See How a Home Stager Opened Up a Living Room with White Paint and Black Accessories

published Sep 8, 2021
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Credit: LTW Design

There’s such a thing as taking an aesthetic theme too far. But, when executed with a light hand, the results can be stunning.

Leia T. Ward, founder and principal designer of LTW Design in Ridgefield, Connecticut, knew this when staging an equestrian estate about 45 minutes outside of New York. The property came with a barn and a ring for riding, in addition to the main house.

Ward wanted to carry that equestrian vibe into the interiors of the home —  which was in good condition overall and “just needed some small tweaks,” she said — but without going overboard. 

“We knew it’d be a professional rider’s dream, however, we really wanted to expand the appeal to non-riders as well,” she says. “We chose to create a staging design that was more modern than the traditional equestrian aesthetic in order to speak to young buyers who may not ride but appreciate horses and will fall in love with the chic style and the incredible grounds.”

That approach is perhaps best seen in her staging of the large family room that serves as the home’s primary gathering area. “It has beautiful French doors that lead to the patio, overlooking the pool and 45 acres,” she says. “We really wanted it to feel calm and inviting.”

But, those French doors on one wall — coupled with a main wall comprising a window, an off-center fireplace, and built-in shelving — posed a problem. “We needed to create a focal point,” Ward explains.

First, to open up the space, she and her team removed some of the platforms in the built-in bookshelves, making more space to display larger sculptural statement pieces. They also nixed the dated brass bench covering the fireplace, leaving its black stone surround. They then painted the remaining shelving, walls, trim, and ceiling a crisp white. “We pulled bold black and white accessories from our inventory to layer into the bookshelves to create a visual impact,” Ward notes.

Credit: Andrea Carson Photography

Next, instead of fighting with the off-center fireplace, she created an oversized seating area to fill the empty space on one side, provide balance, and make the fireplace appear more centered. The large U-shaped seating area features an oversized black coffee table, two large white-linen sofas, and two roomy and modern accent chairs placed directly across from the fireplace. A chunky hand woven rug in a neutral cream hue grounds the arrangement, while cashmere throws and pillows “elevate the space and give it a very luxurious feel,” Ward says.

As for that much-needed focal point? Ward chose a stunning oversized photo of two brown horses nuzzling by Robert Dutesco of Sable Island Horses and placed it over the fireplace. The wall art not only adds a pop of color to the black-and-white palette and draws the eye deeper into the room, but it also nods to the equestrian nature of the property — in the best way possible.