Remodeling a Living Room for Resale

Get tips for choosing renovation projects that pay off.


Design by Jean Larette

From: Jean Larette

Design by Jean Larette

By: Susan Kleinman
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Your home is your biggest investment and your biggest asset. So while you want your renovation to result in a space you'll love living in, you want to make sure that you can recoup your money when you sell, or at least know that you are spending money that enhances your day-to-day living but not the market value of your home. Here are some things to consider when remodeling with an eye on resale value.

Target Your Buyers

Think about the likely buyers of your home. You may be 60 years old and childless by choice, but if your house is in a great school district, your likeliest buyers will be young families with kids. So make sure your renovation is child-friendly: no open balconies, and plenty of room for toy storage containers.

If you live in a retirement community, make sure — even if you, yourself, are in perfect health — that your renovated space won't be difficult for other seniors with health issues to navigate. Avoid slippery floor surfaces, and make sure window and door latches are easy to grab and handle.

Don’t Out-Glam the Block

No one wants to buy a million-dollar house in a half-million-dollar-house neighborhood, so be aware that if you make your house worth more than those surrounding it, you are unlikely to recoup your money when you go to sell. To avoid that trap, do some research on how much houses in your neighborhood are selling for. Then ask a few reputable brokers how much your house will be worth post-renovation and see how those numbers compare.

Spend On Perennially Popular Features, Not On Fads

"Crown molding is something to include," says interior designer Lucie Ayres of 22 Interiors. "Floors that are updated are worth the investment, as are new windows. But built-in cabinets should be avoided and done only in TV rooms as people's tastes really vary with the formal living room."

Count On the Classics

"As for style," says Karen Soojian, ASID, "stay with a classic approach. Remember that when you go to sell your home, you will want it to have broad appeal." But don't feel you have to leave things bland. Unless you're planning to sell right away, go as bold as you wish with your wall colors — you can re-paint in a pale neutral before you go to sell. And feel free to pick whatever furniture you love, too; you can always clear it out before you start showing your house to potential buyers.

Look Toward the Light

"And most important of all," says interior designer Susan Jay, "make sure the space has an abundance of light and looks spacious." That means wiring it for as many light fixtures as one might need to read or socialize, and also possibly enlarging the windows if the current panes are too small to allow for natural sunlight, or even changing windows to French doors.

"Indoor/outdoor relationships between the living room and an outdoor patio will transform the room more than paint or a new couch," says architect Amy Alpert. And as we all become more conscious of the world around us, that openness and flow are sure to become ever more popular.

Living Room Lighting Designs

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Layers of Light

A well-lit living room requires a combination of ambient, accent and task lighting. In this living room, recessed fixtures cast general lighting, wall-mounted lights showcase artwork and an adjustable floor lamp provides light for reading. Design by Andreas Charalambous

Track Lighting

Sleek, low-voltage track lighting highlights artwork in this living room and gives the space a soft, ambient glow. A table lamp provides task lighting for the seating area, while a floor lamp washes the wall with light. Design by Lin Lee

Soft Accent Lighting

Subtle up-lighting accentuates the beautiful wood ceiling in this living room. The custom-built media cabinet is softly illuminated with recessed light fixtures. Design by Christopher J. Grubb

Photo By: Scott Mayoral

Modern Floor Lamps

In this living room, designer Van Tullis used track lights to illuminate artwork displayed on the wall. Floor lamps with modern, square-shaped shades provide ambient lighting and look dramatic against a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows.

Warm Lighting Design

Two hanging pendants complement this living room's traditional look and cast soft light throughout the space. Recessed fixtures wash the walls with light, while candles and a fireplace provide a warm glow. Design by Amy Bubier

Cove Lighting

Cove lighting, installed in a ledge high up on the wall, provides soft, ambient lighting that bounces off the ceiling and adds a touch of glitz to this living room. Designer Andrea Schumacher installed the lighting on a dimmer, allowing the homeowner to create a mood when entertaining.

Clean and Contemporary Lighting

Designer Andreas Charalambous used halogen track lighting on dimmers and LED cove lighting in blue to enhance this living room's contemporary design. A stylish arc floor lamp offers task lighting for reading.

Photo By: Geoffrey Hodgdon

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