Model Home Tours Give TONS Of Home Decorating Ideas That You Can Use!

I toured 3 model homes yesterday, taking pictures of tons of decorating ideas that you can use in your own home. I LOVE touring model homes and I LOVE critiquing them—that doesn’t mean I’m criticizing the model home stagers. They did a fantastic job on these homes in a Epcon community near me in Raleigh, NC.

It’s just that staging to sell has some differences from designing to live. Stagers have to quickly convey a story that sells the property—that’s their goal. Designing to live has to take real life into consideration at every step, so each room needs to be be safe, functional and customized to the homeowner’s preferences and lifestyle. However, they also share a goal. The finished rooms should be very pleasing to look at. These home succeed.

So let’s take a look at these model home beauties. I’ll point out the decorating ideas I really like - and sometimes don’t like — about each one.


Many, many homes have this sort of fireplace wall. Builders usually flank the fireplace with white built-ins, featuring upper shelves and lower cabinets. This gives great storage for homeowners. However, many buyers that are finished raising children (and storing toys and games) would prefer to avoid the heavy-ish look of those built-ins. I love how these areas are handled here: hanging artwork in the recessed looks great.

I wish they had centered recessed eyeball can lighting at each side to highlight that art.


In the same room, there’s a niche - maybe it would fit a TV for those who don’t want it over the fireplace (that would be me), so that’s a thoughtful option. But they handled it nicely with a big console and those mirrored sconces on either side. I’m crushing hard on those mirrored sconces! They add some nice sparkle, don’t they?


Awesome kitchen! Big island, clean lighting, room for a party.


The backsplash tile is a fun pattern. A small complaint - that tile is a very cool gray to pair with the warm cream counters. Maybe there’s some warm tones in the tile that my camera isn’t picking up. You need to be very intentional when mixing warm and cool tones. These tiles still work because of all the stainless around them.


Who wouldn’t want to be the guest who stays in this bedroom? Lots of nice touches . here. I like the sparkly beads that soften the black chandy (you know I always like sparkly beads!). I ‘m also a fan of the beadboard on the wall. That framed picture over the bed is distracting—there’s enough going on there without it. Of course, they need some window treatments in this room! If you don’t want drapery panels, you could use the Duo-Light shades that I’m in love with. Such nice function!


This photo is to ensure that you look at the accent table being used as a nightstand. It’s got a rubbed white finish. I’ll show you the dresser across the room in a sec. For you savvy DIYers, notice how they ended the beadboard on the wall. That’s the only wall in the room with beadboard. Nice finish!


Remember that nightstand in a rubbed white finish? Here’s the dresser - it coordinates, but it doesn’t match. This is a whitewash finish. I’m always telling clients that we don’t have to match our finishes. We want them all to play well together, but they don’t have to match!

Oh - another thing I want to mention in here is the big mirror over the dresser. Please remember to consider what any mirror you hang is going to reflect. This one is pretty and adding sparkle and light to the space, but the people in the bed are pretty close. If I was sitting up in that bed, reading, I wouldn’t like to see such a close reflection of myself. Maybe that’s just me. A much smaller mirror, hung on one side of the dresser, would make me happier.


A lovely, serene Master Bedroom. A deluxe look, although I’m never going to love heavily tufted headboards. If you’re a bed-reader or have cats, that headboard needs to be vacuumed frequently to keep dust and hair from collecting.

And I’m not sure I understand the need for a Sitting Room in a bedroom. The Sitting Rooms in these homes were all beautifully decorated, but I don’t want to go into my bedroom to get to the sitting room.


Closer view of the Sitting Room. Very comfy and well appointed. You will definitely need to make your bed every day (which you should do anyway)!


The bathroom adjoining that bedroom was nice, but I really wanted to point out the use of solar tubes in all of the model homes I visited. They bring in SO MUCH wonderful light! I desperately want to love them, but I still don’t. These had a weird sort of finish to them, which you can’t see in the photo. I always want them for my low-light Family Room, but with 8 foot ceilings, I can tell they just won’t look great. With these 9 foot ceilings though, I’m sure I would learn to love them.


One of the homes had this interesting wall in the hallway between the Laundry Room and the Garage. I know it can be hard to find ways to decorate a big wall and this was fun to see. However, who is going to dust these things? This is a great example of staging to sell, not designing to live.


This was my favorite shower in the homes I toured. I wish I had a picture to show you the whole thing, but the layout and use of finishes made it feel like an outdoor shower. Divine.


