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Buyers only know what they see, not the way it’s going to be.  It may be hard to believe but it’s true.  Most buyers have a difficult time “imagining” what a space is going to look like.   This is an important point to remember when it comes to staging and selling a property especially as it relates to vacant properties and empty spaces.  Encouraging buyers to “envision” what a space might look like furnished was a design challenge a broker recently called me in to help solve.  The dilemma was a familiar one.  I arrived at 658 Bergen Street, a beautiful complex of condominium buildings in ProspectHeights, Brooklyn, and found myself in the middle of a stunning duplex apartment that was only partially staged.  Another stager had staged the top level of the residence, but the lower level was completely bare and this was creating an obstacle when it came to selling.

The marketing concept behind the duplex apartments was that the lower level could be used as a functioning space, perhaps a family room, office or children’s playroom.  What I “saw” and what potential buyers found as well was a sprawling lower level, with white walls and beige floor tiles that felt more like an enormous storage locker or fun place for kids to skateboard than a functional space where anyone would want to spend any amount of time.

As a professional ASID Interior Designer and Certified Staging Professional residential interior design is my strength.  New developments as well as executing functional designs from a blank canvas is indeed my distinctive niche.  Relating to my design challenge at 658 Bergen Street, I was excited about creating a functional space from what many potential buyers had written off as “unusable”.

I began my design process as I often do by requesting a floor plan in AutoCAD, which is an architectural based computer program used by professional interior designers and architects.  I then began to space plan and immediately determining function, how the room will be used.  I decided upon a “design recipe” that would create a sleeping suite/family area.  Both spaces were distinctive, on the left the family room, on the right the sleeping area.  The two spaces divided by a panel covered in gorgeous Asian inspired wallpaper from Osbourne & Little and silk panels hung on a stainless steel ceiling rod. My goal was to imply that there could easily be a division of space without in any way having the space feel closed off.  I feel it’s so important for potential buyers to feel comfortable with space and dimension, having the sense that there is the potential to also “grow” within a space.

At 658 Bergen Street, potential buyers were indeed attracted to the spaciousness, the open kitchen, living space on the upper level, the large master bedroom, but the interest stopped at the top of the staircase that led to the lower level.

“The biggest challenge in this apartment is the large basement.  The basement was cold and over-whelming. It was hard for the buyer to see what to do with the space. Considering half the square footage was in the basement, getting the price the developer wanted was not going to happen. Calling in an expert was the only way to go. Cathy was able to warm the space and show clear division of the space,” says Deborah Fuka of Prudential Douglas Elliman.

In dividing the space into two functional areas, a sleeping suite and a family room, I also used different but complementing color palettes incorporating different accent walls within each space.  In the sleeping suite, I selected orange and lime as my color scheme, painting the accent wall a color called Jalapeno Pepper.  While in the family room area, I selected eggplant and orange, selecting a subtle turquoise for the accent wall.  The result was two distinct spaces that blended perfectly.

“The color pattern Cathy chose really helped make it look comfortable. The way she helped show a bed set and living room conquered the biggest challenge. I am confident that I will now get the price we are seeking,” added Deborah Fuka of Prudential Douglas Elliman.

Before my re-design and staging, the duplex apartment had lingered on the market for months, with no offers.  Within a short time after my staging, the developer was presented with offers not only for the unit that I staged but also for similar units within the building.

To execute this staging, here’s my design recipe:

Cathy Hobbs Design Recipes

  • Think function first
  • Generate a floor plan that creates distinct spaces
  • Allow plenty of room for circulation and flow
  • Develop a color scheme
  • Use color such as accent walls to help define a space
  • Purchase furnishings that are multi-functional
  • Add pops of color through artwork
  • Add warmth through accents and accessories

The goal with any staging is to allow buyers to see a properties true potential.  What this means for many buyers is literally “seeing is believing”.  As an interior designer and home stager who has helped to sell more than $500 million dollars worth of real estate, I understand real estate and the nuisances that come with designing spaces that allow potential buyers to envision themselves within a space.  With this design challenge, my design recipe was to define the space for them, showcasing the lower level as a space that could be used for a specific function.   When the lower level was a blank canvas, it was difficult for buyers to imagine the potential, once the space was stage they could clearly visualize how the space could be used first hand.  The design principles I used in executing this design, can also apply to other unique or hard to design spaces.  When faced with design challenges like basements and lower levels, remember it’s all about “design, function, and enticing buyers”.

Living Room Before

Living Room After — Staged by Cathy Hobbs Design Recipes (www.cathyhobbs.com)

Bedroom Area Before

Living Room Area After–STAGED by Cathy Hobbs Design Recipes (www.cathyhobbs.com)