Friday, March 20, 2009

$1,000 Staging. Done Right or Done Wrong?

When a home stager is hired one of their primary responsibilities is to stage the property in a manner that best solves problems or perceived issues sellers may have with it. Unfortunately this may not always happen.

CASE IN POINT: Recently I received an Email  from Adam in Chicago asking for advice over a dispute he was having with his stager regarding the worked she had preformed. Adam wrote…

Hello Craig,
My name is Adam and I am having a disagreement with a stager I hired.
I am trying to sell a 2-bedroom condo in Chicago and recently hired a professional to stage the empty condo. The property is unique in that the living room is very long and narrow, which is why my realtor and I thought it was important to stage it to show its potential. This is the only living area of the property so it has to look like a living room.
We've since (the staging) had ten showings without an offer.
I had two friends over… both of them said is "this room looks like a hallway". They also said that the way it's staged does not show the potential of the living room.
I called the stager… and she maintains that the room is properly staged and that I need to respect her professional opinion. She discounts these opinions because she says she's the professional.
Do you have any tips on how I could deal with my stager?
Thank you very much,
So that you have a complete picture of all that was done and how Adam's $1,000 was used to stage his property, I have created this short video show.

So... now that you have a more complete picture, I have a few final questions for you to consider.
  1. Given the budget, Adam’s instruction, and the style of the home, did the stager stage the home correctly?
  2. Did the stager provide a good solution for the problematic living room?
  3. If Adam feels the solution provided does not solve the living rooms problem, what should he do?
  4. What actions do you suggest the stager take to solve the problem?
Whether you are a seller, stager or realtor... I  am curious to know what you think.



Christine Gilbert said...

Hi Craig,

My name is Christine and I hold a degree in interior and architectural design. I am also in the process of studying for my real estate license. I am going to be opening my own home staging and design business soon, just going through all the motions (and emotions) of doing so.

Without going full force against this stager, in all fairness, I would have to say it looks ok but could be better.

Adam clearly wanted this room to show as a living room. Right now it looks more like a waiting room/parlor/entry. Where is the sofa? Am I missing it? Of course I am not. It's not there!

I can not see exactly how long that room is but clearly she needs to add some additional seating, sofa perhaps, and make a conversation/living area. The area rug is great for anchoring these items together but she is missing some items.

I might also pull the arrangement away from the wall and float it. The table along the wall to me is more of a sofa or display table and I wouldn't use it between the chairs. I would use some end tables and possibly a coffee table along with the rug and seating to make a great conversation area. I would also add lighting both task and ambient.

I feel for Adam. That is alot of money to not get what you want. I suggest he speak with her again and if she does nothing than try to take some of my suggestions and fix it. Lesson learned.

Customer service should always be number one and I would have been back to fix it and frankly I think that is what she should do.

I hope all goes well. You can shoot me an email if you need more advice!

Christine Gilbert
Christine Gilbert Home Staging & Design

Dean Boswell said...

Hello Craig,

I am a home stager and I must say that Adam and his friends are absolutely correct. I can also say that, as a stager, I would be open to feedback and changes after 10 unsuccessful showings.

I can't tell how big the room actually is, but just looking at it, it seems to me that a small contemporary sofa against the wall where the chairs are, along with a coordinating chair would work well. This way, the room would still be open to the entry, but would appear to be an actual living space. A small coffee table and the right accessories would complete the look.

Additionally, small cosmetic changes like changing out the hardware on the cabinets, removing the country-style paper towel holder in the kitchen, etc. would be very inexpensive changes that would make a big impact. In short, I don't think this home was properly staged given the budget. I certainly don't want to say anything bad about another stager, but I would want someone to tell me if I staged a home improperly. I would prefer to learn from my mistakes and move on. I hope this helps both Adam and his stager!


Juliet Johnson said...

IMHO, I think the LR now looks like a beautifully decorated vestibule. It's really attractive and stylish, but does not offer a "lifestyle-oriented" solution. I wonder if a small sofa and 1 chair might have done a better job of demonstrating how a person might be able to relax and enjoy "chilling" in that space. Does one need the stools if there is another eating space?

Adam needs to call back the stager and explain that the staging is beautiful but not doing the job it was intended to do.

It's always easy to criticize someone else's work, and not so easy to understand the full landscape of the situation. It's possible that the budget is insufficient for the task at hand. It wouldn't be in NJ, but maybe in Chicago, it's hard to get all that stuff delivered at a reasonable number.

Not an easy one. What do you think, Craig?

Tanya Griffin said...

Hi Craig,

I'm a home staging in Los Angeles, and from what the pictures show the stager did not solve the problem of the long living room. I questions the two bar chairs at the "pass through" not a bar counter I don't think that is a good idea and are the two chairs next to the console table the only other seating in the living room area? If so of course people will walk in a think what am I going to do with this spaces, nothing will fit where do I sit to relax or watch TV. I hope there is more then the pictures show. sorry.

Victoria Palmer said...

Hello Craig,
I actally came across your site while checking out a few referral sites. My website's analytical report shows several referrals from your blog. So first, let me say, thank you!
Secondly, I quickly became sidtrackd by your post from Adam and his staging dilemma.
I hesitate to comment on the furniture placement as I can't see what the far end of the room looks like.
What I can say, however, is that with long, narrow rooms your best best is to divide and conquer. Area rugs are invaluable in designating such spaces. Furthermore, never line the furnishings in a row against the walls as that only accentuates the problem.
I thought the use of red was a great choice and helped the flow by color threading it throughout the home. The red flowers, however, seem a bit akward placed behind the bed and might work better placed in a more realistic spot in the room.
I would also eliminate or replace the floor lamp. It is very dated and only makes the area look cold and uninviting.
If I were to make any suggestions, it would be to add fabric to soften the windows and dining table. Also toss in a few accessories that will add texture.
The kitchen could benefit tremendously with the addition of a few more things such as greenery, a decorative plate on stand or even a cookbook and decorative bottles of olive or dipping oils.
All very easy fixes but they would help in achieving a more warm and inviting space. And I am not sure the stager's budget allowed her to do any of this.
Unfortunately, we stagers walk a fine line. We are there to take away all the "personal" but still need to give the
space "personality."
Warm Regards,
Victoria Palmer

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Denise Kuwitzky said...

