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5 Tips for Staging Your Furniture Makeovers

What is UP my friends and fellow busybees. I hope your day is going great so far and if the weather is doing anything like it is here in Ontario, then I hope you’re absolutely loving this warmer weather we’re still getting here in like, mid-November. I am fully aware of what the implications of that are, which is unfortunate, however I am still making the most of it wearing shorts and a tank top while I’m out in the garage. We’re talkin’ like 17-22 degree Celcius weather, again, in Ontario- which is bizarre when I think about the date, because I totally remember growing up and pretty much without fail, Halloween would be the first snowfall we would get and then it would stay pretty consistent after that, and if it wasn’t snowing, it was still definitely wet, cold and dreary.

If you’ve ever heard someone joke about Canadians having to think about their Halloween costumes being big enough to accommodate a snow suit underneath it when going out Trick or Treating… that is absolutely accurate and not even one bit of a joke. Fun fact for those of you who live in another country. But anyways, enough on climate change and all of that. I mean, we ARE past the point of just talking about the weather together, and if you’ve been here for awhile, you know that I don’t love that kind of small talk like the weather. I’m all about that big talk. And all about that bass. Okay, I’m rambling... let’s move on.

So today I wanted to dedicate an episode to talk about the importance of staging your furniture after you flip it, and some of my tips for doing so. If you are selling your furniture makeovers, I personally recommend always staging your pieces for photos, but even if you aren’t and you don’t try to get photos and videos for social media and you’re just doing a piece for yourself, I still recommend you do it once it’s completed! Whether you stage it just to take some photos for yourself, or you get it staged up in its new home wherever it’s going to live in your house. This stage, to me at least, is so important because it’s your chance to really get up close and personal with your finished product, and it allows you to take the time to really admire the beauty of what you’ve done and appreciate it from an outsider’s perspective. After you’ve been bent over this thing and had it every which way, scrubbing it upside down and with your head inside it trying to clean the nooks and crannies and all of that fun stuff we do for our makeovers, it really is quite rewarding to stand back, take a look at it in all its glory, and try to make it look as good as possible. Which is essentially what staging it is doing. So don’t skip this step!

Now, in the context of staging the piece so you can take photos of it for sale, again, I highly recommend you don’t skip this step. Yes, take photos of your piece bare naked too without any décor on it or anything else around it so you can add those photos into your ad as well– because you don’t want potential buyers thinking that maybe you’re hiding a blemish or imperfection under the vase you’ve carefully placed on top of the buffet or anything like that.

But the benefit of staging your piece and using those photos as the first couple photos that show up in your ad online is that you’re helping your potential clients be able to envision the piece in their space and take away basically any effort required on their end to be able to see it in their space, like making them have to use their imagination. It sounds silly but honestly, it works! Have you ever walked into a store, saw a mannequin with an outfit on that you thought looked good together and tried it on as a result? It’s the same thing - as much as we like to think we aren’t, we’re quite lazy so staging your piece helps get those juices flowing so your prospective client thinks, “hey, that would look great just like that in my entryway”. If you do it really well, you might even have people inquiring if they can also buy the décor that you used in your staging photos, too!

Which leads me to my first tip for staging your painted or refinished furniture piece: keep it fairly neutral whenever possible. Since you’re wanting your average consumer to see it and envision it in their home, having the décor and staging leaning too far to one style of interior decorating could be limiting your client pool without you even realizing it. Now, there’s two exceptions to this, or maybe three. First, if it is a piece that already leans heavily in that direction like it’s a rustic farmhouse dresser in terms of its shape and you transformed it with chalk paint and distressed the hell out of it– sure, using farmhouse-inspired décor and a staging set up makes sense. Absolutely. But if you have a fairly neutral piece in terms of style, shape and finish, then only using décor that you might see in a little boy’s room is going to limit the prospective client’s ability to envision that piece in their, say, dining room to act as a buffet.

The second exception is if you don’t necessarily know how to stage a piece or if you are limited in terms of the décor you have available to stage with, then I always recommend choosing a style that is currently trendy and you’re seeing around a lot lately, especially if the décor in your home already leans that way. That will ensure people are looking at the piece knowing that you know what’s going on in the world of interior design and I feel like that then elevates their perspective on the pieces as well, especially if they aren’t already someone who knows, loves and appreciates refinished pieces– because let’s be honest, I’ve gotten a message a time or two before from someone on Facebook Marketplace being like “you’re asking HOW much for a USED dresser?!”. Always… super fun.

The third exception is if you aren’t super concerned how fast it sells and are just having the creative pull to stage it a certain way even though you know it might be a bit limiting, whatever, have fun with it and do what you’d like! I’ve been there before, just lean in to the pull. And sometimes you get lucky and it just happens to be exactly what someone was looking for regardless. I don’t like to stick to rules too much when it comes to doing this work because it’s all about being creative and reimagining pieces so use these tips as a guide but remember to listen to yourself, your ideas and your instincts above all else.

My second tip for staging your furniture makeovers is to use the Rule of 3s and 5s. I don’t know who coined it, I don’t know the reasoning behind it, but it’s something that I learned while watching interior decorators and designers too, things just seem to be more aesthetically pleasing when they’re grouped into groups of 3 or 5. So think of this when you’re staging because if you have a setup that feels like it works but is maybe just a bit off but you can’t quite put your finger on what, remember the Rule of 3s and 5s. This could be 3 or 5 of the same things, like candlestick holders or having a grouping of 3 or 5 items like maybe a faux plant, a candle and a little jewellery dish. Try it out and I bet you’ll find that it fixes whatever you were having a hard time putting your finger on visually.

