The Under-$15 Items a Home Stager Doesn’t Leave the House Without

The Under-$15 Items a Home Stager Doesn’t Leave the House Without

Even in a hot seller’s market, putting out the “for sale” sign and hoping for the best doesn’t mean your house will sell right away — or that you’ll get top dollar for it. Home staging can make a significant difference, allowing potential buyers to visualize the property as their future home. 

If professional staging isn’t in your budget, here are some budget-friendly tricks and tips from the pros that will transform your home for next to nothing. These are a few of the under $15 items they often don’t leave for a job without.

“We always bring some form of greenery,” says Lauren Dalrymple, a professional home stager and co-owner of Ivy Lane Home Staging in Denver, Colorado. “The Target fake plants come in all different sizes and they are really, really reasonably priced. It’s something that we do in every space no matter what.”

Plants, even fake ones, can be strategically placed to freshen up a home. “Placing greenery in a room adds life to a space,” adds Betsy Boughner, a professional home stager in the Pittsburgh market and owner of PorchLight Home Staging. “Faux succulents are so great looking now and very affordable. We place succulents in almost every room in a house when we’re staging.”

Decorative Pillows and Throws

Another favorite among home stagers is to use decorative pillows and throws on upholstery. “We do mixing and matching from a budget standpoint,” says Kate Keyser, co-owner of Ivy Lane Home Staging. She advises mixing a few higher-end pillows with more affordable options. “Just to give it that look without having to break the bank,” she adds. 

Boughner also uses pillows and throws to add texture and warmth to a room. “A buyer wants to experience a cozy and warm feeling when considering purchasing a house. Adding neutral earthy tone pillows and throws can help do this,” she explains.

The right curtains can tie a room together and even make it appear more spacious; however, it doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money on high-quality curtains. 

“We like to bring sheer curtains from HomeGoods or IKEA,” says Dalrymple. “They look amazing. “White sheer curtains can make the space double in size.”

“Don’t forget about the walls in a house,” says Boughner. She recommends picking out some artwork to add a pop of color and character to a room. 

You can even make it a DIY project. “One of our favorites is to quickly paint over something that has an amazing texture,” says Dalrymple. She suggests finding a textured or patterned canvas and painting it all black, white, or a neutral shade. “At Home is always running a sale on canvas pieces,” she claims. 

Mirrors are another great and affordable wall accessory. “You can get a great mirror from somewhere like Walmart,” suggests Keyser. “It doesn’t have to be super high-end. It just has to be strategically placed.” Boughner also likes to add mirrors when she’s staging a home. She explains that they can make a room feel larger, especially when placed opposite a window.

Josephine Nesbit


Josephine is a freelance real estate writer based out of the Midwest. When she’s not working, she’s spending time with her fiancé and two toddlers.

6 Ways to Make Your Bathroom Look More Expensive, According to Real Estate Pros

6 Ways to Make Your Bathroom Look More Expensive, According to Real Estate Pros

If you’ve ever lived in an antique building like I have, you know that older bathrooms aren’t always the most attractive. Whether it’s aging fixtures or outdated tile designs — sometimes the bathroom can end up feeling messy without an actual mess present. Luckily, there are small changes that can help subpar bathrooms look more sleek and expensive. Ahead, find some bathroom upgrade wisdom from real estate experts.

Update the Shower Curtain

“Remove the shower curtain if it’s old and replace it with a new, clean one. If possible, replace the curtain and rod with a glass door or enclosure. That makes a big difference.” Rachel Lustbader, broker for Warburg Realty

“Think about replacing shower curtains with sliding glass doors for the tub. They come in all shapes and sizes and even ‘off the rack’ from Home Depot looks better than a shower curtain and makes the bath look renovated.” Michael J. Franco, broker for Compass

Declutter and Go Minimalist

“When you have some open counter space, a shelf, or appropriate nook, think of adding fresh cut flowers or a lush green plant to complete the luxury ambience, especially if the bathroom is dark and has small or no windows. For the rest, less is more! A bathroom needs to look clean, airy and ‘fresh.’”Caterina Francisca, founder of Caterina Francisca Design

“Minimalist decor and decreased clutter is a great way to make your bathroom look more expensive. It gives a feeling of space and cleanliness, which are great elements if you’re looking to give a different feel to your bathroom. Including an air diffuser with a fresh scent is another way to subliminally make your bathroom feel more expensive.” Mihal Gartenberg, agent for Warburg Realty

“Remove all visible shampoo, soap, other bottles, and free standing soap dishes from the bathtub and sink rims as well as window sills. Neatly organize the contents of all drawers and vanities and remove old or dirty items.” —Rachel Lustbader