I agree with all the comments. It looks like a hallway. I was wondering where the living room was. Aside from the staging problems, I think this stager is in trouble business wise. Quite simply, if a client is not happy fix it! Feedback from the client and his friends plus 10 unsuccessful showings should never be ignored. This stager seems more concerned about being right than getting the property sold and creating a positive experience for the client.

Denise Kuwitzky
Competitive Edge
Home Resale Preparation
Fort Collins, CO

Sandra said...

Well... I have to agree w/ Adam and his friends. As a seasoned home stager here in San Francisco, we deal with many rooms of unique size and shapes and must always address these to show the property at it's optimum and in a way that helps the buyers see it as a realistic and viable living situation.

Although we rarely hear a negative comment, as a rule we generally discuss particularly tricky rooms w/ the client and agent so we all have an understanding of how each party envisions the space and then make our furniture selections from there.

In this case... I would expect that customer satisfaction and professionalism would take over and the stager should come in immediately and address this problem (and should have done it at first mention from the client). Bad press is certainly not the press a stager wants and we always try to remember that in our clients minds... we are only as good as our last staging.

Best of luck...
Sandra HESLA
San Francisco, CA

Anonymous said...

I am a stager in Tennessee and I feel that Adam is also correct. The stager should have listened to Adam and made sure they living space reflected "living" space. The furniture should be to scale for the space but surely you could have shown this as a place to relax and enjoy others company.

Kerry Roth said...

Hi Craig,
I am a stager in the San Francisco area.
I agree with everyone else that this does NOT look like a living room. It is not a room that wants you to come relax in. Quite the opposite actually.
The problem might have been the budget. In my area this is a very small budget. When I come across an owner that has a very limited budget and wants their house staged I advise to stage the first room you see when you enter a house as well as any that are problematic, such as this one.
If the owner had put the budget into just the living room and kitchen maybe it would have turned out differently. A bedroom is not difficult for buyers to visualize. The challenge in staging is to answer any puzzling questions a potential buyer might have. No one is buying this property because they cannot visualize how to comfortably live in this space. This staging is emphsizing how difficult it is to comfortably live in this space. Spaces such as these need experienced designers.
I would recommend the owner pull the staging and re-stage with another more experienced stager. It will be expense but less than the next price reduction. Lesson learned to check portfolios and references.

Kerry Roth
Decor Staging

Richard Stabile Bergen County Real Estate said...

I been selling for over 30 years, well over 1000 sales of my own and have built or sold about 600 houses. Doing so I have learn a lot of do's and don't procedures. The things that I am amazed about are far back. Who designed this unit and what were they thinking. I have found at the design stage you can not accept these flaws, no matter what space you have. So many people come into the building/developing part of the industry just with money, but no experience. Especially in boom times like we just had, some designs are so wrong for no reason.
Doing something wrong because you are successful at one industry and take the assets to another without apprenticeship is just arrogant.
I find the professionals don't really care, they go along with the fastest thing they can draw. As to me, my father told me when I was a boy; If everyone was good at what they were doing you would have more competition. He was so right!

My solution is this, to show this unit, do away with the bar stools. Put in a slightly bigger kitchen table with 4 chairs. Now you can set up the living room, leaving the area by the counter as the hallway walk area.

My better solution would take some construction work. That is not the question.

Anonymous said...

I am a Realtor and also do home staging for others. The staging looks fine to me. What staging can't do is add space that is not there! Without knowing whose furniture is the owners and whose is the stager's I would say the owner got his money's worth. What stops the owner from turning the two chairs towards each other at an angle if that looks cozier? If one put a loveseat it might look crowded again. One definitely does not want one's space to scream "I'm crowded because there's no space!

I would suggest that the owner consider neutral fabric panels at the windows.

It's just me but I do not use decorative bottles of olive or dipping oils. I would suggest that the owner place a big bowl of fresh fruit on the counter and change it each week of course.

In the bedroom nothing creates ambiance faster than fresh flowers.

Staging also can not compensate for other facters such as location or price. With 10 showings, I would look hard at price and terms. I know that's my Realtor side coming out. Good luck with your sale.

a home stager.

UtahHomeStager said...

I agree with the seller that the area looks like an entry or hall, not the main living room, and I can see the dispute in this. However, there's one thing that I haven't heard anyone mention, and that is BUDGET!!!! Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not defending this stager. As a successful home stager in Utah, I feel that you are making a huge mistake by not putting a sofa in a home. I don't necessarily agree with Vignette staging, either. It is the professionals job to deal with budget and make changes as needed to make the property do what it needs to do, and that is to show it's very best, maximize space, and sell. Definitely this living room misses the point. A little Ikea sofa (not expensive, so the rental wouldn't be more than the 2 chairs in there, I would think)would go a long way in that little room. I think the biggest problem is that the stager refused to be logical with the seller when the seller was unhappy and giving her the information on the feedback. It doesn't matter how professional you are, and what your opinion is, there comes a time when you must make changes to satisfy your client.

Anonymous said...

As a Home Stager myself, I believe Adam and his friends are correct. The room does not showcase its potential with as much impact as it could. This is a good example of why Stagers need to be open to constructive criticism instead of becoming defensive. For the money, the condo overall was staged tastefully but I see where improvements might have been made. For instance, the space looks like a hotel lobby sitting area with a bar rather than a comfortable living space. Without seeing the other vantage point (side of the room) it's difficult to even imagine this space is the living room and not a foyer that is simply too large. If the barstool are to remain, the chairs, oversized mirror and table has to go and a small dinette area should be placed there. I would love to see the other side of this living room.

It's unfortunate this business relationship between the stager and the homeowner soured, as the client is unhappy and, in my opinion, well within his rights to be so. Is there an update to this story? Did Adam have to find another Stager to redo, or did the original Stager check her ego at the door and come through? I hate to see our profession already heading the interior decorator "diva" route.

