Vignette Staging for Beginners: Get Your Home Sold by Telling a Story

If you’re in the middle of selling a home, chances are good you’ve heard of staging. But what about “vignette staging”? Although it might sound strange, vignette staging is something you’ve seen before.

And that’s because it’s everywhere: in magazines, in real estate ads, and even at the mall. So what exactly is vignette staging, and how will it help you sell your home? Keep reading to find out.

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What is vignette staging?

Vignette staging is all about creating small scenes, or vignettes, to enhance a space and make it more inviting. It can be as simple as a few decorative items arranged on a table, or it can involve an entire room. Either way, the goal is the same: allow the buyer to form an emotional connection to the space.

Decor expert Lynne Trinklein of Lynne Home Staging, in Milwaukee, has a few ideas for vignettes that work well in any space. Her No. 1 go-to decor item for creating them? Books.

“If you place a book open to a certain page, with a plant or binoculars—that evokes emotion or imagination,” she says. “They bring a lot of life and history and mystery to a space, and come in all shapes and colors.”

Trinklein also loves to incorporate vases and trays, and reminds her clients that things don’t need to be expensive to work well in a vignette.

“An everyday vase will work, even a Mason jar. Just cut some branches, and you’ve brought something organic and colorful into the room,” she says.

The secret behind great vignettes

Beyond creating appeal for your buyers, another way to think about vignettes is that you’re showing the buyer what can be done with the space. Think about an empty room. It could be a bedroom or an office, but it could also be a reading room or a crafts room, or even the perfect space to show off a rare collection. But without your creativity, the buyer won’t see this.

Richard O’Malley, an event producer in New York City, has similar views on vignette staging.

“It needs to be something memorable” he says. “You want to create something that shows people they can live in the space, something that makes them remember it.”

Trinklein likes to tell the story of the time she transformed an empty room by staging it with a love seat, a vase filled with paint brushes, and an empty canvas on an easel. It went from being a room that nobody knew what to do with, to an art room that contributed to a successful sale.

“That’s why staging is so successful,” she says. “Everyone wants a comfortable home. A room that’s empty or without accessories is cold, but once you add things, it becomes inviting. With staging, you enter a room and feel refreshed—and we all want that space.”

Get started staging your vignettes

Probably the best thing about vignette staging (besides the fact that it’s fun) is that you can easily do it yourself using household items you already have.

Get started while keeping O’Malley’s favorite piece of advice in mind: “Go for the ‘Gram.”

The idea being that if you can manage to create Instagram-worthy scenes throughout your home, buyers will be pulling out their phones to take photos, and then looking at them later on. This helps buyers picture themselves living in your home.

Here are a few pointers to get you started

Concentrate on a small space: There’s a tendency to try to make over whole rooms at once, but unless you have a hit show on HGTV (and a team of decor gurus to go with it), you’re better off starting small and focusing on one area of your home at a time.

Start with a few colors and a base: Choose a few colors that relate well to the room and to one another. Group things in odd numbers, and choose objects with a variety of heights. Try starting with a tray (or in the kitchen, a wooden cutting board), and build your vignette from there.

“This confines a space, while also adding another layer,” Trinklein explains.

Show off a collection: One of O’Malley’s favorite tactics for vignette beginners is to showcase a collection.

“It could be anything,” he says. “Maybe you have a collection of baseball cards, so you go to Michaels and get a bunch of frames, and then they don’t look like baseball cards anymore.”

Whatever it is, choose objects that will be recognizable to your buyer. While baseball cards are a safe bet, stay away from any collections that verge on the ultraspecific or taboo. Pretend it’s a family dinner: no politics or religion, and definitely no taxidermy.

Take a step back—and do it often:

Just like an artist admiring his masterpiece, take a bit of space to look over what you’ve created. This will alert you if anything is off or missing, or if your composition is becoming too crowded.

Go for nostalgia: This, O’Malley argues, is what’s really at the heart of vignette staging.

“Anything that rings nostalgic, that creates the same sentiment as baking cookies,” he says. (We all know the time-old trick of baking cookies during an open house; think of vignettes as the low-calorie version.)

If you can create a scene that makes your buyer want to sit down and stay a while, that’s when you’ll really know your vignette is working its magic.


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