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$8 Million Showcase Memorial Mansion Turns the Concept of House Staging Upside Down — a Spec Home Like No Other

An Interior Design Firm Introduces a Novel Concierge Service

BY // 03.04.20
photography Jeff Myers Photography

It was a luxury spec home like no other. And imagine the happy individuals who earlier this year signed the papers to purchase the spanking new 11,000 square foot dwelling in Memorial, a mansion that was completely furnished top to bottom, lamp shades to artwork, sofas to dining tables.

It was a beautifully executed turnkey sale that pleased everyone involved including interior designer Ben Johnston, builder Al Ross, architect JD Bartell, and Compass real estate agents Nadia Ross and Dee Dee Guggenheim Howes.

The luxury home builder had been challenged with finding the right formula and the right team for staging his $5 million to $10 million mansions in a manner that would appeal to the wealthy clientele that he was seeking.  The interiors had to compliment the architecture and meticulous craftsmanship of his houses.

Taking on the task, Ben Johnston and his team at Benjamin Johnston Design developed what he describes as a novel concierge service for potential buyers — outfitting a move-in ready home. That is exactly what they did with the residence at 8833 Memorial Drive.

Turning the traditional staging concept (dragging furniture from house to house to fill up space) on its head, Johnston took the opposite approach.

“We decorated this home with furnishings and decor that we would specify for our everyday interior design projects,” Johnston says. “Every piece was purchased with this home in mind and designed to work with the distinctive materials and finishes found in and around the property. Every bit of upholstery was custom, down to the pillows.

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“Combine that with the addition of exquisite draperies in key spaces and a potential buyer could literally close and move right in.”

8833 Memorial_DSC2563 (Photo by Jeff Myers Photography)
The home at 8833 Memorial Drive was sold completely furnished. (Photo by Jeff Myers Photography)

Completing the sophisticated staging in a limited time frame presented its own set of challenges as did dealing with the vast spaces in the large home. But the firm’s relationship with vendors paid off. In particular Stark Carpet obliged the time line by delivering massive rugs in time for the grand opening. Holly Hunt, Hermès, Chivasso, Mokum, Pollack and many others were sourced for upholstery, draperies, hard furnishings and decorative pillows.

An example of the size considerations, Johnston says that the study was so large that rather than a traditional desk concept, the team opted for a solid marble dining table from Cantoni to serve as a workspace.

The dwelling is so hip and grand that Ferrari of Houston and Ferrari of The Woodlands hosted its kickoff for the annual Ferrari Festival there. On this night, the expansive, pristine garage was referred to as an “auto showroom” where a Portofino and a GTC4 Lusso held court.

So appealing was the finished product that prestigious Italian magazine of contemporary design Case e Stili plans to feature the interiors in an upcoming issue. Even more important was the end result.

In addition to gaining firm exposure and satisfying Al Ross’ needs, Johnston says. “We also hoped that the majority of the furnishings would sell with the home and that we might pick up a client after the sale. We’re happy to report that all of those hopes came to fruition.”

Check out a video of the home and interiors here. And click thru the photo gallery below for a closer look:

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