Rich Caplan is a real estate photographer with a great eye for details. His photographs really capture the beauty of a space, providing a natural look and feel that makes the images come to life. Here, we have the pleasure of asking Rich some questions about his art, and how he came to be a real estate photographer.

AA: How long have you been a photographer?

RC: I have been a photographer since I was a kid, but have been a working photographer for a little over 4 years.

AA: What did you do before you got into Real Estate photography?

RC: Prior to photography, I spend 15 years in finance. Trading, selling, and writing software. I still continue to trade, but just for myself.

AA: Why did you switch?

RC: I switched because I felt a need to satisfy my creative side. I cannot paint or sing, so my camera provided the outlet.

AA: What are the special challenges inherent in real estate photography as compared to other types of photography?

RC: With architectural and interior photography, I feel the challenge is not to leave the viewer guessing. Tell the story effectively and the image provides the viewer a sense of calm. I know that may sound funny, but poorly chosen composition creates confusion, which is not what the architect or designer had in mind.

AA: What techniques do you use to get the natural look and feel apparent in your photos?

RC: My specific technique is a closely guarded secret. What I can say is that I utilize a hybrid high dynamic range approach.

AA: What is your favorite lens right now?

RC: 24mm PC-Tilt-Shift…it shoots around corners.

AA: Does the camera matter?

RC: A camera’s sensor matters but the lens matters more.

AA: Any advice for would-be real estate photographers?

RC: Observe the greats and keep your lines straight.

More information about Rich can be found at www.richcaplan.com/.

Glenn Gissler is one of our favorite designers, for his elegant mix of classic and contemporary elements, his broad, well-informed palette, and his ability to make a space feel pulled together without feeling “decorated.” Glenn’s design practice is the culmination of a lifelong interest in 20th century art, literature, fashion, historic preservation, and architectural history. Here, Aligned has the pleasure of asking Glenn about his art and influences.
AA) How does your training as an architect affect the way you approach interior design?

GG) This is an interesting question. In fact I studied architecture purposely knowing that I wanted to practice interior design.

In my initial forays into the opportunities to study interior design available to me in Wisconsin 30 years ago I found that I wanted more theory and history of big ideas. Additionally I didn’t really recognize the boundaries between architecture an interior design – for me they are really integral to good and enduring design.

With that said, I start every project documenting and analyzing the existing architecture to see what the space is capable of doing. Sometimes by moving a door or removing a wall or creating greater intimacy by closing in a space can truly transform the functional and aesthetic experience of a space.

Living Room of Michael Kors penthouse apartment in Greenwich Village. This is the second apartment that I have designed for Michael. Michael was very clear about the point of view and palette – grey flannel, black leather, rich wood, and classic modern furniture. The room is calm, and open and modern
In the Kitchen in the Kors apartment we used honed black granite for the counters and backsplash, white lacquer for the cabinets and chrome stools with woven leather seats. The net result is graphic simplicity like an Ellsworth Kelly painting.
French Art Deco chairs are paired with a Thebes stool (circa 1900) in this sitting area in a bedroom for art collectors in Greenwich Village. The picture shelves allow for a changing display of their extensive collection of drawings.
AA) How do you make a space reflect its occupant?

GG) I believe that people’s environments are a reflection of the occupants. I have been to so many people’s homes and apartments and each one tells a story about the owners – their personal history, their values, their circumstances, and the degree of order or chaos in their lives. This is important information to include in the development of the design that is specific to them. Often there are things about their environment that they have never really thought about so it then becomes a process of collaboration and education and dialogue to help them to create a project that takes them to a place that they could never get to on their own, but still feels like home.

Interior design at its best is really a form of portraiture of the owners. I personally don’t think that it should be purely a reflection of the designer – then it is just about merchandise and sales. I ask all of my clients where they would like to be in their lives in five years. The answer to this question is in many ways more important to me than what do they wish their Living Room looked like last year.

I have this fantasy that if five different interior designers created the same project for the same clients that the clients themselves would be legible to one degree or another in each project. Sadly however, I don’t think that in reality this would be the case…

AA) How do you make contemporary and classic aesthetics work together so well?

GG) I appreciate the acknowledgment.

I like to create environments that I think of as ‘half full and half empty’. In working towards this goal everything that gets put in contributes to the quiet dialogue that takes place between the objects in the room. I have found that I like objects and art from many eras and places, but in order to create an environment that is appropriate for our time, the objects and art need to be able to breathe. When this balance is achieved the rooms have a calm and elegance that is both reassuring and pleasant.

