How To Choose the Right Colors for Staging

Color influences our moods and emotional responses.  When used correctly color can attract people to your home.  But, there's a lot to know about color.  Here I've highlighted what you need to know about color when preparing your home for market. 

Have you noticed what color does to your mood?  Think of the colors you see at the beach in the sand, the water, the vegetation, and the shells.  They're cool, calm, and relaxing.  Now, think of the colors you see in a busy fast-food restaurant like McDonald's, they're the opposite of relaxing and restful.

When staging your home the use of color is important because of it's effect on our moods.  We use color to create flow from one room to the next and to add interest.  A plain or neutral-colored background often recommended for staging gives the eyes a place to rest.  The key to creating harmony in your home is all about color.  (and yes, when we're talking about interior design and staging, black and white are colors too!)

Warm vs. Cool - Your Home's Complexion

Just like people, your home has a complexion.  It can either be warm or cool.  When you know the complexion of your house, it's easier to make it look its best.  The best way to illustrate warm vs cool is to think of the color red.  Red can be cool, meaning it includes a lot of blue (think of a ripe cherry) or warm if it contains a lot of yellow (like a tomato).  Both fruits are the same "color" but if we paired the tomato red with the ripe cherry red the colors would clash.  All colors have warm or cool shades that don't necessarily match.  That's why when you put cool-toned colors together with warm-toned colors in a room or on the exterior of a home, they clash.  And clashing colors make a space uncomfortable and unappealing.  The right colors that don't clash will make your home look fresh and clean - which is exactly what buyers are looking for.
To determine the complexion of your home, look at the fixed elements.  These are the parts of your home that you can't change or are expensive to change.  On the exterior these elements are the roof, stone, brick, and siding.  On the interior they include the flooring, countertops, cabinetry, wood work, doors, and hardware on doors and cabinetry.  Although these elements may appear to be neutral they commonly have an undertone of cool or warm. 
  • Your home's complexion is most likely cool if the predominant colors include black, gray, white, blue, stainless steel, or pewter.
  • Your home's complexion is most likely warm if the predominant colors are brown, tan, rust, ivory, brass, copper, or natural wood tones like oak, pine, or birch.
  • ** The interior and exterior complexion of your home should match for a harmonious overall appearance.
  • Not sure of the complexion of your home?  Get pro staging help today.

Combining colors

Once you've determined your home's complexion, you can enhance the fixed elements by choosing colors that reflect its warm or cool undertones.  Work with a 60/30/10 ratio.  Wall color or siding should make up 60 percent of your pallet.  Choose a secondary color for larger pieces of furniture, a rug or flooring, or the gables and trim on the exterior to make up 30 percent.  Accent your home using a third color that makes up 10 percent of the look.  This can be done with the metals used for lighting and hardware or with throw pillows, art, or accessories.

** Sticking with three colors keeps your life simple.  You have go-to colors that you know will work in your home.  Stick with the same color scheme as you work through your home staging each room, for even more simplicity!

Color psychology for staging

This is the fun part!  There's no doubt that color effects us psychologically, and when you're staging your home it's the best time to consider the emotions that the colors used in your home are evoking. 

Here's a quick list of colors, their emotional effect, and how you can use each when staging:

  • White is the go-to color of staging.  Some variety of white will likely make up the 60 percent of your 60/30/10 pallet.  White represents peace, cleanliness, purity, and is the easiest color to use in any room.  
  • Gray is a cool neutral and usually not recommended for staging.  It can be used in combination with beige for a "greige" that's suiting for an accent color or even the 60 percent color when used in a light enough tone.
  • Black adds a contemporary touch to any room but should be used minimally when staging.  While it is a sophisticated color it often portrays uncertainty - think of being "afraid of the dark".
  • Brown is a comforting color - think coffee, tea, and chocolate!  Brown can add sophistication like black but without the intensity.
  • Red is the color of action and passion.  While it's too intense when staging a bedroom, it could be used as an accent in a dining room or on a front door to invite buyers in.
  • Yellow is a happy color that's welcoming.  You can safely use soft shades of yellow and cream in almost any room.  Yellow says "welcome home" when used in foyers or entrances.
  • Orange fights depression and is associated with autumn, pumpkins, and warmth.  Since orange is a strong color, use it as an accent.
  • Blue evokes a sense of calm and confidence.  Although blue is popular, studies say that bright blue is the hardest to sell.  If you don't already have blue in your home, don't add it when staging.  If you don't want to change out bright blue furnishings or carpet, use crisp white for trim and accessories to promote harmony.  An effective, appealing way to use blue is to choose a blue-gray.  This color looks modern and sophisticated and is ideal for a front door.
  • Green is the color of nature and signifies growth and prosperity.  Sage greens are calming and on-trend.  Because green is found in nature, it pairs well with wood elements of the home.
  • Violet gives a sense of wealth and luxury.  Since it is a color that's not loved by all, using it sparingly in accents solely in a bedroom will likely not offend any buyers.

To tone down a bright or strong color in a room, use colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel.  Green and red are opposite each other on the color wheel; so, if you have a red sofa, use pale sage green to balance the intensity.  This could be done by adding throw pillows or painting walls.  A less obvious way to apply this is with wood cabinetry.  If you have cherry cabinets choose a white paint with green undertones to complement the reds in the wood.  If you have golden oak cabinetry but don't want to replace or paint it, add stainless steel hardware and paint the walls a white with blue undertones to make the orange-gold wood tones subside.

Take a look at this information from Zillow about the correlation between a home's colors and its selling price...  The Color of Money.

Looking for more staging ideas for your home? 

  1. Read this blog post --- > My #1 Staging Tip
  2. Get a Staging Checklist to learn what's necessary to prepare your home for market --- > Staging Checklist  (this service is available in any location via video call :)
  3. Shop my recommended staging products --- > Staging Essentials

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