The transformation of this small cottage-style home took into account all the elements of a well-presented listing. So here's a summary of some of those principles:

The first lesson is that rooms should always be staged from the perspective of the entry so that buyers focus on the positive features when they walk in.

Buyers are impressed by three main elements in a home: space, light and special features. By downplaying the negatives and creating a sense of continuity from one room to the next, without compromising the architectural style of the house or the homeowner's budget, you can create a positive first impression.

By boxing up clutter and storing excess furnishings, including a clunky storage cart and corner display shelf, Lori Matzke of made the space feel bigger and much less crowded. With fewer distractions, buyers stay focused on the positive. Removing the dated area rug creates a more visually open floor plan and draws attention directly to the hardwood floors.

To brighten the space and create a sense of continuity from one room to the next, the walls and ceilings in all three areas were painted a pale shade of taupe with a soft yellow undertone.

To make the ceiling seem higher, faux crown mouldings were removed in the living room. The trim and doors throughout were given a fresh coat of creamy satin white to give the woodwork a fresh appeal. "Fresh paint is the most inexpensive update a seller can make and usually garners the biggest payback for the investment," says Matzke.

Replacing the dated chandelier in the dining room with something soft and contemporary added more light and shows buyers that the home is keeping up with the times.

Using a large sisal rug and centering a smaller dining table on top defines the dining room area and helps the long narrow space avoid a "bowling alley" feel. With the built-in window seat now more accessible, a bright green fern helps pull the buyer's attention to the view.

Swapping the leather sofa with the love seat helps give the room better proportions. "People think pushing furnishings up against the walls will make the room feel more spacious," Matzke said. "It just creates a lot of funky, unusable space in the middle of the room."

To create balance and give the room some visual height, a tall entertainment cabinet was repositioned in the corner.

Inexpensive woven baskets on both the walls and entertainment cabinet draw the buyer's eye around the room and help provide a sense of room-to-room flow.