See How a Home Stager Turned a Frat House into a Luxe Listing

published Aug 10, 2023
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Messy living room with leather sofas around.
Credit: Home by Molly Marino

Prime location? Check. Elevator access? Check. Family-friendly vibe? Not so much. 

When this condo in Chicago’s desirable Lincoln Park neighborhood first went on the market, the owner knew young couples and families looking to buy would appreciate the home’s location in a strong school district and its proximity to the L train, shopping, and restaurants. Once they got inside, though, potential buyers were less than impressed. With a group of 20-something guys renting the place, the hodge-podge of dark furnishings were all about comfort and utility, and way short on style and charm.

“I’m sure it was a great bachelor pad, but with the renters in there, the condo clearly wasn’t showing well,” says Realtor and home stager Molly Marino of Home by Molly Marino. “The owner called me to understand what staging the condo could look like after the guys moved out. I convinced her to take the condo off the market, let the renters’ lease expire, then let me list it and stage it for her, and she agreed!”

On the plus side, the condo had hardwood floors in good condition and a neutral wall color. On the minus side, the home was fairly narrow, which presented a bit of a challenge. “I really wanted the small living space to appear spacious enough for a family to understand that they could have a living area plus a dining area,” Marino says.

With the renters’ multiple dark, bulky couches and chairs moved out, Marino brought in a stylish, streamlined sofa and chair to define the seating area. She added a long upholstered bench for more seating without blocking sightlines to the new dining area

Credit: Elizabeth Harper

Though the renters may have been content to eat at the large kitchen counter or on the couch, Marino knew a family would want a table to gather around. She brought in a wooden one that could seat six and centered it under the existing ceiling fixture. Speaking of ceiling fixtures, Marino felt the dining and living area fixtures were more contemporary than she would have liked, so she incorporated a bit of mid-century modern and bohemian style in her other decor choices to make the space warmer and more inviting to younger buyers. 

Throughout the main floor, Marino relied on a calming palette of black, cream, and wood to tie the living and dining areas together. In the living room, she brought in a right-sized rug to anchor the seating area and a large floor mirror to bounce around the natural light streaming in from the windows and the door to one of the home’s three outdoor decks.

She also replaced the broken curtain rod and heavy drapes with new rods and fresh white drapes. With the room now less cluttered, the corner fireplace became more of a feature, and Marino echoed the black of the fireplace in a new coffee table and a console beneath the wall-mounted television. 

For a budget of less than $5,000, Marino achieved her goal of “sophisticated and luxe without being overdone,” and the condo was ready to welcome a new family. When it hit the market the second time, the interior was anything but a disappointment.