Differences Between Decorating and Home Staging

Decorating your home and staging your house are often thought of as being very similar when in reality they are HUGELY different.

When decorating, your personal design style tends to come out in the furniture, fabrics, colors and accessories that you place throughout your home. 

If you are staging your home to sell, you don’t want to “decorate”  to your liking – you want the buyers to be able to see themselves and their items in the space.


Below are some examples of the differences between home staging and decorating:



 Black and white photos are a great idea for decorating your home.  However even though these kids are cute, they won’t help sell your home. 

Personal touches are not appealing to a potential buyer so they should be minimized.



Themed rooms for children are creative and exciting when decorating your own home.  When staging to sell your home,  it is about the potential buyer,

not yourself or your family.  Try and keep furnishings and window coverings simple and universal.



Staging is all about showcasing the space's assets.  This kitchen staged by Michelle Lynne INTERIORS Group is a great example of how this can be done in a neutral, yet attractive manner.

 Staging is all about showcasing the space’s assets.  This kitchen staged by Michelle Lynne INTERIORS Group is a great example of how this can be done in a neutral, yet attractive manner.

 dos for selling 2

Less is more in most cases, but DEFINITELY  true when trying to sell your home. 

This kitchen staged by Michelle Lynne Interiors Group is an example of how all the clutter (including countertop appliances) is taken away and the space looks clean lined and “not lived in”.



I hope briefly going over  the major differences between home staging and decorating are helpful in your next venture!   However, there are so many more that I didn’t even get to mention, so please give us a call for your next project as soon as possible so you don’t make any mistake between home staging and decorating!

Click HERE to contact us today!


Should I Use Alcohol In My Staging Projects?

I’ve been asked the question about using alcohol in staging projects quite often, and my answer is always the same:  IT DEPENDS.  Yeah, I know, I should be a politician since I’m not really answering the question, but let me give you some ideas as to what I believe it depends on, then you can consider me for public office.  Or better yet, your stager.  

Most importantly, I believe you should stage TO the demographic of the buyer that will be interested in that specific property that is being staged.  

To do this, you should look at the neighborhood first:  

    • Is it a family-centric neighborhood?  
    • Arts district?  
    • Collegiate vicinity?  
    • Religious corridor?
    • Young singles & marrieds?
    • Geriatric community?

You can tell a lot simply by driving the neighborhood and looking at things like the foot traffic – are there younger or older people out walking / jogging?  Are there kids riding bikes in the street?  What sort of shopping is nearby?  Are there sports flags hanging from the porch flagpoles?  Are there neighborhood signs up advertising local events and what type?  And what is the financial state of the people who live there?  Are there broken down vehicles parked in the front yard, because you don’t want to stage with Pabst Blue Ribbon to meet that demographic.

You also need to review the layout and space of the property you’re staging.  Is there a pool?  A game room?  How is the outdoor area set up for grilling, etc.?  If it’s a very small space that doesn’t look like it would host a great party, then you wouldn’t want to set the stage (pun intended) for a party because buyers will get conflicting messages.  Is there a built in wine rack?  What about a wine cellar?  

So let’s say, you’re in a neighborhood of young singles & marrieds, that is very close to night life and hip shopping venues, I’d say you can probably use some liquor in your stagings and not offend anybody.  Especially if the property has a pool and a killer patio or a rooftop deck or a huge kitchen that opens into a great room with a big screen TV – get the drift?

Now, you don’t want to go crazy displaying a nightclub level of alcohol inventory, but you can set up a small vignette that provides the idea of having some fun in the space.  Here is one that we staged this week…we’ve got two liquor bottles, and lots of glasses…plus the lemons in the beverage dispenser to add some color and height.  I don’t think this is offensive, even to a tee-totaler.  And once you walked past this set up, the next room you would see was the sunroom and the view to the awesome pool area, so we’re creating the image of a LIFESTYLE that comes with this house.  

Staged Bar Area by Michelle Lynne

Staged Bar Area by Michelle Lynne

Ultimately, you also have to wrestle with your own beliefs and value system, and I’m not saying staging with or without alcohol will make or break the sale of the house so you don’t need to FEEL that if you don’t put alcohol into a property, you’re doing the client a disservice.  I live in the middle of the Bible Belt and could probably talk to half a dozen of my highly successful local colleagues in the staging industry and they would all have a varied opinion on it.  This is just my take.  Feel free to leave your thoughts below!  


Are Outdoor Living Areas Important in Home Staging?

