Like Magic: Sightlines the Secret Ingredient in Staging


Staging a home has a lot in common with the Magic Kingdom. Who knew?

It’s no walk in the park, but it can be magical when it’s done right. If you think about it – and I did the last time I visited Mickey this summer – the layout of the Disney park utilizes what are called sightlines in a very clever way. I try to do the same when I stage a home going on the market.

A sight line, or visual axis, is an unobstructed line of sight between the observer and a stage, arena, object, or another room, for example. Sight lines are a particularly important consideration in theater and stadium design, road junction layout and urban planning. It is just as important when merchandising your home.

On my vacation to Walt Disney World I took the Keys to the Kingdom tour, an in-depth look at how the park works. One of the subjects we discussed was sightlines – and sometimes the lack thereof – to create illusions and also to direct the traffic. They do on a much grander scale what I try to do when I stage a house.

disneyAt the Magic Kingdom, if you stood in the epicenter of the park, near that giant castle Cinderella gets to live in, you can look in each direction and see a different “land.” The park is designed in a hub-and-spoke or wagon wheel-style grid. There are five spokes that venture off to different lands. Four of the five spokes have a tall marker that you can see from the hub, which not only entices the tourists toward them, but explains which land you are entering. The castle is seen from the hub of the wheel in one direction, leading into Fantasyland, for example. When you face the castle, to the right there is a spoke. At the end of that spoke you see beaming to the sky the Space Orbiter and you know you are entering Tomorrowland. To the left of the castle you will see Colonial architecture and you know you’ve entered Frontierland, and so on. The one spoke without a marker? Well, that’s Adventureland, and if it had a marker it wouldn’t be much of an adventure would it? You enter wondering what is in store.

When I stage a house to sell, I won’t place a Space Orbiter in the next room. Nor will I leave the sight line void of anything, leaving potential buyers wondering what is up next. I will, however, place artwork, consoles, or other types of furniture and accessories in strategic places to pull them through. Once in the room, I use certain pieces and colors to create a feeling or connection with the potential buyer (more on that in a future article).


There are countless other examples of Disney’s genius use of sightlines. Like this: From the Crystal Palace restaurant, which is technically in Adventureland, you can still see Main Street U.S.A. and the castle. So awnings are placed outside the window to block the view of the castle and Main Street so people forget that it’s just a show. From the outside, it just looks like its part of the design of the exterior, but it really has a function besides shade. They do so much slight of hand to give you the best of the show. And that’s what Disney calls it – a show. From the moment you get to the front of the park they play lively music, then you go trough the tunnel and that music disappears. It gets darker and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. As you continue through, the music changes and grows louder as you approach the other side like a curtain raising in the theater.  Finally, you arrive at Main Street U.S.A. SHOWTIME!

Some may not think it’s that important to use sightlines in staging a home. After all, they are going to walk through the whole house anyway, right? It becomes important if the seller wants to boost the likelihood of selling the home.


I consider what I do as merchandising, I merchandise the house to lead a viewer throughout the rooms. I hope I create a connection for potential buyers to give them a sense of urgency to buy. Part of the way I merchandise is the use of the sightlines I create. Leading them from room to room by giving them a hint of what comes next. Sometimes the sightline is through a window. I am known to use a lot of red geraniums as my focal point to the outside, or maybe a fire pit in the colder months, visible from more than one room in the home. Why? When buyers see an exterior sitting area, the mind accepts it as part of the square footage of the house – it’s perceived square footage.

This kind of merchandising can make the difference between a sale and a longer time on the market. Take a look at your home and find your sightlines. You may not look at it the same way again.

And if you go to the Magic Kingdom, you may have a whole new perspective of the Space Orbiter.

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