Virtual Staging- Is it Home Staging or Interior Design?

Virtual Staging- Is it Home Staging or Interior Design?

Great question. I’m glad you asked😊 Usually, they are very different things. The key difference is who you are decorating or designing for.

Home staging is decorating for the buyer. The goal is to make an emotional connection with them, so they can envision themselves living there and want to make an offer. You are appealing to their vision of their ideal lifestyle. To learn more about home staging, see my article, Home Staging- How it Works and What it Costs.

Interior design is decorating for the homeowner. The goal is to also to make an emotional connection and create their vision of a home that works for their ideal lifestyle.

There are some definite differences in how you make this emotional connection. In home staging, you are decorating for the target market, or most likely buyer of the home, whether It’s a young family, retired professionals or whoever. Colors are generally more neutral to appeal to a greater number of people. The decorating should highlight the features of the home, rather than tell the story of the owners. Personal items are usually removed. About half of the items your normally live with are removed to make it feel more spacious and show off the features of the home itself. Home staging is often done with the seller’s belongings, or with rental furniture and décor which are often typical retail items that are lower to mid-range in price.

With Interior design, it is important to let the personal story of the homeowner shine. Colors can be as rich or colorful as you like. Personal items are highlighted and given a place of honor. How much is on display all depends on the style the owner prefers. Interior design may use a wide range of retail or unique or custom furniture and decor in a wide range of price points.

Virtual staging is digital home staging done to a photo of a vacant room. The virtual staging may be done with a software program that has specific items available for use in the program, or it may be done by a designer with access to any product available on the market, both retail and custom. Virtual staging by a designer may offer more options for design and home décor than staging software programs. To learn more about virtual staging, see my article, Virtual Home Staging and Design- the Pros and Cons.

Recently, I completed this virtual staging project, which was selected as an example of Edesign for an Interior Design magazine, “Vision”, for the article “5 Things You Need to Know About Edesign” by JoAnne Lenart- Weary. The article starts on page 50, and my design is on page 55. To learn more about Edesign, see my article, Edesign-How it Works.

In this case, the virtual staging was both home staging and Interior Design! I used Photoshop, rather than a virtual staging program to complete the design.

Vision Magazine featured and Edesign by Northern Lights Home Staging and Design in an article on page 50, 5 Things YOu Need to Know About Edesign by Joanne, Leary-Wenart. #edesign #visionmagazine
Vision Magazine, Volume 41, Issue 1, January-February 2020
5 Things You Need to Know About Edesign” by JoAnne Lenart for Vision Magazine.
After- Interior Design and Virtual Staging by Mary Ann Benoit- Northern Lights Home Staging and Design

The target market for this staging project was a young family in a high-end neighborhood. I created a modern global style design I thought would appeal to young, professional buyers in their 30’s that were starting a new family. I used greens for the colors, as green appeals to most people, and would not seem either too feminine or masculine. The wall color of the home was already neutral. The design is casual, comfortable, modern and uncluttered to highlight the features of the home. The living room design was chosen for the magazine article.

Here is the living room from another angle.

After- Interior Design and Virtual Staging by Mary Ann Benoit- Northern Lights Home Staging and Design

Here are a few of the products I used in the living room design. Click on the pictures to learn more. Some are affiliate links, meaning they give me a small commission for sharing at no additional cost to you.

I love all this beautiful black and white art from Arhaus.

Get 5% off this pillow and all products at Bryar Wolf with code northernlightsstaging5 at check out.

Here is close up of the dining area in this open concept space.

After- Interior Design and Virtual Staging by Mary Ann Benoit- Northern Lights Home Staging and Design

To show the possibilities for the large unfinished basement, I created a playroom area next to a comfortable family area where mom or dad could work while doing laundry and keeping an eye on the kids. There is also a crafting area and table. The rugs and kids’ furniture are all washable and pet friendly.

After- Interior Design and Virtual Staging by Mary Ann Benoit- Northern Lights Home Staging and Design

Here are a few of the products I used for this unfinished basement. These beautiful rugs from Ruggable can be removed from the pad and washed in a washing machine, and are kid and pet friendly, as are the washable covers on the bean bag furniture for kids from Pottery Barn Kids.

This self adhesive wall decal is easy to put on and remove.
Love these cat art dolls on Etsy!

You may be wondering, is virtual staging helping this house sell? The house is still for sale. It has been on the market 4 months, and was virtually staged after being on the market a month vacant. In looking at the market data for similar homes today, it appears this home is initially overpriced by $30k-$40K (10%) and the current price is still over market value even with 4 price reductions. Staging can help you sell quicker and for more, but it is not a silver bullet, and requires a competitive price when first listing and good marketing for it to work. Virtual staging has generated more interest in the home, and is probably the best option in this case so the sellers do not incur monthly rental costs for furniture and accessories associated with traditional home staging, as they wait to get their asking price.

Need Help with your Home Staging Project?

Need help staging your home for a speedy and profitable home sale?  Check out my home staging services. I offer local in person home staging consultations, vacant and occupied staging. I also offer online home staging consultations, virtual staging and social media marketing for your home sale nationwide.

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Virtual Staging- Is it Home Staging or Interior Design?
Virtual Staging- Is it Home Staging or Interior Design?
Virtual Staging- Is it Home Staging or Interior Design?
Virtual Staging- Is it Home Staging or Interior Design?
Virtual Staging- Is it Home Staging or Interior Design?
Virtual Staging- Is it Home Staging or Interior Design?

By Mary Ann Benoit

President- Northern Lights Home Staging and Design Owner- Arctic Paradise Bed and Breakfast Artist- Stained Glass, Jewelry and Alcohol Ink Art Wildlife Biologist Director- Kaleido World Percussion and Dance Company Director- Tavus Dance Company of Alaska Lover of music, art, dance and animals.


  1. Mary Ann thank you for explaining so precisely the difference between staging and interior design. One is for the buyer and one is for the home owner. I am not sure I have heard this so well stated.
    And I love your before and afters that absolutely affirm your talent as a stager and designer. Well done!

  2. A perfect explanation of the differences between staging and design, Mary Ann! Love that green living room you did!

    1. Thank you Janet! I have been really drawn to working with green lately and natural elements. Trying to”bring the outside in” more in both staging and design.

  3. Great post Mary Anne, I am seeing more and more virtual staging done in our area. I personally love to feel and touch a place that feels like home, I wonder how long the virtual staging trend will last or if it’s here to stay.

    1. Thanks Amy, I always recommend in person staging over virtual if it is an option, because as soon as the buyer comes to look at the empty home the magic is broken and it is hard for them to make an emotional connection. I wrote a blog article about it, The Pros and Cons of Virtual staging. Virtual staging is better than not staging and maybe even better for certain projects like rentals, investment properties or if physical staging is impossible. I think the trend is probably here to stay because of new technology and lots of realtors who want to use it to save on the cost of staging. But for most realtors, their strength is marketing, rather than design or staging so the results may not always be the best. I personally would rather have my realtor spend time on marketing rather than playing with a staging app. I think the best results come when a professional stager or designer does the virtual staging, especially if they are not limited to using an “app” to develop it and have more options.

  4. I agree with Mitzi, Mary Ann, this is a very clear definition of the difference betweeen home staging and interior design, and I am sure it will help a lot of people who find your post and read it.

    In addition, I enjoyed seeing your before/after photos of your staged rooms: they are really nicely done!

    1. Thanks so much Leslie! I enjoyed working on this project and using all the greens and natural elements in the artwork. For me, it is the same as doing Edesign like I would for an Interior Design project, but wearing my home stager glasses and thinking like a buyer while doing it:)

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