Suite to Street Appeal

Commercial spaces are benefiting from homey staging touches that draw client interest and close deals.

When it comes to creating favorable first impressions during showings, commercial practitioners are starting to take a page out of the residential sales playbook. Professional stagers are reporting an uptick in interest from commercial brokers who recognize that an office suite, a retail space, or even a vacant warehouse can benefit from an appearance boost. While only about 5 percent of commercial brokers currently use professional stagers to help get a building or retail space leased or sold, according to Barb Schwarz, founder of, she and other staging pros see enormous growth potential. In the commercial space, staging can help with your clients’ company branding while offering value for a transaction.

Residential Crossovers

Minneapolis-based stager Shar Sitter has a background in interior design and a strong portfolio of commercial clients. In her 11-year career, Sitter has staged a wine and liquor store, the entryway for General Electric’s Minneapolis headquarters, an 18,000-square-foot counseling and healing center, model units for assisted living centers, and even the entrance to a Keller Williams brokerage that sought to attract “high-ticket” agents. Her full-service business, Rooms With Style, includes a 3,000-square-foot warehouse stocked with residential furniture and accessories.

Her clientele was exclusively residential until a large apartment complex hired her to stage a model unit. “They liked it so much they said, ‘Will you do our common areas, offices, and entryways?’ [I found] it’s really not so different, because you’re still targeting an audience. Instead of targeting a buyer, you are targeting the client’s customers. It’s about conveying who they are and what they want to sell.”

If there is a key distinction between the goals of residential and commercial staging, Sitter observes, it’s that the commercial stager is more likely to be helping project a company’s brand rather than preparing a property for sale. Recently, she staged a construction company’s front entrance, which required her to create a space to reflect two distinct, and sometimes contrasting, needs: a professional space for client meetings and an environment filled with “men trouncing around in boots.”

The environment, she notes, had to be stylish, yet functional. The rough barn wood she selected fit the masculine environment of a construction company. But she also needed to appeal to homeowner clients who come in for consultations and need to see that the company is up on current home renovation trends. So Sitter staged the lobby with dark gray leather chairs and a soft rug, a large powerful horse as featured artwork, plus the company’s logo in metal hanging on the wall. The kicker: white shaker-style cabinets were added to the employee kitchen, demonstrating to visiting clients an awareness that “the number one kitchen color now is white.”