See How a Home Stager Helped a Gilded Age Apartment Age Gracefully

published Jan 15, 2023
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Hiding in a small apartment in East Chelsea, there’s a perfectly maintained homage to Gilded Age detail. The listing agent, Annette Akers with Serhant, notes that the building dates back to 1899 and consists of only 16 total apartments. “All the apartments have original decorative fireplaces, and many have bay windows and 10-foot ceilings,” Akers says.

When its owners decided to sell, the unique unit fell into the hands of a stager who wanted to let it age gracefully. “We wanted to connect with buyers who would be drawn in by its charm and history, as well as how easily it would adapt to our 21st-century needs and functionality,” says Richard Fostek of Edge Mid Century Staging and Designs.

That 21st-century functionality also meant a dose of 20th-century design. All of Fostek’s projects are rooted in a love of sophisticated midcentury styling, and he uses strong graphic wall art, contemporary lines, and sleek silhouettes throughout his design. But you’ll notice that love affair didn’t lead Fostek to make cosmetic changes to the space. He prefers to leave homes intact and recommends only “as needed” painting for tired walls. This apartment was spruced up with a fresh coat of paint in Benjamin Moore Atrium White to bring out the beauty of the original parquet floors and wood trim.

If you’ve ever been in an open house, you know that it’s not unusual to see a color palette of grays and neutrals. Yet in this space, this decision went beyond just trying to find a crowd-pleasing color. Because of the warmth of the wood throughout the apartment, Fostek looked across the color wheel to find balance.

“We felt a cooler gray base for the upholstery and the warmer brass metals of the tables and accessories would work well visually to make the space more current and relevant to today,” he says. “[It provides] a nice juxtaposition to the wood elements: New World meets Old World.”

That cool gray tone was carried throughout the apartment. “We chose pieces that had a color link to some of the other furniture and accessories in the rooms, creating a color harmony that was very soothing and custom,” says Fostek. 

Credit: Vistabee

As with any staging project, furniture for living isn’t always the same as furniture for selling. And while the original arrangement may have been comfortable, it made the space feel overcrowded and small. Fostek brought in pieces that were better scaled for the room’s actual square footage, and created little moments throughout the space that invite the potential buyer to imagine themselves sitting down to dinner or relaxing on the sofa. It’s not just about the furniture, either — every detail, every dish, every coffee table book helps paint a picture. 

“We pay attention to layering in the accessories for the vignettes. Each one also plants a visual seed in the buyer’s mind as to the design and versatility of the home. Small vignettes give each area of the room a function and purpose,” says Fostek.

The pièce de résistance is the eye-catching mantle with the light-reflecting mirror above it. With a clever furniture layout, Fostek made it the centerpiece of the room. “We created a clear sightline to the mantle from the entry of the living room, making it the visual center of the room,” explains Fostek, who removed any furniture obscuring that pathway. And by creating that first focus space, a second vignette emerged: The bay window became a room-within-a-room, a darling little reading nook.

So how did the staging perform? The unit sold — for $50,000 over asking.