See How a Stager Transformed a Tiny Condo Into an Open Concept Dream (Instantly)

published Feb 19, 2024
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Living room in condo before being staged.
Credit: Home by Molly Marino

The home staging maxim, “Show, don’t tell,” may never have been more apt than in this 1084-square-foot condo in the Fulton River District, a hip area of downtown Chicago, that was a recent project of home stager and Realtor Molly Marino of Home by Molly Marino.

Originally a one-bedroom unit, the condo’s owner reworked the space into a two-bedroom plus office for her tenant. “The owner took a section of the living room and walled it in with French doors to make a second ‘bedroom,’” explains Marino. “Additionally, there was an empty wedge-shaped area near the front door that was just a large entry, so the owner added sliding frosted doors to make it into a dedicated office space.”

Credit: Home by Molly Marino

When the tenant moved out and the condo’s owner decided to sell, the empty unit languished on the market for more than 250 days. Unfortunately, the reconfigured spaces that had worked well for the tenant were not impressing would-be buyers. “The feedback was that nobody could see how a bed could actually fit in the second bedroom,” says Marino. With a staging budget of $2,500 for the whole condo, she set out to show them.

Credit: Home by Molly Marino

To help buyers see that the 7- by 8-foot space could, in fact, function as a bedroom, Marino relied on smart furniture choices and stylish but restrained decor. Besides the obviously necessary bed, she added two useful pieces that didn’t have a lot of visual weight. “I knew a dresser wouldn’t work because the room is so small, so I added the console to show that a narrow piece of furniture would fit at the foot of the bed for additional storage. I wanted a nightstand so folks could see that you really could have a true bedroom setup in there,” she says. Marino added large-scale artwork that draws the eyes up and gives the impression of more space, and stuck to a palette of black and white with a touch of pink. “I used colors that were mod and on-trend and mixed and matched patterns to get the right blend of ‘so cute’ and ‘wow, this really works,’” she says.

In the main living area (shown above “before”), Marino continued the black and white color scheme and carefully edited furnishings to show buyers that space’s potential. “Because half of the living room was cut off to make the second bedroom, it made the remaining living room appear really long and narrow,” she explains. “Buyers couldn’t see how their furniture would lay out there either!”

Credit: Home by Molly Marino

Marino brought in a sofa, coffee table, and two chairs which she arranged opposite the TV for comfortable viewing and to create a cozy seating area. The one thing the tenant had left behind was a set of two-short curtains which Marino replaced with simple curtains of the correct length. “Sometimes it’s just the little things that make a big difference,” she says.

Credit: Triple Seven Media

And that awkward, pie-shaped “office?” Marino tucked in a desk, rug, artwork, and a few accessories to make an adorable — and useful — work space. With the staged furnishings in place, the recently relisted condo is ready to show buyers that despite its petite size, there’s plenty of room for stylish living.