Featured Artist: Benjamin Heller

Great art can transform your home from “nicely decorated” to a mindful space. With Brooklyn as arguably one of the world’s creative epicenters – look no further than our own extended backyard for cutting edge art (and music!) to fill your home. I love collaborating with artists when I stage a property for sale! Showcasing art in a home – in contrast to a gallery – helps visualize how the piece might feel in a more personal space, and even allows the art itself to take on a different life and energy.

My interior styling for our listing at 939 Union Street in Park Slope features works by Brooklyn-based artist Benjamin Heller from his recent photographic exhibition Echo and Convergence at the Robin Rice Gallery in the West Village.

Since meeting through a mutual dancer friend, it has been a joy getting to know Benjamin and glimpsing into his studio and thoughts behind his work. His photographs feel bewitchingly theatrical but not staged, and both intimate and hugely powerful – where each image provokes the imagination into uninhibited story-telling and inward reflection for all ages. So up your art game today and support the arts by seeking out new artists to follow, purchase art and music that expands your mind, and visit open studios and live performances!

View More of Benjamin Heller’s Work Here: http://www.benjaminhellerart.com/

View Full Listing Here: 939 Union Street, #10 – Park Slope, Brooklyn $2.35M Condo – 3 Beds, 3 Baths, 2 Private Terraces –  uninhibited skyline views just steps from Prospect Park.

Should You D.I.Y. Real Estate?

Real Estate Agents are often characterized as sleazy, knuckle-headed – or possibly both (or worse). The “Phil Dunphy” although dedicated and good-hearted is portrayed as the classic doofus who maybe couldn’t hack it at another job.

Or the scheming Alec Baldwin “Glengarry Glen Ross” real estate salesman with questionable morals and contrived pitches. You might have even run into one of these characters while open house browsing on  your own. As is the case in any industry, there are good, bad AND great real estate agents, and I can attest that I’ve had the pleasure of working with some true professionals in the business.
But maybe the more important issue is: Why use a real estate agent at all? And, it’s a good question. Buyers and sellers today have access to *most* of the same online search tools, so the value in working with an agent is having an experienced, organized, smart professional with good instincts and a solid B.S. radar, to help you navigate a complex process involving numerous players  when a significant amount of your hard-earned money is at stake:

  • How does the market look right now and where are we headed?
  • What neighborhoods make the most sense for short-term v. long-term investing?
  • I’ve lost two bidding wars… What else can I do??
  • How much is my townhouse worth? How much would it be worth if I renovated the kitchen?
  • Is that condo overpriced? How much are closing costs?
  • The buyer’s attorney is not returning my attorney’s phone calls. Help!
  • The buyer/seller is threatening to back out of the deal. Help!
  • We have 2 kids, a dog, and a cat – how am I supposed to stage to sell?
  • I can’t keep track…Did we see that unit last weekend? Did I like it?
  • Can we move that wall/sink/oven? How much will it cost?
Bottom line is Real Estate Agents can play many roles during the buying and selling process: consultant, analyst, advocate, salesperson, marketer, business manager, and therapist – just to name a few. So, as you consider your options keep in mind that DIY Real Estate is as risky as DIY Plumbing: You might end up with a bigger mess going at it alone after a couple YouTube tutorials, so know when it’s time to call in a professional and work with someone you trust!

5 Catskills Instagram Accounts to Follow

 Here are 5 of my favorite Instagram accounts to inspire Catskills adventures. Have you made your #EscapeBrooklyn summer plans yet?

@TheGrangeHall Coming For Sale July 2017 – “The Grange Hall” is a 1930’s community dance hall undergoing extensive renovations by Major Jacks. Is this a shameless self-promotion of my latest Catskills renovation project? Yes, absolutely. But who doesn’t love an in-progress-fixer-upper?! This farmhouse sits on just over 2 acres in rural Cochecton, NY – fabulously located smack between the Bethel Woods Performing Arts Center and picturesque Main Street in Narrowsburg on the Delaware River. It’s hard to say whether the incredible bucolic views or the restored stage and dance hall take the cake for “favorite feature.” Wait…did you say “DANCE HALL”? Yes! This farmhouse has its own stage in the now Great Room with almost 12′ ceilings, original details, and wood stove.

