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Birmingham Home and Garden Feature

Set to Sell, one of Birmingham’s premier staging companies, talks design, return on investment, and how they turned one downtown loft into an award-winning space.

Peak Inside an Award Winning Birmingham Loft

By: Cathy Still McGowin

You offer both staging and interior design services. How do you approach each side of the business?
In everything we do, we always have the same goal—to make spaces beautiful. For staging, we focus on presentation and design that looks most appealing to potential buyers. We want to make sure we highlight the home’s best features and make the most of any undesirable factors. We ask ourselves the same questions they would ask as they walk through a potential new home.



Does the furniture layout make the room feel spacious and demonstrate the functionality of the room?

Is it clear where they could place their TV? Can they envision how to use a smaller space?

We also ask these questions through the lens of photography, looking at which pieces will show well for listing photos.For interior design, we consider function and beauty at the same time. We always talk to the client about their vision for their spaces and how they will be used, ensuring our selections serve all of their purposes. Interior design is much more personal than staging. The pieces selected for interior design are curated for the individuals who will be living in and using the space.

For your project at Franklin Lofts, what were some things you did to soften the industrial edges?
The loft in its original form felt very dark. We lightened the space by painting the walls and floors in Incredible White by Sherwin-Williams. Adding white linen curtain panels along the windows helped soften the walls. We incorporated different textures in our furnishings, such as the beautiful velvet swivel chairs by Atelier, the antique chest, and the wood-and-stone coffee table in the living room. The large mirrored panels by Aidan Gray brought a lot of drama into the space and helped divert attention away from the industrial feel of the space. The use of beautiful Gabby and Regina Andrew light fixtures gave the loft more of an elegant, transitional feel.

Does anyone ever walk in and say, “I want it all!”?
Yes, it happens all of the time. We do offer an option to purchase furniture for those interested in our staging items, but we order the items new rather than selling our inventory. Because we get this question so often, we created Turnkey Luxury Furniture Packages, which are pre-selected groupings of furniture, rugs, artwork, and lighting for the main rooms in your home or apartment. There are six design styles per package, ranging from bohemian to transitional to modern. Each furniture package is custom-fit and priced to match your space. If someone is interested in learning more about these Turnkey Packages, we schedule a complimentary design consultation and go from there.

Why is it a good idea to stage a house before selling? What’s my ROI?
The numbers don’t lie. 96% of realtors confirm that buyers react more positively to staged homes than they do empty ones, and 94% of realtors state that staged homes sell more quickly than vacant ones. It’s rare for one of our stages to sit for longer than a month, and it’s not uncommon for them to sell within a few days. Staged homes sell more quickly and at a higher value, so the cost associated with staging is more than offset by the benefits. Everything is online-based now, which makes having desirable listing photos more important than ever. We often post “before-and-after” images on our social media channels so people can fully grasp how much of an impact staging makes. You definitely do not need to stage every room in your home to make an impact. If the home is completely empty, we suggest staging the main rooms: living room, kitchen (with breakfast nook), dining room, and master suite. One thing we always recommend is staging any room that has an ambiguous purpose. We see this a lot with small nooks or rooms with confusing structure. Staging helps a buyer realize that nothing is wasted space.

Do I hire you or does my realtor hire you?
Either! We work with a lot of real estate agents on a consistent basis, but we are also contacted directly by homeowners.

Where do you get the furniture and accessories?
We work with about 250 brands to select furniture, lighting, artwork, and accessories for our staging. While we never want any of our designs to be bold enough to detract from the home itself, we do like to keep abreast of current trends and rotate our inventory out. We also find new ways to mix and match our inventory to align with the home’s target market and what trends they’re looking for in the moment. We have a large warehouse in West Homewood, and we host two warehouse sales per year where we sell our staging inventory at great prices.


5 Must-Haves for Any Space

1. Artwork: We look for creative ways to display artwork. Sometimes we mix and match complementary pieces or create a vignette by layering multiple prints.

2. A Chair in the Bedroom: The corner of your bedroom is so much more luxurious when you have a little nook to enjoy.

3. Fresh & Faux Greenery: We use faux greenery in our staging, of course, but will often visit a local florist to grab various flowers and succulents for that extra layer of lifestyle.

4. Beautiful Throw Pillows: Pillows bring accent colors and textures to a space. They have the potential to change the look and feel of an entire room.

5. Unique Mirrors: In particular, we love antique mirrors for their rich texture and depth.

Set to Sell has been serving the Greater Birmingham area and beyond for more than 12 years.

The design professionals work with homeowners and real estate agents, as well as residential and commercial builders and developers. Working with Ingram Homes and Farris Properties on the Franklin Lofts, Set to Sell was recently honored with a Gold Award in the Best Interior Merchandising of a Model Priced $300,000 to $500,000 category.

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