A Temporary Coup
Jun 18, 2007 13:53 PM
If you sold your apartment but haven't yet bought another, are in the city for a few months to close that big deal, or just need a place to crash for a couple of months, Furnished Quarters will put you up in style.
by Nick Steele of GOTHAM, Volume 7, Issue 5, Summer 2007
FURNISHED QUARTERS, New York's largest provider of furnished apartments, was founded in 1998 by brothers Gary and Steven Brown, who had been investing in real estate since the early 1980s. Since then they've grown the business into a powerhouse firm with a reputation for high-style interiors that retain a "home away from home" feel. One might say they're the couture choice in the predominantly ready-to-wear corporate housing market.
The brothers recently expanded the Manhattan-based company into several other cities. We sat down with Steven Brown and the company's general counsel, Steve Saide, who also oversees all interior design aspects for the apartments, to talk about how Furnished Quarters became the leader in its field.
GOTHAM: So tell me how it all began.
STEVEN BROWN: My brother and I were buying properties and flipping them, but ultimately were able to buy them and (rent them out). We were in the process of closing on a townhouse when I noticed listings for furnished apartments in The New York Times. I saw what other people were doing in terms of décor, and it wasn't very good. It occurred to me that I could do it better. I had access to wholesale furnishings, so we went for a Ralph Lauren feel for that first project. We had an open house and rented all 10 units that day.
Fast forward eight and a half years, and we now have 700 units in Manhattan. A year ago we expanded into Hoboken and Jersey City, and also into Massachusetts. With those additional locations, we now have more than a thousand units.
G: How many Manhattan apartments do you own, and how many do you lease?
SB: In Manhattan we actually own about 125 and the rest we lease. In most buildings we lease about 40 to 60 units; that way we're able to offer everything from studios to three-bedrooms. We have units in elevator buildings and also in luxury doorman buildings.
G: How did you get the attention of corporate clients?
SB: First we built a strong online presence. Then we had someone who worked for, say, Merrill Lynch come to us for an apartment, we'd say, "OK, who can we talk to at Merrill?" And we just grew from there.
G: How does the design of your apartments stand out?
STEVEN SAIDE: We have two goals with regard to décor. First, we want clients to feel they've arrived in New York when they walk into any of our apartments—that they live in a place that really reflects the excitement of Manhattan and the modern glamour that people associate with it. Then, of course, we want each of our apartments to feel like a real home. If you're just coming to town for a few days, you might no mind the fact that a hotel's closets are small, or that the place is a bit cramped—but if you're staying for a few months, then it has to feel like you could really live there. So we have to meld a sophisticated environment with practical elements. We also approach a brownstone in a very different way than we do a modern glass-and-steel high-rise.
G: Do you rent to people who aren't coming in for business?
SB: Oh, sure, we get our share of "My wife just kicked me out and I need a place to stay for a few months" clients. Sometimes it's someone who's relocating to New York and needs a few months to find an apartment. And we do have those people who work in New York during the week and go home every weekend.