Thrift Shop or Neiman Marcus? Staging Can Send Signals to Buyers, Says Suzanne Felber


Lifestylist Suzanne Felber (left) works with Karen Eubank of Eubank Staging to dress up 307 N. Waverly ahead of photography. (Photos: Shoot2Sell/Thomas Byers)

Editor’s Note: This is Part Three of our five-part series breaking down our free team staging of 307 N. Waverly. Read Part One and Part Two here and here, respectively.

It’s been 15 years since I sold my home and purchased The Home Idea Factory. Fortunately for me I found the historical home of my dreams that will keep me in projects for a lifetime in Oak Cliff. Every day though I am working on merchandising new homes for builders, so it was a lot of fun to work with Karen Eubank of Eubank Staging on staging a consumer-owned home.

As a Lifestylist, I get asked all of the time what the difference is between a home stager and a model home merchandiser. The main difference is that I am starting with a clean slate in new home construction and I typically work with the builder from plans to opening day, and everything that I specify stays in the home for as long as three or four years.

We help specify colors, building materials, trim, and of course the furniture, artwork, window treatments and accessories. While a stager is trying to remove the lifestyle of the sellers so the buyer can see themselves living there, a merchandiser plays up the lifestyle that a buyer can expect in their new home and their new community. I bet you didn’t realize how much thought went into making that model home look so good! Our biggest compliment is when a buyer wants to buy the model home furniture and all.

What stagers and model home merchandisers have in common is we both are in business for one reason only — to sell homes.

When I was trying to sell my home, it was before you could shop for a home online, and every time someone was even remotely interested in my home, or was just curious about homes in the neighborhood they would come and visit. It was a pain to try to keep everything perfect because you didn’t know when someone would come by.

That’s still somewhat the case, but now that buyers can tour your home online and decide if it’s the home of their dreams before physically visiting, so it makes a lot of sense to make sure your photos do a great job of selling your home before a buyer ever sets foot into it . Buyers are so visual now — if your photos don’t do your home justice, the perfect buyer might pass yours up and go on to one that looks better online. Naturally, staging and photographing your home properly can save you and your Realtor a lot of time and added expenses in the long term, as well as help you get the best price.

Everyone loves a bargain, and when they see photos of a home that looks like it hasn’t been loved, people think they can get a deal. When I first saw photos of 307 N. Waverly, the first thing I thought was that moving furniture around and adding rugs would make all of the difference in the world. Also, items like window treatments were missing from photos, which told me that the sellers were probably ready to wheel and deal.


No window dressings and no accessories sends a signal to buyers that you are ready to wheel and deal, Felber says.

The home had lots of windows to let in natural light, but leaving curtain rods up with no window treatments on them made it look like someone had moved out in a hurry. I also loved the original fireplace and hardwood floors. but both needed some love, and furniture needed to be placed strategically so buyers could understand how you could live in and enjoy these rooms.

The master bedroom only had a bed wall in front of a window, which to me is a huge distraction. If we would have had more time I would have draped that entire wall behind the bed and taken away that objection. The same in the nursery — as a parent I can’t imagine having a child sleep in front of a drafty window in the Texas heat or cold!


Positioning a bed in front of a bank of windows can be distracting and drafty, Felber added.


Part of the challenge of being a Lifestylist and merchandiser is knowing where to shop for the best products and deals. People are always telling me it must be so much fun to shop for a living. Trust me, it isn’t. We are always working with very tight budgets and are looking for a very specific item with no time to find it, and this home was a perfect example.

Fortunately, I’ve been doing some affordable homes and knew that Ross and TJMaxx usually have drapery panels for $14.99 to $24.99 a pair. The extra challenge of this home was that the drapery rods were hung very high so a standard 84-inch panel wouldn’t work. Ross saved the day and I found some 96-inch neutral panels for $17.99 a pair that were perfect. They added some color and softness to the rooms that really showed up in the photos as well.


Adding curtains, rugs, and art made all the difference in the dining room. Silver accessories were actually a thrift store find, Felber said.

Ashley Home Stores now have great artwork and rugs that are very reasonable. I stock them for occasions like this but I have also found great buys at Kirklands, At Home, and of course Ross and TJMaxx. The baskets in the utility area were on sale at Target for $4.99 each and the rug in the kitchen was a last minute Ross find for $14.99.



Adding an inexpensive rug, budget-friendly and colorful organizer baskets, and some cute curtains gave some style to the kitchen, Felber said.

I also love thrift store finds for accessories, especially tabletop items, silver, and books. The silver pieces in the dining room and on the mantle were all from a garage sale benefiting Ronald McDonald House — a win for everyone!


With the right window treatments and accessories, a home can become more attractive to buyers and send the right signals. Now the fireplace and natural light really shine.

Before you put your house on the market, think about your favorite retail store and how they merchandise and market their inventory and their brand. If it was dirty, the ads featured unkempt models, and the merchandise was out of date, would you ever shop there again? Probably not. By merchandising your home properly and putting together the right team to market it, you might be amazed at how quickly your home can sell and for how much of a profit.