See How a Lackluster Parlor Became a Stunning Living Room with Smart Home Staging

published May 17, 2021
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Credit: Courtesy of Sweet Life by Design

When you’re lucky enough to own a historic home, you want its one-of-a-kind charm to shine, especially if you’re putting it on the market. Highlighting original features like fireplaces, built-ins, and crown molding is key in conveying the unique personality of such a place.

Leah Gomberg, with Sweet Life by Design in Maplewood, New Jersey, understood this when she was tapped to stage a six-bedroom, four-bathroom home in Summit, New Jersey, that was built in 1905. The homeowners, who had raised their family in the home and were ready to downsize, had already painted the interiors in neutral colors to prep for the sale. But Gomberg recognized there was far more work to be done to make it appealing to today’s buyers.

“The layout of this house isn’t the ideal open plan that young families are looking for,” she says. “So, the staging challenge of helping a prospective buyer fall in love with this house was real!”

Overall, she wanted to make the rooms flow cohesively from one to another, to make the house seem less compartmentalized, and to define each space’s purpose so potential buyers could better see “what a lovely, easy-to-live-in house this could be for them,” she notes. She knew that the furniture couldn’t be too large, ornate, or modern, she says. “Each room needed to be memorable, warm, and inviting.”

One room that posed a challenge was originally designed as a parlor but, today, would be used as a formal living room. The space had a lot going for it, including a fireplace with a detailed mantel, built-in bookshelves and benches, crown molding, and baseboard molding. Thanks to four windows with shutters and two awning windows, the room is flooded with natural light.

But it’s a small space, measuring just 13 by 13 feet, and the built-ins take up a considerable amount of room. “If that sounds like a tricky space, it’s because it truly is. Figuring out how to set this room up can be a challenge for a stager and for a homeowner,” Gomberg says, noting that the homeowners had various chairs in the room in different styles. “It kind of looked like a place where unwanted furniture went to die. As you can imagine, this wasn’t inviting.”

Her priority was to showcase the fireplace and create a seating area that encouraged cozy conversation by the fire while allowing space to walk through to the next room. “The true goal is to make the room look like a selling feature instead of a deficit,” she notes.

Credit: Courtesy of Sweet Life by Design

To start with, she chose a “textural, elegant, and updated” design scheme, she says, that complemented the fireplace surround and its gold accents. After removing everything from the room, she experimented with several area rugs to ground the space and decided on a neutral rug with a subtle pattern.

Because the small room wouldn’t readily accommodate a sofa, Gomberg chose a set of four beige upholstered chairs with dark wood detailing to place around a gold glass coffee table. “Using a glass table keeps the room light and airy — a good tip for small rooms,” she says. “This conversational seating area is perfect for a room like this as it doesn’t feel too tight and still can be used for entertaining or reading a book or enjoying a good scotch!” Adding matching lumbar pillows to the chairs helped the seating area look even more cohesive.

There was no overhead light in the room nor many outlets, so Gomberg added one standing lamp and a lamp on the window seat — along with an open book that sets up a “sweet reading nook vignette,” she explains. A pair of matching pillows, one on each window seat, invites one to kick back and relax, while touches of greenery here and there provide freshness.

“When the homeowner toured the house, she fell in love with the room and wondered out loud why she never thought of setting it up this way,” Gomberg says.

The results speak for themselves: Within two weeks, the home sold for asking price.