Five tips for getting the most out of visiting a show house

If you love interior design then chances are you love to visit show houses. This past year I was lucky enough to visit four. The one challenge with visiting a show house is being able to take it all in. Since each room is often wildly different from the next it can be overwhelming. To make things even more difficult, most show houses do not allow for photography (unless you are press) so it is difficult to remember all the elements you may have been inspired by. Here are five tips to help you get the most out of your show house visit.

Take a small notebook and pen and make notes of the following five things.

1.Be observant of the COLORS on both walls and trim. Gray as we all know has been trending for almost ten years now. Over the past couple of years white and greige interiors have been coming on strong. So it was interesting to note that many of the designers in the Boston showhouse used rich, darker, colors. Making note of the colors is important, especially if you what to stay current and are about to pull the trigger on painting the whole interior of your house. Maybe the gray walls you had planned on using will feel dated in a couple years and a show house might give you other ideas.

Laurie Gorelick chose a deep jewel tone green for the molding and trim in her room called “the great escape”. Her furniture too was far from bland.

Design by Laurie Gorelick: Photo Linda Holt

 In the dining room, Mally Skok chose a rich brown for the walls. We haven’t seen much brown recently so it looked very fresh paired with the lighter drapery and white chairs.

Mally Skok designer, photography by Sabrina Cole Quinn 

Besides darker painted walls , rooms were sporting dark wallpaper as well. Elizabeth Benedict used a dark green plaid wallpaper in the parlor. Darker rooms work especially well for smaller scale rooms because it gives a feeling of coziness. Similar to the dining room the dark walls made the lighter furniture and art work really stand out.

Designed by Elizabeth Benedict: photo by Sabrina Cole Quinn

Vivian Robins created a sumptuous bathroom with her choice of black tile and black leafy wallpaper to compliment the existing antique copper tub.

Design by Vivian Robins: Linda Holt Photo

Robin Gannon chose a teal colored chinoiserie wallpaper and matching painted trim in her beautifully designed master bedroom.

Designed by Robin Gannon: Linda Holt Photo

 Takeaway design tip Color is back!

2. Make note of the kitchen and and bathroom cabinetry. White painted kitchen cabinets have been so prevalent over the past few years that they have almost become cliche! In the four show houses I visited this year, only one had a white kitchen and even in that one the uppers were white and the lowers were navy blue. The other three had either lightly stained wood or the cabinets were painted in a statement color.

Kelly Rogers and Dianne Aucello partnered on the kitchen design and chose a deep plum color for the cabinets. Maybe purple kitchen cabinets aren’t your thing but at least give some thought to color before immediately defaulting to white.

Design by Kelly Rogers and Dianne Aucello: Linda Holt Photo

Side note: kitchen cabinet hardware is trending to large and oversized. As far as hardware finish color I saw an equal split between silver, gold and black in all four show houses.

My friend Kim Macumber chose a bold and vibrant green for the cabinetry in her “Le Petite Pantry”. I loved it but maybe it’s not a color you would use. Regardless, if the room is really small like a small pantry or laundry room why not go bold and give yourself a reason to smile every time you are in the room.

Design by Kim Macumber: Linda Holt Photo

Takeaway design tip; kitchen cabinets may be moving away from white.

3. Make note of the ceilings. Living in conservative New England it’s sometimes a  stretch to talk clients into painted, wallpapered or statement ceilings but it’s almost not even a trend anymore it is so routine in the design world. After all, it’s the fifth wall so why not give it as much thought as the walls. Kim had her small pantry ceiling custom painted with an explosion of flowers.

Kim Macumber: Linda Holt Photo

I loved this dark metallic wallpapered ceiling in the “Bold and Fierce” room by Melissa Hammond and Meg Bennett. The added orange stripe played off the art work and added an interesting design element.

Design by Melissa Hammond and Meg Bennet: Linda Holt Photo

 Design tip takeaway, don’t ignore your ceilings.

4. Don’t immediately dismiss something simply because it is out of your comfort zone. A black and magenta foyer staircase isn’t for everyone but look at how creative the designers were with paint!  The “rug”and second” hand railing” are cleverly painted on and the birds ascending the staircase is such a fun added touch of whimsy.

 Designers Paige Lewin and Ana Bonilla designed box planters climbing the wall of their room that they named a “Room of One’s Own”. What a creative way to bring in lot’s of  plants. Wouldn’t you love to hang out in that chair and read? Similar to the paint technique above, this is definitely something you could try in your own home. Notice too that the designers brought “down” the height of the ceiling with the cleaver use of paint.

Design by Paige Lewin and Ana Bonilla: Linda Holt Photo

 Design takeaway, getting creative with paint is something everyone can try at home. Also, think outside the box when it comes to artwork or placement of plants.

5. Make note of how the designers style their rooms: My client’s often struggle with what most designers enjoy the most and that’s styling. The final touch are the accessories in the room and show houses are a gold mine of styling ideas.  Bookcases always look nice with a mix of books and accessories.

Designer Elizabeth Benedict: Linda Holt Photo

Bedside tables usually have a pretty lamp, some books, a few decorative accessories and a plant or flowers.

Designer Robin Gannon, Linda Holt Photo

Design takeaway, make a little sketch in your notebook of the styling of coffee tables, bedsides tables and bookcases and copy what the designer did!

I would love to hear from you, are you a fan of show houses? Do you get ideas for your own home from them?


18 Responses to Five tips for getting the most out of visiting a show house
  1. Amy, Home Glow Design Reply

    Thank you, Linda!! I so wanted to get to the Boston show house, just couldn’t get enough sitter time to make the trek to the metro area! Your your and takeaways are invaluable.

    • Amy, Home Glow Design Reply

      “your tour and takeaways” — I shouldn’t type without my glasses on 🙂

      • Linda Holt Reply

        Thanks Amy! I visited just under the wire, two days before it closed. Definitely worth the visit!

  2. Darla Powell Reply

    Great timing for m going to the Kips’s Bay showhouse in a couple weeks. Thanks!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Lucky you! That one is one of my favorites!!

  3. Darla Powell Reply

    *for this. I’m – darn iPad

  4. Vivian Robins Reply

    Love your blog post, Linda – thank you for sharing my space. Always fun to read about the observations of another artist:)

    • Linda Holt Reply

      You are so welcome Vivian! Obviously you know I loved your room!!

  5. Linda Lecomte Reply

    Loved this post! Inspiring me to do something with my long-neglected ceilings. I try to visit show houses whenever I can just to see the different architecture and designs.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Linda. I think many of us are at fault in neglecting our ceilings. Even if we don’t venture too out of the box, anything is better than “ceiling white”.

  6. Angela Taylor Reply

    Yes to getting inspiration from show homes. In the PNW we are pretty boring by comparison. I did take away some tips from this post which I plan on implementing one of these fine days but I need someone who can put up wallpaper. Loved the staircase, and I actually have some of the birds on a wall in my home:) Thanks again for a wonderful post:)

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Hi Angela, i’m With you on the wallpaper. It adds so much of a design punch. Only drawback is that it is an expensive design element so you better choose something you are going to love for a long time!

  7. Susan Wilson Reply

    Linda I loved your Design Takeaways at the end of each section— great summing up!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks so much Susan and i’m glad you enjoyed it!

  8. kelly Reply

    It is not often I love many of the show house rooms, but these are beautiful! I think it is because of all the color and I love color. Great photos Linda!!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Kelly. This Boston show house was honestly one of my favorites so far!

  9. debra Reply

    As always, Linda, you’re my eyes where I can’t be! So appreciate your skilled eyes, spirit, and sharing!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thank you so much for your kind words Debra!

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