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In Conversation with Liz Mackay

Liz Mackay – Ambiance Consulting Inc

As seen in SNAP VICTORIA – March 2009 – “Design Feature”

Liz Mackay is the principal at Ambiance Consulting Inc. – the most reputable staging company in Victoria B.C. Liz has searched far and wide to acquire a unique international inventory of art, furniture and accessories. Ambiance Consulting Inc. recognized the need to provide an exclusive, full package to investors and owners of high-end properties. The result? In one single day Liz and her team are able to transform an empty home into a luxurious, elegant and contemporary property for sale, dramatically increasing the value of the property.
I had the pleasure of meeting Liz a couple of years ago when she approached Meade Design Group to create the graphic identity for her new venture as a Residential Stager. Since then we have shared a friendship and a common interest in interior design. I have always admired the energy and professionalism that Liz brings to any of her projects.

Iván Meade – “What is your favourite design find? Where did you get this item – how long have you had it?”

Liz Mackay – The Mies Van Der Rohe black Barcelona chair which I fell in love with the instant I saw it. It became part of our inventory 2 years ago.

Natures Gate Residence
Photograph courtesy of Ambiance Consulting Inc

Iván Meade – “Why is it inspirational to you?”

Liz Mackay – Because it is elegant, classic and contemporary, adding glamour to any space.

Natures Gate Residence
Photograph courtesy of Ambiance Consulting Inc

Iván Meade – How does this item reflect upon your personal design philosophy?

Liz Mackay – it’s fabulous, and as you know, Ivan, “we only do fabulous”! That’s our mantra as we work our magic on properties for sale.

Chocolate Lilly Lane Residence
Photograph courtesy of Ambiance Consulting Inc

Iván Meade – “Can you tell me what is new and “fabulous” with Ambiance Consulting ?

Liz Mackay – The recent acquisition of a faux zebra rug allowed us to create a stunning library in the round, complete with the Barcelona chairs and Le Courbusier pieces, for an architectural photo shoot. The client’s response: “It’s straight out of Architectural Digest!”

Bear Mountain Residence
Photograph courtesy of Ambiance Consulting Inc

Ivan Meade – Can you tell me more about Ambiance Consulting Inc.’s services and how they may be beneficial to our readers?

Liz Mackay – We began almost 2 years ago by offering a custom, high-end staging service for vacant properties needing enhancement for marketing purposes, transforming them “from vacant place to fabulous space”™ in just 2 or 3 days. Staging is relatively new to Victoria, but is now the norm in larger cities across Canada, the USA, and throughout Europe, where real estate owners & investors recognize that it can make a significant difference in the outcome of their property’s sale.

Residential Stylist Susan Hargraves is a valued member of my team and we spend at least 3 to 4 hours doing on-site planning for each project. We truly believe as Charles Eames said, “the details are not details, they make the design”.

By owning our entire staging inventory, we can deliver on our promise of/guarantee “fabulous” results. Over 2 years have been spent shopping, sourcing & collecting for the Ambiance Consulting inventory. Of course it’s an ongoing process, and so much fun.. my dream is to spend a month in Milan and shop, shop, shop!

We have recently added to our available services and are now offering staging for architectural photo shoots. So often a designer’s project is photographed empty at the conclusion of the project, prior to the clients’ furnishings being installed – now it can have added impact and appeal for the purposes of portfolio or award submissions.

We also offer a “revamp” service using clients’ existing furnishings where possible, and adding style and elegance with rental accessories, art, and plants.

In February we began offering our inventory for rent to a select group of other stagers we work closely with.

Photograph courtesy of Ambiance Consulting Inc

Iván Meade – What was your first experience with design?

Liz Mackay – When I was in my late teens, in my native England, I did a hands-on conversion of an old rectory into six fully furnished suites, as a joint project with my father. Not only did this involve project design, but also scouring the local auctions weekly for just the right pieces, travelling to the wholesale fabric and rug warehouses in Manchester, and colour coordinating every suite. Over a period of several months, I created fitted, piped slipcovers, draperies, bedspreads and cushions for each unit. I loved every minute of it and was hooked for life!

