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The stagecraft behind selling an apartment

Interior designer Noa Santos sets the stage at

Interior designer Noa Santos sets the stage at an apartment in Hell's Kitchen. (Deidre Schoo) Photo Credit: Interior designer Noa Santos sets the stage at an apartment in Hell's Kitchen. (Deidre Schoo)

Anyone who's seen a model apartment knows that the proper placement of furniture and accessories can make a world of difference in the look and feel of a space.
And when you're trying to sell an apartment, you want everything to be placed just right. That's where staging comes in.

Noa Santos, interior designer and founder of 50 for Fifty, a company that consults with renters and owners on how best to update their apartments, stressed that in staging an apartment, you're selling a type of lifestyle. While you can't possibly appeal to all buyers' tastes, you can present your home as a "warm, inviting and cohesive space. That's the most important thing," he said.

Santos recently staged two apartments at The 505, a new development at 505 W. 47th St., (which developed some cachet when it was featured on Logo's "The A List.") He took us on a tour and gave us some staging tips.

[ 1 ] Tell a story.
At the 505, Santos had the difficult task of staging an apartment that didn't really have space for a dining table. Instead of squeezing one in, he opted for coffee tables and a small, two-person table with lounge chairs in the living room. "The theme was entertaining 'on the rocks,'" he said. It would appeal to young, single people who liked to have cocktail parties and wouldn't mind forgoing a full-sized table. He kept the storyline going by accesorizing with wine glasses.

[ 2 ] Know your buyers.
Santos pulled off the cocktail-party-themed apartment because he knew most of the buyers at The 505 are single and childless. If you know that your neighborhood attracts families, for example, make sure your apartment appears kid-friendly and play up kids' accessories if you have them.

[ 3 ] Don't be afraid of color.
Though model apartments are traditionally painted white, Santos loves a bit of color on the walls as long as it's done tastefully. If you want to paint, he recommends a satin finish over a flat one.

[ 4 ] Play up your assets.
If your apartment has some funky detailing or a great view, make sure not to block them.

[ 5 ] Let there be light.
In New York City, light is a premium amenity. Remove heavy blinds or curtains that block windows. If your apartment is dark, fake it with lots of lighting.

[ 6 ] Get rid of clutter.
Obviously, your apartment should be immaculate when showing it to potential buyers. But neat doesn't mean stark. Santos recommends keeping things like books, a few photo frames and wine glasses.

[ 7 ] Show how an odd layout can work.
If there's a part of your apartment with an odd layout (such as a room that's too big to be a closet but too small to be another bedroom), fill it with appropriately sized furniture. Leaving a room empty makes it seem unusable.

[ 8 ] Make a good first impression.
"Just like when you meet a new person, when you meet a new apartment, your first impression is really important," Santos said. For this reason, he decided to turn a front room in one of the 505 apartments into a small lounge rather than an office. "Who wants to walk into an apartment and see an office?" Also, move your best accessories and furniture to a place where they'll be seen first. "You don't want to save the best for last in an apartment, because by the time the buyer gets there, they may have given up."

[ 9 ] Trust the thrift stores.
If you want to replace some unattractive furniture, Santos suggests buying vintage pieces. And often at stores like Housing Works, you can pick up the pieces on the same day or have them delivered on the next. Stay away from furnishing an apartment in all Ikea, all West Elm or all CB2. "You're selling a lifestyle here; you want the apartment to look like a place the buyer would want to live."

[ 10 ] Break up the space.
In one of The 505 apartments that Santos staged, he turned a nice-sized living room into three distinct spaces, furnishing it with a large dining-room table, an L-shaped couch and a breakfast bar near the open kitchen. (The theme in this one was "dinner party" rather than "cocktail party." By creating a living-room, dining-room, and breakfast-room "box," he opened up the space for three separate functions.

[ 11 ] Clean closets.
Closets look smaller when they're full, so consider hiding your hanging clothes somewhere else.

[ 12 ] Update your space with small touches.
If you have a couch that's seen better days, cover it with an inexpensive slip cover. Rugs can also make a big aesthetic difference. Indoor/outdoor sisal rugs are usually less than $100 and look great under couches and tables.

[ 13 ] Be brutal.
If there's a piece of furniture or an accessory that doesn't add to the space, get rid of it (or at least put it away).

[ 14 ] Pick furniture that fits the space.
Don't jam a lot of furniture into a space to show how big it is or how much it can fit. Go for one or two pieces that fit the space but don't make it look crammed.

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