Staging for Families: 6 Tips and Tricks

Selling your home while living in it can be so hard with kids — we get it. You’re managing jobs, family schedules, homework, animals, and it seems like everywhere the kids go they undo the picture-perfect room that WAS ready for the next listing appointment.

How do you pull off BOTH making life livable in your home while keeping it looking like the dream home for the next family coming to tour?

Here are some easy tips and tricks to shoot for that inspiring, magazine-perfect look when you’ll be shoving things in closets and bins ten minutes before a realtor shows up with home shoppers.


1. Decrease the Chaos, Always “Pre-pack and De-mark the territory”
It is important to remember that when you are selling a home, you are like a small business owner with just one product to sell, your home. If you went into a retail store to buy a T-shirt and the store owner had cluttered up the place with his personal trophies, leftover pizza boxes, and dirty laundry it would be very difficult to see the T-shirt you want to buy in a good light. Instead, you would simply be concentrating on all of the business owner’s things. If you don't find this unacceptable for a retail store owner to do, why would you think it would be ok for you to do this while selling your home? Seriously, de-mark your territory (most people call it depersonalizing) and pre-pack your clutter (most people call it decluttering) your home. Remove any distraction that will take a visitor away from imagining living in the home themselves.

2. Managing Kid Stuff
The last time I sold a home to a kid was… never. Kids don't buy houses, moms do. True enough, most homes are purchased by couples, but ultimately it will most likely be the adult female of the family who will make the decision on which home will be purchased. Have you ever hear a woman say these words? “I love it when my kids leave their toys strewn about our house. In fact, yesterday, I stepped on a Lego with bare feet, I was in downright ecstasy.” No? Yeah, neither have I. Pick up the toys before you show your home. A tidy family home with the kids’ toys organized or scarce will allow young couples to imagine family life without being reminded of the…. er, less than nostalgic facts of kid clutter.

3. Tackling Kids’ Rooms
Shared bedrooms are certainly not the worst thing in the world. We often stage rooms with two twin beds. Here is the secret, go down right cutsie and make the twin beds be exactly identical twins. Human beings love symmetry and making the beds look exactly alike will appeal to that love all thing symmetrical.

4. Organizing Your Closets, Garages and Basements last
When preparing a home for market we must sometimes make priorities. I have often seen homes with closets that are perfect and living rooms that are a total mess, I alway shake my head slowly and roll my eyes uncontrollably. Our priorities go like this.

  • First - Public rooms: get the living room, dining room and kitchen in great shape first they will make the first impression

  • Second - Master bedroom and bathroom: This is the room that the female of the house will be using so making sure she is taken care of is of utmost importance because as we know the adult female of the family will ultimately decide which house is purchased

  • Next - Other private spaces: Kids rooms, bathrooms, guest rooms, offices all follow suit

  • Last - Storage and utility areas: These hold the least amount weight and thus can be sacrificed to make other spaces look good

5. Quick Cleaning for Quick Escapes
Make things easy on yourself. Cramming in appointments and showings inside your already busy life is a lot. Set yourself up for success from the start of the staging process. Give each kid in the family a dish barrel (a large triple ply-box roughly 3’x2’x2’). Ask them to fill it with their favorite toys. Once they are done, “pre-pack” all of the rest of the toys. (We say pre-pack and not declutter as it has a more positive ring, you are going to end up packing all that stuff when you sell anyway, why not get started now? Your future self will thank you!) When it is time to play the filled dish barrels can be dumped out and the toys inside can be played with. When it is time for a showing the boxes can be filled with the toys and placed in the closet. This keeps the kids sane as they have something to play with and the parents sane in that there is a finite amount of cleaning to do before each showing.

6. Consider Storage Units
Ultimately if you have more things than storage space, you may want to consider renting storage, you may also want to consider a garage sale or donating items you have not touched in more than six months.


Staged and Sold in Two Days: A Spade and Archer Success Story

In August, we loved seeing the impact of our staging with this house that started out occupied, became vacant but unstaged, and then finally professionally staged vacant.

We asked the seller’s agent, Alicia Selliken of Sotheby’s International here in Portland, a few questions about the path of this sale and why she thinks staging sealed the deal.





Q: Tell us a little bit about the home before Spade and Archer was involved.  What was going on with the property?

 A: It's a traditional home in a close in neighborhood. The size works well for both couples or families. The price point was $579,00. There were tenants living in the home when I took the listing. The seller originally wanted to try to sell the home to an investor willing to keep the tenants in place.  We had taken listing photos of the house with the tenants' furniture in it with no real staging whatsoever.

Eventually, the tenants vacated and after the home sat on the market empty for a bit, the owner decided to stage with Spade and Archer, which was awesome.

Q: So during the listing process, visitors had come to see the home in three different conditions, is that right?

A: Yes!  I had buyers through with the tenant’s furniture, and they looked at it and they liked it. Then they came back through when it was vacant and they liked it, but there was a hesitation.

