When it comes to staging a house, no one does it quite like ASH.
With a vast collection of pieces from vintage classics to custom-built fits, the bi-coastal company delivers on-demand staging and interior design services to hundreds of clients a year; be they agents, brokers, developers—and sometimes the home buyers themselves.
ASH Staging works incredibly fast, but what really sets the AD100-approved team apart is the attention to detail paid to each and every space.
“What we do is also very similar to set design,” says ASH Partner and Head of Staging, Andrew Bowen. “Not only are we creating concept boards, but we're also creating characters that inhabit these spaces. It's not even a joke. We're like ‘it’s Paul and Janet, they have two kids, they do this for a living, and they have a dog.’ We really love to get into that, and we often hear that the people who bought the houses are just like that.”
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From the moment a client contacts ASH, the company’s full-team starts working. Sales teams put together a proposal, trained architects create designs in AutoCAD to personalize every inch, items are sourced from the company’s massive inventory, and if the client loves the look, it’s all put together and made ready for its close up.
“A lot of our projects are done, from start to finish, within months; and in the context of furnishing an entire home or space, that's extremely fast,” Bowen says, and that quickness has led to a new ASH service: rent-to-own furnishings and design services for home-owners that want a new look fast.
“When you walk into a home that you want to buy—which for most people is the largest investment that they will make in their lifetime—it has to be staged and designed properly,” Bowen says. “We say ‘who is this home for? Let's show them that this is their home.’ It’s our job to design it, fill it and bring it to its full potential.”
Because the world of staging is so fast-paced and temporary, ASH recently designed its own concept house in Los Angeles and opened it to prospective clients and friends for events. The 100-year-old house channels the spirit of old Hollywood with rousing modern touches. It's ASH's calling card to mix pieces from a wide range of decades, and the concept house gives the company to do just that and watch the spaces come to life.
We caught up with Bowen to learn more about ASH's unique design perspective and how you can get that high-end look at home, whether you’re looking to sell a space fast or just want to live in luxury.
How did the Concept House in L.A. come about?
The homes that we stage sell so quickly, and so much of our work is temporary. There's a very limited window of time to actually show people what we do. So we said, "let's just take a home, something really special just like the projects that we do, and create this whole concept house that we can bring clients and potential clients to and show them what we do." We've been having an amazing time activating that home through smaller and larger events; having dinners, cocktail parties, having people just by the pool for a weekend day. People can actually see it, feel it, smell it, touch it, taste it. We pick the food and the candles and music for the whole experience, which are actually things we offer as services.
How did you go about designing these rooms?
Every room is supposed to tell the story. We had full control, so we said, “let's do this secondary bedroom in a more risky, blush rose color. Let's layer in warmer and cooler tones, let's layer in a vintage chair and side table but with a contemporary custom bed and special linen bedding.” Every detail is thought as three dimensional art and also tries to speak a little bit to the architectural detail. We mirrored the doors in the shape of the light fixture. We're not doing demo and construction. This home has these amazing bones. It's a 100-year old home in the Hollywood Hills, and we wanted to celebrate that.
My favorite is the primary bedroom. Since the secondary bedroom was done in full color, we did something a little more neutral but really brought in that warmth through all the of the woods; down to the vintage desk, chair and nightstands. We did a lot of layering with that extra hide rug on top of a custom rug beneath. We painted the window casings this color called Ebony King for a little bit of contract so it's not all pure white. This is sort of a counterbalance to the other.
We did the outdoor furniture as well, and that's such a big part of California. We wanted to bring in that little extra note of mustard in the umbrella. We have a mix of vintage and contemporary pieces in every space. That's one of the things that we're known for. It's not just off the shelf items. It's not just custom things that we're making. It's always supposed to feel like a proper collection. We want people to think it took months or years to do the work, when really, it's a matter of weeks.
What are some tips to keep in mind when designing a space, whether staging for a sale or creating a high-end look worth living in?
Generally, less is more. A lot of people live with so much, and there's really nothing wrong with that, but while you're selling your house, you really should remove yourself from it to the extent possible. That's not to say it should be boring or bland, but that is to say having a collection of 10,000 books in a room that really can only hold 1,000 is probably too much. Having all of your enormous and overstuffed pillows on the bed is too much. People are gravitating toward a cohesive and edited look today, and you would do well to have a little bit of negative space. Not every corner or wall needs to be filled.
Scale is probably one of the most important things when staging. It's not just “is this a beautiful table and chair set for the dining room?” It's “how many people can this room fit, and are we maximizing that?” Seating capacity is always top of mind. Changing out those fixed elements is also very important. Let's say you have heavy, dark-patterned drapery that's cutting out a lot of light. Swap that out for something light and bright, like white or off-white linen. Changing dated light fixtures is the easiest thing to do. That's not even a renovation, but it can make an entire room feel brand new.
Large artwork and mirrors can help properly utilize your wall space. People can focus too much on the furniture in staging, but it's not just that. Gallery walls can get a little too cluttered. Not every wall should have a gallery wall. Think hard about if your decor is the right size for that wall, because it's not just the square footage people are buying; it's the cubic footage. How are you making it feel bigger horizontally, and how are you lifting things up vertically? Everybody wants high ceilings. If you have window treatments that bring it all the way up to the ceiling, that's something that draws the eye up, and light fixtures help with that, too.
What trends are taking center stage in 2022?
Pattern is really coming back. There's been this decade of solidity that is like quietly being ushered out. People are gravitating toward rugs that have movement and accent pillows. You can see in this photo (above), we did that tapestry pillow that's actually a vintage tapestry remnant that was turned into like a decorative pillow. Just be sure to mix with a solid base. I think mixing patterns is big.
Color is on the forefront of people's minds. There was this period of neutrality that we're clearly exiting—and it's not just jewel tones or pastels. People are embracing color more and more. In staging, I think it should be edited to an extent and not too piece-by-piece. It should be thought of in the context of the room. Really sumptuous, deep seated sofas and fully-upholstered seating; curvaceous forms in general are things people are really gravitating towards. Anything that's sitting on thin legs really has to be balanced with something stronger. There's this solidity that is really resonating lately.
What trends are on their way out?
Gray as a color is not having its moment anymore. I hate to say it, but the fiddle leaf fig tree has made its way through our collection consciousness. We're doing a lot of other tropical plants. Mediterranean plants like the olive are really successful.
Very sharp, very strict forms and things that are too geometric are not as popular at the moment. People are just valuing comfort. The home is where you're spending most of your time, and the home office is huge. Everybody wants a nice home office with an ergonomic chair. In New York apartments or even an L.A. home, you have to show that there can be an office, and that wasn't the thing five years ago.
Any advice for working with color?
Color is always a really tough one to give specific guidance for. There are plenty of examples of rooms that really have the entire rainbow represented and are stunning. On the other hand, nothing drives me more crazy than a room where everything is white except one accent pillow.
What we do is come up with color stories, and we're always designing everything holistically. We don't move a single thing into a room until we know everything. We don't move that bed in until we know what the sheets are going to be, what the wall color is going to be, what the lamp is going to be, what the objects on that dresser are going to be. Try to use a color story, mood board it, and get as much selected as you can to make sure it's all cohesive.
Learn more about ASH Staging's premium, on-demand services and see more examples of the bi-coastal team's work via ashstaging.com.