January 25, 2012

Designer Showhouses- Do or Don’t?

One of my favorite things to do is working on textile designs. I always have a list of designs in my head that I want to do, but sitting down & finding the time to sit down & draw them is another story. Sometimes it just takes some good motivation. The DC Design House has started up again this year & so I’ve been busy drawing. I’ve seen the new house – along with all of the other interested designers in the DC area- and have been working on a design to submit for a space. (First everyone sees the house & then we have a couple of weeks to create a design, which is then submitted for review by the Design Committee. )

I’ve gotten a few emails & phone calls lately from designers asking if I thought it was “worth it” to do the Design House last year. And the answer is, I’m submitting a design again, so YES definitely 🙂

{My room from last year.. And just to warn you, something is wrong with blgoger and it won’t let me upload any other pics so this is a pictureless post from here on out. sorry!!}

I have to say though… it’s really up to each individual designer to decide if it’s “worth it” for herself or himself.

First of all, Children’s Hospital is an amazing cause & each year, I try to do something special to help people through our design work, so I think that’s an important “pro” for doing any charity design showhouse.
Being involved in the Showhouse makes you feel like you’re part of this big team & it’s a ton of fun. I can’t say it in any other way other than it just makes you feel special. (It kind of reminds me of doing plays in gradeschool 🙂 People are generally really supportive of one another and in our showhouse, we had a great PR person (Sherry Moeller) who sent so much press everyone’s way, so that was amazing. You get to work alongside amazing designers and see all these beautiful spaces happen up-close. It’s really nice & exciting to be around so many people in the industry.
One thing that has to be taken into consideration is the cost of doing a room in a showhouse. Both time/ opprtunity costs & money. A showhouse is different from other projects in that you are working around a lot of other people and there are certain times when you have to get things done. The schedule is very compressed & there’s a lot of pressure to get things finished much quicker than you would in an ordinary project. (For example, if you’re doing COM upholstery, a typical lead time for a sofa could be 8-10 weeks or even more depending upon your fabrics & availability. Well, with the compressed showhouse timeline, you might only have 7 or so weeks to get everything in. Last year I was on pins & needles waiting for all pf my pieces to come in on time.)

As far as money goes- things start adding up. I tried to get as many donations & loans as I could. (I am forever grateful to companies like Peter Dunham Textiles & Michael Smith, and Stark Carpets and lots of others who donated their goods to make our room happen. And The team of people I work with was also right there for me, donating labor & time, which I never could have afforded on my own.) But expenses still add up & there lots of things you just have to purchase (sometimes custom ones for example) and you do end up spending quite a bit of money.

But I think being in a Showhouse really gives you the chance to show others that you’re there. It puts you in a place to get noticed & to help make a name for yourself, and as anyone in our business knows, that’s what keeps your business going.

Another question I get a lot is- “Did you get clients from the Showhouse?” … My answer is a hazy one. We had lots of inquiries into our services, but not many that panned out into full projects.

We received lots of inquiries for consultations but unfortunately, due to our workload & staffing, we’re only able to take on full-service projects. The one project we did take on that was related to the Design House was with a client whom a previous client had already referred to us & who was already considering working with us before the Showhouse. I think seeing the space we created in person convinced her & her husband that we were “right” for them. I would say if you’re doing a showhouse because you expect to directly get clients from it, then you might be disappointed. Go into it thinking you won’t get any clients & if you do, that’s a great perk, but don’t count on it for your finances.

Other people have asked about getting Showhouse rooms published in shelter magazines. It’s another thing I would say to not go in expecting. Typically, certain magazines will shoot a showhouse for an upcoming issue. Home & Design Magazine (our local Design Magazine) used photos of every room of the Showhouse (I think) last year & so that was great for everyone. And Traditional Home also typically shoots the DC Design House, so of course everyone is dying for their room to get chosen. It seems like the more public/ larger spaces are typically shot for this like the living rooms, master, etc. but you never know- it coule be you! Last year, we were lucky enough to have our room photographed for an up-coming Better Homes & Gardens Magazine issue (coming out in April!! 🙂 and I’m so excited about the article because it really focuses on the design decisions made & how to go about creating a room with that type of feeling.

And another thing I would think anyone submitting a design for a showhouse agonizes over (I know I do) is which room to pick to submit a design for.  When big, talented & established designers do showhouses, I would think they pretty much get the spaces they want to do.  When you’re new to the industry & haven’t yet quite made a name for yourself, deciding on a room can be really worrisome.  Last year I chose a smaller bedroom space upstairs for my design.  I didn’t get the bedroom I submitted a design for & was moved right next door to a very similar bedroom so I could keep my general design.  I felt sooooo lucky.  I loved my space and was happy with my decision to start small.  …  Now what do you do if you decide you want a more prominent space?  (Spaces on the first floor of showhouses are really desirable and I think they are generally harder to get.)  I honestly don’t have a good answer here, as this is the big question going through my head right now.  Part of me says, “play it safe.  If you’re newer or have never been involved with a showhouse before, just choose a space you think you might actually have a shot at and play it safe.”  The other part of me says, “Go for it.  What do you have to lose? Be true to yourself and if you think you can create an amazing design for a space, then do it, regardless of who you are.”   No guts, no glory, right?  (But that’s not exactly true in a showhouse 😉 😉  If you aim too high, you could just miss it altogether or you could be rewarded.  You never know.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I’m sure other people have other ones though, so if you’ve participated in a Showhouse before & have any advice, I think everyone (me included!) would love to hear it.

One last thing-  Never let fear of rejection keep you from making the Showhouse decision.  Don’t even let it weigh in.  Rejection is scary and kind of makes me sick, but I think it’s something we all experience & know we (eventually 😉  get over.  I was sooooo nervous last year & I’m surprised to see I’m even more nervous submitting a design this year, and that rejection fear is very real for me, but I’m fighting it because the risk is worth it.

xoxo, Lauren

If you’d like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

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