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Staging an Historic Estate: how contemporary furnishings can reinvigorate a traditional setting

Staging the Library at the Fells Historic Estate in Newbury NH was a joy. I’ve always loved libraries and this one is full of light from French windows that look out onto Lake Sunapee and is lined with beautiful gilded panelling. Updating it for The Fells Christmas event necessitated, like most home staging projects, rapid work and attention to detail.

My advice to clients is often to remove and pack away 30-50% of the books on their crowded bookshelves, to open the shelves up and make the room look larger and I took my own advice. As this was a seasonal staging I only kept red and green books, turning the green ones into a fun take on a Christmas tree.

I imagined how descendents of the Hays family, who used to live at The Fells, would use the library and furnished it accordingly. This meant using contemporary furniture, removing the old favorites from the room and starting anew. The response from the public has been very positive, people who had thought putting contemporary furniture in this historic house was a bad idea, have been surprised at how welcoming the room looked and there has been much discussion about the way we can mix old and new to create a look that it at once modern but remains respectful of the room’s beautiful original features.

As you think of staging your homes, or ask me to come and advise you, remember that the size and color of furniture can profoundly change the way we understand the size of a room (covering a dark sofa with a light slipcover can transform a room) and positioning can draw people in or make them feel a space is closed off. I created two seating areas for this Library, drew attention to the fireplace and the French windows, and made two areas for working, using  a standing desk in one of them.

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