Real Estate

See How a Stager Turned a Boston Living Room into “Zillow Clickbait” in 1 Week

published May 15, 2022
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Whether in real estate or any other business, when you’re looking to sell something, knowing your buyer is half the battle. 

When Jess Harrington, owner and founder of JessFinessed Home Staging & Design, was called in to stage a penthouse loft in a historic building in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood, she did her homework on the area.

“The market in Charlestown is appealing to affluent young professionals,” she says. “When we walk through a home prior to staging, we put ourselves in the shoes of the buyer.”

So, she decided that her approach to staging the one-bed, one-bath unit would be twofold. Harrington would bring a modern vibe into the 797-square-foot space to make it eye-catching in listing photos and showings, while still retaining its historic charm.

Those period details include original pine floors, exposed brick, and wood beams. Originally built in 1837 and bearing a bronze historical placard from the Charlestown Preservation Society, the home also had soaring ceilings, an open layout, plenty of natural light, and great views of the city skyline.

But the space hadn’t been updated in some time and contained many dated elements, including walls painted in shades of blue, yellow, and beige. And that steeply pitched ceiling, while striking, made it “very challenging to get a good feel for how much usable and livable space there was to work with,” Harrington says.

That’s especially evident in the main living area, where you could potentially hit your head on the sloping walls — as one of her tall team members found out the hard way.

To start the staging process, Harrington’s team emptied the room and focused on the paint palette. Luckily, the seller had already painted the brick wall a bright white, called chantilly lace, which helped the wall pop against the wood floors. Before, the beige color on the walls blended right in. The white paint also created an airy and bright feeling that set the stage for the modern furnishings she planned to incorporate without eclipsing the original accents.

Since the living area is right off the entry to the home, she had a lofty goal for the space: “I wanted a high-impact, knock-your-socks-off moment when you walk in,” Harrington says. She achieved just that by placing an oversized photo of rippling water (which she bought secondhand) over the walnut table in the adjacent dining area. 

“The blue in the art played well with the vintage print rug we brought in the living room, which had some of the same blues in it,” she adds. That rug was layered with another cream-colored area rug to add dimension and texture to the space.

When Harrington and her team first viewed the home, the sellers were moving out. So, ever resourceful, she purchased two dining chairs from them for the sitting area. “We buy as much secondhand as possible, and the molded Eames-inspired chairs were just perfect for the space,” she says, adding that they echo the color of the beams and the dining room table. “These things help to keep the eye moving, and tie the spaces together.”

The chairs and sofa — all low-profile — maximize the livable footprint of the space, given the pitched ceiling, Harrington says. On the neutral-toned sofa, a blanket and throw pillows play into the color scheme and invite guests to snuggle up in front of the wood-burning fireplace. A white lacquered coffee table adds to the bright, modern aesthetic and coordinates with a white pouf for additional seating.

Although she only had a week to complete the staging, Harrington’s changes made a dramatic difference. After quickly receiving multiple offers, the owners ultimately sold the home for $28,000 over asking price.

“Our strategy worked! The buyer’s agent even reached out to see if I would sell several pieces of furniture to the new buyers,” she says, which confirmed that she had staged successfully for the target market. “With the right team in place, you don’t need a lot of time to transform your listing into Zillow clickbait!”