stage this house: family room *updated

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Family room. Living room. Call it what you will. It’s nearly there, save for a missing coffee table. Plus, I was browsing different rug types and I’d really prefer a new area rug with navy and cream stripes to brighten it up. But who knows if it will work in a new space, so we’d better hold off, no?

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The question is, what type of coffee table works here? I’m thinking something airy, not too chunky or visually heavy, no brown wood unless it’s thin and raised, so there’s plenty of air between the tabletop and the floor.

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The chairs now are positioned “talking style,” but perhaps they’re better off being parallel, both facing the sofa, cleanly.

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Also, I KNOW the class jar thinger is tilted crooked. I’ve fixed it.

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This might sound odd, but we might not be here to water plants (or orchids), so is a faux orchid a big no on a coffee table? I feel like they’re okay when used minimally, and out of reach, up high somewhere where no one is tempted to touch it. And in bathrooms. Thoughts?

Do I need to add a yellow throw pillow or two to tie into the yellow and white theme on the shelves?

Go on, be honest. I’m removed from this emotionally… well, trying to be.


Update. Okay, this “coffee table” stand-in is from outside, and again, I think it’s too chunky/heavy, but I like the square shape and height. That is my real, live, orchid, though we’d need to replace it with an alternative to live. You do the math.

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De- to the clutter. Are the shelves in the living room really too busy?

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Stand-In Coffee Table

I’ve removed furniture. And I can pull the chairs out further so they’re not so close in. Does this work better. Now, what to do with that loveseat…

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Have Cookbooks, Will Carry

Is it totally wrong to stage a kitchen with a “coffee lounge” (aka, the loveseat)? I ask because behind this living/family room is a dining area with a glass table and chairs. There’s also enough room, though, for an eat in kitchen. Though, I think it’s weird to set up the kitchen—with an eat-in breakfast nook (on it’s own area rug to help define the space)—when there’s already a dining area so close by. Ideally, I’d have two club chairs and a low round table in the kitchen, a coffee spot to read the paper, or a place for guests to drink wine, and still be close to you in the kitchen. BUT, Phil refuses to spend money buying two club chairs for the space. So, what would you do? And, yes, I’ll slim down the cookbook library.

Also, here’s how the previous owner staged it… with a children’s picnic table.

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Previous Owners

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Previous Owners’ Dining Space

There’s more where that came from… On my Flickr I show how the previous owners staged the home, and you can also see how we’ve lived in it.

Also, for the record… know the movie Brewster’s Millions?

Loved to love that film. Richard Pryor has to spend an obscene amount of money, and one of things he does to spend it is hire a decorator to design a “room I could die in.” I have many of these dream rooms. So, for the record, these are my dream rooms (aka my inspiration and mini-loves):

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Lover Living. I want to make out with this room, despite the fact that people might scream “too busy.” This is my ideal. I’m not a minimalist girl.

blues living

Skippity do wop dosame setting



  1. Just went through the staging to sell last year at this time… Room looks nice overall. I like the way you have the shelves arranged. The neutral paint is good.

    – how about a lucite coffee table?
    – Instead of yellow on pillows, I would bring in another color to make it less “matchy”, how about a lime green or deep orange?
    – BIG no on any artificial plants (even nicer-quality ones). How about some moss or stones or combo thereof… Pottery Barn had some cool tablescapes around Passover/Easter
    – A different rug would be great. I like the idea of navy… Or, perhaps, for a smaller investment, you could get a sisal rug, maybe with a navy border?

    Looks good. Our staging sold our house in a tough market. I think you are wise.

    1. no artificial plants. fresh flowers for $10/week would be better.

      color scheme: the rug is kind of light – need something to anchor the space. Like the idea of a NEW color splash. In fact I really love the navy pillows on the love seat in the kitchen. (though I would not leave the love seat in there for staging)

      The shelves look nice. I didn’t notice a crooked anything lol

      I would get rid of the chest under the TV. It lends too formal a feel and has no real purpose there. lower the TV or remove it for staging and hang a nice mirror or something sculptural.

      I don’t mind ottoman coffee tables but that one is too small/heavy. I am at a loss for coffee table ideas. how about one with some mosaic tiles or something? my cousin has the perfect one in the right colors…but that’s a lot of help, eh?

      What is throwing me off is the 2 chairs. I think it would look better to have the traditional couch/loveseat L arrangement and leave the chairs out. The couch has very clean lines and the chairs are not providing enough contrast, style wise or color wise.

