Living Room Home Staging
How to Stage a Living Room
The living room is typically the marquee space in the home. It is usually positioned to have the best views and a design that facilitates entertaining.
Some homes have both a living room and family room, others have combined the two spaces into one great room, and still other charming homes have only a living room. We will address the staging basics of the formal living room in the sections below.
If you'd like tips on home staging (redesign) a family room or great room, then please click here.
Many living rooms have a fireplace, large picture windows, or another focal point such as built-in display shelves. Since these architectural features are key selling points of a home, a staged living room will draw the prospective buyers' eyes to a particular focal point using color, furniture placement and accessories.
Follow along as we stage a living room to sell!
Task 1. Assess the color palette
Simple. Elegant. Tasteful. A well-staged living room should be all these things and more.
1. Choosing wall colors
By now, you will have removed any wallpaper that might have been on the living room walls and prepped the walls for repainting.
- Use our favorite, quick wallpaper removal method found in our Resources pages and in the right hand column for quick and painless wallpaper removal.
- We prefer to have a richer, slightly darker beige shade on living room walls than we used in the foyer. North Hampton Beige (Benjamin Moore AC-38) is our go-to color for keeping the living room neutral and not boring.
- Select an eggshell finish for interior wall paint in the living room.
2. Choosing moulding colors
We paint mouldings a semi-gloss white unless they are natural wood with a stained finish. Mouldings are a key selling point and hallmarks of the architectural style of the home.
The more contrast between the mouldings and the wall color, the more these architectural elements will stand out - and be remembered by prospective buyers.
When possible, we try to steer upholstery fabrics to something without a pattern, or at the very least, something that gives the impression of being solid such as small checks or stripes.
In a staged home, furniture is there to define the purpose of the room, to show the traffic patterns in the room, and as props so that prospective buyers can imagine their furnishings in the room.
- The upholstery colors should be neutral and provide contrast with the wall color and flooring.
- Furniture should not be worn or dirty. You want your things to look fresh and updated to a buyer. Keep the look upbeat and your buyers will not be bored with a tired looking room.
- If your sofa and chairs have seen better days or are hopelessly outdated, consider borrowing something new from a friend or relative. No generous relatives to borrow from? Furniture rental is sometimes an economical option to stage a home.
- If you are thinking about purchasing new furniture for your new home, consider buying those pieces early and putting them in your current living room. They will look new and fresh - a great look for any room.
4. Window Treatments
Frequently, the windows are the focal point of the living room such as in the photo at the top of this page. You want to soften the hard edges of the windows by adding texture and you can do this with simple drapery panels.
You usually will not want to cover the view or the light coming in - people will want to know that the room is not dark or dreary and has abundant natural light.
Task 2. Arranging the furniture
- Window panels should be simple and hang to the sides of the window. They can be stationary. We have used white panels, beige panels, and contrasting color panels in living rooms. White panels are for an elegant look when you want the view outside the window to take center state.
- Beige panels (to match the walls) soften the windows but do not draw any particular attention to them. We use contrasting color panels (frequently they match the pillows or rug) to add a punch of color to a room that is fairly monochromatic, i.e., too beige.
- Remember, the strongest colors should be reserved for the focal point of the room. If the fireplace is the focal point, you won't want to draw attention to the windows. If the windows are the focal point, then by all means, use a strong color.
Now that the room has been decluttered of extra furnishings, you will have only a few pieces to arrange. Keep in mind the following tips for positioning furniture in the living room:
Don't line the four walls of the living room with all the furniture. A large open space in the middle of the room is cold and uninviting.Consider the traffic patterns in the room. You don't want to place furniture where it blocks traffic flow through the room. Make a mental note of the main traffic routes and keep these open when you place the furniture.Furniture should be placed in converstion groupings. A sofa should have one or two chairs (or another sofa) facing or perpendicular to it to faciliate conversation as in this photo.If the living room has a fireplace, the the conversation grouping should be centered around it. When you enter the living room, be sure you can see the fireplace when you first walk in the room and that the furniture doesn't block the view. You should also be able to walk from the entry to the living room directly to the fireplace without tripping over any furniture.The same rules apply if the focal point in the living room is the window. Arrange your conversation grouping centered on the window and make sure you can see the view outside the window. Allow a pathway from the entryway to the window so that your potential buyers can take in the glorious view without obstruction. (See photo at the top of this page.)It is rare that the living room doesn't have a focal point of some kind. If your living room doesn't have a definable focal point, then you can create one. Float your conversation grouping in the center of the room and make the grouping the focal point. Other options are to add a focal point with a bookcase, a large mirror, or even a mantel with a faux fireplace. We will never use a big screen TV as a focal point - especially in a living room - because these usually leave with the homeowner when they move.
Task 3. Add well-chosen accessories
Accessories will lend a personality to a living room and create some visual interest - but we don't want to add too much of a good thing!
- Accessories should be of a like kind - that is, all one color or all one category. If the room needs more color, then we mighy choose a red bowl for the coffee table and fill it with red apples. On a side table, we will put a small green plant in a red pot. We might also choose two or three red pillows as in the photo at the top of this page. The key is to repeat the same color and not let the viewer's eye get distracted by a kaleidoscope of colors. The repeated red will allow the viewer's eye to move about the room, not resting anywhere in particular. The longer the eye moves about, the more detail that is taken in and enjoyed. But remember, a few accessories is 3-5 pieces only.
- Lamps make great accessories. There should be at least two in the living room and you should turn them on for each showing - day or night. Don't go overboard on choosing lamps - a simple base with a neutral, white or beige shade is perfect. Make sure they are not too short. The bottom of the lamp shade should be just higher than eye level when you sit on a chair or sofa. Our favorite lamps for staging can be found in our Resources section. A few lamps will keep the living room looking bright and light even on a cloudy day.
- Fireplace mantels should be accessorized. We like to put tall objects on mantels such as candlesticks, a cylindrical vase of calla lilies, or even tall simple sculptures. Try not to make this display too symmetrical. A vase on one side and two tall objects on the other side present a good mixture that is pleasing to the eye.
- An empty corner is a great place for a large leafy plant such as philodendron or peace lily. Plants add life to a room and texture only nature can provide. A large plant can be placed on the floor in a waterproof container - perfect for adding another height level for objects in the room.
Task 4. To rug, or not to rug?
If the living room has hard surface flooring such as wood or tile, then we will choose an area rug and center it in the conversation grouping, typically under the coffee table. Choose a simple design in your accent color to keep the overall look simple and open.
If the room has wall-to-wall carpeting, either new or just-professionally-cleaned, don't cover it with a rug - it's part of the sale and viewers will wonder what you are trying to hide underneath it.
Whenever you can, budget-permitting, purchase new area rugs for the marquee rooms in the home. New rugs will give a fresh look to a space and give buyers the impression that the home is well taken care of - which it is. You can choose a rug that will be perfect for your next home - and get "two bangs for your buck."
Task 5. Arkwork and wall decor
A living room with a mantel should have a framed art piece just above the ledge and centered over the fireplace opening. Use the width of this opening as a guide as to how large you can go. Landscapes are good choices for this location - especially if they have secondary colors that match your room's accent color.
Keep in mind that we use art in staging to emphasize the features of the home - not to make a statement.
If you have arranged the furniture so that there is a sofa along a long wall, then you should definitely hang an art piece above the sofa. Choose a piece that is at least half to two-thirds the width of the sofa and that is proportional to the wall space in height. You can also choose three smaller art pieces and arrange them in a row above the sofa. You should not leave this space blank or empty.
You're on a roll! The next room we will stage is the dining room.O ur main staging page can be found by clicking here.
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