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.