See How a Stager Embraced ‘80s Wallpaper Borders in an Outdated Living Room

published Aug 14, 2023
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Wallpaper with border in light filled living room with large leather sectional.

Remember the wallpaper from your grandparents’ house? Maybe it mixed subtle tones of mauve and seafoam green, or even peach. No matter which colors, though, there was undoubtedly a border running around the tops of the walls.

Would you buy a home with wallpaper borders today?

If your answer was a quick no, then you might find yourself reconsidering after taking a look at this 1980s home, staged by Jessica Harrington of JessFinessed. Where many stagers would have immediately reached for the white paint, Harrington decided to work with what she had — in part because she knows that, at some point, a buyer may want to renovate the space. 

“For true ‘project rooms’ where I anticipate it would take more than paint and new lighting to yield the right effect and capture ROI, I like to show how charming and homey the space can be lived in as-is in the meantime,” says Harrington. 

She knows that most buyers are used to seeing bright, brand new, shiny renovated spaces on Instagram, but that’s not always realistic — and that’s not how most people live. Those perfectly styled spaces can feel unachievable, particularly when you’re staring down low inventory and high prices. But a seller who decides to list a home exactly as they’ve enjoyed it, rather than sinking money into a pre-listing renovation? That seems like real life. 

“When I approach a room like this for staging, I love showcasing how I would live stylishly in a home that has some quirky and dated elements,” Harrington continues.

In this particular home, the wallpaper was one of those elements. She has two choices when working with a feature with that much personality: She could either go neutral and counter the color and pattern, or she can lean into it and make it a focal point. 

She decided to lean in, noting that patterned wallpaper with the border and muted pastels was absolutely en vogue during its heyday. Its geometric, Southwestern-inspired motif made it easy to work with. It feels fresh, even in its retro color palette. 

“We mixed modern silhouettes, added extra texture with a black painted banana leaf wrapped table, and used some amazing textiles and art to pull in the color and pattern from the wallpaper in a way that felt playful and intentional,” Harrington says. The vibrancy of the accent pieces helps draw attention to the wallpaper, rather than letting it sink into the background. 

This project is a reflection of a larger shift in the staging world due to the rising interest rates and lack of availability. Buyers aren’t necessarily going in with money to burn on a renovation of a perfectly liveable home. “I want to showcase how charming and amazing the home is just as it is now, and that a renovation or other priorities can wait,” explains Harrington. In today’s market, she wants them to see the potential of a place exactly as it exists right now, older finishes and 1980s wallpaper included. 

“I think I am helping buyers envision properties that they may not have otherwise considered,” she says.

The listing agent, Seth Williams of the Reference Group, adds that this house was custom built by the owners, with every detail carefully chosen from the foundation 40 years ago. “Maybe the wallpaper is a little dated now, but this was their dream home and they built it custom for their family.”

And, if you can envision yourself making this eye-catching wallpaper work for you, this house just hit the market in Salem, Massachusetts, for $925,000.