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Aug. 9, 2012

MHN Interview: Tricks of the Trade for Staging Luxury Apartments

Cheryl Eisen

By Jessica Fiur, News Editor

New York—What does it take to get an apartment that’s been on the market for some time sold? Interior Marketing Group, a Manhattan-based marketing company, stages high-end and luxury apartments, and employs several strategies to make an empty apartment feel like a warm home. MHN talks to Cheryl Eisen, president, Interior Marketing Group, on how staging an apartment or model units could make all the difference.

MHN: Why is it necessary to stage an apartment?

Eisen: Statistically, they say that 90 percent of buyers can’t envision what a home would be like to live in unless it’s staged, so you’re limiting yourself to the small 10 percent who might be the ones who see your apartment. To broaden the buyer demographic, you have to make it a no brainer for them. And it’s not just sticking furniture in. It’s really showing that this could be your very stylish, luxurious life in this apartment.

MHN: How do you know what style to go for when you’re decorating? Do you aim for a certain demographic, or do you just go by your own taste?

Eisen: The stager has to have a core level of good taste. But what we really focus on is the buyer demographic. If you’re doing a loft in Tribeca, and the broker says the people who are going to see the apartment are single, we tailor it to that demographic. If we’re on the Upper East Side, like Park Avenue, and they say it’s going to be a family with three kids, that’s a whole other style—a little more traditional vs. the Flokati rugs and the whole Austin Powers kind of thing. You really want to seduce the buyer demographic, and you have to know what resonates with them emotionally, and that’s how you decide how to design a place.

MHN: What are some of the challenges you face?

Eisen: Often times we’re called when the place has been on the market, either empty or with furniture and hasn’t sold for a while. We have to go in and diagnose what the problem is, what’s turning people off. And sometimes it’s a very subtle thing! First we diagnose whatever it is. Sometimes it’s a horrible view, or it’s no light in the apartment, or the ceilings are low. And those are challenges that you can’t change; you just have to overcome them. So the question is, how can you make the view nicer? How can you make the ceilings seem higher? How can you make the room feel brighter? There are little tricks. For example, to make a ceiling seem higher, you put floor-to-ceiling drapes, not covering the windows, but covering the walls next to the windows, and then the ceilings appear higher. It just brings your eye all the way up. It also makes the windows look larger, because then it looks like only windows, no wall. To add light or to make a place much larger you add maybe three giant mirrors in a row, which sort of doubles the windows and doubles the space. So we can overcome the small-feeling apartment, which is very often the case in New York. It really tricks the eye.

MHN: And what about a bad view?

Eisen: For a bad view, we put floor-to-ceiling sheers, and they let the light in and diffuse the view. You don’t really know what’s going on outside, but the light’s coming in, and you notice everything inside the apartment. And if that is really stunning and gorgeous, then you’re not going to [mind]. There are only so many great views in Manhattan to begin with, so if you can take the focus off the bad view, that’s the way to do it. It’s funny, when there’s nothing in an apartment, people’s first instinct it to just walk right to the window. So, in bad-view apartments—of which there are many—people walk right to the window, and then they’re done. It’s over right there. But if you put a beautiful life scene there, then you’re not going to walk right to the window. You’re actually going to experience and take in the space.

MHN: Do you always recommend sellers call a professional staging firm?

Eisen: It depends. If it’s a small place where you can get away with just fixing it up yourself—de-cluttering, adding a light fixture, putting a mirror here or there—and there isn’t an enormous amount of money at stake, do it yourself if you can. We really specialize in the multimillion-dollar homes, and we’re the highest price-point stagers in the city. You can’t have low-level stuff in the house because it actually brings it down. It distracts from the luxury buyer’s imagination—like you can live in this gorgeous home, but here’s some low-end furniture that you’d be living with. It actually distracts. When it’s a very high level—and especially in New York, most of it is—we’ve got very discriminating buyers who can really afford to choose whereever they want to live. So you have to capture their attention. Everything has to be flawless.

MHN: When you say “everything has to be flawless” does that include other rooms besides, say, the living room or bedroom?

Eisen: I don’t do partial staging because I don’t believe it tells the whole story. In bathrooms we do a beautiful spa feeling, so we do white plush towels, beautiful designer soaps, I always do a tray over the corner of the tub that has a robe and some slippers and lovely shampoos. It feels like a luxury hotel, and you really want to relax in it. Even the bathrooms are important!

MHN: Do you ever get anyone who wants to buy it “as is” with all the furniture you’ve arranged?

Eisen: It happens a lot, especially since there are more overseas buyers in the U.S. market. Who wants to pick out every single item in a place when you can move into a place that’s turn-key? It’s designed for broad appeal, so chances are that most people are going to like it. Absolutely, people just want to move right in—toothbrush and that’s all you need!

 

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