Paul.” That idiom simply means:  it’s often necessary to take from one to give to another, or shift resources. 

When staging homes to sell, rooms have to be prioritized. In the process of Psychological Staging®,  the main living room is always the most important room to stage and the FIRST room to stage. So it gets priority – it gets the “best” of what the homeowner has. If that space doesn’t impress or if the existing furnishings take attention away from the architectural selling points of the home, a quick and high price offer may be hindered.


This home’s furnishings and decor did more to distract buyers than to draw attention to the architectural elements of the property being marketed.


What did you notice in the photos above? The furniture, the decor, the colorful pillows and throws? In occupied staging, the goal is to de-emphasize those things (because those things ARE NOT what you are selling).

That is when you go on a treasure hunt throughout the home to see what else you may have to work with. Maybe there are items with better scale, color, or style for the prioritized room.  In this case, the upstairs bonus room yielded possibilities! We switched out the sofas between the two spaces and moved a leather chair into the main living room.

rearranging furniture in occupied staging

No more distractions – the attention is now where it should be! The architecture takes center stage, and the furnishings and decor simply support it and draw attention to it.

staged home by The Decorologistafter

Robbing Peter to pay Paul gave us the wow factor needed to make a great first impression on would-be buyers. We chose decor from the client’s existing supply, edited ruthlessly, and added a few needed staging props to finish out the look.

Psychological Staging in Franklin TN living room

Did I mention the ruthless editing? Yes, I did. You can see what i mean in these before and afters of the adjoining kitchen:


home staging kitchen by The Decorologistafter

staged home by The Decorologistafter

By shifting resources (or robbing Peter to pay Paul), we were able to market this luxury property to best appeal to the majority of home buyers. You may be wondering about that bonus room, and how it must have suffered . . .

It still showed nicely and recognized its place as second fiddle to the main living room:

occupied staging bonus room

Do you want to become a professional home stager or up your staging game? Train with me online, at your own pace and the in the comfort of your own home!  Our certification course is accredited by the Real Estate Staging Association® and approved by the International Association of Home Staging Professionals®. Learn more here.


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1 year ago

Afters look great. It is so hard to convince homeowners that they are selling the house, not it’s contents. It seems there is often such an emotional attachment to their possessions, that is an affront to them to think someone might not like their “decorating” style. Again, the homeowner must relinquish some control and let the specialist do their job in staging the home TO SALE. Personally, it was hard to take down our pricey artwork and have it replaced by “Target art” to prepare our house for selling. But it did sell after staging in a week after having it on the market months prior to staging to broaden the potential buyer pool.

Karen Otto
1 year ago

Excellent read Kristie! And totally agree that these stagings are more challenging than vacant homes by far! But most homes for sale are occupied!

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