I Sent a Home Stager Photos of My Living Room — Here’s What She Told Me to Get Rid Of

published Dec 12, 2022
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Credit: Jazmine Reed-Clark

Earlier this season, I challenged home staging expert Amanda Lewis of The Den Rentals to update my unorganized bathroom into an oasis that felt open-house-ready. Though I have zero plans to move, much of the advice helped me understand how to pare down my stuff and highlight a room’s strengths. Since our design challenge, I’ve kept most of the updates she made and applied the advice offered to other areas of the house. So when it was time to give my living room a facelift, I knew she was the best person to contact. (Thankfully, she was up for another challenge.) 

As a note, her business is about getting a home ready for a buyer. So while I, a renter, won’t be keeping each tweak and update in the long term, this challenge allows me to see the impact of small decisions and how to influence the way a visitor feels in a room. 

Focus on the Flow 

My apartment layout is shaped like an obtuse triangle, making things like feng shui and furniture rearrangement challenging and limiting. “Flow is key in the living room,” Lewis shares. “You want to allow buyers to [walk through the space without obstruction].”

The first thing to go? My small catch-all (wallet, keys, mail) table I’d stubbed my toe on more than once. Though a sense of room division between the kitchen and living room was gone, the living quarters instantly felt bigger and more inviting. 

“It’s important to keep the furniture narrowed down to core pieces. If the room is closed off for better TV viewing, you may consider reconfiguring to open up the space during the listing process,” she says. With Lewis’ guidance, I found new homes for my bookshelf, clocks, and other pieces holding space with little functional payoff. Though a bit less eclectic by design, the minimal atmosphere feels more elevated, adult, and intentional. I’ve noticed I’m less distracted in my living room, and as a bonus, there are fewer things to dust. 

Credit: Jazmine Reed-Clark

Less (Pictures and Personal Items) Is More 

I suspected Lewis would advise a homeowner to stash personal pictures away, “You want buyers to be able to envision their life in the space versus being reminded the home is not theirs (yet),” she says.

However, I was surprised to learn that art also needs a round of revisioning. Yes, that meant my totally-not-at-all-suggestive emoji paintings had to find an escape. As Lewis was helpful to point out, even though the paintings are fun, neutralizing is key. Though I love my R-rated paintings, I’ve found the result to be much more romantic and aligned with my Pinterest page. 

Credit: Jazmine Reed-Clark

Keep It Neutral And Light

Through this challenge, I found that neutral can mean something other than boring or personality-free. Lewis allowed for glass vases, coffee table books, and fun paintings to remain in the space while also allowing for more space and light. “Leave curtains pushed all the way open for photos and showings to let as much natural light in as possible,” suggests Lewis. 

Credit: Jazmine Reed-Clark

In addition to drawing in more natural light, I updated the space with some paint retouching. Pro-tip for renters: ask your nearby paint store if they have a discount code with your apartment complex. I was able to save 15 percent due to an existing partnership my complex had with the paint retailer. 

Finally, I asked Lewis for rug recommendations. Though I went to four different retailers, I came up empty-handed when finding a rug that fit my unique layout. However, Lewis recommends neutrals and subtle patterns for listing pictures. (For inspiration, here’s a living room she staged for Airbnb hosts in Denver.) I’m pleased with the result of my living room, and can’t wait to hear what visitors think.