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Home Staging Props and Why They Can Do More Harm Than Good

Home Staging Props and Why They Can Do More Harm Than Good

I’ve been looking at different home staging props lately, and from time to time I’ve thought about doing an article about this topic. The time clearly is right now because there are some trends that need to be discussed.

I have to say that there is a lot of questionable stuff out there claiming to be home staging props that I would most definitely suggest that you *do not*? use for staging.

While this article is a discussion of some current issues going on with poor use of props, the point is really to discuss the importance of all of the small details that go into a well-staged home.

There is a lot of this so-called staging prop stuff on etsy so let’s talk about what some of the problems are.

Home Staging Props

If you’re read other SHS articles then you know that I’m a straight shooter. I’m trying to give current and future home stagers some good advice here because I love the industry and I don’t like things that make staging look silly.

Don’t use these items, please:

1. Fake food

2. Random books just because the colors are pretty. And sometimes the books are in really bad shape.

Fake Food

First, I came across a lot of strange fake food that says it is for home staging. Please don’t use this in your staging. These items are odd, unappealing, and they really take away more than they could ever possibly add to a space.

Does anyone actually want to see a bowl of creepy-looking Fruit Loops in a home for sale? Is it like, the people living here were eating breakfast and then were suddenly abducted by aliens? You don’t want your staged homes to look like something from an X-Files episode. Or maybe the people are just slobs who leave food out? I’m not sure what the goal would be with that.

Joking aside, I don’t think this type of clutter ? that’s what it is! ? is a good idea. It’s a distraction.

Same with the fake cookies and fake drinks. These add nothing to a home for sale.

Also, don’t use fake or “faux” fruit. Why would you? Real fruit is not expensive and it looks about 1000 times better. I mean, yes you will have to get new fruit at some point, but really, it lasts a pretty long time if you’re talking about oranges, pears, apples, limes, and lemons.Those are what I mostly see faux versions of and I’m really not sure why.

Random Old Beat-up Books With Unsettling Titles

Next up, we need to talk about these sets of same-or similar-color books for sale as staging props. I’ve seen them in staged homes as well. Many of these look pretty from across the room, but as soon as anyone is close enough to start seeing the titles, it can really becomes a distraction.

Small things like book titles are the kinds details that we go through a house and carefully edit and perfect when we stage. Remember home staging psychology?

We don’t want those odd little stray thoughts entering buyers’ minds ? thoughts and impressions that come from every little thing that they observe (knowingly or unknowingly) as they walk through the home.

And yes this includes book titles.

Some of the titles are in fairly small type, but many are in very large letters that are easy to read at a glance. Books titles with words like anxiety, quick weight loss, kidnapped, the Third Reich, wound, funeral, problems, die, death, miserable... you get the idea.

This is just from a quick look at what’s being packaged on etsy as staging props. It’s about the Third Reich but it’s the right color. I mean really?!

“Nurse into Woman”? Again, really? Here’s a blurb about that one: “I’m a nurse, not a woman. I’ve resolved never to marry, never to have a child. I’m a good nurse. I’ll stay one. I’m not going to be a woman. Kristine Grant was young and warm and lovely. She thought she could forget her womanhood in her dedication to duty.” I mean it’s kind of a distraction.

Now I know that people are not going to sit down and read these books, (although, you never know!), but the titles and covers do convey a lot. Details add up. Why do anything to undermine the psychological perfection that you cultivated so carefully throughout the home?

If you think that such small details are insignificant and that people don’t pick up on such subtleties… there are some people I know in a little business known as “advertising” that would disagree. And that’s what we’re doing in home staging, we’re crafting an elaborate, immersive advertisement.

Anyway. Nobody needs a book about Karl Marx in their staged home. I just saw one as part of a “staging props” package.

Also, even the most casual of book people know that the majority of these colorful books are tattered and old-looking more than being decorative. Stains, torn or frayed cover or jacket edges, bumped corners, ex-library book markings, none of those things are desirable qualities.

Yes I was in the book business decades ago and I notice these things, but we’re just talking about aesthetics here. There’s vintage charm… and then there’s just, a thing being old and in poor condition. You don’t want anything in poor condition when you’re staging.

So, just because a book is vintage doesn’t mean it’s attractive. And just because a book is a pretty shade of green or red doesn’t mean it belongs in your staging work.

I mean by all means, use books for decorating, but pay attention to what the titles are.

You can set a pretty stack of books next to a plant on a perfectly-designed side table arrangement but when the titles are all about random things like how to fix a typewriter, Andrew Jackson, anxiety, 5th grade arithmetics, how to be a good secretary, what “they” don’t want you to know about such and such, Karl Marx, it starts to looks absurd and confusing when you use these “filler” books. It may be intended as decoration but those words all have meanings and these meanings will convey whether that’s your intention or not.

Art. Nature. Classic literature. Decorating. Cooking (not diet books). These are topics I would stick to. (Of course, I’m sure you can find exceptions in each category that would not be ideal.)

Decorating is about making things aesthetically appealing, but decorating still has to be conceptually sound or it becomes nonsense. In staging, it’s important to carefully curate everything with our very specific type of decorating in mind.

Details Matter in Home Staging

I know that I’ve talked a lot specifically about books in this post. It’s really about more than just books. It’s about how mindlessly “decorating” in home staging can work against you. You need to be conscientious and make every decorating decision count toward your goal of creating a satisfying, deeply appealing, aesthetically and psychologically pleasing space for buyers to experience.

Home staging is about showing buyers how good life can be in the home, and anything in your work that veers off of that course is a distraction.

People notice. Good home staging is about details. Be smart with your staging.

Photo by timsackton