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Sayonara, Small Space

The Designed to Sell team makes a basement condo rise above its underground stature.

Lower-Level Living in a High-Priced Area
Brad Burns owns a basement condo in a charming brownstone building that is located in DuPont Circle, one of Washington, D.C.’s most desirable neighborhoods. He just finished grad school and is ready to sell his 700-square-foot home and move on to something bigger and better. The two-bedroom, one-bath condo is perfect for someone who wants to live in a classy neighborhood, but can’t afford top dollar for a home.

Real estate expert Shirley Mattam-Male pops by to critique the home’s assets and liabilities. But before she can do any of that, she needs to find the front door. The home’s entrance is hidden from the street. It needs to be more clearly defined and dressed up. Upon entering the condo, the first thing Mattam-Male notices is the strong odor from the homeowner’s pets. She is also taken back by the dirty carpet, dated mirror and the half-finished paint job around the fireplace. Just off the living room is an alcove that she refers to as a missed opportunity. Instead of being cluttered with a dog kennel, massive aquarium and a gigantic TV, potential buyers should be seeing a big dining bar with stools or a cozy breakfast nook.

Designer Taniya Nayak agrees with Mattam-Male's comments and has a $2,000 plan that will turn this home into a winning sale.

Step 1: Add some curb appeal, and make the front entrance stand out.

Step 2: In the living room, fix the fireplace wall, clean the carpets, and deodorize the air.

Step 3: Declutter the alcove, and maximize the space by giving it a clearly defined function.

Contractors John Allen and Matt Steele are in high gear and ready to get the job done.

Before: Smelly and Stained
The real estate expert stressed the importance of first impressions and even first smells. She warned that buyers make decisions in the first 30 seconds, so their initial thoughts are crucial. When entering this home, the pet odors and dirty carpet are immediately evident. Clutter is another issue. Shoes are piled up on the landing by the front door and the shelves next to the fireplace (not shown) are over-packed with books and knickknacks. The working fireplace is a great asset, but the unfinished, faux-finish paint treatment on the surrounding wall could send up a red flag to potential buyers.

For specific product information, click on the first After photos of the room.

After: Sparkling Clean
Before, entering this living room meant being overpowered with strong odors and stained carpet. Now, a freshly shampooed carpet leaves this place sweet smelling and sparkling clean. The odor-grabbing carpet was torn off the landing and replaced with practical and stylish slate tiles. A fresh coat of neutral paint covers all the walls. The homeowner’s dated furniture was hauled off and replaced with inexpensive contemporary pieces. But what really makes this room shine is the stainless-steel wall. The steel tiles, (normally used for kitchen backsplashes) reflect light, making the space feel larger and more open. New shelving units were installed next to the fireplace (not shown). Trim molding was fastened around the edges of the shelves to give them a custom-built look.

Cost breakdown:

shelving units $250
new furniture $934
breakfast bar materials $173
accessories $149
stainless-steel wall $228
porch light $52
lattice and plants $213

Total: $1,999

Living room makeover products:

paint: Pineapple Paint Company (Benjamin Moore Paints) - Cape Hatteras Sand - #AC-34 (eggshell)
plants and soil: The Home Depot
closet knob: The Home Depot #022788797828
curtains: Ikea - Aina (57 x 11) #40080943
rug: Ikea - Alvine Rand #90074195
sofa: Ikea - Alvine Rand #80064093
green ottoman: World Market - Madison #000000383285

Dining area/alcove makeover products:

paint for accent wall: Pineapple Paint Company (Benjamin Moore Paints) - Mountain Moss #2145-30 (eggshell)
aloe plants: Ikea (used on kitchen window ledge) #171033
pots for aloe plants: Ikea - Fniss pen holders #16962
wall shelf: Ikea - Lack (black) #14729
aluminum pots for pansies: Ikea - Sommar #20289
black stain for countertop: Ikea - Behandla Glaze #90057469
pasta bowls and dinner plates: Linens 'N Things - Kenya #048552025508 and #048552025447
wall switch plate and door stop: Logan Hardware - #36073 and #5294962

Front door makeover products:

paint: Pineapple Paint Company (Benjamin Moore Paints) front door - Carolina Gull #2138-40 (exterior semigloss), window well - Antique Bronze #ME204 and Bronze #ME396-06, concrete stain - #0727
plant pots and dracaena: Ikea - #18397, #70079561 and #17133
outdoor light fixture: Lowe’s black conventional standard lantern #37487

Before: Cluttered Passageway
The space off the living room, leading to the bedrooms could be used as a cozy dining area and not just a cluttered passageway. A huge aquarium, dog crate and large TV crowd the space with pet odors and make the condo feel small and cramped.

The real estate expert pointed out that there are several condos for sale in the area, making the competition is tough. So it is very important to make this place stand out and draw attention. The front door (not shown) is hidden underneath a staircase, and there is nothing to help point it out to potential buyers. Also, underneath the stairs are the home's unsightly electric meters, which are an eyesore that distract from the condo's charming entryway.

For specific product information, click on the first After photos of the room.

After: Functional Alcove
The huge aquarium and TV no longer crowd the alcove. Now, buyers can see this area for what it truly is — more living space. A new, wooden breakfast bar and contemporary stools give the space more function and purpose. The walls are painted the same neutral taupe as the living room to make the condo feel more spacious. New decorative mirrors also expand the space, while a floating wall shelf keeps precious floor space open.

When the Designed to Sell team first arrived on this street, they had a hard time finding the condo. The window well (not shown) was a mess, and there wasn’t a house number in sight. Now, tall plants in brightly colored pots draw attention and a large house number embedded into the concrete step clearly defines the entrance. Underneath the stairs, a lattice fence and flowering plants helps conceal the electrical panels and meters.

For specific product information, click on the first After photos of the room.

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