Styling a mid-century modern home to sell

With almost 6000 people following Secret Design Studio on Facebook I thought it would be interesting to get some opinions about the best way to furnish a mid-century or post-war home from a broad range of people including buyers, sellers, stylists and real-estate agents.

On the 26th July I posted “Secret Design Studio regularly gets contacted by folks who are having to sell their parents home. Often it is the house they have grown up in, so while sentimentally attached to the home, they still would like to maximise the sale value.

Quite often these homes were built by their parents, have been cherished, loved, and well maintained, but are sitting on valuable real estate, such as this home in a prime corner position in Oakleigh South.

Secret Design Studio, Mid-Century Modern architect design, Melbourne, Dr Retro House Calls

Many vendors of mid-century and post-war houses want the best price for theit property but what is the best way to style such a home to the market?

So my question to you is “How important is the original furniture to the presentation of an older home if you were a potential buyer?”. In this vendors case the agent recommended removing their stylish mid-century sofa, dining suite, and table (in these photos), to be replaced with some fairly generic standard display furniture which is inoffensive and not memorable.

So if the original furniture is in good, presentable condition, and tells the story of the home, is it better to keep it on display, or broaden the appeal with something generic? I personally prefer the furniture that has been removed than what has been displayed, but then I am not a typical buyer.

https://www.domain.com.au/328-warrigal-road-cnr-delia-st-oakleigh-south-vic-3167-2014517467

If you are emptying out someone else’s home for sale this blog post may be interesting:

https://secretdesignstudio.com/start-clearing-somebody-elses-home-happen-mid-century-furniture/

I was pleased with the number of responses, and also the variety of opinions.

In the “keep the furniture in the home” side were the following responses:

“I tell all of my clients with these style of homes and furniture to leave the furniture in the home PLEASE do not remove it. It not only adds to the style of the home, makes the photography so much more lovely and shows that this is someones home. Vacant homes do not nor do mid century homes with modern styled furniture. All for leaving the furniture in place and have had many wonderful successes for my clients because of this.” Pathrina Watson, Sales Agent at WJ Tobin and Co Real Estate

“Keep the original furniture and add a few new pieces to freshen up the house. This candy furniture that is in every house is too generic and spoils the soul of the home.” Caroline Lawton

Secret Design Studio, Mid-Century Modern architect design, Melbourne, Dr Retro House Calls

Keep the original or replace?

“Estate agents often get kick backs for recommending house dressers, so if the house already looks good with a de clutter of personal items, then leave it.
We sold a brand new unit, made the mistake of spending a ton and a half on dressing, only to speak to another (more down to earth) agent who said “I’m selling the house, not the furniture” JoJo Wiffrie

Secret Design Studio, Mid-Century Modern architect design, Melbourne, Dr Retro House Calls

Keep the original or replace?

“To me, keeping the well cared for original furniture is best. It tells me that this house has likely been cared for and well maintained, just like its contents. When everything in it is new and generic “dress the house for sale” stuff it feels like it’s soul has been ripped out.

Having said this, it’s probably a waste asking us because we all love this era. Removing stuff that’d make the house seem “dated” might broaden the appeal, but if it’s a cherished house, would they prefer it was bought by a mid century lover you’ll respect it as it was, or someone that could gut it or pull it down? There’s many points to consider on both sides of the argument.” Jaime-Lee Lithgow

“I am going through this now – they wanted all y mid-century furniture gone & it all painted white. I said no. If furniture in good condition, I say keep t there.” El von Glorious

“I prefer the original furniture as it usually fits better with the style of the house.” Amanda Heinze

Secret Design Studio, Mid-Century Modern architect design, Melbourne, Dr Retro House Calls

Keep the original or replace?

“Original, original, original is of utmost importance just like location, location, location ☆☆☆☆☆” Kathy Allerton

“The original furniture is stunning and should have been left. If you can’t walk into a house and see past the furniture and see yourself there, maybe it’s not the house for you.” Dona Pentland

Secret Design Studio, Mid-Century Modern architect design, Melbourne, Dr Retro House Calls

328 Warrigal Road (cnr Delia St), Oakleigh South, marketed by Ray White Oakleigh

In the “Restyle for something clean, contemporary and generic”:

“When selling you need to take the emotion out of it….we were asked the same thing and we removed the stuff. Id say keep some and mix with new. The lighter, crisper and newer the wider the net of potential buyers. After all you are trying to sell the place.” John Papas

Secret Design Studio, Mid-Century Modern architect design, Melbourne, Dr Retro House Calls

328 Warrigal Road (cnr Delia St), Oakleigh South, marketed by Ray White Oakleigh

As a real estate agent and someone who loves mid century homes and furniture, I imagine this particular home you are mentioning was overdue for a refresh before going to the market for sale. I expect it needed to be painted and simply put a white tone is best for this purpose to add light and keep it simple. I would suggest a mixture of the mid century furniture from the home and some soft furnishings and linen from the stylist to add an element of appeal to the broader market. Always best to have a home furnished to create an aspirational setting for the buyer and maximise the interest and price.”  Anne Einarson

“Good question. As someone in the market for a mid century home I’d say a mix. If you’re trying to appeal to a mid century lover then the furniture will appeal to them too! But I think the style needs to have a clean and minimal look to it so I can see myself and my stuff in the home, and not just feel like I’m in someone else’s. Keep the coffee table and dining suite but remove some clutter or any furniture which makes the space feel more crowded.” Laura Cope

Secret Design Studio, Mid-Century Modern architect design, Melbourne, Dr Retro House Calls

328 Warrigal Road (cnr Delia St), Oakleigh South, marketed by Ray White Oakleigh

So it looks like the jury is out.  So much will depend on the house, the condition of the furniture and the market. But I think that everybody agrees that if the furniture is looking sad and tired, or it does not complement the architectural style of the home then it should be moved out, and replaced.

If you need help in making some hard decisions in preparing a mid-century or post-war home for sale feel free to book in a Dr Retro House Call for a two hour consultation.

Dr Retro House Calls