In a tender market, avant-garde or outlandish does not sell. Safe, traditional, and expected sells. Understand the authentic style, show what is appropriate, and you've got a great shot.
In the first of this series, let's look at how to make the most of your Cape Cod style house. Cape Cod style houses started as cottages in England in the mid-1600s, but were only named as such here in the early 1800s. Every element was designed to withstand and protect a family from harsh and stormy weather: low, but wide-framed buildings, usually 1-1/2 stories tall, and for maximum natural light, were often built facing south. Steep roofs kept snow from accumulating, low ceilings kept the heat in, and shutters were functional. Mirroring the lifestyle and resources of it's inhabitants, they were practical, without a lot of ornamentation, and the rooms were utilitarian.
Originally built in areas of natural wildlife, they were designed to blend into the landscape. Seen as less desirable in the late 1800s, they became popular again post-depression when affordable housing was in great demand, and when updates were made, like adding dormers and garages. These were houses built not knowing about sectionals, or flat-screen TVs, Master Suites, home offices or exercise rooms.
In a crowded buyers' market, it does not seem there is a lot that matches up with what today's buyers are looking for. SO-without undertaking a major renovation, how do you attract buyers to your Cape house, and get it sold?
Know your audience, and play to the houses' inherent strengths. Historically, interest in Cape Cod style homes grows during economic downturns. They make great starter houses, so show it as a younger couple would use it: Make the Master BR on the first floor the best it can be, and then the upstairs-children's-bedrooms-simple: neat, clean, cheerful and bright. Emphasize the positive – fireplace, crown/other mouldings, hardwood floors, natural light. Painting mouldings white make what they are framing-windows, fireplaces-bigger and more important. Get rid of wall to wall, show off those hardwood floors, wash the windows, including the screens. Take down heavy or fussy window treatments. Add interest outside.
There are few house styles where it is easier to bump up the charm than Capes...just keep it real, don't muck it up: Add a fence: split-rail or white picket, maybe even an arbor over the walkway. Windowboxes are big, too. Holly and other plantings that add year-round color; hydrangeas and rosebushes are expected, and all soften the austere lines of the house.
Bird feeder, birdbath, gazing globe? Yes.
A donkey pulling wagon, fake flowers, gnomes, frogs, or the like-are a no.
Most Capes have an unpainted shingle or clapboard exterior. If yours is painted, or has a brick face (popular updates in the 70's) bring it back to its' roots: get rid of the vivid blues, pastel greens, vibrant golds or flat heavy browns.
Instead, think white, cream, or some of the historic colors like grey, barn red or a slate blue , and consider painting the brick (but keep the roof color in mind as well) Bright, even unusual color front door, with knocker of interest is a signature touch in Capes.
- Clutter is out. It eats up visual space, making a small room feel even smaller.
- Keep horizontal surfaces clear.
- Use a minimum of wall decor.
- Keep scale of furniture in line with rest of space. Store-sell-donate anything oversize.
- Think CHARM, not CUTE In a buyer's mind, "cute" = "small." They don't want to pay money for "small." "Charming", on the other hand, has much more appeal..and is also called "cozy".
- Anything pink and blue, big plaid in robust harvest tones, folksy or diminutive designs like ducks or bunnies must go.
- Take down wallpaper, and instead paint in warmer, historic colors-with white mouldings and trims for a cleaner, updated, more sophisticated feel. Edit out anything harsh, striking, new/shiny/glossy. Instead think fine detail, simple, even primitive, natural or organic for aesthetic updates.
NEXT WEEK: The Agony, and the Ecstasy of a Contemporary Style House
Marie Graham is an Interior Decorator, a Home Stager, and owner of The Refreshed Home. Making the most of Westchester spaces for a really long time, she can be contacted directly at 914.607.2895