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  • by Desiree Mastracchio, DMDesign

10 Essential Updates for Traditional Homes


The north-Atlanta suburbs are filled with stately brick homes now 25+ years old, built and decorated in traditional Southern style. As empty-nesters begin to downsize, many are surprised to learn that while they were building careers, raising children and saving for retirement, interior decorating styles have changed dramatically. Some of what we once considered classic styles are now deemed old-fashioned or outdated. These are the 10 things that you simply must do to make your traditional home market-ready for today's buyers. If you don't, be prepared to give major allowances or to help sell your neighbor's house instead.

1) Kitchens

They don't have to be complete remodels, and they don't have to be top-quality. But a kitchen has to give a positive first impression, or buyers won't even visit the property. This means honey oak cabinets should be painted white, cream or light gray, or restained to a more current finish. Black granite counters should be replaced with something lighter; and old appliances must be switched out to stainless steel, even if they're medium-grade. For major savings, shop around for quartz remnants and appliances soon to be discontinued. And one more thing... don't leave a microwave on the counter. Either have one built in, or just remove it altogether! These upgrades are not as expensive as they sound - a couple thousand dollars at the front end instead of a $10,000 allowance at closing.

Paint honey oak kitchen cabinets

(courtesy Nina Hendrick)

2) Bathrooms

As with kitchens, while complete remodels are ideal, they may not be practical for all sellers. But certain updates are necessary to make the home competitive. If they are not done by the seller, the buyer will expect an allowance that will cost more in the long run. Important upgrades for a good first impression include getting rid of '80s-style fiberglass drop-in showers and tubs; cultured marble vanities and surrounds, and dated fixtures. Shop big box stores for replacements that look great but aren't super expensive. Replace any "builders' brass" fixtures with a satin gold or brushed nickel.

3) Floors

Wood floors will never go out of style, but they do get worn down. Sellers should not only sand and restain them, but update the color as well. Dark floors are currently on trend, and will be in style for several years to come. If a house doesn't have much natural light, a better option could be a light gray-wash stain with a matte finish.

If the house is a little dark, choose a gray wash stain for the floors

4) Paint

Everyone knows neutrals are best for selling, yet too many homeowners still have hunter green bedrooms, red dining rooms, and contrived faux finishes that are begging to be covered. Yes, neutrals are a little boring, but they get the job done. Add pizzazz with brightly colored throw pillows, artwork or accessories.

Paint colors Before and After (below)

5) Wallpaper

And speaking of walls, let's talk about wallpaper. While wallpaper is making a comeback, don't confuse 2017 styles with 1990s stripes, damasks, florals, or borders. Have it taken down, paint it a quiet neutral hue, and take this buyer bargaining chip out of the equation.

6) Window Treatments

Many sellers believe that their custom window treatments are a draw for home shoppers. But unless they are Roman shades or simple panels, most traditional curtains and valances should come down. Younger buyers like a clean look for windows. Heavy, highly stylized draperies not only look dated, but block natural light and hide some of the best features of the house - the windows and the view to a beautiful yard.

7) Rugs

Traditional and Oriental rugs make a statement when listing a house, and not a good one. Although the furnishings are not sold with the house, home buyers have a hard time separating the decor from the house itself. If it's too traditional, their mind subconsciously tells them, "This is an outdated home." Replace dark patterned rugs with solid colors in modern textures, including sisal or seagrass; or just leave your updated wood floors bare.

Replace Oriental rugs with something solid, or skip the rugs altogether

Before and

After (right)

8) Furniture

Many traditional homes are filled with extremes: either comfy oversized sofas or stiff Queen Anne style pieces, neither of which have the clean lines or streamlined size that make a house look large and open. This doesn't mean sellers have to get rid of all their furniture and buy new things just for listing -- updating the look doesn't require a total do-over. Take out 1/3 to 1/2 of the furniture; break up furniture sets; add a few new but inexpensive items (think TJ Maxx or Target.)

Add modern chairs to a traditional leather ottoman for a streamlined, current look

9) Fabrics

Window treatments, bedding, furniture upholstery, shower curtains.... our homes are filled with fabrics that speak to buyers. Dark colors, especially black, hunter green, burgundy and gold, should be used sparingly, if at all. When in doubt, opt out of florals, damasks, and plaids and replace them with solids. Even a simple white or taupe slip cover in linen, cotton or denim can give an older couch a clean, updated look.

Choose simple fabrics and rugs in solid colors

10) Add the Unexpected

Most people stick to one general style in their decor - this is especially true in traditional homes. The stuffed burgundy leather sofa coordinates with the green and burgundy plaid armchair which is complemented by the gold taper candles and the rose bouquet print above the fireplace. While this look is fine when decorating (which appeals to your own sense of style), it's better to break it up when staging (which appeals to the general population.) Throw in some modern artwork to jazz up the traditional mantel. Add some trendy colors like tangerines or lime greens to brighten a more conservative or neutral palette. Incorporate organic textures to add interest to a predictable backdrop. While it's true that it's your house and not the furnishings that are for sale, the style of your decor does make a difference. And the element of a decorative surprise could help your home stand out in a buyer's eyes.

Add something unexpected


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