Staging Your Home With Color to Sell in San Antonio

Making Your House Look
Like a Model Home

You don’t have to spend a fortune to make your house look like a model home. Visiting the dollar store or other cut-rate housewares retailer will probably do the trick!

YOUR GOAL: Allow the buyer to picture their furniture and decor in your home, and to visualize all of the ways the house will accommodate the activities that are important to them.

If you have a great realtor®, they can help you with staging ideas and sources.

Step 1 – Decluttering

This is the first – and worst – part of the process. In order to hide or get rid of anything that you wouldn’t see in a model home, a temporary lifestyle change may be in order.

For example, no more heavy cooking – rely on TV dinners, takeout, or prepared “quick” meals from the grocery store. This will allow you to pack away most of the bulky and unsightly stuff that lives on your kitchen counters and replace it with one or two carefully selected, model-home items such as a fruit bowl and a color-coordinated set of utensils in a jar.

Step 2 – De-personalizing

Human nature dictates that buyers will be nosey – just like every other human on earth. In order to sell your house quickly, you need to pack away anything that gives them interesting information about you.

You want them picturing themselves living in the house, not wondering why you have a framed photo of Coldplay on your piano. Make the house as boring as you can, so the buyer is forced to use their imagination.

This means packing away or hiding all the family photos, children’s artwork, sports gear, and hobbies, and swapping them for vases, prints of landscapes, and swagged fabrics.

Step 3 – Faking the Model Home Feeling

Once you have gotten rid of everything that you can live without while the house is on the market, you must have a system to hide the remaining evidence. The house SHOULD NOT look like central station for a busy family – even if it is.

This is easier than you think, even if you have young children. For example, assign each person a “bathroom tub” that will hold their toothbrushing and grooming products, equipment, and towels. Keep your staging equipment in a separate tub.

You can prep for a showing on short notice by scooping the “real” stuff into each person’s tub, wiping surfaces with a damp tissue, and laying out the “fake stuff” – perfectly folded towels, color-coordinated shampoo bottles, and the clean, pristine bathmat that nobody is allowed to use.

Step 4 – Eliminating Confusion

Make sure the purpose of each room is clear, so the buyer doesn’t need to use a lot of critical thinking power to understand what the house has to offer. Bedrooms should look like bedrooms and bathrooms should look like bathrooms.

If you use the spare bedroom to store snowboards, ski boots, and puffy, down-filled clothes, the buyer may not register that it is a bedroom. You don’t want them to think you have fewer bedrooms than you do!

If you don’t have a bed to make that spare room look like a bedroom, cheat. Pack up the ski stuff in identical boxes, stack them so that they are about the size of a bed, and throw a comforter and pillows on top. Buyers may figure out what you’re doing and chuckle, but only after they have accepted the space as a bedroom.

Step 5 – Creating Illusion

Now that your house is bland and boring, you need to do some simple, inexpensive decorating to add bits of color – the way model home decorators do it. Little splashes of color can create a focal point that brings the buyer’s eye to the best features of any room.

Your focal points can also hide or downplay the negatives. A shiny vase here, a bright pillow there, and a little accent color painted around a window can work magic. It’s all about the illusion!

I would hasten to add that these little tricks to help the buyer focus on what’s important are fair and ethical. However, it is NOT OK to use tricks to cover up a problem such as damage from a slow leak. The right way to handle something like that is to have it repaired by a licensed plumber; then it is fine to replace drywall and other surfaces that show cosmetic water damage.


Identify the Positives

If you look closely, every room in your house has at least one great feature. It might be built-in shelving, a big window, or a big closet; whatever it is, you can do simple things to make that feature stand out – the moment the buyer walks into the room. Here are some ideas:

Built-in Shelving: Empty all of the shelves entirely. Dust and polish the shelves; if they are adjustable, set them so that they make continuous lines down the width of the structure. Locate the absolute center of the structure, and place a colorful piece there – a vase, sculpture, or other impersonal but eye-catching item. Finish it up by selecting books that are the same color as your focal item, and placing a handful of them on some of the shelves – in a balanced, symmetrical fashion.

Great Window: Buy a small (pint-sized) can of paint that is the same color as your focal item in the room. Paint ONLY THREE inside edges of the window with that color; cover the bottom and both sides, but skip the top if hardware is installed (curtain rods or blinds).

Large Closet: Highlight the presence of a remarkably big closet in an unremarkable bedroom by swagging brightly colored silk flowers across the top. The easiest way is to buy them in garland form, a couple of feet longer than the width of the closet; then you can place small nails at intervals above the woodwork and hang the garland on the nails. If the garland doesn’t want to stay put, use tie-wraps from a box of bread storage bags to twist around the back of the garland and loop around the nail.

Identify the Negatives

Just like the positives, every room will have at least one flaw. It might be a stained sofa, an awkwardly placed window, or a “vintage” electric stove. You are selling your house – not your couch. If you cover a sofa stain with a sunny yellow throw blanket or pillow, it allows the buyer to concentrate on the space and features of the house.

