If you’ve attended a property inspection in recent years you’ve more than likely, consciously or not, observed the work of a property stylist. Property styling has become an ingrained component of modern property sale campaigns. As the baseline expense of selling property continues to rise, sellers frequently question the rationale behind and likely return on investment from, property styling.
A great negotiator is said to be able to seamlessly interweave art and science when facilitating an agreement between two opposing parties. A brilliant property stylist must also master the art and science of occupying space, leaving little trace of their very deliberate designs.
There are two predominant strategies employed in property staging, which are oddly in conflict. The first, and most common, is the “blank canvas” approach. This method is based on strong psychological evidence that suggests the vast majority of people struggle to visualise themselves in spaces as they would fill them. Empty spaces, cluttered spaces, or spaces with strong idiosyncratic design aspects, therefore, are difficult for a potential buyer to visualise filled with their furniture, artwork and belongings. The challenge for the property stylist is to make these spaces stylish, but also homogeneous. The aim is to appeal to the broadest range of tastes, without alienating anyone. For those of you searching for a property, or just perennially interested in “the market”, this may be why you experience an eery sense of familiarity as you spend your Saturday scouring the city for something in your budget.
The second method relies on identifying the likely buyer-type and designing a more specific aesthetic around demographic preferences. An example of this might be the “down-sizer” buyer-type. Age, area, property size, property era or build-type, and price are considerations the stylist will factor into creating an impression that has an immediate impact and recognition for potential buyers. Cognitive biases come into play in this approach; buyers are looking for familiarity, confirmation of existing tastes or beliefs. Stylists may place items that will register with a buyer’s reticular activating system (RAS). In layman’s terms, which I most definitely am, your RAS is the system that filters from the billions of things you see and think each day, what stands out to you. So when you’re looking to a buy a white Golf, the only cars you see on the road are white Golfs. It is a truly amazing system. To employ this strategy effectively the stylist and selling agent both must be absolute experts in their craft.
Without a doubt, stylists apply a scientific approach to their artistry and in an age where consumers have never been so visually and aesthetically sophisticated their skills are worth their weight in gold-flecked throw rugs.
The Rule of Three
Next time you attend a property inspection look for a signature stylist strategy: “The Rule of Three”. Stylists will group items in threes, not fours, sixes or two, but threes. Why? Three is the smallest number required for your brain to register a pattern, and when you see an odd number of things, your eye is forced to adjust which makes for a more interesting visual experience.