To the trained eye, a simple glance at a Manhattan real estate listing will tell you if it’s been professionally staged. Some discerning eyes might go a step further and tell you who staged it. In many instances, the name that comes back, again and again, is ASH NYC, a Manhattan-based design and development firm that just opened its third staging office and showroom in sunny Los Angeles.
ASH interiors are easily recognizable: light, bright, and undeniably high-end. They’re minimalistic but welcoming; luxe but understated. They’re filled with deep-seated white linen sofas and propped with striking art and large plants. ASH’s director of staging, Andrew Bowen, has his own idea of the perfect materials that should inhabit his dream space: “Crisp linen, blackened steel, and old wood on the cusp of disintegration.”
When you come across someone as experienced in creating beautiful spaces as Bowen, you just want to spend hours picking their brain: Where do you source furniture? What are your best styling tricks? Where should you spend the bulk of your decorating budget? What are the mistakes people most often make? So that’s exactly what we did. Ahead, we lay out the staging director’s top five tips for creating your dream space.
Envision your ideal lifestyle
Staging is a business that involves imagining homes without knowing who inhabits them, so creating personas is especially important to the team at ASH. “Once we are signed on, we begin by developing an imaginary character or set of characters who we envision inhabiting the space, and then start our design work for them, even though they don’t actually exist,” explains Bowen. “For a residential project, this could mean everything from a young, single professional to a jet-setting family of five or six.”
The Takeaway: While you certainly don’t need to create a persona for your own home, taking a moment to identify what your needs are, what your style is, and how you want to use your space can help kick-start a vision for your space.
Prioritize quality upholstery above all else
There is one common thread in what Bowen believes makes a room feel more spacious or inviting: soft furnishings. “Deep-seated sofas tend to immediately create a sense of ease or calm, even before sitting in them,” he points out, adding that white sofas are not to be feared. After all, there are a ton of protective coating to help upholstery resist staining. “Substantial, soft armchairs and daybeds with loose pillows tend to engender a similar reaction. Additionally, I would say that it’s virtually universally well-received to have a fully upholstered king-size bed with mostly bright, solid bedding—when space allows.” He also adds that the most affordable way to transform a room on a small budget is with drapery.
The Takeaway: When it comes to choosing where to splurge and where to save, prioritize your upholstered pieces: sofas, chairs, and even your bed. Custom drapery will also go a long way in making your space feel more luxurious. Then, save on smaller accessories that you can purchase at your local flea market.
Pay attention to the scale of your objects
One of the most common mistakes Bowen sees in people’s homes before they come in for staging is items that are improperly scaled or aren’t cohesive together. “We often see art that is too small for its location, a lack of storage solutions and resultant visible clutter, and a passion for buying one piece at a time without the skill set for ensuring harmony between all of the individual items,” he notes. After tackling these issues, he recommends including sizeable floral arrangements and foliage in nearly every room, and ensure that a significantly scaled, perfectly measured custom rug grounds most living and sleeping areas. Those details will ensure a pared-back space that’s perfectly proportioned and uncluttered.
The Takeaway: Have a cohesive vision for your furniture plan before buying and ensure you have adequate storage for all your possessions (or take note from Marie Kondo and declutter). When hanging art, place smaller pieces strategically to avoid them getting lost on large blank walls. Measure your rugs adequately and add towering plants in each room to make the space feel grand and polished.
Be hyper-local with your accessorizing
ASH has warehouses in New York and Los Angeles that house tens of thousands of individual items and buy from a digitally managed, vetted arsenal of over 600 (confidential) vendors around the world. While they do the bulk of their shopping online, they try to emphasize sourcing items from local shops for each project. “We love to collect from small and individual proprietors who maintain their businesses in either off-the-beaten-path locations or hyper-local boutiques,” says Bowen. “For example, when accessorizing for a project, we prefer to spend some time walking around the neighborhood or nearest downtown and support small businesses nearby.”
The Takeaway: While you may be eyeing the perfect white sofa from Restoration Hardware, it doesn’t mean you have to buy all your accessories there too. Walk around vintage and antique shops in your neighborhood or scour your local ceramicists for unique pieces to give your home personality.
Finish off with luxe touches to increase well-being
A home isn’t simply a visual experience, it affects all five senses, something that the team at ASH Staging is acutely aware of. “We love higher-end candles and bath products,” says Bowen. “It elevates the perceived value of an entire property almost immediately. We also include a range of other sensory-focused accents that aren’t necessarily visually as striking, but they’re equally impactful nonetheless, such as bites and refreshments (for taste), diffusers (for scent), and crystals (for energy).”
The Takeaway: Think beyond what you see in your space and make sure it feels comfortable and inviting, too—light an indulgent scented candle or diffuse essential oils throughout. Strategically place crystals in your home to improve the energy and make sure the pantry (and bar) are well-stocked.
Discover more great decorating tips:
6 Home-Staging Secrets We’ve Learned From Brooklyn’s Most Prolific Duo
NYC Couples Get Real About Sharing a Bathroom and Making It Work
We’re Making the Case for Built-In Furniture (Yes, Even in a Rental)