“Declutter — just like in any other room, clutter will cheapen the look of a bathroom. How many half-empty bottles of body wash or shampoo does anyone really need out and in view? Keeping the sink-top clear and the bathtub/shower stocked with only the necessities is a great way to declutter. If the bathroom looks cleaner and less busy, it elevates the whole look.” Steve Gottlieb, agent for Warburg Realty

Make Any Necessary Repairs

“Make sure all grouting is clean and regrout areas where it is missing. Reglaze mirrors if glaze has chipped off anywhere. Deep clean all tiled areas. Clean all light fixtures and replace any dead light bulbs. Repair any chips in the vanities.” —Rachel Lustbader

“Changing out tiles (or other forms of renovation) can be time-consuming and costly. Changing out your products is faster and cheaper. Displaying higher end (and usually more expensive) bath products is a quick and easy way to convey a more elevated look and feel. For a powder room, which may be used by only guests, it can be useful to get some extra small luxury products from your next hotel stay and bring them home as a somewhat permanent display. Even if your everyday products are purchased at the drugstore, you can put soaps and lotions from an international luxury brand in the guest bathroom.” —Steve Gottlieb

Swap Fixtures, Hardware, and Tiles

“When it comes to fixtures and hardware, and when working with a budget, steer clear of the trendy finishes as they can be much more expensive, and significantly harder to maintain. Simple and clean chrome finishes are the most affordable and wear far better than the satin nickel and antique brasses. Porcelain tiles in lieu of natural stones will also help bring down the budget a bit, and there are beautiful options to choose from.  If a renovation is not in the cards, then simply updating the accessories, like towel rods, hand towel rings, shelving, and medicine chests can also do the trick.” Jeremy Kamm, agent for Warburg Realty

“Many people are surprised that their medicine cabinet and/or sink with a vanity cabinet underneath can be more easily switched out than they had thought. This can seem like it should go under the ‘renovation’ column, but it can be done in a non-intrusive and affordable manner. The medicine cabinet, sink, and vanity take up a lot of visual real estate in the bathroom. Upgrading these can elevate the entire look. Installing new faucets and fixtures might be less expensive and intrusive than you initially thought, too.” —Steve Gottlieb

“Before bringing the home to market, stop and do a fresh, light remodel/retouch: white subway tiles are cheap and always do the trick, and porcelain tiles are great for bathrooms as they are not porous and can look like marble or other natural stones. Always regrout and freshly paint a light color before listing.” Peter Riolo, licensed associate real estate broker and founder of The Riolo Team NYC at Compass

“Finish it with some new fluffy towels, and fresh soaps for a warm welcoming vibe. I usually prefer to use white towels with some texture, as they look clean and comfy. Or work with contrast colors like white and black, or white and blue.” —Caterina Francisca

“Monogrammed towel sets, pretty soap dishes, and matching plastic glass are also great ways to spruce up your bathroom. You can also use soft incandescent lighting, lay out a new, thick rug, and get a new paint job if it’s needed.” Hala Lawrence, broker for Warburg Realty

“Hang wall art. A lot of people don’t realize that they can actually decorate a bathroom. Hanging art in a bathroom can add so much to the look and feel of this small room. Be careful not to hang expensive art (as it will be exposed to steam), but framed wall art can go a long way. Then, throw down a nice bath mat. If the bathroom is mostly monochromatic, adding a colorful bath mat, or even a small rug, can add a pop of decor. Anything added to the bathroom that gives the impression of thought and consideration should make the room look more expensive.” —Steve Gottlieb

Jennifer Billock


Jennifer Billock is an award-winning writer, bestselling author, and editor. She is currently dreaming of an around-the-world trip with her Boston terrier.

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We Gave a Professional Home Stager $40 — Here’s What She Bought at Michaels

We Gave a Professional Home Stager $40 — Here’s What She Bought at Michaels

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.

Sure, it’s easy to spruce up your home when you’ve got an unlimited budget. But that’s not a reality for most people. Instead, they have to be a little craftier. So there’s no better place to head than Michaels, the arts-and-crafts empire that’s stocked with so much more than knitting needles and fabric flowers. 

We gave Abbey Ojemann, the design coordinator for JessFinessed, a home staging and interior design company in Greater Boston, $40 to head to Michael’s and report back with the items she would choose to stage a home. Since a major part of Abbey’s role is to source furniture and accent pieces for staging installs, we knew she’d have some interesting picks. Her total originally came to $45.33, but with the 20 percent off coupon always available in the Michael’s app, Ojemann managed to get her total down to $36.27.

