When Emily Mervis wanted to relocate with her husband from her Manhattan apartment to a roomier property outside New York City, she was looking for more than just the right house dimensions.
She needed to be near a train station, have access to the Jewish community and wanted to be a 30-to-40-minute commute from the city. She turned to the Suburban Jungle Realty Group, a consultancy that helps clients match a neighbourhood to their personality and needs, and then helps them find a home in that area.
It was a fresh approach for Mervis and her husband, who had previously looked for a home and were frustrated with the approach of traditional realtors. With the consultancy, there was something more.
“Our consultant took the time to understand what we are looking for: price range, the community, how you imagine your life, your weekend, what school you want for the kids, [whether] you need to be near a park,” Mervis said. “She even wanted to know if we had to be within walking distance of a Starbucks.”
Many professionals are turning to such lifestyle fixers to help with everything from introducing them to the right social circles, to curating art collections, to helping them with interior design. Most lifestyle facilitators like to place themselves one notch above your average concierge (although some of the companies will do both); their work is less about securing last-minute restaurant reservations and more about the bigger tasks of life, from organising schools, homes and banking for clientele willing to pay handsomely for the expertise.
For Andrew Williams, chief executive at UK hedge fund City Financial, it wasn’t just the logistics, such as finding a driver, that flummoxed him when he relocated from Canada to London a year ago; it was navigating the subtleties and nuances of the British way of life. He turned to Two London, a lifestyle management company set up in 2013 by two friends, Dee Stirling, who had worked in executive search, and Sarah Woodhead, who had worked in public relations.
The consultants even helped him secure elves for his Christmas party.
Two London specializes in philanthropy, education, events and art. “Typically clients come to us because they are either exceptionally busy, or do not know how London works as they are new, or both,” Stirling said. Two London also helps clients to find the “right” house, recommends the best private banks and introduces them to desired social circles, through salons or dinners.
Life and art style?
Back in Canada, Mohammad Miraly has spent years cataloguing his uncle’s prestigious collection of Bangladeshi art. When Miraly, who lives in Montreal, where he runs a family film business, decided to start championing young and emerging artists for his own private collection, he didn’t know where to begin.
Miraly turned to London-based art consultant Nicholas Campbell, whose company, Narcissus Arts, focuses specifically on finding contemporary pieces below £10,000 ($15,065), as well as advising on framing, hanging and transporting art. “I had certain criteria: a price point, I wanted beautiful pieces, and to enjoy artists with great careers ahead of them,” explained Miraly. For Campbell, this meant scouring galleries worldwide to find the perfect paintings. He bought pieces for Miraly by artists including Jonas Lund, Ryan Conrad Sawyer and Gabriele de Santis.
“It would have been very different if I were looking on my own,” said Miraly. “Nicholas has the expertise, as he is involved in art on a day-to-day basis and he talks to all in the industry… Nicholas is holistic. He wants to understand the person so he can help to build a big collection for them.”
Similarly, art consultant Brandon Coburn of Coburn Projects helps clients manage their art collection. For one client who owns properties in Cape Town, South Africa, Paris and New York and works by Andy Warhol and Banksy, Coburn created a centralised system whereby the client could identify on his iPhone in which property each of his pieces was, down to the room in which they were hanging, while also tracking which art work was in storage.
“Brandon has taken the collection and sanitised it,” the client, who wished to remain private said. “Every piece now has a barcode so I know where they all are at any given time. Also when you have a collection scattered across the globe it is an amazing feat of logistics to get it moving in the way he does.”
Lifestyle facilitators can also multitask. The client said Coburn has also helped him buy Patek Philippe watches at auction in Hong Kong and source an apartment in London.
Goodbye detail headaches
But even the smallest things that can be a headache can now be outsourced to a fixer, be it finding the right summer camp for your children to furnishing an apartment you are getting ready to sell. When Jennifer Zabierek put her 2,000-square-foot loft on the market in downtown Philadelphia, she turned to staging company Busybee Homestore and Design Center.
The interior design firm furnished her apartment with a stock collection of furniture, instantly giving the loft a modern makeover that helped clinch a sale within a few weeks. “They assessed our space and returned later that week and fully furnished our loft with contemporary art and stylish furniture that defined the space and gave it more indoor ‘curb' appeal,” Zabierek said. “They created a dining space and living area. We paid $3,800 for a four-month staging contract.”
“It was tremendously useful,” added Zabierek. “With a loft style apartment it is difficult for people to visualise space. This made it look lived in and gave people an idea of what to do with it. First we tried to sell it empty, and shortly after they came in, it sold.”
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