Any Stager who cannot step back and perhaps rethink her design needs to get a bit more experience or perhaps find another profession where tough skin is not a necessity.

Kris O'Neill said...

I first have to say is this a waiting room? I agree with the comments left above from others. I am not sure how long the room is and if the total room is in the shot, but I would of not used a sofa table between the chairs and the flowers are too big. I would of put a love seat, end table, one chair and ART above the sofa. I love to use mirrors but in this case it STILL looks like a waiting room. Barstools? Ummm NO. As for the other rooms, why so much RED, I love colors and there are so many beautiful pop colors to choose from other than red.

As for the stager, if she really said that to him, not good customer service. Alot of refferrals come from word of mouth. Shame on her.

Kris O'Neill
A Cents of Design Inc.
Marietta, GA
Home Staging and Re-design

Martha Stanton-Smith said...

I'm a homestager in Kingston, Ontario. I liked the idea about being open to change after 10 unsuccessful showings. Some things are hard to guarantee, but that is a promise that we could stand by.
I agree with Adam, that potential is not shown, in fact the issue is probably made worse by the "foyer" arrangement which would confuse the viewer and leave them still looking for the missing living room. I wonder about the target market for this place. The "foyer" arrangement looks very grand but the rest is more like a cheerful starter home so it would make it hard for either buyer to say "this is for me." Thanks Craig for posting this fun "challenge" on your excellent site.

Ron Crummer said...

Hi, further to my earlier comment I submitted the other day I have to add that the reason why the property has had no offers could be the most important reason of all, PRICE. Adam may need to check with the real estate agent on this and current market conditions and to also be aware of other similar properties that have also sold and are also being selling in the area. Also what is the condition of the property and what is the presentation like with the rest of the property ? I don't think you can blame the home stager because it hasn't sold or had offers on it. Therefore there are a range of other factors Adam needs to investigate as to why his property hasn't sold yet. Cheers, Ron Crummer, Sustainable staging specialist from New Zealand.

Ilaria Barion said...

Dear Craig

I own Ilaria Barion LLC, a leading staging firm in New York City with nearly $200 Million in staged real estate to its credit. I am also the author of a book that focuses on staging city properties "Set the Stage for a Sale: Secrets to make your city dwelling irresistible, attract home shoppers, and sell fast in any market!".

Generating traffic, engaging buyers and ultimately creating the call to action that closes the deal is a much more sophisticated marketing process that just sprucing up a property or throwing in some furniture. It requires know-how and experience.

That staging doesn't enhance the property and it not helping buyers envision themselves in the space.

Nonetheless, you need to be realistic. If the $1,000 you allocated to staging included furniture rental and props on top of the staging fee... you got what you paid for.

I do now business in Chicago. Would you still need help call me.


Home Staging Help Will said...

great idea, i will keep looking around the site, im trying to get my house in order to sell it quickly.

thanks, Will

Zijuzijazijana said...

I don't see anything wrong with the job done by stager.That's all she could do for the money.The perfect solution in my opinion would be to close the opening in the wall and hang a plasma TV there,sofa on opposite wall,than place would look quite modern and just like Adam wanted,like a living room but of course it would take a little bit more cash.

Cheryl Goedeke, RE/MAX 440 said...

I'm a REALTOR with a staging certification. So here's my take... the homes feels very uninviting. My buyers would assume that there must not be room for a couch since there isn't one. (I agree about losing the bar stools.) There is lots that can be done inexpensively to bring warmth, purpose and personality to this home and make it appealing to buyers.

Anonymous said...

Hello Craig,

I have a few suggestions that I think will help sell your home.
The white color of all the walls in your home keeps jumping out and seems sterile. This color is not supporting the beautiful hard wood floors that you have through out the area. I would recommend painting the living room, hallway, kitchen, and even bedroom a pale sage green.

I would definitely change out the white towels in the bathroom (you never want to put white towels against a white wall) with sage green and brown towels. These colors are gender neutral.

For the living room area, you need to remove the two chairs and table and put a small couch in that spot. I would remove the two bar stool chairs near the half wall opening peering into the kitchen. You need to emphasize this wall (to the right) with a flatscreen tv and small piece of furniture underneath it. Buyers are walking into your home and cannot figure out were they are going to watch tv and relax.

I hope this helps.

Inchirieri apartamente said...

Man,i like very much how it looks the house.I don't understand what it's the problem.I don't have any suggestions to make.

Liform said...

Hello Craig,

After viewing the video, it seems like an obvious call. To create an integrated, inviting living space within a narrow corridor is difficult design challenge and thus far the stager has not accomplished the task.
This is not a critique of his or her aesthetic sense, it is simply about meeting the goal at hand. The budget doesn't seem an issue as it has little to do with the way the space is utilized.
Penny Emmet,

nicolette said...

Stagers, on some level, are also interior designers. Yet as an interior designer myself, I do not see much design being done. As pointed out earlier, the stager's first mistake is not fulfilling the request to make it look like a living room, and instead, only losely scattered furniture around for the staging.


C.J. said...

Hi, it looks like a nicely designed hallway, unfortunately does not afford any real "living" space as far as a conversation area. Call them back and ask them to just re-do that part of it. Good luck! Hope your unit sells.
Carol Harris

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Bean said...

I hope this has been a win-win situation. Thanks for sharing this. By the way, I need your help. I know a great Kentucky home that might interest you too. Thanks. said...

Loose the bar stools - they're doing nothing but wasting space. Put two small-ish, exposed leg love seats perpendicular to the wall and anchor them with the rug. Add a small scale coffee table between the two love seats on the rug. The coffee table should likely be glass topped and light - maybe even mirrored. Skip end tables because you don't have room. Use an interesting floor lamp behind one of the love seats. Put a few nice accessories on the coffee table, add some great pillows and a throw. Put a tall-ish plant and a sofa table behind the other sofa to eat up some the length and bring focus to the seating group.

Laguna Realtors said...

No lengthy statements here but the comments I have been already been through are really informative and it is an indication of the fact too that things have just started to improve in the real estate market.

