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Styling To Sell: How We Staged Our Dining Room And Kitchen (With The Changes I Should Have Done Years Ago!)


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – a “super fun” and “easy” game is to pretend that you are selling your house and then spend weeks if not months making all the little changes you meant to for years then NOT MOVE, just so you’ll be happier living in your home. I think this is the premise to Love it Or List it, right? Not shockingly, this is Brian Henderson’s, least favorite game so it’s one I mostly play by myself (happily). Don’t be confused, we are still selling/moving, but I like some of these spaces SO MUCH MORE after I made a couple of changes to be more “sellable”. It took our realtor coming in to say, “hmm do you have a smaller entry table?” and “maybe add more color” for me to make some changes that I wish I had made years ago but just didn’t prioritize or had looked at it with the same eyes, therefore losing objectivity. The dining room is the subject of today’s styling to sell post. We actually only really made two major changes…

But first, this is likely my favorite room in the house. The two walls of vintage charming windows and french doors (all of which open) overlook the prettiest patio in the world (IMHO) and the backyard. So if you sit at the dining table (and say write a blog and drink coffee) you are flooded with soft light and you can literally hear birds chirping and see hummingbirds floating around. Obviously having it be open to the kitchen made life easy for our family and, I don’t know, it’s just light and airy and warm all at the same time. So I wasn’t unhappy with it at all, but by making a couple of changes I love it even more.

But first, let’s take a look back…

from: our new home!

The photos of the kitchen are deceptively “big” (shot with a wide-angle lens), it was tiny, if not totally adorable.

photo by tessa neustadt | from: emily’s kitchen and dining room reveal
from: our new home!
photo by tessa neustadt | from: emily’s kitchen and dining room reveal

When we shot it for Real Simple (the first reveal 3 years ago) we had those pretty upholstered dining chairs and a larger light fixture (no longer available). I liked it a lot, but couldn’t handle the fabric armed chairs with my double toddler situation, and then when I found my dream vintage Cherner chairs at the flea market I dropped those blue chairs off at my friend’s (she still has them) – I sit in them often and I’m jealous of how comfortable they are compared to mine.

A couple of years ago I got that Target glass cabinet that acted as a storage bar and held glassware and wine (and cocktail makings). I love it, but it always kinda bugged me that the grid on the face of the cabinet mimicked the grid of the windows on the left and right. It reflected the light nicely but I wished it had been either solid or at least a color so that it had more contrast. But the function and scale of it were perfect and as a piece it was great. Last year I was like, “I wish this room had more color” but I didn’t know where to bring it in. I thought about reupholstering the Cherner chairs in a colored fabric, but thought that long term these would simply be prettier and more timeless in a caramel leather that matched the wood of the chair (this is debatable, maybe a navy blue would have been equally awesome but I’m sticking with that story). We upholstered them in Crypton leather, Florence in Duomo from Cortina Leathers (doesn’t get oil stains, so pretty) and BuildLane reupholstered them. I do love them very very much, and no the chairs never stopped creaking. I actually had to put mittens on the bottom of the legs so they slid around easier because the legs were too narrow to nail in a little slider thing (and felt didn’t stay on). Putting $1 Amazon brown mittens on your important vintage Cherner chairs is both offensive and hilarious, but well, that’s what we did (sorry, not pictured).

This is where we are now and I love it the most. I got that light fixture for $350 (now $450) and it’s GREAT. I love that it’s minimal, feels antique-y but engages the length of the table.

Back to bringing in color. I thought about replacing the curtains in a color or pattern, but they were custom and expensive. I have to say they faded a lot. They were originally a green and cream pinstripe and now are just like a beige and cream pinstripe. Still pretty and they just recede which is good to show off the windows, but I didn’t notice till I was styling them that on the inner folds they are green and I had forgotten!!!

Art. Yes, that’s how you bring in color. So I found these two pieces by Angie Dickerson-Lee of Bonita Interiors at the Pasadena Antique Mall. I actually thought they were vintage, but they are contemporary (check out her work). I love them. I hung them vertically on the far wall and loved seeing them from the view from the living room through the arch.

So when Howard (our realtor) was like, “maybe more color?” I thought, “tree?” but that would take up space and we loved how open and big the dining room is and didn’t want to obstruct the view to the backyard. I had forgotten about this demilune that I bought on Craigslist years ago for $60 and painted it that pretty blue. So I plugged it in the corner, hung the paintings above it, and put the vintage Thonet mirror (thrifted from the mountains for $60 I think, maybe $80) on the other side.

