Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tips for Staging your Historic Home

Historic Homes have a lot going for them.  They have interesting architectural features like beehive ovens, window seats, plaster medallions, gunstock corners and hand carved mantels.  But sometimes these features are buried under the homeowners other passions, whether they be a collection of baskets, or a flock of decoys.... you get my drift.  Historic homes rarely suffer from not having enough personality.    To make your historic home more appealing to a broader range of buyers, I've gathered some of my favorite tips.

1.  Remove heavy window treatments.  

I know, I know, you had them custom made, with fabric that was woven on a 19th century loom, to match the period of the house. I do appreciate that.  But not all buyers will.  Festoons and jabots can make a space seem dated - not in a good way. Simple linen panels or roman shades will update your look.  If you have a nice view, you can remove the treatments altogether and let the wood trim be the star.

Benjamin Moore - Wedgewood Gray
HC- 146
2.  Paint color.  Nothing says 1980's in an 1880's house like mauve and powder blue.  Paint color is easy to fix and nothing gives a bigger bang for the buck.  For a safe and sophisticated pallette, choose colors from the Historic Color charts, like Benjamin Moore or California Paints.  Historic colors are usually low in saturation - they are greyed down to a sublte hint. Choosing a soft, neutral and modern color will go a long way towards making the house feel fresh.  For rooms that adjoin each other, consider painting them the same color to visually expand the space.  Not sure what color to choose?  Open a Pottery Barn or Ballard Design catalog and there will be many nice colors to chose from, complete with the manufacturers name and code.

3.  Lighting.  

Ceiling light - Pottery Barn
I'm not suggesting that you remove your original Tiffany chandelier from your Edwardian house.  But, let's face it, in most houses the original chandelier (if there ever was one) is long gone with the wind. And many "reproduction" lighting options are just plain bad.  This is another area where a few simple, inexpensive changes can make a huge difference.  Consider the effect of replacing your brass "colonial" chandelier with a linen drum shade hanging over a scrubbed pine dining table with black birdcage windsor chairs. Updated lighting can make the antiques feel more approachable and less like a museum.  This goes for table lamps as well.

4.  Simplify.  

This is a standard tip for all staging, but it is especially important in an older home that may be the repository of many years of family heirlooms and carefully amassed collections.  Find that balance between a stripped bare, cold, sterile environment and "where the heck is the sofa hiding".  I usually like to aim for a second home look.  You know, where there are some decorative accesories that help provide a sense of place and charm - a slipcovered sofa, a beautiful throw, candles, local artwork.  
Stitch and Sew slipcovers on Cape Cod

But the "stuff" that inhabits the homes of mere mortals is packed in a storage locker 20 minutes away.  Small pieces of furniture and accesories can look busy, especially in photos.  80% of buyers are looking online first - so it is important that your spaces look good in photos.  To help declutter - take some quick photos and look at them on your computer.  Where is your eye drawn to?  Is it focussed on that beautiful mantle, or the jumble of cords stuffed under the side table? 

Simplify... maybe the bed doesn't need an army of decorative pillows.  Perhaps a simple quilt with crisp white sheets and pillowcases and a vase of flowers on the bedside table would be more inviting.
The Paper Mulberry

5.  Furniture arrangement.  This can be very tricky in an older home where our forefathers seemed to think that every wall must be punctuated with as many windows, radiators and doors as possible.  Where's the TV to go?  Think - what is the most winning architectural feature in this room?  If it's the windows - don't block them, if it's the fireplace, don't put a bookshelf in front of it (don't laught - I've seen that).  If navigating through the room requires a light house at the far side to keep you from running aground, remove some furniture pieces.  

6.  Kitchens and baths.  
Perhaps this one should have been first.  Updated kitchens and baths sell homes.  However, these can also be big budget areas.  To make a big impact but keep costs down, focus on the flooring and the vanity in the bathroom.  If your bathroom is sporting gold floor tiles with peach roses, you can easily get a whole new look with simple gray peel and stick tiles from the home store.  A neatly folded stack of fresh white towels on the open shelf of a simple painted vanity and your are in business.  

If your kitchen is dated, don't be afraid to paint the cabinets.  The wood tone of kitchen cabinets is a dead giveaway to the year it was installed.  Paint them white, replace the hardware and clear off the countertops.  Make sure the appliances are up to the white glove test.  If you are lucky enough to have a pantry, make sure it is not jam packed.  Use baskets to help corral like items and make the space more visually cohesive.

7.  Take great photos.  

My parting advise is true for any home staging.  It is important, vitally important, that your photos look good.  You will probably need extra light sources when taking the photos.  Have fresh fruit in the kitchen and flowers on the wicker porch table.  It also helps to give a hint in the photo as to what room connects to the one you are in.  You may even want to light the adjoining room to help give a feeling of how the house flows.

After staging your historic home to appeal to buyers, don't be surprised if you remember why you fell in love with it in the first place and decide to stay put. 


  1. Staging a home to sell is a somewhat different animal when you are dealing with a historic or period home. While you want to make it appeal to the widest audience possible, you have to realize that most of the people interested in buying that type of home are attracted to historically decorated interiors. Most historic homes sell to a specific kind of buyer who is looking for character and architectural details that will make them fall head over heels. home stager


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