Janet said...

not a good job at all of making it look like a living room. it at least needs to have a couch and t.v. t.v.'s are a valuable tool in staging. people love to see large flat screens.

Heather DeDona REALTOR/Broker 336-451-4498 said...

Hi there,

I am a Realtor in NC, and the first thing I would say is: Yipeeeee! A seller actually doing what it takes to get his home sold. It is so hard for sellers to understand (in my market) that you may have to spend some money to make money.

I would be curious to see how the home owner had the condo decorated before it was vacated. How did he utilize the space. From the pictures show it looks like a foyer, a place where you kick of your shoes and put down your briefcase before going into the real living area.

It is unfortunate that the stager utilized was not willing to make any changes. Even if he or she disagreed she could work with the home owner to find something that made him feel satisfied, after all that is the point.

Anonymous said...

Linda Thompson
Hi Craig, I am a home stager in Fresno,Ca. First of all the chairs at the pass through to the kitchen need to be removed. It is not an eating area, but part of important livingroom space. A small sofa,cofee table and two chairs facing the sofa would make the room much more inviting. The bedroom needs warmer colors and accessories and the floor lamp needs to go. Red is a good accent color, but should be used sparingly.
Good luck to Adam.

Anonymous said...

Hi Adam,
I am a home stager, and looking at your video, I can sure tell you that there is no color to the wall's, everything is white, if she added some color to some of the walls to contras the furniture with the walls, it would look more allegiant.

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The first thing that strikes you as you enter the room is the pillows. After searching a lot on internet, i found a website regarding latex pillows.

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Anonymous said...


My name is Kathleen Rojas and I am a Real Estate Broker, Interior Designer and Master Stager: I own one of the largest staging companies in the San Francisco Bay area. I agree that a small contempo sofa and a chair would have been a better solution, however you must admit this is a very strange living room, and the problems of the world cannot be solved with staging!! You have a interesting set up here and it will take time to sell, for $1000.00 the stager did a good job, if you want it changed, you can probably find a monetary solution, "you get what you pay for or pay for what you get."

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Jill Gargus said...

Hi Craig,

I just veiwed the video and the comments and have to say that
1st. The room is very lacking in wow factor- it doesn nothing for the condo in the way of grabbing the buyer's attention.

2nd. It does not show that the living room is useable space and could have been much better staged with a couch and slipper chair, tables etc

3. I agree that small changes like towel racks etc would be essential

4. Given the low budget, the stager should have focused on the living room area as that was the main concern for the client.

5.Researching the stagers and seeing firsthand work would have been due diligence on the client's part.

The best solution would have been to have a bit larger budget and a more experienced stager, because really 1000 doesn't go far these days. Essentially it boils down to you get what you paid for. We all have learning curves and it's clear that this stager is in one right now. How he/she handles it will determine the overall success of the company. No one like feedback like that, however the client is RIGHT and this stager should take the professional road and correct it at whatever the cost or it may cost more in the long run with the lack of referrals....just my thoughts!
Jill Gargus- Chouinard
simply irresistible interiors inc.

Kathleen said...

hi Craig,

A 1,000.00 budget does not go far in some cases. It's hard to say whether the budget was utilized well because I don't know what furnishings Adam had in the condo already, and what things needed to be purchased or rented. I don't know what kind of repairs, de cluttering, and cleaning needed to be paid for in the budget. Was painting included? Did the stager do everything or did the homeowner do some things to save costs? All those services can eat up the budget rather quickly and leave little left to stage with.

It appears that the furnishings work well with the contemporary style of the home. The colors flow nicely from room to room but I would have suggested painting the walls a warm wheat color to make the space a little more inviting and less cold. Overall, the rooms seem a little sparse. Since Adam was concerned with the small living area, and assuming I am viewing the entire room, it does not feel like a place a buyer would want to relax in. Not staging the living area as a room to live in will kill any potential sale of this property. 10 showings without an offer is something to be concerned about, but only if the price and location are not issues to contend with. Staging can improve a property's chance to sell quickly and for a higher price, but it cannot overcome an unrealistic listing price, or a badly located property. Those factors are always equally as important.

A couple things could be done to improve this condo's living area. I would suggest comfortable, but stylish swivel barstools, so that guests could be either a part of the living area, and/or focus on the kitchen when the activity is out there. If barstools can't be purchased, the existing ones could be turned towards the living area and lumbar pillows added. I would also replace the 2 white chairs with a small, low profile Lshaped sofa/chaise, and a small glass coffee table to allow visual see thru space. The budget may not have allowed such a purchase, but it would be the most important element in creating a comfortable living area. The video does not clearly show how the traffic flows in this space. It might be that the stools need to be deleted altogether.

When the homeowner disagrees with the stager it might be a good idea to get another opinion from a professional source such as an experienced realtor or designer. Friends often take the side of friends, so although in this situation, it seems the friends are right, it would still make sense to get some professional advice. A stager can make recommendations and explain why this works and that doesn't, but unless the homeowner agrees or has given the stager complete control of a project, then I feel the stager must still honor the homeowners wishes in the end. It's important to have a contract that addresses those differences.
Kathleen Taylor
Knoxville, TN

Shirin Sarikhani said...

Long and narrow rooms are difficult to deal with. As a stager, I try to down play this look by breaking up the room to sections by floating the furniture. I've to say, that I'm not too crazy about the two chairs against the wall and the bar stools. The way the carpet is placed, it just exaggerates the long and narrow look in a bad way.

In my inventory, I've few very petit love seats that I use in spaces like this. I also add couple of petit armless chairs across from the love seat to create the necessary conversation area. A living room space could've been defined by floating the furniture and using carpets.

Shirin Sarikhani
Seattle Staged To Sell

Anonymous said...

Hi Craig,

Your stager definitely missed the mark with this room. Every living room needs a conversation area. This room would have benefitted from a small sofa with two chairs across. Your stager has selected nice pieces but does not show the purpose of the area.

Wendy R. Herbers
Stage Right
Lethbridge Alberta Canada

Diana said...

