7 Keys to Staging Success

Tom Brezsny
- Tom Brezsny

7 Keys to Staging Success


You know you are supposed to de-clutter, take down personal pictures, and ditch the doll collection.  But staging goes much deeper than that. Good staging creates an ethos, a magnetic sense of wanting to stay in the room.

We subscribe to the Wabi-Sabi school of staging and there is a good reason for it.

Wabi Sabi is the aesthetic that is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”, and somehow more human.   I spend a lot of my leisure time sleuthing through vintage shops for interesting little gems to make your homes feel personal.

No one is interested in a house staged so perfectly and matchy matchy that it feels like the lobby of a Hyatt!  There is something comforting about furnishings with some amount of patina and wear, or the antiquity of a found object, something you did not see at Pier One yesterday.

( although don’t get me wrong, I love Pier One!)  It’s the mixing and interplay of old and new,

contemporary and vintage that make is all work to feel welcoming.  Even if the whole look of the house is Mid Century Modern, Italian, or Craftsman, mixing periods and pieces will make it feel more authentic!

Let’s unpack  the 7 key principles.

  1. Mood

  2. Scale

  3. Style

  4. Lighting

  5. Floor Coverings

  6. Smalls

  7. Bedding



This is the immediate feel of a room as you enter it.  I once worked with the renowned Rose Tarlow of Beverly Hills and she was a master at creating mood.  Of course, she often had an unlimited budget which helps, but I learned a lot traipsing after her in Holmby Hills, Trousdale Estates, and Sunset Boulevard.  And the principles are the same. The rooms must invite you to linger. They must welcome you in. They must be comfortable.

While staging is designed to be temporary,  more of an appetizer, a taste of what is possible in a home, it still has to feel good, which brings us back to Wabi Sabi.  Aren’t you more relaxed around someone who has some loveable flaws?  Intimidated by someone who presents perfectly and is sort of untouchable?  Rooms are just the same. People carry a climate around them and so do homes.

The mood of a room can be uptempo, bright and enlivening with strong, saturated colors, glossy surfaces, and overscale art.  It can be subdued and calming in grays and

platinum with many textures all in one tone.  A room can entertain with interesting art,

fantastic woodwork, elaborate windows or dramatic lighting.  If a room has no mood, no personality, no captivating aspect you will feel it and pass the room by.


This is the part most people get wrong.  Most homes are somewhat out of scale because they are trying to incorporate a family heirloom, a treasured antique they bought in their 20s, or a piece that is functional but overwhelms the room.   It can also be the opposite, too many small things or too many things the same size. The eye doesn’t know what is important, or where to land. Think of a landscape. There is a fence for a perimeter, a special tree, rolling shrubs,

plots of bright flowers, a fantastic fountain.  A back yard with 6 fountains would overwhelm.

Sometimes furniture can be like that, too much of nothing to suplly a compelling element as a central theme.

The size of the room, ceiling height  and the windows is an important factor as well.  Large soaring windows call for pieces with some gravitas, a small room with narrow windows needs more petit furnishings.  Bold patterns in a rug can also overwhelm a room. Done with verve however, a small room can benefit from a bold rug and strong color.

Also in the SCALE folder is the scale of the textures.  A bold nubby cable knit pillow doesn’t work with a dupioni silk bedcover.  Usually. For every general guideline there is the smashing rule breaker! But that’s for another post.  If your furniture is rustic it will be hard to work in a delicate Chippendale antique. It will be too fussy, too demanding and out of sync.


This is something you know when you see it well done, and hard to correct when it’s not and you can’t see what is missing.

Style can be as comforting and relaxed as modern farmhouse, as cozy as a beach cottage,as sexy as Italian Modern, as relaxed as a tropical lanai.  This is all about what speaks to you because the truth is a room is a symbol.  Each piece has a history, an association, a memory.

You may love wicker because it reminds you of your Grandmother’s covered porch.  You may feel good around rosy prints and warm fabrics since you grew up with a gardener.  You may be attracted to antiques because you have a sense of wood grain, natural flow and the pains a good carpenter takes with a great piece of wood.  These are all deeply personal and there is no right or wrong. In your home.

But when you go to sell, you want the widest possible pool of buyers to feel at home there.


Unquestionably, good light is a huge factor in creating appeal. And good light fixtures.Consider a lightbulb hanging from the ceiling by an old cord versas a crystal chandelier?They both get the job done, but one begs for some bubbly and one you want to flee the room.

In terms of space and overlapping the importance of scale, the size of the fixture as it relates to the room is critical.  Many people make the mistake of putting a 3 or 4 sconce vanity light over a small sink in the bathroom, dwarfing the room and making the sink look unimportant.  And those old sconce lights are very dated in view of the new LED vanity lights and simple tubular lighting.

Unless the fixture adds a lot of style and wow factor, go for one that is bright and functional and doesn’t demand attention.

In a small dining room, or in a condo sized living room, flush mount or semi flush mount lights, tucked up against the ceiling are nicer as they take less visual space.

The entry is a very important space to woo the buyer.  A boring or dated entry hall light can be buzz kill. Why not pick something special there to set the tone and conserve on the other less important areas?

Choose good light bulbs too, under no circumstances leave those horrible CFL bulbs showing in ceiling pendants or lamps. Nothing says cheap and unconcerned with style like those babies. Not good when you are speed dating buyers.


Flooring is another big set back if it’s mismatched, overly worn or dated.  Worse 2 or more flooring types coming together in awkward places. Like a tiled hall, carpeted living room and vinyl in the kitchen in one visual area.  The eye can’t relax and it chops up the floor plan. I have seen a whole house relax and open visually when one uniform flooring is installed.

There are so many choices.  Carpet, vinyl plank wood look, engineered hardwood, traditional hardwoods, cork, sheet vinyl, marmoleum or tile.  But choose wisely.  Each has its pros and cons and in general, for health, hygiene and ease of maintenance, the vast majority of folks prefer a wood or vinyl wood look flooring.


These are the little objects that pull a house together.  Vases, ceramics, trays, plants,  lamps etc. They need a tonal theme, a variety of textures, and attention to scale. Try and group things, by color, texture, use, style etc. A group of 3 or 5 objects is more interesting.


Beds need to look lavish, inviting, restful, sexy or cozy.  Plain vanilla won’t do. Just hop on Pinterest or Houzz or West Elm etc for some great bedding ideas.

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