Call the Home Stager!
Preparing to list your property? ASH NYC’s head of staging on why even the most well-appointed Hamptons home can benefit from a bit of theater.
If you are selling a high-end property in the Hamptons, you may have furnished your house with the help of an interior decorator, written sizable checks to top-flight landscape architects and garden designers over the years, and installed a kitchen which friends routinely describe as ‘gourmet.’ Before you proceed to list the place, you dutifully de-clutter and paint, and to your eye, everything looks great.
Having lavished so much attention on your nest, you may think you don’t need a home stager. Thus it can come as a rude surprise when your real estate agent begs to differ. Industry wisdom holds that staged properties sell faster and command higher prices than those that are vacant or not staged. Andrew Bowen, the head of staging and a partner at ASH NYC, a design and development firm with offices in New York, Los Angeles, and the Hamptons, is among those who subscribes to this view. He tells of perfectly nice homes that languished on the market until his team was called in to put things right. “We have a ton of data and case studies which show that staged homes sell quicker than un-staged homes,” says Bowen.
Staged properly, that is. What many sellers don’t realize, says Bowen, is that when you put a home on the market, it should not be a reflection of your personal style. “It’s not about you,” he will gently tell clients who try to impose their own taste on a staging project. From the moment a home goes on the market, everything within its walls should be there solely for the purpose of attracting a buyer; for a staged home is nothing if not an aspirational home, down to the tapered beeswax candles in the living room and the chic soap in the bathrooms. In short, to sell a home for the best possible price, it takes more than nice furniture. Bowen explains that a multitude of intangibles also come into play. That’s why ASH NYC-staged properties often have music playing in the background, an anything-but-random playlist of songs chosen to evoke positive feelings. The same goes for the art on the walls, the books on the shelf, and the big statement pieces, all carefully disposed for maximum effect.
According to Bowen, one common staging mistake is to under-decorate. Style-wise, this is not the time to go minimalist. Rather than make the space feel larger, “too little furniture and an emphasis on open space can have the opposite effect.” By introducing small changes to the floor plan so that a room can accommodate more furniture, it will feel more capacious. A good stager will also make sure that the furniture is the right scale.
Bowen’s recently employed these and other strategies at a Bridgehampton property listed at $8,800,000. The 4200-square-foot contemporary glass-walled structure is steps to the ocean and has water views of Mecox Bay, Sams Creek, and the Atlantic.
“That house is a love letter to great views,” says Bowen. “The architecture is pure geometry, very twenty-first century. We decided to lean in to that by using a subdued color palette of neutral hues, plenty of natural wood, and a mix of mid-century and contemporary furniture.” He notes that the design scheme is a long way from the white slip-covered sofas and sisal rug aesthetic which has come to define Hamptons style. Instead, the team deployed the firm’s vast stock of new and vintage pieces, creating crisp, clean interiors. Walking through its rooms, a visitor might imagine they had found a place in which to begin afresh.
“For a long time, the ethos of the staging industry was to cast the widest possible net,” reflects Bowen. “There’s a certain logic to support that, but our approach at ASH NYC has always been to eschew mass market design.” When his team prepares to stage a property, they start with the assumption that it is special. “Then through intuition and research and conversation, we figure out exactly what makes it special. And that’s because a home, just like the people who’ll live in it, needs to have a soul.”