Find a theme to help buyers dream

#473 in a series of true experiences in real estate
October 2004, Hills Newspapers

Once we made a cowboy room in a house. The walls were already knotty pine, the floor was fir, and there was a swing-open wooden window on the end wall. It just looked “ranchy” to us and so, we and our stager made it more so.

A canvas cot was found and a striped woolen blanket. A colorful woven poncho was hung on one wall. My daughter loaned us a couple of toy horses to put on built-in ledges on the sides of the room. And the owner of the house provided worn cowboy boots and a Levy denim jacket.

The owner, the stager, and we loved the look. We stood at the doorway and wondered what else we might add to this cozy room to exaggerate the picture. “What we need is an old cowboy movie” someone said. “How about ‘Shane’?”

So we went on a search for this old classic, found a VCR copy, and set it up to play continuously in the room during our Sunday open house. I suspect that many visitors that day were too young to remember ‘Shane,” which was first shown in movie houses in 1953, but many enjoyed it, at least as much as they saw in the time they paused to watch. We got lots of “What is that movie?” questions.

It was fun. I’m glad we did it – the room and the movie – and I’m now having a fun time considering a similar whole-house theme for a small home we’ll be listing before long. I don’t want it to be hokey. I’m thinking more cabin-vacation-home sort of thing. I’d like the house to be inviting and for people to want to sink in and stay.

The ceilings in the main rooms of this small house are open beams; the wood has nice knots still visible through a light wash of green. The fireplace is central in the living area, dark brick above the firebox, with flint gray slate around the opening, and also covering the hearth.

The floors are nice oak, the windows double-hung black metal with views to pine trees and bay water beyond. Both fireplace-living and dining areas are open to the galley kitchen.

I feel good in this house, but it’s dark, maybe as a cabin should be. Still, I’d like to try a lighter color than the current green on the walls. Probably not white, but something else, maybe peachy like the kitchen ceramic tile. I must ask the stager about colors.

For the last few days, whenever I have the chance, I’ve been entertaining myself with imaginings of what the house might hold, how it might look with a little work. And I’ve been making a list of items to fit my dreaming, furnishings and knick-knacks to complete the picture.

I see woven rugs on the floors. I used to have a red Navajo rug that would be ideal. Too bad it’s gone, but other patterned rugs, or rag rugs, will work, in earthy colors, I think.

Hudson Bay-type blankets will be good, and I have one we could use. Maybe lightweight, natural colored muslin at the windows. And a round oak dining table like the one at my childhood summer cabin, with high-backed wooden chairs.

I don’t think we should go horsey here. I’m thinking this will be a warm retreat on a hill, could be imagined in a forest or near a lake, but it probably isn’t on a ranch.

A guitar though, yes, an acoustic guitar should be in this house. Maybe binoculars, too, for observing wildlife closely. Leather would be a great addition. A sturdy brown leather chair or, I know, we still have an upholstered wingback chair in our staging materials that would lend a timeless, classic look.

Willow furniture might be even better. We had a client some years ago who himself made beautiful willow chairs, gathered the materials on his own land, then shaped and nailed them in place. I’d love to have those next to the fireplace with fat pillows on them.

Homespun and sturdy, that’s what I see. Dry firewood split and stacked. Painted pottery dishes and unglazed clay bowls. Well-worn leather gloves.

Indian baskets. I have half a dozen given to my grandfather by Hoopa Indian friends when they fished together yearly in Trinity County. The basket colors are tawny, coppery browns with flat blacks woven in. They’re beautifully shaped, rounds and ovals, some with low sides, some with high. I even have a pappose carrier made of reeds.

Cast iron cooking pots, yes, for the stove. Isn’t this fun to think about?

One of those old sliding-screen top popcorn poppers for popping over the fire. Big bulky, nubby yarn sweaters. Fluffy sheepskins and chenille bedspreads. When I tell Anet what I’m up to, invite her to play with me, she says, “This house needs a horseshoe, a good luck horseshoe, don’t you think? Where can we get one?”

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