Here are some staging tips for open houses and photo shoots that will make your home utterly irresistible to buyers this summer

Anyone in real estate will tell you the best time to sell a home is during the summer months. If you’re planning to sell, here are some tips for staging your home for a photo shoot or open house.

I’ve talked to you about the beach house in Waialua. Although it’s not for sale, I furnished and staged it for the reveal party for the family and photo shoot.


The money shot was the oceanfront outdoor setting. A sod lawn was installed and we positioned a teak swing by the naupaka hedge. Just because it’s an interesting swing and you have a fantastic view of the ocean does not make this a picture-perfect moment.


We took a couple of extra steps to ensure that picture-perfect moment. Adding touches like pillows that tie in with the ocean and greenery, a beach bag, sun hat and flip-flops positioned as if someone has joyfully stepped out of them to cartwheel on the lawn.

In the kitchen window, we created another vignette that always makes me smile. Many people stage kitchens with fruit bowls that add color and life, and make granite countertops sing. The added touch here is the two birds perched on the windowsill. They’re simple wooden birds, but their silhouette as you’re looking out at the ocean is perfect. Even with the woven shades drawn, because the birds are recessed in the sill, you still see that silhouette, whether you’re indoors or out. It’s as if they have a permanent perch in the house.

When you stage a scene, consider not just the setting, but the lifestyle. Who would be drawn to this image? What would they like to see? Choose a few accessories to incorporate without making the scene look too busy. And look for unexpected touches that will bring a smile to a potential buyer’s face.

Preparing a home for sale often involves a photo shoot. If the real estate company is sending a photographer to take MLS photos, it’s very much worth your time to be there.

Think of the shoot as a collaboration between you and the photographer. You want your home to look as good as possible, so you need to be prepared, patient and courteous, and sort of act as their assistant to get the best possible shots.



Let’s say you’re shooting your living room, and the photographer takes a picture from one angle. When he or she moves to shoot another angle, now the coffee table needs to be moved as well so it looks more centered, or the candlestick needs to be moved so it doesn’t look like it’s attached to the wall. That’s your job.

The home should be clean, cleared of personal items and uncluttered. On the day of the photo shoot, try to have fresh flowers and fruit to bring life into the bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen and dining area.

If you’re going to be your own photographer, do all of the above, and while taking photos, look at them in as large a format as possible so you can see the small details, then reposition your accents. If you’re using your phone, email the photos to yourself and open them up on your computer. Rooms and vignettes may look great in person, but staging for an open house is very different from staging for photographs.

For more staging ideas, go to and click on our interior design portfolio. You’ll see many interior and exterior shots that I’ve staged and had photographed by amazing photographers, including Justin Dotson.

Don’t wait until the last minute. Before the day of your photo shoot, take pictures of your space and look at them with a critical eye. What colors do you need? Do you need more greenery? Less furniture? What can you do to make it picture perfect? And then do it.


Cathy Lee is president and designer of Cathy Lee Style and Cathy’s Marketplace, a furniture and accessories showroom with design services at 1110 University Ave. She recently opened reStyle Hawaii, an affordable, style-conscious consignment warehouse with upholstering and repurposing services at 420 Keawe St. To find out more, go to