The Kinds of Art That Make a Buyer Feel at Home in Your Space, According to Real Estate Experts

published Oct 14, 2022
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The outside of the house you’re about to tour? It’s stunning. With ivy creeping up the sides, it’s reminiscent of the English countryside, and the red front door looks striking against those brick walls. Inside is a different story, however. The floors are carpeted and the current homeowner seems to have taken a liking to neon art — and it’s everywhere, some of it blinking. It’s so distracting that you move on to the next home without even thinking of placing an offer.

Have you experienced a version of this story? If you’re preparing to sell your home, the art used to stage a home is more important than you might think, and requires careful consideration. Jeff Schlarb, owner of Green Couch luxury home staging and his eponymously named interior design firm Jeff Schlarb Design Studio, believes that the “art should accentuate the home,” and create a positive impression, reflective of the neighborhood and local flavor. 

In San Francisco, Schlarb says, “Some neighborhoods or properties benefit from a more reserved palette and a more sophisticated design approach, while others should be more playful and creative. [In the] Presidio Heights neighborhoods, [the aesthetic] leans more sophisticated and chic, while the Noe Valley Neighborhood is more Boho, and we might use more earth tones and natural materials in the furnishings and art.”

Credit: Kristan Lieb

In sunny, vibrant Palm Springs, real estate agents Kiki and Greg Tormo (of the Paul Kaplan Group) echoed that sentiment. “In Palm Springs, people expect color to go along with all of our sunshine. The palette includes turquoise, orange, hot pink, chartreuse and yellow, which you might not see so much in other areas. Work by local artists, such as abstract paintings by Lynda Keeler, shag prints, and sculptures by Bianca Juarez pop in bright modernist homes,” they say. “We see architectural drawings in many mid century modern condos and houses [as well].” In short, make sure buyers can see themselves not only in the home, but in the neighborhood and in the city. 

Generally speaking, the right move seems to be to select art that uplifts a potential buyer’s mood, and doesn’t draw away from the home’s furnishings or special details. There’s one exception to that, however, according to Schlarb: “Sometimes, our designers feel that a home’s layout or architecture is ‘not ideal’ or lacking in some way — either a choppy room setup or unusual combinations of architectural styles that have been added to a home over the years. In instances like this, we may feel the artwork needs to be a bit more bold or eye-catching, to draw the eye away from some of the unusual or less desirable architectural elements of a home.” 

Credit: Chloe Berk

But even if you’re trying to distract from, say, a dated wood-paneled wall, be careful to not take things too far. The Tormos found themselves shocked when they walked into a mid-century modern home only to find “an all-black room with blacked out windows, human sized cages, restraints and a shower with all kinds of nozzles. The agent explained that it was a dungeon. If we were the selling agents, we would definitely have toned it down a bit — at least remove the portable cages! — before showing it to potential buyers.”

The bottom line? Choose artwork that radiates the good vibe of your home and neighborhood, but don’t let it distract from what’s marvelous and appealing about the house. The artwork should be a playful accent, not the star of the show — so yes, time to lock away the weird outsider art you bought on a roadtrip through the Interior West. 

This piece is part of Art Month, where we’re sharing how to find, buy, and display art in your home, and so much more. Head on over here to see it all!