Flawless Execution by Design

Maximizing your model home investment through strategic planning


The most important sales tool a builder invests in is a well-merchandised model home. Having a picture-perfect model home ready for the grand opening is not only critical to jump start sales, but also, it requires focused execution.

The question is: How do you go from floor plans to open house?

Step One: Presentation

From start to finish, model home projects typically take eight to 10 weeks to complete. Depending on the number and size of the models, designers will spend approximately one week preparing a presentation.

The initial step begins with builders supplying CAD floor plans and demographic information about prospective buyers. An experienced merchandising firm will evaluate the floor plans and make recommendations that might include changes to door and light fixture locations, window placement, and flooring breaks. These redline recommendations create better furniture layouts and traffic flow throughout the model. It could mean the difference between fitting a king bed versus a queen in the master bedroom, or seating for six instead of four around a kitchen table.

The designers will then select the finishes, furnishings and accessories, and create an electronic presentation to complete the concept picture. Fabric samples and paint swatches are the finishing touches. Depending on the builder, designers will also select cabinets, countertops, flooring, and lighting within the builders’ offerings to coordinate with their design. The priority is to balance what buyers will want without pricing the model out of their reach.

During the presentation to a builder, the designers will go over the initial concept and color schemes. The important focus should be the overall look and furniture layouts. Small details such as accessories will be added later on in the design process. If revisions are necessary, most design firms will allow a certain number of changes as part of their contract before they charge for additional changes.

Step Two: Buying Begins

After the contract is signed and payment terms agreed upon, orders are placed for the furniture, lamps, and artwork. Occasionally, reselections are required to ensure the grand opening date is met. Purchasers who have design experience are able to keep a project on track by understanding the overall design, budget, and timelines. They also update buying resources to stay current with trends and vendor inventory.

Step Three: Critical Frame Walk-Through

Builders’ needs fluctuate. Changes happen. After framing, the design team will schedule a walk-through to confirm floor plans and changes. Their checklist includes confirming the locations of thermostat and light fixtures, window placement and garage orientation. This allows the designers to proactively respond to changes and avoid last-minute delays. For example, having the wrong garage orientation will affect the sectional sofas on order.

Step Four: Pre-Installation

Before the movers arrive on-site, a design team will schedule and coordinate any installers included in their contract. These may include drapery installers, wallpaper hangers, and muralists. The goal is to get these tasks done ahead of time and reduce the number of trades in the model while the furniture is being delivered.

Step Five: Model Home Installation Begins

The first day is always the longest. Fiftythree- foot-long trucks carrying furniture, art, lighting, and accessories are unloaded into the model home. Furniture placement is the most critical step since it determines where everything else is positioned. The installation of one model usually involves two professional designers and four moving crew personnel. Two or more models can include three designers and eight movers on site.

Step Six: On-site and in the Model Home

As day two takes shape, trained professionals hang artwork and mirrors while the design team focuses on finishing details. Adding accessories, making beds, and folding towels are only some of the ways the house becomes a home for buyers. Getting the details right for the right buyers is critical.

Step Seven: Final Touches and Builder Walk-Through

As a final step prior to a client walk-through, designers will go through the model room-by-room to fine-tune any remaining details. It also allows the design team to challenge themselves one last time on every aspect of the home. Does each room stay true to the presentation? Will the finished model appeal to the targeted buyers?

Once the designers are done, they will do a walk-through with the builder’s senior management team. This is the final step for the design team before the model is ready for the grand opening.

Overall Design Execution

Execution is as important as the design itself. Poor execution leads to delays, added costs, or missed opening dates. A great merchandising firm is able to balance the art of design with the art of sales. Exceptional firms make this process look effortless while creating interiors that inspire buyers and increase sales.

Laura O’Connor is the President of Laura O’Connor Design. She handles everything from presentation to design to final installation and follow-up. She can be reached at laura@locd-llc.com.

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