Interior Design Mistakes Can Send Renters + Buyers Running
Renters and buyers have a difficult time envisioning what a space will look like with their own furnishings in it. That’s precisely why builders and developers splurge on amenities and models designed to appeal to their targeted demographic groups. But those potential buyers and renters can be turned off by poorly decorated spaces and model home interiors that don’t speak to their lifestyle needs.
Real estate pros that want to turn heads and sell out their projects must invest in quality design that puts the interests of future residents first. And most try. But as a firm that is known for our work that drives conversion rates, we are often called upon to fix model home interiors and amenities that don’t deliver sales. That’s why the Washington Post recently tapped us, along with famed White House interior designer Michael Smith, for an article on “Ten Home Decorating Mistakes to Avoid.” It was the most widely read article in the news outlet’s Real Estate section and almost three dozen affiliated papers when it ran recently.
While the Post article focused on a broad a range of decorating points, as strategic commercial interior designers we believe making a space work for occupants starts with three building blocks of design: scale and proportion; function and lighting. All are among the seven fundamentals principles of design covered extensively in my textbook, “The Art of Space.”
Here’s a recap of these three salient points for architects, builders, developers and asset managers to keep in mind now that the building industry is booming once again.
Scale and proportion bring harmony and balance to this two-story lobby. (Image: Mary Cook Associates)
Maximize Scale And Proportion
Residential square footage is on the rise, and high ceilings and open floor plans are becoming the new normal in home interiors. With these expansive spaces, it’s important to consider the size of furnishings as well as the relationship of each piece to each other and the entire room. This often creates a challenge for designers, and is the biggest issue we end up fixing in model home interiors and unsuccessful lobbies and common areas. In our projects, scale and proportion are the holy grail of design. It’s incorporated into every layer, from the furniture and accessories to the artwork hanging on the walls.
A residents’ club maximizes functionality and does double-duty acting as a game room and meeting space. (Image: Mary Cook Associates)
Remember All The Specific Functions Of A Space
Design professionals often make the costly mistake of creating a space before considering all of the ways it will be used. Designing model home interiors and shared spaces before understanding the many and often varied functions that need to take place in a room is like putting the cart-before-the-horse, and can be difficult to fix. It’s important to consider all the ways occupants can and will use a space at all times of the day and in every season, keeping all of their wants and needs in mind—now and in the future. These lifestyle needs, and trends, are important indicators of how a room needs to function and must dictate furnishings. Understanding how these trends may evolve throughout different lifecycle chapters is also key and can help residents “live better”.
A blanket of recessed ceiling spots kick in to supplement natural light in this home office on gloomy days or once the sun goes down. (Image: Mary Cook Associates)
Use Layers To Create Flexible Lighting Plans
Lighting can make or brake a room’s worth for its users. Inadequate lighting not only diminishes the mood-making impact of a space’s décor (from colors and patterns to textures and finishes), it makes it tough to use a space for tasks. So, comprehensive lighting plans that pay attention to the mood-making and utilitarian needs of amenities and model home interiors are critical to attract renters and buyers. At Mary Cook Associates, we design lighting plans that resemble a ziggurat, supporting different tiers of brightness for a range of functions. The way natural light in each space shifts during various times of the day and seasonally is our starting point. Foundational lighting is complemented by light sources that brighten, support tasks and add drama to specific areas of the room. This adds to the visual appeal of a space and also improves the performance of specific activity areas.
Bringing These Elements Together
Keeping these key design elements a top priority when designing home interiors will increase the project’s Return on Environment – the net benefits a community, organization, institution or person gains from environments that enable people to do, feel and be their best. And it’s these critical benefits that will ultimately drive conversion rates and the return on investment.