Since the late 1980s, Michiel van Dijk has been active in the Hudson Valley as a real estate broker and developer, an entirely natural outgrowth of his interest in historic properties and their restoration. (See our cover story on Ham House, a historical home in Tivoli that he restored with his wife, Monique.)
Van Dijk’s focus has been on what he calls “the golden triangle, spanning from Hudson to Rhinebeck and Millbrook.”
Van Dijk takes a smart-growth approach to development projects. “I had a preservation-driven company in mind when I formed my development group in the late 1990s,” he says. He believes that thoughtful development saves agricultural land, creates jobs, and contributes to a more beautiful environment, all of which, in turn, attracts people to make the Hudson Valley their home.
“Development is unavoidable, but preservation is paramount,” says van Dijk. “In Europe, we live in an older culture and we handle our old buildings accordingly. We may totally modernize a building’s interior so it suits our needs, while still preserving the neighborhood feeling and the beautiful old exterior of our buildings.”
Two of van Dijk’s previous local development projects demonstrate his approach. For Bentley Farms, a 200-acre tract in Stanford, the idea was to put 150 acres in a conservation easement and build smart homes on the remaining 50. And in 2008, when van Dijk’s former development team partnered with a group of investors to convert the defunct Irving School in Catskill into luxury apartments, they included an assisted-living component in the plan, since the building was next door to a nursing home; however, that project fell through when the housing market collapsed.
Van Dijk founded RESTYLE, a Tivoli-based real estate brokerage firm with an extensive personalized lifestyle-services component, in 2013. RESTYLE approaches the sale, marketing, and development of all real estate properties in a comprehensive, personalized manner that takes a buyer’s lifestyle into account. “I wanted to move away from the simple transaction of buying and selling homes to encompass more about what people need, what is right for each community, and, ultimately, to contribute to making my community better,” he says.
“The focus is on extended services,” van Dijk explains. “Most of our clientele are out-of-towners who want to experience the Hudson Valley but have limited time and know-how when it comes to making improvements to their property.” RESTYLE’s forte is to supplement the buyer’s experience by offering management, design, and concierge services. “We take your worries away,” he says. “If you need a new kitchen or pool, we will take care of that for you.”
RESTYLE is dedicated to doing more for clients than “just showing buyers the inventory of houses available in your price range and providing cookie-cutter services,” says Larie Pidgeon, the firm’s marketing director.
“So much of real estate has become about the commission, not the mission,” she explains. “How many times in your life do you buy a home? It should be a joyful experience. We approach the process by helping to determine your needs and start with finding the right community. We seek a long-term relationship with our clients, and for them to know we’re there for them. We really are building a community.”
RESTYLE’s advertising and branding campaign reflects how the company has pulled away from the pack. The front windows of the firm’s charming office in the hamlet of Tivoli are filled with a colorful row of gerbera daisies, rather than real estate listings. And the company’s billboard campaign on Route 9 in Rhinebeck, featuring a tattooed man holding a baby, stands out in a hip, even edgy way that is meant to appeal to sophisticated refugees from New York City looking to relocate to the Hudson Valley.
“It’s a way of showcasing our philosophy and relaying that we are more about the experience of buying real estate than the actual product,” explains van Dijk. “Urbanites appreciate this more personalized approach and, increasingly, buyers are finding their way to our office.”
Currently, van Dijk is involved in multiple projects for his clients, like converting a garage into a guesthouse and installing a pool. RESTYLE’s personalized service “could be as simple as installing a back-up generator,” he says. “We’re well connected and know all the high-quality service providers. We want our clients to know that we’re here for life—their life.”