Penthouse Suite
Photograph courtesy of Ambiance Consulting Inc

Iván Meade – What are you most excited about right now in the world of design and real estate?

Liz Mackay – That Victoria is becoming more of a cosmopolitan city with residents coming from all over the world. Many could afford to live anywhere on the planet, but have chosen Victoria as their home. Not just retirees, but also a younger demographic, these new residents have brought an injection of new energy, life and vitality to our city.

This has resulted in our local design and retail scene now boasting some unique and world-class sources that could not have survived in the “traditional, conservative” Victoria of 10 or 20 years ago. The revitalization of the downtown core with the higher densities and elegant apartments now being completed ensures that we will have a more vibrant and exciting city to enjoy. When I am ready to leave my present single-family home near the University of Victoria, I will definitely be heading in the inner city direction!

Photograph courtesy of Ambiance Consulting Inc

Iván Meade – Who or what are your greatest design influences?

Liz Mackay – The mid-century modern furniture designers .. like Charles Eames, Euro Saarinen, Anne Jacobsen, and Miles van der Rohe I love their lines – sleek, uncluttered, and clean. They are timeless.

I also adore Italian design – especially their lighting.

Photograph courtesy of Ambiance Consulting Inc

Iván Meade – What is your design philosophy?

Liz Mackay – “We only do fabulous!” That came about when I kept getting asked what style we did.. it just sort of popped out, and now has become my company mantra!

Iván Meade – You are known for your great taste and for enjoying the finer things in life (and of course, your mantra – “we only do fabulous”). How do you bring this philosophy into Ambiance Consulting Inc.’s projects and why is this so important?

Liz Mackay – Fine Italian bedding, Robert Allen designer cushions, contemporary Villeroy Boch tableware, and sumptuous wool rugs and throws are just some of the items I adore.. gorgeous coffee table books, fresh flowers and relaxing jazz or classical music are others.. who doesn’t want to be surrounded with the best they can afford?

“Aspirational Decorating” is our favourite term for it. It’s about creating the lifestyle that the buyer aspires to, an environment that draws on visual and emotional references to appeal to the widest array of potential buyers. Staging is a temporary art form, a creative endeavour that Is the perfect outlet for my passion about design.

We frequently get feedback from clients and real estate professional that our properties “don’t look staged” which we consider to be high praise. This is probably due to the fact that each project we do is individually planned and unique, and that all the finer details are present – the carefully chosen books, fresh flowers and plants, music and my favourite part – the artwork.

These are what bring the space to life.

Photograph courtesy of Ambiance Consulting Inc

Iván Meade – One of the most unique and superior facets about your company is your own background. How do you feel that your background in real estate and marketing have affected Ambiance Consulting Inc.?

Liz Mackay – Empathy for both the seller and the realtor, and the certain knowledge that empty homes sell for less, and take longer to generate an offer. It provided me with the knowledge of how important presentation is.

Those first 2 or 3 minutes a buyer spends in the home are usually the point where the buying decision is made. I used to stage my clients homes in the mid-80’s and early 90’s, using items from my personal collection of art, music, books and furnishings. Over the years I have also helped many friends and family in the same way. So in reality I have been staging for over 20 years! I just didn’t know what it was called!

It’s important to me that we create the most beautiful spaces possible, to ensure the client is thrilled with the results, and will derive the most benefit from the marketing tool of distinctive, elegant staging.

We’ve come a long way from the “baking cookies” way of selling homes!

Photograph courtesy of Ambiance Consulting Inc

Iván Meade – Lastly, you have created a stunning body of work in many mediums and styles, what would you like your legacy to be?

Liz Mackay – For the company, I’d like to think that Ambiance has taken staging in Victoria to a whole new level, and has helped our clients to maximize their property’s value and sale price.
On a personal level, to have had a positive effect on the lives of others.

I invite you to visit Ambiance Consulting Inc’s website to see more of Liz’s work and to learn more about her and her business.

Ivan Meade is a local designer and principal of Meade Design Group, a multidisciplinary interior and graphic design studio in the heart of downtown Victoria – www.themeadegroup.com