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Repurposing an Interesting Piece of Furniture for a Specific Staging Need - part 1


It's that time of year again when we are gearing up to bring some new listings to the market for the Spring selling season.  Buyers have started their searches now that the holiday season has passed.  And even though the winter storms and cold temperatures will keep activity levels moderate for another month when we'll start to see an influx of new offerings, that time is not far from now.

We are well underway working with sellers to help them have their homes in show ready presentation condition when it's time to debut them to the market.  Presentation Consulting has become a popular service for us in the past few years and that can involve something as simple of helping a seller thin out the contents of their home to best make it attractive to the crop of buyers who will soon be considering a purchase of their home or more involved as to recommending renovations and updates, helping coordinate remodeling activities and providing staging services to help present their home in a way that maximizes the impact it will have on the buyers.  Many buyers need some visual assistance in evaluating whether a home can suit their needs - staging is a great way to lend that visual dimension and make it easier for potential homeowners to see themselves in the space. 

In some cases, we will start with a "blank canvas" - consulting with the owners on selecting furnishings to compliment the space or even shopping for them once we decide on an aesthetic.  Frequently, we work with owners to thin their furnishings and cull their best pieces to incorporate in a staging presentation and in many cases, fill in the gaps with newly selected items to complete the look.  We try to keep the purchases economical  and with an eye towards what the owner might be able to use in their next home as well.

Since we have been offering these services for some time now, we have amassed an inventory of versatile and current design inspired pieces that create a modern twist using traditional furnishings - bringing them up to date in their appearance.  Sometimes that involves refinishing or reupholstering a piece to suit the space.  Some of the best furniture is older furniture - quality of construction and attention to detail can typically be found in the older pieces as long as they have been taken care of over the years.  Their only short coming is they come with an "old fashioned" look that is not what today's buyers want to see.  However, take an old piece with character and give it a modern face lift and you could have a winner that provides the right statement and anchors the room in a way that a collection of new pieces cannot accomplish.  The best designs blend styles in an easy eclectic way so it looks like the room has been carefully chosen over time.  Too much of the same can look forced or contrived.  I like to inject a sense of the dramatic and whimsy into the room - sparking conversation and drawing attention to it and the rest of the furnishings.  These bursts of excitement can inspire design for buyers and get them talking.  It may help them see something they currently have in a new light with just a little work and before you know it, they begin to see themselves placing their own furniture in the space and feeling at home - that's the goal.

Many of us enjoy watching the home design and DIY shows on HGTV - one of my favorites is Flea Market Flip.  If you haven't seen it, make the effort - it's worth it!  The premise is simple and fun to watch - two teams of two friends/family compete against each other - each are given a modest budget to purchase items from a flea market and then with the help of talented crafts people on staff, repurpose their finds into home decor items that they then compete to sell at a flea market.  The winner is the team who earns the most profit on their sales.  It's fascinating what ideas people can design and create from odds and ends at a flea market.  I've seen many creations that look great and would be a wonderful design enhancement in many homes - and to think they were just cast offs from others that most people wouldn't give a second look at.

Thus it brings me to the focus of this week's design project.

I love old furniture - pieces that hail from the mid 19th to mid 20th Centuries - Victorian, Queen Anne, Edwardian, Arts and Crafts, East Lake Modernism, Prairie, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Mid Century Modern.  Now I wouldn't necessarily combine elements from all of these styles in the same room but certainly combinations of these when selected carefully can bring a terrific result - and yes, you can even add these to your rooms that feature  new pieces from the 21st Century.  The rules of interior design are not rigid or narrow - just use good taste, a sense of purpose and an eye toward a pleasing palette of color that compliments the space and the lifestyle you're trying to foster in the room.

For one such staging project, I was in search for a kitchen piece that for later projects could be used in other applications - a sideboard / hutch / work station - sometimes the space you're working in is limited so finding a piece that can provide multiple purposes can be a winner.  I also wanted something that makes a statement - I didn't want it to look just like cabinetry which would get overlooked because it blended in too much.  On a visit to one of my favorite second hand furnishings store, I found this collection of EastLake Furniture. 


It may be hard to see in the photo but the collection included a dresser with marble top and an attached mirror; a full size bed with headboard, foot board and matching side rails, a small cabinet with a marble top and missing doors and a small side table.  The wood is distressed, covered with a varnish that has created a yellow orange tinge to the alder wood it's made from.  Overall, the pieces are in good condition.  That's the nice thing about older furniture - it's all solid wood - no plywood or particle board.

I found a few other pieces in this shop and a couple of others that I considered for the project but this collection gave me the best value and inspiration for the item I needed.

My first inclination was to create a "baker's rack or station" out of the dresser and mirror - removing the glass mirror from the frame and building an shallow open cabinet with shelves behind the frame of the mirror to hold spices and baking supplies.  My second thought was to take the headboard and use that as a backdrop to the dresser and incorporate some additional elements to the headboard for shelving and towel holders.   The two pieces placed together are seen in this photo:

The headboard is wider than the dresser - which gave me some pause but as I've thought about it more, I am thinking of adding a wider butcher block surface to the top of the dresser that extends out to just inside the two side vertical posts of the headboard and affixing iron pipes under the ends of the butcher block to create towel hangers with an industrial look.  If I move forward with this concept, I plan to clean up but leave the marble slab in place and add the butcher block above the marble surface with a few inches in between so that the space allows for storing cutting boards, cookie sheets, etc for easy access.  It also would bring the surface of the butcher block up to the bottom of the horizontal rail in the headboard.  

I have already spend some time stripping the old varnish from these two pieces while I play around with how to combine them. 

Stay tuned for the next chapter in this EastLake inspired mash-up creation!  


About the Author:  For more than twenty years, David S. Drinkwater has been setting a quality standard for how real estate should be marketed and sold in the coastal communities of the South Shore - the "Gold Coast" region between Boston and Cape Cod.  Consistently one of the region’s Top Producing Realtors®, David has earned numerous sales and recognition awards over the years.  In his local community of Scituate, David has dominated sales in all price ranges since the start of this Millennium - based on MLS transactions measured as of August 5, 2015, David has closed more sales (both units & dollar volume) than any other agent – in all price ranges. Combined, his dollar volume is 66 percent higher than that of the next closest agent. The October 2004 issue of Boston Magazine named David as the Top Power Broker South of Boston for dollar volume sold in 2003.