Real Estate

See How Smart Staging Saved a Historic San Diego Home from Being Torn Down

published Jul 6, 2022
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Credit: Courtesy of Outstaging

Stager Miri Ben Ishai knew there was a lot on the line with this project. Built in 1947, the home on San Diego’s Coronado Island was full of original details and charm, but they were obscured by the dark, dated look of the property. The homeowners’ real estate agent told them that the 2,505-square-foot home would likely be purchased to tear down.

Seeking to preserve the historic property, the sellers tapped Ben Ishai, a staging designer and consultant with Outstaging, serving San Diego County, California. Although the homeowners didn’t have a big budget, they wanted to stage the living room, dining room, and sunroom — while virtually staging the rest of the house — in the hopes that a buyer would see the home’s appeal and decide not just to buy it but keep it intact.

“I wanted to showcase property’s potential — what it could be — by creating a luxurious, cozy, stylish, and welcoming space,” Ben Ishai says. But it was an uphill battle. While retaining original features and fixtures can be charming, the ones in this home had never been updated or remodeled. Combined with the worn floors and a lack of lighting, the five-bedroom, five-bathroom home felt dim and depressing.

To transform the selected rooms, Ben Ishai’s primary objective was to brighten them as much as possible, whether through furniture color, artwork, additional lighting, smart mirror placement — you name it. By adding key pieces of furniture, she also sought to establish a contemporary aesthetic that would gel with the home’s historic charm.

This strategy worked wonders in the home’s living room, which she described as “dark and dingy,” featuring worn dark-wood floors and zero ceiling lights.

To illuminate the room, Ben Ishai placed two oversized mirrors from Restoration Hardware on either side of the fireplace, which sit on the floor and lean against the white walls. This instantly bounces light around the room and creates the illusion that it’s larger. 

Credit: Courtesy of Outstaging

Then, to add more light, she flanked those mirrors with a pair of photographer’s tripod floor lamps from Pottery Barn, which provide powerful illumination. These lamps are then bookended by two sizable windows, essentially creating two identical sets of triple light sources — all centered on the focal point, the fireplace.

Inspired by the home’s location a block from the beach, Ben Ishai created a coastal feel by incorporating touches of wood and blue hues. “I created an exciting visual mix of textures, colors, and shapes,” she says. Surprisingly, she also added the color black to the mix. “This is the only color that can unconsciously take the focus off the brown and outdated look,” she explained. 

White-and-blue abstract art above the fireplace echoes that coastal vibe while drawing the eye up toward the high ceiling. An area rug with a geometric print matches the color scheme and grounds the seating area, which includes off-white club chairs with blue accent pillows and a light blue sofa with white accent pillows and a white throw blanket.

An oval coffee table made of reclaimed wood, black pedestal side tables, and black-and-white tufted benches by the windows encompass both form (matching the color scheme) and function (offering spots for drinks, books, or seating). Plus, they don’t block the mirrors or the views through the windows. Finishing touches include books laid out on tables, sleek metallic accessories, and plants that bring liveliness to the space. 

When the living room staging was finished, even the homeowners were stunned. “Our clients couldn’t believe it was the same space,” Ben Ishai says. “It was sold within a week!”

But did she accomplish her mission to save the historic home? Yes, indeed, and the new owner is currently using it as a rental.