See How a Home Stager Updated a Small 1940s Living Room for 2023

published Nov 24, 2023
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Mustard carpet in vintage wood paneled living room.
Credit: Jordan Saritama

As any seasoned Apartment Therapy reader can attest, bigger isn’t better when it comes to choosing a home. In fact, it’s often petite spaces that are the most appealing because what they lack in square footage, they can more than make up for in coziness and style. Case in point: This petite bungalow in Seattle, Washington. Built in 1942, the two-bedroom, one-bathroom home had never been renovated until recently when it was purchased by a builder. 

The builder did a full remodel of the house plus its adjacent accessory dwelling unit (ADU) which features a kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. Among the changes were removing dated wallpaper and carpet (bye-bye, mustard yellow living room rug!), widening the doorway between the kitchen and living room to create a more open-concept space, and giving the whole home — stone fireplace included — new lighter, brighter paint.

Credit: Jordan Saritama

With the bungalow essentially a blank canvas, the builder called in the team at Upstaging Seattle to take the space from a 1300-square-foot empty box to somewhere buyers could imagine themselves settling down. Flavia Vigorito, co-owner of Upstaging Seattle, started by considering who the home’s buyer might be. “My vision for this property is directed toward a first-time homeowner — perhaps a bachelor who potentially works from home and is looking to generate additional income by renting out the ADU, or a new family with a child anticipating frequent family visits and in need of extra space to warmly welcome their guests,” she says.

With the outdated paneling and icky carpet that was likely to scare off potential buyers out of the house, Vigorito’s goal was to create spaces that showed buyers how the rooms could be arranged but were neutral enough to let them start imagining their own furniture and color schemes there. “Our aim was to ensure that prospective buyers immediately felt a sense of belonging and could establish an emotional connection by assisting them in envisioning the lifestyle this space could provide,” she explains.

Credit: Nathan Brown

In the living room, that meant bringing in furniture to make a comfortable seating area with the fireplace as a focal point. “Emphasizing the fireplace, we strategically arranged furniture to create a conversational area that seamlessly integrated with the kitchen, as the home has an open-concept floor plan,” says Vigorito. When selecting furniture, Vigorito was careful to choose pieces with the right scale for the modest space. “Matching the size of the furniture to the dimensions of the room is essential for creating a visually balanced and harmonious environment,” she says. “Our goal was to cultivate a cozy atmosphere while maintaining a sense of uncluttered openness.” 

Credit: Nathan Brown

Right-sized doesn’t necessarily mean small, though. In fact, putting under-sized furniture in a small room is a common mistake that makes spaces look smaller. Vigorito used a regular-sized sofa plus two chairs and two ottomans in the living room to provide additional seating and a pop of cognac and blue color. “In terms of accessories and decor, we opted for a neutral color scheme to attract a broad audience. However, understanding the targeted younger demographic, we incorporated playful wall baskets to introduce a textural element, adding depth and visual interest to the design,” she says.

In a rough Seattle real estate market, it was a big win to sell this small home for asking price.