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Making a great first impression with potential homebuyers starts with the exterior. Curb appeal can make or break a showing, so it's crucial to maximize the wow factor the moment someone pulls up. While landscaping and exterior paint colors are important, sometimes you need a quick fix to take things to the next level. That's where cardboard cutouts come in.
Cutouts placed strategically in windows or around the yard can completely transform an exterior's look and feel. Ever driven by a house with cardboard cutout people inside? It makes the home seem warm, lived-in, and inviting. The same concept applies to staging. Lifelike cutouts of people gardening, relaxing on the porch, or peeking out an upstairs window bring a static exterior to life. And it takes just minutes to set up.
I'll never forget the first time I used human cutouts to stage a home's exterior. The property was a dated ranch-style that had been on the market for months with no offers. The yard was unkempt with lots of overgrown bushes and trees blocking the facade. I picked up a few cardboard cutouts of a happy family waving from the porch and positioned them outside the front door. The transformation was unbelievable. Suddenly, the home looked bright, cheerful, and family-friendly. We had multiple offers within days of putting up the cutouts.
Beyond people, cardboard props can also improve curb appeal. Three-dimensional bushes, shrubs, flower boxes, and shutters attach easily to siding or windows. I've used these to quickly boost greenery on homes with little landscaping. Washing the exterior windows and adding flower cutouts creates a cared for look. For dated properties, shutters and window boxes provide character that may be lacking.
Staging a home for selling often requires cosmetic updates that are too costly or time-consuming. That"s where faux finishes come in. With some DIY tricks, you can completely transform the look of any space for a fraction of the cost. Over the years, I"ve fooled many a buyer with faux treatments that were so convincing, they thought the finishes were real.
One of my go-to staging makeovers is faux tilework in bathrooms. Outdated tub surrounds and shower walls can really show a home"s age. Reglazing or retiling is expensive, but faux ceramic tile stickers are an affordable alternative. After thoroughly cleaning the surfaces, I"ve applied tile transfers in modern shapes and colors to refresh baths. The 3D depth is incredibly realistic. I"ve even used them on floors, pairing with new shower curtains and rugs to give bathrooms a spa-like feel. Buyers are amazed when I reveal it"s just stickers and not real tile.
For dated kitchens, I love to introduce the look of stone or brick with faux treatments. Backsplashes can easily be transformed with peel-and-stick wallpaper or stenciling. I"ve used realistic-looking vinyl papers with a stone pattern to modernize old tile or laminate counters. Once I added floating shelves, buyers were convinced the backsplash was high-end stone installed by professionals. Open shelving is also perfect for my go-to DIY faux brick finish. Using a sponge, I apply varied coats of paint in reds, browns, and grays. Then I add texture and depth with a rough sponge. The end result actually fools people into thinking exposed brick was added to the kitchen.
Paint and wallpaper may seem simple, but don't underestimate their transformative power in home staging. A fresh coat or new wallcovering can make a space feel updated, expensive, and completely different"all for a relatively small investment. I've seen it work wonders to entice buyers and drive up home value.
One dated living room I staged had worn carpet, sad window treatments, and walls painted an unappealing tan. Just giving the walls a modern, neutral gray with bright white trim made the room feel fresh and current. Then I painted the interior of the fireplace white and styled it with candlesticks and a mirror. This gave buyers a vision of the room looking chic and cozy. They could see past the carpet and imagine hosting family movie nights in the refreshed space.
In a child's bedroom with indentations and scuffs all over the walls, I used a textured paint in a soft blue to hide imperfections. The subtle variation camouflaged damage, while the color felt calm, inviting, and ideal for a kid's room. Adding storage bins and shelving in complementary hues reinforced the look.
And I'll never forget an outdated master bath entirely covered in a pink and mauve floral wallpaper border. Peeling back layers revealed five previous wallpapers underneath! Rather than tedious stripping, I painted the walls a tranquil, spa-like sage green. Removing the shower doors opened up the small space. The green paint made the room feel peaceful and expanded. Clever staging made the bath look luxurious, concealing its stuck-in-the-80s history.
Beyond paint, wallpaper can provide personality and luxury on a budget. In a nondescript dining room, I added a navy blue grasscloth wallpaper. Its organic texture brought depth, and the color was an ideal contrast to the white wainscoting trim I also added. Inexpensive updates made the space feel custom, unique, and ready for dinner parties.
Wallpaper can also disguise damaged drywall or textured ceilings - two common issues in older homes. I've papered entryways and halls with patterns to draw the eye away from problem areas. Combined with new light fixtures, the spaces become fashionable instead of flawed.
