Special Considerations for Staging Historic Homes

Home Stager with Nestings: Connecticut Home Staging and Model Homes

Special considerations for Staging historic homes:  what are they?  I grew up in Fairfield, CT, in a lovely old (old, old) Colonial revival, and admit to having a special affinity for historic homes.  When these houses are on the market, they require a special buyer.  Some REAs in Fairfield County, CT, specialize in these homes.  When it comes to Staging these houses, in addition to the usual cleaning, decluttering, editing, traffic flow, paint, decor and budget issues, the historic nature is yet one more layer of consideration.

The inherent nature, history and architecture of these homes must be respected and highlighted.  Sometimes you have to demonstrate how they can handle modern lifestyles.  Sometimes you just have to leave them alone and let them shine.

How would you advise someone selling an historic home?

Fairfield County, Connecticut, Home Staging company Nestings was called in to consult on three such historic homes.  The budgets were very tight; two of the homes are owner-occupied.

1700 LR

Ca. 1700:  Tiny historic house close to the road, with a large contemporary addition on the back.  Artistic tenant is currently using the living room as a studio.  There is no Staging budget and no furniture available for use.

When the tenant leaves, the art supplies will go with her.  I recommended removing the little antique bottles lining each window sill (way too granny), as well as the distracting brass fireplace doors.  The biggest issue with this part of the house was the musty smell, so all the junk and carpets in the rooms had to be removed, and the whole place cleaned.  This would allay any fears and prove it to be a livable space. 

This portion of the house would basically be empty, showing off the floors and beams.

I provided the agent with information on the house's history, courtesy of the internet.  I envision the target buyer as a designer, architect or artist whose primary residence is New York City, but wants a country home to completely overhaul.

Farmhouse DRCa. 1860:  Adorable farmhouse with original wide plank floors and exposed wood beams.  Minimal budget was largely relegated to paint and new bed linens. 

In the dining room, I suggested swagging a chandelier over the table.  Removing the china cabinet and floor lamp would improve flow.  Removing the wallpaper border and dark valance would return the space to a more timeless look.  I also recommended a new wall paint that would work better with the furniture, floors and beams.



Craftsman LRCa. 1920:  Lovely family home decorated with lots of antiques, mostly in the Craftsman style.  Craftsman is not everyone's cup of tea in this area; it's thought of as too large, bulky and uncomfortable.  But that's what we have to work with, so editing was key.  There was too much furniture in each room.

Removing the sofa will allow buyers to enter and cross the room to a dining room and sunroom.  Now it channels visitors straight through that door down a hall to the kitchen.  Two Craftsman armchairs will flank the fireplace.

Almost every room was wallpapered.  (Would you believe I have the same raspberry striated paper at home?)  Of course, all the paper has to go, along with the heavy window valances and colored sheers.  A neutral wall paint will still highlight all the architectural details, and the family photos will be packed up.

If we had lovely, huge Staging budgets, I could do a lot more with each house.  One thing I probably would NOT do is rent historically accurate period (or reproduction) furnishings.  Rather, I would use more transitional or even classic modern pieces to give each house a new vibe.

So what's your experience with historic homes?


Re-Blogged 1 time:

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  1. Dan Edward Phillips 09/06/2010 04:59 AM
Home Selling
Connecticut Fairfield County
Stage It Forward...
Connecticut Club
Home Staging
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Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging that Sells Portland Homes"

hi Julie ~ It looks like your plan for each of these charming historic homes is spot on ... honor the home, but make it lighter and brighter and more spacious by editing furniture as needed.  I just staged an historic home in our area, and when the architect-owner asked if we used antiques to stage, I explained that due to the profile of the target buyer for that particular home (likely younger buyers) we'd use furnishings that the target buyer would find appealing, modern without being trendy.  However it's also fun to use some pieces such as lamps or accessories that honor the period of the home, to make it all work together.

Aug 30, 2010 05:15 AM #1
Dan Edward Phillips
Dan Edward Phillips - Eureka, CA
Realtor and Broker/Owner

Good Morning Julie, great post on stagging historic home, we have a lot of them here!

