Real Estate

Can’t Decide What Color to Paint Your Walls? There’s a Consultant for That.

The pandemic has triggered all sorts of upheavals in residential real estate. But whether we stayed in our New York City apartments, or left the city for the suburbs or second homes — and maybe have since returned — we are all spending much more time in our homes.

With each move and rejiggering of space, there have been possessions to cast a critical eye on (keep? discard? put in storage?), not to mention furniture to arrange, art to hang and other design-related tasks. Some talented souls, blessed with visual and organizational skills, do it all themselves. Others, blessed with ample income, may turn to consultants for help.

Many such experts saw their businesses plummet during early lockdowns — and then boom as people stuck at home focused on their immediate surroundings. Some have adjusted to the times by introducing or ramping up remote consultations. Here, a look at some assorted consultants and what they charge — from decluttering experts to professionals who can help you choose paint colors for your walls, houseplants and signature scents for your rooms.

Houseplant Whisperer

Houseplants were having a moment even before the coronavirus arrived, but the pandemic has spurred even more interest. Not everyone, though, has a green thumb.

Enter plant consultants, like Maryah Greene, who runs the one-woman Brooklyn firm Greene Piece. Ms. Greene will walk into a new client’s apartment “with 200 plants in my head,” she said. But as she gets to know the client and the space (amount of sunlight, the presence of pets or young children, for instance) she starts narrowing things down.

After each consultation, she provides a guide with plant recommendations and advice on care. If someone needs more hand-holding, she’ll go plant shopping with them — Tula House, a nursery in Greenpoint, is a go-to — or even do a full installation.

She’ll also diagnose what might be wrong with plants a client already has. Plants purchased at the beginning of the pandemic that have begun to develop yellowing or browning leaves may simply need a little more room to grow, Ms. Greene said. She can talk clients through repotting or do it for them.

For a 45- to 60-minute plant-styling consultation, Ms. Greene charges $200 to $300, based on a clients’ ability to pay and the size of the space.

Feng Shui Consultant

You may be curious about feng shui, the ancient Chinese practice of using design to enhance health and prosperity. Or maybe you just feel things in your apartment, and perhaps in your life, are out of whack. Feng shui practitioners like Judith Wendell, the founder of Sacred Currents, a Manhattan-based consulting firm, may be able to help.

Ms. Wendell talks clients through feng shui’s five elements and the bagua — a template that divides a room into nine zones and helps guide the placement of furnishings — as she makes recommendations for a space, taking into consideration a customer’s health, relationships and goals. She can recommend the most propitious place for a home office — or a litter box.

Although she always did her work in person prepandemic, now 40 percent of her jobs are remote consultations, which can be both effective and efficient, she said. “I have someone’s floor plan and we have photos, we work on Zoom,” she added.

And with all the moving that people have been doing lately, she’s been called on to conduct “clearings,” which rid a house or apartment of the prior occupant’s energies, and blessing rituals, to usher in a client’s new life in the space. Sessions with Ms. Wendell start at $675, and she charges $180 an hour for a virtual consultation, with a two-hour minimum.

Environmental Psychologist

Imagine you could paint your home office a color that could spur you to think more creatively during work hours. Or arrange your furniture so that everyone in the family could get along better. Or design rooms to support someone in your household who has A.D.H.D. or is on the autism spectrum.

An environmental psychologist like Sally Augustin can offer advice on all of the above. Ms. Augustin, co-founder of the firm The Space Doctors, has pored over scientific studies to understand how sensory stimuli affect our performance and mood.

Working from her home in Chicago, Ms. Augustin examines clients’ floor plans and room photos and takes into consideration their personalities and goals. Then she advises how to “fine tune the physical environment to make the outcomes they want more likely.”

For those who want to stimulate creativity when they work, for instance, she might recommend pale sage green for the walls of a home office and the scent of cinnamon vanilla — both of which have been shown to enhance creative thinking, Ms. Augustin said.

For consultations, she charges $50 to $125 per room, and $175 per hour for those with special needs.

