Evan Joseph

A Luxury Stager’s Guide to Manhattan

By Cheryl Eisen

IMG-staging-ad-photog-DonnaDotanIn the Manhattan luxury real estate market, there are four distinct lifestyles to sell: the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Tribeca/SoHo, and FiDi/Wall St. Brokers know this, and stagers stage for it. Luxury real estate agents sell a lifestyle, and they want to sell it quickly. Stage with great attention to the chasms dividing these four neighborhoods, and a property will sell in no time.

Upper East Side & Upper West Side

Tradition and establishment define part of what lures conservative UES buyers uptown.

Think fur throws paired with gold accessories, framed mirrors, and modern takes on classic floor lamps – mind the make of fabrics, too, making sure of its quality feel. Include the more lush and refined versions of elements that remind buyers of home: a modern low-back sofa standing on slim, brass tapered legs with cushions that make it seem just as comfortable and safe as an American Lawson-style sofa. But if the pre-war co-op in the more laid-back Upper West Side needs something more tried and true, a timeless, thick-weave, cream linen sofa, with a warmer set of low, wooden legs, paired with quirkier vintage, velvet ottomans on the sidelines.

The intellectual appeal of the Upper West Side allows more room for the use of eclectic, antique-y furniture pieces juxtaposed to more modern and traditional furniture. Although UES and UWS accessories and décor might overlap, UWS may include less gold and a bit more sculptured accessories. All in all, although uptown style in general might take fewer risks, don’t be afraid to add eclecticism. Choose furniture pieces with traditional silhouettes, but modern materials. Buyers will come in for the striking interior decorating, but they will stay for the comfort of its accompanying warmth (and address).


TriBeCa and SoHo are home to the hip, young and old, who can afford to live in a Park Avenue penthouse but prefer to live, work, and play amongst the gritty and artsy remnants of these two neighborhood’s pasts. Over the last few decades, gentrification and new developments have quickly transformed Downtown into a covetable hip and expensive place to live, with real estate values rivaling that of Park Avenue’s and the like. This fast-paced growth, standing against a diverse and arty cultural backdrop, should inform staging choices. When in doubt, go for minimal pieces with striking profiles. Examples of this are mid-century modern furniture, lighting, and décor. Though avoid sticking only to one style in this case (or any case, really), as it may end up looking like a cold furniture showroom (or a whimsical mess if you have too much variety), and find instead an eclectic theme that mixes vintage with new.Donna-Dotan_6208

Staging Downtown offers a bit more room to be creative, with focal pieces in rooms such as a low funky-shaped coffee table paired with minimal, low-back white chaises with chrome legs on either side. Organic and industrial accessories can also coexist beautifully. For Downtown’s sleeker listings and modern open floor plans, modular furniture and large area rugs can create visually separate spaces and relieve the buyer of having to imagine and section a vast and empty floor space. Large, modern paintings, particularly monochromatic, are especially relevant to the Downtown lifestyle, but can also be used in any kind of listing, instantly highlighting the uniqueness and prestige of a space (bonus points if it’s original). Remember to keep it simple, keep it modern, but always hip.


Wall St./FiDi/Lower Manhattan

Families, recent grads, and single businessmen and women live in this area, creating a mix of lifestyles to stage and sell for. But whether it’s a bachelor pad studio in a Wall Street luxury high-rise or a 3-bedroom family home in a new LEED-Certified Green Condo in Battery Park, this neighborhood is all about industrial chic, attracting anyone who enjoys the bustling energy of the newer towering office buildings juxtaposed to the older, charmingly narrow winding streets and the big, green parks lining Battery Park. Staging elements in Lower Manhattan are less vintage-y than TriBeCa/SoHo, but not as traditional as Uptown. Think modern-but-homey lines with an industrial edge: the result is chic. Modern-inspired, contemporary details and sleek but comfy sofas are a good place to start. You might also see a clean, wrought-iron-framed glass-top side table and a large tufted ottoman serving as our coffee table in Lower Manhattan stagings. This is the right amount of warmth and sleekness buyers in FiDi (families, singles, etc.) will respond positively to, as it resonates with the search for home without compromising city life. Art is always welcomed, especially that which resonates with the urban lifestyle of this area (e.g. over-sized black-and-white photography prints and modern art).

Besides a modern theme throughout the stagings mentioned, here are a few details to include in any staging, anywhere: large-scale modern artwork (wall-space permitting), large area rugs, oversized coffee table books (art books work the best), books to accessorize throughout the house, items to stage closets, and, of course, de-cluttering.

Staging for All

Although some neighborhoods in Manhattan were not mentioned for brevity’s sake and for overlaps in lifestyle, one rule rings true throughout any staging, anywhere: stage for broad appeal. Luxury staging (or any staging) is not a personal endeavor; it is about marketing a lifestyle and evoking emotions and authenticity that resonate with the high-end buyer. The potential buyer should feel at home, especially if the listing is staged properly. Keep away from outdated décor, individual-specific taste, and when in doubt, stick to modern; stay away from showroom-like rented furniture sets, keeping a space looking authentic and not staged. Follow these parameters, and your listing won’t remain one for long.

Photos:Evan Joseph