Of Rugs and Gestalt: How to Avoid Visual Black Holes When Selling Your Property

There is a maxim in the home staging world, "Clutter eats equity." Clutter makes spaces look smaller, detracts from a property's selling features, and prevents buyers from feeling "at home" in your house or condo.

Because buyers these days usually take their first "tour" of your property online, you should also pay close attention to two-dimensional visual "clutter" in listing photographs. The first target: rugs.

Yes, rugs! Those lovely floor coverings that make your house feel "homey" in person will overwhelm the same room when viewed on a computer or smartphone screen. When we're staging one of our listings before the professional photographs, rugs are the first things to go. To understand why, in this article, we take you on a brief trip through design theory and in particular the principles of gestalt. Call this the Blackburn Coastal Realty Advanced Seminar.

Gestalt Design Principles for Home Sellers

"Gestalt" is a theory of psychology that deals with how we perceive visual elements. According to design guru Steven Bradley writing in the web design bible Smashing Magazine, gestalt "lies at the heart of nearly everything" designers do. The theory's essential observation is that the eye perceives a group of objects as a unified whole before it sees them as individual objects. Check out the link for some intriguing demonstrations of gestalt design principles in your own perception of images.

One of the essential principles of gestalt is the concept of "visual weight." Just as physical weight is a measure of the force gravity asserts on an object in three-dimensional space, visual weight measures the ability of an image to draw the eye's attention in two-dimensions. In a photograph, the element with the most visual weight is the one that attracts your eye first and holds it the most. 

The Unbearable Visual Heaviness of Being an Area Rug







Just look at the difference!

With the concept of visual weight in mind, consider the area rug. Lowly in stature but often quite expensive, an area rug does tremendous decorative work in three-dimensions. Not only is it an expression of the home owner's (hopefully good) taste, it helps define areas and directs the flow of movement through a room. It also protects and preserves hardwood floors, often a prime property asset. 

But in two dimensions, that gorgeous Persian rug becomes a visual black hole. No amount of creative lens work, lighting, or digital retouching can distract from its insistent visual pull. Forget the floors underneath, or the sensational water view, or the gleaming granite countertops. Gestalt design principles dictate, and our years of experience have borne out, that the first visual element a potential buyer sees in that photograph is a rug that detracts from everything else about the property. That rug weighs down the room, sucking up all the square footage and eating up your equity.

Rugs Eat (Measurable) Equity


It couldn't be more clear - rugs eat equity!

You can actually measure how much equity rugs will eat. In real numbers, a twenty square foot rug in a market where homes sell for $200 per square foot risks leaving $4,000 of your equity on the...er...floor. A corollary to the maxim that clutter eats equity is that flat surfaces - floors, countertops, mantlepieces - sell. Cover them up in your online listing when home staging and, in effect, you risk losing their value in the buyer's offering price.


Don't Get Walked on By The Home Market! Contact Blackburn Coastal Realty Now!

At Blackburn Coastal Realty, we use psychology-driven design and marketing insights to maximize the selling value of your home. To learn more about how we use gestalt design principles in our home staging to get the most profitable effect in two and three dimensions, contact us today.


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