When you bring a decorator showhouse room to life, it’s a collaborative effort between you, your suppliers, your workrooms, artists, and your installers. You can invest a fortune or you can do it the smart way and negotiate for all goods with suppliers whether you’ve worked with them in the past and have a relationship or you haven’t yet, and they’re a perfect fit. It’s all in your approach.
Having participated in 9 showhouses in the last 25 years, I’ve both invested in custom pieces for my spaces at times, and more recently, borrowed everything except the rugs which I got at below wholesale. Since there’s never a guarantee you’ll sell anything, it’s wise to either borrow as much as you can, or order custom pieces that you feel comfortable selling to clients later. As much fun as it can be to do something outrageous and totally unforgettable, it may leave a memorable hole in your bottom line.
Getting furnishings, artwork, lighting and more loaned from your suppliers to bring a decorator showhouse room to life isn’t as difficult as it sounds. And if you are newer to design and don’t have established relationships, you’ll want to pay close attention to the strategy here. Marketing your vendors and providing valued PR can quickly tip the scales in your favor.
#1 Postcard in Your Room
The most common marketing is the picture postcard in your showhouse room that has an image of your work on one side and gratitude to a long list of vendors on the back. I do this differently because I like to use fewer vendors and feature them on the back with an image representing each one with their name or logo. My postcards are also 6×9 not the typical 4×6. On the face of my card I have an image of my work and a testimonial with my contact and a call to action. Far more specific than the postcards you see in most showhouses.
#2 Blog Post per Supplier
If you are blogging regularly for your interior design practice, this is an easy add. Keep in mind I limit my vendor count to 4-6 per space, that means I’ve got 4-6 weeks of posts featuring my contributors and introducing them to my design audience. Even when they are trade only resources it still provides valuable exposure. And you can share the post across all social platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
#3 Instagram Posts Per Supplier
Influencers can get from $250-$20K for an Instagram post. Now, you may not be at that level (an Instagram influencer has a minimum of $10K followers) but your posts still have value. To bring a decorator showhouse room to life you need the support and generosity of your suppliers so leveraging social media to get there is a strong strategy. Promise each contributor a specific number of featured posts with relevant hashtags to drive more visibility for them, 3 is a minimum.
#4 Instagram Story per Supplier
I include at least one story per contributor that helps me bring a decorator showhouse room to life, and I do this when the showhouse is open for tours. Often my best contributors come from Instagram and have active profiles there. They appreciate the extra social media love. If you can get to their showroom, you can do a live video story.
#5 Professional Photography
While most showhouses are sponsored by a magazine and they will photograph and shoot the house, you have no idea which angles they’ll take and you’ll get one or two shots only. With today’s social media you want to have not just full room shots but also 10 or more detail and vignette shots for every room. You want to invest in professional photography of your space.
The good news is that with multiple designers in the showhouse you can share a photographer for the day and limit your investment. You can also decide if you want to provide the images to your vendors at no cost as a thank you, or if you want to put them in touch with the photographer and pay for the right to use those images in their advertising. It depends on your photographer, be sure you understand the fine print in your agreement.
#6 Be There to Sell Your Talent
Yes, no one can sell you like you! Plan to be at the showhouse for a few hours each weekend when visitor traffic is highest. While you can send an assistant, unless they know as much as you do (and they don’t) they can’t represent you nearly as well as you can. This is a key piece of the commitment in doing a showhouse and too often designers don’t show up once they’ve invested talent, time and money to bring a decorator showhouse room to life. You can also talk about your vendors and capture potential clients. Being there matters.
Participating in a decorator showhouse can be a very rewarding experience and it doesn’t have to cost you a lot if you provide valuable marketing and visibility for your contributors. Building your social media platform in advance will put you ahead of those who haven’t and make it easier for your suppliers to say yes.