How to: Style your investment property without over-investing

When it comes to staging a property — whether it’s for sale or for accommodation websites — first impressions count!

I can guarantee the effort you put in to preparing your property will pay off — if you shop wisely and don’t over-invest.

While there are professionals who offer full property styling services (generally starting at $6k), this often isn’t an option for people who have already overstretched themselves financially to renovate or are styling the property to see a greater return on investment.

Recently I was given a styling challenge and a half when I was tasked with styling an entire property with a budget of less than $800!

Check out this gallery to see the before and after of all the spaces.

How did I do it?

1. Assess the property and make a list of priorities

I knew the tight budget wouldn’t stretch far enough for me to make every purchase I ordinarily would — even if I bought it all from Kmart! — so I had to be selective and decide what the priorities were.

All new furniture, even loads of décor, wasn’t an option so instead I did a walk through the property and looked for areas that stood out as needing urgent attention.

The client gave me a brief of creating a ‘warm and inviting’ space so any areas that felt cold or void were top of the list.

I decided the priorities were:
– a rug in a neutral colour to create a living room zone and soften the heavier furniture pieces
– new artwork that felt less ‘hotely’ and more contemporary/abstract
– new cushions in a colour palette to complement the artwork
– some navy decor to tie in the occasional armchair that the client requested to keep
– relaxed outdoor seating nook to maximise the terrace and hide the heating unit
– smaller décor details to create appealing photos for the Airbnb listing.

That was quite a long wish list for the budget to stretch, especially when a rug alone could max out the budget!

Faux plant
Adding an extra side table keeps remotes off the coffee table and a faux plant adds warmth

2. Shop around and note items before making any purchases

When you go to the shops, it can be easy see great buys and just start pulling out the credit card… especially when you go to stores like Kmart and a $30 chair, $20 lamp, and $10 cushion are just so cheap!

Stop. Think again.

Your budget can disappear in no time if you take this approach so you need to work with a plan.

Do the rounds at shops that are affordable while suiting your new style direction. For me, that included Kmart, The Reject Shop and Big W, and for higher-end pieces IKEA and Adairs too.

I noted all the items I would like to buy and their cost — ideally I would have had a budget of at least $1500!

Bedroom after

3. Review shopping list and eliminate

Because I couldn’t magically make my budget double, I had to be ruthless and review the list to eliminate all the ‘nice to haves’, such as a new table lamp in the study space, and focused on what was really necessary.

A high quality floor rug that was large enough for the sofa and occasional chair to rest on was priority number 1 and after much research, I decided on the Alhede rug from IKEA.

At $180 this consumed a quarter of the budget but it’s so worth it — the big hit of neutral colour softens the space, creates an immediate sense of a ‘living room zone’ and feels beautiful underfoot. (A super cheap rug from Kmart just wouldn’t have been large enough and quality-wise they don’t compare.)

Dining table

4. Look for items that can bring warmth and texture

To hit the brief of creating a warmer and more inviting space, I knew I needed to bring in items with natural timber, organic textures, and ‘life’.

As this is an Airbnb property, real plants and candles were ruled out so I looked for quality faux plants instead, and smaller ceramic vessels with an organic texture.

Replacing the white and chrome floor lamp in the living room with a timber and white metal lamp, and the table lamps in the bedroom with timber and glass lamps, instantly takes away from the dated ‘hotel’ look.

Lamp corner

5. Create vignettes for interest

As I mentioned earlier, I would have ideally bought far more decor to fill the apartment but as this is an investment property, every dollar spent needs to see a return, and the items used needed to be at the lower price range in case they were broken or stolen.

So I looked for ways to create interesting vignettes instead. Layering chopping boards with the soft texture of a tea towel and different height vessels creates an appealing and functional kitchen vignette.

On the bedside table, a modern clock, ceramic vase and marble canister add interest too.

Kitchen vignette

6. Mix high and low

The final tip I’d add is to reinforce that point of shopping around. You don’t want people to feel as though they are walking through a Kmart catalogue so it’s worth splurging on a few higher end pieces.

For me, this included a blue glazed pot in a stylish pot plant stand from Adairs, and more luxe cushions as well.

How do you make your styling budget stretch further? Do you have more tips you can add in the comments below?

If you’re coming to Canberra, you can book to stay at this apartment on Airbnb here.

Style your investment property


  1. We are finding more and more investors are paying to have their properties styled for sale so this is an interesting article and I can see both sides for spending the $ on styling.
    From a stylists point of view we re finding that clients have had tenants int he property and simply want the best price and often have little time or live interstate so just want “things taken care of”.
    On the other hand I agree even though I am shooting myself int he foot! that not every property needs it professionally styled. Great article.

    • Thanks for your comment Melanie, it’s such a tricky balance of presenting a property well but also not over-investing and risk not getting the return you want. Glad you enjoyed the article 🙂

  2. Great work Gina and thanks for sharing your tips. It’s refreshing to see you don’t have to buy all new furniture and can still give the space a new look. I recently sold a place that I attempted to style myself and was less than satisfied with my efforts so I’ll be using your tips next time!!

    • I’m sure you did a fab job Sarah and hopefully these tips help you next time too 🙂 The client also got a recommendation of new furniture items to buy that she could replace over time as while I made the existing furniture work as best I could, it would lift the apartment even more to have a lighter upholstered sofa in a Scandinavian style shape etc. Rugs, art and indoor plants can certainly work wonders though! x


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