Difference Between a Stager and Decorator

Even though your house cleaner is acquainted with your stuff, you probably wouldn’t want her selecting your next living room sofa. This isn’t to throw shade on house cleaners, it’s about matching the professional to the job.

I often say, “The way we live in our home is different from the way we sell our home.” When selling, we need the house to outshine the décor, not the other way around. If buyers see the elaborate table-scape in the dining room but miss the plantation shutters and crown molding, the décor is dominating. If buyers leave the kitchen and recall the layers of décor on the kitchen counters but miss the gorgeous tile back splash, the décor is dominating. 

When I’m staging your home, my goal is to make it appealing to women, because women respond well to beautiful design. That said, I’ve lost count of the homes I’ve staged where I’m editing out a chunk of the décor put in place by a decorator. One tell-tale sign: you can’t see the fireplace hearth because it’s covered by candles, lanterns, vases and other large chunks of décor. Who can blame them? The more they sell the more they earn. And some of us like to be surrounded by layers of beautiful things.

But, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing when selling.

Buyers won’t be hanging out in your kitchen for a few hours waiting for dinner to be served. They’re constantly moving and talking. Key home features can be missed if their eyes rest on your turquoise Kitchenaid stand mixer and matching canisters before moving into the breakfast area and back yard. They might miss the gas range and built-in trash drawer.

What I do is very calculated. As I first tour your home, I take note of what I’m noticing first. I’m always asking myself, “What did I miss at first? Do I need to draw attention to it, or away from the distraction?” I figure, if I missed it there’s a good chance a buyer will miss it.  

Not all stagers are alike. I’ve been called in to “fix” houses that haven’t sold. On occasion I’ve walked in and ALL of the décor is gone. The bookcases are empty. The home feels cold and unappealing, and still on the market, unpurchased.

Just because it’s staged doesn’t mean it should be blah. I always try to find the “sweet spot” where space meets beauty and function. A real estate agent once said to me, “I can always tell when I’m touring a home you’ve staged. It’s like recognizing an artist’s painting.” I beamed, of course, but truthfully, I do have a particular style. For instance, I love to arrange a pretty tray on a bathroom counter, and I fold towels a certain way. But you won’t see a breakfast tray on the master bed, or a champagne bucket by the tub. That’s when the jig is up. The house looks staged. Now, everything is suspect.

Again, it’s about finding that “sweet spot.” I often work with sellers months before their house goes on the market, selecting updates, finishes and colors. Sometimes I have to talk them out of colors they prefer, because they’re not making changes for themselves. They’re making them for buyers. That’s one of the major defining lines between staging and decorating. We decorate for ourselves, and stage for buyers.

That said, sellers usually love how their home looks when I’m finished. The question I hear most often is, “Do you do this for people who aren’t selling?” And yes, I do. I just hate shopping. I’ll help you figure out what to buy and what to look for (and can even accompany you remotely).

We all have gifts that we bring to the play-date. Mine is taking what you already own and making it look beautiful. Want a fresh look without spending a ton of money? Give me a call today!

You might also like: Unique Way to Visualize Color Before Painting

Copyright © 2022 by Cynthia Gentry Black, Home Staging by Cynthia, LLC in Kansas City.
All rights reserved. No portion may be shared, reused or republished in any format without express written consent of the author.

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