Maximalism is blowing up the old rules on how to prep a luxury home for the sales market, as bold patterns and character replace the conservative decor and palettes that were once de rigueur.
The once-universal way to stage a home—stripped down to inoffensive contemporary furnishings in whites and neutral tones, and rooms devoid of color—has given way to bolder hues, vibrant prints and layered textures as maximalism takes hold of the design industry.
The interior-decorating darling of the moment, maximalism is an aesthetic where drama reigns over demure, according to Brittany Marom, the founder of an eponymous interior design firm in New York that stages luxury homes. Elements include patterns, vivid colors, various textures and layers.
“It’s about wanting to stand out and not be shy. You’re going for that shocking moment,” Ms. Marom said.
“It’s a look with a distinct personality that everyone is going for today, even if it’s in a small area in their homes,” she added. “And it’s pushing staging in the same direction.”
But that’s switching up the standard playbook for decorating professionals whose core mission is to give homes the broadest appeal.
Andrew Bowen, a partner and the head of ASH Staging, a design company that specializes in staging high-end homes in New York City , the Hamptons and California, agreed. Historically, he said, staging is a practice that subtracts personality in favor of a common denominator to appeal to the widest audience. “This translates into simple rooms that lack character,” he said. “As of late, however, maximalism has taken hold in upscale staging.”
It’s also a lot more work, stagers said.
Staging a home to have a distinct personality is a challenging process that requires more time and money than cookie-cutter staging, Mr. Bowen said.
“We begin by imagining the personalities that will inhabit the space and create a style accordingly,” he said. “A vignette for one home won’t necessarily work for another. We approach it the way that we would approach a traditional interior design job where every detail is picked for that specific setting.”
Case in point: Mr. Bowen recently staged a residence in downtown Manhattan with a maximalist vibe where the upper half of the walls and ceiling were painted black in contrast to the soft gray on the lower walls. The bed had a chrome frame, and the blanket, upholstery and accent chairs were thickly textured. For the study, Mr. Bowen chose all-black walls, neon light sculptures, a vintage bar cart, an orange leather vintage desk chair, and a white desk and curtains. “Every piece tells a story, and we would never replicate the same look for another residence,” Mr. Bowen said.
Developers are also embracing maximalist styles as a way to stand out from their competitors, Ms. Marom said.
“With the rising cost of materials and long lead times, developers need a way to distinguish themselves,” she said. “Rather than building new developments that are for anyone or everyone, they’re designing model residences to be loud and demographic specific.”
She recently staged two model apartments in a rental development, 1510 Gates, in the artsy neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn, with designs that were inspired by the graffiti art throughout the streets as well as on the building’s exterior. “I wanted the interiors to be a reflection of the surroundings,” she said. “I went with green kitchen cabinetry, graphic tiles, patterned area rugs and jewel-toned upholstery.”
Maximalist staging is largely limited to the most rarefied sector of the housing market, said Blake Sutton, the founder of the Scottsdale, Arizona-based firm Sutton Staging.
“You see it in the luxury sphere. The pricier the property, the more homeowners are willing to invest in selling it,” he said. “Maximalism requires four times as many accessories than your standard contemporary staged home, and most sellers simply aren’t willing to spend that much. They’re going for mass appeal.”
Still, in the upscale market at least, customized staging like Ms. Marom’s can help woo buyers, according to some developers.
Kelly Geng, the head of marketing for DMG Investments, a U.S. developer with luxury buildings in New York, Milwaukee, Houston and elsewhere, said that the company staged two apartments in a maximalist style at its condominium in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, named One Park. Set on the Hudson River, the building features unobstructed views of Manhattan and has residences for sale starting at $1 million.
To get a competitive edge, the company hired interior decorator Joe Human, the founder of the Sarasota, Florida-based firm Designs by Human, to reimagine its model units with flair.
Mr. Human’s interpretation included a living room in one of the residences that he outfitted with large-scale wildlife-themed art, chrome-back and leather sitting chairs, leopard print pillows and a red patterned rug.
In the office of the three-bedroom model unit, Mr. Human said that he created a moody space with dark grass-cloth coverings, dark bookcases and dark-toned abstract art.
“I styled the bookcases very specifically to feel like someone’s real home but bring a little more over-the-top feeling to them,” Mr. Human said.
As soon as prospective buyers saw the maximalist units, sales in the building moved three times as fast, Ms. Geng said. “Now, most of our 200 units are sold,” she said. “Joe’s homey style really speaks to people today and is so different from the way that homes are usually staged.”
Jay Chen, an investment banker, was one such buyer who was won over by Mr. Human’s over-the-top interiors.
“I loved the model apartments and thought that they were really fun. They felt like a real home,” he said. “They got me excited to live in the building and sealed the deal for me when I had to make the decision to buy.”
Since moving in, Mr. Chen has aimed to emulate the attention-grabbing interiors by buying accent pieces and fabrics in similar bright colors and in-your-face patterns.
“My apartment isn’t exactly like the ones Human designed, but that’s the point,” Mr. Chen said. “I got inspired by his work and created a maximalism look that’s entirely my own.”