This gives you another peek at the tile that’s in that shower (reflected in the mirror). The high window is an important element.


We’re heading into another bedroom (I’m showing all 3 houses in this post, so don’t even try to figure out where each one starts and stops). This was another serene space, with a nice use of lighting and the ceiling treatment. Anything that makes you look UP is good for me. You’re paying for those high ceilings, so look at them!


This dresser is yet another example of varying furniture finishes. I would definitely put a cozy chair in that corner.


Here’s a better shot of that ceiling treatment. It adds nice interest to the room.

I noticed that the ceilings in many rooms had a lot of “stuff” going on. While I like coffered ceilings, tray ceilings, wallpapered ceilings, etc., I’m not a fan of too many recessed cans, stereo speakers, HVAC vents, etc. all over the place. C’mon people in technology, figure that out please.


Here’s the Sitting Room off the Master Bedroom. Again, I don’t applaud that concept, but they were all so pretty (and needed window treatments for privacy please). Look at those shutters flanking the window - love that easy decorating idea!


A closer look at that vignette. See? TONS of home decorating ideas that you can use in your own home!


This Epcon community is called The Courtyards. I think courtyards are a standard feature of this developer and it’s brilliant. The homes are sited so that you have full privacy in your courtyard. The only windows that overlook your space are your own. Room to entertain and garden. Not a big garden, but it’s enough space to put your own creative stamp on it.


Every floorplan had a lot of space in the main living areas. High ceilings added to the very comfortable vibe. I don’t want a TV over my fireplace AND I would want my actual fireplace to be larger than they show in the models, but every room had plenty of thoughtful ideas for easy living.

If this were mine, I would use a bigger rug in the living area. I like the floorplan ideas in this room.


Another beauty of a kitchen with a BIG island. Gorgeous tile backsplash, great lighting and I loved the black cabinet finish color with the brown leather barstools. Black and brown is a handsome color combination.


SO many people have walls that they just can’t figure out what to do with. This was my favorite decorating idea of the day and it’s so simple. Those are just narrow picture ledges with matching frames on black and white photos. Interesting, clean, easy DIY project—and affordable. Get your frames at Michael’s with a coupon. You could blow up and print your own photos, or have a place like Staples print them out for you for the crispest result.


This was a great bonus room idea at one of the homes. Actually, it’s like an apartment on the 2nd floor, featuring a bedroom, bathroom and a kitchenette on the other side of this space. Visiting grown kids (with their own kids) would really appreciate this. Hub and I have our 14 year old grandson living with us, so we laughed when we thought about having this set-up. He would never leave home! LOL! I love that boy, but the point of growing up is to eventually leave home!

This is a long post, isn’t it? Hang in there - I’ve got more to show you!


BIG art makes a BIG statement. This bedroom was so well done in the art department. I would change out the chandelier. Maybe use a white drum shade chandy instead? Let the art be the focus. And I don’t know about you, but I need to have a ceiling fan in my bedroom. Model homes don’t understand my need for air flow!


Lovely color on the ceiling. Always pay attention to that fifth wall! Give it something! All the windows in this room are gorgeous. Look at all that natural light.


A pretty master bathroom. Rain showers were in every master bath (but not tubs, isn’t that interesting?). lots of art in the bathrooms, too. You need to be sure the ventilation is good or you’re going to have wrinkly prints in those frames way too soon. And do we all really want those fake plank floors? Not me, but i know it’s a trend right now.


I just like how they filled the big wall in this room. I like trees, so this really appealed to me. Are you noticing the paint colors in these homes? We’re still seeing some gray, but also much more white or very, very pale shades of color and a few dark, dramatic walls. I’m not into forecasting trends, but if I were, it would be white walls or just a dollop of color, with the occasional dark accent.


A great use of a bonus room for people with grandchildren is to make a play and sleep room like this one! So cute! The beds are pushed way over to allow plenty of room for dance parties, playing games, setting up Legos, etc.


Did you notice the flowers over one of the beds? Here’s a close-up. Very fun, but who is going to dust them? I ask that question a lot.


Buy a very low coffee table ( is a good source) and make it a place for kids to draw, build, play cars, etc. Not a glass topped table please.


Word art is trending hard. I love words.


Oh yeah. Little known fact about me - I kind of love doing laundry. It’s the only housework I’m good at. My family says that it’s common for them to find the clothing they wore that very day washed, dried and folded at the end of their beds when they call it a night.


Here’s a great example of a dark, dramatic, gray paint color, paired with pink and white. Perfect in a bathroom. Those elongated subway tiles, grouted with gray, are fantastic.


