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Home Staging for the Digital Age

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When my real estate agent told me that my house needed "a staging," I pictured a tough love AA-type intervention, with close friends gathering round to insist that only significant changes could prevent the heartbreak of lowball offers and shattered escrows.

I thought my rustic Laurel Canyon treehouse house looked just fine sans furniture, but a professional stager insisted that the careful placement of Styrofoam TVs, bubble beds, and books with impressive covers (but no writing) would make the place "pop" (her word) and generate hefty offers and perhaps even a bidding war.

I craved hefty offers and longed for a bidding war, but this plan seemed more like a bad joke than a good strategy. Who knew there were TVs made out of Styrofoam? I was aware of (and had occasionally indulged in) bubble baths, but what the hell was a bubble bed? And how could I dis my bookshelves by substituting bookless books for the weighty tomes that had stood there proudly over the years, some of which I'd actually read?

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Fig. 1

Worse, I grokked, home staging is hopelessly analog, a negative for cash-flush techies looking for a Gates-ian environment. (Details of a virtual tour of Bill Gates's house, which costs a mere 35K -- that's for the tour, not the house -- can be found here.

Was there an alternative to analog home staging? For a laugh, I Googled "virtual home staging," thinking I might find a science fiction story or a humor blog. Instead, I discovered an actual world of virtual staging, with, for instance, Virtual Tour Software helping to market your home by taking "digital photos of empty rooms" and inserting "digital furniture, window treatments and other decorations."

I could see the potential of friction-free staging. But for me the virtues of virtual staging don't quite compensate for its groundlessness. Lacking solidity, it seems even less authentic than its analog, analog.

I decided to meditate with the intention that a Golden Mean of home presentation would reveal itself; a modality that harnesses the power of the tech revolution without abandoning the physical realm.

Instead of an awakening, I got a waking nightmare where a chic party at Jay Gatsby's mansion in West Egg went south when the word-free volumes in the fake tycoon's library became smart robots and subjugated all the humans.

The minute I opened my eyes, though, I beheld the future of home staging as clearly as Jon Landau had seen the future of rock & roll the moment he laid eyes on Bruce Springsteen.

The fundamental principal of what we might call Silicon Staging is illustrated in Fig 1 (above), where a single Kindle provides a Borges-worthy library without the messiness of disintegrating paper, allergen-infused dust and guilt-inducing reminders of uncracked classics.

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Fig. 2

In Fig. 2, a tiny smart phone at fingertip level in my walk-in music closet -- once occupied by thousands of CDs, vinyl, songbooks and sheet music -- is a gateway to millions of songs and more sheet music than you could read through in a thousand lifetimes. The same method can be utilized for DVDs, newspapers, comics, and magazines.

All this costs next to nothing and can be implemented in less time than it takes to find the on-button on a Styrofoam TV.

If you're willing to invest a bit of Bitcoin, you can eliminate the clutter of family photos with a single digital frame or add a pseudo-musical dimension with a virtual grand piano in your living room. To further amp up the feeding frenzy, populate your open houses with holograms of stylish celebrities marveling at the bargain-basement asking price for your magical abode. (Fig 3)

Sure, Silicon Staging may turn off the odd buyer who likes physical books with words, vinyl with liner notes, magazines with rip-outable pages or the inky essence of decaying newspapers. But I'm betting that reality is precisely what's not called for in this day and digital age.

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Fig. 3 Bill Murray hologram