Embarking on a project like this can be scary, especially for the first time.
I didn't have anyone in my personal circle who'd participated in a show house before (as a designer), so I couldn't pick anyone's brain. Ultimately, I had to weigh the options, make the decisions and take the jump myself. When I was packing up last week, I got to thinking, "What advice would I give someone in a similar situation?" So here it is--my advice to you, if you're thinking about getting involved in a show house.
#1. Take the leap. Don't get so worked up in the beginning about who might be submitting, what they might be designing and HOW they're designing it. If you're feeling the house and think you can do something fabulous, start pulling it together and submit your plan. It's natural to want to know who's doing what, but truly, it's not worth obsessing over because you'll NEVER know (plus you don't want that to affect YOUR ideas). Don't stress over not getting in...if you don't get in this time, that doesn't mean it won't happen next time--you're not a failure. Maybe your plan didn't fit with the overall vibe of the house or maybe your presentation wasn't as strong as it could be. If your committee is approachable, give someone a ring & find out what you can do better next time. And then drop it & move on.
#2. Budget more than you think. Set a no más number as you formulate your design plan but definitely keep that contingency fund on deck. You can go into it thinking you're only going to spend X dollars, but this isn't the place to skimp if you can avoid it at all costs. It's a showcase, so you'll want to put the best presentation of you forward (within your budget, of course), but keep in mind that things always happen. In my case, a woman slipped down a stair and yanked one of my mirrored picture frames off the wall to brace herself. Needless to say, it shattered & I had to replace it. Oh--and did I mention this happened twice??
Mo' money, mo' money...
#3. Trust the process. There will be MANY people who make changes after their submission, have vendors/resources fall through, don't know how they're gonna get XYZ done, & don't decide on the final touches until install week. No one will admit it in the beginning, but wait until the house gets installed and the stories will start coming out. When you're new to this, you'll feel like it's just you, but trust me, it's not. No one wants to show their hand in the beginning so everyone acts like they have it under control...and while that might be the case for some, it's absolutely not for everyone. Breathe deep & keep pushing. If you're doing the show for the right reasons (like NOT trying to make it a competition but doing it as an expression of your art), everything will come together. I can't tell you how, but I assure you it will.
#4. Opinion proof your space. Yup, it's possible, and it's great advice for anyone embarking on an artistic endeavor. The best way to make your space/art immune to the criticisms & opinions of other people is to do what you think is best. Seriously--as we say in the streets--do you. If you start by creating a plan that YOU love & know is amazing, you're not tied into people's responses. You can be grateful for those who come in and are blown away by your work as well as those who come in and say crazy things (like, in my case, "this is TOO MUCH!") because you KNOW that the space is a perfect representation of you & YOUR design aesthetic. So when people don't like what you've done, it simply means that it's not their style and they're NOT your ideal client...not that your design isn't all the way bomb. In my case, I knew what I was doing was bold and wasn't for everybody, so when people came in who didn't love it, I didn't wear their opinion like a coat and make it about me. It ultimately wasn't their style and that was fine...because they aren't "my people" anyway. PERIOD.
#5. Go bold. Now this is reeealllly my opinion (then again, this whole post is) but here's my 2 cents: If you're doing a show house, I think you should take the opportunity to push the limits. Be dramatic or daring, but do the style you love best and take it up a notch. Show people something they may not have seen before, or give them ideas for things they can do in their own place. Were my colors bold? Absolutely. Would I do that same treatment in those same colors in my house? Absolutely not. But together, the colors AND the spirit of the design were very me. I showed people how to take a really bright drapery color and make it work in a space that was not only bold but awkward. I used a beautiful black carpet with a heavy pattern and showed people that sometimes busier IS better, especially with carpets. I used pendants from CB2 and got so many compliments & questions from a crowd that was mostly Crate & Barrel (and didn't know about CB2!) . I printed out photos from online that represented me & MY culture...because that's what I'd do in my own space or for a client. In the end, I took my normal design aesthetic & kicked it up a notch. And I'm happy I did!
Show houses are fun & stressful & confidence builders & sometimes, trials of fire. But as a designer, I think it's a great thing to participate in, not only to get your name/brand/business out to a wider audience, but also to make great new contacts in your field. Don't expect to get a ton of clients, but just knowing that you have the chops to do one...to me, that's payment enough.
If you're thinking about participating in a show house & have some questions, feel free to ask in the comments!
**pics courtesy of Where We Nestle