Offbeat experts make high-end homes live-in ready

Todd Kurpil is trying to neutralize the energy in a home that's for sale in Brentwood.
(Ivan Kashinsky/For The Times)

Moving homes for most people entails a bunch of boxes, bubble wrap and a truck. For the rich and famous, it takes a village.

And it’s more than an army of movers. A cottage industry of specialists for high-net-worth clients includes feng shui experts, energy clearers, closet and wine bottle organizers.

It begins and ends with the estate manager, an entrenched member of the household tasked to keep things glitch-free.


“It’s like being the CEO of the household,” said Kimberly Varney of Celebrity Estate Management Network. And there’s a salary to match: Estate manager salaries can start from $90,000 up to $300,000.

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Managers are in charge of finding the right people to handle the homeowner’s prized possessions and place them in just the right way.

For starters, the manager might lean heavily on the recommendations of a feng shui expert.

Using this guide, practitioners may advise homeowners to place a water feature toward the front-center of the home to attract success in their careers or paint a room peach to encourage romance. It’s all about making a home feel good by subtly arranging objects in it.

Your home is a mirror of your life. The feel of your home has an impact on your life.

— Laura Carrillo of Narrative Space

“Your home is a mirror of your life,” said Laura Carrillo of Narrative Space, whose consultations start at $400. “The feel of your home has an impact on your life.”



June 6, 4:50 p.m.: A previous version of this article misspelled Laura Carrillo’s last name as Carillo. It also said a water feature should be in the center of the home; it should be in the front-center.


If the owner is an oenophile with decades’ worth of wines stocked in his cellar, he’ll need a cellar manager such as Jeff Smith of Carte du Vin.

Smith brings in three or four people to pack up wines in special double-walled construction boxes bound for Carte du Vin’s storage facility, where Smith and his partner inventory their client’s liquid assets.

He will also help clients pare down their extensive collections, weeding out older wines, selling a few and making new purchases on their behalf.

Once the new cellar is operational, Carte du Vin will place the oenophile’s collection into its new home arranged by type of wine and region.

“It goes all the way from Abreu Vineyards to ZD Wines. It’s very intuitive,” he said.

Carte du Vin will also digitize wine collections using CellarTracker, so clients can whip out their mobile devices and choose the perfect wine to go with dinner without a trek below deck.

What Smith does for wines, Joanne Levien does for a client’s wardrobe. She calls it “closet therapy.”

Levien prefers to edit wardrobes before the clothes are relocated to a new home. That way, the move also signifies a new beginning.

“My end goal is to help them feel like they’re shopping in their own closet,” Levien said.

She’ll arrange wardrobes by color — light to dark, short sleeves to long sleeves. She might also scope out the new home’s closet design and make suggestions on how to improve it before all the clothing arrives. She charges $125 per hour or a pre-negotiated flat fee.

Kurpil burns sage as part of the energy-clearing process.
Kurpil burns sage as part of the energy-clearing process.
(Ivan Kashinsky/For The Times )

If catharsis by clothing isn’t enough, Todd Kurpil, a reiki master and spiritualist can help clear a home of its malingering energies, real or imagined.

Using a combination of techniques culled from practices such as reiki and Native American traditions, Kurpil meditates in a home, then walks twice around the grounds — first with a crystal singing bowl, followed by a brass one — with the aim of clearing the energy. At the end, Kurpil burns sage in the home.

“I aim to neutralize all the energies in a house,” said Kurpil, who charges according to square footage, “so that when a new owner walks into the house, it’s all their own energy. They don’t feel stagnant energy from people who’ve lived there.”

Once everything is set to perfection, the estate manager writes the house manual. The cheat sheet (or binder, really) details where everything is and how it all works.

“There’s a picture of a remote control and what every button does. It shows you where the heater is — that kind of thing,” Varney said.

When the dust and demons are settled, all a new homeowner needs to do is walk in the door, relax on the couch and open the house manual to Page 1.


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