Once the home was fully staged we had an open house. The same buyers that had seen the home tenant occupied, vacant and now staged, decided to write an offer immediately after the open house.  It's    interesting to watch people's reactions to a space when it's staged.  Spade and Archer has a formula of design that allows people to easily imagine themselves living in this space. 

Q: Tell us a little bit about the timing of this home on the market. Before and after staging?

A: The home was originally listed on May 31, 2019. Spade and Archer staging was installed on August 8, 2019. We received an offer and we were pending two days after staging.  





Wow, so after 69 days on the market it sold just two days after staging?

A: Yes! It was staged on a Thursday. I held open houses Saturday and Sunday. We had an offer in hand Sunday.  We were all prepared with new photos and weren't able to even get them all posted until after we were pending!

Q: That's awesome. This project was also a part of the Spade and Archer Guaranteed program. How has Guaranteed worked for you?

A: I love the new Guaranteed program because sometimes the price of staging is a barrier for clients. To have the ability to put just $750 down, and pay for staging at closing makes great staging so much more attainable for sellers.

Q: Tell me more about what you think is going on esthetically that inspires that action?

A: Justin and the team create a comfortable feeling that people feel when they enter the space that says, “I'm home.”  It's a feel-good reaction.  The use of antique cameras or radios and other vintage pieces helps make the space interesting and relatable so it doesn’t at all come across as sterile. All of these elements let the buyers connect with the space more comfortably.

Particularly for this house, the huge third floor bonus room was a challenge. Sometimes people walk into a big space and can be overwhelmed because of its possibilities. Spade and Archer designed it to be the perfect set up for a multipurpose space for media and games – clearly closing the gap for visitors on what could happen in that room. 





Q: From your perspective, what do you think really happened for those people who saw this space occupied, saw the space vacant, and then saw the space correctly staged? What do you think happened for them that would make them want to put in an offer so quickly?

A: Right. I think that at first they were kind of wondering if it was the right space for them. It was just a blank slate. And I think that once it was staged correctly, and every space’s function was laid out,  it was so much easier to see how it would be their home and how they'd live in it.  

Q: We love hearing these success stories! But aside from results like this, why do you pretty consistently choose Spade and Archer to stage?

A:  Well, I love Justin for one thing. You always know you're going to get a quality service consistently. 

When Spade and Archer is on your team and done their part, it feels a little like Christmas morning... you can't wait to go in and see how they've staged, the colors they’ve used, the pieces they’ve chosen. It’s so exciting and fun!

 I greatly respect Justin and the team, not only for their design skills and professionalism, but for their willingness to collaborate and think outside the box. Spade & Archer works with brokers in innovative ways like joint open houses. I love working together with Spade & Archer to deliver the best service to our shared customers. There is a sense of community and common good that is created when we work together...and honestly, it's a lot of fun. 

About Alicia Selliken of Sotheby’s International


Alicia recently joined Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty as a broker and lead of the firm’s new charitable giving program. She has been a broker since 2007 and also holds an MSW (Master of Social Work) degree in Family Therapy. She loves using her experience in real estate and social work to help the process of buying and selling homes go as smoothly as possible for all parties involved. Forming a genuine connection with her clients is important, and being a strong advocate is the key to a successful real estate experience. As a native Oregonian, Alicia especially enjoys using the success of her practice to give back to local nonprofits including Girls Inc. of the Pacific Northwest and I Have A Dream Oregon. Selliken brings not only an innovative and creative spirit to what we are creating here in the Portland Metro region, but her values and heart for community align brilliantly with ours."says Deb Tebbs, CEO, founder and owner at Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty. CSIR’s international reach is also important to Alicia. As the world gets smaller and conversations get bigger she wants to be a part of the unique global reach Cascade Sotheby’s offers.

Top 7 Worst Pieces of Staging Advice

1. “Keep everything exactly how you live in it, it gives the house personality.”

The truth of the matter is of all the people who might buy this house, you are not one of them. I did not design my business around my needs. I designed it around my client’s needs. Selling a house is like having a small business with one product to sell (the house). Merchandise that product with your client (the buyer) in mind, not yourself.

2. “Bake cookies just before the open house.”

Smell is closely associated with memory. I use to work at Mrs. Field's as a teenager, and the smell of cookies makes me slightly nauseated and a little bit angry. For someone on a strict diet, it may make them think of not being able to eat cookies, like ALL the cookies. We have no idea what smell is going to trigger what memory (or allergic reaction) in your buyer. So please, for goodness sake, leave the scented items out. The smell of “nothing" is the smell of selling, sooner, and for more money.

3. “Just put up signs on all the doors that say “DON'T LET THE CAT OUT!”

Buying a house is already stressful. Your buyer is going to see upwards of 7-10 houses in one day. They ain’t got time to look after your fluffy feline friend. More than likely they will cruise swiftly though your property looking for the “alleged” cat and get out as fast as they can, having not paid any attention to their future life in your home. Find another place for the cat or any other pet to stay when showing your property.

