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Decorating, Updating & Staging: What's the Difference?

This is one of the best explanations I have seen. Thanks for the excellent explanation. I love this line: So, to reiterate, decorating is personalizing a space for living, updating is bringing a room up to current standards, and staging is neutralizing and streamlining for mass appeal.  This is a Southern Maryland reblog!

Decorating, Updating & Staging:  What's the Difference?

A week or so ago I wrote a post titled "Please Don't Tell My Husband, But We're Moving."  In short form, it speaks of the fact that we began updating our home in December of 2008 to put it on the market in the spring of 2011 (only I'm still keeping this a secret from my husband, so don't tell).  In case you missed tip #1, here it is again:  START EARLY!  This is actually the 2nd in that series and is specifically regarding the dining room, but I'm also using it as an opportunity to discuss the differences in decorating, updating and staging. 

First, please take a look at my "former" dining room:

red dining room




















As you can see, this room is not quite ready for prime time.  (No, it isn't normally this junky, but the photo was taken whiile we were doing work elsewhere in the house.)  While it was decorated to my liking, it is in need of updating.  I still enjoy the fabric I chose for the window treatments and the floral arrangement, but they are not ideal for selling.  In other words, these things were placed in the home because they suited my tastes.  That's fine while I'm living there, but when we put the home on the market, they have to go.  This pinpoints the basic difference between decorating and staging.  A living space is decorated (customized) to suit the homeowner's tastes.  A selling space is staged (neutralized) to give it a wide appeal to the general public.  But in addition to this space needing staging, the immediate need is for updating.  While I loved the red when it was first painted, today it is too strong and is "so yesterday."  Also, nothing screams "dated" like a bound glass light fixture.  It had to go.  And while we are at it, why not rip up the carpet and put down hardwoods -- a great selling feature!  Here is a photo of the same room once it was updated:

Updated Dining Room




















 Here's what we did:

  • painted
  • replaced the chandelier w/ a bronze & crystal fixture
  • removed a leaf from the table to create more space
  • spray painted the (formerly) brass planters
  • replaced the carpet with hardwoods

While this room has now been nicely updated, it is still not stagedPlease note that updating and staging are not the same thing.  Updating is certainly part of the staging process, but not the end result.  One thing that needs to be done for staging is to remove the greenery.  See below:

Dining Room - semistaged




















What a difference removing the corner trees makes!  I will call this room "semi-staged."  Here is what must be done to complete the process:

  • Remove the window treatments.  They are much too custom and many people will not like them.
  • Remove the additional greenery from atop the china cabinet.
  • Remove the floral arrangement and replace it with something calmer.
  • Remove the rug.

Did you happen to notice the word "remove" listed four times above?  Yes, staging is much more about removing furniture and decorative items from the room than it is about adding them.  With the window treatments down and the rug gone, the dining room will look twice the size it does now.  This room is actually open to the living room which also has a busy rug.  I like the look for living, but it won't work for staging. 

Today's tip:  always remember that rugs take up a lot of visual space.  Use them sparingly.

So, to reiterate, decorating is personalizing a space for living, updating is bringing a room up to current standards, and staging is neutralizing and streamlining for mass appeal.  Any questions?  Call Stage, Show & Sell

green sofa with lamp and plant on stand 

Patsy Overton, ASP, IAHSP

Accredited Staging Professional    770-843-2307

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Comment balloon 1 commentCheryl Ritchie • July 27 2010 10:48AM


Cheryl, thanks so much for the re-blog!  I hope the information is helpful to your clients.

Posted by Patsy Overton (Patsy Overton Interiors, Atlanta, Georgia) almost 9 years ago