See How a Stager Totally Transformed This Cluttered Living Space

published May 31, 2024
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Couch and coffee table face stone fireplace in neutral living room.
Credit: Molly Marino

When you live in one place for a while, it’s natural to accumulate a lot of stuff. Whether it’s knickknacks, mail piles, shoes, or piles of your kids’ forgotten and abandoned toys, things just pile up. And while that may be a normal part of everyday life, when you’re selling a house, minimizing clutter while maintaining warmth is a must to help potential buyers imagine themselves in your space. That was the case for one homeowner in the northwestern suburbs of Chicago who had lived in her home for 20 years. When she was ready to sell, she called in Chicago-based stager Molly Marino to help get her space ready. 

“I knew we needed simple, more traditional decor to go with the vibe of the architecture,” Molly said, recalling her process on staging the living and dining areas, which needed to be cleared out and reimagined for the next homeowner. “But I also added hints of eclectic design, like the vintage tennis rackets near the fireplace, with modern punches.” 

Molly’s client used the fireplace as the main focal point in the living room — her couch faces the hearth, and an alcove hosts the television. Molly maintained this in her design, but created a zone anchored by an area rug and kept the furniture neatly around the fireplace for a cozy vibe that would allow for intimate conversation and quality time with loved ones. 

Credit: Molly Marino

Molly’s design is fairly streamlined. She did away with any furniture that wasn’t necessary and made sure each window was bare to allow for maximum natural light. For instance, in the dining room, the design was kept simple with just a table and chairs, rather than adding a credenza, which originally furnished the space. This allowed potential homebuyers to witness the full scale of the home.

The entire process was an investment, but it paid off. It took about four weeks in total, plus an additional three months when the homeowner cleared out furniture and prepared for downsizing. The staging process involved not just furniture and design, but also a color consultation for the wall paint, new carpet, and a full professional clean. 

The living room in particular was fairly simple once the house was tidied: Molly’s team painted the walls, removed the wood blinds from the windows, and swapped out the light bulbs. 

Credit: Molly Marino
Credit: VHT Studios, Megan Berger

“The actual move in on the staging takes my crew about two hours, and takes me about three additional hours to set up the whole house,” Molly said.

Molly’s client invested $16,000 for everything involved — cleaning, paint, supplies, and staging. Since they didn’t have the budget to do a full remodel or swap out any fixtures, Molly used furniture and decor to draw the viewer’s eye away from more dated components of the home.

Credit: VHT Studios, Megan Berger

According to Molly, comparable homes were selling in the area for around $440,000. “In the condition the house was in,” Molly said, “it wouldn’t have closed at that price. It would have been under, likely around $425,000.” 

But with the $16,000 staging investment, the seller is now closing at $520,000, giving her close to $100,000 more than she was expected to receive prior to the staging.