4. “Staging makes it impossible to see the house, leave it empty.”

I have often heard people say that staging gets in the way of seeing their own furniture in the house. This is true for roughly 10% of the population. I am not a betting man, but I would place my bet on the 90% of the people who need a sense of scale and layout to understand a house. When making any decision in business, go with the more likely majority, not the less likely minority.


5. “Color helps houses sell, the more color the better.”

This is a tricky one, because we do use subtle punches of color to help our buyers discuss each room once they get home. ("Remember the house with the red kitchen, well, I think the green bedroom should be your office.") But there is a limit to the amount of color we should add to homes. The truth is a neutral base of wall, ceilings and floors will make it much easier for the next buyer to move in. Keep the color regulated to art, linens and accessories.


6. “People can’t tell the difference between live plants and fake plants.”

Um, yeah dude, they totally can. I get it, live plants are lovely and make spaces seem more home-like. Here is the thing, unless you have somebody specifically assigned to take care of the live plants and freshly cut flowers on a daily basis then there should be no plants in the house. Nothing sends a buyer packing faster than dead plants and flowers in a house. As for fake plants… eww, seriously eww… just stop it. What is this, the set of the Sopranos circa 2002?

7. “Blow-up mattresses look just as good as real mattresses."

Blow-up mattresses are a great idea if you plan on never selling your house. Not only do these monstrosities of design look terrible in spaces, they often deflate leaving your buyer, well… deflated. Seriously, if you use fakery in your staging like blow-up mattresses, you are starting to form a relationship with you buyer based on lies and trickery. We must prove to our buyers that mattresses fit up staircases and down hall ways and through doors. Blow-up mattresses start to cast doubt that anything in the house is real. Suddenly your buyers start questioning the validity of everything in your property as well as your integrity. Once they get stressed enough they simply move on to the next house. You know the one… the one with the real mattresses?


4 Easy Tips to Boost Curb Appeal Immediately


When selling your house, the exterior is usually the very first thing a prospective buyer will see. There are four main areas you should concentrate your energy to instantly boost curb appeal.

#1 Visible Address Numbers
Make sure your address numbers can be read from the street. If your house is hard to find, people will leave without buying. Your address numbers need to be in a contrasting color and well-lit so it can be easily read from the street both day and night.    

#2 Easy Entry
Getting into the home should be simple. If your house is hard to get into, people will walk into your home frustrated. Does the lock set work well without any additional instructions? If not, then it’s time to get it repaired or replaced. If the listing notes need to spell out complicated directions like, “Pull up and to the left to get the deadbolt open,” then you have a problem. Also, get rid of your screen door! I have never seen a screen door that was better looking than the door behind it. The screen door also can make for an awkward entry sequence when attempting to get the key out of the lock box while holding the screen door open. 


#3 Maintained Landscaping
Landscaping should be up to snuff. Don’t get us wrong, it doesn’t need to be Versailles but it also should not be Sanford and Sons. Start by removing all lawn decorations. Your landscape should only consist of nicely-manicured grass, shrubbery or plants.  All weeds should be pulled and fresh mulch (the kind without manure) should be spread in all the beds for a fresh and taken-care-of look. 

#4 Fresh Paint
Make sure there is no evidence of peeling paint on the siding or faded stain on the decks. If needed, scrape, prepare, prime and paint all exterior surfaces so that the house looks easy to maintain for the future buyer.


When Home Staging Lends a Hand to Homelessness in Seattle


On April 12th, Spade and Archer was able to participate in a celebration to support one of our favorite non-profits in Seattle. The Compass Housing Alliance hosted a ribbon cutting for a brand new, 59-unit apartment building in the Broadview neighborhood of Seattle. This building is comprised of mostly two- and three-bedroom units to accommodate families exiting housing instability and homelessness.


Spade and Archer provided home staging support to show off the features and functionality of a two-bed room apartment. The model was visited by all the partners that helped Compass Broadview come to fruition, the press, and community members.

“With the Compass Broadway resident in mind, we wanted to portray a simple, practical and stable home life that these new homes will provide,” said Justin Riordan, founder of Spade and Archer Design Agency.  “As part of the Seattle business community, we love supporting Compass Housing Alliance and their work fighting homelessness.”


Compass Housing Alliance is the leading provider of affordable housing for men, women, veterans, and families who are low-income or experiencing homelessness in the Puget Sound area.

“We are thrilled to officially open Compass Broadview. Two-thirds of Compass Broadview is full of families, children, and individuals starting anew. We expect more than 150 residents to call Compass Broadview home,” said Janet Pope, Chief Executive Officer of Compass Housing Alliance. “Everyone at Compass Broadview will have a safe, permanent, and supportive place to live. And they will all call Compass Broadview home.”

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