Model homes, down to the perfectly positioned and fluffed pillows, can dazzle but also befuddle buyers. With built-ins and moldings added by builders and decor chosen by interior designers, model homes entice buyers and showcase trends. For existing homeowners, model homes offer ideas for potential renovations or items to purchase for a home.
In empty properties, it’s often difficult to judge the size of rooms and to form an emotional attachment, but model homes help people envision themselves living there, said David Tufts, president and co-founder of The Marketing Directors, which represents real estate clients and developers in Atlanta and the Southeast. For two-story penthouses in The Residences at W Atlanta – Downtown, his firm worked with home furnishings company Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams to decorate the space.
Some model units are purchased with no changes.
“People say, ‘I really just want this turn key, the way you’ve done it,’” Tufts said.
It’s common for buyers to tell interior designer Kellie Clem that they loved the model and want their house to look just like it, but they might be surprised when they find out replicating the decor adds to the cost of the home.
Here are seven ways to create a model home look without bursting your budget.
1. Make “high-low” decisions.
Think about why the model is appealing, whether it’s the design style, extra features such as built-ins, the color scheme and finishes, or the furnishings and accessories. “Our whole point is for people to be inspired, so they can kind of get a feeling of what their home could be like,” said Clem, design studio manager for Ashton Woods Homes.
For example, the tile backsplash in the model may be too expensive for a buyer. Determine what you like about the tile – such as the color or shape – and bring that information and photos to a tile showroom, for a meeting with a designer, or do an online search. With flooring, instead of a 5-inch plank floor, a 3-inch plank floor in the same color as the model can be cheaper and have the same effect in the home. Splurges could be high-end brands such as Miele appliances or finishes such as Calacatta Gold marble used for the fireplace surround, seen in an award-winning model by Decatur-based GraysonHarris Interiors + Design in The Residences at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta.
2. Identify a new decor style for you.
Many models in Atlanta neighborhoods and high-rise condos are moving more toward the contemporary. Clean lines are the focus, from the cabinets to the couches. For example, floating shelves might be used instead of upper cabinets in a kitchen, family room or butler’s pantry. Choosing cleaner elements when building or renovating a home could save money, compared to more ornate details and furnishings
3. Envision your lifestyle, family needs.
Even if the model has a gorgeous dining room table, consider how often you will use that space and if turning that into another use, such as a playroom, office or bar area, would be a better fit for your lifestyle. GraysonHarris used white upholstery in a model, but when a client who has a child wanted the same look, the firm selected darker, more durable fabrics.
4. Plan for furniture placement.
When touring a model unit, look at the scale of furnishings. For example, is there a king-sized bed in the master or a sectional in the bonus room, or will you need to bring in smaller pieces of furniture? In a penthouse model at The Residences at W Atlanta – Downtown, a double row of kitchen cabinets are placed above the oven and refrigerator, which demonstrate the high ceilings and storage space. A living room with different conversation areas can show buyers how to work with an open space or how to make a smaller area seem more expansive, said Janis Kirtz, senior vice president of sales for The Marketing Directors.
Some models also can influence buyers and existing homeowners embarking on renovation projects to use a “less is more” strategy. For the Mandarin Oriental model, designers Robert Grayson and Andrew Harris said they chose the furniture, light fixtures, wall coverings and other items, including local artwork, because of its sculptural and artistic feel. The model unit’s cosmopolitan, sophisticated aesthetic won a Design Excellence Award from the Georgia chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers.
5. Identify uses for bare spaces.
It can be difficult for some buyers to walk into a vacant property and visualize how each space will be used. In a model, folks can see how the builder and designer have transformed spots that otherwise would appear unusable. For example, an office nook can be situated in a vacant corner, or even an oversized mirror can add interest. When seeing those design decisions, Tufts said buyers might realize, “Oh, wow, I can do that and live here.’”
6. Consider the color scheme.
One of the cheapest things to steal from a model home is the paint color. Typically the builder or designer can provide the exact paint colors for each room, and the cost doesn’t vary as much as the fabrics or furniture. “If you love the color, we can start there,” Clem said. The color choices typically will relate to the finish used for the hardwood floors, tile, countertops and cabinets, and then to furniture and fabrics for drapes and bedding. If gray walls are preferred, the palette will tend to be cooler (such as white kitchen cabinets); khaki walls will be a warmer tone (such as stained cabinets), Clem said.
7. Clarify the cost for the look of the model.
Don’t assume anything is free. Ask what updates are included, Tufts said. Blinds, drapes, shades and valances are among items that often are customized for the model and cost extra. In the Mandarin Oriental model unit on the 45th floor, Roman valances softened the appearance of the expansive windows. “Oftentimes the model will be upgraded, but that will not be the home they might buy,” Tufts said. “Always be aware of what’s included in the price and what’s not.”