Showhomes: what can we learn from them?

Homes in their Sunday best - that's the showhome. Most property developers will employ professional design companies to deck out their centrepiece showhomes.
A quick look at the jobs market for showhome experts suggests that a degree in design or an arts related subject is a good starting point, with salaries of £30-40k for an interior designer, and £70k for a senior designer. It's a skilled job that needs an eye for detail, for colour, and for creative use of space.
Photographing showhomes is a joy.
They are immaculate. Their colours and layout are perfect. They make the most of their space, and please the eye.
Every item is carefully chosen, and placed. The skill of the showhome artist is to make the rooms look lived-in, but not used. Not second-hand.
Below are some of my photographs for showhome commissions.
The captions are my take on how the room designer has chosen and arranged the decor.


This is a showhome kitchen in a small apartment in the centre of Birmingham. It's a kitchen that looks as though it is being used at this moment. There are two coffee mugs (they match the wallclock, in colour). There's a spoon in one of the mugs as though the water from the kettle is about to be poured in.
Choice of food on the kitchen surface? Something healthy that won't go off..... Pasta is the obvious choice. And it's exotic.
The chrome saucepan on the oven hob awaits. The mats are carefully scattered. The recipe book lies open at a pasta page.

Here's a view of that kitchen from the dining table. Those four 'donut ring' serviette holders are 'scattered' perfectly. The four bowls for the pasta, neatly stacked, beside the healthy water option. It's a lived-in, uncluttered, modern kitchen for a couple who like to entertain, with Mediterranean tastes.

Here's the showhome bedroom. Grey, black and white are complemented by a brave pink accent colour. Those two gold bowls (best seen via the mirror), match the colours on the artwork above the bed. To give it that 'lived-in now' look, there's a tray on the bed.

Here's a view from the window side that takes a closer look at that tray. The book is The Amalfi Coast - a holiday guide to one of the Mediterranean areas, off the south coast of Italy, in fact. It suggests a lifestyle in keeping with the pasta in the kitchen.
Two cups are ready for coffee, but not your instant variety. This is for ground coffee, courtesy of a cafetiere.
The door opens to the en-suite. Not colours that match the bedroom. This mustard accent colour of the towel and floor defines a separate room, with a bath. It's more than an extension of the bedroom. It merits its own colour scheme.


Does the lived-in look work? Or would it be better to leave the property more bare? Less cluttered?
Here's the bathroom of a showhome.

Neat, and with a few well-placed additions. the expensive soap and bodywash. The sponge. But it needs a bit more. Look below......

Here's how it looks after the design team had added the finishing touches. Three black towels. Home vendors might have been tempted to clear away the towels. But these, well matched and neat, give that 'ready to use' and 'lived-in' look. The one on the toilet seat is a brave piece of positioning. But it works. The three towels look better than two. And the coloured pack of soaps on top of the third towel is a stylish touch.


Grey and black are good colours for the lounge. They are perfect foils for a striking accent colour courtesy of the cushions, for example. A stylish lamp, and small black table add to the atmosphere of relaxed, designer comfort.

Here are those greys and blacks again. And the accent colour this time is pink. Does that red chair, with its patterned cushion spoil the look? The three wall art features behind the sofa make sure that every colour in this particular palette is included.

Here's a view of the lounge from the other side. The two red chairs either side of the sofa look great. The green flower arrangements and the greens in the table bowl are also effective. So are the vases. Same design, different shape. The whole design is a complex arrangement of shapes and colours. The squares, rectangles and curves, the greys, pinks, reds and greens combine to create a vibrant, busy, and 'artsy' environment.

The finishing touch to the room and its elegant shapes comes with the light stand that curves gently over the sofa in between the two comfortably seated occupants. An excellent touch.

Green and blue is a brave combination for this bedroom. The pale greys are there, of course, and the gentle green of the curtains goes well with the chair. Note the book, casually placed across the chair to give that lived-in look.

Swing round to another corner of the room, and we can see a big canvas of a VW touring van. An ideal choice. Cult status, not too expensive or flashy, but an icon of style, and affordable for the couples who are targeted by these modern apartments. And, if you had passed through the kitchen before getting to the bedroom, you will have noticed the running theme of the VW.

Here it is, on the top shelf, centre. A smaller model of that VW. A clever piece of design that subtly links kitchen style with bedroom style.
As a photographer, I like the view from above in some cases. It gives a different perspective, and helps us to get a sense of the space and layout of the room.
Slide up a few photographs on this page, and you will come to a photograph of this room from ground level. That VW is in view. You may have missed it!
But it is a deliberate design choice by a very clever showroom designer.