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Computer-generated visuals help buyers envision different decor

By MARSHA FOTTLER Correspondent, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

When Jerry and Kelley Lavin decided to place their custom home in The Oaks on the market, they needed an edge to compete with the dozens of other condominiums and houses currently for sale in their tony gated community in Osprey.

They found it in the virtual world. Encouraged by their real estate agent to “stage” the home with neutral furnishings that would neither distract or discourage potential buyers, they instead decided to keep the house as it is and instead offer design alternatives rendered by an architect with a computer-assisted design program.

The home, on the bayside of The Oaks, includes five bedrooms, five baths, a huge walk-in pantry, swimming pool, outdoor entertaining area and all kinds of amenities and upgrades you’d expect in a luxury residence, including a 1,300-square-foot, two-story guest house that offers seclusion and sensational views.

“With three room designs to show buyers, the real one and two virtual ones, I can increase the chances that they fall in love with this house because they have three different ways to visualize themselves in it.”

The homeowners worked with architect John Potvin and Baron Construction in 1998 to build a gracious home for easy living that additionally would provide gallery space for their impressive contemporary art collection.

They opted for furnishings that many potential buyers read as contemporary with Asian accents, although the style is actually eclectic. The walls are white, the floors are Philippine shellstone, Jerusalem marble and bamboo. Window treatments are minimal and crown molding is absent. The fireplace, with its marble surround, is sleek and polished. The property is priced at $2,472,000.

Virtual staging

The homeowners’ Realtor, Betty Mullinnix of Michael Saunders & Company, encouraged the Lavins to hire a home stager to maximize the appeal of their custom home to the widest interiors into something more neutral and traditional. This is a look that Mullinnix says most people expect when they tour a home in The Oaks, based on the landscaping, the elevations of the houses and the style of the clubhouse on the east side of Tamiami Trail.

But Jerry Lavin had another idea. “We’re comfortable with our furnishings and our art collection, and felt we wanted to live with our own taste while the house is on the market,” he said. “But we certainly understand that when people tour a house for sale, they often get distracted by furniture or color, or the fact that the floors are carpeted or tiled. Cosmetic things stop them from envisioning themselves in the space and interfere with them noticing the architectural features of the home or the size and the flexible configuration of the rooms.”

So, to give potential buyers ideas of how the living/dining area of their home might look with different furniture, elaborate trim detail and window treatments, Jerry Lavin contacted Jaime Scarpitta of Vanishing Point Studio and contracted to have this Florida architect do two 3D visualization renderings of the space.

One look is formal and traditional, with a crystal chandelier, drapes, columns, mellow gold walls and crown molding. The other style is what developers in Florida like to call “casual elegance.” The style refers a bit to the Tommy Bahama-West Indies relaxed-tropical look, and includes white plantation shutters, textural furniture, earthy colors and a woven natural-fiber rug under the dining table. A few well-chosen Far Eastern accent pieces give the space a collected appearance and hint that the owners are well traveled.

So now when potential buyers step into the Lavins’ home, they see the living room as it is and then they also see a portfolio of large color photographs that depict the room as it could look with a few easy cosmetic changes of color and materials.

Jerry Lavin found Scarpitta’s ingenious company by browsing various Web sites. “I had an idea of what I wanted; it just took a little research to get there,” said Lavin. “But when I got to Jaime’s portfolio online and after I talked to him, I knew he could help me show potential buyers just how flexible our house is and how it could appeal to a wide range of house hunters.”

Working with Vanishing Point Studio cost the Lavins $1,600, but they feel both the month-long process and the expense was worth it.

“Kelley and I both had input into the colors, the style of furnishings and the accessories that went into the two alternative looks for our home,” said Lavin. “It was actually fun and we didn’t have to undergo the inconvenience or the expense of hiring a stager and redecorating our home. Also, I’m impressed with how sharp and how finely detailed Jaime’s renderings are. The digital rooms look like you can walk right into them and be completely comfortable.”

Vanishing Point Studio, established in 2000 and physically located in Davie, is the creation of Scarpitta. He and his team provide 3D architectural visualization renderings of site plans, floor plans, exterior elevations and interior spaces designed and furnished to clients’ specifications. Scarpitta liked the Lavins’ two virtual rooms so much that he has put them up on his company’s Web site, vanishingpointstudio.com.

“I usually work with retail businesses and residential developers to show how buildings yet to be built will look,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve worked with a homeowner who is using my digital renderings to help sell a house by changing the style of an existing room. I got to play interior designer with the Lavin project.

“I think this approach has great potential because it’s a cost-effective way to show buyers how different a room can look and how easy it would be to get that look.”

Scarpitta said he started with the Lavins’ existing room and then stripped everything out.

Then he started putting things back in that would achieve the interior design that the homeowners asked for. “Kelley or Jerry would e-mail photos of lamps, sofas, and window treatments that they found in magazines or online so that I knew exactly the look they were going for.

“Several draft room designs passed back and forth until we were all satisfied with the two rooms. It was a collaborative process.”

Betty Mullinnix, the real estate agent, loves the concept. “These renderings are a gift to a Realtor,” she said, “because we professionals know that a buyer walks into a house and makes a decision to buy or not buy within about 20 seconds.”

Experts say the decision has very little to do with rational reasoning. Usually, it’s an emotional response to the space. Often these emotional decisions are influenced by color, furniture design, the overall style of the place.

This virtual rendering has a West Indies style, one that most developers call "casual elegance." It is characterized by textural furnishings, plantation shutters, an earthy color palette and a natural-fiber woven rug.

This virtual rendering has a West Indies style, one that most developers call "casual elegance." It is characterized by textural furnishings, plantation shutters, an earthy color palette and a natural-fiber woven rug.

This virtual rendering of a more formal space has columns, crown molding, draperies, mellow gold walls and a dramatic crystal chandelier.

This virtual rendering of a more formal space has columns, crown molding, draperies, mellow gold walls and a dramatic crystal chandelier.

  • User Gravatar Emelie Zack
    April 29th, 2010

    Excellent saves time and money and gives a visual to non visual people who constitute the majority of buyers, unfortunately. It is a great service and I speak as a professional interior designer who has done staging. Emelie Zack

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