Staging a Home: 5 Designer Secrets for a Fast, Profitable Sale

Selling your home? Fresh paint and flowers aren't enough to move it—not in this market. Here's how to transform your open house into opening night.

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1. Define the space.

1. Define the space.
Susan Phillips, a theatrical-set designer (, says the secret to a fast, profitable sale is "staging a home," and she uses traditional set-design elements to hook home-buying audiences. Her first improvement? Define the space. Confusion on a set confuses the audience, so make the purpose of each room clear. Get rid of toys in the den. Roll the exercise bike out of the kitchen.

2. Unblock the sight lines.

2. Unblock the sight lines.
Actors need clear paths to maneuver, and so do home buyers. Make it easy to walk from the door to a window in the master suite or from the hallway to a living-room sofa.

3. Highlight the focal points with clever use of color.

3. Highlight the focal points with clever use of color.
Reds and yellows are "advancing" colors; blues and greens are "receding" ones. Remember that, and you'll be able to control your audience's gaze. Elegant granite countertop? Place a bowl of red peppers on top. Beautiful fireplace? Hang a yellow painting above it. Dreary corner? Put a green plant there.

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4. Light your rooms to flatter the people in them.

4. Light your rooms to flatter the people in them.
Soft, southern light makes complexions look warmer and healthier. Harsh, northern light makes people look sick. So replace stark daylight bulbs with warmer ones, especially near mirrors.

5. Quiet the set.

5. Quiet the set.
Don't distract your audience with creaky doors or floors. A noisy set makes people question the integrity of what they're seeing. Got all that? Action!

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