Design Recipes: Hosting the perfect open house

Cathy Hobbs
Tribune News Service

The new year is typically a time when we see rejuvenation within the real estate market. Sellers who stood stagnant with their properties during the holidays are now typically more motivated to sell their homes, hoping to secure the highest price in the shortest amount of time. The open house for many home sellers can be a critical rite of passage that can make the difference between showing their home in its best light or falling short of highlighting the home’s most appealing features.

Creating an atmosphere: First and foremost, an open house is an entertaining opportunity, and like any other event that one may host in their home, an open house is a chance for the home seller to showcase their home by highlighting the positives and downplaying the negatives.

First impressions: It is important for a home seller at the open house to create a moment for a potential buyer the second they walk in the door of their home. The reality is most buyers make a decision about a property within the first three minutes, whether positive or negative, so it is critical that the first impression is strong.


■Small bowl of apples. Fruit is not only affordable, but creates instant color. Other ideas include a bowl of artichokes, lemons or limes.

■Tall vase of stems. From a single stem in a tall slim vase to a handful of fresh-cut flowers, flowers instantly say “welcome” to potential buyers.

■Short flowers in small pitches or vases. Flowers don’t have to be in traditional vases, you can also place them in decorative water pitchers or apothecary jars.

Living room

■Affordable toss pillows. Toss pillows are relatively affordable, and the right pattern and/or color can really add impact to a space. If you want a budget-friendly, craft-friendly idea, you can make toss pillows from affordable scarves.

Centerpiece ideas

■Glass hurricane candle on a birch coin. A simple birch coin can add an instant organic element to your decor. Add a simple candle and glass hurricane on top and you can create an elegant centerpiece for a coffee or dining table.

■Carved out apple with a taper candle. Whether it’s an artichoke or apple, carving out fruits and vegetables and inserting a tall taper candle can add instant appeal.

■Succulents in moss and sand. Tiny succulents are hearty enough to be around for lots of open houses. Pair them with sand, moss or river rocks in a glass jar or vessel and you have a beautiful accent piece.

■Photo coasters with a photo theme or floor plan. Imagine how this will appeal to potential buyers! All a home seller needs to do is print their floor plan out on regular copy paper, then mount it onto a piece of cork or stiff cardboard in order to create a beautiful floor plan coaster.

Cathy Hobbs, based in New York City, is an Emmy Award-winning television host and a nationally known interior design and home staging expert with offices in New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C. Contact her at or visit her website at