My third tip for staging your furniture flips is especially for the plant moms and plant people listening in- plants are a GREAT option for staging and I find that, while being low-effort to use, they really bring a lot of life into a photo. And that can be for real or fake plants, but real ones (that are alive and not currently dying a slow, tragic death, I might add) are amazing options for staging. It adds a freshness to the photo and I feel like since they don’t always look super perfect and symmetrical, they add some character to the staging and the natural element just feels really aligned to me. I don’t really know how to explain it. But if I’m not feeling particularly inspired or am just trying to get a piece photographed quickly and don’t have the time set aside to be able to play around with different staging options, then 9 times out of 10 I’ll just grab a plant and maybe a book or two and hope for the best! Now that I’ve given you that insider tip, you can absolutely go back and see in my feed on Instagram just how often I am in a rush or being lazy about staging– spoiler alert: it’s a lot. Which is why having these tips or principles in my back pocket is really handy to have when I don’t have the brain power or time allotted to do it “right”.

My fourth tip is to use other items to introduce texture and other materials into the photo, which again is a tip for interior design. Again, there’s some styles that lean away from this a bit like maybe industrial which tends to have more concrete and that kind of stuff, but for the most part, this is a great hack to warm up the look and feel of the photos you’re taking. Since these are pieces that are typically ending up in someone’s home, you want them to feel warm, cozy and inviting so adding in things like different textures from a blanket, maybe some macrame hanging above it, a piece of décor made of rattan or some dried flowers or grass can really help to do that and balance the photo’s feel.

A way you can do this is by also following tip number five, which is to introduce different levels visually within the photo so it keeps your eye moving around. So if we wanted to bring in that cozy factor, that could be putting a woven basket beside a dresser with a little throw blanket draped inside it and spilling out a bit. Or if we wanted to create different levels on the piece itself, you might stack a couple of books with either the spines or the pages facing out (depending on the amount of colour you’re looking for) and then place your plant or other décor on top of that. You might have a taller vase that’s empty with a shorter vase beside it with a couple flowers just sticking out of it, with a little candle beside it– again, groupings of 3 but also different heights so that it keeps the eye moving. Depending where and how you are staging your pieces, you might also want to have something hanging on the wall above or around it that adds to the look of the photo.

And if you’ve been listening to this episode and thinking “oh my god this sounds like a lot of different stuff I need to have available to me, I don’t have a lot of decor around my house” or “I live in a small space, I don’t have room to store all of these little knick knacks” then I hope tip number 5 will bring a sigh of relief: you can repeat your staging. In fact, you can do the exact same staging with every single one of your pieces, or use the same items to stage every piece, and it will still absolutely look awesome.

Worst case scenario, like I said, you can just take some nudes of that bad boy and pop them up, so don’t sweat about it. I’ve actually seen some people on social media and on Facebook Marketplace who do this and have just a few different items like some decorative bookends and a couple little decor pieces that they use in all of their photos, sometimes configured differently but sometimes not, and it looks great! It kind of becomes like a calling card or sort of like branding because when I see it in my feed, I immediately know “oh, that’s so and so’s piece!” so it can actually be a benefit in that way. So please don’t feel the need to go out and spend a bunch of money on decor and things to use if you don’t want to– do the best with what you’ve got, and forget the rest.

But again, regardless of what you do to stage your piece, just keep in mind that anything you do is meant to enhance the piece, not distract from it. After spending hours and hours working on your makeover, the last thing we want to do is stage it in a way where there’s too much going on on or around it and the focus gets pulled from your beautiful masterpiece. So less is always more when it comes to this stuff, in my opinion!

And I do have a bonus tip for you after this, but first I just wanted to say that it’s totally okay if things like this and other things in your furniture painting and refinishing business feel confusing, overwhelming, hard or even scary to do and master. That’s totally normal, because it takes a ton of work to have, run, operate and work in a business- trust me, I know! But if you think you would benefit from some 1-on-1 coaching or consulting for your furniture painting or refinishing business, I wanted to let you know that I’m now offering that service through my website, just click on Services and check that out if you’re interested. I’m offering single sessions for just one off questions or if you have one major thing you want to tackle, or if you feel like you could use some more ongoing support to tackle a few things at once, I also have a 4 session package available. My career up until this business has been working with people to meet their goals and get things on track so this is a very familiar space for me, and I’d love to help support you in reaching your goals and the success that I know is coming for you. So I’ll be sure to link that in the show notes of this episode, and if you ever have any questions, feel free to send me an email or a DM.

Okay, so now for a little bonus tip about staging, which is that I get probably 99% of my staging items from the thrift store (when I’m buying new stuff which is less often now that I have a literal home décor store in my storage room now, but that’s besides the point). So if you haven’t already been looking there, definitely check it out because that’s where you’ll typically find the best prices for these things (depending on which thrift store you go to– don’t get me started on that rant again), and on top of that, you’ll find unique pieces and sometimes you can find really great stuff. I have plant pots, candlestick holders, plates and dishes, vases, books, faux plants, photos, wood accents and candles that I’ve found from the thrift store that I use for staging all of the time and I never pay more than a few bucks for them.

And something you may not know about me… I love little motivational messages. They literally always get me fired up, and I keep a running list of ones that are especially catchy or speak to me in the Notes app on my phone. So I’m going to end every podcast episode with one of those that I have noted down over the years, in hopes that you leave our time here each week feeling inspired, motivated, and ready to take on whatever comes your way that week.

So this week’s Mel’s motivational message is: More is caught than is taught.

Alright, that’s it for now, I appreciate your time, and I’ll catch you guys next week!

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