See How a Home Stager Took This Builder Grade Living Room from Cold to (Very!) Cozy

published Jan 17, 2024
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Fireplace in white living room before renovation.
Credit: Beth Peterson

When scrolling through real estate listings, traditional, builder grade homes are a dime a dozen. White walls. Cream wall-to-wall carpet. Zero trim. Mini-blinds. You know the look, and you probably scroll right past it.

So when Robert Lueke listed this Bellevue, Washington home, he brought in Modernous, a staging firm with a mid-century twist, to give the home a unique, vibrant upgrade that would stand out on the market — and they had to do it using only furniture. 

“This house was a large, traditional tract home,” explains Sally Julien, Principal at Modernous. The client wanted the staging to give it a modern look that would differentiate it from the other, similar houses in the neighborhood that were also for sale and vying for buyer attention. The house itself needed cosmetic updating that the seller did not want to tackle before listing, so Julien’s goal was to create a design that would showcase the blank slate of the house while inspiring a young, cool family up for the challenge of updates. “We wanted them to walk in and be able to imagine what it could be,” said Julien.

Starting at the literal bottom, Julien made the bold choice to layer a rug over the plush wall-to-wall carpet — a decision she acknowledges isn’t always straightforward. “We like to layer rugs in certain rooms to add texture and pattern. The key is to get the right texture so the two rugs aren’t similar,” says Julien.

Credit: Kimberly S. from Virtuance

In this room, the rug not only distracts from the standard carpet, it adds print and interest too. “You can see a flatweave rug on top of the pile carpet. This ensures that they aren’t competing and allows us to add an element of texture to these key spaces.” Julien also explains that the size of the rug is important, especially when layering over a wall-to-wall carpet. It’s tempting to go too small, but for the layering to work, the top rugs need to be generously sized. “If the rug is too small and you see a lot of carpet around it, it will look ‘off’ and unbalanced,” notes Julien.

Rather than having the sofa face the fireplace, Julien arranged the sofa and two welcoming, large scale accent chairs perpendicular to the hearth. This living room layout creates a more approachable conversation space that encourages buyers to walk into the living room and linger. “If the sofa was facing the fireplace, you would have been looking at the back of the sofa as you walked in. It feels inviting,” says Julien. This is key when appealing to buyers, but it also makes sense for homeowners. “This arrangement allows people to sit facing each other while enjoying the fire. You want to walk in and sit down!”

Credit: Kimberly S. from Virtuance

A glass and metal coffee table fits the scale of the furniture and allows the rug to have its moment. Throughout the space, Julien brought in colors that flowed with the rest of the house. While this room is white, there are red walls visible from the room, and Julien echoed that hue by bringing warm tones into this living room. “We decided to bring in other warm, tonally similar colors to speak to those dark red walls, without making red the main color. We went with pepper-y orange, red, and complementary colors like green to keep everything feeling fresh and authentic.”

The art continued the color palette, and the pieces are sourced by Modernous, not acquired through a mass market store. “We source all of our art piece-by-piece. The extra large piece behind the sofa came from the estate of the artist, Inez Starr. Her paintings are huge, bold, and colorful,” says Julien. The vibrant abstracts bring the mid-century-inspired space alive, giving it a feeling of warmth and energy that you won’t find in most tract house Zillow listings — and it sold over asking price in just a week. Closing was exactly one month after the mid-century makeover went in.