Y’ALL. It’s so much better!!! Of course, I have less storage so maybe I would need to find a different solution for our wine and glassware had we actually lived like this but having that burst of blue over there in a lighter/leggier piece of furniture is just so happy and pretty. It makes the room bigger and really pulls you into the room.

I made us take this shot (that I love) to show how you can cook WHILE seeing the kids play in the backyard. You have full castle vision while souping!

HOT TIP: Pieces with more visual weight to them can actually make your room feel bigger because it draws your eye to the corner telling your brain “this is a BIG room”.

Those were the only major changes. The rest was just styling for the shoot and for walkthroughs with potential buyers. We employed my “footed bowl, open book” TM formula that works for photos (but less so for real-life unless you like to read the same page over and over and over).

I brought in a couple of potted plants, including what I sadly learned is called a “shrimp” plant (the red on the island) that is AWESOME but c’mon! Don’t call a plant a shrimp plant! It’s like how we used the paint color “elephant’s breath” or “dead salmon”. Branding, folks. Branding. I still love it, but will refer to it here on out as “wild orchid table bush”.

I will ALWAYS miss this room – the light from all sides, the openness to the backyard, patio, living room, and family room. It’s quintessential indoor/outdoor living in a really charming and sweet way. And the simple changes – adding in more saturated color and vintage pieces made it feel more modern, fresh, quirky, and just more “us”. I will hoard these photos forever, thank you Sara for indulging my obsession with this house before we leave it. xx

In case you missed any of the other reveals so far check them out: The Living Room | The Kid’s Shared Bedroom | The Basement Guestroom/Office | Basement BathroomElliot’s Room | The Entry | The Front Yard

P.S. If you are interested or you know a serious buyer contact Howard Lorey at Nourmand & Associates, [email protected] DRE # 01263717. 

**Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Fin Mark


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Everything you do is amazing, but I have to say I preferred the first version! The light over the table softened the space and didn’t present competing lines. Maybe it’s just the flowers, blue glasses, and tree, but it looked like a more colorful, happier room…the new blue corner is very muted. While those chairs are amazing from a design perspective, they don’t look comfortable, seem somewhat impractical, and don’t match the overall vibe. Your home is beautiful in either scenario, and the new buyer will be super lucky. =)


So much better, it finally feels right and so special at the same time 🙂


So lovely …Good luck to you all.


From a staging perspective this works really well, adding strategic focus through color and reflective pieces emphasizes the best aspects of the space. The light fixture in the dining room is so good: a better scale, a higher-end design that fits with the architecture of the room, and yet minimal enough not to distract from the view to the outside. I see how functional and enjoyable this central area of the home is which is key for any family.


All your styling-to-sell updates are wonderful! Will you please post about the less visible (less fun?!) but equally important aspects of selling like clearing out closets and cabinets? How about minor repairs like fixing annoying dripy faucets and sticky doors that you’ve just endured when you were just living not selling. Any of that going on in your house?


In case Emily and team are not able, younghouselove did a whole series on that earlier this year. Some great ideas.


Yes, I’ve always wanted to see the pantry (with the gold PB hooks you mentioned). And the stairway- I have a 1929 house with a small center staircase and have never been able to embrace it.


Squeaky or not, those chairs are just stunning. And I love the addition of the blue table and art. God what a great space.


Hi Em! Loveeee your blog and you! Hoping one day I can just become you. With that said, I particularly Loveeee that pendant over the kitchen island. Where is it from?


Beautiful! Love love love that light fixture


I love it, especially the “view while cooking” shot. You will miss that view, I am sure. The windows are stunning.


I have to say, I miss some of the elements from the house before you touched it…more wood accents, the vintage cabinetry, and those slag glass light fixtures are GORGINE (my new favorite word)…

Great job on this! I’m helping my dad stage his house to sell right now, so I’m totally on board with these posts.
Thanks for the updates! It’s nice to see why you’re making the updates you are.


Emily, make a calendar from your most loved photos of this house!
Selling a much ,oved home is so, so harrrrd!
Getting ready to do the same here and it’s killin’ me!
I say “goodbye” each time I leave and return and then a few weeks back, get home to a (real) not stuvk in the front door from a producer wanting yo use this house for a shoot! WTF, Universe?!? It’s hard dnough already!


