How to Design Your Own Model Homes

There's a trend these days to have a staff member decorate a builder's model homes. With budgets so tight that could be a great way to save some money, and I know lots of you have questions as far as if this is the right way to go. For those of you are thinking of going in this direction, I wanted to share a basic timeline of what needs to be done to organize and merchandise your new model homes so you will have an idea of what is involved in the process.

1. Meet with builder and their team to get information. Find out what the demographics are of the potential buyers, plans of the models you will be building, who the competition is, and what your budgets will be. It's also critical to know what the time frame is for completion and if there are any grand openings or other events planned.
2. Shop the Competition. I'm always amazed when I go out and walk model homes, and it's obvious that the decorators or merchandisers didn't take a look at the competition. I've seen homes with the same colors and even the same furniture right next to each other! You want your buyers to remember your homes over the competition, and an easy way to do that is to make them unique and memorable. If you can take digital images of what you see you can shaare these with your team to help them understand the competition as well. As a Lifestylist®, this is one of the most important parts of what I do. Understanding the buyer's lifestyle and what's important to them helps me prioritize where I should spend my budget.
3. Trend Tracking. Do you have an idea of what's hot and what's not to your buyers? Hard to change out items, such as flooring, cabinets, and bath fixtures need to be on-trend but not trendy. These are items that the customer are going to have to live with for quite a few years. Window treatments, wall colors, furniture and bedding are areas that you can "trendier" colors and designs since they can easily be changed out.
4. Space Planning. One of the biggest reasons to merchandise and model a home is so that the buyer can become emotionally attached to a home and understand how the home will flow, and their furniture will fit into the rooms. Using the right scale of furniture is critical, and using items that are too big, too small, or the wrong style can turn a buyer off from the home. A floor plan needs to be evaluated and furniture should be drawn in to scale on the plan. This also give the builder an idea of what will be included in the cost of the model.
5. Product Selection. Another important part of the decorator or merchandisers job is to help with the selections for the home. Having the proper lighting, flooring, trim, and details in a home is an important part of making it all come together, and if the builder is selling options and upgrades, showing these in the model properly is very important.
6. Ordering. You now have a plan, a budget, and a direction that you are taking, now it's time to place the orders. One of the advantages a professional merchandiser has is relationships and wholesale accounts with the appropriate manufacturers. If you don't have these you can buy at local retail stores, but keep in mind the extra time it will take to find the perfect items, purchase, move to a warehouse or staging location, and possibly assemble the items. A builder wants you to install a model home as quickly as possibly, so everything really needs to be taken to one location then taken to the model in one trip.

So you have your items ordered... what next?

There's lots more to do, but you'll have to check back to find out what else needs to be done. I'm off to Rochester, NY to work with one of my favorite clients - @home Builders to install a beautiful new model home and to kick off a wonderful program where @home Builders and Riedman Development are giving back to the community they love. If you can't wait to learn more, contact us at: and we'll share our insight with you first!

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