The Verdict Is In: These Are the Top Things Guests Notice in Your Home

Updated 02/26/18

What is the first thing you do when getting your house ready for guests? Think of it as a hypothetical scenario—your co-worker has decided to drop by your house with 15 minutes warning. Do you hide away your pile of dirty clothes? Light a candle? Dim the lights? Throw dirty dishes in the dishwasher? What about when your relatives come to stay with you for an extended period of time? Do you repaint a room that's been bothering you? Hang art that's been leaning against your baseboards for too long?

Do you refresh your space with plants and flowers?

When faced with having to turn a home into the best version of itself for dinner parties, casual get-togethers, and overnight guests, we often discover just how real the struggle is. To find out once and for all what people actually notice in our homes, we asked our Instagram followers for their best home staging tips. With an overwhelming 120 answers, our readers shed light on this pressing issue. Here is the definitive guide to what your guests definitely see in your space (that you probably don't).

Cohesiveness and Flow

how to stage your home
Heidi's Bridge

Many of our readers pointed out the flow and furniture placement in a home to be the first thing they noticed: "Certain things can make me feel uncomfortable in a space, like a poor furniture layout or pictures hung too high," said one reader. "I often find I am unconsciously fixing rooms in my mind. It just happens." Many readers admitted to mentally rearranging other people's furniture. Others noticed how cohesive the flow was from one room to the next.

Quick fix: Limit your color scheme from room to room. When in doubt, edit things out of your space to see if the flow improves.

Hazel 11
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Cleanliness and Clutter

home staging tips
Studio McGee

If you get stressed out about friends and family seeing your real-life mess when popping by unannounced, it turns out you may have reason to. Another sticking point for many readers: cleanliness, tidiness, and organization. For some readers, it rubbed their neat-freak tendencies the wrong way. For others, it made them feel better about their own mess.

Quick fix: When having visitors over, make a point to tidy up any clutter and give your space a quick clean.

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Art and Books

home staging
Fantastic Frank

People want to know what kind of culture you consume, from what art is displayed on your walls to what books or magazines you read. "I usually notice what's on the shelves or the walls first," said @bratbratcity. More specifically, our readers pointed out that art should say a lot about its owners (meaning it shouldn't be generic).

Quick fix: Edit your bookcase to display the books that represent you best, and do an inventory of your art—does it actually reflect your interests and personality? If not, consider working on your art collection.

"The End of Gravity" by Rebeca Cygnus $108
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Scents and Smells

staging your home
Tessa Neustadt ; DESIGN: Katherine Carter

Does your home have an inviting scent—a luxe burning candle, perhaps, or a chicken roasting in the oven? Or does it smell like you haven't taken out the garbage or changed the kitty litter in weeks? "Smell always triggers my memory first," @allizonsaid. "I love when I start to memorize the smell of a friend's home." Conversely, readers noticed the bad smells just as much as the good ones.

Quick fix: Burn a candle 10 to 15 minutes before guests arrive, or cook something in the oven. Lastly, find the culprits that may be giving your home a funky smell (e.g., the microwave or the garbage disposal).

Byredo Prune Glacée Scented Candle $95
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Light Sources

home staging ideas
Heidi's Bridge

When walking into your home, guests will most likely notice natural light, but they'll also pick up on artificial lighting and how light is arranged around the room. "I don't notice the fixtures, but I notice the things that illuminate and obscure a room: afternoon light pouring through windows, the gentle glow of candles, the spotlights on art, the cold halogen light, the blue light flashing from a TV screen," said @h2cho. "The quality of light sets the mood of a space. The same space can feel cozy, massive, mysterious, familiar, enchanting, or humdrum with just a change of light."

Quick fix: If it's daytime, draw open your curtains and roll up your blinds. If it's nighttime, light a few candles, dim your lights, and turn off the TV.

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Paint Colors

house staging tips
Robson Rak Architects

It turns out that unless your room is a neutral white, your guests probably have strong opinions about which color you decided to paint your walls. Specifically, they aren't a fan of red or brown walls. "It all generally hits me at once. I can get carsick if a wall is painted 'cappuccino,'" said @virgomadnesss. "I have to rearrange in my head."

Quick fix: If you've fallen out of love with your paint choices, try these designer-approved neutral hues.

Benjamin Moore Normandy $37
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Plants and Greenery

staging ideas
Studio Ashby

Finally, guests often notice your plants, flowers, and greenery, or how much of it is visible from the inside. "I'm such a huge plant mom that I always look to see what life others are cultivating in their space," said @littledove.

Quick fix: Get rid of any dead plants in your space, and refresh your main rooms with fresh flowers of branches.

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This post was originally published on March 8, 2017, and has since been updated.

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