St Augustine, St Johns County Real Estate & Home Staging


Then & Now.... My how I've changed

Today I was looking through some old photos of my work for an article I'm writing.  I happened to run across photos of some of the first homes I ever staged.  When I saw them I kind of laughed at myself.  Often we grow in such small ways we never realize how far we've come... Because it made me laugh, I thought I would share with you. 

All of the before homes sold, so I did my job exactly as I was supposed to - making a difference for my clients.  My style, however has grown by leaps and bounds!


When I started staging vacants I only had rented furniture for units under about $400,000.  Thankfully I don't have to use rental any longer as this was the best of their line!  There is so much more interest in my table setting now.  The colorful chairs and plates are real eye catchers.  There is height on the table and the artwork on the wall is much better in scale.....


Ok, the linens were attractive in the beginning, but where was the artwork?  There was no life to this room really.  It did show size and scale, which is extremely important.  The home actually sold with multiple offers, but from a portfolio standpoint, I would never use this now.... Seriously, which of these two rooms would you want to live in?


This is even the same furniture - one of my first big purchases.  Doesn't it look different in each of these houses though?  Look what better scale the new lamps, rug and coffee table are!  The rug in the before photo actually makes me cringe... too small of rugs have become one of my very biggest pet peeves!   (Oh, the before house actually did get a contract 1 hour after staging, so it still worked... again, stylistically however it pales in comparison, IMO)

So.... those of you who've been in the business a while, care to show how you've grown?  Maybe it will help newer stagers avoid some of the mistakes we've made and bring the industry to a new level of 'good'!



 Author Bio: Melissa Marro, Home Staging Industry leader, Realtor, and entrepreneur offers a unique perspective on New Home Construction, Resale Residential Real Estate, and Home Staging

For more information on buying or selling in the Fleming Island, Orange Park, or Jacksonville, area, visit or call Melissa Marro (marro.melissa at, Keller Williams First Coast Realty, for more information (904-466-2093).


Comment balloon 20 commentsMelissa Marro • January 21 2009 10:53AM


Melissa, this is a GREAT idea for a post! I'm going work on finding some of my first jobs to post as well. I update my portfolio so often because even things I did 3 months ago may not be quite as good as something I've done more recently. OR I also weed out when I have a furniture setup that's almost identical (unless the accessories make it feel like a completely different set). So mine is always changing and some of the ones from 4 years ago are almost painful to look at! But hey, we have to start somewhere. :)

Posted by Annie Pinsker-Brown, Stage to Sell, Los Angeles Home Stager (Stage to Sell - LA Home Staging) over 10 years ago

Hi Melissa,

I think one of the fastest things we learn in this business if we are paying attention to big-hitters like you, is nailing the scale. It's so pivotal to the end result - which of course is always bad-ass pictures for the MLS!

Your initial stagings gigs certainly showed the spaciousness, but once you nailed down the art of scale, the gigs started to show both spaciousness and graciousness.

Very few will attempt a price redution, or dilly-dally on making an offer when the house shows both of those desirables. It's just too hot, and they KNOW it won't be languishing on the market.

Thanks for showing how your style has changed over the years, and all your educational and insightful blogs. And congrats on winning your certainly deserved it!




Posted by Michelle Molinari, Feature This Real, Estate Staging & Curb Appeal Concepts (FEATURE THIS... Real Estate Staging & Interior Decor) over 10 years ago

Melissa, I'm thinking that this wasn't even that long ago?  As I recall you started about 3 years ago...

I know that one very large difference in the work Linda does now vs back then is the photos.  After about a year Linda went and invested in a very good camera and it made a ton of difference.  The other of course is just like yourself, when she opened up her horizons beyond what was available from rental companies, the true "Linda" came out.  Where will it all go from here for you gals?

Posted by Gary Barnett, Home Matters Property Stylist Group, Indianapolis (Home Matters) over 10 years ago

Annie - Thanks!  I am hoping that others will also post some older staging photos... dig em out and show us what you've got!

MM - thanks for the kind words!  I'm thrilled about winning!  You know I constantly say that I'm on a learning curve.  If I'm not learning and growing then I must be dead!

Gary - You are right, it was only 3 years ago... these are actually closer to 2 year ago!  You know, its funny because when I look at the photos above I also see there is a huge difference in the quality of the photo, but believe it or not, they were all done with the same camera.  What does that say?  I guess I just figured out how to do that better also!

Posted by Melissa Marro, Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging (Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team) over 10 years ago

Wow Melissa - what a difference!  I am trying to build my inventory now because you are right...rental furniture is very limiting.  Congrats on the award! 

Posted by Wanda Richards, Shows Great Home Staging (Shows Great Home Staging and Web Solutions ) over 10 years ago

I can completely relate, Melissa! Some has to do with a better quality inventory than when just starting out, some with different regional styles (moving from Austin to the Bay Area), and hopefully some has to do with a being more experienced and discerning stager than when I first started out! I know I do approach things differently than when I first started. Sometimes it's tough to look my old before and after photos! Thanks for the post, Melissa.

Posted by Leslie Olson, Interior Design and Home Staging - Marin County CA (Leslie Olson Interiors) over 10 years ago

Aloha Melissa,

I think your use of color is the most noticeably dynamic change from past to present. Also your lighting selection has stepped up a few notches in terms of the overall style of the spaces. Thanks for sharing.


