Stage Your Home Using These Four Tips From an Emmy-Winning Set Designer

Robert Harbour is an Emmy-winning set designer and experienced home rehabber. His advice can help you stage your home on your own.
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Thanks in large part to HGTV, home buyers today almost expect houses to be television-ready. Enter professional “stagers,” who refurnish and redecorate interiors in an effort to sell homes for top dollar and help buyers envision themselves living there.

Illustration by Adam Simpson

Unfortunately, traditional staging usually involves furniture, art, and accessory rentals as well as removal of the homeowners’ personal belongings—all of which costs more than most sellers can afford. But staging isn’t just for pros, says Cincinnati native, Emmy Award–winning set designer, and home flipper Robert Harbour. DIY-ers can make a home more appealing simply by “editing” the furniture and accessories they already have; excess, he notes, can go in storage. Here are more of this design guru’s tips for making a home market-ready.

Why is staging so important in today’s real estate market?
If the camera sees clutter, the eye sees clutter. And if you can’t get them in the door [with photos], you’ve lost your audience.

What if you don’t have high-end furniture to begin with?
I don’t mind different styles of furniture, but be consistent. If your character is sleek, modern, and pared-down, get rid of the shabby chic furniture.

How do you keep a house showroom ready if you’re still living there?
You have to be on your “A” game. If your kids or your husband are slobs, you’re going to have to have at least a day in advance notice for showings. Or you’re going to have to identify a go-to closet to throw things in.

What if sellers are really attached to certain pieces?
Inevitably when I do a tough-love walkthrough, sellers say, “Well, that’s where we like to sit and watch TV.” And I say, “OK, you should still sit and watch TV, but do you really need five armchairs? There are only two of you.”

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