Mention construction, and instant images of concrete blocks, cement and men in hard hats come to mind.
But in the Bahamas, a softer side of construction is emerging, thanks to a two-woman company that is transforming newly-built condos and town homes into inviting, move-in-ready homes.
Launched just over a year ago, UpStage Bahamas has created and provided furniture packages for more than two dozen properties. It has furnished sophisticated offices in Nassau, five high-end condominiums, including one at Ocean Club Estates, 19 mid-prized and starter home condos, and a large private residence at Balmoral.
This week, UpStage revealed its latest work - two show homes at Venetian West, a 211-unit gated community complete with pool, tennis court, clubhouse and other amenities just south of the Old Fort Bay Town Centre on Windsor Field Road.
Company co-directors Ashley Brown and Brooke Phillips founded Upstage to fill a gap in the residential sales market. Both licensed Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) agents, they realised that in new construction and sales of older homes, sellers often failed to dress the property properly.
“Ashley and I would go into a house that had just been listed and there were family photos, trophies, all sorts of personal effects. We’d look at each other and think: ‘Imagine if we could just get in here, move all this clutter, paint it neutral colours and show off the bones of this great place, its high ceilings or natural light or an interesting angle,” Ms Phillips said.
They came up with the idea of forming a company that would focus on the temporary interior display, otherwise known as staging. They both took courses and earned certification.
“Staging a property to show it off to its best advantage was in its early stages in the Bahamas and largely reserved for the well-to-do,” said Ms Phillips.
“What we wanted to create was affordable staging. People get so used to living with what they have around them they don’t see the potential. Our fresh eyes, I think, helped give us new perspective in preparing a property for viewing. You wouldn’t go to a party without dressing up, so wouldn’t you want your home to be dressed up for company, especially when that company was a potential buyer?”
As they staged a few older homes, Ms Brown and Ms Phillips realised there was an even greater need in an emerging market – the dozens, if not hundreds, of new condos and town homes coming on stream. A deal to furnish a model unit at one of those, a development called Venito, led to success for both developer and staging company.
Buyers could see themselves living with the furniture exactly as they saw it, said Ms Brown. That translated into sales for the developer and propelled UpStage to focus on a new direction, creating furniture packages that looked like luxury but were affordable and enabled buyers to move in with little more than a toothbrush and clothing.
“Buyers love that we are offering furniture packages because it alleviates the stress and hassle of the move-in process,” said Ms Brown, who holds a Bachelors’ degree in Architecture, while her partner is an Honours Business grad. “The service we provide paired with the option to finance the furniture is attractive. Buyers do not need to come up with extra cash to buy brand new furniture.”
While freedom from furniture stress and availability of financing are attractive incentives for buyers, the benefits for the developer may be even greater.
Ms Brown added: “It is important that developers understand the value in show homes and how a well-designed space is directly related to sales.
“It is difficult for buyers to envision themselves living in a home when they walk into an empty space. We really tried to compliment the developer’s overall lifestyle vision by putting together two show homes that, although different in style, still encompass a contemporary way of living.”
Preparing the space is not easy. With massive excel sheets in front of them to stick to budget, Ms Brown and Ms Phillips juggle everything from linens to mattress prices.
Hundreds saw the result of UpStage’s work when they toured the two and threebedroom homes at Venetian West during a well-publicised open house last weekend.
“Condominium and multi-family developments are still relatively new in the grand scope of things to the Bahamian real estate market, and a lot of buyers are latching on to this new trend,” explained Ms Brown. “What we are helping the buyer see, and the developer sell, is not just a furnished condo but a lifestyle people can see and feel.
“The developer, Brickell Management Group, did a great job promoting the event and we are very appreciative of the opportunity to work with them from bare concept to move-in ready with financing as part of their package.
“It is often said that the one resource you cannot replace is time, and if we are saving time for the buyer while adding to the seller’s success, we have satisfied the best of both worlds. We want to make a difference in how people approach moving in, and we’re excited that after just over one year, builders believe in the value we are bringing and buyers like the design we provide.”