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Revealed - a day in the life of a show home interior designer

For property developers, show homes and marketing suites play a key role when it comes to advertising and selling properties in new schemes. But who is actually responsible for creating these show homes and what goes into making one ready for public viewing?

Kebbell Homes recently asked Rebecca Harris at Dapa Interiors to reveal what it’s like to work in interior design for show homes and marketing suites.

How long have you worked at Dapa Interiors and what made you want to go into the interior design sector for show homes and marketing suites?


I have worked at Dapa for nearly six years and I am a senior sales manager which means I manage the large interior design projects from conception through to installation. As a youngster at school, I was good at art and always had a passion and an eye for colour, details, shapes and form. I worked with local and national interior design companies and was headhunted by Wella GB, where I worked for 12 years doing commercial interiors.

I had a family and moved to Valencia in Spain, and then on returning to the UK decided to do an interior design degree. I realised I wanted to be more involved in homes than commercial developments because I love colour and detail, and homes are so much more personal, so I became a show home interior designer. I am now heavily involved in the sales side including presenting to clients and managing schemes.  

Tell us about the work you are doing with one of your clients? 

I am working on two projects with Kebbell at the moment, Misbourne House at Gerrards Cross and Meadow Court in Iver. Our directors worked with Kebbell eight or nine years ago and then we bumped into them at the WhatHouse? Awards and we got back in touch and it is fantastic to be working together again.

 How long do you stay on a project at any one time?  

Taking Misbourne House as an example, we have been working with Kebbell since pre-Christmas 2020. We start by making presentations based on a brief and then after winning the work we may be involved in CGIs, followed by a lot of creative designing and then planning. When the site is ready, a project of this size (eight, two to three bedroom apartments) will take about a week to fully install. 

Installation involves delivering all items to site, fitting window treatments, furniture, artwork and styling. In the case of Misbourne House, bespoke joinery is going into the open plan living area, study and principal bedroom and we have some amazing bespoke art.

We have to manage multiple team members and trades coming to site over that period and ensuring that everything is kept Covid secure of course which can mean things take a little longer as there are less people on site at any one time.

 What skills do you need to be an interior designer for show homes?

Designing for a show home is very different to designing for private interiors. You are not designing to suit someone’s personal taste or requirements but working to a brief to create the look and feel so potential buyers can then imagine themselves living in that house and to ultimately create sales for the client.

You need to fully understand who is going to live there, whether that be downsizers, young families, singles or first time buyers, and what is going to be important and appeal to them. Some designs have to appeal to all sorts of different possible family combinations.

We also need to consider what suits the value of the property, whether a classic or extremely contemporary design is needed, how it will fit with the location and to ensure that the design will be functional as well as look stunning.

We pride ourselves on making each scheme different, so our clients never walk on to another developer’s scheme and see the same thing. We need to know the latest trends and what works in what setting.

On occasion, we need to be able to turn things around incredibly quickly and troubleshoot by moving heaven and earth to find solutions to make sure everything happens on time. In the past, we have got to a site on an installation day and the lifts weren’t working so we had to arrange a crane to meet the deadlines!

What are the biggest issues facing your industry at the moment?

A shortage of supply is affecting our clients in terms of timber, tiles, plumbing parts and so on, but we are also seeing furniture and wallpaper supplies get held up in overseas customs because of Brexit and the effects of the pandemic. There are bottlenecks for the industry as a whole and we have to factor it into every job. Less products were also being made as people were on furlough, so businesses are playing catch up.

Demand has of course also gone through the roof at the moment as developers are more ready to launch their developments and because the property market is booming. What is nice though is people are really prioritising their homes and caring more about what makes it a home to them.

How important are environmental issues compared to 10 years ago?

Our clients are increasingly asking for UK made products for less footprint, that are also sustainable. Our stylists and designers consider all sorts of things like fillers for cushions and where materials are sourced from where possible. We have another division called HUB where all the furniture and packaging is sustainable, recyclable and made in the UK.

Tell us about your typical day...

My day varies so much but I am up at 5am if I am going into the office, otherwise I get up between 6-6:30am and might do some exercise and then I am ready to start work between 07:30-8am. On a typical day I might be briefing a designer on a new project and looking at a scheme that another designer is working on.

I prepare pitches, present and show sample boards and digital design boards. I attend meetings with colleagues and directors where we discuss current and forthcoming projects and I have meetings with clients. I may go to site and do a recce and take a look around at the area, the people, the shops, and get a feel for the lifestyle and who lives there.

I am onsite during the installation to oversee everything. I typically work until 6-7pm, sometimes 8pm if I am travelling back from site and then running through designs, so that the design team have feedback ready for the next day.

Best and worst thing about the role?

The best thing about the job is being involved with amazing colours, artwork, form and shape and being part of our great team who creatively bring it all together. It is so rewarding when your client is overjoyed with what you have done. It can be challenging when there are last minute issues with suppliers or contractors. Occasionally we arrive on site and it isn’t ready, such as there is no electricity, and that is very frustrating.

What’s on trend for show homes at the moment?

Because of the pandemic and the restrictions we have all faced, home owners want to bring the outside in; natural light has never been more important. We are also bringing more plants indoors and using beautiful colour combinations of Mediterranean blues and greens with a colour pop perhaps of rust. Natural, earthy textures are huge as are foliage patterns.

Clients are asking their architects to use big windows and expansive doors with glass in to bring in as much light as possible. We are using paint with reflective qualities and balancing warmth and light. Natural pottery finishes or hand painted glass and very fluid, abstract or line drawing artwork all create a perfect balance of both visual and sensory satisfaction - both of which we all need in abundance. 

Even in a small space you can be creative. At the moment we like dark feature paint on the back internal wall of a cupboard for an amazing deep splash of colour. Andrea Fawell of Kebbell said when I presented a scheme to her: “You had me at the hallway cupboard colour!” 

What do you think makes a home a home?

For our clients we need to make sure that potential buyers will walk through the door and feel that feeling, when you just know this is the right home. They will want to live there and can see how functionally it would work and see the potential to make it their own.

As a homeowner you want to know that your friends and family can walk into your house and know its yours because it reflects who you are, but most importantly that you feel really good in your own home and that it’s a lovely place to come home to. 


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