Staging and Home Design 101: Everything You Need to Know About Home Design

Last month, we dove into all the basics of home staging in Part 1 of this series. Of course, our staging experts don’t only work with homes that are for sale. Their expertise also lends itself well to the world of home design! 

Maybe you’ve just bought a new home and are wondering how your old furniture works in this space. How do you make your new house feel like a home?

Or maybe you’ve lived in your home for years, but it’s time to switch it up. Where do you start?

Our partner staging companies – Evolve Staging and Design in Coralville and Struve Staging and Design in Iowa City – are experts in home design. From helpful tips to frequently asked questions and commonly-made mistakes (how high should you hang pictures again?), we asked them to weigh in.

Why Work with a Home Designer?

Let’s face it: we can’t all be Joanna Gaines (though we can try!). Sarah Graf and Lisa Fender of Evolve Staging and Design say that more often than not, they’re consulted for home design projects because people are overwhelmed or don’t trust their own instincts.

“People are afraid to think outside the box sometimes, afraid to mix metals or that the colors they’re choosing aren’t going to work together,” says Fender. “They usually know what they like, but they need an outside opinion to be sure they’re on the right track.”

Living room before and after. Redesigned by Evolve Staging and Design

Whereas staging is all about making the home look appealing to a wide variety of potential buyers, Ann Struve of Struve Staging and Home Design says home design is all about the homeowner and their personal style. Questions like ‘what colors do you like?’ and ‘What do you plan to use this room for?’ are a must. 

“Sometimes I even ask ‘How tall are you?’” says Struve. “It helps determine furniture a lot of times.”

Whether you’re trying to get settled in a new home or are looking for some help decorating your existing home, both Evolve and Struve are able to help you with your home design needs.

The Design Process

While every company’s process is slightly different, design or redesign requests almost always begin with a consultation. Consultations can take place in person, with the home designer walking through the home to get an idea of the space, and some take place virtually. For example, Struve’s home design services are online, and she often tours the space via FaceTime. 

Next, the designer takes into account your color and style preferences – and your budget. They’ll also take into consideration any items you love and may want to include in the redesign. Then they make their recommendations, suggesting furniture and accessories to create a cohesive style. Sometimes these suggestions are made through a design board (shown below). Then it’s time to order the pieces and bring the vision to life!


Design board by Struve Staging and Design.

Helpful Tips

As REALTORS®, we love getting to watch people settle in their new homes and make it their own. Sometimes that’s easier said than done! Here’s some of the basics – straight from the mouths of our experts – to help you get started.

Create a flow in your house with neutral colors

In homes with open concept floor plans – which is most homes these days – it’s important to create a flow throughout the home. Usually that means decorating the main rooms so that they appear to “work” together. 

Graf and Fender agree that a neutral palette is huge. Though some people like bold paint colors in every room, it can make it more challenging to make the home feel cohesive, creating the feeling that you’re entering a whole separate space every time you enter a new room. 

According to Struve, neutrals also help your eye move around the room better, instead of being drawn to one specific, bright thing. She also recommends using greenery and textures to create an inviting, interesting space.

Kitchen before and after. Redesign by Evolve Staging and Design.

Don’t push your furniture up against the walls

Keep in mind that your flow needs to be functional. For example, don’t create barriers with furniture – i.e. placing your sofa so that you run into the back of it. You should be able to walk from room to room comfortably. But that doesn’t mean put all your couches against the wall – something many of us are guilty of.

“People like to push all their furniture to the walls,” says Graf. “Sometimes you can fit more pieces of furniture in a room that way. That’s fine if that’s how you like it when you’re living there, but that’s something we commonly end up adjusting to make a home more appealing to the masses when staging.”

Why? Pulling furniture away from the walls can help make a space feel more inviting and cozy.

Make sure your furniture fits

It’s also important to make sure your furniture is an appropriate size for the space. Furniture that is too large can make the room feel small or hard to navigate. 

Living room space designed by Evolve Staging and Design.

Fender says not to rush, encouraging people to give themselves some time to live in the new space and see what’s going to work best.

“If you buy things right away, you may end up buying things that don’t work or don’t fit with traffic coming through,” says Fender. “A sofa or sectional could look really great in the store, but doesn’t look good when you get it home. Too small is just as bad as too big.”

Hang pictures at eye level

Another thing many of us are guilty of: hanging our photos way too high. Our experts say a good rule of thumb is to hang photos at eye level when you’re standing – but don’t forget your eye level might not be everyone’s eye level.

Need help hanging photos? Staging and design companies can do that, too. Even us REALTORS® need some help! REALTOR® Whitney Russell had Evolve hang photos in her own home – quick, easy, and visually appealing.

My father-in-law is an author so we have a bunch of really cool posters from his book tours and such that I wanted to display,” says Russell. “They hung them perfectly cascading down our stairs. It would have taken me forever to hang them straight and in that perfect pattern, and Evolve was in and out in about an hour!”

Photos in Whitney Russell’s home, hung by Evolve Staging and Design. 

Reimagine your old furniture

Graf says that too often, people fall into the trap of thinking their furniture can only be used in one space.

People don’t realize they can use pieces they already have in different ways,” says Graf. “Maybe in your old house you used this piece in the entryway, but in your new home you can use it in a lower level or bedroom.”

Getting settled in a new home is the perfect time to try out your furniture in new rooms. If you’re someone who likes to switch up your furniture layout and decor frequently, it may be a good idea to invest in versatile pieces and accessories that make sense in a variety of areas.

The Finishing Touches

Looking for more information on home design? Need some help sprucing up your new home or reimagining your current space? Be sure to check out Struve Staging and Home Design and Evolve Staging and Design. From hanging pictures to styling an entire room, they’re sure to make your home look worthy of an interior design magazine!

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