Redefy Real Estate kitchen staging table image by Pixabay

Low-Cost Wow: 16 Affordable Kitchen Staging Ideas

Kitchen staging doesn’t have to cost a lot to create impact with the 3 Cs

Redefy Real Estate kitchen staging

Your kitchen is probably the most important place in a house to stage. It’s the center of home life and sets the stage for the wow factor. It’s also the hardest to stage, because making it pretty isn’t convenient for everyday life. Thankfully, kitchen staging doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective.

A good-looking kitchen is essential and can sway buyers on an otherwise ho-hum house. If design isn’t your thing, ask your agent to recommend a stager to do a consultation. Focus on the three Cs for kitchen staging: Clean, Clear and Coordinate (yeah, as in stuff matches).

Focus on the three Cs for kitchen staging: Clean, Clear and Coordinate.

Kitchen staging idea 1: Clear the counters

One of the hardest things about staging a kitchen is letting go of the conveniences of counter-top products like blenders, toasters, etc. Appliances and décor make your counter space look small. Buyers don’t want to see your stuff there – they want to imagine their own gadgets in the space. This includes the sink area – no sponges, dish soap, etc. Eliminate that crock of spatulas and wooden spoons unless they’re shiny and brand new.

If you absolutely have to replace a counter top, check the finishes of comparable homes in your neighborhood. You may find that a laminate will do just fine. If you live in an area with mostly solid surfaces, consider one in a finish that doesn’t look like fake granite – choose a wood or concrete look. If granite is the going thing, look through remnants; do the island in a different piece if there isn’t enough (make it look purposeful). Granite overlays, thin veneers that go over existing counters, are only practical if you have straight sections to cover.

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Kitchen staging idea 2: Clean till it looks brand new

Get a pro in if you’re not up to the task because every inch of the kitchen should be sparkling like the day it was built. Don’t forget the smells, so drop a lemon wedge down the garbage disposal and take the trash out daily. Replace or clean the fan filters as well.

Redefy Real Estate kitchen staging clean fan filter image by The Kitchn
Click the image to view The Kitchn’s tutorial on cleaning fan filters.

How to clean a greasy kitchen fan filter

  1. Remove filter from stove hood or microwave mounted above the range.
  2. Fill a sink or bucket with boiling water.
  3. Slowly add ½ cup of baking soda and a hefty squirt of grease-fighting dish soap, then gently stir with a kitchen brush.
  4. Fully submerge greasy filters in the water and let soak for 10 minutes; next, use tongs and swish them back and forth.
  5. Scrub stubborn areas with the brush. Add more dish soap to the extra grimy areas if needed.
  6. Rinse and dry.

How to clean grout

  1. Start with plain water and a stiff brush. Scrub in a circular motion.
  2. More dirt? Fill a spray bottle with half-and-half vinegar and water. Spray on grout, let stand 5 minutes and scrub again.
  3. Extra dirty? Make a paste of baking soda and water and apply to grout lines. Then do Step 2.
  4. Extra extra dirty? Try straight hydrogen peroxide or a paste of baking soda and peroxide.
  5. Extreme dirt? Time to break out the oxygen bleach or, if you’ve got epically bad stains, resort to the chlorine bleach. Do this only as a spot treatment as it can erode grout over time.
  6. Skip all of the above and steam it. Call in a pro or buy a hard surface steam cleaner. It’s quick and super effective.
  7. To maintain grout, spray and wipe down with the vinegar mixture once a week. Use alcohol once a week if mold or mildew are a problem in your area.

Got a stainless steel sink or appliances? Bob Vila has step-by-step cleaning for stainless; the site also has tutorials for cleaning dishwashers, oven racks and more. Got pets? Yeah, sorry the bowls and water need to be hidden.

Kitchen staging idea 3: Go easy on the décor

Don’t be theme specific (cows, Coke, etc.). Put that stuff away for your next house. A simple pretty bowl of fresh lemons and limes add a statement piece and a great smell. Fresh flowers are also a nice touch. Any décor you put out should coordinate. Choose one color that complements the cabinets and counters. Good “hungry” colors are orange, yellow and green.

Kitchen staging idea 4: Downsize furniture

Redefy Real Estate kitchen staging table image by Pixabay

Remove extra carts that say there isn’t enough storage or counter space. Also take out extra chairs and table leaves that may make the eat-in area look cramped. If you have a stand-alone island in a small kitchen, remove it to open up the space.

Kitchen staging idea 5: Just fix it

Whether it’s a drawer front or a switch plate, it’s the little undone repairs that make buyers wonder what else is wrong. Everything in your kitchen needs to be in good condition and working.

Kitchen staging idea 6: Bring in the light

Redefy Real Estate kitchen staging image of clean uncluttered window by Pixabay

Bright windows are appealing in a kitchen to maximize light and make the space bigger. Clean windows inside and out, and remove any heavy window coverings, décor on windows or objects in front of them.

