Home staging can seem like a magical process—transforming your cluttered, uninspired bungalow into a dream home that instantly inspires multiple offers. A professional stager will have knowledge on the most desirable design trends and bring stylish furniture and accessories to transform your home. But if your budget doesn’t accommodate this oft-pricey service, fear not.
Home sellers who want to present their home in a tasteful way can do so with the tips below from design-minded experts. The best news is, they’re all styling tricks you can pull off yourself.
1. Arrange bouquets of flowers
Look for long-lasting fresh—not fake—flowers that smell good and won’t drop petals quickly, recommends Bee Heinemann, home design expert at Vant Wall Panels.
“Great selections include ranunculus, calla lilies, pink freesia, dahlias, roses, and carnations,” she says.
“Place flowers in small, tightly arranged bundles in short vases,” suggests Carole Marcotte, a designer with Form & Function, in Raleigh, NC.
Pro tip: Use a rubber band to keep the stems together. And be sure to trim the stems and change the vase water every few days.
2. Fill a fruit bowl
“Fruit is a symbol of abundance, prosperity, and good luck, which is why you often see it in staged homes,” says Heinemann. It’s inexpensive and adds a burst of color and texture that helps tie a room together.
The best fruits to display are oranges, lemons, and green apples. “Green apples are particularly pretty and last a long time,” says Marcotte.
Avoid bananas, berries, or pears, which will ripen quickly and smell sickly sweet. Fruit shouldn’t look fancy or fussy, so just stack the pieces on a serving platter or pile them into a glass or ceramic bowl.
3. Pile on the pillows (but not too many)
The trick to staging with pillows is to have just enough to make a room look welcoming and spruced up, but not so many that buyers are distracted, explains Marcotte. Beds should have sleeping pillows on each side, a Euro pillow in front, and perhaps one decorative pillow, she says.
On a long couch, Marcotte likes to place two pillows on one end and one on the opposite end.
“An asymmetrical look is more interesting and not overdone,” she says. Heinemann likes to use four pillows on sofas, two on larger chairs or love seats, and one for every upholstered chair.
To keep everything looking coordinated but not too matchy-matchy, choose throw pillows in the same color palette, but feel free to mix prints.
4. Fold towels the right way
Both Heinemann and Marcotte agree that simply folding a towel in threes looks best regardless of whether you’re stacking towels or hanging them over a bar or through a ring. Here’s how: Fold one side toward the middle and then the other so no raw edges are showing, and then fold it in half lengthwise to hang or stack.
Also, you shouldn’t—for any reason—have messy or soiled towels in the bathrooms. And don’t even think about tying towels with ribbon.
“I hate it when stagers do this—no one does it in real life,” Marcotte explains.
5. Curb bedside table clutter
When it comes to bedside tables, the neater, the better.
“Keep it simple with just a couple of books, a small plant or candle, and a lamp,” recommends Heinemann.
As for family photos, do a clean sweep. “It’s best to depersonalize, because you don’t want a buyer looking at your kid’s graduation picture and then missing the beautiful bedroom molding,” she explains.
6. Curate your coffee table
With a surface larger than a side table, you have room to design a smart tableau. Make your coffee table stand out by organizing your odds and ends in distinct sections, usually thirds or fourths.
“In one section, place a nice tray to hold a plant, a geode, drink coasters, or candles,” Marcotte says. Two sections of the table can hold large art books, and the last quarter can either be empty or contain a pretty box to hold your remotes.
“You might also add a large plant, flower arrangement, or tall piece of art in the middle,” she suggests. Long-lasting orchids are great here, as is a collection of small succulents.
7. Don’t forget the closets
Buyers do poke their heads inside closets, so staging them is a must.
Stephen Newman, president of Closet Factory in Fort Lauderdale, FL, reports that many potential buyers make assumptions based on closets.
“A disorganized, cluttered space says, ‘This home is tight on storage,’ even if that’s not the case,” he explains.
Never put your home on the market without an assortment of clothes in the master bedroom closet. An empty closet might make a buyer may think you’re desperate to sell, which could lead to a lowball offer. Group like items together, and then color coordinate.
“This helps a buyer’s eyes flow easily along the space, making it feel larger than it really is,” Newman says. Be sure everything is off the closet floor and toss old, mismatched hangers in favor of uniform ones (hanger continuity also improves visual flow).