Virtual reality, in a broad sense, has many more applications than just revolutionizing entertainment.
The term also refers to ways in which we can use technology to alter industries that have remained largely unchanged for decades.
While certain television shows have made jokes about the potential of VR-adjacent real estate tours, virtual staging is a very real option for those engaged in house-hunting or really anyone interested in making changes to the interior design of their existing space.
Maria Caterina Chiuchiarelli has established herself as an early adopter of virtual staging services, which she offers through her company, DESIGNMCC, based in New York.
With Chiuchiarelli’s help, we are going to discuss virtual staging: how it works, its applications, and what the future of virtual staging services might be.
Even if you’re not currently looking to move to a new property or overhaul the look of your space, there’s a decent chance that you’ll be utilizing virtual staging tech in the years to come.
What is virtual staging?
So what exactly is virtual staging? Chiuchiarelli explains the concept this way:
“Virtual staging is a type of home staging executed with the help of 3D software technology. The process consists of creating a realistic tridimensional model of a space and then designing the interiors with 3D furniture and decor.”
If you’ve had any previous experience with 3D modeling, then this shouldn’t be anything new. Just about anything can be modeled with modern-day CG software, and living spaces are no different.
But even if you haven’t worked with 3D models in the past, you’ve probably familiar with entirely CG movies, most of which are aimed at kids.
Talented CG artists can recreate a room or an entire house, perfectly to scale, in 3D models, much in the same way that people can create physical scale models of buildings to decorate a train set.
However, whereas many CG models tend to be more fantastical since they’re not bound by the limits of physical space, virtual staging requires incredibly precise models, not only of any given space but of the furniture and decor elements as well. We’ll be talking about that requirement later on.
For now, we’ll just say that given enough time and resources, virtual staging can help you completely re-envision your current or future home with pinpoint precision, all from the comfort of your computer.
Advantages of virtual staging
We’ve already touched on some of the major advantages of virtual staging, namely the convenience factor.
But as Chiuchiarelli pointed out, another important advantage over traditional staging is drastically reduced costs.
“Virtual staging is almost 90% less expensive than physical. Physical staging requires multiple professionals and physical furniture. With virtual staging, I aim to merge my experience as an architect with my knowledge and taste as an international interior designer. In this case, one professional can do all the work in less time.”
This is good news not just for the businesses providing virtual staging services, but the customers as well.
If physical staging requires a significant financial investment on the part of the company, many of those costs will inevitably be passed on to the customer.
But if a virtual staging service can keep its overhead significantly lower, then it also means customers won’t need to spend as much on the service and, consequently, more people will be able to afford it.
While we’re on the topic of advantages, we may as well address the elephant in the room.
At the time of publication, the global pandemic is still drastically limiting access to public spaces and has forced the real estate and interior design industries to adapt.
Safety has become a more serious concern than ever before, and the safest option of all is simply to stay at home.
Virtual staging offers the perfect solution to this problem. Rather than having to invite professionals into your home to work on a redesign, you can simply enlist the help of a virtual staging company.
Three years ago, virtual staging might have seemed like an ancillary alternative to physical staging, but right now, it’s the clear winner, and that market dominance could very well continue into the future.
A consistent concern among those looking for a new home or hoping to change the look of the one they already have is total accuracy.
As an example, we can look at interior paint colors. Many paint companies now offer their own versions of virtual staging on their website, where you can apply a specific color to a photograph of a room, so that you can see what the color will look like in action, including under different lighting conditions.
This can help avoid disappointment and confusion when a color doesn’t look quite the way it should when you put it on your wall.
Similarly, real estate websites have, in recent years, made efforts to only allow verified photos of a certain property, as opposed to photos of a similar unit or a model home in lieu of the real thing.
For Chiuchiarelli, her approach to virtual staging is very much the same.
It would technically be possible to tweak a virtual environment or the objects placed within it to be more appealing, to make them look better than they would be in real life.
But Chiuchiarelli refuses to take this shortcut so that she can maintain accuracy and, subsequently, the trust of her clients.
“When I provide a service for an existing space, one of the priorities is to show the client what that space can offer. But the other priority is to render images of the space in a way consistent with reality. It’s never worth it to cheat and show something that, when seen live, doesn’t match the virtual version.”
This can translate to additional time spent on creating picture-perfect models of a space, but it’s very important to Chiuchiarelli, and she hopes that other virtual staging services will follow suit.
Disappointing clients with subpar results is bad business, and it would represent an obstacle for the virtual staging industry as a whole.
But if clients can place their trust in designers and real estate agents, these businesses only stand to grow through in-person and online word-of-mouth.
Virtual staging outside of real estate and design
Before wrapping up, we’d like to briefly take a look at some applications for virtual staging outside of the fields of real estate and interior design.
After all, the underlying tech here is all about recreating physical spaces, and so, in theory, new spaces could be created as well.
Video games in particular have been eager to create realistic environments for players to explore, even if there are no traditional game elements involved.
But during the pandemic, Chiuchiarelli got to thinking about how her knowledge of virtual staging could be used to help visit versions of real spaces that they could no longer visit in real life, due to quarantine and social distancing measures.
This led to the idea of creating virtual art galleries that could help artists negatively impacted by the pandemic to share and potentially sell their work.
“In addition to working in interior design and virtual staging, I’m also an artist. Since art galleries were closed, artists weren’t able to showcase their creations, so I had the idea to create virtual art galleries. With virtual staging technology, it’s possible now for creatives to have a personal virtual gallery and put on a virtual exhibition.”
This is just one example of how virtual staging tech could be applied to other industries for completely different purposes.
Virtual environments are already being used by car companies to help promote new models, using 360-degree videos to simulate the experience of driving a new car.
We’d like to say that the sky’s the limit for virtual staging tech, but really, not even the sky’s the limit when it comes to creating virtual environments.
The future of virtual staging
As a way of bringing the conversation to a close, let’s talk about where virtual staging might be headed in the future.
The biggest source of potential right now is that more and more people are feeling compelled to at least consider virtual staging as a viable option, for the reasons we discussed above.
As Chiuchiarelli sees it, this increased openness to the concept of virtual staging represents an enormous opportunity for the industry.
It has been a way for people to dip their toe into virtual staging. Once they notice the waters are warm, they’re more likely to come back again and again.
“During the pandemic, people tend to feel more comfortable with virtual reality, and this opened the doors to virtual staging becoming more popular. Those who have tried it will be open to using this resource again and recommending it to others.”
The increased popularity of virtual services like this one could indeed lead to the expansion of this technology.
Ten years from now, we may even have the option to explore many different kinds of virtual environments for different reasons.
For now, virtual staging is just one small way to envision a brighter future for yourself and your home.