      I’ll probably obsess over this well into my REM sleep. Thanks a lot. lol

  2. To me, it looks like an awful lot of furniture in one space. If I were walking through during a showing I’d think “What a strange arrangement. It’s laid out as though it’s meant for conversation, but there’s a tv on the wall.” And, from the picture, all the furniture is so big and cushiony. When we staged, we went for less in order to let people’s minds fill in the gaps.

  3. Have you considered an ottoman for a coffee table? Something with a glass tray to reflect light off of it instead? I am personally not a fan of glass coffee tables? To me they scream fingerprints and sweaty glasses. Your idea of a couple of bright throw pillows will keep the room bright. I want a nice easy room to live in – not one where Windex is a daily part of life.

  4. The room is way too crowded. Take the loveseat out all together and position the chairs opposite of the large couch. Remove at least one, if not both, of the end tables. Take the chest out from under the TV if you can, or, if it houses electronic equipment, try to put the electronics in the built in cabinet. And for the love of all things holy, de-tchotchke the place.

  5. I think you should remove the big couch and then move one of the smaller chairs in its place. I always think of staging as minimalism. Don’t they say to remove 50% of your furniture? Keeping to that rule, I think you should move 50% of the stuff from the bookshelves, too. And replace a couple of items with some splashes of bright color there. A popping pink flower in a vase; a turquoise bowl. The room seems too monotone. A throw blanket in a bright color would help, too.

  6. Need to be updated here. Are you selling your house in Austin?

  7. 1) Super dull palate – how about some nice, bright textile, pillows?
    2) I believe this was previous feedback about this room – the TV looks too high and too much like a doctor’s office. can it be moved off wall?
    3) A plant or orchid is a great idea to warm up the room. Couldn’t your realot water it once a week?

  8. Instead of a coffee table, what about a cream/light yellow ottoman with a tray on top of it? I love the chairs.

  9. I don’t really know what I’m talking about, but my first impression would say to straiten out the chairs. If I lived there, I would have them the way you do, but I think it would show better if they were lined up the other way.

  10. I’m not an interior decorator AT ALL. I like the idea of leaving it minimal and letting people fill in the gaps though. I don’t like the outside ottoman – I agree with you that it’s far too chunky/heavy. I have a glass coffee table because I had the exact same problem. My colour palette in that room is very similar and I couldn’t find a mirrored table that was better. Someone suggested to me to buy a mirror or mirror tray and have a table made with that as the top, which I liked but couldn’t find a mirror. Plus I think the lamps look too matchy-matchy, maybe move one to another area and leave the other?

    If I were to spend money it would be to change the drapes to something longer and airy with a nice tie back to create flow. The black/navy keeps drawing my eye away from everything in a not nice way. They are nice in the kitchen though. The loveseat looks awkward in a kitchen area, but that might just be the angle of the photo. The room doesn’t look too full of stuff; in fact I thought the shelves looked a little bare, so I’d leave them as is. I have no problem with good quality fake plants either.

  11. Why don’t you put the two chairs in the kitchen and move the sofa where the love seat was, then put the love seat where you had the chairs.

  12. Oh, sorry – you do have the sofa where the loveseat was. I don’t think the chairs look good the way you have them now, flanking the sofa.

  13. Definitely need the yellow and/or white pillows in the family room to bring out the colors of the shelves.Looks nice!

  14. I agree with the suggestions to get rid of the love seat and to replace the blinds with some nice light sheers. The room is currently a little furniture heavy. I like the photo where you have removed the love seat and moved the chairs. I think the shelves look fine. Not too cluttered at all. The chest under the tv is fine where it is. If you remove it, the tv will look way too high, but I think it is fine the way it is now. I agree with Phil’s position on not wanting to buy furniture just to stage your place. It will be a huge waste if it doesn’t fit in the next place. I think you can do great with what you have. The love seat is a little awkward in the kitchen.

  15. okay, I only have a minute but here is my input:
    Paint-I know you dont want to but the walls are dark and you want to convey fresh and airy.
    ikea has a beautiful jute rug for
    get the rug and it will go with your Hamptons theme.
    color code your cookbooks in your kitchen..i love it when I see books color coded-do this in your closets,too(I tell all my clients that closets are just as important as the rest of the house)
    put shopping bags at the top of your closets-notice high in condos and model homes do this..when it comes down to it you want people to buy your lifestyle as well as the house..get emotionally attached to the idea of living just like you in the house.
    I dont like the coffee table from outside and do like the picnic table theme in the eat in could frame and hang kid art in that area,too.
    I will call you with more ideas:) gotta run..we are going to miss you!

    1. The wall color is what jumped out at me. I think it weighs the room down. Someting a few shades lighter would be perfect.
      The loveseat in the kitchen looks awkward. I agree with others that the family room looks better with less furniture. Sofa with two chairs or sofa with loveseat. Remove one end table/lamp. Lower the tv or remove it.

