4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Take on a Showhouse

I love to be dazzled by showhouse designs, don't you?! They are the pinnacle of creativity and a great opportunity to see (and get to know!) the best work of the selected designers. Showhouses can create a lot of buzz, but are they really WORTH doing? Should you be involved in a showhouse if you're invited? I have 4 questions that you should ask yourself BEFORE you agree to take on this big (and exciting) project!

1. What's Your Goal?

You ALWAYS need to have a goal for every project you do - including showhouses. Think about what you would want to get out of doing the house? Do you want more clients? Do you want the exposure? Do you need that validation (no judgment!)? Understand exactly what you would make you happy to achieve at the end of the project. And here's why that's so important: If you want clients and the showhouse is in another far-off city or state, your probably not going to get many clients. It's just human nature for people to assume that you're not available because you're based somewhere else. If it's a local showhouse, consider that you would probably have a lot of potential clients tramping through - and that's a good thing! It's also easier to oversee your room and your design if it's local. There will be fewer travel expenses and you can use subs that you know and love.

2. Is It a High-Profile Showhouse?

The Kips Bay showhouses are guaranteed to get attention - they've got star power and everyone in the industry knows about them. For some designers, that specific house has made their name and has given them a chance for licensing and other partnerships. That would be a hard one to turn down, for sure. But there are other great ones, too, like those for charities or houses that are sponsored by major shelter publications. For those, you're most likely going to get more press and attention, than you may get clients. And that's OK! You just need to know that going in. And just because it's a "hot ticket" does NOT mean you HAVE to say yes to it. If you don't have the bandwidth to do it, then saying no may be the smart decision.

3. Do You Have the Money?

I don't care how small a showhouse is or how small your room is, you're going to spend some money. And in some cases, you may spend BIG money. Yes, the paint is usually sponsored and you can get some donations from vendors. But you are still going to have to open up your checkbook, often to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. Why? Well, there are all the costs associated, like having specific pieces made and/or installed, travel to and from, using assistants, having fresh flowers in the room every single day, and photography. Remember that the magazine or showhome will own the photos they take, so you should have your own. But, the overall goal of a showhouse is to really SHOW what you can do as a designer. You don't want to skimp or hold back. This is one time in your career when the client doesn't say no and you can put anything you want into the space. You need to make a splash - and that costs cash.

4. What Does Your Schedule Look Like?

You'll need to set aside a LOT of time, particularly in the 2 or 3 months leading up to the showhouse gala night. There will be designer meetings, interviews, press days, installations, walkthroughs, and so much more - all before the house is even open. If you don't have time in your schedule, then you probably shouldn't do a showhouse. Because giving your clients a short shrift isn't going to pay off for your business in the long run, I can guarantee that.

NONE of these questions is meant to put you off doing a showhouse - you just have to really weigh the opportunity against the impact on your business. You can really make it happen, though, if you have a great team in place who can help you. And to make THAT even more successful, download my FREE Delegation Checklist here. That will keep you and your crew running like clockwork!



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