See How a Home Stager Turned a Dated Condo into a First-Time Buyer’s Dream

published Jun 11, 2023
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kitchen before home staging: outdated black appliances, outdated wood cabinets, tile floor
Credit: Home by Molly Marino

Crayon marks on the walls, stained carpet, and mice nesting under the stove were just a few of the delights that greeted home stager Molly Marino when she arrived at this two-bedroom condo in a suburb of Chicago. Over the years, the home had gone from bachelor pad to family home to rental unit — and it was due for some TLC. 

Marino, who runs Home by Molly Marino and is also a Realtor, acknowledged the issues but also understood the home’s potential. “I knew that we had a huge lack of inventory in this market, and with the right aesthetic updates, we could target a first-time buyer who wanted a turn-key, move-in ready condo with lots of personality,” she says.

Credit: Home by Molly Marino

Over two weeks, Marino touched every room in the condo. Strangely, the primary bathroom only had a bathtub and no shower. Bathrooms are expensive to redo, so Marino kept as much as she could and reworked the plumbing to add a shower and built a custom enclosure with open shelving. The existing vanity was unattractive and quite long, but it was solid, so Marino kept it — with caveats. She gave the vanity a makeover by shortening it, painting the remaining cabinetry, and installing a modern rectangular sink and new countertop. In the secondary bathroom, Marino stayed within her budget by working around the existing taupe tile and updating the vanity and accessories.

Credit: Meg Berger

Moving on to the kitchen, Marino’s “design on a dime” skills came in handy once again. First, she removed the outdated, light-blocking drapes and vertical blinds and had the tile floor and grout thoroughly cleaned to strip away years of grime. The walls got a fresh, neutral color and the cabinets were painted Benjamin Moore’s Raccoon Fur, a charcoal with hints of dark blue.

Marino knew young buyers would appreciate the bold cabinet color, so she carried it throughout the condo by also painting the door in the breakfast nook Raccoon Fur, as well as the rest of the home’s builder-grade doors. Back in the kitchen, she contrasted the rich-colored cabinetry with new white countertops. “Veined quartz is all the rage, but wasn’t in the budget,” says Marino. “Instead, I found a standard white quartz at half the price and it looked splendid.” New stainless appliances were a big upgrade and removing an old under-cabinet radio and boxy black microwave opened up the counter space. Modern black accents including the faucet, area rug, and a fun light over the kitchen table added personality. 

Credit: Meg Berger

Condo association rules prevented Marino from replacing the home’s worn carpet with solid surface flooring so she had to install new carpet in the dining room, living room, and bedrooms. To add interest, she added pops of color, texture, and pattern in the home’s “soft” items such as bedding, table runners, and area rugs. “I like to mix modern staples with thrift and vintage finds to really make a space seem like home,” she says. “I always know I did it right when buyers ask if they can buy the furnishings and decor — which several did here.” 

The condo sold as soon as it hit the market for more than $50,000 above the pre-reno value. Not only were the sellers happy, but their neighbors were, too. “The neighbors were over-the-moon because their own property values were just significantly boosted!” Marino says.