Staging puts the best version of your house out in front, ready to meet your buyers. But is the process of staging an old house any different than staging a newer, modern home?
My team at HeartWork Organizing had the privilege of staging a gorgeous vintage home just outside of Philadelphia that dates back to 1809 and has been verified to have once been part of the William Penn estate, and if you have a soft spot in your heart for architectural character, you’re going to need a minute to enjoy this beauty.
You can view the listing for this lovely homestead here. (Edit: This home sold within 15 days of listing, proof positive that good staging and marketing are the keys to successful sales, every time.) As with any property, determining who are your buyers and what your buyers want is key. Buyers for a vintage home want light and bright rooms in good condition, large open spaces (but that doesn’t necessarily mean an open floor plan), and they want a move-in ready home (even if they plan to do a little or a lot of work to put their own stamp on the place). Most of all, they want to see all the great features of the property, because the majority of people in the world need to actually see a beautiful space and all the features it comes with. Don’t make them imagine it. Arrange the furniture to show off the property, not to show off your stuff.
Although you want to honor the bones of an old house, you don’t have to decorate with old styles. Staging doesn’t require that you use old furniture (or antiques) for an old home. You just need to show how a family might use and live in your house. Don’t be afraid to introduce more contemporary or trendy styles in your property if that makes your home more appealing for your target buyers.
Love wide porches and stately traditional forms? Yep, this house has got that, and not in the “my tract home builder thought this feature looked classic” kind of way. This is legit, right down to the picket fence.
This beautiful home shows off a sunroom with a lovely view to landscaped gardens and a large outdoor play space. The room itself features a lovely transom window above French doors, a fan, and the perfect place to have your morning coffee. But let’s talk about the old house features that you aren’t going to find in modern houses. See that panel molding leading into the next room? That’s because the original walls are nearly a foot thick. And original window shutters? Yes, please. All oak trim and a room air conditioner are modern conveniences that you get with a home that’s been well cared for over the years.
The living room shouldn’t make the buyer wonder. They need to know how to use the space. Where does a sofa go? Where does the TV go? Is it a large room? Are there too many doors for it to be useful? What are the features of the room that the buyer keeps once the seller’s furniture is removed? Architectural features like a full-height fireplace, built-in shelves, original six-panel doors, extra-deep window sills, and hardwood floors in great condition are all inherent features in the house that you just can find in modern homes. A large picture placed opposite the sofa can stand in for where a TV could go, without actually creating a big black spot in the middle of a beautiful room, and it makes the whole room feel more “finished”.
I always ask my team, have we really shown off those great features that are unique to the house when we stage? This set of built-ins is one of my favorite places in the house. To stage them properly we want to keep just one large item on each shelf, allowing the contrasting blue to show through. You might not own a white sofa, but it’s a great piece to keep the eye moving around the room, and it also brightens up the space.
Is there a good feel and flow to the rest of the house? By keeping the furniture simple and solid-patterned, we can see all the way through the French doors to the next room. Did you know that not everyone loves an open floor plan? But everyone loves a house with open spaces that connect well to each other.
Not every house has a home office, but this room sets up beautifully for a family who needs the option to work from home, complete with another large fireplace, built in display shelves, and enough doors to close off the space completely. To properly stage this space, we used a mix of vintage furnishings already on site, and a more modern and light area rug. There’s something here to appeal to every buyer, whether they lean towards contemporary or vintage. And let’s face it, don’t many couples have spouses who compliment each other, one with a bit more modern tastes and one with a bit more classic tastes?
At this point in the tour, if you are wondering if the rooms are really this big, the answer is yes. Pro photography is a must when staging (credit to Brett Furman Group’s photography for most of these pictures), paired with optimal and careful furniture placement to draw the buyers through the rooms. You’d be surprised how much of staging is moving furniture so it doesn’t block a buyer’s tour through a home. Also, remove any furniture that doesn’t help you tell the story of how a new buyer or family would live in the house. Just because you own it doesn’t mean it should stay in place while you show the house. Store, ship, or sell unwanted items so they don’t distract your buyer.
The kitchen in this home is a farmhouse-trend dream, complete with ceiling beams and, yes, another fireplace with a working heating stove.
Corner cupboard built-ins, enough room for a six-seat trestle table, and…
that copper-front apron sink! These are all features that would cost you dearly in a trendy renovation.
If you thought one sunroom was great, here’s your second sunny spot, just off the kitchen. Staged properly, the simple furnishings call attention to details like the stone wall feature, the kitchen pass-through, the beams and the seat-to-ceiling windows which, by the way, look out onto the adjacent nature preserve.
So how do you stage old house bedrooms? The same way, by calling attention to the large spaces that easily have enough space for a king-sized bed…
by calling attention to the features like even more fireplaces and large rooms that can hold queen size beds and still have room to twirl.
Every bedroom has something special, and our job as stagers is to show it off, not to have potential buyers get stuck on the furniture, since it should just register as, “Yep, there’s a good size bed in here, and oh, look! There’s another fireplace AND a built-in wall unit!” You might notice from these pictures that crisp white bedding is always a good choice. It gives a buyer a chance to register where the bed is, and then visually appreciate the rest of the features in the room; no busy pattern to distract or comment on!
There’s much more to this property, including a 4-car garage with an income apartment above (and possibly the nicest tenants I have ever met).
The outside is really fabulous, but honestly, you probably want to head to the open house to check out this beautiful property for yourself. This is one of the best values for the money I’ve seen in a long time.
Need more staging ides? Check out this extreme makeover home staging and check out this complete kitchen staging makeover on a budget.
Do you have an old house? Are you nervous or worried about staging it to sell?
Do you have some advice for showing an old house in its best light when its on the market?