Design of The Times – Occupied Home Staging 101 – Part Two

Welcome back to our continuation of Home Staging 101! In the last article we started to go through the inner workings of occupied home staging. Since there are so many tried and tested tips to house prep, we broke it into two sections. After writing this column, I realize I can go on and on about home staging. As they say, staging sells homes. Vacant home staging is easy for the homeowner as they’ve moved on to a different location and their belongings are with them. Occupied home staging is another beast. A successfully staged home demands a lot of prep work from the homeowner but I’m here to assure you that along with a great realtor and accurate home pricing, staging will help your selling journey come full circle. Stick with me and roll up your sleeves! 


Picture this… walking into a beautiful home to view and possibly buy. As you saunter through the house in awe of the natural light, the room layout, and the light fixtures, you turn a corner and boom – your co-worker’s sister’s wedding photo up on the wall. Almost life size canvas for all to see. From that moment on, the mindset of the viewer has changed from picturing themselves in this beautiful home, to walking around the home of an acquaintance. This shift in mindset can be detrimental to the selling process. Those potential buyers are no longer looking at that home with the same open-minded perspective as they had when they arrived. To avoid all of this, let’s get those personal photos and certificates off the walls and tucked away. And while you’re at it, take down all the personal cards and photos from family and friends that are stuck on the fridge.

Furniture Placement

Furniture placement can make or break a home viewing. Since the main goals of staging are to maximize space and showcase the home, the furniture placement can have a profound effect on how buyers receive your house. Too much furniture screams ‘This house is too small!’ Too little furniture can leave buyers with mixed feelings: the house is too big, the layout of the house is bad, or possibly it leaves them with that cold and empty feeling. Either way, all of these unnecessary doubts can be shaken with optimal layout! Living rooms, bedrooms, and the main areas of a house are where we tend to overdo furniture. We place furniture in our homes mainly for convenience, but style is up there on the list too. When prepping your home to sell, convenience is still at the top of the list, but it needs to shift to the buyer’s convenience, instead of your own. 

When you’re staging a space, start with an empty room – physically and emotionally. Separating yourself from that space and the way it functioned for you is step 1. Often, furniture is purchased in sets. When you purchased a full living room set with a couch, loveseat, and chair, or a full bedroom set with a bed, a dresser, and a vertical chest, you are limiting your ability to make the room more spacious. Your optimal layout should encompass the following: First impressions, open traffic ways, easy access to doors, windows, and hallways, and most importantly – space. The key is to make sure there is space available for buyers to see the full potential of the room and its possibilities with their belongings in there. When buyers are in the trenches going from house to house for viewings, they tend to take ‘snapshots’ of each space instead of taking the time to fully analyze the room. So as a seller, it’s up to you to make sure that their ‘snapshot’ leaves them with a good impression.

Window Dressings

Window hardware and curtains are very underrated. Similar to paint and flooring, the way you dress up your windows can completely change the look of a room. From the rod placement, to the rod style itself, and the curtains attached to it, you can update and upgrade a space in minutes! 

The first item on the window dressing list is rod placement. This is an age-old question with one solid answer… hang high! The higher the rod, the longer the window looks and the taller the ceiling looks. If possible, the rod should be at least 4 to 6 inches above the window trim. Depending on the curtain length, you can always go higher if space allows. Since we are on the topic of curtain rods, let’s set the record straight: buying a rod that barely reaches each end of the window is taking away from the finished product. If the rod that you’re eyeing is just a few inches longer than the window length, then just get the next size up. You’ll be happy with your decision! Rods that are too small leave you with a bend in the middle of the window, and curtains that cannot be extended past the trim, leaving you with less natural light. My advice: level up!  

Next, we hang the curtains. Curtain headers are important! There are many types of curtain headers available, but only a few that make it easy to open the curtains enough to let all the natural light in and still have the windows look perfect. Grommet, back tab, and pleat (with rings and clips) are three of my favorite styles. All three open with ease, they can be extended past the curtain rod hook to widen the look of the window therefore letting lots of light in, and they all let the curtain hang beautifully from top to bottom. As far as curtain length goes, it’s the same as rod height – go long! The longer the curtain, the longer the look of the wall. Without going into different techniques, just shy of the floor is a great height for curtains. Keep in mind, if there is a baseboard heater, the panels must fall safely above. A beautiful curtain doesn’t have to mean an expensive curtain. With some thought put into the look of the window, and some TLC for the curtain before hanging, you can create a classic look with little cost. Always steam or iron your curtain panels and if the bottom ends of your panels have pockets, insert small weights (pebbles or marbles will work!) to pull those ends down and help them turn in towards the wall. Details make all the difference.


This one seems like it should be a no-brainer. A bathroom is a bathroom, right? With the right changes, bathrooms can stand out and look sharp! With day-to-day use, all our bathrooms get a going over. From towels hanging on the back of the door, to toiletries lining the tub shelves, bathrooms are the real deal for living spaces. The cabinet under the sink is generally full, so the overflow of common daily items tends to take over the open areas of the bathroom. Since we all have bathrooms that are high-use areas, making your staged bathroom look like it’s fresh out of a magazine is catapulting your space above the competition. The steps to stage a bathroom are among the easiest of any room in your home. Here we go! Remove all toiletries in the bathroom including the items in the tub and shower area. Have the vanity and any shelving empty with the exception of décor. For a bathroom a nice green plant, some neatly folded white towels, a fluffy white or light bathmat, and a small woven basket are among the items that look great in a staged bathroom. As much as we love colour and patterns in our lives, a plain white, or muted colour shower curtain is the way to go. Keep it simple and keep it colourless. For every bright towel on the rack that matches the floral shower curtain, there is an actual selling feature that the buyers are not looking at, as it doesn’t catch their eye.  Bathrooms need to look aesthetically nice, but nothing beats a clean, bright, sterile bathroom space. You can never clean a bathroom enough for a home viewing. For those who notice, it means a great deal to them. A dirty bathroom can make a potential buyer head for the front door. 

A few last-minute tips for staging the bathroom… tuck away the garbage bin, the toilet bowel cleaner and the stand-alone toilet paper holder. Also, keep the shower curtain open. Seeing a photo of a bathroom with the shower curtain closed is like seeing a listing on MLS with only outdoor photos. Your first thought is ‘I wonder what is wrong in there?’ So, since the answer is usually ‘Nothing! It’s just a shower’ let’s show them right away. 

Although these list items can seem monumental at first sight, when you pick one item at a time, it is a great feeling to kick them off the to-do list and right onto the done list! I assure you, once you get going, the dread lifts and the excitement sets in. You can see the progress and let me tell you, it’s a beautiful sight! 

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by Megan Callahan