Staging ‘Outside of the Box’: Is the Face of Home Staging Changing?

By Charlene Storozuk, Dezigner Digz

Photo Credit: Matthew Finlason

Photo Credit: Berlyn Photography

Fresh back from the  International Real Estate Staging Association Conference in Las Vegas, I’m ready to hit the ground running with the information I gained while there!

This year we saw an amazing lineup of speakers: Ashley Whittenberger, Jackson West, Sandy Dixon, Tammy O’Brien, Alice Chan, Audra Slinkey, Jana Uselton, Melissa Marro, Christine Rae, and Dan Eason. One that really stood out and resonated with me was keynote speaker Matthew Finlason. You may know him from the HGTV series “The Stagers” — that’s right, the rambunctious, style icon that everyone loves.

In his address to the 360 professional home stagers in attendance, Finlason highlighted how staging has moved beyond sterile spaces and boring beige. In fact, he is leading the charge on staging “outside of the box” and is doing so with amazing results.

Before decisions are made on wall color, furniture, accessories, or artwork, Finlason researches the neighborhood to get a sense of who is living there. He gets a feel for the age group, such as whether the locals are single, young married couples starting families or retirees. He does this by visiting the local hangouts–thecoffee shops, bookstores, and pubs to name a few.

Based on his findings, Finlason then pulls together a picture of whom he thinks the target audience will be for that specific property and presents it to the real estate professional. In fact, he says that some of real estate pros are shocked by the amount of research that goes into his presentation.

Photo Credit: Matthew Finlason

Once the real estate agent is on board with his vision, Finlason puts together his design plan and stages to the appeal of that particular segment of the buyer pool instead of staying so generic.

Finlason warns that care must be taken when using this approach and that it’s not a recommended staging method for inexperienced home stagers. It could backfire if done incorrectly.

Is there some risk to this? That’s up for discussion. Staging purists may feel that this type of targeted staging goes against the grain of what home staging is. However, I would have to say that if the neighborhood demographics are researched thoroughly and the staging is carried out according to the flavor of the area, Finlason is definitely onto something.

What are your thoughts?

*Note: The furniture in the photos were provided by and staged with Meridith Baer & Associates.

Charlene Storozuk

Charlene Storozuk


Charlene Storozuk is the owner of Dezigner Digz, a professional home staging and interior decorating company based in Burlington, Ontario. Her work is featured in the book FabJob Guide To Become A Home Stager, 2009 edition. She serves as regional vice-president, Canada for the Real Estate Staging Association and is a past recipient of the North American Leadership Award for her work as founder and president of the Halton & Hamilton-Wentworth RESA Chapter.

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

More Posts - Website

  1. I was also at the RESA conference and found Matthew to be very refreshing. He definitely thinks outside of the box to get a property sold quickly. My initial staging training emphasized staging with neutral paint colors and a more conservative approach. However, I believe that buyers are becoming much more receptive to color and creativity in their decorating schemes

    Our challenge as stagers is to balance preparing the home so it will appeal to a broad array of people while keeping in mind the type of buyer who would likely purchase the home. As Matthew mentioned, that buyer is determined by the neighborhood demographics. We need to make the home memorable in order to facilitate its sale.

  2. I definitely thing Matthew is on to something and to know the demographics of the market for any home stager working in any segment of the market is KEY. I always do a quick demographic search prior to visiting any home I consult with and then also do some more fact finding while I’m there.

    While yes, taking bold moves is seen as risky for some, the research Matthew is doing in the markets he services is vital to the success of his process. I have always been of the mindset that staging is purely a marketing tool for selling a home – while design and decor elements are obviously part of the grand staging scheme, we are tasked with packing the home like a product being sold. Question becomes who is that buyer? And if the property is uniquely crafted whether it be a neighborhood or custom built home, how best can we showcase this product to the demographic of the specific buyer for this home?

    Great read Charlene!

  3. It’s an interesting thought. It definitely goes against my natural grain.. but hey, if it’s working and he’s got the experience to back it up, I admire the effort.

    I’d love to see some images of homes he’s staged using this method. This one definitely gets the brain thinking.. Thanks for the info!

  4. I believe there is a personality to every house and the importance of staging is a strong factor in the selling process. The house will project an appeal to the real buyer and doing your homework to successfully capture that buyer will achieve the goal!

  5. Brad Rachielles

    It’s all about getting results. This is marketing for the most likely prospect. If that can be identified… absolutely… do it. If the research shows a broad market will be drawn, then focused staging may hamper the effort. It’s a numbers game. Play the odds.

  6. I just had a cautionary thought.

    In order to be non-discriminatory, we have been trained to advertise the house, NOT an expected/intended buyer. If you are targeting a certain type of buyer, you may run into someone who feels they don’t have an equal shot at buying in that neighborhood.

  7. I just got into Real Estate a year & a half ago. Before that I had a Staging business and incorporate that into my Real Estate when I can. In my area and the way the economy has been, Staging as a paid business has been difficult. I do staging for my clients as a part of my service most of the time. My experience has been, that people get into neutralizing so much that the home loses it’s personality. I have my house up for sale and I got so worried about having it Staged right because of my experience, that I started taking the things out of my home that made it unique and special. Don’t worry quit so much. Don’t be afraid to allow your home to show some character. Buyers are going to remember it more then some boring old space , or blank canvas.

    Vicki Johns

  8. Holly Schwartz

    This is a great story. I used to produce shows for HGTV and often times buyers seem to fall in love with a house because of the feeling it produces for them. If a house is completely neutral it can be boring. It’s still probably a good idea not to take huge risks like neon paint colors but appealing to the broadest market is key to helping the home sell quickly.

  9. Staging outside the box goes right along with the methodology that a listing agent uses to target a specific demographic to market a particular property; however, many neighborhoods contain a very “eclectic” mix of people. It may be hard to nail down what type of buyer would most likely purchase, so in this instance – I would say keep it simple to play it safe. The idea is to appeal to the broadest scope of buyers – so if you can’t nail it on the head – don’t swing the hammer.