The One Thing to Take Design Risks with, According to a Real Estate Agent

published May 13, 2023
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Staging a home for sale is a lot like creating a fashionable outfit: It’s all about having the right accessories. If you want to impress buyers with a beautifully arranged space, details matter — and yes, that includes throw pillows

Sure, it’s hard to believe even the most perfectly plumped pillow on a couch or bed could woo a buyer to make an offer. But it’s more than just an attractive aesthetic; it’s about how the space makes them feel when they enter it. This is what real estate agents often refer to as the “story” of the property. 

“A good story evokes emotion,” says Vickey Barron, a licensed associate real estate broker with Compass. “And residential sales are, for the most part, emotional.” It’s why real estate agents point to home staging as the secret sauce for faster sales — a space with furniture and decor arranged for day-to-day living tells a much more interesting story than an empty space. In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2023 Profile of Home Staging Report, 81 percent of buyers’ real estate agents said their clients found it easier to see themselves living in the space when it was staged. 

Credit: From Left to Right: Jungalow, H&M, Joss & Main, Target

Why You Should Take Design Risks with Throw Pillows

As much as sellers should aim to make their space feel more comfortable and inviting, they’re also encouraged to depersonalize it in favor of neutral tones and timeless details so that buyers can see how they might make their own mark. Throw pillows, however, are a way to add back some personality to the space with pops of color and texture. You could even reflect current design trends — Barbiecore pillows, anyone? — without too much trouble. 

One of the best things about throw pillows is that they don’t take up much room — or rather, they shouldn’t, says Barron. Again, just like in fashion, less is more, so practice some restraint if you find that you’re crowding the bed or filling up the couch to the point where you can’t sit on it. 

The real beauty of pillows is their portability, which is what clinches the deal for many of Barron’s clients in New York City when it comes to investing in their space in the hopes of snagging a quicker (and hopefully higher) offer. Unlike furniture that often needs a professional mover with a hefty insurance policy, pillows can easily be swapped in or out at a moment’s notice, so sellers are much more amenable to adding pillows in preparation for an open house. 

However, this is not the time to run out to big-box home stores and get the same pillows everyone else has, says Barron. It’s best to shop around smaller stores and boutiques for more unique pillows that are rich in fabric and texture. If you can swing a few higher-end designer pillows, even better, says Barron. “It’s like great art on the wall,” she explains. “When buyers come through, they can recognize what that is.” 

Don’t fret if your sofa is super plain or inexpensive, Barron says. The right throw pillows will elevate the look. “If you put some killer, beautiful artistic pillows on there, it tells a story,” she explains.