Staging the Kitchen

For a faster, more profitable home sale

Staged Kitchen countertop. Staging the kitchen.A beautiful decluttered countertop, some tasteful vignettes-- who can 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 place for months. 

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

With high expectations for this room, home buyers are looking for an updated kitchen with that “holy grail” duo of stainless steel appliances and a natural stone countertop, like quartz or marble.

If your kitchen doesn’t meet these standards, don't despair! A complete kitchen renovation is not necessary in order to sell your home fast.

There are many diy fixes and home staging tips that you can do to make your kitchen look more appealing to a greater number of home buyers.

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

If you plan to do a kitchen renovation before placing your home on the market, avoid the mistake of making it too "taste specific."

Don't invest in a kitchen renovation that is sure to become outdated five years down the road. Most buyers are pretty savvy and may not want to invest their money in a home where the most expensive room will be outdated in a few years.

Before staging the kitchen, always be sure to declutter, clean, and make any necessary repairs.

Kitchen Trends for 2022

"I'm so pleased that wood tones are making it back into the kitchen, too," says Virginia-based designer Avery Frank. "It appears to be starting with warm, light oaks which pair so beautifully with burnished brass or bronze."

How to stage kitchen countertops

Kitchen counter top staged with fruit.Stage your countertop with colorful seasonal fruit or vegetables. Or create a situational vignette, using a breadboard, loaf of artisan bread and a bottle of olive oil.

You may ask, "Why do I need to stage my kitchen countertops?"  By staging your kitchen, or any room for that matter, you are presenting a perceived lifestyle to buyers.

A classic and creative vignette will help you achieve this goal.

Stage your countertop with your best tableware.Stage a dining scene using your best tableware.

When staging your kitchen countertops, aim for a clean, almost austere look. Your goal here, especially in a small kitchen, is make it look as spacious as you can.

Cluttered countertops will only "shrink" the space.

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

Keep it simple, yet elegant. Also, keep in mind that the more countertop surface area you can see, the larger the workspace will appear.

For a medium to large kitchen, limit yourself to no more than two appliances on the countertops, but only if you have plenty of space. 

For a small kitchen, remove all appliances. I know this is difficult when you're occupying your home while it's on the market, but remember, your goal is to make your kitchen look more spacious.

Following are a few suggestions for creating vignettes on your countertops:

  • Stage your kitchen countertop with your classic Kitchen Aid appliance in a stunning color.
  • Place a live green plant or vase of flowers on the counter-- just one will do the trick.
Kitchen staged with fruit.Stage kitchen counter tops with brightly-colored fruit.
  • Create a tempting vignette with elegant bottles of oil and vinaigrettes in varying heights and shapes, a loaf of artisan bread and a small breadboard.
  • Lay out two place settings using neutral placemats, (no ruffles or lace please) on your kitchen island or peninsula countertop. Stage with wine glasses and a bottle of wine.
  • Everything looks good when arranged on a tray! Confine your vignette within a tray.
  • Cupcakes or cookies look irresistible when placed on a pretty tiered cake stand.
  • Be sure that the kitchen work station (sink, stove, and fridge) have proper task lighting. If not, install strip lighting under the cabinets for task lighting. Turn these on during viewings.
  • Display colorful fruit in a pretty bowl or basket. Oranges, limes, or lemons will add a splash of color and make feng shui buyers happy. 
  • During the holidays, fill bowls or glass containers with seasonal fruit, like 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 naturally over the edge of a bowl.
  • To freshen your kitchen or bad odors before viewings, run lemon halves through the garbage disposal.

Kitchen appliances

Matching kitchen appliances are a "must have" for home buyers these days. If you don't have them, a request for matching appliances will surely find it's way onto 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, consider buying new ones. They don't have to be expensive. The fact that they are new and clean will still appeal to buyers.

For an older, yet still functional electric stove, replace grimy burner plates with shiny new ones. Be sure the entire stovetop gleams as much as the new burner plates.

If you're having trouble with your kitchen appliance, be sure to call an appliance repair master to help you troubleshoot and fix the problem.

Your oven and dishwasher should be spotless inside and out when staging the kitchen. Many buyers WILL open them to peek inside. If they're squeaky clean, buyers will have the impression they're well maintained.

Don't leave a microwave out on the counter. It screams, "no room!"

Remove the cluttered art gallery from the refrigerator door. Sadly, your wonderful pictures only add to the clutter.

How to stage a kitchen island

Kitchen Island.Don't crowd a kitchen island with too many chairs. This will make the space feel smaller.

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.

Buyers love kitchen islands, even ones with wheels!Buyers love kitchen islands! If you have room, add a mobile unit.
  • Set out a couple of colorful placemats and table settings at the bar area when staging the kitchen. Two is sufficient.
  • 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 buyers will appreciate the extra storage and workspace.
  • A free-standing table in the middle of the kitchen can also function as an island. A rustic farm table with warm wood tones will add 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 tiles. Busy patterns "feel" cluttered.
  • Use open or floating shelving in place of upper closed cabinetry. This visually expands 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 tones. If cabinets and walls are all the same light color, the small space will appear larger. 
  • Painting a low ceiling bright white will "visually" raise the height.
  • 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 home.)
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 to the wall colors to keep the eye from stopping at each one. Contrasting plate covers will create 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're installing 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. 

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 to sell. 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! I've washed the dishes myself when I was a Realtor doing an open house.

  • Leaving bottles of dish soap, froggy soap dispensers, washrags, scrub brushes and sponges at the sink.
  • 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 that make a kitchen look dated.

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

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Last updated 8-9-2022