A Shopping Trip for Staging a Home

For the past several Fridays I have been taking “Friday Fieldtrips” with agents from my office.  Mostly we have been staging their listings.  Just a little spruce up.  Adding a bit of color.  I thought I’d share some of our great finds.

The home we were staging is in Woodinville, so we shopped in Woodinville at TJ MAXX, Target and World Market.  The photo below are just the things we bought today.  I have a huge growing collection in this particular color family of reds, golds and greens which work well for homes built in the 1980s.


The curtains are only $15 at World Market.  They come in that orange twisted coil in a little bag of the same fabric, to create the wrinkle effect.  We used the patterned ones behind the dining room table.  They are only about 24″ wide and tie on.  Best buy were the small wavy square plates at only $2.00 each at TJ Maxx on the clearance table.  I try to keep pillows at $10 each, these came in sets of 2 for $20 at Target.


The big green goblets were $5.00 each at World Market.  I get plates of all shapes and colors at Target for $3.00 to $4.00 each all the time.  They have every color imaginable and I usually buy them in sets of 4 from $12.00 to $16.00.

The tall red oval vase on the right I just had to have and was about $12.00 and we spotted the red and white photo box below it for only $3.00 and it was a perfect color match.  Most of my big pictures are out at my two pending listings in Sammamish and Edmonds.  Often I can take them from one house to another, but this was Hilde Webber’s listing so we started her collection and I added a bit to my collection and lent the items to her.

We staged most of the first floor, but didn’t pre-set the kitchen area too much as a family of five still lives here.  It’s tough on a family getting the house ready and keeping it that way.  A little help goes a long way, and if you shop well you won’t spend too much money and you can use the items over and over again from one listing to the next.

This one is all ready for the Open House this Sunday and Hilde and I had a great Friday Fieldtrip.  I find it’s also a great way to get to know my agents really well.  Gives new meaning to TGIF! 


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ARDELL is a Managing Broker with Better Properties METRO King County. ARDELL was named one of the Most Influential Real Estate Bloggers in the U.S. by Inman News and has 33+ years experience in Real Estate up and down both Coasts, representing both buyers and sellers of homes in Seattle and on The Eastside. email: ardelld@gmail.com cell: 206-910-1000

36 thoughts on “A Shopping Trip for Staging a Home

  1. I can’t beleive you went off shopping without me. I’ve got a few great resources to add to your list. Closer to our neck of the woods there’s also Ross dress for less (dreadful clothing but fabulous furniture) there’s also Tuesday Mornings, Marshalls and don’t forget Michaels for silk plants and flowers. I love the idea a field trip for agents with a nice lunch to keep energy and laughter levels up.

  2. I went through my “acquire in the name of staging” period. It began to look like Martha Stewart had hurled (repeatedly) in my garage. Steve put the kabosh to my full-service adopt-a-home projects, as he is weird about his garage. So, my question: Where do you store all the stuff?

  3. I have a couple of questions:

    1) Homeowners aquire stuff like dishes and curtains and decorative items. Why not just use their stuff to stage?

    Follow up question, if their stuff is hideous, how do you explain to them, “well, I’m going to go buy new stuff because your taste is not going to appeal to average homeowners?”

    2) Who pays for all this stuff?

    3) Could a homeowner elect to negotiate their commission downward and not stage the home, and just clean it up and declutter on their own?

    How does that conversation go?


  4. Andy,

    Actually Hilde brought up your name while we were staging and shopping. She wanted to meet you to…don’t remember exactly what, but I told her I was pretty sure I could arrange that.

    On your list I have used Michael’s for years and have many pieces from there including vases and silks. Have you been to Ben Franklin in Redmond? Even better than Michael’s, but I still hit Michael’s more often.

    I’m doing a mirror project where I want to make my own. Those “Pottery Barn” style mirrors are popular, but cost an arm and a leg. I’m planning to enlist my daughter to help me make some when she comes in for Thanksgiving. She’s a tatoo artist, but works at Aaron Brothers while building up her tattoo portfolio.