Hanging Art

One reason art-installation firms began to rebound after the initial lockdown: Zoom meetings. “Clients were focused on their walls and what they look like and whatever was behind them in a Zoom call,” said David Kassel, the owner of I Level, which is based in Manhattan.

Clients often contact I Level seeking help grouping artworks or framed photos on a wall, either in a grid or a free-form, salon-style arrangement, Mr. Kassel said. “They want all these disparate things to look good together,” he said, but they are intimidated by the idea of tackling the job themselves.

There have been unusual requests, too, such as from the young couple who wanted a painting hung on the ceiling over their bed — while they were snuggled below, under the sheets.

The firm charges $295 per art handler for two hours of work, then $95 for each additional hour.

Aromatherapy for a Home

For years hotels and spas have commissioned signature scents. Now homeowners can do the same.

These fragrances go beyond simply smelling good, said Yael Alkalay, founder and chief executive of Red Flower, a company based in New York that makes personal care and home products from potent botanical extracts and other ingredients derived from plants. The company believes the natural scents of its products can boost your mood and help you work and sleep better.

Rather than an overall fragrance that blankets the whole house or apartment, however, Ms. Alkalay recommends localized scents, geared to and supporting what takes place in various rooms, used in conjunction with Red Flower’s ready-made products. For a home office, she might develop an oil that could be rubbed into the wood desk a client works at. “We could create a combination of cedarwood, lemon balm, frankincense and maybe even a little citrus, like grapefruit essential oil — it’s so awakening,” she said.

Switching scents, just like dimming or brightening lights, can also help change the mood when rooms must do double-duty, as is often the case these days. For a client who uses the same space for doing work and practicing yoga, Ms. Alkalay helped develop a ritual that involves misting the space after the workday is done and dabbing yoga towels with an oil that incorporates orange and quince.

A consultation with the firm starts at $500, and prices vary depending on the type and quantity of ingredients and techniques used

Oscar Alfaro and Jamie Hord, organizers at Horderly, work in a walk-in closet in a client’s house in New Jersey. (Jamie Hord is a co-founder of Horderly.)Credit…Horderly


Professional organizers promise to turn a disorderly home into an orderly one. But hire one and your place might momentarily look worse before it starts to look better.

The organizers from Horderly, which is based in New York, start each project by pulling everything out of cabinets and closets. They ask clients about whether or not items are used and, if they are, how often. Dispensable stuff is tossed or set aside for donation, and items that are used frequently are put back in the easiest-to-reach places.

Often the process involves purchasing products like bins and baskets. And Fillip Hord, who founded the firm with his wife, Jamie Hord, said his staff is not fazed by what they might be asked to put in those containers — they’ve organized sex toys and created “weed boxes” for cannabis paraphernalia.

Most of Horderly’s clients are space-starved city apartment dwellers. But over the pandemic, the firm has worked with more and more customers who live in houses in the tristate area.

Having more space sometimes means accumulating more stuff.

“A lot of times, people just throw things in the basement or garage,” Mr. Hord said. “In those spaces, we’re setting up systems. It starts out as a junk room, and we hone it into an organized junk room.”

Depending on the location and number of hours billed, Horderly charges $85 to $150 per hour per organizer.

Sonya Weisshappel, left, founder and chief executive of Seriatim — a New York-based organizing firm, helps longtime client Beth Green review and sort items. Credit…Katherine Marks for The New York Times

Helping with Big Moves

An older couple downsizing from a townhouse to an apartment. A client who must pack up the contents of a home in advance of a gut renovation. A death in the family necessitating the clearing out of a lifetime’s worth of a loved one’s possessions.

Seriatim, a New York-based organizing company, specializes in helping clients deal with belongings during such life-changing events.

“Our client is crisis-driven,” said Sonya Weisshappel, founder and chief executive. She and her team will sort items, inventory them, pack up and distribute to relatives, donate and prepare for sale at auction. The firm charges $1,450 for an eight-hour day with one team member.

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