Awkward Window: If you have a room with a big wall and one, tiny window left of center, balance it out with a mirror that is roughly the same shape and size as the window. Measure the distance from the left corner to the edge of the window, and the distance from the ceiling to the top of the window. Mark off these distances from the right corner and ceiling to create a mirror image “window” by hanging the mirror opposite the window to the right of center. You could even hang a set of mirror tiles and add a cheerful floor lamp near it to give the sense of light streaming from multiple windows.

Ugly Appliances: It would be best to replace them before you put the house on the market. But if you are like most people, you don’t have the cash to do this upfront. The next best thing is to downplay the appliances for the showings and entertain an allowance to the buyer at closing so they can buy the stove and oven they want.

Old Stove: Buy some burner covers or a couple of colored pots and pans at the dollar store. Grab a tea towel that matches, and hang it on the oven handle. Then, find a container of the same or complementary color that is big enough to hold some shiny utensils for the countertop. Do you see where we’re going with this?

Staging helps buyers see the possibilities of your house rather than being distracted by evidence of your lifestyle in your house. Your Realtor® can help you to achieve the right look and feel to show off your home's best features.

Identify Your Color Options

If you want to brighten a room that contains colored items you can’t remove (like carpet, drapes, or upholstery) decorate with a fun, cheery color on the opposite side of the color wheel. has a great color wheel to get you started.

For example, if you want to downplay drapes that are patterned and primarily a deep, purply-blue, an accent item of red or yellow might make matters worse! Use the color wheel to find the best color to offset the heaviness of the window treatment. Give the Canva color wheel the color that is closest to the main color in the drapes, and let the color-picker find you the best complementary color. In the case of the purple drapes, the color picker gives you a lovely green. Try to find a treasure that is close to that shade of green, and look for other treasures to match it. Your green treasures can sit on the window seat, adorn the coffee table, or drape over the back of the sofa to perk up the room.

Use the color wheel for brainstorming; If you have a towel that is a pretty color and looks new, find its color on the color wheel and note the best complementary color. That gives you at least two colors to look for when you go treasure-hunting.

Besides colors, you can also brighten a room or create a focal point using a bright, shiny object. If you can’t find items that match or complement those purply-blue drapes, go with a metal dish or vase that catches the light.

Describe the Shapes and Sizes of the Items You Need

For each of your rooms, think of three or four categories of items that would work as a brightly colored focal point. You might categorize household items by room, purpose, or shape e.g. kitchen accessories, containers, or round things. Whatever you call them, make a list of these ideas so you will be ready to start your treasure hunt.

On the Cheap

The number one rule in the game of color is this: when you assign an item to be the focal point to tie together the colors in a room, it MUST NOT look worn out, faded, or dusty. It is ideal if you can hit the dollar store to purchase inexpensive items that are shiny and new, but it is also likely that you can find used items that either don’t look worn or could be painted. You can hit a thrift store or borrow items from friends and relatives, but don’t underestimate the treasures you might find in your own home that can be repurposed (like a small flower pot or bucket to hold kitchen utensils).

You can also take old, funky things and do a fake restoration on them. One client had a slender, chipped, terracotta pot collecting dirt beside the house. She cleaned it up and went after it with a distressed-brass metallic spray paint and placed it on the hearth in the living room. That shiny glow became the focal point that brightened the room and brought attention to the fireplace – and away from the fact that the room did not get a lot of natural light. There are a lot of items, made of all kinds of materials, that can be transformed with a little spray paint – from baskets to toothbrush holders to placemats to disposable tissue boxes!
Save purchasing linens for last. Once you have found or painted all the miscellaneous items, take them to the dollar store and match them with towels, bedspreads, pillow shams, scarves, and throw pillows. Here is a list of typical treasures to get you started:

Flower pots & vases
Odd-looking serving dishes & platters
Cannisters & desk organizers
Fancy-looking bottles filled with water and food coloring
Glass baking dish with lid – filled with crumpled, colored tissue paper

Colored kitchen utensils – potato masher, spoons, and spatulas
Exercise ball
Matching comb and brush
Desk set – pencil cup, stapler, desk pad and organizer
Brightly colored knitting needles and balls of yarn
Live plants
Silk flowers
Shower cap & mesh loofah
Weird-looking nick-nacks from a thrift store that are the right color or can be painted

Accent table (boxes with a table cloth that exactly reaches the floor)
Bed (boxes in a flat layer with bedspread and pillows on top)

Placemats & napkins
Tea towels & oven mitts
Cheap, thin bedspreads
Pillow shams & throw pillows
Lap-sized blanket throws
Bed sheets as curtains and table cloths, safety-pinned into shape
Unused sewing fabric
Brightly-colored fabric on a temporary wall hook


If you look at pictures and virtual tours available on San Antonio listings, you will see a broad range of effort put into preparation and presentation. Some listing photos make the home look like a model home, while others capture stacks of clutter, baby toys, and maybe a laundry hamper or an unmade bed.

It is up to you to decide how much effort you want to put into prepping and staging your home. Staging is usually a little work, with a great return on the investment. Your realtor® should be experienced with the process of making your house look like a model home, and be a great resource to you as you prepare for showings. That’s what I call…

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    Andrew Barlowe Realtor Vortex Realty

    Andrew Barlowe

    2241 NW Military Hwy STE 302
    San Antonio, TX 78213

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