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Home Staging - Setting the table for a sale


Photo: Dan Kalleres

Every home has a place to sit down and have a meal. It might be a cramped counter or small bistro table in a small home or an eat-in kitchen and a formal dining room in a larger home. Whatever you have, this is an opportunity to show potential buyers that they can live a great new lifestyle by buying your home, so make the most of it!

Table settings give buyers the illusion that you are just about to entertain guests at your home (something buyers always say they would like to do in their next home more). There are lots of ways to achieve this goal and many sellers will already have what they need in their house, so this can be one of the least expensive options available in staging your home for sale.

Let’s look at some of the items to look for in your home to use or purchase if needed. What you will use will depend on the surface the place settings are going.

  • Tablecloths: If your table is looking worn out or doesn’t match the rest of the room, instead of painting or replacing it, a good tablecloth might do the trick. Avoid plastic tablecloths, because they look cheap. Other than that, use your discretion. A tablecloth can be a large item visually in the room and can easily draw attention away from the room if the wrong type, style, pattern or color scheme is used. A lacey tablecloth, for example, is likely to invoke a feeling of grandma’s house and it might not be so suitable for an otherwise contemporary or other room. In a desperate pinch, a white bed sheet might work as a temporary tablecloth.
  • Table runners: For furniture that you want to show off, a runner might be a better option. Be careful to avoid a pattern that stands out too much for the design of the room. It’s usually safe to incorporate colors found in the room with your runner. Think about what might go on top of the runner when making your selection, such as centerpieces.
  • Placemats: If your only eating space is a breakfast bar, you’ll obviously be opting for this choice. Placemats can be used on bare surfaces or on top of tablecloths. There are lots of options, but avoid the plastic ones here, too. Some textures can lend warmth to the room, like bamboo.
  • Chargers: Chargers look like extra large plates that your food plates will sit on and are designed to typically make your setting appear more elegant. Here, you might be able to get away with plastic chargers if the surface of the charger is done to look like an expensive metallic finish. Depending on the entire look of your table settings, you may be able to alternate patterns or mix and match different chargers for different seats (like gold at the heads of the table and silver for guests, etc.).
  • Plates: When actually serving food, it’s said that using white is best because it allows you to see what you’re eating. In this instance, you may have an opportunity to use something bolder. Just make sure your choice of plates coordinates with everything else in the room. If the plates outshine the room, people won’t remember the room. You can stack salad plates or bowls on dinner plates if you like. There are no set rules here. Only use your fine china if you’re not worried about someone accidentally breaking some of it!
  • Glassware: Your choice of glassware is up to you. Fine crystal will look beautiful, but only use it if you won’t worry about any of it breaking. You can set both water and wine glasses if you like or any combination, even possibly mixing in more exotic drink glasses, like martini glasses, if it’s appropriate for the setting.
  • Utensils: You don’t have to use utensils (silverware) if you’re worried about having it stolen. Otherwise, feel free to set the table with as much as you like. Just make sure the quality of the silverware matches the look of your overall setting.
  • Napkins: If you set a table and use napkins, make sure they are cloth, not paper. You can be very creative and use fancy folding techniques or just stuff them in wine glasses for a vertical look. Napkin rings may also be a good accessory to have on hand (like jewelry for your place setting).
  • Get creative with your centerpiece - you probably have everything you need already at home!Centerpieces: There are many things you can do here. Feel free to be creative. Plants, fruit, vegetables or flowers (live, not fake) are always good choices. Candles may be good for your centerpiece, too, but think about potential safety issues if you leave the house for any length of time with lit candles. Something more artistic might work as well, such as a small sculpture, in the right setting. (See the image on the left - it's made from a turkey platter, a trivet, some glass stones from a bowl and a pillar candle received at a white elephant gift exchange - you can make centerpieces from all kinds of things you already have in your home)

For some locations, like breakfast bars or outdoor tables in the summer, you might consider putting out a tray with a pitcher of lemonade or tea and glasses. Speaking of outdoor table settings, plastic tablecloths in good condition are fine for outdoor table settings (in case it rains).Bar tops or other small table spaces are great for small settings like this!

See the photo on the right. This little Japanese vignette would look great on a bar counter or small table top. Be creative - just make sure what you display makes sense for the space. Whatever you decide to do, it should lend itself to making potential buyers feel at home and leave them with the thought that they could live that way, too, if they just buy your home

If you have a home staging question or would like to share a staging tip, please let me know. Send me a photo of your home staging dilemma and I’ll be happy to help!

Home Staging Tip: If you don’t have enough place settings for every seat, consider skipping select seats. For example, a dining table that seats six could be set for the four inside guest seats and a runner could cover the two end seats.

For more info: For some really creative techniques for folding napkins for your table settings, check out bumblebee linens!

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