I just came across this post, regarding Adam's stager dilemma. He and his friends are absolutely correct. The space looks like a foyer, not a living room. The reason for hiring a stager and paying $1,000.00 is to address issues like those. First, the bar stools need to go, and the foyer/mirror vignette needs to go, and be replaced with small scale furniture to create a living room. As far as the rest of the condo goes, the entire thing looks like formulaic staging, with no regard for the space or the client's needs. If Adam had been my client, I would have listened to him as to what his needs were, before creating a bunch of "vignettes" around the room. If one of my design or staging clients has an issue, I would never dream of telling them they had to "respect my professional opinion", because the bottom line is: I work for them.

BTW, I also think that the job was overpriced, unless it included several months worth of furniture rental.

Tom said...

I would suggest you fire your home stagger and do it yourself! This living room is worse than if it were empty! You need basic living room stuff, Couch, Lamps, TV, Entertainment Center, You need to show the buyers how to make this into a useable living room space. Right now it looks like a waiting room. Plus the kitchen needs some additional things.

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Kathy Cooke said...

I, too think the living room looks like an entry hall way. With a long room (cant really tell the size of this room), you have the opportunity to make two distinct areas. The kitchen looks TOO empty; add more decorative items to look elegant. The kitchen also looks dated-some upgrades, some color?
The bedroom also needs color on the wall. I think the contrast in this room is too startling, not relaxing.
Regards, Kathy Cooke

Debbie in Nashville said...

Hi Craig,
Here are my thoughts:
1. The rooms look spacious
2. Color and art choices are good
3. Home is clean and attractive
I have to agree with Adam. His living room looks more like a greeting area. I would have used a sofa or love seat instead of 2 chairs. I believe it’s the chairs that give it the “hallway” look he was referring to. If there was a small sofa in place of the chairs, and a flat screen in place of the large red picture to the right of the bar stools, it would have more of a living room look and feel. Even the sofa without a flat screen would help. It would invitingly say, “Come, stay a while.”

Good luck!

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Camille Roman said...

Hi, Craig:

I am a home stager in the Chicago area, and one of the first things I would do is wonder what the budget was for this project. As home stagers know, we have to work with the budget provided, and while I can see some changes that could be made I don't want to condemn the stager. I do believe, however, that customer service is of the most importance, and it would be beneficial for the stager to contact Adam to help him out.

The room isn't staged for a living room, but more like an entry area or waiting area. It is important to divide the room (although I cannot see the full dimensions), and using the area rug is a good start. Removing the chairs by the pass through is another thing I would do, and then add a small, contemporary sofa with one or two side chairs depending on space. You have to make it look like an inviting living area that seats more than two people.

Good luck to Adam!


2Go Media said...

You have a nice comfy house, nice interior wish I could have my house decorated and arranged like yours! I'm so jealous

Roni said...

It is rather difficult to actually see the "length" of this long room Craig refers to as a living room but I have seen stranger condos and apts. There is no point to having those two short chairs facing the opening to the kitchen area and I wonder what is on the other side. If it is to be considered a living room there should be some type of sofa, side tables, coffee table and at least two other chairs to show its social value. The purpose of staging is to show the potential value of the space to the customer, not just to be "cute". Staging really isn't decorating; it serves a different purpose-- to accentuate size and placement and traffic flow. Stagers need to have a sense of color and design but they are not replacements for Interior Designers, If so, we would all be taking four year courses at a college of choice.

Geordie Romer said...

The comments all seem to trend in one direction. If you aren't happy with your stager, tell them what the results have been and what you think of their work. Obviously, there are a number of different solutions to the narrow living room problem.

Can we get an update? What did Adam do to resolve the problem?

Home Loans said...

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Anonymous said...

I'm not a stager, but looking at that long room, it looks like a hallway or a hotel lobby. The bar chairs at the pass through emphasize the long line of the pass through, and make the room look that much longer. So does lining the chairs up against the wall on the other side. There is no sofa, tv, or other living room items, it looks like a waiting area. The room is really long, it was tough to follow what was going on in the video, I would rather have been looking at still shots. There is no shot of what the other end of the room looks like. Based on what I have been able to see in this room, the furniture placement makes the room look longer. The long line of the track lighting also emphasizes the length, and the track lighting with the stark white walls makes it look more like a gallery than a living space.
I think the track lights should be taken down, and some other choice of lighting used. I think I would ignore the pass through altogether and treat it more like a window. There is not enough room in that spot to try to dual purpose a
bar / living room. The long console table adds a long line to the long space, and the small rug anchoring the chairs off to the side also creates another long line. The room needs some features to shorten it visually, and make it appear wider. The stairway at the one end is visually distracting, all those windows and one stairway down, one stairway up, there is a lot going on there. In such a long room, I think I would try to break it up some. I would start with taking out the bar chairs. I would put down a much larger rug, with subtle stripes going from side to side, it would help to strengthen the width of the room. I would put a sofa on the long wall, and group the two chairs with a smaller table on the end of the rug, in the area that I can't see in the video. On the "stair" side of the rug, I would place a folding screen to block out some of that and create an impression of a wall there, and to create an impression of intimacy in the seating area, as the front door opens on all this and then the energy runs right down the stairs into the living area. In this more or less contemporary setting, I think I would either do a shoji screen so the light could pass through, or given the color scheme, maybe a black lacquer screen. I wouldn't place it right across the end of the rug, just kind of place it at a diagonal with enough room to get through to the stairs, to anchor the furniture arrangement. That's my non professional 2 cents, whatever that's worth...

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm a beginning stager and can tell that the room has not been staged very well. It's supposed to be a LR, however, I do not see any couches. With the width of the room, obviously you can't put a large couch in there, but you do have other options available. If you have a small room, you have to scale down the furniture accordingly. The kitchen also looks very scarce and "cold". Same thing for the bathroom. Additional staging needs to be done.
Good Luck Adam

Terri B
Chicago suburbs

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Stage Of Art said...

Hi Craig,

I am a home stager in Toronto. I have just recently opened up my own home staging company. I also have a degree in interior design.