Faux brick treatments can completely transform the look and feel of a home's interior. When done right, the brickwork appears so authentic that even contractors are fooled into thinking it's the real deal. This staging technique has helped me turn dull, dated rooms into modern, industrial-chic spaces that buyers drool over.
The key to nailing realistic faux brickwork is choosing the right paint and textures. I prefer to work with masonry spray paint as the foundation. Opt for a flat finish in an authentic brick color - classic red or a more modern gray. Multiple coats ensure full coverage over existing drywall or paneling. Once the base color dries, I use a rounded trowel to imprint horizontal and vertical lines on the walls, mimicking brick mortar. Then comes the fun part - blending different brick-toned paints to add dimension. Using a dry brush and rag, I apply reds, browns, tans, grays, and creams randomly to recreate the variations in real brick. A stippling technique adds spots and textures. The more mottled and blended the colors, the better. I finish by going over the faux mortar lines again to sharpen them up.
The results are so realistic I've had contractors sure it's actual brick installation. In one flip project, I painted the dated wood-paneled family room in gray faux brick paired with exposed wood beams. It gave the home an ultra modern, lofty feel. The invited investors kept questioning me on hiring brick masons until I finally proved it was just paint! I transformed another 1990s living room from creamy white drywall to a stunning exposed red brick accent wall. Along with slipcovered furniture, the space evoked a Brooklyn loft aesthetic that helped sell the home quickly in a competitive market.
Beyond living spaces, faux brickwork adds an upscale, rustic element to kitchens and baths. Painting a wall behind a stove or tub in earthy gray brick provides an eye-catching, high-end look for a fraction of the cost of natural stone tile. For dated bathrooms, I've camouflaged old tile and tub surrounds through a skim coat of fresh mortar-look paint. The soft brick pattern conceals imperfections while adding cottage charm. In one flipped 1970s ranch, I used faux brick paint combined with new barnwood-look vinyl plank floors to give the hall bath an expensive farmhouse vibe that buyers adored.
Outdated, damaged, or just plain ugly tile can be one of the biggest turnoffs for homebuyers. Extensive retiling projects are costly, messy, and time-consuming. As a stager, I"m always seeking quick, affordable ways to conceal troubled tiling and make spaces look fresh and appealing. Temporary adhesive tiles have become an invaluable trick to tile over issues, without the hassle of a full renovation.
In a 1990s bathroom recently, the fiberglass tub surround was yellowed with age and the floor tile was an unsalvageable mosaic of clashing colors. I considered painting but worried about adhesion on the shiny tub surface. Instead, I opted for stick-on white subway tile transfers sized to perfectly cover the surround. Paired with a crisp new shower curtain, the tub area was revived with a modern, hotel-like look. For the floors, large format faux wood peel-and-stick tiles created cohesion and warmed up the space. I finished off with fluffy bath rugs, new hardware, and paint on the vanity. Buyers were floored with the transformation and assumed expensive new tilework had been installed.
Temporary tiling is also perfect for kitchen backsplashes needing an update. In a dated open kitchen with seafoam green laminate counters, I opted for chic white marble-look backsplash stickers to brighten and expand the small space. I framed the new "tile" with trim matching the oak cabinets to create a custom inset look. Then I tossed a trendy woven rug under the eat-in table, added gleaming hardware, and painted the walls an on-trend navy. The buyers absolutely loved the kitchen"s fresh, high-end style and couldn"t believe it was achieved simply with stick-on tiles and strategic styling.
I"ve even used temporary tile transfers successfully on floors. For a staircase covered in worn 1970s carpeting, new hardwood steps were out of the budget. Instead, I gave the stairs and upstairs hall vintage character by applying reclaimed wood peel-and-stick planks. The faux weathered wood provided an instant upgrade that enticed buyers to envision the home"s potential. And since the tiling was non-permanent, they could renovate later to their own taste.
Creative use of adhesive tile transfers can also conceal existing damaged tile or grout issues. I"ve camouflaged cracked shower floors by placing a larger scale solid tile overtop. In a bathroom where the grout between subway tiles had yellowed, I freshened up the space by going over just the grout lines with white tile stickers. It provided a like-new look minus the intensive regrouting process. I"ve even used shimmery mosaic transfers strategically to hide chipped areas on porcelain floors.
One of the most cost-effective ways to dramatically transform a room is by using decor to redefine and frame out spaces. With some clever styling tricks, I"ve carved out entirely new territories within existing rooms to meet the needs of buyers. Sectioning off spaces makes rooms feel fresh, expansive, and tailored to how families actually live.
