Model, or “staged,” apartments are no new addition to the world of luxury real estate marketing. The artfully staged apartment is a furniture-laden showcase providing prospective buyers the ability to imagine actually living in the space their broker hopes they will decide to call home. Corcoran agent Leslie Marshall, who handles sales at Third + Bond, a new development that contains one of the model apartments shown on these pages, with interiors “curated” by Pratt students and faculty, told The Observer: “People have a difficult time imagining living in a space if it is just empty, bare rooms. They wonder, ‘Is this room big enough for a dining table?’ Or, ‘Could a king-size bed fit in the master bedroom?’ The model apartment answers those questions for them. It helps people envision themselves there.”
But as the nuances and complexities of residential real estate development continue to multiply like bacteria in a Petri dish, the motivation behind model apartments varies per project.
Five Thirty-five West End Avenue employed a collaborative (or competitive, depending on how you look at it) approach to its model apartments: Each one of 15 high-end interior designers were assigned the task of decorating one room. The completion of the designs were celebrated with a charity gala, and the finished spaces were on display for a month. Designer Inson Wood, who decorated one the largest spaces, told The Observer: “We had up to 200 people a day, every day. It was so popular! It’s a great way of getting press for the building.”
At 211 Elizabeth Street, the bespoke, historically conscious apartment building in Nolita, architects Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch of Roman and Williams were asked by the developers to design a model apartment in the building with themselves as the envisioned inhabitants. The finished product featured black, hand-lacquered walnut cabinets, replete with Italian tomato sauce and a tall bottle of San Pellegrino stowed inside, and luxurious area rugs drawing attention to the walnut-herringbone parquet floors. Ms. Stadefer confessed to The Observer: “Steven and I are not that fond of model apartments. They always seem extremely generic with very little character.” So the dynamic design-duo—whose other credits include the Standard and Ace hotels-—insisted on one condition. “We told them, ‘We need you to let us make this a very real home as opposed to a home/sales office.’ So we embarked on it and really thought of it with ourselves as the owners. We used ourselves as the benchmark, which is really something that every designer does to a certain extent.”