a search for the uncommonly beautiful

Surreal Estate with Sofie Ganeva

Since its inception in 2010, Stockholm-based real estate agency Fantastic Frank has been at the vanguard of a quiet revolution. Instead of marketing a property for mass appeal, they create beautiful editorial-style images that they know one person will absolutely fall in love with. Their theory is that good design evokes an emotional connection to a space that loosens purse strings more easily than cold-blooded business strategies – after all, a home can only ever have one owner.

As Chief Stylist, Sofie Ganeva has been at the centre of this unique approach to selling houses. Working with a talented roster of brokers, interior designers, art directors and photographers across Fantastic Frank’s offices in Sweden and Germany, she has helped match many a prospective owner with their perfect home. We caught up with Sofie to chat about her unconventional styling career, the creative process behind her most recent project and why the world can’t get enough of Scandinavian style.

Tell us a little about your career so far as stylist.

I studied language and pedagogics at university and worked as a teacher for some years, mainly in Sweden but also abroad. During that period I ran a smaller business selling different textiles, such as cushions and bedspreads, and people asked me if I was interested in doing interior projects – I realised I enjoyed it. I later studied interior architecture and got in contact with Tomas Backman, one of the founders of Fantastic Frank, and we started to work together. 

Fantastic Frank has a very unique approach to real estate. Why do you think this has been so effective? 

Real estate brokers have always focused on square metres, location and exclamation marks but never had the editorial thinking in mind. Our approach is to build an inspiring story together with a strong business focus and that strategy sticks out in a rather conservative sector. 

What project are you working on now – where is it, what is it? 

We have just finished shooting a wonderful house in the countryside. It´s an old bakery connected to a bigger mansion nearby. The owners have been living there for almost 20 years and during this period have been renovating it in a contemporary style with great attention to detail. It was great fortune to lead a project like this and learn about the house and its history.

When you have a project like this, where do you start?

I always visit the location and let the owners show me around and tell me about the house. Depending on the interior, the needs and what we want to achieve, I usually present a mood board of my ideas. In this case we had a dialogue together on what we wanted to focus on regarding rooms, details and materials. This time the challenge was to prioritise – there were so many nice angles to shoot and it was difficult to choose what to highlight in order to make a beautiful portrait.

Did the client provide a brief, or did you have creative freedom? 

We had our initial talk and agreed to highlight the original details and the heritage of the house, but otherwise we created the concept with a lot of creative freedom.

Do you try to bring a bit of your personal style to your shoots?

I always try to blend my personal style into the projects. Again, our mission is to create a story that sticks out from the rest and I believe this is only possible when you have an authentic approach. In this case it was the lighting that inspired me the most and how we allowed the many years of careful refurbishing to shine through in every picture. This is how I would have portrayed my own house. 

Does it matter if a home has good bones? Or can you work around an interior that has a lot of flaws? 

Sometimes on site you discover details and interesting angles and how light makes magic of something quite boring in itself. That said, if you have a spacious platform of furniture and harmony when it comes to colours and materials, it is not only easier but usually more fun as well.

A lot of people assume that photo shoots are glamorous affairs but I know it’s actually a lot of hard work and organisation! What were your priorities on the set of this project? 

The preparation of the shoot by planning all props – what to buy and what to bring. Also going through the images and planning angles beforehand makes it so much easier on site.

Fantastic Frank is extremely collaborative, Tell us about the different people on your team.

We work in a team of four – broker, interior stylist, photographer and art director. We believe in quality and deliver a full package where each person puts their knowledge into the project and the result is truly a team effort. Our mission is to make the best sale each and every time – by hand and tailored for the target audience. 

What has been the most rewarding part of this project? 

To see the result of everyone’s cooperation and how aligned we all have been with the overall story in mind. Our photographer Anna Malmberg did an amazing job at the shoot but also the retouching captured exactly the feeling we wanted to express in all the images.

Were there any challenges that you had to consider? 

The sun is always a consideration. We struggled against time and knew the sun would leave the terrace after lunch. The rays were shining at the decorated table and we captured them in the last minute.

What are your biggest sources of inspiration these days? Is there anywhere in Stockholm or Berlin that you visit for inspiration? 

Some weeks ago I spent a few days in Berlin working. I love that city. I visited a woman who hosted an art gallery in her apartment in Mitte. Afterwards we had dinner at The Soho House spotting different kinds of people from all around the world. I get inspired by the people I meet at different locations and in different cultures and I almost mentally feel like a chameleon after such a journey. I also enjoy visiting regular homes and seeing how people have structured their own living. In Stockholm we are experts in buying exactly the same stuff according to the current trends but when you look into someone’s home the very same things are embedded with personal memories and decisions, making them more interesting.

The Internet loves Scandinavian style! Why do you think that is? 

I believe Scandi style has a very clean and simple expression allowing the actual object to be in focus. It is somewhat a ‘less is more’ concept without actually making it boring. To me it is a style that allows the interior designer to express his or her own personal brand based on a solid platform. 

Finally, do you have any general advice for people who are preparing their house for sale? 

The easy tricks are always to let fresh air in, buy some greenery and make your bed look as majestic as in your favourite hotel. Try to find a balance in colours and materials to create harmony and remove at least one third of your furniture. Just because you love them and the story behind every object it does not mean that the camera does.

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