Love it or hate, fake fruit has long been a part of the home-staging game. Fans of the trend say a bowl brimming with zesty-looking lemons or limes has aspirational appeal in a neatly organized kitchen, and adds a pop of color on those white counters.
But… what about fake steak? Or sushi? Or glazed donuts? Enter: The strange world of fake food staging, where phony food items are placed around for-sale homes.
TikTok user @getwiseinteriors brought this bizarre staging trick to light with this video, in which she documents what she calls the “strangest home staging ever.” The video tour shows acrylic cheese cubes, plastic cupcakes, and bright white crackers staged next to a pretend bowl of soup. As it turns out, there is a specialty website that sells fake food props, and I’ve personally spotted playhouse-like pastries and mock beverages for sale at a furniture megastore while shopping for a couch and was bewildered.
Now, I won’t go so far to call fake food a staging trend. (How many make-believe croissants have you ever spotted at an open house? Probably none, right?) But perhaps it’s an emerging experiment in home staging, which, after all, is both an art and a science that nudges prospective buyers to imagine themselves living in the homes they’re touring.
As such, some stagers will set up glasses of champagne or a high-end meal with fake ribeye, sides, and dessert so you associate the home with a luxury lifestyle, says Dawn Templeton, owner and real estate broker with Templeton Real Estate Group in Boise, Idaho.
“The whole thing here is psychological — an attempt to make the visitor feel more connected to the home,” she says.
Still, real estate professionals have some strong opinions about fake food in staging.
“Fake food plated up as if it’s ready to eat — but not — is just creepy!” says Kim Kapellusch, strategic interior design advisor at Real Estate Bees. “It’s like the family ran out in the middle of the night and didn’t have time to clean up.”
Carleen Laronn, stager and interior designer at Guest House, a tech-enabled home staging company, says fake food is a tacky staging tactic.
“My advice would be to put yourself in the shoes of a prospective buyer… If you’re walking through the home and they have real snacks for you to munch on, it might feel a bit more welcoming,” she says.
Of course, fake food has been known to bamboozle some prospective buyers. Betsy Ronel, a licensed real estate salesperson with Compass in Westchester County, New York, says a stager she worked with once put flawless fake pears in a home’s kitchen. Even though there were wrapped snacks and water at the open house, the pears were a hit.
“People tried to bite into them!” she says. “There is now a set of teeth marks in one.”
That’s a stager’s occupational hazard, I suppose.