3 Key Differences Between Decorating and Home Staging

In today’s market, it’s a common belief that houses will sell quickly, even without hiring a home stager. Many sellers believe that if they simply clean up, reduce clutter, and add some decoration, their house will sell in no time.  Other’s believe their “decorated” home will sell as-is.  The truth is that there are key differences between decorating a home and staging it, and staging is best done by a trained professional.  While both decorating and staging can deal with such elements as color, accessories, and furniture arrangement, the goal in each case is very different.

When decorating a home, whether you do it yourself or hire an interior designer, the purpose is self-expression; decorating depends on and appeals to the tastes of the homeowner and is often quite specific. The purpose of home staging, however, is to appeal to a broader audience of potential buyers. A professional home stager can prepare your home to sell faster and for more money.

To further illustrate the difference between decorating and home staging, here are three key methods home stagers use to achieve the purpose of preparing a home to sell–and why simply decorating won’t get the job done.


When decorating your home, it’s natural to want to choose colors that show off your specific taste and style. Maybe you enjoy the energy of the mix-and-match Bohemian color palette, or you love the coastal feel of a bright beachy blue. You also may need your colors to cater to your specific lifestyle. Perhaps you have small children or pets, and light colors on the walls or furniture just aren’t an option. Whatever the reason, the colors you choose when designing your home should make you happy; you can go as bright or bold as you want because at the end of the day, all that matters is that you love it.

Staging, on the other hand, is about appealing to several tastes, styles, and personalities. Light, neutral colors like beige or gray work best because they make rooms appear bigger and brighter. Specifically, neutral colors on the walls are a great way to make buyers feel that the home is move-in ready. They’re not thinking about the work they’ll have to put in repainting that too-bright teal or too-dark plum wall in the living room; they can already envision their own possessions fitting in with the house. Home stagers use color to create an inviting atmosphere for a broad audience to increase the potential of a sale.  


Like color, the accessories you choose to place around your home when decorating are likely to showcase your personality or lifestyle. Make a collage of family photos on the wall. Stack your most-read books or magazines on the end tables. Place period pieces from your favorite era on the shelves.  Display your children’s art on the fridge. Hang that ten-point buck on the mantle. When design is your goal, it’s about letting the personalities of those who live in the home shine through.

When staging a home for sale, the difference is that the accessories should be pleasing but not personal. In order for buyers to picture themselves in a home for sale, family photos and period pieces will be replaced with impersonal but trendy tchotchkes–things that tie the room together rather than appeal to one particular person, family, or style. If your goal is to sell your home, it’s not important to reflect your personal taste; rather, a home stager can see and stage the home objectively so that it is attractive to potential buyers, which will ultimately lead to a faster and more lucrative sale.  


Finally, the arrangement of furniture in your home has to be about functionality when you live there. The space has to make sense for the way you use the room. If you have a big family, it may be essential to have an abundance of furniture in the movie room. If you invite friends over every weekend to watch the game, you may need to arrange the living room so that all furniture points at the television. Maybe all you really need is a pair of recliners. When designing your home for the way you live, it’s all about you.

The use of space in a staged home for sale, though, should show off the room’s potential. The amount of furniture in a room won’t depend on how many people are in your family; instead, a home stager will select a few pieces that make the room look spacious and inviting. Buyers need to feel that their furniture will physically fit in a home for sale, so, though it may seem counterintuitive, it’s more important to draw attention to unoccupied space than to the furniture itself. A home stager knows how to use carefully selected pieces to make each room look its best so that potential buyers can imagine themselves and their possessions in the home.

Bottom line: when preparing to sell your home, hiring a home stager will lead to a faster sale and will make you more money. Decorating your home is the way to go when you live there, but when you want someone else to buy your home, it needs to appeal to the target buyer, so it can’t reflect the lifestyle of a single family. Simply sprucing up and placing a few new decorations here and there isn’t nearly as effective as the work a home stager can do.

Selling Your Home? Remember the Tortoise and the Hare

An investor flipping a house planned on staging the home to help it sell; very smart!  Unfortunately, prior to having it staged, in his haste to get it listed and sold, made a very common mistake.

