Creating Drama with Neutrals: Top NYC Real Estate Stager Shares 5 No-Fail Paint Secrets

Top NYC Real Estate Stager Shares 5 No-Fail Paint Secrets “We can use paint to calm chaotic spaces, make a room appear larger, mask imperfections, and give a home charm and wow factor” – Cheryl Eisen, President, Interior Marketing Group

As soon as I read the Times article about stager Cheryl Eisen, the reigning prop princess of luxury New York real estate, I had to email her. “Do you use Benjamin Moore paint?” I wrote. Eisen, President of the Interior Marketing Group, who is almost always out in the field, gathering props, directing traffic, orchestrating painters and furniture handlers, and juggling TV appearances (on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing”), responded impressively quick.  She wrote back, “I use Benjamin Moore ONLY.”

Cheryl Eisen, President, Interior Marketing Group Cheryl Eisen.“The colors we use can not outshine the property, so it’s important to stay with neutrals on most walls.” –  Cheryl Eisen.

Photos: Richard Caplan Photography

Eisen is currently covering the walls of some of Manhattan’s ritziest “for sale” properties with her favorite neutral Benjamin Moore paint colors. “I usually paint,” she says. “Buyers respond to it.” Her palette includes a few key grays, white, soft blue and traditional chalkboard. She abides by the mantra: Stay neutral and keep it simple.

Eisen says, “Any design element that makes a buyer focus on something other than the beautiful space, light and sense of home is a negative.”

benjamin moore neutrals“Tom Ford” is Eisen’s Waldo. That book is always somewhere to be found!

Photos: Richard Caplan Photography

While Eisen-styled properties have inspired sellers to stay in their freshly marketed, made-over homes, Eisen is clear, “I’m not a designer. I’m just a stager.”  She has developed a stylish formula that includes neutral wall colors, iconic furniture, good-looking lighting, large scale wall décor, indulgent textiles, and limited pops of vibrant color and graphic pattern. She is a pro at hunting down fabulous furnishings on the cheap. “From an ROI Standpoint,” she says, “Ikea mirrors are my fave…plus painting.”

five great neutrals to use“I stick to grays,” says Eisen who often thinks white walls look too yellow or pink.

Photos: Richard Caplan Photography

Eisen, who started her first company when she was 24, calls herself a serial entrepreneur. Before incorporating Interior Marketing Group, she sold real estate for a year and learned that staging in a high stakes market takes more than just having good taste. It requires traits such as tenacity, assertiveness and scrappiness – all helpful in overcoming obstacles such as loading zones, condo boards, and tiny elevators. “Stagers should also have a superior understanding of marketing,” adds Eisen. She prepares an informal marketing plan for each property, reviews the competition and then she says, “I make MY property better!”

Cheryl Eisen neutral colors“I imagine that I’m this buyer and try to understand what would make me fall in love with the space over others.” – Cheryl Eisen

Photo: Richard Caplan Photography

I found Cheryl Eisen, the smart and confident petite style dynamo often mistaken for Kristen Chenoweth, to be equally warm, engaging, and generous about sharing her expertise on neutral color and paint. Whether staging to sell or redecorating to stay, Eisen’s easy-to-live-with/easy-to-love palette and smart chic paint strategies can be applied anywhere as a backdrop for beautiful living.

 1. Best All-Around Neutral
On her company’s Facebook page, Eisen calls Stonington Gray (in flat finish) her staging secret and says that brokers and buyers alike constantly ask about it. She describes it as the perfect remedy for white walls, and says, “It has a unique ability to compliment every color scheme.”Stonington Gray – “subtle, neutral, and somehow chameleon-like

 According to Eisen, Stonington Gray HC-170 – “subtle, neutral, and somehow chameleon-like” –works anywhere.

Photo: Richard Caplan Photography

2. Best Dramatic Neutral
chelsea gray HC-168Chelsea Gray is a fabulous deep neutral that provokes a favorable emotional response. Eisen will sometimes use this color on a wall behind built-in shelving, behind a bed, or in a room that will benefit from drama. She says, “Even on feature walls, a dark neutral is a safer choice than a bold color.”Chelsea Gray living space

“We can use paint to give a home charm and ‘wow’ factor” – Cheryl Eisen

Photo: Richard Caplan Photography

3. Make a Room Look Bigger
Stripes are chic can seemingly alter the size of a space. Eisen says, “Thick vertical stripes can make ceilings look taller, horizontal stripes across can make a room feel wider.” Her favorite striped applications involve alternating closely related neutrals or using different finishes (semi-gloss and flat) of the same color.

benjamin moore gray

Stripes: On location and in progress

4. Create a virtual room
By painting one wall of a room a deeper color, Eisen virtually creates a special area within it.  She advises, “If you are putting a little desk or a dining area against a wall in a larger room, making it darker will ground it and make it feel like a separate space.” Add a mirror for increased depth. benjamin moore chalkboard paintBenjamin Moore Chalkboard Paint“A wisely placed chalkboard wall is my favorite thing in the world and your kids will LOVE it too!” – Cheryl Eisen

Photos: Richard Caplan Photography

5. Gossamer Blue Looks and Feels Good
gossamer blue 2123-40Eisen believes in color therapy and uses it to calm chaotic spaces. For kids and teen rooms, she often specs Gossamer Blue 2123-40. Eisen likes the healing and soothing properties of this soft gender-neutral shade and also likes how it plays well with other colors. Benjamin Moore blue bedroom

Choosing a flexible, beautiful, gender-neutral hue, such as Gossamer Blue, is important in staging.

Photo: Richard Caplan Photography

benjamin moore paintBenjamin Moore Paint on set: Another staging is in the works

 As Eisen emailed her thoughts and tips, she was managing work on multiple million dollar properties. Without giving too much away, she told me, “We’re doing some major painting, some model homes in amazing new developments and this time we’re using like five different Benjamin Moore colors. Some are pretty bold (for me), so fingers crossed.” Eisen also disclosed that she has been cheating on Stonington Gray with Gray Owl – “her latest crush.” Hmmm…it seems that Cheryl Eisen is staging her very own “Shades of Grey.”

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18 thoughts on “Creating Drama with Neutrals: Top NYC Real Estate Stager Shares 5 No-Fail Paint Secrets

  1. Great as usual Jane! She is truly a pro and I loved your exchange with her. The reasons she uses paint where and why are good reasons for all… I also love Pashmina as my go-to neutral as it suits the light here in the Pacific NW.

    • Faith, Thanks so much for your feedback. Cheryl was awesome in being so clear about how a space benefits from color and paint. If you’ve posted photos of the Escala project, let me know where. Best, Jane

    • Linda, I do believe that anyone who reads this will also be seeing gray in their future! Cheryl’s results are very convincing. Thanks for reading. :) Jane

  2. Jane, Another great article! I love this one especially because everything you’ve written resonates with me. Neutrals are my “colors” of choice. And I love that she’s made a profession displaying her taste!

  3. Our home has rich natural woodwork (which we do not want to paint.) Can you include some color schemes which will work with natural wood vs. white trims?

  4. What would be a good neutral color for a kitchen with white cupboards? I’m so undecided. I really like the grays cheryl used.

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