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Answering all those burning questions you didn’t know you had about home ownership.

Staging Your Home to Live In

Picture of Jessica Dabkowski

Jessica Dabkowski

Helping you with all things homeownership!

This week I’m discussing staging your home – to live in. When we hear the word “staging”, we usually think of it in the context of selling your home more quickly and for more money than it would otherwise sell. But why can’t we use some of the same tips to make our home look awesome all the time? Uh, well, we can!

This Week’s Inspiration

Recently, The Mathematician paused in our living room looking around with a puzzled expression.

“What?” I asked.

“Is something different in here?” he asked.

Took him awhile, I giggled to myself. “Yup, I stole our candlesticks to stage Michelle’s house.”

“Oh.” (pause) “Are they coming back?”

“Once we sell that sucker, I’ll bring them home.” I laughed and went about my day.

The candlesticks returned a few weeks later, but it got me thinking about home staging. When we sold our first house in 2020, I staged the house before we listed it and, if I say so myself, it looked awesome.

I realized that I would have enjoyed living in my house more if I had taken the time to stage it while I lived there!

While some of the tricks we use for staging aren’t compatible for actually living in the space – ever seen an air mattress on a bed frame in a staged home? I have! – there are plenty of staging tips and tricks you can borrow to make your home feel a little bit staged.


One of the key aspects of your home a stager and agent review is the lighting. Basically, you can never have enough! Modern or stylish lamps can work double duty as both decor and a source of light.

When a buyer visits your home, they may not notice if it is bright and airy, but they sure as heck will notice if the house is dark as a cave. If you have been living in your space for awhile, you might not even notice the home is a little bit dark in some areas.

Bringing in some additional lighting can bring you a lighter, happier feeling and make your space feel more inviting.

Paint Refresh

You knew this one was coming, but it truly does make a difference. When staging a home for sale, I always recommend a lighter neutral on the walls.

The last few years, it’s been “Agreeable Gray” from Sherwin Williams, a beautiful gray with warm undertones. However, there are a whole host of wonderful neutrals out there for you to explore.

As I discussed in this article last fall, the design gods tell us that gray and white are moving out. Softer, warm colors are moving back in. Since you aren’t actually selling your home, you can probably get a little bit more adventurous with your paint choice!

If you are looking at paint colors, I have the entire color fan from Sherwin Williams (it weighs 2.3 lbs, I checked). I am happy to loan it out. I also get a decent designer paint discount I am allowed to share and the occasional coupon, so reach out to me if a discount would benefit you. I’m here to help you out!

Small Touches

There are a lot of small items in our home that we may not notice, but can make a space feel updated, clean and inviting.

Thin out your furniture herd. Remember that quote from Coco Chanel? “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” This one doesn’t apply to my personal dress code because I don’t ever remember to accessorize, but I definitely apply it to my home! We have a tendency to overfill rooms, which makes the room feel crowded. Sit in your space and see if you could remove one item of furniture. Even if you decide not to remove anything, it’s a useful exercise to consider.

Get some accent pillows, rugs and throw blankets. Stage with an eye toward symmetry, which tricks our brains into feeling balanced and happy. If you need inspiration, visit your local At Home store – or as I like to call it, in a warehouse!

Replace your outlet covers and switch plates. Even if you clean these regularly (good for you, you’re one in a million!), they get beat up and grungy over time. The last time I bought the plastic ones they were still less than $1 each.

Replace your toilet seats if its been a hot minute since you bought them. For parents of small children, these toilet seats are the absolute best. They have a toddler seat built into the lid which detaches from a magnet when needed. It eliminates the need for a separate potty seat for kids, is easy to clean and just overall makes your life easier. Even if you don’t have small children living in your house, having this seat signals to your small child visitors that you care about them. (I am not affiliated with this product, I just find it ridiculously convenient.)

Add a centerpiece to your dining room table. Yes, you have to move it to clean your table, but I am always surprised at the difference this small touch makes. (Notice I didn’t tell you to stage your dining room with plates, wine glasses, etc., because, well, no one has time for that [expletive].)

Clear off your kitchen and bathroom countertops. The reason for this recommendation is twofold: (1) it will make the room feel bigger, more open and just overall better, and (2) it will make the countertops easier to clean regularly.

Re-examine Your Curb Appeal

A long time ago I read a fun fact in some trashy magazine that I still remember to this day: the reason men don’t always notice a new haircut is because men’s brains recognize the face and then fill in the details with their memory. Is this true? No idea.

Here’s why I bring this up – I am convinced we all do this trick with the exterior of our homes! After you live there awhile, your eyes sort of slide over the outside of your home without taking in the details.

Go outside and really take in the details of your home.

  • Does the siding need a good power wash? Those north facing walls tend to get real mossy in Michigan. Check the stairs, walkways and driveway while you’re at it.
  • Is your landscaping under control? (My boxwoods currently resemble how I imagine the appearance of Harry Potter’s hair, wild and untamed.).
  • Are your house numbers legible? (Even if they are, Amazon will still mis-deliver your packages to the neighbors.)
  • Is your doormat old, crusty and faded? This is an easy upgrade! I’ll take any excuse for an excursion to my local Target.
  • Are your exterior lights burned out? Time to drag out the ladder and replace them.
  • How’s your storage? There’s two options to if you have storage issues: get rid of your excess or find a storage solution that works. (Then cram that storage solution full of stuff and eventually have to declutter anyway – not that I know from experience or anything. . .)

Those are this week’s tips for staging your home for your life. I hope you picked up one or two ideas for your home. Thanks for joining me!

As always, I’m here to help. Feel free to reach out with all your homeowner questions. See you next week!

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