The lesson in the story of The Tortoise and the Hare is that you can be more successful by doing things slowly and steadily than by acting quickly and carelessly.  The same is true when selling your home.

The investor was like the hare. No, he didn’t take a nap, but, in his haste to get the home listed, he took five photos of his investment and put them on the MLS. The photos were of the bathroom and kitchen, and I’m guessing he took them with his cell phone.  Why was this a mistake?  Because in today’s market, it’s critical to take every step to make sure your home stands out, even if it means pushing the listing date back a little.

The quality of the photos was poor and dark, and it was difficult to see the updates that he had spent so much time and money on.  In the description, he mentioned that professional photos were coming, but I don’t think very many people even read that after seeing the photos.  The cell-phone quality photos didn’t make a good first impression and I’m sure buyers moved on fairly quickly.   Which photo below would get your attention?

This is a photo of a home I staged last year, taken with my cell phone


 Professional photo by JPG Media

Very early on in my staging career I had a realtor tell me that the best chance of selling a home is in the first two weeks.  He explained that with Zillow, Redfin.com and Realtor.com buyers are able to set criteria for the home they’re searching for: how many bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, price, etc.  When a home hits the market and meets their criteria, these websites sends an email alert to the buyer(s).

A buyer’s first view of a home is online.  I use redfin.com to track homes I have staged.  Redfin has a that you can click if you want to “favorite” or save a listing, or they have an 𝗫  that you click if you don’t like the home and don’t want to see it again.  Realtor.com has a to save a listing or a “no” symbol to hide a listing.  Buyers who didn’t like what they saw in the five dark photos most likely will never see the photos of the home staged.

Photo taken by a realtor – notice the dark background


Professional Photo by JPG Media

At the end of 2017, I staged a home that had been on the market for 45 days.  After being staged, the home was in contract in one day.  As it turned out, I knew the buyer’s agent.  She told me that she had tried to get the buyers to see this house several times prior to staging.  Every time she brought it up to them, their response was the same: It’s too dark and needs too many updates. This was the impression they gathered from the online photos.

 The sellers took the home off the market to have it staged, and when it was relisted the buyers sent the listing to the realtor and said, “we have to see this house”!  They didn’t even realize it was the same home their realtor had been trying to get them to see.

When spending the time, energy and money on preparing your home for sale don’t make the mistake of listing before it’s ready.  Make sure you’ve removed excess items, finished the cleaning, painting, done repairs/maintenance, staged and had professional photos taken for marketing.

Element One can take care of the staging and professional photos and help you decide what to pack, what needs painting (including color choices) and what repairs and updates are necessary.

Remember the lesson from the Tortoise and the Hare and take the time to make sure you’re home is ready before you list.

The Power of Staging a Vacant Home

Earlier this year I was in Granville, Ohio helping investors market their latest project.

This home had been on the market from the time the investors purchased it (a little over a year ago).  If the right buyer came along during updating, they had the potential of having finishes customized.

The investors completed the home in October 2017 and the home went into contract almost immediately.  Unfortunately, it fell out of contract just as quickly.

The investors called me in Dec. and on Jan. 18th, I staged this quaint home.  When a home is on the market prior to staging, the first question I always ask is, “what has the feedback been from the showings”.  This one was easy.  It’s a 3-bedroom home, and 2 of the bedrooms located on the main floor are small; but big enough for all the essentials, buyers just couldn’t see it.

Without furniture, it was hard to see what might or might not fit. This home was a perfect case of why it’s important to stage a vacant home prior to listing.

Before – buyers saw the master bedroom as too small



By using a queen size bed, and 2 side tables, staging showed buyers that the room is much bigger than it looked.  Adding 2 ottomans at the end of the bed shows that there’s still plenty of room to walk through once a dresser or other piece of furniture is added.

Before staging: bedroom #2 also seen as too small






Because there was a third bedroom upstairs with room for 2 beds, I staged the second bedroom on the main floor as a nursery.  Once staged buyers could see there’s plenty of room for all the necessities.