Posted by Kimo Stowell, REALTOR Associate® RS-76763 - Honolulu Hawai'i (HI Pro Realty LLC RB-21531 ) over 10 years ago


Congratulations on winning the RESA Stager Award.  Quite an honor.

I chuckle too at my first redesign/staging photos.  I think I have gotten better at what colors work and which do not.  You mentioned the size of the rug.  Do you not stage with small (5 x 7) rugs anymore?  Some of my rooms only have room for a smaller rug and I use them to just anchor the space...?

I've forgotton, do you own your own furniture? 

thanks and congrats again.

diane palazzo

Posted by Diane Palazzo (5280 Real Estate Staging) over 10 years ago

Isn't it amazing.  I feel like I've learned so much from AR and all the support and photos everyone here has shared.  Your work is beautiful.  Thanks for sharing.

Posted by Chrissie Sutherland (Ready Set Stage) over 10 years ago

Melisa, Congratulations on your very deserving award! I've been in awe of you since we met!

Thanks for your post and yes we newbies need to know you BigWigs started somewhere. You have no idea how it helps for the seasoned stagers to help guide us thru some of their similar trails and tribulations. Any chance I can get you to Greenville to speak at a Chapter meeting?

Posted by Angela Y. Baker (The Staged Perspective LLC) over 10 years ago

Wanda - Thank you!  I know, I almost didn't want to post them, but maybe they'll help someone.

Leslie - Yes, getting rid of rentals made a HUGE difference!  Care to share any of your older ones and then your newer ones to show how you've grown?

Kimo - I agree with everything you've said.  Thank you!


Posted by Melissa Marro, Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging (Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team) over 10 years ago

Diane - Thank you.  It's been very exciting!  In answer to your question, I almost never use 5x7 in living rooms any longer.  I will use a 6x9, but almost never a 5x7.  If the rug can't be anchored by a chair, sofa or loveseat, it is simply too small (IMO).  I do own all of the furniture....

Chrissie - thank you and you're welcome!

Angela - Thank you!  Yes, I would be happy to come to Greenville for one of the Chapter meetings.  Email me and we'll figure it out...

Posted by Melissa Marro, Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging (Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team) over 10 years ago

Melissa - You are so right.  I look back on our stagings 5 years ago and laugh...but you know what - they sold fast.  I think what makes a great stager is that we always demand perfection and want to improve everything we do.  Good post.

Posted by Debbie Wheeler, Chandler, AZ Rooms Rearranged RESA, IRIS (Real Estate Staging/Rooms Rearranged, LLC) over 10 years ago

Yes.  It is evident that each time I do a job, I learn new things and get better and better.  My first vacant jobs weren't great as I look at them now, but the homes also sold pretty quickly and I received many compliments on my work.  It's important to note that my budgets were a lot smaller back then too, probably because I was new to the biz and not many people were willing to take such a big gamble on a newbie.  For every job now, I do the best I can with what I'm given.  So if I compare same budget to same budget, then yes, I have improved tremendously.  I think I got rid of the pictures on the really bad ones (at least the ones that I thought were bad), I don't like to think that about those days.

Posted by Emma Vargas, Simply Staging (Simply Staging) over 10 years ago

Melissa, it really is evident how your confidence has grown and the biggest difference in your work is the appropriate scale in art, lamps and furniture. Your work looks wonderful, richer and more dimensional.

Posted by Allegra Dioguardi, Home Staging & Training, Suffolk Co. Long Island (Styled and Sold Home Staging and Staging Training) over 10 years ago

Melissa - First congrats on your award.  Isn't it fun to look back at our progress and see how our staging changes over the years?  Great post and thanks for sharing.

Posted by David Peterson, Home Stager Portland OR-Synergy Staging-Portland Oregon (Synergy Staging ~ specializing in vacant home staging) over 10 years ago

Melissa, great idea for a post - one of my favorite projects still is my very first, it even graces my masthead on my website... but others... exactly as you show - we are like twins on this, they sold but, oh what a difference a few years make.  Part of it is staging has gotten much more sophisticated over the 7 years I've been in business, but still... you have to smile...  Speaking of smiling, Congratulations on your well deserved RESA Stager of the Year award!!!!!!  Wild Applause,,,


Posted by Joanne O'Donnell (Chic Home Interiors) over 10 years ago

Melissa- WOW!  This looks great......Girl I want to be just like you when I grow up!  At least you are placing me on the right path! 

Posted by Marci Toliver, Anderson SC, Spartanburg,Greenville SC, Home Staging (438-4642) over 10 years ago

What fun!  Here are some of my "Then & Nows"



Posted by Connie Tebyani, Platinum Home Staging, Los Angeles and Ventura County (Platinum Home Staging, Inc. : RESA-Pro) over 10 years ago

Hi Melissa, great idea for a post. Love to see how you have grown. That is the name of the game I think. To grow and learn and continue to educate yourself. I agree, rentals can be limiting in style. We are lucky in that there are furniture rental companies that rent designer lines in our area.

Small area rugs are definitely an area that needs to be addressed and your photo shows why.

Thanks for doing this, it has prompted me to go back and look at mine to see the difference a year makes.

Posted by Michelle Finnamore, Preparing your property for sale (Toronto GTA, Alliston, Newmarket) over 10 years ago

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