10 Interior design secrets of the show home

Not so much smoke, more mirrors!

A lot of my clients buy contemporary new build homes. Walking around on initial viewing its easy to feel you are buying light and space, clean lines, high spec quartz breakfast bars, marble style bathrooms, walk in wardrobes etc. Everything is created to reassure you that you are buying a shiny high spec, brand new house with blonde wooden floors and a sense of glamour and excitement.

Estate Agents brochures show Insta worthy lifestyles, with well chosen pieces of contemporary furniture . But are you aware you are being cleverly seduced with well practised tricks to "show" you how to get a show-home look in your in your cookie cutter house.?

1. Bedroom. Glamorous statements. Why?

Luxurious Headboards or statement panelling is used to deflect from the fact that the rooms are usually small and dark. For example, your eye might be taken by a glamorous headboard on a small 4ft double bed, or the bed may be piled up with luxury fabrics in silk, satin, cashmere The example above is a new build design bedroom I created for a client. There was no space for a chest of drawers, only a tiny dressing table. Uniformity of carpet, especially in bedrooms. Pale greys and beiges look luxurious when new, but the quality is not great and don’t wear well.

What to do?

Don't get seduced by the glamorous headboard or the layers of luxury bedding, mirrors or artwork. Really look at the room to see if it works as a normal bedroom. Look for built in storage and take a tape measure with you on viewings, measure available wall space to see if you can fit in a normal double bed (about 135cm wide x 190 cm long, a chest of drawers, and two bedside tables. See also tip number 10 about the door swing. Don't forget to turn the lights off to see the actual natural lighting!

2. Make it all symmetrical. Why?

Putting two side tables at either end of the sofa with matching lamps and cushions widens the sense of space around a small sofa in the living room. The symmetrical trick of two table lamps and wall mirrors either side of a 2m sofa will deflect your eye. The example above is based on a client new build.

What do to do?

Similar to the bedroom, don't get seduced by the lighting, mirrors, artwork or designer look neutral decor. Measure the sofa to identify its actual size. If its just 2m, is there another wall available for additional seating? See also tip number 10 about the door swing . Is there any built in storage to accommodate your excess baggage! Don't forget to turn the lights off to see the natural daylight!

3. Set up a smart work space. Why?

Using a small corner as a WFH area. A narrow console desk and small chair with a bit of shelving, may distract from the fact there is not enough space for a decent sized dining table to seat four people. The above images are from a client new build with a breakfast bar on one side with a WFH space and a only space for a very small extending table in a kitchen corner.

What to do?

Extendable folding dining tables that fold up are ideal for small space dining in new build houses and now readily available online. The minimum folded down size is about 45cm x 80cm, so its easy to tuck away. But you need approx 186cm length when fully extended, do you have enough room and space for chairs when you have guests in the allotted space?

4. Focus on the walls. Why?

Show homes usually have light coloured walls, neutrals such as greys and taupes. More often the actual builds have Magnolia or builders trade white paint to give the illusion of space and light. The “no colour” policy is justified by stating the house buyer would prefer to to put their “own stamp on it”. This means they only have to engage an Interior Designer in the show home.

What to do?

This is more about moving in. Not only do we need storage to accommodate all our extra possessions, we have to create a style direction which maintains a sparse contemporary look. Comparing your cold, looking empty house to the elegantly designed show home can be overwhelming.. You want to maintain the cool contemporary interior, but your new house lacks warmth and character. How do you achieve this? See my blog for help.

5. All the show home furniture is scaled down. Why?

To increase the sense of space bedrooms are never fully furnished, with no room for a chest of drawers, night stands or even a wardrobe. The show home may show a luxurious bed arrangement and with a full length window, but there may not be enough room for a chest of drawers and this can become really awkward when it comes to considering clothes storage.

What to do?

As tips 1 and 2, measure the actual furniture in the show home to identify the actual size of the bed, chests of drawers, bedside units, sofas etc and compare to furniture sizes you would like to buy and live with. If you omit this little task, you could run the risk of moving into your new build without being able to buy that L-shaped sofa or king size bed you have your eye on.

6. Get plenty of mirrors, shiny objects and lighting. Why?

Mirrors reflect light back into the room. The lights are always on in show homes (even if no-one’s home). Even on brightly lit sunny days, and especially on a grey, dreary winter’s day.

Use of glass and chrome, chairs and tables, coffee tables, anything that is shiny, will create a light reflection and the viewer always equates shiny with “new”.

What do do?

First thing, turn the lights off to get an idea of natural daylight. Are there a lot of mirrors, shiny, glass or metal furniture strategically placed? This will give you a clue as to why the designers have specifically chosen these type of items.

7. Ensure the heating is always on high. Why?

Not to make you feel comfortable, but the opposite, so that you don’t linger long enough to notice all the pitfalls and tricks!

What do do?

As in the tips above, don't be tempted to rush through to get to a cooler environment and fresh air. Believe me, its worth sticking it out to ensure you do your research as detailed above to really understand what you are buying!

8. Show home has a higher spec. Why?

The show home is always fitted out to a higher spec than the actual built houses. For example, using quartz marble worktops to give a luxury look. They don’t come as standard though, but as an optional extra. Also the show home décor and condition is kept pristine by being checked and snagged regularly.

9. Show home site is on an open and grassy location. Why?

It may be sited on a more favourable location that is open and less dense than the rest of the site. Some of the neighbouring plots may be grassed over or used as car parking to maintain the low-density illusion. You may not see any fencing. The show home garden won't have fencing for

the same reasons. You won’t see the tiny fenced in patch of land until you move in.

What to do?

If the show home is surrounded by an unfenced, verdant grass garden stretching out some distance, but sure to identify your plot on the plans and ask about fencing and proximity of neighbouring plots. You could pace it out and get some idea as to the actual size garden you will eventually get in your new build. Nothing much you can do about this, but at least you are aware and you are not surprised by the large erected fence and being overlooked by many neighbours.

10. You don't see any doors in the show home.

Show homes don’t usually include the doors as they want to increase the sense of flow, light and space as you walk around. This also crafitly increases furniture options as you don’t have to take into account the door swing.

What to do?

Be aware when walking around doors have not been hung and this increases the sense of light and space. Check to the left and right of door openings when in the room (you will have no idea where the door swing will be) to try and calculate whether there is room for potential furniture.

Should I buy a new build?

House-hunting is full of risks and pitfalls ,whether its a period property or an off-plan new build. Viewing traditional occupied houses is a bit less fraught as as its more "what you see is what you get" and usually its obvious how the current owners live in the house and how successful it is in a modern context. You can see the spec of the kitchen and bathroom, what works and what doesn't.

Buying off-plan on the basis of the show home needs more vigilance, as long as you aware of the above tricks and pitfalls and undertake lots of research before you make an offer, its not foolproof but at least you should be fairly sure about what you are buying!

Need help with your new build? I can provide you with style direction and clear project strategy to help you move forward. Contact me for a chat!


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