Megan Johnson


Megan Johnson is a reporter in Boston. She got her start at the Boston Herald, where commenters would leave sweet messages like “Megan Johnson is just awful.” Now, she’s a contributor to publications like People Magazine, Trulia and Architectural Digest.

The One Kitchen Item You Should Always Buy Used

The One Kitchen Item You Should Always Buy Used

If you regularly frequent your local thrift shop or you love perusing neighborhood yard sales, then you already know there are some seriously great finds out there — from pristine vintage furniture to one-of-a-kind home decor, you can score secondhand items for your home that are both affordable and unique.

But the next time you go thrifting, be sure to wander up and down every last aisle and scour every single shelf for the one kitchen item you should always buy secondhand: Pyrex bowls.

Take it from Leah Gomberg, who owns the home staging company Sweet Life by Design in Maplewood, New Jersey. With her eye for interior design, Gomberg specializes in making homes shine to help them sell faster (and for a higher price).

Gomberg has never met a Pyrex bowl she didn’t love, starting with the extra yellow and green ones her mom shared from her own collection when Gomberg moved into her first apartment after college. After that, Gomberg started collecting on her own, mostly honing in on red and blue bowls she found at estate sales, garage sales, and her local church’s “turnover sale.”

Now, she uses her beloved (and super durable) Pyrex bowls on a daily basis, for mixing, baking, serving, and other cooking-related tasks. They’re also a key piece of her kitchen’s decor: She keeps a special floral set on display in her glass butler’s pantry. 

“They are able to withstand temperature changes, they don’t discolor, and because they’re glass, they don’t react with ingredients to change the taste of food, like cast iron can, and they don’t retain food smells after washing, like ceramics and earthenware,” she says.

She also uses Pyrex bowls whenever she can when she’s staging homes for sale. It helps add a bright, whimsical, homey touch to the space.

“When I come across a set of colorful Pyrex in a client’s house, I often display it in glass cabinetry or even on a corner shelf — what could be more fun and playful than a familiar pop of retro color?” she says.

If you’re looking to start your own vintage Pyrex collection, Gomberg suggests you start by asking any family members if they have any pieces they’d be willing to part with. From there, head to flea markets, secondhand stores, garage sales, antique shops, and anywhere else in your neighborhood that sells gently used items.

Serious collectors also sell some of their prized Pyrex possessions on sites like eBay and Etsy, but expect to pay a pretty penny for these. And remember that when it comes to collecting, most of the fun comes from the thrill you feel when you stumble upon a piece to add to your stash — it’s a bit like finding buried treasure.

“The cost of these bowls can vary depending on the vibrancy of the bowls’ colors and condition,” says Gomberg. “If you’re lucky, you might find single bowls for a couple of dollars at a garage sale. If you like a challenge, I’d strongly recommend starting a collection and keeping your eyes peeled for these classic pieces. Collect them one piece at a time or all at once if you hit the jackpot and find a set!”

5 Home Staging Secrets That Translate into Stylish, Real-Life Decorating Ideas

5 Home Staging Secrets That Translate into Stylish, Real-Life Decorating Ideas

House hunting is a truly wild ordeal. Let’s start at the top: You’re (in many cases) talking about spending your life savings on a piece of property, so there’s just no way it’s not going to be stressful. You’re invasively walking through people’s homes, rifling through their things, and judging their various choices. Add in a global pandemic, where you basically have to act like a shark at feeding time if you even want a chance at scoring a property, and that’s the situation my husband and I found ourselves in less than a year ago. 

Having spent ten years in New York City, nearly every home was four times larger than anything we were used to, so we were immediately wooed by the square footage. That’s where the fantasy stopped though; so many of the places we toured needed serious help aesthetically. While it’s true that you’re buying someone’s shell of a home and not their decor style, it’s so easy for the two to impact one another. One home we walked into was so filled to the brim with cat collectibles that we could barely move, and another had a carpet and wall of built-ins so destroyed by the residing pups that you couldn’t walk into the space. Needless to say, both of those homes did not make the cut.

After a series of unfortunate first impressions, we walked into an immaculately styled home where every detail was thoughtfully considered. The furniture was proportional to the space; the coffee bar was stocked; there were fresh flowers on the table — it felt lived-in but in a way that made you want to picture your life there. While we didn’t end up making an offer on that house, the impact of the staging made a lasting impression on me. Not only does staging make a huge difference when looking to sell your home, but with its practice also comes with sneaky takeaway tips to utilize when decorating — though, make no mistake about, they’re definitely not the same thing.

