How to Stage Your Home So You’ll Never Want to Move
Major L.A. Realtor Jenna Cooper shares her home styling secrets to make you feel like you’re starting over without changing your address.
Zillow calls our collective fixation on real estate, and the pandemic-inspired housing boom “The Great Reshuffling.” City people decamped to small towns. Empty nesters downsized. And young families scrambled for bigger yards and work-from-home friendly spaces. While actual home sales were up only about 6% in 2020, droves of people obsessed over the idea of buying a new home, trying on the fantasy of a new life. Devouring pictures, dreaming about “aspirational” kitchens and hunting for ideas to refresh a home have all become national pastimes. No one understands the allure of a clean domestic slate—and Instagram home scrolling— better than Los Angeles-based Compass Realtor Jenna Cooper.
“There are properties here that are going for a million dollars over asking. We’re getting 20 offers on houses. But I don’t think everyone who is looking at houses online really wants to move. They just want an escape,” says Cooper. “They’re tired of staring at the same four walls.”
Cooper and her husband, designer Steffen Lipofsky, have become some of L.A.’s favorite house flippers, transforming pretty bungalows, mediterranean mini-estates, and ranch houses into coveted properties snatched up after only days on the market. In healthier times, her open houses drew crowds. Now, those crowds flock to her online housewares store, COOP, her website, and her Instagram page to try on a different life for a while, like filling a virtual shopping cart and never checking out. Her style is heavy on house plants, quality art, and every type of basket and throw blanket imaginable. Cooper also has a reputation as a savvy but strict home stager, “encouraging” her clients to put their best foot forward—and pare down their stuff—before anyone sets foot in their house.
If moving is not in the cards for you, you can still benefit from treating your house like it’s about to go on the market. Clean the gutters. Freshen up with a coat of white paint. Buy some new towels. It might create the illusion of a change of place.
“People want control over their lives, and they don’t have it right now. I think that’s what this is all about,” Cooper says. “I love my house, but when I’m home, all I do is walk around looking at piles feeling anxious. What we’re all craving is a beautiful spot where our eyes can rest.”
Here, Cooper shares tips for feeling like you’ve moved while staying put, no escrow required.
Pare Down Your Clutter
“Get a storage pod, pack up at least a third of your things, and get them out of the house,” says Cooper. “You could give it away, or toss it, but that’s too intimidating for most people. You just kick the can a little by putting it away for a few months. Then you can really tell if you need it or not. The way I approach it is that you’re telling a story with your house, and the story should be appealing and authentic. A garage that’s stuffed with junk and an overcrowded closet is not appealing.” As a general rule, there should be room between the hangers in your closet and countertops free of clutter, “so everything feels more spacious.”
Act Like a Home Inspector
“Check your gutters to make sure they’re clean. Fix any leaks you might have,” she says. Cracked windows, peeling paint, dripping faucets—anything that might turn off a potential buyer is probably driving you crazy, too. “If you feel comfortable hiring a handyman to come into your house, it’s a good time to do this kind of stuff. Replace a faucet or upgrade a light fixture. What are you waiting for? Life is short. If not now, when?”
Create a Clean, Neutral Backdrop
“We always keep a palette as neutral as possible, clean and spare. Don’t overload a space with things,” says Cooper. “White paint is always, always a good idea. It’s not expensive. It’s low-impact. You can do it yourself.”
Invest in Elevated, Natural Accessories
“I’m very into baskets,” she says. “Get a basket for extra pillows and throw blankets. Use them as planters for a new tree or house plant. Baskets add an organic, hand-made, natural element to any house. It’s a great spot to stow away remaining clutter.” Cooper also recommends elevating the less glamorous parts of everyday life with some well-chosen items, like a natural bristle brush for washing the dishes (“It makes me feel less like a servant,” she says) and cloth napkins, even if you’re eating out of takeout containers.
Design Soft Spots to Land
“I throw a blanket and a soft cushion on every seat,” says Cooper. “Every chair in your house should be a spot where you can spend time on a zoom call, read a book, light a candle, and feel relaxed. Creating these cozy nooks is one way I feel like I’m taking care of myself, and making my house a place where I really want to spend time.”
FaceTime with an Expert
There is no shortage of remote resources to help people make sense of their living spaces, making design advice more accessible and affordable than ever before. Consultations packages can cost as little as $100. Try Havenly, Modsy, or The Expert, which books one-on-one consultations with nationally recognized designers. “You can walk through your house with a pro on a video call, and they can say ‘Move that. Put a plant in that corner. Get rid of that,’” says Cooper. “Same with home organizers, who I am thinking are doing really well right now.”