Real Estate Staging: A Look Behind the Scenes

Guest Post by Erica Keberle - Brooklyn-based Real Estate Agent with Rahmé Real Estate and the founder of Major Jacks.

If you’ve been scouring properties this season, you’ve probably experienced two feelings: 1) love at first sight, and 2) the need to call your lifeline to get you out of a bad open house. This is why a well presented property is critical to drawing in buyers. My real estate staging approach is a little different from how I tackle interior or renovation design. I prefer to think of staging as “styling” a space in a way that is neutral enough to appeal to a range of buyers while still creating visual interest and even telling a story.

Getting Started: Space Planning

Regardless of whether a space is empty or occupied, most people have a hard time envisioning where to place their furniture; so it’s important to create a balance that looks neither too sparse nor too crowded, and to also choose the pieces that convey multiple possibilities and functions. If it wouldn’t completely creep-out my clients, I’d like to stand quietly for 20 minutes in each room visually removing and moving existing objects and imagining others going in. But instead I take quick notes, mental and regular pics, sketch a rough floor plan, and take really good measurements to ensure appropriately scaled furniture and art selections. TIP: Painter’s tape is awesome. I keep it like Beyoncé’s hot sauce: always in my bag. Let’s say - technically - a 60” credenza looks like a good “fit” but taping one in quickly reveals that it’s actually going to cramp the existing couch. Credenza Crisis averted.

Creating a Concept

In a sense, the target buyers are your staging “clients” so you better get to know them. What is the price point? Unit size? Location? The answers can help paint a picture of the people to whom you are trying to appeal, so create a design narrative with these people in mind. A well styled space can also distract from negative features, including small size, awkward layout, or lackluster kitchens and baths, because with good staging buyers remember the cool art or great rug, and dated tile suddenly seems charming, and a small space becomes efficient. One important but sometimes overlooked point is that a space must show well in person AND in photographs and marketing materials, and sometimes what looks good in real life does not look quite right framed in a camera’s lens. 


I see it as a personal challenge to blend diverse objects sourced from high and low places into a well curated space. Since collecting is in my DNA, I’m constantly picking things up at flea markets, stoop sales, and even from friends’ and families’ discard piles. I always take an empty suitcase when I travel, and it inevitably returns full of treasures. The two main drivers for sourcing are project budget and timeline. “How much is it?” and “How long will it take to get it?” can lead to the need for quick decisions. Should I spend a little more to get that amazing oversized art and swap real linen bedding for plain cotton? Yes. I found the perfect rug but it’s backordered and might not arrive on deadline. Do I go for it anyways? No. Get yourself another rug.

Staging Behind the Scenes: 651 New York Ave

Staging 651 New York Ave was a fun project because it was a totally blank canvas with industrial elements, cool concrete floors, and warm barn wood details.

I started with space planning:

This is the actual narrative I developed before a single piece had been purchased:

"Hip but sophisticated. There is a grown-up that lives here, but perhaps a nostalgic one with a forward-thinking edge. Style will be on trend without mimicking every fleeting fashion. A tasteful mix of high-end, economy, and unique items will have buyers feeling at home in a well-designed, modern and stylish space that will stand-out in the crowd. As staging and marketing will take place during fall and winter seasons, furnishings and accessories will be chosen to both warm and compliment the sleek, industrial canvas. Furniture lines will be clean and modern. Organic fabrics such as wool, linen, and leather will balance the concrete, while sparse geometric patterns and natural colors will soften to make the space feel like home. Storage – or the idea of storage – will be added where possible to allow buyers to envision their personal items and style layered within the staging."

I like creating concept boards to build and edit ideas, and they evolve depending on the actual items I’m able to source.


Then it comes down to sourcing and staying really organized:

I love lists and spreadsheets and use them to track EVERYTHING, including staying focused while shopping, delivery dates, projected costs, and actual costs.

For this project I found a couple of great Craigslist items right away that fit my initial concept boards, so I used these as a base, kept shopping, and revised concept boards as I went. While I stubbornly refused improvising in high school jazz band, improvising interiors is my jam. I found a few items where I liked the shape, but not the color, so turned my building’s roof into a paint shop.

Since I started this space from scratch, I used several sources to ensure it would not end up looking like a showroom. Was I running around like a crazy person for a week? Yes. Source List: Craigslist, CB2, Ebay, artists Ellen Jong and Blake Sommers, Pendleton, Ikea, RugsUSA, MPDESIGNSHOP, Marshalls/T.J. Maxx, Michaels, Restoration Hardware, items from my own Major Jacks Warehouse collection.

Go Time:

Staging time arrived and it was a few full days and late nights of coordinating deliveries, schlepping bags and boxes, assembling furniture, hanging (and re-hanging) art, and getting the throws to look effortlessly thrown. 


Erica Keberle is a Brooklyn-based Real Estate Agent with Rahmé Real Estate and the founder of Major Jacks (, which houses her interior styling and renovation work. She has a knack for seeing the potential in a property and for helping clients navigate the ups, downs, ins and outs of buying, selling, renovating, and investing.