The open concept living / kitchen area was oversized and beautiful.  These rooms didn’t receive negative feedback; however, buyers couldn’t imagine how to arrange their furniture. 







Staging helps buyers figure out how to best arrange their own furniture

There was even enough room for a workspace; something buyers couldn’t see

Kitchen eat-in area prior to staging                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  





Even in a bright home, professional photos are a must – all after photos by JPG Media




The offset lighting fixture made it hard for buyers to imagine what size table might fit in the dining room


Another great example of how staging shows the true size of a room

After staging, this home received it’s first offer within 5 days of being relisted.  Unfortunately, it fell out of contract.  But just 2 days later, after the first open house it was back in contract and has since closed.

These investors said, “I will never flip a home again without staging”.  You can read their review of Element One here.

This is just another example of why staging a vacant home is so important.

Element One Home Staging of Dublin Awarded Best Of Houzz 2018

Lori Murphy, RESA Pro in Dublin, OH on Houzz

Over 40 Million Monthly Unique Users Nominated Best Home Building,
Remodeling and Design Professionals in North America and Around the World

 Dublin, USA, January 17, 2018Element One Home Staging of Dublin has won “Best Of Customer Service” on Houzz®, the leading platform for home remodeling and design. The innovative home staging company was chosen by the more than 40 million monthly unique users that comprise the Houzz community from among more than one million active home building, remodeling and design industry professionals.

The Best Of Houzz is awarded annually in three categories: Design, Customer Service and Photography. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 40 million monthly users on Houzz. Customer Service honors are based on several factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2017. Architecture and interior design photographers whose images were most popular are recognized with the Photography award. A “Best Of Houzz 2018” badge will appear on winners’ profiles, as a sign of their commitment to excellence. These badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals in every metro area on Houzz.

“Customer Service is high priority at Element One and I am honored to have received this award for the past 5 years!” 

“The Houzz community selected a phenomenal group of Best of Houzz 2018 award winners, so this year’s recipients should be very proud,” said Liza Hausman, Vice President of Industry Marketing at Houzz. “Best of Houzz winners represent some of the most talented and customer-focused professionals in our industry, and we are extremely pleased to give them both this recognition and a platform on which to showcase their expertise.”

Follow Element One Home Staging on Houzz:

About Element One Home Staging
Element One Home Staging works with Real Estate Agents, homeowners and investors to prepare homes for sale.  By showcasing the best features of the home and making it appeal to the broadest range of potential buyers, Element One offers homeowners a competitive edge making the process of selling a home faster and more profitable.  For more information about Element One Home Staging contact:
Lori Murphy
(740) 972-4714

About Houzz
Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a small room to building a custom home and everything in between, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community empowered by technology, Houzz is the easiest way for people to find inspiration, get advice, buy products and hire the professionals they need to help turn their ideas into reality. Headquartered in Palo Alto, CA, Houzz also has international offices in London, Berlin, Sydney, Moscow, Tel Aviv and Tokyo. Houzz and the Houzz logo are registered trademarks of Houzz Inc. worldwide. For more information, visit houzz.com.



# # #

The Do-Over

Have you ever wished you could do something over, because you knew that given the chance you could do it better?

When I began staging, before I considered doing vacant stagings, I staged my own home which had been for sale for more than 2 years (2010 was a very bad time to sell a home).  I used the furniture that I had at the time.  It was an eclectic mix to say the least.  Before I was a home stager, I was a single mom working in the corporate world and décor wasn’t high on my priority list.

Now, almost six years later, specializing in vacant stagings, I often think about that home and wonder how I might have staged it if I had the inventory I have today.

Right after Christmas, I received a call from a homeowner about staging a vacant home that had been on the market for more than 30 days with no offers.  I viewed the home online.  Although it was not in the same neighborhood as my home had been, there was something oddly familiar about the layout.

The next day I met the homeowner at the home and sure enough . . . it was the exact layout of my previous home with a few differences in windows and flooring.  The kitchen eat-in-area is in direct path from the front door to the great room, not your typical layout.  It took everything I had not to beg the homeowner to allow me to stage this vacant home.  It was my chance for a do-over!!  Luckily, I didn’t have to beg.  This smart homeowner wanted to get the home sold and, so she decided to stage.  I staged the home on Saturday, the listing was refreshed with the new photos on Monday and it was in contract by Tuesday!

