Staging the Kitchen

How to sell your home and make a faster, more profitable sale

Staged Kitchen countertop. Staging the kitchen.Beautiful decluttered countertop, lovely vignette, who could resist?

Staging the kitchen before placing your home on the real estate market can make the difference between a quick sale or having your home linger on the market for months. 

Kitchens rank very high on a home buyer’s priority list, and the condition of your kitchen can make or break a home sale. 



With high expectations for this room, home buyers are looking for updated kitchens with that “holy grail” duo of stainless steel appliances and granite countertops.

If your kitchen doesn’t meet these standards, don't despair! You don't have to do a complete kitchen renovation to sell your home fast. There are many diy fixes and home staging tips that can make your kitchen look more appealing to a larger number of home buyers.

A beautifully staged white kitchen with an island.Do you see any appliances on these staged countertops? Photo by houzz.com

If you plan on doing a kitchen renovation before placing your home on the market, avoid making it too trendy.

You don't want to invest in a kitchen renovation that loses favor five years down the road. Home buyers know this and may not want to buy a house where the most expensive room is too "taste specific."

Before staging the kitchen, you should declutter, clean, and make any necessary repairs.

Staging the kitchen countertops

Kitchen counter top staged with fruit.Stage your kitchen countertop with fruit. Create a situational vignette, like the bottles of oil and cook book by the stove.

When staging kitchen countertops, don’t go overboard with your kitchen decor. I have seen a few before-and-after staging photos where the “after” photo looked more cluttered than the “before.”

Every countertop doesn't need to be filled with fruit, appliances, vignettes or trailing ivy. I see many pictures of staged kitchens with ivy trailing across the upper cabinets, tucked in a pile in a corner, or creeping down the sides of upper cabinets. The result just looks messy.

Keep it simple, yet elegant. Keep in mind that the more countertop you see, the larger the workspace will appear. Following are a few interior decor ideas for staging:

Stage your countertop with your best tableware.Stage a dining scene using your best tableware.
  • Limit yourself to no more than two appliances on the kitchen countertops, but only if you have plenty of space. 
  • For a small kitchen, remove all appliances. I know this is difficult if you are occupying your home during the sale, but remember, your goal is to make your kitchen look more spacious.
  • Place a live plant or vase of flowers on the counter-- just one will do the trick.
  • Create one tempting vignette on a kitchen counter, using elegant bottles of oil and vinaigrettes in varying heights and shapes. Place together with a small breadboard, bread knife, and a rustic loaf of bread. 
  • Lay out contemporary (no ruffles or lace!) placemats, place settings, wine glasses for two, with a bottle of wine on your island countertop or peninsula.
  • Everything looks good when arranged on a tray. Create a vignette inside the tray with; a tea set, desserts, a loaf of homemade bread, glass containers filled with herbs, a utensil crock, and so on.
  • Cupcakes or cookies look irresistible when placed on a pretty tiered cake stand.


Kitchen staged with fruit.Stage kitchen counter tops with brightly-colored fruit.
  • Be sure that the work station (sink, stove, and fridge) has proper task lighting when staging the kitchen. If not, install strip lighting under the cabinets for task lighting.
  • Apply affordable battery-operated puck lighting for task lighting. Puck lights stick on with an adhesive, you simply press them into place wherever you want. Puck lights can be found at any home center store, or Amazon.
  • Display colorful fruit in a pretty bowl or basket. Oranges, limes, and lemons add a fresh splash of color to any kitchen decor, and will make feng shui buyers happy. 
  • During the holidays, fill bowls or glass containers with pomegranates or mandarins.
  • Fill a wire or straw basket with natural colored eggs.
  • Add a cluster of grapes to your kitchen decor, allowing them to flow creatively over the edge of a bowl.
  • To freshen your kitchen of odors before viewings, run lemon halves through the garbage disposal.

Kitchen appliances

The most important thing you can do in the kitchen when selling your home is to have matching appliances. If you don't, a demand for matching appliances is sure to find it's way on the home sale negotiation list.

Glass tiled kitchen with range.A staged kitchen should be in immaculate condition.

If your kitchen appliances are in really bad shape, you might consider buying new ones. They don't have to be expensive. The fact that they are new and clean will have a lot of appeal to home buyers.

If you have an older, but still functional electric stove, buy shiny new burner plates. Make sure the entire stovetop gleams as much as the new burner plates.

