Designing to Dwell vs. Designing to Sell

Photo: Allegra Dioguardi

You may have a great eye for interior design. Your home looks and feels exactly the way you want it to. But when is comes time to put your house on the market, the key is making it look and feel exactly the way that will appeal to a potential buyer. How do you do that? Allegra Dioguardi, President of Styled and Sold Design and Home Staging, offers her expert tips.

Allegra Dioguardi, President of Styled and Sold
Allegra Dioguardi, President of Styled and Sold

The Question: We are putting our house on the market to sell. We just purchased it 3 years ago and at the time we redecorated, painted the whole house, hung new window treatments and bought all new furniture. Everyone says I have a flair for decorating. We love the way the house looks and we think it shows very well. Is there any reason for us to hire a Home Stager?

The Answer from Allegra Dioguardi, President of Styled and Sold Interior Design and Home Staging:

In a nutshell, yes. Have a stager come in to do a brief consultation and give your home their blessing. Even if you were a professional Interior Designer, you will have decorated your home to suit you and your personal tastes. A stager can look at your property objectively with the goal of appealing to the largest number of potential buyers. As an Interior Designer who has years of experience merchandising Real Estate properties (aka Home Staging), I have never encountered a house that couldn’t use at least some tweaking to prepare it to be properly presented for sale. [expand]

There are some distinct differences as well as similarities between designing to dwell and designing to sell. Good Home Staging is indeed based on good design principles…. and then some! The way a potential buyer will view your home is from a uniquely different perspective then the way you view your home while living in it.

As one example, in both good design and good staging, it is important to create and establish strong focal points. A focal point is defined as “the central or principal wall you see upon entering a room, or the wall facing the room’s dominant flow of traffic.” When designing to sell, the best focal point is typically different than when designing to dwell. Potential buyers will enter your home and “tour” it differently than you, as the owner would, often only standing in a doorway and glancing into a room for mere seconds before moving on.

This may seem trivial. However, if you have created a focal point to be viewed while lying in bed or sitting on a sofa (ie: looking out at a swimming pool), the impact on a potential buyer will be lost. Don’t underestimate the importance of this. A well-defined focal point is what invites you to linger and enjoy the surroundings. They provide order and a sense of balance to a room. A good, strong focal point is the first step to making a space a great place to live and a great home to buy. This is another reason why vacant homes without any clear focal points are a tough sell.

A Home Before Home Stager
A Home Before Staging

Design elements such as artwork, paint color and collections as well as styles of furniture are potentially very personal. A seasoned stager will be able to edit these items and suggest paint colors to create a universally appealing look in a home. Ideally, a stager can take it one step further and research the demographics in your area to identify your potential buyer and create a look that will appeal to that specific buyer. This is referred to as “Life Style Merchandising.

Home After Staging
Same Home, After Staging

I approach my design clients from a very different perspective than I do my staging clients. As I tell my staging clients, “No one wants to buy your house. They want to buy their own house!” You won’t get a second chance for a good first impression. My advice: save time on the market and costly price reductions, call a professional stager to ensure your home is marketed properly.

Have your own questions about interior design or home staging? You can visit Allegra Dioguardi of Styled and Sold at or call her at 631-599-1297. And you can always send your House & Home questions to us here at [email protected].

More from Our Sister Sites