Outdoor living areas ARE a luxury, especially as these cooler temperatures arrive, and by staging these spaces, you increase the perceived square footage & value of a home.  This means higher offers and more money in everybody’s pocket.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when staging the outdoor living areas to sell:

  • Integrate the interior with the exterior design by keeping the color palette cohesive to make both areas feel bigger.
  • Stage the exterior so it can be viewed from the inside – inviting the buyers step outside and spend more time envisioning themselves living there.  
  • Consider hanging a chandelier instead of a ceiling fan outside, for added elegance and higher perceived value.
Each area of a home for sale is important to create the story of the lifestyle that is being sold along with the property.  Outdoor spaces offer the possibility of leading a desirable lifestyle filled with friends, family and fun.
If you would like help preparing your listings for their best showings, please give me a call – you can find my contact information HERE.



Using Mirrors In Home Staging


A well placed mirror can visually expand and brighten a room.  We use mirrors regularly and in all shapes and sizes:  square, round, oval, rectangular & decorative shapes such as a sunburst.  We both lean them against and hang them on walls; however it’s imperative that wherever mirrors are used there is an attractive reflection.
  • In a dark hallway, hang multiple small to medium sized mirrors to lead the eye down the space…just make sure there is no reflection of an ugly closet door.
  • Lean a mirror against a wall in the master suite to make it look bigger and brighter – plus it’s actually functional when getting dressed.
  • In a formal living or dining room, hang a large rectangular mirror horizontally to reflect the lovely front yard landscaping.  
  • Lean a mirror against a fireplace mantel – so long as it doesn’t reflect the uh, ceiling.  You have to be strategic with this option.
Mirrors should assist you in directing the buyer’s eye to what you want them viewing…and not distracting them from what they are actually buying:  The Property.  Need help?  Click HERE to call us!  



The First Step In Home Staging: REPAIRS & UPGRADES

Staging is not just about making a house pretty – first you need to address the needed repairs & upgrades.  So before you go all HGTV-star and making the house look fancy, start by looking behind the scenes.  Here are a few common fixes:
  • Plumbing: ensure the hot water tank doesn’t leak and then don’t forget the seldom used shower & toilet in the guest room.  
  • Foundation & Roof:  hire a professional to take a look if you have any questions about a shifting foundation or a leaky roof.
  • Kitchen cabinets & countertops:  bring them up to date within the decade.  Painting wood cabinets is much cheaper than replacing! 
  • Bathrooms:  ditto the cabinets & countertops work in the baths (especially in the master suite). Use molding to frame out the large, square bathroom mirror instead of replacing it.
  • Windows:  repair any cracked or fogged windows, check the framing around them too – then get them professionally cleaned.
  • Flooring:  clean it, repair it, or replace it.  Period.  
We don’t suggest offering an allowance for these types of items based on the seller’s argument of “I don’t know what the buyer will want to choose so I’ll just give them an allowance”.  It’s almost always less money out of pocket to repair / replace than to negotiate an allowance…and of course, you can always enlist a stager if you need help deciding what color carpet / cabinet / countertop to choose.  Have questions?  Contact us HERE.




Michelle Lynne Featured in Dallas Morning News

We got some good local press recently when we were featured in the Dallas Morning News in their Home section (first page too!).  While we’re not FAMOUS, we did about triple our website visits the following week so let me know if you want an autograph before the paparazzi rushes our front door here at the office (ha ha).  Seriously, we’re pretty excited and hopes it brings more attention to the value of home staging.  Here is how it went down:

Carin Hughes called me about 2 – 3 months ago, inquiring about our services for herself…more as a Staging to DWELL (re-design) client than a Staging to SELL client.  She got our information from Angie’s List (yay Angie!).  We chatted on the phone for a while, I explained what we did, how we worked, etc. etc. and she said something along the lines of “great, I’ll figure out what I want to do with my space and give you a call back”.  Well, she DID call back but this time it was not as a client but as a writer for Dallas Morning News, wanting to put together an article on Home Staging.  Of course I was excited to assist in her endeavor.  Free advertising?   Yes, please!

What do you think?  Pretty exciting, huh?

Michelle Lynne featured in Dallas Morning News


Tips for Living in a Staged Home

I’ll oftentimes hear from homeowners “I just can’t live in a staged home”!  But let me reassure you that first of all, it’s just temporary – the sooner we stage, the sooner the house will sell (you can download some statistics from the Real Estate Staging Association’s 2011 Consumer’s Guide HERE) and that the key is to simply contain & hide your personal items so you can easily access them…and so that your personal stuff is kept, well, personal.  Here are some of the tips I share with all of my clients who are going to live in a staged home:


Did you ever live in a college dorm?  If so, this may bring back good or bad memories, but nonetheless an effective practice while living in a staged home.  You must keep your bathrooms tidy, and no sign of “day to day life” occurring in this model home.  So give each member of the family a tote (you can get inexpensive, plastic shoeboxes at WalMart that are quite effective AND the kids can decorate with their names, stickers, etc.) and use it to store the items that normally live on the counter around the sink.  Just put your creams, sprays, gels, toothpaste, razors, etc. in it and place the whole caddy under the bathroom sink or in the bathroom cabinet…anywhere behind a closed door when not in use.  Pull it out, place it on your countertop, use your fancy creams & gels and then pop the whole caddy back behind the door and enjoy the tidy space you now live in.  Many of my clients have taken this uncluttered living practice to their next home, even though it’s not for sale!