As for this staging job, all I can say is to speak with the stager and he/she needs to take into consideration that any home buyer wants to see a proper living room. There was no couch?!?! A home buyer needs to walk into the space and see how the furniture is placed so they can envision their own set-up. This is not giving any insight what-so-ever. Someone mentioned in their comment it looks like a waiting room which is exactly spot on!

The stager needs to be contacted as it is their need to make their client happy. Maybe the best approac would be: Job well done but didn't accomplish what it was supposed to and I would like something to be done about this. It is the stager's responibility to change and fix something if the client is not happy. How are you to get business if your clients are not satified and happy with the work that was done?

Dawn said...

The unit is small, two seating areas for the kitchen are not necessary. I think the elimination of the bar stools and the addition of some creative and contemporary floating shelves in the bar or pass thru space allow you to keep the light and open feeling. The use of some fun decorative pieces can be used to tie the color scheme together. I would place a contemporary styled trim loveseat in the wall where the chairs and console table are now and bring the chairs to the pass thru wall. Eliminate the console table and bring in a lower scale set of nesting tables to put between them. I would use a sisal style area rug to define the space.

I agree with the other comments regarding pumping up the accessories. There need to be more warm touches. The line is fine between taste and tacky so that needs to be tempered, but this looks sterile.

Brampton Real Estate said...

I'm a realtor and I thought perhaps I could chime in with a few thoughts.

There hasn't been any mention of the most important factor, and that is the price of the unit. Showroom-type homes can be decked out to the fullest, but if the price is too high, there will be a ton of showings and no offers.

I'd have to agree with previous comments with respect to the space looking less like a living room and more like a waiting room. However, conscientious buyers look at layouts much more than they do at furniture, and if this particular unit is priced close to market value, there should be no reason why it shouldn't receive an offer looking the way it does.

Best of luck with the sale.


Judy Colburn said...

Hi Craig,

It looks to me like the stager used vignettes as opposed to a full staging. I agree that an apartment-sized sofa should be used. Buyers need to be able to envision themselves living in the home. Using pieces that would typically be found in that type of space goes a long way in showing potential buyers how their belongings would look and fit.

I will tell you that I am always open to the ideas and input of my clients. Stagers need to be flexible and understanding and keep an open mind and meet the needs of their clients. If my client is unhappy about something I did you can bet I will do something to resolve the issue.

Tim said...

Even people who are pros should not neglect or dismiss the observations of others, especially when it's more than one person.

"Correct" or not, a room (in most cases) should feel as big as it is or larger). Ego should step aside and we can all learn a thing or two from feedback.

Fernando Arispe said...

"vestibule" feeling instead of a "living room" space. While clean lines is becoming a very popular way to go, I still believe that you can have few furnishings while maintaining some character to the space. I also think that some art and a "green" touch always make a positive statement to any space, perhaps that can be used here too. I would also recommend to add "livable items" like placing model picture frames. Taking budget into consideration, I also agree with prior comments of a sofa, chaise, or even ottomans to make the effect of: "I can see myself living here, where do I sign?"

My clients, now more than before, are always striving for a bigger bang for their buck, so I always encourage to discuss the budget and furnishings and if you don't like what you see, feel free to speak up and a professional stager should always be receptive to feedbacks (specially after 10 unsuccessful showings). Yes, we are professionals with certain objective views, but I believe our goal is to maintain a positive relationship with our clients and have a quick closing on the property.

Wishing you a happy and quick closing,

Fernando Arispe
Facebook: Arkoy Consult

Michelle said...

Hi Craig,

I'm a home stager in Los Angeles. In my opinion, the stager did not solve the hallway dilemma. I would have definitely used a sofa or loveseat to give a more cozy feeling, adding the comfy chair one at each end of the sofa (facing one another) if the space permits. If not, then at least one chair. As far as the pass through, definitely no bar stools or chairs. Who wants to look at the backs of chairs? I would set it up as a bar with a wine rack under the pass through. Then with a tray and glasses on the pass through counter. This makes it all more cohesive as one room and extends into the kitchen rather than cutting you off seeing the backs of bar chairs.

Best to you,

Michelle Drewry

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Denise said...

The bars stools should be lucite or at least be without backs. This is another fine contractor design....terrible. But, yes, the living room looks like a hallway and accentuates the narrow living room. The stager should change it out (for free).

Denise said...

right, I forgot about the bedroom which looks like a red fountain coming out of the top of the bed.

Alex_tom said...

I am a real Estate broker. I have a project of interior design, But I am not understanding how to manage the space wisely. I have a lot of free area which I have to occupied by the home things or furniture. Plz give me some suggestion.
Thank You:

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Kristy Lou said...

Hello Craig,

I am a Realtor, and I have to agree with Adam on this one. I think the first thing I would do is remove the chairs that are at the "bar area" in the loving room. I can see from the video that there is already a table in another part of the home , and adding the two chairs in the living space is adding to the "hallway" feeling his friends described. Adding a bigger piece, such as a small sofa like the previous comments suggested would also, in my opinion, be a good idea and help anchor that room and give it more presence.

I think poor Adam needs to have another meeting with his stager and maybe kindly remind them that the point of staging should be to make the sell, not to prove a point about the stagers abilities.

This is an excellent blog, and I am your latest follower. Thanks for all your work in making such an amazing read.

paula said...

This is done right!

Paula M
philippine real estate

Spruce It Up! Staging and Redesign Consultants said...

A challenging room admittedly. The first order of comment is the stager's response. Yes, we are the trained professional and it's frustrating when clients try to tell us our business. However, if a client is dissatisfied, I think we owe it to them to at least try something different. A successful staging is as important to your reputation as a sale is to the seller. I'd suggest you lose the bar stools as it confuses the use of the space by featuring an eating area. The stools also take up valuable space in the room. As lovely as the seating vignette looks, it does make the space look like a foyer rather than a place to stretch out and relax. Without seeing the other end of the room, it's hard to tell what you've got to work with. Perhaps a small loveseat and rug placed across the room vs.chairs against the wall would create some width.
PS, The kitchen could sure use some color!
Liz Harrison
Spruce It Up! Home Staging and Redesign
Salem OR

Galvin Humphries said...

