See How a Home Stager Transformed a Wood-Paneled Family Room into a Breezy Oasis

published Feb 7, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Before: Dated living room with pickled-wood paneling and dog beds on floor
Credit: Leah Gomberg

If you can’t imagine living without your dog, we get it. They’re human’s best friend for a reason.

But if you’re looking to sell your home, you’ve got to accept the hard truth that somebody else might be turned off by the presence of your pet in the house. Whether due to allergy concerns or worries about odors and stains, it’s pretty much a rule of thumb that, when prepping a house for the market, you should hide any signs that Fido lives there.

That was one of the first changes professional stager Leah Gomberg, with Sweet Life by Design in Maplewood, New Jersey, made when working on a five-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bath home in nearby Short Hills. So, when tackling the family room, removing the two dog beds was a no-brainer. “Sweet as they were, there needed to be no sign of dogs in the online photos of the house so the beds (and crates) and dogs went to a doggie hotel for staging, photos, and the open house,” she says.

Another issue in the home, which was originally built in 1972 but had been well-maintained and updated about two years prior, was the dated aesthetic. “My goals for the house were to make it feel updated and cohesive so a young buyer could see themselves living there,” she says. On the positive side, the home had high ceilings and quite an open layout; the family room, in particular, had skylights and a window wall overlooking a lush yard.

The family room’s dated pickled-wood paneling caught Gomberg’s eye immediately. “When I did my walk-through consultation at this house, I knew the family room needed some big changes to make it more attractive to the prospective buyer,” she says. “When I emailed my clients my detailed staging recommendations, it included painting all of the woodwork in the family room.” 

She knew it seemed like a big ask, but she explained how important the room was, and they agreed. A fresh coat of Benjamin Moore’s Classic Gray on the walls and trim gave the room an “instant update,” she explains. “Painting it all one color makes the room feel more open and airy and less chopped up.” The dated ceiling fan, a focal point in the space, was also replaced with a more minimal design.

Credit: Leah Gomberg

When it came to furnishings in the family room, the homeowners’ pieces were oversized for the space and leaned toward a traditional style. “It was set up for living, which is totally fine — for living — but not for selling,” Gomberg says. “When you put a house on the market, it needs to reflect the ‘lifestyle’ of the house. Every room needs to have a meaning and feel cohesive and update. A buyer needs to be able to picture themselves living in the house.”

To achieve a more transitional look, she removed nearly all of the furniture, except for the glass table. A small sectional sofa in a neutral hue and a plush blue accent chair were added to provide stylish seating. The large black-and-white area rug grounds the room and provides a stylish touch.

Credit: Leah Gomberg

Since the homeowners were going to continue living — and working — in the home until it was sold, the bulky desk in the corner was replaced with a more modern, streamlined piece. “In COVID times, it is super important to show where people can work and where kids can do remote learning all from home,” she says. “The staging of this room really spoke to young families.”

The final result of Gomberg’s staging was a hit in more ways than one. Not only did the home sell at its asking price within seven days, the clients loved the new furniture and accessories so much that they purchased them to use in their next family room. Talk about a win-win.