To Showhome or not to Showhome? That is the question.... (posted 25th September 2012)

A showhome may feel like an extravagant expense in a market where money is tight and every penny needs to be squeezed out of a development, but a stunning specification and a beautifully executed showhome can optimise financial rewards and speed sales along by persuading a purchaser to fall in love with a property on first sight. Good specification and interior design can be used to accentuate all the positive features of a property and minimise impact in the more problematic areas.

A showhome will illustrate to a purchaser how they actually can live in the property; how they can use the space; where they can place their furniture and how their property can be utilised to accentuate the important aspects of their lifestyle, whether it be entertaining for friends, cooking for the kids or accommodating a home office or gym.

And when it comes to selling houses a developer is ultimately selling a dream, so decorating a house in a manner which fits in with the aspiration of the purchaser can take all the hard work out of selling!

This leads onto....

Being as accurate as possible with who you are targeting with your properties is always a positive start for an interior designer, as the specification and showhome can then be quite specifically designed with the purchaser in mind. For properties with a wider appeal we would never recommend just opting for a ‘safe’ scheme as this will not maximise the potential of a property. Instead utilise a classic contemporary style, with a more neutral colour palette, that can appeal across a broader range of purchaser profiles. With the potential market in mind details from appliances and kitchen style to accessories and furniture can be chosen to maximise the properties appeal.

A good specification will shine through and be the feature of any property. A canny home buyer will know that they can recreate the interior design of a show home but if the kitchens, bathrooms and internal details are not to their satisfaction then this could impact on their decision to complete a purchase. However, if the specification is the best that your budget will allow, and money has been spent wisely through each home, then this could sign and seal the decision. A well designed kitchen; a perfectly laid-out bathroom; beautiful materials and an attention to detail on the interior specification will sing the developers praises and indicate to a purchaser that this company cares about their product and their purchasers. The purchaser will then assume that this attention to detail follows through to the areas they cannot inspect so closely or so knowledgably.

Providing three distinct levels of lighting in a showhome is essential to create the ambience that will welcome a purchaser through the door and make a property feel well lit and yet homely. A good overhead light level is essential, with mood lighting supplied by table lamps and then task lights define specific functions such as reading, using a computer or preparing food on kitchen surfaces.
Lighting should be subliminally ‘just right’, not too bright or too dark, with no overbearing pools of light or dark corners. The industry is moving away from ceilings full of downlights towards a more thoughtful and functional placement. Directional lighting can be used to great effect, especially on feature walls with art work or a wall with a beautiful wallpaper on it. Inset floor lights look great in hallways or on perimeter walls uplighting an expanse of window. 5 amp circuits are a great selling feature, when all table lamps can be worked off one main switch, saving a purchaser the tiresome task of individually switching on all their lamps one by one!
Increase the impression of light by maximising the natural light a room benefits from. Dressing curtains well back from the window not only lets light flood in but it also gives the impression of large, airy windows.
Mirrored and glass furniture obviously work very effectively to reflect light and to minimise the size and solidity of a piece of furniture in a room, but also consider highly lacquered, chromed or stainless steel finishes which do this job a little less obviously. Mirrored plinths on large pieces of furniture can work really well to trick the eye into seeing more floor space in a room.

If you are asking the question ‘to showhome or not to showhome?’ remember that an empty property may feel initially spacious and airy but ask any purchaser to estimate how much space a double bed or a sofa will take up in a room and they will invariably over-estimate, making a room feel smaller than it actually is! A good furniture layout is essential in any showhouse, maximising the impression of space, whilst making each room navigable and usable.
Despite rumours to the contrary a good interior designer will never use undersized furniture as it tends to make a room feel like a dolls house, and any viewer could feel like a giant inhabiting a childs world!
Freestanding furniture works wonders in any room, small or large. For example, a bed frame that allows a viewer to ‘see’ more floor space under the bed will make the room feel bigger. Creating the impression of ‘floating’ furniture, whether it be a bed, a sideboard or kitchen units, really accentuates this effect.
Bespoke furniture, designed to fit a show home perfectly, accentuates each property’s unique architectural features and creates stunning one–off schemes for each client. A carefully thought through interior design scheme looks at all aspects of a property and bespoke furniture offers the opportunity to design very specifically for every area of a showhome, accentuating and working with architectural features and more unusual layouts.

‘Safe’ neutral schemes will always appeal to a developer but in our industry it is important to be memorable, especially when a potential purchaser is doing a ‘tour’ of developments and seeing a wide variety of properties. Colour is becoming more and more important in fashion and interior design, and creating a stylish scheme often centres around a beautiful colour scheme. Colour of all hues and tones can be used to great effect to accentuate a rooms positive features; to create interest in a room, or to visually affect the architectural dimensions of a room. For example, make a room feel wider by using a dark colour on the shorter end walls; feature walls in a strong colour or adorned with a beautiful wallpaper can provide a focal point in a room that may otherwise lack one and accent colours on cushions, curtains or artwork can imbue a room with a strong identity that will be remembered.
Using a wallpaper on a feature wall is a much more effective way of using colour than a flat painted wall. Wallpapers tend to have slightly more reflective qualities than paint, so work to bounce light back into a room.

Finishing touches are as important as any other element in a show home. Putting cheap accessories, artwork and soft furnishings in a showhome can undo all the hard work that has been done to create that dream home. A few well chosen accessories can achieve so much more than several poorly selected, cheap items. Quality, not quantity is key!
Choosing beautiful fabrics is an important key to a successful interior design scheme. Allocating a portion of the budget to a sumptuous, elegant or eye catching fabric, whether it be used on a sofa, a pair of curtains or a single cushion, will give an impression of quality and expense that will carry through to all other aspects of the build.

Of course I would say this, but a showhome is essential to market any development to the public! An interior designer can envisage the purchaser, their lifestyle and their aspirations and transform that profile into an interior design scheme to suit them. Interior designers and their showhomes can be the most useful selling tool for a developer, maximising the potential of any property and illustrating a lifestyle that can persuade the buyer to sign on the dotted line.