Another tip for the bathroom is to take up the bath mats from the floor.  These scattered mats can make the floor look like it needs work, even when it doesn’t AND it breaks up the sight line, making the space seem smaller – and remember we’re selling square footage!  But don’t worry, this stager won’t let you slip & die when you get out of the shower!  The trick is if you have a standard tub, to place the bath mat over the edge of the tub and hide it behind the closed shower curtain when not in use.  And if you have a step in shower, then simply get a terry cloth bath mat (or even a bath towel) in basically the same color as your floor and roll it up at the base of the door when not in use.  Either way, no slipping on a wet bathroom floor!


Something my mom always told me was “no dirty dishes OUT”.  This meant dishwashing duty after dinner every night until thankfully, we got a dishwasher when I was in high school.  Regardless, Mom was right that dirty dishes on the counter or in the sink wasn’t a pleasant view – who really wants to see dried, crusty leftovers clinging to the dishes?  YUCK.  So rinse & put yours in the dishwasher, or do the dishes after every meal.  

Keep your pantry & cabinets tidy too…because yes, buyers WILL open the doors to catch a peek of the space they may be buying!  The kitchen cabinets should be roughly 2/3 full and that pantry should look like a grocery store display with all of the canned goods in one area, the dry goods in another, and so forth…with all of the labels facing forward.  

Finally, keep in mind that the aromas from your cooking may not be appealing to all people, especially if they are a day or two lingering….  Plan to neutralize the scents immediately by opening doors & windows when possible.  You can also leave out 2 – 3 bowls of white vinegar to absorb the scents & odors overnight.  I also suggest leaving out a bowl of whole coffee beans all the time, they absorb scents AND produce a subtle but welcoming aroma in the kitchen.


Most bedroom clutter is found on or near the nightstands, in closets and with dirty clothes simply left about.  A good solution for the nightstand dilemma is to get a decorative basket to consolidate the items and place in on the shelf of the stand, or place the items inside the drawers or doors, depending on what type of nightstand you have.  You can also get one of those plastic shoeboxes I mentioned using in the bathroom as a caddy and do the same for your nightstand items by slipping it under the bed….  

Closets should be approximately 2/3 full and have only 1/4 of the floor covered with any items.  Rotate your out-of-season clothes out of the closet and start packing them up – you’ll need to pack them eventually, why wait until you’re rushed to pack up the rest of the house too?  

And finally…put your dirty clothes in the hamper and make your bed EVERY DAY.  



This is where life happens and while it can be challenging, it can also be the most rewarding room to live in staged.  Start with what you have:  children’s toys & play items can go into an existing cabinet OR (even better) back into their bedrooms when not in use.  Storage ottomans are great tools for easy containment for a quick showing.  Keep your magazines and newspapers to only the most recent issue and stacked nicely with the remote control on the coffee table (or better yet, consolidate these into a decorative tray).  After you & your family enjoy some time in front of the television, be sure to re-fluff the sofa, put the pillows where they belong decoratively, and pick up any items that don’t belong out…all before you turn in for the evening because more than likely there won’t be time in the morning before you rush out the door to work – and hopefully The Buyer will be looking at your house that day.

Why Realtors Should Encourage Staging (Part II)

Statistics.  Yuck.  My least favorite subject in college, and the only grade I got lower than a ‘B’ in school other than the ‘C’ I brought home in Accounting.  I guess numbers weren’t my thing.  But now that I’m in business for myself, I have had to recognize the necessity of both of these topics although I still roll my eyes knowing Professor Ellis was right that I would need stats one day.  Hmmph.  

But we are not here to talk about MY statistics class from h-e-double toothpicks.  We are here to talk about why staging benefits real estate agents and THAT is where statistics come into today’s topic.  Imagine this: you are the homeowner about to list your house.  You are interviewing 2 – 3 Realtors to represent you and list your home.  You know, the home where you raised your children, hosted Christmas dinners, cozied up and watched movies on a cold winter day, laughed until milk came out of your nose (what?  that hasn’t happened to you?)…basically this is the place where you lived a happy life, surrounded, protected and ensconced within those walls.  Wouldn’t you want the very best agent to help with what is probably the largest transaction you’ll make in your lifetime – both financially and emotionally?  I would.  