In a living room with dated carved paneling, I created the illusion of a separate dining space without any renovations. I simply turned one portion of the long rectangle into an intimate dining area. An area rug defined the new zone and a console table acted as a room divider. Tall candles, art, and a dramatic chandelier reinforced the luxurious dining aesthetic. During showings, buyers were wowed by the two-in-one multipurpose room I had "designed" through decor alone.
Framing out defined lounging and sleeping spaces in a basement is another fun challenge. For an unfinished lower level, I used an oriental rug to ground a sitting area with a loveseat and side tables. Then I marked off a sleeping nook with a folding privacy screen. The screen created a cozy guest room vibe while still allowing an open feel. Floating shelves held folded linens, and I tucked air mattresses out of sight. With just a rug, screen, and styling, I carved out a chic entertaining space perfect for selling the basement"s potential.
Temporary walls make carving out basement rooms simple. I build basic wood frames and attach quilt batting covered in decorative fabric. The soft partitions create the illusion of rooms without costly permanent walls. In a large basement, I made a hallway using partitions to lead buyers past a media lounge, gym space, and kids play area - each thoughtfully styled and lit. The buyers were amazed that I had "custom designed" the basement.
Targeted lighting is key for framing out spaces and experiences. I"ve used floor lamps and sconces to illuminate vignettes within a room. In a living area, I highlighted a reading corner with a brass swing arm lamp. The glow transformed the small nook into a warm, inviting sanctuary that spoke to buyers. For a dining space, a striking chandelier over the table spotlights the area for entertaining. Different lighting temperatures can even delineate room uses - for example, cool LEDs wash the kitchen, while warm bulbs illuminate the adjoining family room.
Borrowing furniture is one of the most powerful styling tricks used by stagers to completely transform a home. While permanent built-ins and cabinetry define a space"s bones, furnishings are what breathe life into a home and enable buyers to envision living there. The right borrowed pieces allow stagers to not only showcase a room"s possibilities, but also appeal to buyers by reflecting the current era's prevailing aesthetics.
Furnishings have a huge impact on the look and feel of a space. For example, a living room styled with a sectional, multi-tier coffee table, abstract art, and sleek lamps exudes a contemporary vibe. Those exact same built-ins outfitted with a curved velvet sofa, porcelain lamps, Persian rug, and ornate mirrors speak to a more traditional, glamorous aesthetic. Borrowing on-trend, stylish furniture allows stagers to adapt rooms to align with what"s popular right now.
Stagers carefully curate furnishings to help buyers picture how they could use each space. For empty rooms, thoughtfully selected pieces help buyers recognize the possibilities, whether it's a nursery nook or reading retreat. Loaned furnishings also allow stagers to resolve common spatial shortcomings. Sectional sofas and round dining tables make tight spaces functional. Tall beds lend presence to small bedrooms. Bar carts and console tables carve out entryways in studios.
Since furniture significantly impacts overall aesthetics, stagers often borrow pieces purely for the look or style they exude. A contemporary acrylic coffee table elevates a living room with old carpet to appear current and chic. Ornate antique chairs surround a worn farmhouse table to give the kitchen refinement. Leather armchairs and a geometric area rug lend a masculine vibe to a dated den. A velvet tufted headboard transforms a kid"s room into a glam retreat.
Transforming a barren backyard into an outdoor oasis is one of my favorite staging challenges. While lush landscaping can increase a home"s value significantly, major hardscaping and planting projects aren"t always feasible on a staging timeline or budget. That"s when I rely on decor, lighting, and creative styling to conjure a resort-worthy backyard out of nothing. A few simple touches can make a blank slate yard look downright decadent.
Outdoor rugs instantly define spaces in an empty yard and add texture, color, and style. I use large-scale patterned sisal rugs to ground lounge areas and frame out al fresco dining spaces. In a yard with nothing but grass, floating rugs created cozy destinations and made the space feel upgraded and designed. Placing inexpensive weather-resistant pillows and cushions on the rugs enhances comfort. I add side tables, lanterns, and potted plants around the edges to reinforce the inviting vignettes. Just these few touches evoke the feeling of a relaxing getaway right at home.
To carve out an intimate dining space, I borrow an outdoor table and chairs and adorn them with weatherproof linens, plates, glassware, and florals. String lights or lanterns overhead provide a dreamy glow and sense of occasion. The lush tablescape against the simple backyard transforms it into a secret garden hideaway perfect for impressing buyers with al fresco entertaining potential.
For barren patios and decks, removable floor tile transfers create the look of pricey new pavers on a budget. I also roll out synthetic turf to blanket decks and patios with instant green grass. It provides a lush, manicured appearance and feels pleasantly soft underfoot. I cluster woven seating areas atop the turf and surround them with potted trees and large urns spilling greenery. The oasis effect feels elevated and luxurious compared to basic decking.