As a realtor, the area looks nice. In fact I think it is a great stage, if there was another living area. I think Adam has a point that it does not look like a living room, but it would taka lot of work to make it look like a great living space almost to the point that I'm not sure it is possible. For the cost he is paying, I think she should work with him a bit more, it is his money and his house. If she thinks that it won't sell, that is his issue.

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Crystal Tost said...

I love the video, great job. I wish that more home owners would stage their homes for sale. Some of them could really use a little help.

Jennifer Poppy said...

The "livingroom" looks more like a ba/entry/hallway. It isn't properly staged as a livingroom at all. I think that the stager should go back to the house & set it up a conversational area & make it look like a livingroom, free of any additional charge.

Maria Groen said...

Craig - Just found your blog - great job! To Adam's dilemma:
two chairs do not a living room make. I've staged my fair share of narrow town homes and condos here in Seattle, so I know what the challenges of these types of layouts are. The stager needs to re-think this and try another approach. Perhaps Adam needs to re-consier the budget to help make that happen? I can't speak to the cost of staging in his area, but flexbility from all parties may be required here.
Maria Groen

Michele Rose said...

Oh my! It's a little difficult to get a grip on the space from the pictures but I agree those chairs with the table are not working-- not for the main living room. A sofa or even a loveseat and chair is needed-- desperately. I'm not sure about the breakfast bar area either. And what is on the kitchen table? A black candle? If it looks good in person, it's not translating in the photo.
The whole space feels cold to me even though attempts at warming it up have been made with flowers and red throughout. It doesn't draw me in, doesn't make me want to stay, doesn't have the charm that's needed for someone to make an offer.
The other thing that strikes me is that the stager is not willing to revisit the staging plan.
My rule is that there should be at least 1 offer for every 10 showings or there's a problem in how the home shows. (If there aren't showings, it's usually the price) I always keep track of my staged homes and I always ask for feedback from their showings. We stagers are not perfect and it helps to know if something's not working so we can correct it.

Anonymous said...

hi craig - i want to say the decor is attractive but i agree with everyone else-a really great livingroom could have been created there. i think your stager is a vignette stager and as such merely suggest what can be done with a space: small pleasing areas of decor and furnishings-it is a budget friendly way of staging your home for sale. maybe if you ask her what a full livingroom would cost in addition to what has been done it wouldn't be too much more for her to complete a livingroom for you. Best of Luck, Dena - First Impressions Home Staging

real estate said...

I had two friends over… both of them said is "this room looks like a hallway". They also said that the way it's staged does not show the potential of the living room.

Bobbi Williams said...

Hi Craig,
After looking closely at the living room space, I agree with the seller. I also respect the stager's defense of professional opinion, as all staging styles vary. I am a stager and a realtor and I believe the power of staging lies in suggesting what the living space can be. I would have opted not to put chairs at the counter, there is a dining area set up elsewhere. I would have staged the counter as a serving buffet. I agree a small sofa coffee table & chair would better define a living room. However, true living room definition would be to replace the art next to the counter with a plasma TV. Now you have the makings of a living room. Most buyers want to know where to place their TV.

Anonymous said...

I am a Realtor, not a stager, but I agree with the previous commenters, the living room has been made to look like a giant foyer. Most buyers want a living room, so why is it not staged like a living room? The two barstools at the pass-through are unneccessary, you already have seating in the kitchen. (Sometimes common sense is all you need) The barstools need to be removed and a sofa and coffee table could be added to the two white chairs. The arrangement could be played with. I think Adam's Realtor could step in and help the stager regain some of the common sense.

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altresol said...

Hello Craig,
I stumbled onto your site by accident and I am extremely happy that I did!
I have to completely agree with Victoria. The area would greatly benefit by the divide and conquer method. I have worked with many odd shaped rooms and it's always important to think about conversation areas and where am I going to kick back after a long day at work? Most buyers don't see themselves snuggling up in the chairs. Perhaps one with a throw and a reading vingette set up next to the chair would be great by a sofa on an angle with an area rug.
I also agree that bringing the red throughout the entire condo was a great idea! I love to use color to create a flow throughout a condo or main level of a home. The only thing I would do differently is add a taupe or tan in place of the red to help warm up the condo. The white is beautiful against a painted wall, however; it does not add anything on a white wall.
The kitchen barely looks touched. It costs only pennies to place a cookbook on a frame holder with a notepad and pencil on the counter & a bowl of red and green apples to bring the color into the kitchen.

Best Wishes,

Laura S. Baker
Ready? Set,...Sell!
Home Staging
Jefferson, WI

Mark Jacobs said...

Great Post with lots of good information

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Anonymous said...

The use of the furniture did not make it feel like a home to me. I think as I was walking thru the long living room area I would be wondering where the living room was! The bedroom was sparse, did not look inviting, the breakfast nook table could have had plates on it to make it look more attractive. My eye was drawn to the the bathroom and not to the bathroom itself. I think you need to find someone else to do your staging and to see a book of the previous work that they have done.

Harkin85 said...

I questions the two bar chairs at the "pass through" not a bar counter I don't think that is a good idea and are the two chairs next to the console table the only other seating in the living room area? If so of course people will walk in a think what am I going to do with this spaces, nothing will fit where do I sit to relax or watch TV. I hope there is more then the pictures show.