“The number one difference between design and staging is the intention,” says Leia Ward, founder of luxury staging design firm LTW Design. “Design is intended to reflect the style of the homeowner and is completely subjective. On the other hand, staging is objective and intended to highlight architectural focal points of the home (among other selling points) and create a lifestyle experience in order for buyers to emotionally attach and make an offer. The priorities are very different.”

That being said, many of Ward’s best staging tips also make pretty good decorating ideas. I went through the main rooms in a hypothetical home with her, getting her strategies along with the underlying takeaway decor principle behind them, which can help you make the most of any space you come to call “home sweet home.”

Kitchens are the heart of the home and often can be a huge deciding factor for prospective buyers. While the finishes (see also: appliances, countertops, and layout) are paramount, Ward emphasizes the importance of adding life to the space, turning to large displays of greenery (often tall branches with leaves) to add freshness without taking away from the necessary features house hunters are truly there to see. 

When it comes to decorating your own kitchen, Ward suggests treating the countertops just like you would any other surface in your home. “Even if it’s not functional, decorating the kitchen is important, and we like to style surfaces there just as we would a coffee or console table,” she says. “Create a little vignette by adding a framed piece of art against the backsplash with two coffee table books and a vase.” Don’t forget fresh flowers or greenery either; a little bit of life can warm up an otherwise sterile looking kitchen, whether you’re looking to sell or in your forever home. You don’t have to go over-the-top here, but if you do have high ceilings, for example, why not choose a few dramatic, tall branches?

Perhaps the biggest difference between staging for buying and decorating for living can be seen in the living room layout, according to Ward. “In real life, it’s functional to have the sofa facing the TV, so if you’re designing for yourself, make the most of the space for day-to-day livability,” she says. “However, when staging, the layout must allow for an unobstructed flow, which usually means the sofa is perpendicular to the fireplace or TV so buyers don’t have to walk around it to see the focal point. We want to use less furniture to create negative spaces, which make rooms feel bigger and show off more square footage.” 

Ward also removes any extra clutter and personal photos, encouraging clients to think of it like turning your home into a 5-star hotel. “Nobody wants to go into a hotel room and see a personal item left from the previous guest, right?” she says. “Same concept! Buyers want to walk through your home and envision it as theirs.”

The upshot here? Choose a layout that works for the way you regularly interact in your space, and don’t worry if your coffee table has remotes, coasters, and magazines on it. Just maybe add a tray or basket to corral said items, so they look a little bit more organized and in their proper places. Could you benefit from losing a chair or an extra side table though, putting to use Ward’s staging prerogative on flow? Negative space is never a bad thing, even in a lived-in home.

The powder room or half-bath is one of the few places where Ward’s design and staging ethos meet. “My biggest suggestion for your powder room is actually the same whether you’re staging it for sale or trying to warm it up for yourself: Add live greenery!” she says. “It’s the nicest surprise and is so refreshing when you see live flowers or tall branches with leaves in a bathroom.”

The bedroom is another personal space buyers are going to want to “see” themselves in, so Ward cautions against a palette that is too bright or attention-grabbing when staging your home for sale. “For staging, it’s all about creating a sanctuary for potential buyers — especially in a primary bedroom,” she explains. “Soft neutrals and layered textures (think: cashmere throws, bouclé pillows, linen sheets) will do the job.”

When it comes to decorating a bedroom for yourself though, Ward encourages all the cozies mentioned above but with a personality-packed twist unique to your style and a playful outlook on color, pattern, and texture. “When decorating your primary bedroom, go bold and use wallpaper — we especially love a solid textured wallpaper,” she says.

If there’s one thing most homeowners have on their wishlist when house hunting these days, it’s a home office. In fact, the folks behind Rocket Homes reported almost a 17 percent increase in listings mentioning a home office between March and July of 2020, and that trend is only set to explode with the increase in telecommuting. The solution? A design that melds functionality and decor into one serene space — plus, an added dose of organization if you’re actually living there. 

“When staging an office, it’s all about showing the buyer how they want to live — a neat, clean office without desk drawers or clutter tells buyers, ‘If you buy this house, you’ll live like this,’” says Ward, who shares that she stages offices with small-scale dining tables instead of true desks to cut down on visual clutter, which is a great tip if you like a more streamlined look yourself and can invest in other methods of storage. In fact, for a functional office space you can actually live and work in, Ward absolutely emphasizes the need for appealing organizational solutions. “Style the office with bold accessories that are functional for organization,” she suggests. “Don’t just buy any old pencil cup holder or paper tray. Use that item to make a statement, whether it’s with a concrete, marble, or leather texture.”