This Homebuyer Hired a Stager to Design Her Home — See How It Transformed

published Sep 21, 2023
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empty room with hanging pendant light and wall of windows leading to patio
Credit: Molly Marino

While reading Apartment Therapy over the summer, Jamie Blalock stopped to check out this home staging before & after story. It shows how Molly Marino, a Chicago Realtor and home stager, freshened up a dated two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo on a tight budget. As luck would have it, Blalock and her husband, Sage, had just purchased their own two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo near Chicago — and it, too, needed some budget-friendly TLC. 

With the Blalocks living in Tennessee, having help near their new home was key to getting it ready for move-in. When the designer they’d been in contact with went MIA, the first-time homeowners were hesitant to start with someone new, but happening upon Marino’s work seemed like a sign. “We felt that the stars aligned after reading that the featured designer was in Chicago and specialized in renovations with modest budgets,” Blalock says.

After admiring Marino’s portfolio online, Blalock reached out to her in June. The timeline was tight: The Blalocks were closing on their condo on July 10 and moving in one month later. Fortunately, the owner of Home by Molly Marino had worked long-distance before and was up for the challenge. “I have done full remodels with other clients without ever meeting them,” Marino says.

Hiring a home stager to design a home that’s not being sold is an uncommon request, but one the Blalocks felt confident in making. They admired Marino’s style, and asked her to create spaces that were “calm, clean, and inviting.” The couple requested a palette of mauves, misty blues, and mossy greens. 

Blalock and Marino collaborated via Zoom, telephone, and several other apps. “We had a few Zoom calls, but things moved along seamlessly with us on the phone while on apps like Wayfair, as well as sharing Pinterest boards,” Marino says. “Jamie would explain her vision and I would shoot back options in her budget. We shared shopping carts and were able to add, delete, and discuss.”

The Blalocks anticipated a $25,000 budget but ended up spending closer to $30,000 when their HVAC system needed to be replaced. One of their biggest outlays was for flooring. They had the tile in the entryway and kitchen, plus the carpet in both bedrooms, replaced with hardwood to match the living area. All the floors were stained a beautiful medium brown, Marino says.

Credit: Molly Marino

Next was new paint for the entire condo. Working from Blalock’s inspiration palette, Marino chose Benjamin Moore’s Pale Oak for the open living and dining area. The primary bedroom got Sherwin Williams’ Insightful Rose and the en suite Sherwin Williams’ Breathless. In the guest bedroom and bath, they went with Benjamin Moore’s Morning Dew, a cool gray with a hint of green. Throughout, the dated vertical and mini blinds came down. 

“We hung curtains in linen and velvet to soften the large walls of sliding doors in areas where they needed privacy,” Marino says. The condo’s lighting also got an upgrade. In the hallways, mid-century modern sconces went up. A gorgeous chandelier to anchor the dining table replaced the track light in the main living area.

Credit: Molly Marino

The kitchen got a bright facelift, thanks to a deep green (Sherwin Williams’ Rosemary) on the lower cabinets and Benjamin Moore’s White Dove on the uppers. White quartz countertops and a matte black faucet and hardware complete the serene atmosphere.

Credit: Molly Marino

Marino also guided furniture selections. “Jamie sent me pictures of the things she wanted to order, and I helped her home in on the right pieces and colors. I suggested things I knew would look good, like the dining chairs, which I had used on another project,” Marino says. 

As they settle into their newly refreshed home, Blalock and her husband continue to tweak the spaces. “We still need to hang photos and art we’ve collected during our travels,” Blalock says. More lighting and rugs are also on the agenda.

Taking a chance on a stager and designer they serendipitously “met” on Apartment Therapy paid off for the Blalocks. “Molly made the process as smooth as could be,” Blalock says. “When we walked into our home for the first time, after the long journey from Tennessee, we could not have been happier.”