You’ve probably heard the saying that kitchens and bathrooms sell a house. Well, what if the kitchens and bathrooms are dated? Is your home doomed to sit on the market forever? Not necessarily. It’s what you do next that might make the difference. No, I’m not suggesting you rip it all out and update it before you sell. While there are times that is an appropriate consideration, you’d be surprised how often it’s NOT necessary. Here’s how I see it as a stager. I’ll use a recent real-life example for you.

Condo in need of an update

A couple of weeks ago I went on a walkthrough with a listing agent, she had hired me to stage a condo in uptown. First, just the fact that it was a condo in uptown is exciting. I find something exciting in every stage but the energy of Uptown is truly special.

As I parked and made my way to the lobby I became more excited that the condo I was staging was high-end, state of the art, uptown chic. I met Liz in the lobby to head up to the 9th floor, I asked “What are you going to list it for?”  She replied, “500-ish.”  Immediately my excitement was a bit dampened.  You see, for Uptown that price point is low.  


It didn’t take me long to figure out why. She unlocked the door and upon entering the unit, I thought, ‘Oh I get it.’  The floors, cabinets, paint color, tile, countertops all screamed mid-90s.  And the furniture was not helping.

This seller had actually hired a designer to put furnishings in place for, well, staging purposes. However, something was off. The seller knew it, Liz the real estate broker knew it, and, well I could see it right away.

  • The space and finishes were not considered in the choice of furniture and artwork. The furnishings were actually clashing with, hence highlighting the outdated tones and finishes. The furniture was high sheen chrome, polar whites, smokey grays, and primary colors.
  • There was nothing about the furniture that spoke to and bridged the space. I also might add there was too much furniture of the wrong scale in some areas and not enough in others.
  • The living room was hardly maneuverable with really big pleather chairs (one bright red) and the office was sparse and sad.

The worst part; the battle of the finishes was distracting from the very best and most important aspects of the property, the view, the height of the ceilings and the beautiful flow.


Take cues from the space

I was asked if I could stage with some or all of the furniture that was in place, with the caveat I was hired and please use my discretion to fix what was a furniture issue not a finish issue. I soaked in the darker-toned woods, red glass sconces over the island,  black granite countertops. I used the incredible urban view beyond the giant metal and glass windows as my muse. Simply put I met the space where it is, and what it is. 


Edit, edit, edit

All the chrome, polar white, primary colors had to go. I did use a few pieces that were in place. One in particular was a large darker wood console. It fit well against a long wall and the wood tone complimented the tone of the floors. I layered warmer neutrals, darker woods and soft textures blankets and my favorite macrame ottoman and just a hint of color. The artwork was key in speaking to the reds in the space. My artwork held hands with the red and took it to an elevated yet softer look.  


Highlight the light

What I take into consideration when staging a less-than-updated space is what we want to highlight.  For this condo, the large windows letting in lots of light, the openness and fantastic layout were key to why someone would want to buy this unit. The urban scapes happening outside the windows are the artwork. In this case, forcing furnishings that want to be in a different setting highlights what is outdated and draws your eye away from the aspects of design that are unique to this space. This reminds the buyer that architecture and location can’t be replaced and are the real value of real estate.  

I talked about this same topic from the listing agent’s point of view in Short Walk Home

The bottom line

In most cases less is more, and throwing money at a property that the seller is leaving, often is not the right financial choice. Meet the property where it is and what it is first. 

Other stories of interest:

The popularity of postmodern design

Nature has the 2023 colors of the year