@MaisonBergogne Maison Bergogne is a beautiful antique shop that feels like a museum of treasures. Owner and curator, Juliette Hermant, transformed a 1920’s warehouse just off the Delaware River and quickly became part of the Main Street renaissance well underway in Narrowsburg, NY. Feast on unique objects and oddities, vignettes, and French-Catskills style sensibilities.

 

@igercatskills Meditative landscape porn. @igercatskills is a photo gallery of the Catskill Mountain area. When you don’t feel like leaving your cozy Catskills AirB&B to go for a hike, this is the account for you. Or a breath of fresh air when the Brooklyn August humidity gets a little oppressive…

 

@dveightmag DVEIGHT Magazine covers Catskills “modern rural living” with a Kinfolk vibe. Think Brooklyn hipsters turned weekend or permanent hicksters. Stories about local artists, City transplants, food, farms, and favorites mix with stunning photography thus nailing their stylish and sophisticated aesthetic. Leave Brooklyn without leaving Brooklyn!

 

@thefarmhouseproject The guys at @thefarmhouseproject post dreamy scenes as they DIY decorate, style and preserve their 217-year-old Sullivan County farmhouse. This restoration is much further along than my @thegrangehall, but their fun aesthetic and gorgeous vignettes inspire #farmhousegoals as you consider creating your own #farmhouselife.

 

(All photos courtesy of the respective Instagram accounts)

How to Spot an Up and Coming Neighborhood in NYC

Guest post by Bernard Klein – Founder, Blooming Sky

The spring house hunting season is kicking into full gear. With the cold weather finally in the rear-view mirror, weekends are bustling with activity. Open houses will be swarmed with buyers ready to shell out their hard earned money creating a frenzy of activity that is sure to leave many outbid buyers disappointed and confused about the home buying process. So how do you beat the crowds and find places that match your need for value and utility? You must go where the masses are not.

In plain English: Instead of looking in the established neighborhoods, seek out the up and coming neighborhoods. It will be an opportunity to find value and buy into a neighborhood that is continuing to rapidly accelerate in price. You will have the opportunity to reap the rewards of a great investment, while at the same time avoiding some of the madness you might face in the more established neighborhoods.

Quiet moment during a packed open house in Flatbush, Brooklyn: Up and Coming Neighborhood?

Quiet moment during a packed open house in Flatbush, Brooklyn: Up and Coming Neighborhood?

So what is an established neighborhood anyways? First of all, it’s probably a neighborhood filled with co-ops that are multiple decades old. Let’s take Brooklyn for example. You have neighborhoods like Park Slope and Carroll Gardens. While Brooklyn as a borough has gotten more popular, which has driven up prices all around, neighborhoods like the aforementioned haven’t really changed much in the past ten years. Is that what you want? A neighborhood that hasn’t changed? That sounds a touch boring.

On the flip side, you have neighborhoods like Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights and Prospect Lefferts Gardens which are transforming as you read this. They’re changing with new development, new residents, new restaurants, new coffee shops and new boutiques on every corner. While still maintaining their rich heritage, these neighborhoods are attracting new people with new ideas, undergoing transformations that will continue to attract additional investments. Now imagine buying into that! 

So how do you spot an up and coming area? The first thing I always recommend is trekking out to a neighborhood you’re not familiar with. Check out Google Maps or Yelp on your smartphone and type in “coffee shop.” Look for the most highly rated shop in the area, and take the coffee for a spin. Does the shop give off a good vibe and serve good coffee and pastries? If yes, then great. Ask the barista which restaurants s/he recommends in the neighborhood. Listen closely! You now have lunch plans, armed with a list of choices. Hopefully lunch was good, and you’re now excited about seeing what else is in the neighborhood. Walk around within a five block radius and see what’s going on.

What should you be looking for? More restaurants. More coffee shops. Trendy, experimental retail. Most importantly, look for construction. Are people gutting town homes? Are new rental and condo developments coming up? Great, then you’ve discovered an up and coming area. Do you see none of this? Okay, well hopefully coffee and lunch were decent. 

Up and coming areas definitely attract a certain type of crowd. They also attract people who see the longterm potential of buying into something that is rapidly changing. This usually makes for an opportunistic investment. However, investing in change isn’t for the faint of heart. So which part of New York City do you plan on checking out this weekend?

Bernard Klein is the founder of Blooming Sky (www.bloomingsky.com). He has invested in real estate across Manhattan and Brooklyn and is currently helping his clients do the same, whether they are seasoned investors or first time home buyers.