  16. my taste is more contemporary/simplistic so please keep this in mind while i make my comments–

    the chairs in the front room look more “formal” and drapey (as does the current area rug), and neither “fit” with the more modern looking couch and loveseat. same with the cabinet under the television.

    so, i would:

    1. keep the couch and loveseat in the family room (remove the chairs)
    2. invest in a more modern rug
    3. invest in a more modern piece for under the television
    4. consider a glass coffee table or ottoman-style coffee table
    5. remove at least 50% of the items on the shelves

    you might want to–

    6. try the chairs in the kitchen area where you have the loveseat
    7. try the cabinet currently under the tv paired w/the chairs

    tho, you may need more of a coffee table w/the chairs to pull off the “coffee nook” look that you’re going for.

    IF i could only make 3 changes to the front room (using the FIRST picture as a guide), and WITHOUT spending any money, i would do the following:

    1. remove the two chairs
    2. switch the positions of the loveseat/couch
    3. remove the cabinet under the television

    best of luck!

  17. I would take the couch out of the kitchen. I think it’s a really neat idea for real life, but people would find it odd who are looking to buy. I see nothing odd about having two dining spaces so close to each other. That’s how modern houses are built. Heck, our house is 43 years old and we have a breakfast table and a formal dining in adjacent rooms and we eat family meals at the breakfast table but entertain at the larger dining room table. I think a decent number of folks do that.

    In the living/family room, I agree with other posters who have said you have too much furniture. Your furniture is oversized and looks super-comfy, but should probably be pared down for staging.

  18. I have staged two houses – one that was not a great house in terms of size and location, but the market was hot then and it sold in one week. I would not have bought that house but you can convince someone else to if you make it look right.

    The second house was in this Crap, Crap, Crappy market and it sold in one month while houses all around it languished for years!

    Your house is fine. You have great taste and the house is not too cluttered but looks elegant.

    The reason you stage a house (in my opinion) is because you want to create a house that someone would want to move into as it is. People forget that the furniture is not going to be there so you are selling a fantasy. Especially in your case, the furniture and decorative stuff is lovely.

    The couple that bought our last house begged us to sell us the furniture!

    I would totally buy this house.


  19. For the love of interior design, get the couch out of the kitchen! I know what you’re going for…the couch doesn’t get you there.

  20. There are so many comments, I’m sure you’re confused on what to do. It’s best when staging to make things seem large, clean and open. Make it look like there is so much space available vs using it all up. Give the hint of an idea of how the space can be enhanced but don’t overdo it.

    Btw, I’m personally bummed you’re moving from Austin! It felt like it was a fun, cooler place because you were here. Best of luck in Boca — remember you need bug screens there! Bugs are plentiful and big there — but you’ll enjoy the weather.

  21. I think either of these coffee tables would be fabulous in the space, and they’re definitely a good price:

    Either one, with a smaller square tray with a silk orchid, would look fabulous. And YES, you CAN use faux florals as long as they’re excellent quality! Just find ones that don’t make YOU vomit, and they won’t bother anyone else. . .you have good taste!

    The shelves in the living room are definitely NOT too cluttered–they look great! You clearly look at a lot of design magazines, and a lot of items does not automatically mean cluttered. I think those who would say to take more things out really don’t know anything about design. If you’re reasonably good at design (which you are), you don’t have to follow those lowest-common-denominator real estate rules! They’re for people with ZERO taste!

    And YES, some yellow pillows would look fabulous. . .like this:


    Good luck!

  22. I really like the style of your living room and think both ways look really nice. I would never have said there was too much stuff on your shelves. It looks real, not staged, but very smart and uncluttered. As far as the eat-in-kitchen area, could you take those high-back stools at the breakfast bar and set them up with a high table? Maybe you have another tall piece of furniture elsewhere in the house that could double as a table for that area? It might work for the “spot to have a glass of wine” without competing with the more formal dining area. The place looks great. I’d like to live there :)

  23. The ceiling and the wall that are sponge painted need to be repainted. The wall color is what is bringing down the “lightness” of the room. I also think the sponge decor is a little dated.

    The TV does appear too high but there isn’t much you can do about. The shelves have way too much on them. One or two items per shelves. For me the shelves are still too personal.

    As for the kitchen – if the area is supposed to be a breakfast room then make it a breakfast room no matter how close the dining room is to it. I agree if you were still living there you can have the sofa in that area but you are presenting a look for future buyers who will live there so they can envision themselves in the space. You can choose to leave a picture of the area with the sofa in the space and label it “alternative use”.

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