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Are Staging and Design the Same?

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

Staging versus design

This season we have been answering a lot of homeowner questions about the nature of staging.

Not surprising, many people think staging and decorating are the same thing – mostly driven by

staged homes they see on home improvement shows where the homeowners seem to “keep”

the staged design. We explain to homeowners that the difference is significant. When I design a

home for an owner, that design is personal to the people in that household. The style, the

colors, and the function reflect the people who will live day to day in that home.

When we stage, we intentionally strip away personal style and color. The home becomes a

product that we are merchandising to the broadest segment of buyers. We track the design

trends that appeal to the different demographic segments of buyers. We rely on market data

on buyers and home ownership. With all of that in mind, we create looks designed to emphasize

the home’s assets and sell it quickly.

Preparing for Market

I am asked nearly every day what “has to be done” to get a home ready for the market. I always

frame this with those things that cost the least but have the biggest impact. The first is always

fresh paint. (See below for our favorite whites and neutrals.) Even if the current paint is a good

color, holes will need to be patched from artwork and walls and trim will need the scuffs

touched up. The biggest mistake we see with touch ups is using the wrong paint finish.

After paint, my next recommendation is updated lighting, particularly in the primary suite, the

entry, and dining space. Lighting doesn’t have to be expensive to look great – there are many

great sources. If budget allows, we recommend adding lighting to rooms with no overhead

lighting at all. After lighting, in cost and expense, is the floor.

While hardwood is the gold standard, many people are showing a preference for luxury vinyl

plank. It’s child and pet friendly and much less expensive than hardwood. Sheet vinyl has also

been re-imagined and comes in patterns that look just like the beautiful cement tiles that are so

popular in modern traditional and farmhouse designs. Carpet is still preferred by many people

in bedrooms and is available at a variety of price points.

Depending on the budget, we may make recommendations for things like countertops, a new

sink, and fixtures in the kitchen. And similarly, countertops, sinks and fixtures in the bathrooms.

Sometimes we recommend new hardware for doors – knobs and hinges – to freshen up a


Your real estate professional will make many suggestions as well. Knowing the market and how

buyers think and view your home is essential as you get ready to sell. Choosing trusted

resources who are successfully working in the market day-to-day is the key to success.

Originally published in the November 2022 issue of Napa Spotlight


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