Staging Your Home to Sell

Photography by Troy Theis Photography. Photos courtesy of Martha O'Hara Interiors

To give your home a relevant look that doesn’t overwhelm, keep your walls neutral and choose one color to accent the main floor. All photography by Troy Thies Photography. Photos courtesy of Martha O’Hara Interiors

One of the most stressful times in a homeowner’s life is when they decide to sell their home and move to the next big thing. The process becomes especially daunting when it comes to getting a house ready to show. This means appealing to a variety of personal tastes, ensuring that the home sells quickly and for the best possible price.

The good news is that there are a number of tips and tricks that any homeowner can implement to give a house curb appeal from the inside out.

When staging a home, the most important thing to keep in mind is this: prospective buyers have to be able to imagine themselves living in the house. From clean landscaping to neutral wall colors, the home’s design is no longer about creating a reflection of a single homeowner’s personal tastes or lifestyle. Staging is about creating a home with mass appeal – a blank slate where anyone can envision his or her family.

So what can a homeowner do? At Martha O’Hara Interiors, our design team stages homes on the Luxury Home Tour and Twin Cities Parade of Homes every year. I’ve put together a list of tips, starting with the easiest to implement and ending with bigger commitments.

Get Some Honest Feedback: Free

We all have at least one friend who never pulls any punches – for whom tact is a bad word. Find that friend. Ask him (or her) to walk through your home and give you some of that painfully honest feedback.

Why? Because you need to know which parts of your home are charming to all, and which parts appeal just to you. You need to know that your race-car striped walls aren’t as cool as they were seven years ago. That your shag carpet has seen better days. Or that your all-time favorite, Gretsky-signed jersey might not belong in the dining room.

And for goodness sake, don’t get mad at your friend for being honest. Say thank you – even if you’re seething over the idea that your living room walls decals aren’t as cool as you thought. Just say thank you.

Your friend has done you a favor today, and probably made you some money. After all, people will pay more for a dream home than for a place they think they can make work.


If you aren’t sure what to do with your bookshelves, consider mixing books and accessories. Turning the books around is a great way to make things coordinate.

Clean Up the Clutter: Free

Now that you know which parts of your home are working, it’s time to get to work. Step one is to go through your home and clear out anything detracting from your home’s best features. Accessories and art are great, but a bookshelf shouldn’t be filled to overflowing, and your family pictures don’t need to clog your walls. Remember, someone else needs to imagine owning this home. That’s pretty difficult to do if images of your family and friends are hanging all over the place.


Give prospective buyers the best possible view of the room, by turning furniture toward the entry.

Rearrange the Furniture: Free

This isn’t a new tip, but it is often ignored – and that’s a huge mistake. Your home is arranged for how you use it. Maybe a sofa is blocking a fireplace that you never use. Perhaps your blinds are perpetually shut to keep out the light. Maybe you use your den as an art studio.

Now it’s time to arrange the furniture so that it shows off all the best attributes of every room, and gives people room to imagine how they will use each space. Fireplaces and windows make great focal points. Don’t block beautiful millwork unnecessarily. Worry less over how you will use a room while your house is on the market and more about how the room looks to someone who has never seen it before.

Ask yourself questions like, how do my eyes travel through the space? What is the first thing I notice when I enter? Does the room feel cluttered? Does it feel sparse? Adjust accordingly.

Paint & Lighting: $50-$150 per DIY room

You have decluttered, and your furniture is artfully arranged. Now it’s time to make things look new again. Over the years, the paint on your walls has gotten marked up a bit. You might even have some original light fixtures from 1963. It’s time to fix that.

Painting your interior will give your home a clean look and fresh paint smell, signaling that you’ve cared for the home. Since you were smart enough to ask your friend about any eyesores in your house, you now also know that some of your room colors need to change.

I know you love your purple living room or turquoise kitchen, but you’re in staging mode now. Make it as easy as possible for your prospective buyer to image calling your house ‘home.’ Create a blank slate by using light neutrals, from gray to beige.

Modern Solutions: $500-$1500

If you think your home feels outdated, consider installing a home entertainment solution. Homebuyers spend a lot of time worrying about where they will put the flat screen or hide the electronics. Solve that problem in advance by mounting your television above the mantle and having it neatly framed or installing some custom built-ins where electronics can be tucked away. Suddenly your home is one they’ll remember.

Fresh Look: $1000-$2000

If you want to take things a step further, there is a simple way to give your interior a new look without replacing your furniture. Collect pillows, accessories, art, bedding and rugs that are worn out, dated or just a little too unique. Head to a local home store and for a relatively low price, replace the items with new things that coordinate. You will be amazed at how a change in paint color and accessories can dramatically transform a room.

This is also an opportunity to add some pops of color throughout your neutral spaces – just make sure to choose one or two colors throughout, rather than a frenzied rainbow.


Without the light fixtures, painted cabinets and lovely tile, this would be a completely different kitchen.

Mini-Remodel: $1500 and up

If you want to consider a larger investment in selling your home, then I highly recommend focusing on three things: your kitchen, master bathroom, and closets.

Consider restaining your cabinetry or painting it white, for a fresh look. Light, white, and neutral tiles give bathrooms and kitchens a clean, spa-like feel. Try to avoid too much brown, which can get dark very quickly. Hardware and plumbing fixtures should match the style of your home – a crystal knob might feel out of place in an Arts & Crafts house, but can work beautifully in a Georgian.

Of course, sometimes you want to do something more dramatic – install a new kitchen island or expand your closet space – and that’s when you need to bring in a professional.

Hire A Professional: $500 and up

An interior designer can be a great resource for you when it comes to floor plans, wall colors, tile selections and more. While working with a designer may not be the best solution for everyone, it can be an amazing experience for the right person.

At the end of the day, staging a house is about taking yourself out of the home so that a homebuyer can put herself into it. When homeowners take the time to do this right, the benefits are undeniable – from faster sales to higher offers, there is never a good reason to ignore the power of preparing you home to sell. Regardless of your budget, there is always something you can do to improve your home’s ability to sell.


Kate O’Hara is the Marketing Director of the award-winning Martha O’Hara Interiors in Minneapolis. For more information about interior design and décor, go to

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