by Teresa Koh


How a space is designed can really impact how we feel in a place. It can make users feel welcomed, provide a sense of warmth, and even boost productivity. Furniture mogul Niki Cheng, owner of Calligaris, Camerich and most recently M-collection explains that while interior design can express individual personality, it is also something that can leave lasting impressions.  “Impressions count when you are trying to impress clients, and potential home buyers.” says Ms. Cheng.

She gives me examples of how she has worked with clients decorating office spaces and home staging projects where she compares the first impression she tries to create to that of going on a first date. We dress to impress on dates. We tap into what we’re feeling, and play with texture, color, and print. We put on accessories and make-up to accentuate our best features. We do all this not just because it expresses who we are, but to put our best foot forward, and maybe, just maybe inspire and turn heads along the way.

In the case of communications agency Lion and Lamb, Melaine Weitzner, co-founder of the brand, needed a space where she could engage with both her clients and employees. I spoke to her about working with Niki, and how adding details to their West Broadway office has helped create lasting impressions – both with the clients she works with and the way her co-workers interact with each other.

Q&A with Melaine Weitzner- Lion and Lamb Co-founder

Q: What does Lion and Lamb do?

A: We are a lifestyle communications agency focusing on hospitality that primarily works with restaurants, chefs, hotels, spirits and high-end cocktail bars.

Q: Why was it important that you worked with an interior designer to curate the look for the Lion and Lamb office?

A: Our office is an open, loft-like space that mainly had a small conference room and desks throughout. We needed a designer to bring in elements that made the space comfortable but was still an environment where our staff could be productive and inspired. Niki helped to bring in stylish design details that brightened up the room like the furniture, artwork, plants and shelves.

Q: We know the interiors of a space can really affect the people who use these spaces. How have employees at Lion and Lamb benefited from the interior details?

A: Before Niki, we had no space in the office for the staff or guests to relax or lounge and our walls were bare. She created a comfortable lounge/waiting area with a couch, tables and arm chairs that the employees love to use – whether to read magazines, eat lunch, or for a more relaxed setting to work. She also created a gallery art wall and positioned hanging plants throughout. This helps to make the office feel more comfortable like a home rather than a workplace which I believe inspires the staff to be more creative.

Q: What do you think the major difference is in the office space from day one?

A: It looks like a real office for PR professionals rather than a stale, open space. Niki was able to bring the personality of Lion & Lamb Communications to life!

Q: What made you decide to work with Niki?

A: Our mutual friend introduced us. But I already knew of Niki in the past from Bo Concept and have been to her beautiful home in New York City. I was thrilled that she was willing to work with me because I loved her design aesthetic and knew she had a great reputation in the industry.

Q: What was it like working with Niki?

A: She was amazing! She’s reliable, organized, listens to my needs and was a pleasure to work with.

Another example where interior design can really help to engage those using the space is in apartment staging. Staging helps potential buyers imagine a space that is “lived in” and gives the otherwise empty space a sense of warmth. It can highlight the unique architectural features of a development and can help interested clients dream up furnitures that could work within the space.

Unlike designing for an office space and a home, when it comes to staging apartments Shelley Wisserman, a real estate broker who most recently worked with Niki on a townhouse in Dumbo says that contemporary, clean, neutral palettes with pops of color work best when it comes to decorating a space for potential home buyers. I had the chance to chat with her about their most recent collaboration at the 41 Bridge Street townhouse in Dumbo and how staging has helped with the reception of the development.

Q&A with Shelley Wisserman- Real Estate Broker with Compass

Q: How does the broker and the interior designer work together to create a vision that works for the space?

A: For our team at compass it is all about collaboration. While we understand what works because of the experience we have, we also work with the creativity the interior designer brings to the table. Ultimately, we want to create a space where our clients can envision themselves living in.

Q: What is the goal of staging an apartment?

A:Imagine walking into an empty room with empty walls, and cold hardwood floors. Not very appealing, is it ? The goal of apartment staging is to create an inviting space that shows size and scale. An empty apt looks smaller than one with furniture. Staging allows home owners to think about furniture style, color and texture.

Q: What are some of the considerations you made as a broker when you decided to work with Niki?

A:I have worked with Niki on a few projects. Niki is very creative and thinks about a space in a very holistic manner, injecting warmth into an otherwise empty space through the furniture and accessories she chooses. She also provides great service, organization and we have fun!

Q: What advice would you give to other interior designers who are looking to expand their careers into apartment staging?

A: Visit new development listings to see what the expectations of developers, buyer and brokers are.

Q: Designers all have their own style/aesthetic when they create a space. What aesthetic do you think has been the most successful in getting buyers to put a down payment on a property?

A: Contemporary, clean with neutral palette and pops of color to highlight the home. We are selling property so want the feature to be on the home with the interior design complementing the experience.

Q: What are some of the factors interior designers should think about when they are choosing products for staging?

A: Every space is different. I would say, think about the size and scale of furniture, where the light sources are, floors and paint colors. These are some elements that designers can work with to complement or accent a space.

Q: What has the response been to the decorated space?

A:The response has been wonderful. I would say even if homeowners are looking to sell their houses, a styled home that is not staged requires the look and feel of a staged home.

Q: What was it like working with Niki?

A: Niki is phenomenal. There is nothing she cannot resolve through her resourcefulness and creativity. Working with Niki is a joy and her yoga practice is demonstration of her steadfastness and commitment. We would highly recommend her to collaborate on any project.

Lesson learned from these two amazing pieces of property – lasting impressions are all in the details. It helps make a space feel like a place and can even bring people together.