Styled, Staged & Sold

Bringing you the latest home design and staging trends. From REALTOR® Magazine.

5 'Affordable' Ways to Make a Home Look Expensive

By Stephanie Decker, Staged Marin Homes

In home staging it is vital to make a home look high fashion without paying the cost of high fashion. Home stagers are always increasing their staging inventory and can’t pay full price for furniture and accessories, or their business won’t be successful.

Unfortunately, there is not just one place to find home staging supplies so being creative is important -- not only in what you use but what you buy.

Here are my top five ways to make a home’s interior look expensive and in fashion, but not at the cost of your bottom line.

1. Use one expensive piece in each room. In order to make a room look high fashion, you have to believe that it is, even when it isn’t. The way to do this is to incorporate one expensive, well-positioned piece in each room.

It can be a piece of art, a table or piece of china. I will position it where the focal point is so that when the buyer first walks into the room this is what they see first. Then, they just assume that everything else is expensive too.

2. Use white. White will always be a staple that home stagers use. It gives the look of light, cleanliness, and an open space. I love white moldings, cabinets, and doors. I also love white lamps, accessories, and linens.

White is easy to clean and can also be bought very cheaply but made to look expensive. One of my favorite stores to find inexpensive white accessories is Z Gallery.

Using inexpensive white pieces on an expensive table is my favorite trick. It highlights the table while filling the space.

3. Look at what can be recycled. To bring fashion back into your home, you might see if you can re-cover your old upholstered furniture.

Recently, I had a club chair that had just lost its will to live. The fabric was worn and the cushions no longer were able to hold their shape. To replace it would cost more than $4,000 for a comparable chair. But this old chair still had great lines, and I didn’t want to part with it so I decided to recover it instead.

The cheapest way is to have it slip-covered. You can buy one at stores like Bed Bath & Beyond or have one made.

I decided to have it re-upholstered. I needed 10 yards of fabric, and I found a local shop to do the work (driving the piece myself to and from the shop) for less than $1,500 total. The key is to buy a good chair. Then, it will only need a little maintenance over the years. Plus, remember: It's better for the environment to recycle rather than throw away an old chair.

4. Rotate color. Each season the design world changes the “it” color. This spring is turquoise and champagne; last year it was lavender and fuchsia. A good way to make a home look in-style is to have that in-style color. This can be in a pillow, a throw, a candle, or a vase. Whatever your budget, you always can find something with the fashion “it” color. (Read: Add Some Punch With This Year's Hot Hue or Pillow Power)

To stay abreast of the latest "in" colors you can look online at Web sites like or home sites like Williams Sonoma Home. I like to walk into a store to get the feel and touch. Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel are good places since they rotate their floor so quickly that it is easy to catch up on the new color.

Then, I go to Cost Plus or Pier One to find accent pieces cheaply. You don’t want to pay full price for these items since this year's “it” color will be next year's color.

5. Buy one month after the season starts. It is important to not get lured into buying new things as soon as the new season starts. You can window-shop to get your seasons plan but if you wait 4-6 weeks, it will likely go on sale. I know this can be difficult when you get that first beautiful summer day and you are biting at the bit to set up your garden for that summer BBQ. But in reality, that summer BBQ won’t start for another month.

In Marin, we had a gorgeous few weeks of warmth in March. The flowers started to bloom, the kids started to play outside, and I was excited to let the outdoor games begin. I brought out the outdoor cushions and cleaned the BBQ. But we are still having rain showers and 50 degrees nights. So I had to bring the cushions back in and out numerous times.

If I had bought all of my new outdoor accessories, at full price, they wouldn’t have even been put to use yet. If I wait until school is out for the children and the forecast is clear for the considerable future, I know I will find the same accessories on sale.

Stephanie Decker
Stephanie Decker


Stephanie Decker of Staged Marin Homes in Mill Valley, Calif., has more than 20 years in the interior design industry and has her California Real Estate license. She combines her interior design experience with her real estate knowledge to successfully stage properties, ranging from under a $1 million to over $5 million. Decker is an advocate of home staging, speaking and writing about its value in the real estate community.


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