    As to staging, I have a 3 step process. I’m going to do a second post on that including the agent’s comments regarding what they learn on a Friday Fieldtrip. Hilde had taken the ASP course. Her comments regarding what she learned on Friday Fieldtrip that she didn’t learn taking the class, may be of interest to you.

  5. Kris,

    I’m a “serial lister” 🙂 The stuff tends to travel straight from a couple of houses after they go pending, meaning after the inspection and appraisal. I leave everything in the houses as long as possible, sometimes up to a few days before closing. If the Woodinville house were my listing, I would have taken the things directly from my two pending sales and not had to shop at all.

    I have “color families”. Part of my agent training is to have just a few “color family sets” that travel well together from one listing to the next. Often, as you can see in the “Photo of Finds”, they are mix and match between color family sets. One may use less of the reds and more of the greens and golds. Those are usually newer and smaller like condos and townhomes vs four bedroom homes built in the 80s. I have a “Tuscany” set that does newer townhomes well and utilizes more natural food items and the sage greens and golds. Dark wood trims require a little more uplift of color and more of the rusts and reds.

    I’m tracing my “stuff” in my head. It went from Ballard in Seattle to Mt. Baker in Seattle to 65th in Seattle to 60th in Seattle to Phinney in Seattle to 8th Street in Edmonds. I had to shop for the Sammamish Plateau house because the Edmonds house sucked up almost all of my staging stuff and both were large four bedroom homes. Storage hasn’t really been a problem this year as things moved from house to house. The Kirkland house used a few things that were purchased for the Ballard house a year ago. Smaller homes that needed the Capuccino table rarely used in larger homes.

    Remember my kids are grown, I’m much older than you are 🙂 I also do not permit men to “kabosh” anything I want to do. That kicks in around 50.

    When I started with the staging inventory I had a separate “barn” structure over in Bridal Trails in Bellevue that was separate from the home. In my current home I have a 1,600 sf basement which includes the garage, a 1600 sf main floor that can “store” a lot of things that double as my home furnishings and I have 750 square feet on the top floor that can be used as well. That’s almost 4,000 square feet all tolled. My things “disperse” well though I rarely use the colors from my house out at a listing. I have two 21 year olds in the basement right now, but over time and as kids come and go from time to time, I have plenty of storage space.

    More than where do I store it, Kim wants to know where his spice rack is. More often than not my home is losing things more than it gains things. In fact the Sammamish house is selling just in time, as I need the extra table and chairs for Thanksgiving.

  6. Wow! Thanks for the short answer. 🙂 You’ve inspired me to revisit the amassing of inventory and to be a little more rebellious with ol’ Steve. We don’t have basements in SoCal, so his garage will be toast again soon.

    Funny about the stuff on loan. I just took a set of plates to a client this morning who is in the throes of staging hell today. I have quit trying to be a DIYer and now hire a professional, but she is a move-the-stuff-around stager, and if any props are needed, it is up to the client (or me) to provide them.

    Excellent topic, and I am looking forward to your next post.

  7. Jillayne,

    Answer to question 1). Two of the last four homes I staged, the owners had moved things into the homes from their former homes. One bought a Tuscany Style townhome which I was selling, but many of the items in their home were wedding gifts that didn’t go with the home decor and clashed with it. Their big furniture went well as did pretty much everything they had personally purchased. In fact Pottery Barn perfect! But many of their accessories, wedding gifts, did not.

    I took out all of the bright white dishes and moved in Tuscan gold, olive and some deep red to replace it. The owners more than agreed. They were thrilled. As the transformation was quick and instantly and obviously perfect.

    Often when I move something the owner says “that was a gift from…” which they had out more for reasons of being courteous to the gifter, than because they bought it to match their home decor.

  8. Jillayne,

    Answer to Question 2) When it is my listing, sometimes the owner and I shop together. I pay for items I can take away and use again and they pay for items I cannot, such as light fixtures. Sometimes they want to keep the items we are buying to go with their furniture as they want to move it with them to their new place. They pay for those items.

    It really involves no haggling. The fine line of who pays for what is immediately apparent. The only items that I end up paying for that I don’t get to keep and use again are the ones the buyer wants…usually the bar stools. I can never keep the bar stools! The seller doesn’t want them, but the buyer who is not my client at all in most cases, wants them to be sold with the house. Curtains go with the house here in the Pacific Northwest per our contracts, so to agents and stagers, be prepared to lose those.

