This Living Room Proves That “Improve and Remove” Meetings Are Worth It

published Sep 13, 2023
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A white living room with white leather couch.
Credit: Cara O’Halloran

When a homeowner looks at their house, it’s hard to see what needs to be updated. They live in it day in and day out; they enjoy what they’ve done with it. Even if they’re selling, there are things they might never think to change about the place.

But that doesn’t mean buyers will love it in the same way. What makes a house a home isn’t necessarily what sells — and creating a styled yet broadly appealing look is key.

That’s why Ashley Tapley of House Candy Home meets sellers for a pre-sale consultation. “This includes floor-to-ceiling recommendations with shoppable mood boards the homeowner can use to improve the home and listing photos so they can get top dollar for their home,” she says. “I suggest what to remove and what to improve.” It’s an “improve and remove” meeting, if you will.

And that’s exactly what she did in this San Jose home, listed by Tim and Cara O’Halloran from The O’Halloran Group with Coldwell Banker. “I suggested new interior paint colors, new flooring, new kitchen counters, new lighting, cabinet and door hardware,” Tapley explains. “It costs money, but in the end, these investments pay off in spades.”

One of the most dramatic transformations in this 2,700-square-foot home was in the living room, which Tapley took from a cozy taupe den into a striking space with contrasts of dark and light. The biggest changes were all thanks to removing items rather than adding. First, she removed the heavy window treatments, which were blocking light into the room. Then she took the abundant accessories, throw pillows, and the large rug out so she could start over with a blank canvas.

Credit: Beyond Marketing

Tapley “color drenched” the fireplace wall in Benjamin Moore’s Knoxville Gray, which isn’t gray at all. Instead, it’s a rich blue-green that still feels comfortable and warm. “It’s so complex and moody. Sometimes it looks more navy blue and sometimes more green,” Tapley says. “I decided to ‘color drench’ the space because the moldings and mantle were dated and looked really choppy. This made the room feel more updated with a few simple strokes of paint.”

When it came to furnishings, Tapley had to consider the homeowner’s tastes, since it was an occupied stage (meaning the seller was still living in the house). She couldn’t choose anything too precious since the sellers had a dog. It eventually came together with a mix of their own furnishings, rented staging items, and accessories and art “shopped” from other rooms. Just changing the scale of the art above the fireplace totally shifted the way the hearth looks, giving it a more spacious, clean aesthetic. Adding a few baskets lent a textural touch.

Credit: Beyond Marketing

Tapley kept the sofa in generally the same spot as the owners already had it, but replaced the dated ivory leather with a warm cognac leather Chesterfield sofa. She subtracted one accent chair from the mix, along with the bulky floor lamps. But she used their existing coffee table and styled it with a mix of their own items and borrowed accessories. By opting for less furniture in the space, Tapley drew attention to the hearth bench, which had originally appeared dated. Once there was a more open layout in the room, the color-drenched bench became an eye-catching feature.

Lastly, she made small updates like covering the brass detail on the hearth and switching the fan to an overhead, semi-flush mount light fixture. She even swapped out the door hardware. “When little things like that are updated, people make the mental leap that the entire home is updated,” Tapley says.

Tapley’s staging resonated with buyers looking for a turnkey, updated space. It was under contract within days, and the demand of multiple offers drove the price $94,000 over listing. “It went from listed to sold in three weeks,” Tapley says.