Click here:     to see the homeowners experience.

Here are the photos of my home as I staged it in 2012 along with the photos of my do-over that I staged last week.

The Great Room: Just as décor wasn’t a priority, neither was paint.  Like many homeowners, when I moved in, this paint color was current and when it came time to sell, I thought it was fine; it was neutral.   I didn’t have anyone to tell me how important the paint color was.


The do-over


The Kitchen – Eat-In Area: Because the kitchen table was in the direct path from the front door to the great room I thought it might be best to minimize that area.  I opted for a small, counter height table with only 2 chairs.  Green and terracotta were the current colors; you can see them repeated in the pillows on the sofa.

The Do-Over

A regular height table keeps the view into the great room unobstructed and 4 chairs shows how big the space really is


The Kitchen – Countertops: Yes, mine had granite . . . not at first, but it was suggested that granite would sell the home.  I rarely make that suggestion to my clients; as I’ve learned granite alone does not sell a home.  I never did like the granite counters.  Maybe if I had changed the paint color it would have made a difference.


The Do-Over

No granite, but a beautiful kitchen nonetheless

The master bedroom: One of the rooms that I did paint; it had been marigold.  Gray was making its debut.  Today, I would not suggest a focal wall.  I’ve learned, the flow and choppiness of the change in colors equates to “small”.


The Do-Over

(In case you’re wondering, they are not the same pillows)


The Master Bathroom:   One thing that’s different in all the stagings I do today . . .



The Do-Over


Professional Photography!  All photos of last weeks staging  were taken by JPG Media.

Well, that’s it . . . my do-over.  I no longer have to wonder “what if”.  It’s been fun to look back and gratifying to see the improvement I’ve made. ????  And even better, I was able to help a wonderful couple move on from the past and into 2018.  That’s a great start to the New Year!

2017 In Review

As I reflect on the past year I must confess: I love what I do more than ever.  Every home is different, and I enjoy telling the story of each one to help buyers see their new home.  Here are a few, (just a few) of my favorites from 2017.

I started the New Year staging a beautifully updated home in Columbus.  In 3 days, this home had over 60 showings, 17 offers and sold for more than $15,000 over list price!


March, and it was off to Westerville staging a home that sat for nearly 6 months in 2016 with no offers.  Four days after staging, this home was in contract and sold for more than $18,000 over list price!  


In May, I was in Upper Arlington to stage this quaint home which took one day to go into contract.  It sold for more than $12,000 over list!  Photo by JPG Media


July brought a dream job for me . . . a vacant home in the Brewery District.  This one spent a short 5 days on the market before selling for $5,000 over list price!   Photo by JPG Media


The beginning of Fall, took me to this beautiful home in Marysville.  Five days later it was in contract and sold for full list price!   Photo by JPG Media


November, and it was back to Westerville and a superbly updated home.  Twenty four hours after staging this home was in contract!  The homeowners in this case were investors; see how they feel about their first experience staging an investment property here.   Photo by JPG Media

You’ve seen photos of these and other vacant homes I’ve staged throughout the year.  Now, see the before photos, as the homes looked when I first previewed them on my Before and After page.



Being Oceanside

I recently headed to Mexico for some R & R.  Nothing makes me feel healthier and more relaxed than a little time in the sun.  I never really stop working though.  Being on vacation just means I don’t physically stage any homes.  I still talk to clients, plan, shop online for design projects and catch up on my reading.

Right before heading to breakfast one morning, an article caught my eye: Introducing the 2018 Color of the Year – Oceanside SW 6496  (as chosen by Sherwin Williams). 


Given that I happened to be oceanside, made it that much more intriguing to me.  The rest of the day I couldn’t help noticing the influences and various shades of 2018’s color of the year in my surroundings.  Sherwin Williams explains that “Oceanside, bridges together a harmonious balance of blues and greens”.

