Two years ago, when Eric Elder, The Ryland Group's senior vice president of marketing and communications, first decided the Calabasas, Calif.–based home builder should to team up with Eric Mandil, president and principal of Mandil Inc., the plan was to use Mandil's fresh approach to color as a way to set Ryland Homes apart in the Denver market.

Today, the efforts of that collaboration have created such an effect on the bottom line, which Mandil's magic touch is being integrated into critical components of Ryland's business

The design and color consultancy firm is providing advanced colorization services to some divisions' home plans, with a particular focus on putting together unique, yet tasteful, exterior colors. “It's about creating flavorful neighborhoods with regional architecture and color palettes,” says Mandil. “It's a way to differentiate yourself in a market and, with Ryland, we are applying the ideas in low-end as well as high-end product.”

According to Dana Rogers, Ryland's vice president of the Las Vegas division, the use of color “not only brands our product, it creates a greater value. It creates an aesthetic, street appeal where buyer profiles, uniqueness and individuality matter.”

But the partnership hasn't stopped there. Mandil's firm is also collaborating with the builder to revamp design centers through the development of a MyStyle design center brand. Each MyStyle design center is tailored to the specific market it serves, reflecting a geographic diversity in tastes and trends through design, colorization, merchandising, and accessorizing. Already, the consultancy has worked on design center spaces in just under 20 markets nationwide, and another four are in the pipeline this year.

“This is a retail experience,” says Mandil of a buyer's visit to a design center. “It's important to give them the Ritz-Carlton treatment, but keep it focused with the appropriate number of choices.” Options are chosen and sometimes packaged in ways that will eliminate buyer confusion and guarantee coordination throughout the home. “Remember garanimals?” Mandil asks, recalling the popular 1980's children's mix-and-match clothing line. “We create an environment that says, ‘If you put all this together, you can't fail.'”

He's also helping Ryland spiff up some of its models by presenting an environment that reflects how people really live. He infuses the décor with accessories from Target and stocks pantries with dog food, Little Debbie snack cakes, and peanut butter. Instead of decorating a dining room table with china, he places take-out menus on the kitchen table. “It's fun and people really like that we are celebrating the menial things we all do in our houses.”

Elder says that Mandil's retail experience has given Ryland an inside track to what's hot and what's not. “We're better at matching customers to upgrades in the very much improved environment that he's brought,” Elder says.

And apparently Mandil's methods are putting home buyers in a buying state of mind. Elder says that while the return on investment for Mandil's services fluctuates a little market to market, buyers, in general, are spending 10 to 20 percent more in the revamped design centers.