Staging the Kitchen

How to Make Home Buyers Fall in Love With Your Kitchen

modern clean kitchen
••• Caiaimage/Robert Daly/OJO+/Getty Images

Home staging is an art; there's just no two ways about it. Ask most people which room is the most important room in the house, though, and they will answer: the kitchen.

Kitchens also tend to cost the most to remodel. It's not uncommon for a home owner to spend $50,000 to $150,000 to revamp the kitchen. Personally, I'd rather take that money and tramp around Europe, than spend a fortune remodeling the kitchen.

But many owners pour gobs of dough into kitchen transformations, making that space a gourmet showcase for the culinary arts.

Even if they don't cook.

I'm not suggesting that you rob a bank to remodel the kitchen before selling your home. In fact, you don't need to spend money to spruce it up, unless it needs to be painted. You can stage that space and make it a desirable kitchen by using simple, proven staging techniques.

The photos on this page show a vacant Land Park home in Sacramento before the kitchen was staged and after staging.

Let's explore how the home stager tackled this job.

Getting the Kitchen Ready for Sale

  • First and foremost, clean it; make it sparkle.
  • Scrub the baseboards and vacuum the corners.
  • Polish chrome fixtures, dust ceiling fans and replace burned-out light bulbs, even over the stove.
  • If you typically cook meals that leave a lingering odor, consider dining out or bringing home take-out while your home is on the market. You don't want a buyer walking into the house, sniffing the air and exclaiming, "Yuck, smells like bacon."
  • Don't ever leave dirty dishes in the sink nor in the dishwasher. Buyers open dishwashers. Don't ask me why.
  • Wipe down all the cabinets, inside and out. Polish the hardware -- if it's worn or dated, consider replacing knobs / handles.
  • Alphabetize your spices. Turn all coffee cup handles facing the same direction. Buyers will notice and think you are meticulous about the rest of the home, too.
  • Consider replacing extremely dirty drip pans under the burners on the stove. Pull off the stove knobs and polish them.
  • Remove all cleaning products and sponges from the sink counter.
  • Get rid of magnets, photos or notes attached to the refrigerator.
  • Leave nothing on the counters but a cookbook, fruit or decorative items. Yes, that means remove the coffee pot; I know, I'm sorry. Put it under the sink.

Before Staging the Kitchen

  • If you didn't know the kitchen was large enough to accommodate a table and chairs, it's hard to picture it because the space at the end of the wall seems like an under utilized area.
  • The hanging light fixture looks odd in front of the window.
  • You don't really notice the built-in shelving and drawers on the left side of the kitchen because the bookcase is empty.
  • Without photographs and plants, the kitchen appears cold and unfriendly. It's hard to imagine cooking in this area.
  • The refrigerator is missing, and it's apparent because the top of the refrigerator serves as the bottom shelf for a cabinet. It's easy to see that there is no "triangle" consisting of the 'frig, stove and sink.

After Staging the Kitchen

  • By bringing in a small table and two chairs, the dining area springs to life. Suddenly, the use of this space is evident.
  • Placing a rug under the table defines the area and makes it appear separate yet still part of the rest of the kitchen.
  • Putting books and ceramic figurines in the bookcase showcases its purpose, yet none of those items crowd the shelving.
  • Arranging plants on the counter, table and behind the chair brings warmth to the area, and hanging artwork on the wall gives it a homey feeling.
  • The stager used subdued earthtone colors to complement the granite counters and travertine tile, making the updates pop.

Kitchen Staging Tips

  • Smaller tables make eat-in kitchen spaces appear larger.
  • If the dining area is spacious, set the table for an intimate breakfast for two.
  • Arrange knickknacks in odd groupings such as 3, 5 or 7.
  • Use color sparingly in a dramatic kitchen and complement existing color schemes.
  • Bring in plants to liven up the space.
  • Creative placement of rugs and artwork adds depth and dimension.
  • Use a stand to hold an open cookbook of colorful photographs.
  • Don't block windows, let in the light.
  • Consider placing large bowls of polished fruit on the counter, next to gourmet olive oil or a full bottle of red wine.

The buyer who purchased this home never noticed the missing "triangle" in the kitchen. This home sold within three weeks.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.