AA) Your wife is a contemporary art writer and curator. Does that influence the way you showcase art in a person’s home?

GG) We have shared countless art experiences in New York City, in various cities and towns in America and overseas, including many Venice Biennales. It has been a joy to have someone to share these experiences with. We also have a shared passion for printed matter which has manifest itself into a collection of art books that numbers in the thousands. My wife has not been involved in commerce in the art world for 20 years so her interests are more aesthetic and intellectual than market value. We have had lots of dialogue about art, and her suggestions have been valuable when assisting my clients with developing their collections.

AA) Does your having a daughter influence how you design spaces for families?

GG) It has certainly been a learning experience to navigate the world of bright colored plastic in my own home, while still seeking to find a balance with the calm that I strive for in my clients’ homes. And then, once I think I have it figured out, it changes again!

I shouldn’t be surprised, or so I am told, that my daughter has very strong opinions about all things aesthetic at nine years old. She is one of my most challenging ‘clients’! Maybe one day she will take over my business!

Glenn may be contacted at:

Glenn Gissler Design
40 West 29th Street, Suite 404, New York, NY 10001
http://gissler.com
Tel: 212-228-9880

Gregory Socha, a Managing Director at Manhattan Mortgage, was ranked as one of the top 100 mortgage originators in the US for 2008. He has experience in real estate as an investor, a real estate agent, and for the past eight years, as a top mortgage professional. He may be reached at gsocha@manhattanmortgage.com
AA) What are banks currently requiring as a down payment for various purchase price ranges?

GS) Typically, there are two kinds of loans. There conforming loans and there are jumbo loans. Each of these types of loans typically have a different set of requirements. For conforming loans, depending on the size of the loans 85%-90% financing is available. On jumbo loans, loans larger than $729,000, 75% financing is the standard maximum.

AA) In your opinion, what is a rule of thumb for how much you should spend on an apartment as a function of your income?

GS) There are many schools of thought about this, but most banks will allow you to spend up to 40% of your total, pretax income on all debts inclusive of housing debt. There are also some banks that will allow you to spend up to 45% of your income.

AA) How much liquidity are banks requiring purchasers to have after closing on a property?

GS) Again, there are two general sets of guidelines; for conforming loans, and for jumbo loans. In general, conforming loans require 3-6 months of monthly mortgage and maintenance in the bank after
the closing. For jumbo loans, however, the requirements are, at minimum, 3 month’s of total housing debt, and the banks with the best rates ask for the greatest amount of liquidity, with the maximum being approximately 35% of the loan amount.

AA) What are rates like this month and what movement do you predict for the first half of 2010?

GS) For the most part, rates in the conforming arena for a 30 year fixed are in the high 4’s/low 5% range, for a jumbo loan, you can get a 5/1 ARM as low as 4% up to 1.5m and a 30 year fixed rate mortgage at approximately 5.875% . As far as the first half of 2010 goes, I wish I had that crystal ball, but since I don’t, my best guess is that rates are going to start inching upward. The Fed is going to stop buying Mortgage Backed Securities at the end of March and inflation is already starting to rear its ugly head as we can already see in the Commodities Markets…Cotton/Sugar/Gold/Oil prices are all up and for whatever reason, are predicted to stay that course. That all being said, I still think that rates will be well below 6% for a conforming loan through the end of Q2 and certainly into Q3 2010. Q4, however, is a different story all together and if it were I that was thinking about buying or refinancing an apartment, I would do it now!

AA) Are you seeing more competitive rates with the larger institutional banks or the smaller boutique banks? Why do you think this is?

GS) There is no question that the smaller, regional, private boutique banks are offering the best rates today. These banks do not sell their loans to Wall Street, are not subject to Wall Street’s demands and are therefore able to pass on the current low cost of funds to the borrowers.

AA) What difficulties are you facing as clients try to re-finance and how do you help combat this?

GS) Today, the most difficult challenges we face are not with the borrowers themselves, but the buildings in which they are buying or refinancing. With factors such as sponsors owning more than 10% of the total units, high concentrations of unsold units, and high concentrations of investor-owned units, borrowers can find themselves in a scenario where they own or find the perfect apartment which they know they are qualified to purchase or refinance, but cannot do so due to matters out of their control. To address these issues, I get all of the building documentation up front, before any contracts are signed or any deals are done so everyone can make an informed decision.

AA) How has the mortgage broker business changed for you since the credit crunch?

GS) As a mortgage professional, I have to work smarter and work harder. Deals are getting done, and done at great rates. We continue to find new sources lending to make sure that our borrowers get the best possible deal.