Interior Design vs. Home Staging: What is the Difference?

Interior design under stairs

As the proprietor of a Boston-based home staging and interior design firm, a frequently asked question by clients (homeowners and realtors alike) is, “How can I make my home look like the one you staged?” On the surface, it may sound like a simple request. But at the risk of sounding trite, comparing interior design and home staging is much like comparing apples to oranges.

There are three main factors that should be considered when discussing home staging and interior design. They are function, durability, and style.


It is incredibly important in interior design to know how a space will function. Do the homeowners have kids? Do they entertain a lot? Are meals eaten around a dining room table or on the couch in front of the TV? Does the homeowner have pets and are they allowed on the sofa? What types of furniture does the family prefer; a coffee table to place snacks on while watching a football game or a soft ottoman to rest weary feet?

Understanding the homeowner’s lifestyle helps to ensure that the space functions accordingly. If there are kids and/or pets, a designer would choose furniture and paint that can withstand some abuse. If meals are eaten on the couch, then perhaps a formal dining area is not needed, and that space can be designed to function differently (possibly an office).

When talking about home staging, function is not as important. The focus when staging a home is to appeal to the masses. The goal is to highlight the home’s architectural features and draw attention away from any flaws.

For instance, white and off-white staging sofas look AMAZING in photos and make any space look bigger and brighter. However, if I were to recommend a light colored sofa to a client with children and pets I would strongly recommend a performance fabric that is easy to clean and durable over a long period of time. Staging furniture is simply a prop and does not need to withstand daily abuse.

Durability / Portability

Portability over durability is a must when it comes to furniture for home staging. Staging furniture needs to be light and portable as it gets moved often. My go-to piece for most staging projects is a classically simple white sofa set that is super light and portable but looks gorgeous in any home.

That said, when designing a home, I would never recommend the same white sofa set to a homeowner with kids or a pack of chocolate labs. In that scenario, I would recommend a sturdy sofa in a performance fabric (and a weekly cleaning service).


In interior design, the home should reflect the homeowner’s style. Are they a bit funky and enjoy a zebra print grasscloth wallpaper in their powder bathroom? Do they have an aversion to carpet and need wall-to-wall, sustainably sourced bamboo hardwoods? An experienced interior designer will understand the homeowner’s lifestyle and design accordingly. Pro tip: make sure your big investment pieces (dining room furniture, bedroom set) are as timeless as possible.

On the flip side, a staged home should be neutral and depersonalized to appeal to most buyers. Furniture should be smaller in scale to make spaces look larger. Wall paint should be neutral with a few impersonal pieces of art. This allows the space to show off its beauty and also allow potential home buyers to envision their own items added to the space. For a bit of whimsy, I like to add a trendy sofa pillow set or stylish mantel display. But DO NOT—not ever—stage a home with taxidermy…of any kind….ever.

While there are definite disparities between interior design and home staging, there are some areas of crossover. The look of a staged home can often be achieved in interior design simply by matching the home’s accessories. Replace tired sofa pillows with a fresh new pillow pairing or give your mantel a makeover with items found in the staged home. Sometimes the smallest changes have the biggest impact.

If you are looking to prepare your home for sale, reach out and we can help stage it for a quick sale. Or if you need a little update on your current interior, we are happy to help you make it even more functional and stylish.

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