Exploring model homes for home decorating ideas is something my friend Cindy and I love to do together. We can spend all day wandering through homes of all sizes and styles, picking up color ideas, room arrangements or window treatment inspiration.
MODEL HOMES VS. REAL HOMES
I’m the first one to agree that you can pick up some great ideas from model homes. However, one of the reasons we all think model homes are so beautiful and inspiring is that they’re clean, tidy, organized, so pulled together and ……. totally unreaslistic. Those homes are lovely because no one has to actually live in them (have you ever wondered where the TV would go?). Interior designers are hired to play up the strengths of the house and minimize the weaknesses so they arrange furniture with that in mind – it doesn’t matter that there’s no room for children to play on the floor or a place for all your craft supplies.
Designers often use model homes as an opportunity to create a themed residence. Tuscan, Modern, Country, Tropical are all styles of homes that designers create. The problem with a themed model is that designers carry it so far, so perfectly, that again, it feels unrealistic. Real homes are usually created over time with furnishings gathered from here and there. The joy in creating our real homes is that the art isn’t perfectly matched to the sofa and the bathroom shower curtain doesn’t exactly match the towels and the soaps. But there are a few designer tricks we can take advantage of:
LESSONS TO LEARN FROM MODEL HOMES
I designed this small condo model home a few years ago and feel like there are several lessons to be learned throughout the unit.
1. Establish a color palette and use it throughout the home. It creates continuity and immediately makes a home feel “pulled together”. It’s also much easier to shop – if all (or even most) of your rooms share basic colors, you know that anything you buy will fit somewhere.
Here I used a pastel, soothing glass green/blue color throughout to create a serene, light atmosphere.
2. Use floor to ceiling, corner to corner drapes to disguise an ugly view or create a focal wall. These shimmery sheers let the light from the sliding glass doors into the room but obscured the unsightly deck outside. The sheers are suspended from a drapery wire and hung from little clips.
3. Even in a light colored room, touches of dark wood or accessories help ground the room. Here dark frames and furniture create just enough balance to all that pastel color.
4. In a small room use smaller scale, open furniture so the space doesn’t feel cramped. Here I’ve used wood frame, open arm chairs, sofas without big rolled arms and side tables with glass tops – all to reduce visual bulk.
5. Use glass (or glass topped) furniture to make a room feel airy. Even though this sofa table is generously proportioned, because it’s glass, it doesn’t take a lot of visual space so the room doesn’t feel crowded.
6. Seating is always at a premium. Find places to tuck mobile ottomans – under a sofa table or coffee table or in front of a hearth like a bench.
7. Use large, dramatic art to make a statement in a small room instead of a bunch of little pictures spread over the wall. Small pictures make visual clutter which make a room seem smaller. Designers love to go big, go bold.
8. Don’t have a large dramatic art piece? Frame a group of pictures in the same frame and hang them just a couple inches apart in a very even grid. Doesn’t it give the impression of a single large piece of art? (The key is frame unity and hung really close together.) And these are all pages from a book bought at a discount store cut to fit standard sized frames. Really affordable!
There is no dining room in this condo, just a small eating area in the kitchen. Notice that I kept the see-through “trick” going here with glass table and acrylic “ghost” chairs.
The color palette continues in the second bedroom which was shown as a home office. In order to fit a lounge area as well as a desk in a small 10×12 bedroom, I used slipper chairs (no arms to take up space), glass end table and modern glass desk. The one large piece of art is placed opposite the entry door so that it can be seen from the hallway. It serves two purposes then – an “end” to the hallway and a focal point in the office.
9. Use mirrors to expand the space. In this smallish bedroom a three-fold mirrored screen serves several purposes: creates a “virtual window” by reflecting light back into the room and visually expands the space. I maintained the color palette but changed it up a bit by adding the warm golden tan to the light blue – the stripe marries the colors and the chair, pillows and throw bring in the warmer tone. The dark wood tones from the living room are used again and create a focal point along that wall. Notice the shimmery Roman shades at the window, taking the brightness of the mirror onto another wall.
10. Designers use plants liberally – for several reasons. Plants are usually silk in model homes, but you may choose to use real plants. If you do, make sure only your best specimens are on display – if it’s more yellow than green, don’t use it!
Plants bring a touch of life to often sterile looking, perfect rooms. Plants fill dull, dark corners, provide architecture or texture and add height in otherwise level seating arrangements. You’ll notice there’s some sign of plant life in every photo of this model unit. Even in the little eating area, there’s a simple silk flower arrangement. (A caution here, choose the best quality silk flowers you can afford – you want them to look as real as possible, not cheap and cheesey. If you can’t afford a big, fancy arrangement, start with a couple of quality stems in a bud vase and save up your pennies. The impact will be worth it.)
USE DESIGNER TRICKS IN YOUR HOME
I give you permission to use any and all of these ‘designer tricks’ in your own home. Do you need help with a specific room or corner of a room or maybe figuring out a unifying color palette? Do you need help creating a gentle version of a theme so you don’t feel like you’re living in a showroom but your home still feels pulled together? Contact me (your questions go directly to my personal email) with your questions (send pics when you can) and I’ll help you with specific tips. I look forward to hearing from you.