Styled, Staged & Sold

Bringing you the latest home design and staging trends. From REALTOR® Magazine.

Room Makeover: Staging a Condo So it's Not Fit for a Hollywood Actress

By Martin R. Delossantos

A local film company calls: The condo unit I was representing was being considered to rent for actress Mischa Barton to stay in while she filmed in Jersey City. Unfortunately for me, the developer whose condo I represented decided he did not want Barton, or anyone with pets—and Barton did not want anything without her two little doggies.

To the developer, it was not about short-term money for potential long term headaches.  It was about his need to SELL this unit in his building because he actually renovated it himself and did not want to spend any more time or money to restore the unit if those sweet little pooches chewed and scratched his gorgeous cherry soaked oak floors and moldings.

The Transformation

Problem areas: The unit was unusually laid out, which was keeping buyers at bay. The biggest problem was the main room; the space had no definition.

Was it a kitchen? Living room?  Dining room?  Also, the unit had a dead fireplace.  The developer created too much kitchen by installing too many cabinets—albeit beautiful hardwood cherry—with glossy dark granite counters and sleek stainless steel appliances.  (I suppose he was banking on a discerning chef, but that can limit your buyer pool.)  If the main room was left empty, all you would notice is a big kitchen.

The space needed to be kept generic and balanced to attract the most amount of prospects. The buyers then could decide where the emphasis of their lifestyle would be.

Adding to problem spots, there was only one bathroom so a small family might not consider this property, as well.

While the unit did have a small cement porch, it was off one of the bedrooms and it opened out to a garden that belonged to the ground-level apartment (Great if you get along with the downstairs neighbors!). And remember, wooden floors can be heard even if you are not a heavy walker.

Best features: The key points were good-sized bedrooms off the hallway, beautiful hard wood floors and moldings, hard wood cabinets, granite, stainless steel appliances, a roomy outdoor porch, and a southern exposure producing a sunny unit.

What I did: My approach was to deemphasize the kitchen and play up a sitting area. I took into account that the Hoboken, N.J., area appeals to young professionals with busy lives who enjoy dining out or ordering in.  That said, their priority is likely a large flat screen TV and a comfy couch.  I also felt the unit needed modern furniture to create a sophisticated environment.

The porch was too harsh and urban. Using real plants and retro patio seating imparted warmth and a relaxed atmosphere to sit and gaze at the stars with a mellow glass of wine.  Also, if a couple purchased the unit the room, they can turn the place where the porch opens into a den/office, which then opens the porch up to guests.

With these simple design choices, I was able to show buyers how the space could function.

Result: The empty unit had been on the market for six long months. After I staged, it sold in two months within the price range the developer wanted, and it didn't even take a Hollywood starlet to intervene.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Martin R. Delossantos holds a real estate license in New Jersey and in 2001 founded a design company, Mdesign Studio LLC, in Hoboken, N.J., where he offers interior design for homes and commercial spaces, as well as staging for real estate. He worked for a decade as an art director for home design catalogs in New York City and holds a BFA in design from The School of Visual Arts. In 2005, he decorated the sets for an award-winning independent film, MUNECA. Contact: or 201-952-1088.


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