 

Styling is the New Staging

In today’s visually saturated Instagram/Pinterest/HGTV world, buyers expect their home search to feel like stepping onto a shelter magazine shoot. And the old staging rules: declutter, remove personal items, and bake cookies are no longer enough for today’s buyers who are more sophisticated than a vanilla Yankee Candle. Particularly with new construction options, buyers struggle to see past someone else’s “lived-in-ness” and don’t want to tackle even minor updates.

But as staging has evolved over the past decade, many real estate professionals say it has become more important — and more sophisticated — than ever. (The New York Times)

 

My staging approach is more about “styling” to find a balance neutral enough to appeal to buyer masses, while creating some personality – because no one wants to be labeled a Basic Box. I like mixing CB2, ABC Home, vintage, IKEA, Craigslist and flea market finds, and then like Coco Chanel, remove one accessory before leaving the house. This also helps fit staging costs into any budget. I might also suggest minor updates – particularly for kitchens and baths – to get the best return on investment, because whether you have a $3M penthouse or a $450 studio, you still want the highest price and fastest sale.

 

Design Trends: Are we in a mid-century-boho rut?

If the pages of CB2 and West Elm magazines are any indication, we can’t seem to get enough mid-century and boho. I grew up with Pendleton and braided rugs, and love some layered Kilims and my vintage reproduction Eames chair, but I’m wondering if we’re not in a bit of a mid-century-boho-saturated rut?

a few things I’m Into Now:

1980’s Memphis-Milano Inspiration
And I do mean inspiration as I’m not suggesting you craigslist your walnut credenza and sheepskin pouf in exchange for a Pee-wee’s Playhouse living room. But the blockiness and bold colors are refreshing and unabashedly not mid-century modern. This 1980’s Italian design group sought liberation from modernist design and experimented with “unconventional materials, historic forms, kitsch motifs and gaudy colors.”

"Donald" coffee table by SottssassCentury chaise by Andrea Branzi '82"Palace" chairs by Sowden '82New York Magazine 1982

Maybe just a little sprinkle here and there.
After the Civil War (1865), wealthy Americans facing increasing complexities from industrialization, urbanization, and massive immigration waxed nostalgic about a simpler past. Gothic Revival was one revival style that manifested in furniture design characterized by Gothic arches, geometric ornament, trestles, turning and straight-line form. Get your Gothic Revival on with these pieces from 1stdibs:
On a recent trip to Japan, I stumbled upon a wealth of stunning, vintage kimonos at a market in Nagoya. The prints are vibrant and have an “earthy” vibe, but are simultaneously more sophisticated, and a decidedly distinct alternative to boho interiors. Would love to see these as throw pillows, curtains, and even area rugs and bedding. For now, I plan to stretch my vintage kimono purchase on a wall in lieu of wallpaper.

Buyer’s Agents: Why You Need One in Your Life

I am always surprised to meet a home buyer who is not working with a buyer’s agent. Now, in a previous life, I’ve been just as guilty as the next guy of casual Sunday open house browsing – pretending to measure the space where I’ll fit my grandmother’s library table – but I can’t understand why any serious buyer would be without a buyer’s agent.

Your Personal Real Estate Consultant!

Your Personal Real Estate Consultant!

OK, so you’re a serious (or even semi-serious) buyer without a buyer’s agent. Here’s the deal: That open house you attended last Sunday in Brooklyn where you spilled your guts to the agent that you have a pile of cash and already lost three deals? That agent represents the seller’s interests – not yours. You need a buyer’s agent to represent your interests – this is your person to confide in, consult with, and grab a drink with when the time comes.

And there is no fee to a buyer for working with a buyer’s agent. Let me repeat that: there is NO fee. So how do I keep vintage designer in my closet? The seller’s broker and the buyer’s broker split the commission. Why wouldn’t you want a free personal real estate consultant to help you get into your new home? Of course you do! Help clear the confusion around buyer’s agents and tell your friends: Friends don’t let friends buy real estate without a great buyer’s agent. Please visit me here for FAQs and about working together to find your new home.

 

Catskills: First Time Second Home Buyers

Some New York City renters are skipping the typical first rung on the urban homeownership ladder: Instead of investing in an apartment, they are buying a country house. Disappointed by what their budget will buy in the city, they are still living the American dream of having a place of their own, if only on the weekends, in the Catskills…

Cabin fever? Here’s the cure: Catskills Catskills Lake House – $151K for winter and summer fun!