09 November 2018

Preparing A Modern House For Sale? Think Minimalism

When Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), one of the founders of modern architecture, suggested that “less is more,” he was expressing his belief that simplicity and clarity lead to good design. If the Farnsworth House he designed in 1951 is any indication – and it most definitely is – the German-American genius was right.

With apologies to Mies, “less is more” is also a good principle to embrace when you’re staging a modern house for sale.

But before we discuss the “how” of staging, let’s look at the “why.”

For our purposes here, “staging” means preparing the interior of your modern home for all of the potential buyer visits, real estate agent walks-through, and weekend open houses that are necessary steps in the dance you perform on the way to selling your house.

The reason for all the prep work is to make your house appeal to the highest number of potential buyers so that it will sell quickly and for top dollar. Is it worth it? Well, according to a survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors, 77 percent of home buyers find it easier to see themselves living in a house that’s been staged and 40 percent are more likely to visit a house they’ve seen online that’s staged versus one that isn’t. As for the bottom line, there’s abundant evidence to indicate that properly staged houses bring in better offers and higher selling prices than houses that aren’t staged.

Mid-century Modern minimalism.
That brings us back to “how.”

Of course, the basics for preparing any home for the market apply to modernist houses as well. Check out these links to get that ball rolling:

Beyond those basics, the key to staging a modern house – from mid-century modern to new construction -- lies in the architecture itself.

Less Is More:  Think about it. What you love about modernist houses is what potential buyers love as well or they wouldn’t be considering your modern house. You love the simplicity of the form and the clean, clear lines; the open, unfettered floor plans; the extensive use of glass that provides an abundance of natural light and a strong visual connection to the outdoors; and the honest use of natural materials.

Spaces designed with a modern aesthetic are bright, light, clean, and organized. Simplicity and clarity not only lead to good design; they also lead to good staging. 

White and bright:  The first step might be a fresh coat of white paint on the walls, especially the living/dining/kitchen area. Nothing lightens and brightens a modern interior like fresh white paint – unless it’s fresh white paint combined with sparkling glass. So be sure to have all the glazing in your house cleaned, inside and out, so that it’s ready to welcome the natural light that will dazzle potential buyers. 

Large, thriving green plants in modern containers or planters are visually appealing additions to your modern space. If you have a few already, good. If, however, you have a collection of violets in cute little pots, ask a neighbor to take care of them while your house is on the market.

Pare it down: Whether or not you practice minimalism on a daily basis, you want to stage your modern home for sale as if you do. So while you’re removing all vestiges of clutter and personal items (as each link above admonishes), consider removing all but the most necessary furnishings. In the living area, for example, that usually means one sofa, one coffee table, and one side chair, or a pair of matching side chairs, to complete the “conversation” area.

With minimalism the mission, put away the magazines on the coffee table (yes, even Architectural Digest), consider taking down any (unfortunate) “window treatments” that obscure the glazing in your house, remove all small area rugs that interrupt the view of your wood, slate, tile, etc. floors, and edit throw pillows down to one or two on the sofa. Remove throw blankets altogether.

Clean, clear surfaces: In the kitchen, clear off the countertops. (Notice the perfectly staged kitchen above.) Store small appliances and canisters, stash that jar of utensils and even the knife block and put away the oils and spices near the stove. If you have open shelving, edit the contents down to the bare minimum. White plates and bowls look beautiful on open shelving. The goal is to let the kitchen’s design, cabinets and countertops claim the spotlight so that potential buyers can imagine their stuff there without having to look through your stuff. A large stainless steel bowl full of fresh oranges or green apples, or an Alvar Aalto vase with blue hydrangea blossoms can provide a simple pop of color on a countertop.

Along with the kitchen countertops, streamline the tops of dressers and bedside tables, credenzas and buffets, and other furniture surfaces that remain after you’ve edited furnishings down to the most essential. Bare surfaces are best if your pieces are made of beautiful natural materials. For the dining table, one large platter or bowl is all you need for a centerpiece, as you can see in the modern dining area below.

As for artwork and other accessories, put away all but the largest paintings, framed prints, sculpture or artifacts. (Borrow large pieces from friends if necessary.) Remember: Scale is key and it's always better to go too big than too little because the latter just looks busy. Again, you want potential buyers to see the house's architectural design and modern finishes not your collection of Russell Wright pitchers or Eames Elephants. (Kudos if you have such collections, by the way!)

A well-designed modern house is as much a work of art as it is a house. Let that concept guide you as you prepare your work of art for its next owner.

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Perhaps you don’t agree with our approach to staging a modern house. If so, say so! Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.