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Time heals all wounds—except those in the real estate department, where design mistakes can age like corked wine. Maybe your client longed for a gleaming Pepto-like pink lady lair, or a subterranean whiskey library sheathed in camo wallpaper. When their house comes up for resale, these highly customized interiors could be considered too eek, putting off potential buyers. That’s one reason designers (and their bad investment-wary clients) are tending towards safer bets, especially in today’s dizzying real estate market. “Resale value is almost always considered when designing a home, spec, or custom,” says designer Julie Brown, principal of BrownHouse Design. “The only circumstances I’ve seen it off the table are for childless couples, older couples who are downsizing, and families building a ‘forever compound.’” Whether you go totally bespoke and put in the fanciful Gracie hand-painted wallpaper of your dreams is often totally dependent on how long you plan to live in your home before selling it.
Los Angeles designer Jake Arnold is currently working on a development in Hancock Park. “It’s really interesting to work with a developer and design with the idea of selling something in mind,” Arnold says, adding that typically they’ll select a more impactful or bold stone for things like backsplashes, which can feel more elevated. The resulting spaces need to be appealing, sure, “but also a reflection of our design philosophy and work,” he says. In these types of projects, Arnold has found himself gravitating to a comfort zone that’s more widely appealing. In a bathroom, for example, “I wouldn’t choose a stone that was particularly veiny, or a stain that was either really light or really dark. It’s finding that middle ground across the board to make sure that nothing is too on the extreme side.” He’s seen that the opposite is true, however, when you’re working on homes in the $10,000,000-plus range. “There’s a level of personalization that is important because you’re attracting a rarer type of buyer,” Arnold says. “So it works both ways. There’s a mass market approach, but then also recognizing that the premium higher-end part of the spectrum is looking for something really impactful and thoughtful.”