In addition to the practical benefits of revealing the source of design ideas and products, show homes offer a voyeuristic peek into what a beautiful home can look like in the hands of top designers working with high-end materials. It’s the kind of world that few average homeowners will ever occupy — but can at least admire up close.
If you are lucky enough to see a show house in its last hours of preparation, it is something akin to the frenzy before a high-end wedding. Designers, builders, contractors, painters, photographers and assistants scurry around to fluff pillows, paint walls, fill fruit bowls, take photos and otherwise primp the space to the very last minute before guests arrive.
The interior designers selected to decorate each room use materials, fixtures and furniture they have in stock, are on loan or are supplied by sponsors to highlight their brands. The tour’s admission price goes toward a decorative arts fellowship through the Art Farm at Serenbe.
Pamela Stakemann of South Haven Builders designed the kitchen in one of the two homes, highlighting a current interest in statement lighting and in veined, uniquely patterned marble and quartzite countertops. She said the general trend in her design practice has been away from modern farmhouse style and toward a more diverse mix of design styles that still feel warm and homey.
Interior designer Calvin Watt of C’vion Company, who created a primary bedroom and bath, is seeing clients embrace a less neutral aesthetic. And Buffy Ferguson of Elizabeth Ferguson Design, who designed another primary bedroom and bath, said that “color has come back,” especially earthy jewel tones.
Show homes are also a chance to take in the trends that designers, who are generally on the cutting edge of such things, have on their radar. Show homes are ideal spaces for designers to experiment and try out ideas — many of them all at once — that they might not pursue in clients’ homes. That means you are likely to see fresh, surprising elements in any show home you visit, which makes them pretty addictive for design fans.
Here are the design trends that stand out at this year’s Serenbe Designer Showhouse:
Designer Beth Kooby created a bedroom at Serenbe with bold garnet jewel tones and a dramatically undulating headboard, blending 1980s influences with a hint of art deco. Kooby also used horizontal bands of color in subtle shades of green on the walls.
Natural materials and texture
Beautiful wood grains, fur, leather, mohair, boucle and an array of organic textures are found everywhere in the show houses. Sheepskin-draped chairs and animal-hide pillow covers convey earthy luxury.
The new dining room
Gone are the days of formal dining rooms separate from the rest of a home’s public areas. An elegant but inviting dining room created by Hope Austin features a mix of seating with peacock-blue upholstered stools, a plush banquette with matching ottoman and an oval, burled wood table.
Designers put oversized, high-impact pendant lighting front and center, as dramatic as an Elsa Schiaparelli brooch on a beautiful jacket.
Homeowners want to show off their personalities, travels and collections, said Watt, whose primary bedroom was filled with artwork, mementos, idiosyncratic accessories, sculpture, gold surfaces and the thoughtful details you’d find in a high-end boutique hotel.
Sculptural range hoods
As with bold light fixtures, designers continue to emphasize statement range hoods in materials like brass and plaster.
Felicia Feaster is a longtime lifestyle and design editor who spent 11 years covering gardening, interior design, trends and wellness for HGTV.com. Felicia is a contributor to MarthaStewart.com and has been interviewed as a design expert by The New York Times, Forbes and the Associated Press.
Serenbe Designer Showhouse
Through Oct. 22, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday-Sunday. Starting at $35. 1176 Lupo Loop, Chattahoochee Hills. Serenbeshowhouse.com.