We saw it on our way to breakfast


At lunch . . .


and of course, where else but in the ocean


Around the resort we saw it in the tiles of a pool


and in a cenote

I love the beautiful, blues and greens of the ocean.  But this isn’t a color I would want to cover my walls.  It’s a little too dark for my taste.  Maybe it’s my staging frame of mind, I still prefer a nice neutral on the walls.  A little bit of oceanside in accents, pillows and art would go a long way for me.

On another note: A few weeks before leaving for Mexico, I staged this patio in a vacant home.

I saw this plant at the resort and thought about the patio.  I decided that I must have been thinking about a vacation a little more than I realized.   ????  Then again . . . I’m always up for being oceanside!







When Hiring A Home Stager, The Details Matter

Your largest commodity is at stake, and it’s worth the investment to stage your vacant home prior to listing.  Finding the right stager to help market your home to sell fast and for top dollar is critical.

When searching for a stager, I recommend looking at their website; particularly the portfolio to see their work and make sure it fits what you’re looking for.  Make sure the stager you’re considering follows these design basics, because the details do matter.

Scale – The size of a room should determine the size of the furniture to be used.  For example; smaller dining rooms require a smaller table.  Other dining rooms, like many in today’s open concept homes are larger and require a larger table.

The size of a rug to be used under the dining table should be proportionate to the table and size of room.  A good rule of thumb to remember is when the chairs are pulled out from the table, the chair legs should still be on the rug.  If they are not, the rug is too small.  Always leave some of the floor showing around the room so the potential buyers can see it.

Using furniture and a rug that are too big will make a room appear crowded.  Too small, and the room will feel overwhelming and “too big”.  Potential buyers may be concerned that they don’t have enough furniture to fill a room or that the home is too big for them.

The style of the dining table and chairs (or other furniture) should be determined by the size and style of the room.  A large open concept dining room would require more formal or substantial seating, not trolix or metal chairs.  These chairs are more appropriate for a kitchen setting.

The home and demographics should determine the style of furniture used – photo by jpg.media

The size and style of the furniture should be determined by the size and style of the room, not by what’s left in inventory, or personal style.

Another place scale is important is in the artwork and accessories.  Accessories should parallel the scale of the furniture, and the scale of the room.

Staging – A balance of size, colors and textures – photo by jpg.media

When using accessories on a table, they should be big enough to be seen in a photograph, flow cohesively with the rest of the staging, and create visual interest, without being cluttered.  At the same time, you don’t want a coffee table to look barren.  It’s a balancing act.  A balance of accessories, size, colors and textures.

Art is one of the most important aspects of staging.  It ties everything together, making the colors cohesive from top to bottom and gives balance to the room.  Imagine a room with neutral walls, furniture, décor, and even the appropriate sized rug, but no art.  Without art, the buyer’s eyes are focused on either the furniture, (which they are not purchasing) or the walls, that are empty.  We all know that empty = cold.  That defeats the purpose of staging.

And as I mentioned, the scale of the art is important.  Hanging a small piece on a large focal wall, above a sofa or over a fireplace will look out of place.  For these areas, a larger piece of art is needed to draw the buyer’s eyes up . . . above furniture level.  After all, we want buyers to see the entire room from floor to ceiling.

Art finishes a room by creating consistency, visual interest and balance

Two other areas that should not be overlooked when staging is the kitchen and bathroom.  It is still true bathrooms and kitchens can help sell a home.  No matter how updated and beautiful they are, they should still be staged.  Staging is like icing on the cake.  Imagine 2 identical cakes, both taste the same, one has icing, one does not . . . which one will you go for?

Don’t forget to stage bathrooms and kitchens – photo by jpg.media

Hire a professional and remember, as with everything else: you get what you pay for.    If you’re in the market for a home stager, I encourage you to visit the RESA website here to find a professional home stager in your area.  RESA stagers are dedicated to advancing professionalism and excellence in real estate staging.  Home staging is not decorating, it’s a science that when done correctly nets more money in a shorter amount of time.  Make sure you’re investing your staging dollars wisely by hiring a RESA Professional.