Meet the show house de­sign­ers who know how to add value to your home

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Property - - FRONT PAGE -

When you pre­pare a house for sale, a few tweaks can make all the dif­fer­ence. Three top in­te­ri­ors spe­cial­ists re­veal their show house se­crets to Li­adan Hynes

WHILE it may seem like a sell­ers’ mar­ket — so short a sup­ply is there of sec­ond hand stock at the mo­ment — it pays (quite lit­er­ally) to get your house into as good a shape as pos­si­ble be­fore you put it on the mar­ket. Hav­ing saved for a de­posit, buy­ers in to­day’s mar­ket have lit­tle ex­tra money with which to em­bark on ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tions or over­hauls, so as much as pos­si­ble, they want a house that is turnkey ready.

Most buy­ers, says Brian Dempsey of DNG, buy a home, not a house. They buy into a life­style. Spend­ing an ad­di­tional €5,000, he be­lieves, can in­crease the value of your prop­erty by up to €50,000. From a seller’s point of view, this means creat­ing a neu­tral, spa­cious, un­clut­tered look in your home be­fore open­ing it up for view­ings.

What do the ex­perts say? We asked three show house veter­ans, Helen Turk­ing­ton, Ar­lene McIn­tyre, and Nicki Cloo­nan, what their pri­or­i­ties are when it comes to fit­ting out a show house. Where is your money best spent if you do re­dec­o­rate? And what are the in­sider tips in putting on the gloss?

1 DUMP IT De­clut­ter­ing is the top tip of any pro­fes­sional. Make like Marie Kondo and get rid of all that built-up ‘stuff ’ to cre­ate a sense of space — a pri­or­ity for po­ten­tial buy­ers. “If you’re try­ing to make your house look like a show house, clear­ing it out is num­ber one,” says Ar­lene McIn­tyre, of Ven­tura De­sign. A clut­tered house will also im­ply a lack of stor­age space. “You have to al­low the per­son to think ‘there’s room for my stuff here’,” points out Nicki Cloo­nan of CODA Ar­chi­tects. “So a ma­jor de­clut­ter is in or­der.”

2 STAY NEU­TRAL “For us in de­sign­ing a show house, ev­ery per­son walk­ing in should be able to en­vis­age them­selves liv­ing there,” ex­plains in­te­rior stylist Helen Turk­ing­ton. “That’s why we keep it all quite neu­tral, ev­ery­thing very sim­ple. Whether you’re 65 or 35, it fits in with ev­ery­body.” Style your pos­ses­sions; photo frames in groups rather than spread all over the place, books stacked neatly, bed­rooms free of all but some non-per­sonal items. “Style your house the way you want to dress,” says Helen. “If you buy some­thing re­ally flam­boy­ant, you’ll wear it once or twice. But a re­ally el­e­gant black dress or pair of trousers you’ll wear time and time again.”

3 LESS IS MORE In­te­rior de­sign­ers will of­ten un­der-fur­nish a show house in or­der to in­crease that sense of space. “I would def­i­nitely be look­ing at re­mov­ing pieces of furniture in a liv­ing room, where peo­ple might want to see a nice flow in a room,” ex­plains Ar­lene. “In the real world peo­ple might have a sofa and two arm­chairs. But in a show house you want to make the space feel open for hun­dreds of peo­ple that might be walk­ing through; it’s very im­por­tant to cre­ate space in all of the rooms of the house.”

“Your furniture group­ing is one of the most im­por­tant things,” says Helen Turk­ing­ton. “Peo­ple tend to think they should have ev­ery­thing pushed against a wall. Ac­tu­ally that can look a bit like a wait­ing room. You should al­ways pull your furniture a lit­tle bit into the room; make it feel much more cosy and homely. If you pull the furniture in to­wards the cof­fee ta­ble, you can ac­tu­ally walk around the room.” She also rec­om­mends dressing the cof­fee ta­ble with books, flow­ers or a can­dle. 4 CLEAN AND CLEAR Bath­rooms are one of the first rooms peo­ple check out. You want to achieve a fresh, or­gan­ised, neu­tral space. “Some­thing that could ap­peal to any­body who might view your home,” ex­plains Ar­lene. Clear out all per­sonal items. Keep a fresh set of tow­els used only for view­ings. Con­sider stor­age, is it suf­fi­cient? Buy­ers are look­ing to see if there is space for their be­long­ings.

5 PLAY SAFE WITH COLOUR When a de­signer ap­proaches the decor of a show house, their main aim is to ap­peal to as many tastes as pos­si­ble. This is typ­i­cally achieved by stick­ing to a rel­a­tively neu­tral palette. “You are try­ing to ap­peal to so many dif­fer­ent au­di­ences that are look­ing at it. My ad­vice would be to keep the tones very neu­tral and per­haps ac­ces­sorise with pops of colour,” rec­om­mends Ar­lene.

