Our mission, should we choose to accept it: transform an older home without an open floor plan into a showcase that will rival any home boasting an 18 foot vaulted ceiling living room that flows seamlessly into the kitchen and then into the breakfast room and so on and so on and so on… If you know me at all, you know I don’t shrink from a challenge. So bring me your ranch homes, your cozy Colonials and your split levels and let’s give them a little makeover HGTV style. Since the advent of HGTV, Pinterest, Houzz and DIY channels available to us 24/7, many of us have developed certain ideas about what works and what doesn’t, what potential buyers want in a new home and what they avoid like the plague. I’ve watched as more and more clients stress and worry because their home doesn’t have this or is lacking that and they just don’t think that anyone will pay top dollar. Friends, take a deep breath… then exhale and relax. After twenty years in this ever-evolving business, I’ve learned a few things. The first is that there is always – ALWAYS – a buyer looking for something a little outside the ordinary. The second is that there is a great deal you can do with a home to make it desirable for buyers looking for those HGTV/Pinterest elements.
So, let’s talk about the open floor plan. I sell a lot of homes with open floor plans – a LOT! But that doesn’t meant that I can’t and don’t sell homes that weren’t built with an open plan. Most Realtors will tell you that open floor plans are highly desirable. They’re right. But that’s only part of the story. The concept of an open floor plan is really just that… a concept. It’s a feeling of continuity and flow and cohesiveness that a home conveys and you don’t need soaring ceilings and 50 square feet of contiguous space to accomplish a home that exudes warmth, enhances connections and displays a graceful flow from one room to another. In fact, a good foundation, a clean and neutral palette and a good purge will help achieve that impression of open space without actually removing walls and raising ceilings. Let’s get busy.
If you have the funds (and remember – much of the money spent should be considered an investment that you’ll recoup when you sell your home), consider installing hardwood floors that flow from room to room to room on the main level and in the main living areas of your homes. Nothing creates a choppy, disjointed feeling like hardwood in the foyer that leads to carpet in the living room that flows into tile in the kitchen. Instead, have rich hardwood flooring installed that flows from room to room to room. Talk to your hardwood installer about the best direction for your floors, too. Long, narrow hallways can make a home’s entry feel confining, but a large plank installed on a horizontal plane that flow directly into a living room or dining room creates a sense of expansive, contiguous space.
Once you’ve decided on a flooring option to create a nice, connecting foundation, it’s time to tackle the walls. Grays, beiges and whites are going to become your best friends as you attempt to create a unity between rooms that don’t actually – you know – unite. But, with a little help from our friends Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams, we can certainly camouflage that handicap. Decide whether you like warm beiges or cool grays (which are uber-popular right now!) and then pick a palette that you like best. Literally, pick a palette – a strip of colors from your favorite paint store and work with ONLY that strip of colors. Choose the darkest value of any one palette for the largest or most important space (likely your kitchen or living room) and then move one value down for the room next door and perhaps another value down for the hall or foyer. The point is, you’re creating a visual flow with the help of nice, clean neutral colors and you’re giving potential buyers a blank slate. That white paint I mentioned? It’s imperative that ceilings, crown molding and baseboards get a coat of bright, white paint.
Last, but not least, you need to seriously de-clutter. Nothing breaks up the flow of a home like oversized furnishings and overstuffed rooms. If you need to rent a storage unit for a bit, do it! Arrange furniture so that it is open to the entry of a room (or nearly so) and not cutting off the space from another room. Be careful not to just crowd furniture along the walls, though. The concept of an open floor plan is one that creates a sense of comradery. It’s not cozy to sit on a long sofa all the way across the room from a love seat. Instead, create sitting areas within a room or group of rooms. If you’ve stalked the pages of pinterest and you’re still at a loss as to how to arrange your furniture, consider hiring a stager. For a little bit of time and money, they can work wonders on your home. Don’t forget the tchotchkes… if they don’t flow, they need to go. Shelves should hold books and one or two additional items… a framed picture and a knick-knack. Consider storing bric-a-brac that is overly bold and ostentatious. Keep displays to one or two colors, metals or themes. Silver frames and trinkets on white shelves surrounded by a pretty gray wall is incredibly enticing and appealing.
Remember that sentence about taking a deep breath and relaxing? Do it again. And again. I know that this list of suggestions might seem a bit daunting, but actually, it’s far easier (and less expensive) than talking to a contractor about removing walls or opening spaces within your home and I really think that you (and potential buyers) will be just as pleased with the results!