Your house with all those gorgeous old windows and indoor/outdoor flow is such a dream. I’m gonna miss seeing pictures of it and living vicariously!

Viveka LeRoux

Hi Emily!
So excited for what is next to come (please, please, please by a farm).
The dining room looks so fantastic!!!! Loved it before – BUT THIS 🤩🤩🤩Feels so unique and curated.


If the Hendersons buy a farm, it HAS to be a Netflix show. I’m thinking they’ve hit on some cool other use building like an old schoolhouse, chapel, or firehouse to turn into a unique family home.

Anna Maria

Hi There! I love this new version! I am wondering…this may be a silly question…but why not rug in the dining room?


They typically advise against it since they get dirty with crumbs and other things from the food.


For staging, you are more interested in keeping the feeling of spaciousness and flow from one area to another than too strictly defining spaces: if a potential buyer had a round table instead of a rectanglar one, for example, and you had a rectangular rug under the rectangular table, they might not be able to imagine how their own furniture would fit. You want the eye to keep traveling and be drawn to focal points that are permanent fixtures in the home, such as wood floors, not to a rug that will not stay with the home. Also rugs can really define a style and you generally want to keep the decor less specific so that a variety of people can imagine themselves living in the home. I hope that’s helpful.


Just beautiful! This is my favourite version of this space by far. It’s sad not to see this beautiful house anymore, but can’t wait to see what’s to come in the future! Good luck!


I love those chairs so much. Love them!!!


Love that corner with the blue table and new art. It feels like it brings more of your personality into what was already a really beautiful space.


Funny to read you saying that the version for selling is your favorite… exactly the same as in the previous home!!! So for Portland, don’t think about you as the customer, think about selling it when you decorate! 😉

Reading this post made me remember that when you purchased this house I was so in love with your previous one that I hated it a little… now I love it SO much!!! With the next one, I’ll have to remember I comparing a “post Emily” house with a “pre-Emily”, so that’s not fair for the poor house! I’m intrigued about the style of your next one…

Moore & Giles! Pretty funny autocorrect there. I wish I was house hunting in LA! This kitchen and dining room are so gorgeous.


They are called shrimp plants because the flowers look just like little shrimps! 😊


My only quibble is I hate that the dining room is so open to the kitchen. I couldn’t relax and enjoy a meal, if I were staring at the kitchen. It also creates a cluttered-looking backdrop. If I bought your house (right!), The first thing I’d do was put some kind of partition in place between the two spaces. A screen? A partial wall with doorways on either side?


I love all the styles of this room.
But really, I love that you kept the fig tree outside!!


I always thought that the chairs at the kitchen island were too fussy given that they back on to the table – something simpler would have knocked them back visually. Imagine that last shot through the door from the beautiful patio with a low-back mid-century type of stool – Erik Buch style. I liked all the other versions of the new kitchen/dining room, including this one, but the stools always bothered me. But I hate being critical! It’s just the one thing that leaps out from these pictures, and I remember you went through a few different options before settling on the current ones. I wonder if it would make a difference to the space, that’s all.

marlene paniagua

where can i buy those adorable salt shakers on the table? or are they just decor


Did you try super glue on the felt pads for the chair legs? That’s what works for me. When they wear down, I pull them off with pliers and super glue on new ones.


I must have those stools, please. Where?


Could a colorful runner on the table be an option to add some color without covering the whole table? I have seen some vintage looking ones at Cost Plus World Market lately. Just an idea.


Emily!! The IG algorithm got me and I’d been missing your posts. I just learned that you’re moving and I had to click through every reveal and feel like I was grieving this house with you! I’m so excited and happy for you, but I’m still processing the news. (This is all QUITE dramatic of me… clearly. Ha!)

It’s all SO beautiful. I love the changes – especially that dining light! Thanks for being vulnerable in an often harsh online space and sharing your beautiful homes and designs with us. Congrats on the move – wishing you the very best!


Your home is so stunning it takes my breath away. No matter how you have it styled, honestly. But, I do think you have really nailed it this time. It looks better than ever and perfect for staging. Your house is going to sell in a split second.


And the black horizontally striped bowl planter on a pedestal on your table…origins?

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