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Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear you had a bad expeience. I agree with Victoria's suggestions & comments. To add to that. I would suggest removing the bar stools and perhaps put a vase with something tall & whispy to accent the home with some texture, depth. The bathroom should have the red towels peaking through the white ie) accordian style and the flowers should perhaps have a splash of red. When I saw that room - all I remembered was the red towels.. this is not a selling feature. Your question was about the living room. Although actual dimensions are not known I would suggest dviding that space in two with at least one love seat placed sideways on side closest to the entry, anchor with a rug and accentuate with a narrow side table and small coffee table. Rather than incur more cost, the chairs could be used on the other side. One has to consider realtor suggestions to buyers. ie)a flat screen TV could go here, a second couch here....
The other end of this long room would probably be well suited to a small secretarial desk, reading lamp, rug and chari. In this day of laptops, a full office is not required. You will have created two livable and functional areas that are clutter free and inviting. The kitchen tends to be a gathering place. I may have been inclined to put narrow rectangular glass top table as it appears the space is available. The glass keeps the space open while the larger table looks like you are ready to entertain and keep up with the tasks of daily living.
Here are a couple of tips. I take pictures of finished rooms and then flip through them really quickly. I then consider what stood out & ask myself if that was the intent. If it was not - then I go back and redo the room. The red towels would not have passed the test. In my initial consult I ask what client preferences and goals are and verify these were met before signing off my work. I doubt I could have signed off on this as it appears your primary concern was the living room potential. And finally we must all remember why stagers and realtors have a job. Many people do not possess the skill or ability to imagine something beyond what is shown. Often a home may be passed over due to simple cosmetic flaws; people can't invision it with a fresh coat of paint or carpets cleaned or garbage removed. The stagging specialist is intended to provide the visual while the realtor provides the verbal. These fields should compliment one another to ensure a quick and easy home sale. Again I am sorry you were left unhappy Craig. If you would like to change it around yourself, I would be happy to exam your work and offer suggestions at no charge. Please email me at:

Mark Jacobs said...

Great Post, Love the information

Marc Brodeur said...

One thing I haven't seen mentioned was the listed price and whether its correct? If its not priced right, proper staging still won't help. It has to be priced appropriately, and if its a unique property, the staging becomes critical to getting potential buyers to see how this property makes sense.

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Anonymous said...

Hey I think always take precaution while selecting a stagger. select that one who fulfill your requirement. and also experiences holder too.

Makeba said...

Im not a stager or in real estate. What I am is a very good naturally talented decorator. I've decorated my homes as well as friends and family members homes over the years. I'm the 'go to girl' when any of them need decorating advice. Even I, as untrained as I am, can see that that looks nothing like a living room! It looks like a pretty hallway. And what happened to the customer is always right? Shame on her! I have a question: can I use pictures of my homes and others that I've done as a portfolio? Do I need to have a portfolio to get into a staging school? Do I need a certification or degree to be a stager in illinois?

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beth said...

I came acoss this site and the "case scenario," so to speak, sucked me in!

I am not a professional stager (but am thinking about becoming one).

FIRST, there absolutely needs to be a SOFA. People "associate" sofas with living rooms. lack of a sofa immediately says "not a living room." Besides, the emotional effect, who doesn't want a sofa? So, the room needs to show that yes, a sofa can fit here. People likely view the room now, and think (consciously or not), "oh, the room is too narrow for a sofa." The room is also too formal. Granted, it would be nice to have a formal room (sitting of living) IF a more everyday type family room exsted, but that's not the case.

I would not get a "small sofa," but a more average sized one. A streamlined, yet comfy one (such as ones sold by Pottery Barn) would do the trick. A regular sofa, one side chair and a coffee table could easily fit here. Rather than a typical sofa, I'm thinking that a sectional (long along the wall, with just one small side piece) might also work. It would provide a cozy enclosed look.

Also, since the room is narrow, I think the bar chairs can go. Though, an a better alternative would be to actually have bar stools, not chairs, for two reasons. The stools would not be as high as the chairs (chair backs) so visually would not cut into the living room depth as mush as they presently do. And, even better, the stools might even give the impression of extra LIVING room seating (as well as kitchen seating). I'd test this out -- try two stools, and then try no stools after the living room is already set up. Should be easy to tell what works better. Secondly, I totally agree with Victoria -- the place says "cold" to me. The only room that I did not find cold was the bathroom. The kitchen and bedroom need some some warmth and a dash of personality. It does't take much.

Thirdly, I'd use a more typical alignment of the bed. Granted, the current layout might work for some, but I believe the vast majority of people will have a visceral negative reaction to it. A more typical arrangment allows for a small side table with lamp and one book -- says, "you can read here if you want." Plus, a lamp and book add some warmth, to boot.

Lastly, some comments about the color red and the flowers... I like the red accent in the bath, but do not like the red flowers -- anywhere. The flower arangement in the living room is too large/tall -- people sitting at those chairs would have to talk over/through them. Maybe once the chairs go, the flowers will look ok on a coffee table, but I'd go for a more colorful arrangment to add some warmth and personality. Tall gerbera daisies in various colors would look great. I very much dislike the flowers behind the bed -- but, again, I don't like the bed arranged like that anyway.

OVERALL, the place is over-staged, IMO. The place is screaming for a little more color -- not just red. I'd keep it mild, but add maybe a bright green bowl or plant on the kitchen table and at least one or two items of color in each room.

Elizabeth McKenna

Anonymous said...

I am not a home stager, but learning to be, so I hesitate to comment. But, I agree the living room shows like a waiting area. If I were home-shopping, I'd write this off quickly wondering where on earth I would sit, relax and watch tv or talk with friends. There could be at least a loveseat and small coffee table, placed in a cozy grouping. Further, it could be that the budget did not allow, but the house looks a bit sparse. A few warm touches could really help, especially in the bedroom and kitchen. And, the paper towel holder could be replaced. While I think the staging looks orderly and inviting, it could go further, if the budget is there. However, I realize it's easy to say this, not having actually seen the full space or the budget.

Mark Jacobs said...

Great Information, Thanks

Mark Jacobs said...

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Jessica said...

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Anonymous said...

Hi adam,

I have no experience whatsoever in home staging, saying that I am interested and researching in taking some courses. From my point of , I think it looks like if its part of the foyer, or any other part of the house but no like a living room. I believe it needs a living room setting, it seems like there is not enough space but it can be done...needs to look confortable, warm and inviting!

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Nick Raymon said...

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Carmen Brodeur | Desert Mountain AZ said...

$1000 is a shoe string budget. He should be happy with what he got. Most stagers in AZ won't even touch a project for under 2 grand.

John Howard said...

I have been considering hiring a stager to help me in selling my house. I think this is going to help the house sell at a higher price and quicker.