And this is why, if you’re a Realtor, gaining impressive statistics will assist in you being the Realtor Of Choice when sellers are looking to hire an agent.  How to do this?  Well, I’m glad you asked!  Because when you consistently work with a Professional Stager, your listings will continually sell faster and closer to list price than the listings that remain un-staged.  Agents, use this to your advantage.  Sellers love to hear “My last X number of homes listed sold within 2 weeks”…and more than likely they will hire you AND provide referrals to you when you do the same for them!  But you gotta bring in that stager….


My HGTV Home Staging Audition Experience

I’ve gotten some emails, calls & texts from friends, family and some people I’m not really sure WHO they are, but all have inquired about my experience on Friday with the HGTV screen test.  (I keep looking over my shoulder for the paparazzi, but so far I’m not being stalked by anybody with a camera -or so I know).  Sorry for the delayed update but I had to play catch up from being out of the office both mentally & physically….

So here is how it went down:   

I show up at the producer’s house 5 minutes early, hoping there isn’t some “casting couch” dilemma to be faced.  Yes, I know…my mind is a little dark & creepy sometimes, but I’ve watched too many episodes of Law & Order SVU.  Thankfully what REALLY happened was not an inappropriate invitation but rather that the producer’s house was ideal for a mock staging because he (let’s call him Jim) & his wife had been there for 20+ years and it was “well lived in”…definitely not in any shape to put on the market.  The plan was for us to tape me & him walking through the main living space with me as the Stager (duh) and Jim as the Seller who was reluctant to make any changes to his home.  But I’m getting ahead of myself….

Upon arrival, he introduced me to the cameraman, James, and we all visited off camera while they did some technical stuff with the microphones, and whatnot.  As we visited, we discovered that Jim & I had gone to the same yoga studio, albeit at different times, and we agreed that YogaSport Dallas absolutely rocks and had set the bar extremely high for either of us to find a comparable studio that was located closer to either of our homes.  (So there is a little shout out if any of y’all are looking for a great yoga studio.)  After we agreed that Angela (the owner of the aforementioned yoga studio) and her team of yogis were the best in Dallas, we got down to business and the lights & the camera were turned ON.  

By this point, I was feeling comfortable with Jim.  After all, I had just visualized him all bendy & stretchy at the yoga studio and he wasn’t nearly as scary in that frame of reference as he was when I thought of him as a PRODUCER FOR HGTV.  Jim asked me a series of questions, such as how I got into staging, and some other softballs I don’t even remember…that moment was so surreal.  I do recall that somewhere in this conversation he said they were looking for a staging character similar to the character on “Super Nanny”.  I’m sure that is when my face went completely blank because I had never seen an episode…all I could think of were those screaming kids on the previews and her British accent.  My mind raced and wondered is Super Nanny mean?  Maybe she’s sarcastic?  Is she demeaning to the parents for being so non-parental they had to call her in to get their little snotty booger children in line?  Sigh.  I was clueless.  But I WAS sure that if Super Nanny was anything like this drama that I was imagining in my head, I had no desire to portray myself or my company as mean, sarcastic or demeaning.  So I shrugged my shoulders, told Jim I’d never seen an episode and that he was stuck with me as me.  I think I used those exact words.  Poor Jim….

Once I took the pressure off of myself to be a character I wasn’t, then everything went great if I do say so myself:  I was witty, firm, knowledgeable, told a personal story that was applicable to a point I was making about staging, diplomatic and all while just telling it like it is.  In a nutshell, I was myself.  Oh, AND I was wearing some smoking hot platform wedges that I had bought just for this audition – so I had a little extra ‘tude that I’m hopeful came across on camera.  (Confidence is key on television, or so I’m told.)  Jim even said he liked some of my suggestions enough that he may give them a try even though they aren’t selling their house.  But I’ll bet he said that to all the stagers….

Overall, it was a great experience and I’m grateful for having been considered.  They auditioned 8-10 stagers over the course of 2 days and I know one of them (she would be totally awesome in this role) but I don’t know who any of the others were.  So I figure that if this is the direction God has for me & my company, then you may see me on HGTV soon…I’m kicking it up a notch at boot camp, and cutting down on the carb intake – just in case.  Jim said that they will have a decision made in about a month and the next step would be to produce a Pilot episode.  So regardless of the outcome, I’ll hopefully lose some of this weight I’ve been trying to shed AND I have a cool story to tell.   And I may have to suck it up and watch some bratty kids on television to figure out who this Super Nanny is…really, what IS her character like?


See my initial reaction to the HGTV call HERE.