House for Sale

Staging Small Spaces to Sell

5 Home Staging Tips for A Cozy Home

Home staging is all about getting potential buyers to imagine how much potential your home offers, right?

That’s all well and good, but what if your home is naturally constrained by size? Whether you’re talking about a house in San Francisco with a tiny living room or a 300-square-foot studio in Miami, there’s always the fear that buyers will be scared away when they see how small the space is.

But those fears are unfounded. The trick is knowing how to market your home to people who are comfortable with cozy.

You just need to get creative using home staging techniques that demonstrate how small spaces can be a good fit for them.

5 Home Staging Tips to Sell Any Home

1. Stage Your Home to Answer the 3 Questions Buyers Have

Start with the fundamentals. At that level, everyone’s concerns about their new home will be pretty similar. Accredited staging professional Annie Pinsker-Brown, owner of Stage to Sell in Los Angeles, distills these concerns into three simple questions:

  1. “Where will I eat?”
  2. “Where will I watch TV?”
  3. “Where will I work?”

Maybe tweak the details a little (“Where will I build a comfortable nest so I can binge watch Netflix when it gets cold?”), but the basic premise works for just about everyone.

When you stage your home for sale, you must at least create three, distinct spaces for these activities. Pinsker-Brown had to get creative when she staged a 500-square-foot bungalow whose owners had been making do with a bar and a couple of stools for dining.

That image doesn’t exactly captivate most buyers. So, she carved something of a dining nook out of the living room with a drop-leaf table and a couple of chairs. The result was a dining space that was innocuous enough not to impose on the rest of the living room, but somewhere buyers could still imagine themselves sitting down to a real meal with a friend or loved one.

2. Give Buyers Light, Airy Spaces

Staging Tips for Small Apartment

In 2016, home stager Meridith Baer spoke to The New York Times about some of the dramatic changes she’s seen in her profession in just the last few years. She told the story of one New York antiques dealer whose home had won design awards a few years before, but shortly thereafter found himself having trouble courting buyers with an apartment that featured ornate furniture and heavy fabrics.

“Today’s buyer doesn’t want that look,” Baer said. “They want sheer or linen curtains, and they don’t want the home packed. They want a cleaner, simpler lifestyle. And more flair and fun.”

That’s great news for small home-dwellers, who at some point have probably had to do a heavy declutter to make their spaces feel more open and airy.

The decor that’s necessary to making small spaces work — neutral wall colors, exposed couch legs, big mirrors — create the look and feel today’s buyers want to see.

Baer herself replaced the homeowner’s furniture with a white sofa and chairs, painted the walls a cream white color, and took the heavy drapes off of the windows.

3. Anchor the Space With a Bold Accent

This is an advanced tactic, but if you trust your eye for design then you can pull this off.

Jason Saft, a real estate agent at Compass, has an excellent piece at 6sqft about how he squeezed an extra $100,000 out of a Brooklyn loft with little more than a coat of paint and some new light bulbs.

The space was pretty small, 428 sq. ft., and the owner had divided the room with a bookshelf. The bed was tucked away behind the bookshelf. Clever design, but the execution was a little off.

Or, as Saft put it: “The entire apartment was painted two shades of brown and this coupled with dead and low-watt light bulbs only managed to create a cave-like feel in the home — definitely not a selling point.”

So, he painted the walls white, painted that bookshelf a deep and rich navy, then used a rug and some artwork to create sparse pops of color. You can see the result here.

Saft definitely earned his commission, too. “I received over 20 offers on this studio and my seller closed at over $100,000 more than the apartment below theirs, and in one-eighth of the time,” he writes. “On top of that, my client sold the space for $125,000 more than she expected to make.”

4. Use Furniture That Scales Proportionally to the Room

Staging Photo of Small Apartment

The fastest way to make a cozy room feel cramped is by trying to stage it with furniture that’s too big. So, when staging an individual room or your entire home, make sure the furniture doesn’t make the space feel crowded.

“If you have a small, narrow living room, get rid of your bulky sectional and opt for a loveseat and two small accent chairs instead,” says Gail Dunnett, CEO of New York home staging company Studio D.

Further, she echoes the recommendations of others to create a sense of depth by going with a neutral color palette and using some sparse pop colors and interesting, rich textures.

That’s what made Saft’s Brooklyn loft from above work: The deep, rich navy against neutral walls, plus the pop colors on the artwork and the throw blanket to create a visual echo around the room.

Rich textures can have the same effect and can give your own small spaces a little more depth.

“Metallic pops instantly make a room feel more luxe — try a chrome coffee table or pair of gold lamps — as do richly textured accessories,” Dunnett says. “We love sheepskin throw pillows and faux fur blankets.”

5. Pay Careful Attention to Your Storage Spaces

Finally, get your closets, your medicine cabinet, your pantry and all of your other storage spaces organized. If your storage spaces are a mess, stager Cheryl Eisen tells Brick Underground, “it screams ‘not enough closet space!’ It’s unnerving, too. Buyers want to feel as though their life in a new home will be calm and organized.”

Even little details will have a big impact, she says. For example, most of us have mismatched plastic hangers in our closets. Eisen says to throw those out and replace them with wooden Ikea hangers. And then to hang clothing properly, organized by color.

“You’ll like it so much you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner,” she says.

images by:, Kari Shea, Breather