Aug 30, 2010 05:16 AM #2
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

I have limited experience with historic homes.  I've only consulted on a few, and like your examples, very limited budgets.  There is usually a specific buyer, someone looking for a historic home.  It's more of a limited buying pool, I believe.  I agree with your advice on each of these homes.

Aug 30, 2010 06:35 AM #3
Anna Dovger
Add Value Home Staging LLC, 281-704-6607 - The Woodlands, TX
Home Staging -The Woodlands, TX

Julie, great advice to your clients. Will we see pictures? We don't have historic homes in my area but I recognize that raspberry color with oak furniture combination that pushes some only 10 years old homes in to that historic era.(I just got an idea for my blog)

Aug 30, 2010 08:45 AM #4
Kristine Ginsberg
Elite Staging and Redesign, LLC - Short Hills, NJ
NJ Home Stager

Thanks for the advice Julia - I live in an area filled with historic homes and your advise will come in handy!

Aug 30, 2010 11:20 AM #6
Chris Schneider
Artistic Staging and Design - Scotchtown, NY
Home Stager

I love that you blogged on this topic!

As a Home Stager I often sit back and want to take my own advice on de-cluttering and room purpose-ing and have given so much thought to how if I were to put my own home on the market I would certainly be breaking many Home staging rules. Now I don't intend to sell any time in the near future...this is our dream home we want to raise our young family in....however this is an early 1800's farm house that we are lovingly and painstakingly restoring in a Williamsburg style.

Now I know if I were to sell, that the dining room as a toy room would have to go (insert laughter here) along with the portraits and photos and bric a brac...but would I neutralize the color scheme into a more modern palate? No , I think it would detract from this house. My huge farmhouse table that takes up most of breakfast nook adds much more charm than a smaller contemporary dinette would.

I think an Older or Historic home does have a reduced pool of potential buyers. I would look at that pool of buyers and have to ask myself...how many would buy this home moving all their contemporary belongings into it and decorating as if it were any four walls in a subdivision...and how many of the buyers would decorate pulling the charm from Wide plank floors, period mouldings, low ceilings and huge fireplace mantles.

Although the basics of Home staging don't change (Cleaning, Decluttering, puposing each room, and improving flow) I believe the furniture and color palates of well decorated Historic Colonial and Victorian Homes  have much more room for forgiveness than a newer house or condo.

PS (Please note I said "well decorated" ...I've seen some victorian homes gone paint or paper crazy in not such a good way)

Aug 30, 2010 11:27 AM #7
Cathy Lee
CL Design Services Home Staging - Danville, CA

Great advise!! Honoring and respecting the home is essential. I too agree renting transitional pieces appeals to prospective buyer's.

Aug 30, 2010 01:27 PM #8
Tessa Skeens
Hampton ReDesign, Home Staging and Redesign - Denver, CO
Staging For Denver Realtors, Builders

Julia - great post on a topic that doesn't get too much coverage. Occasionally I've had the opportunity to stage homes that are historic for this area (although no where near as old as what you find in New England). It's fun but does represent different challenges especially with smaller rooms and kitchens.

I agree I like to use transistional furniture to update the home and give it a more contemporary vibe to appeal to the usually younger buyers who are moving into the more urban neighborhoods these homes are found in.

You definitely have a niche market there and congrats on doing such a great job with it!

Aug 30, 2010 02:06 PM #9
Alicia Barrington
Houston Home Staging Presents Alicia Barrington

Grrrrrrr from Houston!   Well now, Bless your heart, I enjoyed this post, but must respectfully disagree.  Houston Home Staging frequently utilizes antiques and period pieces in their stagings.  We wouldn't rent them, because we own them <G>!

In Houston we have a large supply of Craftsman homes.  In Galveston, we have an inventory of Victorian mansions and homes.   That is, if it wasn't destroyed in the Hurricane of 1900 (or Ike).  Having a ready supply of vintage and antique accessories/furnishings has been a staple of our business, and we feature this on our website:   www.houstonhomestaging.net (to view a video of one of these installations please scroll to the bottom of the website.   "Heights 2 Video" is a 1930's Craftsman manse that we recently installed).