“I would use a very neu­tral back­ground, and in­tro­duce ac­cent colours with ac­ces­sories, cush­ions, ce­ram­ics, throws, furniture,” agrees Cloo­nan, who in her own work with show houses uses books and mag­a­zines, “things real peo­ple have”, to per­son­alise a space, and al­low view­ers to see the place as a home they might live in. If you are con­sid­er­ing re­paint­ing, Cloo­nan rec­om­mends unit­ing the rooms with dif­fer­ent shades of one colour rather than go­ing for starkly dif­fer­ent colours in each room.

Fea­ture walls are an ab­so­lute no-no, says Turk­ing­ton, ex­plain­ing that they make the wall ap­pear to come to­wards you and so shrink the space.

6 SET THE MOOD Ar­lene sug­gests chang­ing all lamp­shades to some­thing neu­tral. Adding mir­rors to brighten up dark corners is an­other tip. Ev­ery room should have three types of light­ing, ex­plains Nicki; gen­eral light­ing that you switch on to get into the room, am­bi­ent or mood light­ing, for ex­am­ple, ta­ble lamps that cast a nice glow over a sec­tion of a room, and task light­ing which could be spot­lights over the food prepa­ra­tion area in the kitchen, or bath­room mir­ror, to en­sure you can do what­ever task is at hand in that room. For view­ings, she rec­om­mends switch­ing on mood light­ing.

7 LIN­GER­ING SCENT Brew­ing cof­fee and bak­ing bread be­fore prospec­tive buy­ers ar­rive are old chest­nuts. Be very care­ful about in­tro­duc­ing scent into your home dur­ing view­ings. “One per­son might love a scent and an­other might hate it,” points out Ar­lene. “It’s very per­sonal. If you are go­ing for a scent, keep it fresh, some­thing citrus.”

8 FO­CUS ON THE KITCHEN The kitchen is a key room for po­ten­tial buy­ers, so put in some time get­ting it right. You want to cre­ate the idea for po­ten­tial buy­ers that this could be their fu­ture home. “You could style your kitchen to look like you’re hav­ing some­body over for tea or cof­fee,” says Ar­lene. “So it looks very invit­ing and wel­com­ing, and peo­ple can en­vi­sion them­selves in that mo­ment, in that kitchen.” Clear as much as pos­si­ble off the counter — it will give the im­pres­sion of more space.

See the room as if you are en­ter­ing it for the firs time. Are win­dows ob­structed by clut­ter or blinds? “Peo­ple like to be able to have a clear view of the gar­den when they’re com­ing into show homes,” ex­plains Ar­lene. “If pos­si­ble en­sure the pur­chaser can see right through out to the gar­den. Per­haps in­vest in some new curtains. If you have Vene­tian blinds have them right up so there are clear views.”

Helen Turk­ing­ton rec­om­mends paint­ing the kitchen cab­i­nets and putting in new han­dles if your units are par­tic­u­larly dated look­ing. It’s a cheap and ef­fec­tive al­ter­na­tive that gives a lot of bang for its buck.

9 MAKE AN EN­TRANCE Clear out the hall, in­vest in a new out­door lamp, plant pots for each side of the front door. “Treat your hall­way like a room,” says Ar­lene McIn­tyre. “I think a lot of peo­ple for­get that hall­ways are rooms. They’re not dump­ing grounds.” Your aim, says Cloo­nan, is to cre­ate some­thing that has an in­stantly homely feel, and leaves the im­pres­sion that one could move in straight away.

10 RE­FRESH TEX­TILES, TOW­ELS AND BED LINEN Re­place all tea tow­els, and put fresh, ironed du­vet cov­ers on the bed for view­ings. Plump pil­lows on beds, and cush­ions on so­fas. You’d be amazed at how it im­proves the look of a room. If car­pets, es­pe­cially those on the stairs, are par­tic­u­larly tatty, this may be an area to con­sider in­vest­ing in be­fore putting the house on the mar­ket. Soft fur­nish­ings are a rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive way to up­date the colour scheme of the house; throws, cush­ions, even a new rug. Check what colours are on-trend and, if it isn’t a colour clash, add ac­ces­sories in those shades.

11 WHERE TO SPEND MONEY If you’re go­ing to re­dec­o­rate, you will get most value from re­do­ing the bath­room; hir­ing a skip to aid with de­clut­ter­ing; retil­ing the bath­room or kitchen, or up­dat­ing kitchen units as per tip 8 above. Re­paint only to freshen the place up, but not if you’re try­ing to hide damp patches or se­ri­ous wear and tear.

Clas­sic style in a Helen Turk­ing­ton sit­ting room at Knockrabo

Show house ex­perts, from left, Nicki Cloo­nan, Helen Turk­ing­ton and Ar­lene McIn­tyre know ex­actly what buy­ers want to see in a po­ten­tial home.

Neu­tral palette with a splash of colour by Ar­lene McIn­tyre at Stepa­side

Light ef­fects by Ar­lene McIn­tyre at Ardelia

Wel­com­ing kitchen by Ar­lene McIn­tyre at Ma­rina Vil­lage

Or­gan­ised space by Nicki Cloo­nan at May­den­hayes

Ho­tel per­fect by Helen Turk­ing­ton at Knockrabo

Clut­ter free at Ar­lene McIn­tyre’s Castle­knock devel­op­ment

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