  9. What’s left on Jillayne’s list? Seller saying “thanks but no thanks; charge me less commission instead”. How does that conversation go?

    I have to be anecdotal here to be accurate with the answer.

    For the clients who are both buying and selling with me, the commission discussion usually happens before I even see the property. So “to stage or not to stage” isn’t usually in the conversation. My commission in those cases is more often based on the combination of price of the two separate transactions.

    For the clients who approach me only to sell and not to buy, what needs to be done to sell the house is not really up to the seller. Is it? A seller asks what they need to do before putting their home on market? Usually I am moving things in their home the day I first meet them, even before they hire me.

    A listing appointment is about the house first. I don’t talk about who they might hire first. I talk about their house first. We walk through the house and as I do I say things like, “This picture moves from here to there, the sofa moves back here, the pendants in the kitchen and the light fixture in the bathroom will be changed…” this conversation coming from one I had on Friday with a seller.

    I don’t know if he’s going to sell FSBO or hire an agent and if he does hire an agent if that will be me, while I am saying this. I’ve added value whether he hires me or not. He now knows what to do even if he intends to sell it himself. What you need to do to sell your home doesn’t change because you want to spend more or less to sell it.

    Remember, staging the home is not about decorating at all. It is about maximizing the price. First you expand the square footage. A large living room can be arranged to feel bigger or smaller. Smaller homes sell for less; bigger homes sell for more. So creating the right perception of square footage, matching it to what it really IS, no more and no less, is the number one goal of REAL staging.

    I’m going to cover more of this in my next post about the 3 steps of staging a home, so I’ll stop here. But here’s the line I learned in my early 20s as a Trust Officer:

    “A Professional Acts as he MUST, not as he feels, and without regard to self interest”.

    What needs to be done to sell the home at the highest price and in the shortest amount of time is really not all that negotiable, or commission dependent.

  10. Spoken like a true professional – Ardell, I couldn’t have said it better myself. In keeping with my teachings – yes, the stagent (staging agent) should have an inventory of accessories as well as a tolerant and preferably useful husband and garage. She should be skilled in keeping costs down to a minimum, juggling, haggling and dragging and schlepping, all of this while maintaining a cheery persona. My recommendation first and foremost is (with permission) to rummage through your sellers existing stuff first and make use of anything that you don’t have to ‘carry in’ especially your own inventory. Try to remember you are not decorators, you are stagents.

  11. Quite often the sellers have enough “stuff” to make a reasonable staging job, and only need to purchase a few items of color to make boring rooms “pop” a bit.

    The amount of staging often depends on the quality of the house and the seller’s furnishings. Does your seller’s $1million home have bachelor-pad quality furniture that he bought at Target when he first started college 25 years ago? If so, then you’ve got more work on your hands than someone who starts with reasonable quality basics and just needs a little cleaning, de-cluttering, repositioning, and a few accessories.

  12. Steve,

    Your Trulia Voices “stuff” is interesting. Personally I think Trulia Voices, from the consumer perspective and without regard to the petty ranking crap, is one of the best Q & A formats available. Though I wish it were Zillow.

  13. Mirrors are definitely one of the most useful staging accessories. They’re also easy to store, load into a trunk and work wonders with small spaces. You can also ‘frame’ mirror (using moulding sold from stores like Aaron Brothers) and end up with pretty much the same look as a Pottery Barn Mirror.

  14. Ardell-

    I agree completely that Trulia Voices is the best. Just a couple of months ago, I thought things were running smoothly there. But at an accellerating pace it was degrading, so I wanted to see some changes for the better. I think Pete’s listening, and with any luck, shortly the changes being made will result in a better community from all perspectives.

    On the topic of light staging, I’ve never shopped for a client, but in hindsight, that’s a mistake on my part that I shall seek to correct.

  15. Just saw this great dining room chair cover that would go great in that dining room.  Only $7.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond and they come in Bronze, Moss Green, Burgundy and Ivory

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