One of the things that makes New York City real estate so iconic is the blend of old and new, the storied past with constant reinvention. Nowhere is this more evident than in NYC real estate development, where historic buildings are reborn as extraordinary contemporary living spaces.
Now add an address that is practically synonymous with luxury — 212 Fifth Avenue — and you’ve truly found an exceptional space.
212 Fifth Avenue’s transformation
Developed by Madison Equities and Marketed by Sotheby’s International Realty, 212 Fifth Avenue is a neo-Gothic early skyscraper — one of New York’s first — dating from 1912. Restored by Helpern Architects, its 48 residences boast views that have to be seen to be believed and the kind of space that is almost unheard of in contemporary NYC residences.
Sotheby’s International Realty Associate Broker Nikki Field described the “enormous arched windows in each residence [which] provide beautiful, open views that we felt needed to become a focal point. The building highlights the impressive views and open space, without compromising the home’s luxe interior elements.”
But selling such extraordinary homes isn’t just a matter of if you build it, they will come.
“You must find a way for your product to shine and catch the buyers’ and brokers’ attention. Visuals are the first opportunity to grab a buyer who is sometimes reviewing dozens of options. Wow factor sells. If you are selling luxury — the experience begins at ‘hello’ and moves through the apartment,” Field said.
Staging goes beyond furniture placement and floor plans, according to Field.
“Staging creates a sense of home. Art on the walls, lamp light and lifestyle accessories contribute to the selling of luxury real estate. Of course a good bottle of wine in the refrigerator to fill those staged wine glasses on the marble island provides a reason to stay just a little longer and envision living in the space.”
Staging luxury on a truly grand scale
To find a staging company that could stand up to the task of staging not just a home, but a multi-unit building of such proportions, Field turned to Cheryl Eisen, owner of Interior Marketing Group (IMG).
Eisen is one of the premier authorities on NYC interiors and staging. Indeed, six units have sold in 212 as a result of her staging. Her strength lies in her ability to hone in on the property’s ideal buyer. As a former real estate agent herself, Eisen has a unique ability to understand spaces from the sales perspective.
“I understand how challenging it is to sell your seller, but there are hard numbers involved and return on investment [when a property is staged.] Whether it’s a low-end or high-end property, you want to be sure that the stager understands the difference and who the property is being marketed to so that they have the level of furnishing and design that is needed for the particular property,” Eisen said.
Eisen said that a stager needs to be able to make the home look “furnished” rather than staged. Otherwise, it just feels like a furniture showroom. “Whatever they are doing should not detract from the things that are selling the home — finishes, views, architecture. Staging isn’t just about placing furniture in the room. It’s about selling the property.”
Staging secrets of the rich and famous
Staging at this level is about more than just showing people where the dining room table goes. Eisen said, “For 212 Fifth Avenue, the goal was to maintain a broad appeal, while differentiating units with lighting and artwork. We want to maintain a level of sophistication and luxury.
“We focus on the unique features of each unit, like the beautiful marble floors, for example. We wanted the marble flooring to be the star of the show in the foyer, so we would offset with a beautiful light fixture and minimal furniture.”
To emphasize space, Eisen used furniture with a low profile to showcase high ceilings, as well as accentuating the incredible views by framing, rather than covering, the windows with draperies.
Because New York has so many international buyers, Eisen tapped into some global inspiration.
“In certain units we used feng shui design elements because we wanted to appeal to non-American buyers as well and make sure that we had thought about them,” she said. “For example, we didn’t put a mirror across from the doorway because that is considered bad luck in certain cultures. We kept the artwork modern but not distracting and created a gallery feel in the grand hallways.”
Luxury homes require luxury staging
“It’s very important that the luxury buyer walk in and not think the furniture is ‘bringing the unit down,’” Eisen said. “It has to speak to a billionaire’s aesthetic. The price is not the thing that makes that happen. It’s layering and textures. We use textured grasscloth wallpaper in certain rooms to give that feeling of warmth and depth. Then, we add beautiful silk fabrics, high-end area rugs, velvet throw pillows and cashmere throws.”
“All of these in neutral tones with layers of texture give the feeling of luxury. While we do a lot of new furniture, we also supplement with vintage pieces so it feels like a real interior design moment,” Eisen added.
She said that many buyers walk in and buy the staged units “completely furnished, art and everything” rather than spending a year working with a decorator to design the space. “That happens all the time,” she said, “and it really speaks to how well we understand our buyer demographic.”
According to Eisen, when selling a luxury property, exceptionally luxe design truly sells.
“Staging can be totally transformational, and [it] makes the difference between the buyer being able to see themselves in the space and being ready to move right in,” she said.
Rather than selling an empty shell, effective staging can create an emotional connection between the home and the buyer.