Top tips from New Zealand’s most accomplished home staging expert

In the mid-1990s, Dinah Malyon of DMI Home Stagers saw a gap in the market. So she set herself up as New Zealand’s first full-time home staging company, and now has 15,000 success stories under her belt, with up to 150 homes on the go at any one time.

“It’s about optimising the property’s potential by showcasing it at its best,” she says. “We want prospective buyers to imagine themselves in the setting.”

But before we get into Dinah’s top tips, do consider how you keep your valuable items secure during an open home, and make sure you ask your insurer what’s covered during this time.

Generally, insurance for items from a home staging company will be included in their fee, but if you’ve left in all, or some, of your own possessions you’d better check in with your insurer. The best course of action is to keep all valuables safely secured and out of sight to avoid tempting would be thieves.

Now, onto Dinah’s top home staging tips:


The entrance to the house gives buyers their first impression of the property. A nice rug and a console or sideboard with fresh flowers provide the perfect introduction.

Living room

Keep clutter to a minimum and if possible, remove family photos, and other very personal memorabilia. Use as few items of furniture as you possibly can, in order to make the space feel as large as possible.


Cleanliness is key here; nothing will put a buyer off as quickly as dirty cupboard doors and dusty surfaces. A bowl of fruit and a recipe book open on a stand can help a buyer imagine cooking up a storm. Streamline the amount of things you keep in cupboards and drawers to demonstrate how much space is on offer.


The best bathrooms feel like a luxurious spa retreat and adding good quality fluffy white towels, matching soap dispenser and maybe a wicker tray of shells will help enhance the mood. Hide personal items such as toothbrushes and make-up well away.


Again, have as little furniture as you possibly can. A bed, bedside tables and a chest of drawers should suffice. If the room is small but has just enough room for a double bed, put one in to show the space’s potential.

Home office

Generally it’s best to remove books from a home that you’re staging but if neatly arranged on a bookcase in the office they can help lend a ‘professional’ feel. Apart from that, keep the staging simple so that the atmosphere feels calm and conducive for working in.

Dining room

Aim to have no more than a table and chairs and a sideboard or buffet in here. Setting the table with attractive crockery and cutlery can help a prospective buyer envisage entertaining. Ensure that there is plenty of room to move around the furniture, especially if it’s a formal dining room, away from the kitchen.


These days a deck or patio area counts as an outdoor living room and can really hook a buyer in. If it’s big enough to hold a table and chairs as well as outdoor couches and chairs then use both. Have half a dozen large plants in big pots rather than lots of little ones. 

About the writer:

Louise Richardson has worked in the media for close to 30 years, in the UK and New Zealand, writing about food, decorating, travel, beauty, fashion and much more. These days she specialises in property and lifestyle issues and as a keen interior decorator herself, loves keeping up with ever-changing trends. She realises that many of us have limited funds when it comes to our homes and enjoys sharing her own budget-conscious thoughts and ideas in order to inspire others.

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