We like to juxtapose a modern lifestyle on these architecturally significant homes, and so we'll utilize contemporary or transitional upholstered pieces, and honor the history of the house with antique or vintage pieces.

staging the heights

Again, bless your heart, this was a lovely post!

Aug 31, 2010 02:13 AM #10
Sally Weatherley
Vancouver Home Staging, Home Stager Vancouver, B.C

Julie - Love your post.  You're so lucky to be able to work with historical houses.  Love the first example, circa 1700.  Love the history back east and envy it.  As has been mentioned, here on the west coast, "old" isn't much older than 100 years.  My house was built in 1919 - I love the creaks, and old floors and nooks and crannies.  I think it's a wonderful added service that you research and offer a history of the house.  This would be a great tool for a Realtor® to have when showing the home. 

Aug 31, 2010 05:43 AM #11
Ginger Foust
Certified Staging Professional - Oakhurst, CA
Home Stager Oakhurst CA, Dream Interior Redesign & Staging

Julie, I had to smile when I saw your blog post title.  The only historic homes in my area are shacks left over from the 1849 Gold Rush...not exactly great for staging.  Would love the opportunity to work on some projects like yours but it's not to be.  Still enjoyed reading your information.   

Aug 31, 2010 05:52 AM #12
Julia Maher
Nestings: Connecticut Home Staging and Model Homes - Fairfield, CT
Connecticut Home Stager

Ginger - you always put a smile on my face!

Maureen, Tom, Cathy, Tessa & David:  Yes, the house does have to appeal to a wide range of buyers, so we really don't want a museum/period feel.  Smaller accents can pay homage to the architectural style!

Sharon:  There really is a limited pool of buyers for these homes.  Smart sellers have usually really updated features such as kitchens and baths.

Dan & Kristine:  Thanks for stopping by!

Anna:  We'll have to see how these houses end up looking.  These were all consultations, but one might get a "call back" from me - I'll keep you posted.

Chris:  Thanks for your very thoguhtful comment, especially "the furniture and color palates of well decorated Historic Colonial and Victorian Homes  have much more room for forgiveness than a newer house or condo" - excellent point!

Sally:  If there's a plaque on the front of the house from the local historical society, people will ask about the history!  My grandmother lived in a house that was partially burned by the British during the Revolution, and she sure knew everything about it!

BYH, Tom!!!  You know, I would use updated pieces but provide some accents that are more period.  Heck, I can pull some primitive and antique things right out of my own house too!



Aug 31, 2010 06:25 AM #13
Joshua Zargari
MJ Decorators Workshop LI staging and home decorating - Lynbrook, NY
MJ Decorators Workshop

Great post!

Aug 31, 2010 12:59 PM #15
Cindy Bryant
Redesign Etc. Home Staging - Houston, TX
"Houston Home Staging Pros"

I would use historic paint for that time period.  I'm sure every paint store has them.  That moldy smell could be a problem, do you think it's a water issue somewhere? Looks like it has potential, can't wait to see what you do with it.

Aug 31, 2010 05:25 PM #16
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

We have many designated historic neighborhoods in Dallas. Preservation Dallas is an organization dedicated to revitalizing historic structures in Dallas.  The organization is an excellent resource for those interested in restoring a property and keeping its historic characteristics.

Mar 07, 2014 01:33 PM #17
Travis "the SOLD man" Parker; Associate Broker
Team Linda Simmons, Enterprise, AL 36330 - Enterprise, AL
email: Travis@theSOLDman.me / cell: 334-494-7846

Excellent tips. I worked with a Historic Home a few years ago and wish I had seen this back then. Ended up in Foreclosure.

Mar 08, 2014 06:20 AM #18
Malendaz Coleman

Staging historic homes or any home is a must. It can mean allot when trying to get the best bang for your buck... Great Post...

Jun 09, 2014 10:09 AM #19
The Niche Agent
The Niche Agent
Your Niche Is Our Niche

I thought you may want to check out the interview I did with Valorie Ford on The Niche Agent. We talk about her transition from specializing in historic homes to getting her own radio show as a result of it. Let me know what you think...

I posted it on my AR blog, you can check it out here:



Ryan Smith - The Niche Agent


Jul 09, 2014 07:13 AM #20
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Julia Maher

Connecticut Home Stager
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