ASH’s Homey New Office in the Hamptons Inspires Creativity
As the finishing touch in real estate, the choice that helps turn a profit, staging can easily be overlooked or underestimated. But Andrew Bowen, the director of staging at ASH—a boutique design and development firm—wouldn't agree to those terms. He sees a property's potential in the story that staging can tell.
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"Staging can be much more than just putting some bland furniture in a room so it's not empty," he says. "Our work involves the complete and total activation of all senses, which allows prospective buyers or tenants to fully experience exactly how they could inhabit a space, from the art they see, to the music they hear, to the fragrance they smell, to the furniture they can feel comfortable in. We even include candy and snacks so people can literally taste the potential lifestyle that we've laid out."
If Bowen's work provides the lens through which people can imagine their future selves, then plenty have liked what they've had the chance to see. Since ASH was founded in 2008 in New York City, it's grown to encompass various projects related to residential and hotel design, custom furnishings, and property developments alongside Bowen's segment of staging. He and his team have worked on commercial and real estate properties valued at about $20 billion.
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ASH Staging has worked tirelessly to reach this stature, he says, meeting timelines as tight as two weeks and making sure that no two projects are similar. So it's no surprise, then, that his sights were eventually set on the competitive market of East Hampton, where ASH opened its second offices and showroom earlier this summer.
"It solidifies our commitment to growing our business in this area, which is often inhabited part-time by the same people who inhabit our staged spaces in New York City," Bowen says. "It also has allowed us to connect with professionals who are based full-time in the Hamptons, and we've become a resource for them when they are representing their top-of-the-market listings."
Much like the company's business philosophy, the 1,000-square-foot office and showroom located steps from Sag Harbor Village puts forth an ideal. The traditional cedar facade of the historic cottage gives way to a space that still resembles a small home—for instance, connecting rooms give way to an outdoor patio where the team works on warm days.
"It blurs the line between residential and commercial use," Bowen notes. "The living room doubles as the reception area and lounge, the dining room doubles as the conference room, and the 'bedroom' is the main office with individual workstations."
That cozy design was intentional, of course. Bowen wanted the office to look and feel like a staged property, complete with vintage pieces found in the area. "Even after a day's work is done, people often linger a bit, open one of the design books, listen to music on our Bluetooth speakers, and enjoy an espresso or a green tea out on the patio," he says.
To ensure that the space is as efficient as it is comfortable, Bowen kept to a casual natural palette of warm tones and shades of white. He also made use of available storage and carefully chose items that need to support the staff. That meant keeping an eye out for anything that created "visual clutter," and using unexpected places for more room.
"Storage is something that we often suggest while staging, and that tends to suffice for the kind of dweller who doesn't need, for example, 50 rolls of toilet paper in a one bedroom apartment," he notes. "But for offices, you need to fit a lot more to run an efficient operation. Nobody would know that those 50 rolls are actually hiding in the drawers of the vintage Herman Miller dresser."
As it turns out, the office is not unlike staging itself—simple on the surface and more complicated in the details. Its blend of old and new speaks to the company's same intermingling in its work, and the atmosphere does exactly what Bowen's staging sets out to do, too: appeal to a wide audience, but seem to speak directly to a few potential clients.
"I think an office should inspire creativity and efficiency," he says. "It should be as comfortable to people as their own homes, and be a collaborative, evolving space that reflects the company as it changes over time. It should be something you look forward to going to."