Kitchen staging idea 6: Get fresh with paint

Nothing says fresh like newly painted walls. Go light and neutral to open up the space. In homes with a lot of white cabinetry, you can opt for very light blues or aquas.

Kitchen staging idea 8: Optimize cabinets

Redefy Real Estate Inspired Interiors by Tanya Hembree beachfront condo kitchen
New hardware makes the standard white cabinets in this Beachfront Condo on a Budget look upscale. Photo: Tanya Hembree Design.

Glass-front cabinets need to be super clean and only filled with a few statement pieces. People will open cabinets and drawers, so organize what’s in there. If there’s a lot of stuff, pack the things you don’t need (you’re planning on moving anyway, right?). You might not have the budget to replace cabinets with the latest finishes. You can get around this inexpensively:

  1. Clean cabinets thoroughly.
  2. Consider painting cabinets if the stain or existing paint looks worn. White says clean and fresh. A large island can be painted a different color for a statement piece.
  3. Add or update hardware. This can transform the most blah box store cabinets for a minimal cost. Stick with simple, modern knobs and pulls to complement the existing fixtures.

Kitchen staging idea 9: Wow with a backsplash

Redefy Real Estate kitchen staging new backsplash by HGTV
Adding a new backsplash can modernize existing counters and cabinets. DIY Network has good series of tutorials. Image: HGTV.

If you can’t afford to update the counters or cabinets, focus on a new backsplash in white subway tile or modern glass that enhance the existing counters and cabinets. Both are inexpensive and you can even install yourself to save money.

Kitchen staging idea 10: Put out new towels

If you don’t have money for structural bling, modern kitchen towels with a bold pattern can be a quick fix. If your stove has a handle for hanging towels, replace your old stuff with new towels that coordinate with the space. Don’t be tempted to use these – just put them out before a showing. Hang the everyday ones inside the sink cabinet.

Kitchen staging idea 11: Update fixtures

Redefy Real Estate kitchen staging image of gooseneck faucet via Zillow Digs
The one fixture to update, if you don’t already have one, is a gooseneck faucet.

Lighting and sink fixtures tend to look dated quickly. You can spray paint them with some pretty cool metallic paint finishes. If you’re have to replace them, be consistent about finishes. Stick with simple designs for less expense. A satin nickel is a safe bet for most kitchens. If you can only replace one fixture, make it the kitchen faucet. Make all the lights look better by concentrating your efforts with a pendant over the bar or kitchen sink.

Kitchen staging idea 12: Put out new towels

If you don’t have money for structural bling, modern kitchen towels with a bold pattern can be a quick fix. If your stove has a handle for hanging towels, replace your old stuff with new towels that coordinate with the space. Don’t be tempted to use these – just put them out before a showing. Hang the everyday ones inside the sink cabinet.

Kitchen staging idea 13: Organize the pantry

Redefy Real Estate kitchen staging image of cabinet pantry via HGTV
A small pantry can look organized and larger with inexpensive clear baskets. Go to your local dollar store for inspiration. Image: HGTV.

Whether your pantry is a full walk in, a closet or a few cabinets, make it look neat and roomy. A pantry full of matching food storage containers is probably going to cost you a bundle. Instead, use baskets for loose items and put anything you can live without out of sight. It’s not meant to be practical, but if you stage carefully and price your house correctly, you shouldn’t have to live with it long.

Kitchen staging idea 14: Don’t get carried away with appliances

For the average home, high-end appliances aren’t going to translate to a big return on investment. If you need new appliances, go with finishes that fit the space and select a mid-range quality. Look at some used appliances online (being sold by people wasting their money on the crazy high-end stuff). Although stainless is popular, all white appliances with white cabinetry can look more integrated and make a small space look bigger.

Kitchen staging idea 15: Minimize open shelving

Open shelving looks great in a magazine, but only if it has minimal matching stuff. Again, this probably won’t be fun for everyday life. Display a few items and live with paper plates for a while.

Kitchen staging idea 16: Focus on the flooring

Redefy Real Estate kitchen staging image of rug by Yes and Yes
Normally, rugs are removed when staging. But sometimes they provide a necessary function. This idea by Yes and Yes makes a narrow kitchen look bigger with a bold statement rug.

If your flooring is in good condition, clean and shine it up. Steam cleaning is the fastest way and safe for wood and tile. In a narrow kitchen or one with less than interesting decor, one statement rug that complements the décor you’ve chosen can have a big impact. If your floors are worn and beyond repair or cleaning, it’s time to weigh your options. Today’s laminates and vinyl composite tile (VCT) are surprisingly nice for little cost.

Once you’ve covered the three Cs of Clean, Clear and Coordinate, you may find that you still need to do some upgrades. Talk to an agent about what improvements will give you the best return on investment for the money.


Redefy Real Estate logoRedefy Real Estate is a full service brokerage saving sellers thousands with flat fee listings. Save your money for more important things (not commissions!), like kitchen decor and granite in  your new home!

Redefy Real Estate. For the Important Things (not real estate commissions)

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