Your oven and dishwasher should be spotless inside and out when staging the kitchen. Home buyers WILL open them to peek inside. If they are squeaky clean, buyers will get the impression that the appliances have been well taken care of.

Remove the art gallery from your refrigerator door! Anything on the outside of the fridge will make the entire kitchen look cluttered. See cleaning your refrigerator for fridge staging tips.

How to stage a kitchen island

Kitchen Island.Don't crowd island seating with too many chairs. Less chairs translates to more room!
  • If you have a place at your kitchen island for seating, be sure to put bar stools or chairs under it. This will show buyers know that it’s a great place to hang out.
Buyers love kitchen islands, even ones with wheels!Buyers love kitchen islands! If you have room, add a mobile unit.
  • Don't crowd too many chairs around the island in the attempt to impress home buyers with the number of  people that can be seated. The effect will only make your kitchen look smaller and crowded.
  • Set out a couple of colorful placemats and table settings at the bar area when staging the kitchen.
  • No island? If you have a single wall of kitchen cabinets and plenty of floorspace, consider getting an inexpensive rolling cart with an wood top and storage underneath. 
  • Another option is a free-standing butcher block table. Wood is a popular choice right now with many beautiful options available. Wood warms up a kitchen and home buyers will appreciate the extra storage and workspace.
  • Another option when staging the kitchen is a free-standing table in the middle of the kitchen. A rustic farm table with warm wood tones will add charm and character, in addition to providing more work surface. You should have at least three feet of maneuverable space around an island.


How to make a small kitchen look bigger

Kitchen with open shelving.Use open shelving instead of closed cabinetry. This adds depth to a kitchen by taking your eye all the way to the wall.

Illusion is a powerful tool in the home stager’s bag of tricks. Following are some tips that will visually expand a small kitchen:

  • Don't diminish the size of your kitchen with clutter. At most, display one item, like a flowering plant or bowl of fruit on the countertop.
  • Avoid patterned tile and flooring. Patterns can be busy and busy comes across as cluttered in a small space.
  • Use open or floating shelving in place of upper closed cabinetry. This can visually expand the space in a small kitchen by drawing your eye all the way to the wall. Floating shelves also don’t have ugly hardware and brackets taking up valuable visual space. 
  • Use a light color palette of no more than two or three different tones. If cabinets and walls are all the same light color, the small space will appear larger. 
  • Paint a low ceiling white for an expansive feeling.

  • Use a neutral cool color on the walls-- cool colors have a receding effect. 
  • A massive fridge can be an unwelcome focal point in a small kitchen. Consider replacing it with a smaller one that will fit flush with the cabinets. (Take the big fridge with you to your new house!)

Small kitchen with stools. Staging the kitchen.Use open leg furniture in small kitchens. Doing so extends sight lines.
  • Expand and unify the kitchen by sticking to one neutral palette on the walls, cabinets and backsplash. This includes electrical outlets as well-- match them (as closely as possible) to wall colors to keep the eye from stopping at each one. Many people use colored outlet plates that contrast with the backsplash, creating a zig zag effect that breaks the flow of the eye.
  • For a low ceiling, use vertical lines in the backsplash tiles to draw the eye upward.
  • If you are putting in new kitchen cabinets, consider going all the way to the ceiling. Not only will this give you more storage, it will create a strong vertical line that will visually expand your small kitchen. See small kitchen decorating ideas for more tips.

For kitchen nooks or eat-in kitchens with barely enough room for a small table, see the video below by RealEstate4NH from the Home Staging Channel.



Below is a video by "for dummies" with some basic tips on staging your kitchen for sale. The video contains one staging faux pas... let's see if you can spot it. Check your answer at the bottom of the page.      



Common mistakes I've seen home sellers make

  • Leaving a stack of dirty dishes in the sink! This one is quite common.

  • Leaving bottles of dish soap, froggy soap dispensers, washrags, scrub brushes and sponges at the sink. When I was a Realtor, I used to stash these items under the sink when I was doing an open house.
  • Leaving the dish rack on the counter. 
  • Hanging up grimy dishtowels and potholders.
  • Using the front of the refrigerator as an art gallery. 
  • Leaving a smelly garbage can out. If you can’t hide it under the sink or inside a kitchen cabinet, take it outside during viewings. A kitchen with an exposed garbage can screams, “No room!”
  • Covering the toaster and other appliances with knick-knack fabric items like quilted toaster covers. They make a kitchen look dated.

Answer: The kitchen staging faux pas was the garbage pail left out in plain sight.

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