This shower is a DON’T. I added arrows to show you why. The arrow on the left is where the showerhead and dials are. The arrow on the right is where the niche, holding your soaps and shampoos is. You’re running back and forth to use the products in the shower!


Ah, yes, there was shiplap. Of course there was! But it was used judiciously and they used clean, wide boards so it wasn’t overly rustic in a brand new house.

bathroom_color_model_home_ideas 2.jpeg

The shiplap was used on opposing walls in this bathroom and then dark gray tile in the shower walls and dark gray paint on the other side. Then a dark stained wood finish on the cabinetry. Don’t they all play together nicely? This is a bathroom that will make you smile for a very long time.


Ok, let’s finish up with one more bedroom. Again, the furniture doesn’t all match, there’s a nice wall treatment on one wall to keep things light, the chandelier is installed high (tall guests don’t want to dodge light fixtures at night) the artwork is restful and large and they need window treatments. Not a lot of work for a very nice Guest Room.


I like the finish and placement of this dresser. Please don’t think I’m pooh-poohing matching bedroom furniture. I’m not. It’s just not a “must” and people waste lots of time looking for a set when they could just buy a bed they like and then mix up the other pieces.

Whew! We made it through the whole tour!

I hope you found some decorating ideas to use in your home. If you need help figuring out how to get a look like any of these rooms - or even more ideas for your home in the greater Raleigh area, go to my Services page to read about my 2 Hour Design consultation!

If you want to read about other home tours on my blog, here’s one and here’s another . And here’s a super fancy one!

with sparkle and texture,


How To Choose The Right Fridge For A Small Kitchen

How To Choose The Right Fridge For A Small Kitchen

Anne-Marie Brunet of Sheridan Interiors in Cornwall, Ontario, wrote an excellent blog post about choosing a refrigerator for a small kitchen. I’m a BIG fan of counter depth refrigerators: I’ve got one myself and love how it looks in our kitchen.

What I always tell families is that the upside is they fit so nicely and increase the visual space of your Kitchen. The downside is that you might need…

Get Rid Of Those Leaves! And other decorating mistakes (and easy fixes)

Get Rid Of Those Leaves!  And other decorating mistakes (and easy fixes)

Decorating mistakes are fun to read about, but let’s be honest: they’re just little areas or issues that we haven’t paid attention to in a long time because life is busy and we’ve all got things to do. Often something was a big trend, we jumped on the wagon and never thought about it again.

Design however, is just like life. It’s always changing and hopefully often improving. On top of that, contractors and builders often play “designer” and harried homeowners go along with their recommendations which are…

A kitchen update that shows personal style and looks great!



A Kitchen update doesn't have to include tearing out cabinets and replacing appliances.  Let's look at this recent project.

Above is the "Before" of Jody's kitchen.  She wanted to make it feel fresh and a little artsy and she didn't want to rip out the wood cabinets nor take down the coppery mosaic tile backsplash.  Jody does want to replace the white formica countertop with butcher block and she would love to see a piece of stone at the end of the counter.  She saw that idea online and thought it was pretty cool.  Her designer (that would be me) was worried that adding a detail to the end of the counter in a small kitchen would stop the eye and make it appear even smaller.  Jody persisted, won me over and we got it done.




Here's the "After!"  Isn't the Carrera marble at the end of the counter some kind of wonderful?  Jody was right!  It's a cool idea!

We specified White Oak counters with a clear, catalyzed conversion finish.  Signature Custom Woodworking in King, North Carolina made and installed them and they're absolutely gorgeous!  We removed the old formica backsplash, replacing it with very affordable brick tile (64 cents per piece!) and a not-so-affordable copper pencil tile on top to transition nicely with the older mosaic tile.  A very successful transition!




Another photo of the "After." Jody had the painter give the white cabinets a fresh coat after everything was in.  Now this kitchen reflects her personal style which is warm, interesting and fun.




We wanted to use a farmhouse sink in this project, but they weigh A LOT more than other sinks and would have required adding serious support in the existing base cabinet.  Jody didn't want to lose that much storage space, so we switched gears and chose this fabulous Blanco Granit sink.  It's a great choice.  It doesn't have a shiny white finish like porcelain.  It's faintly speckled.  




We took down the heavy woven woods valance over the kitchen sink and replaced the dated track light with a pretty multi-colored glass pendant that adds some nice sparkle. A new oil rubbed bronze faucet and soap dispenser add more warm tones.  And isn't that sweet pig painting by local artist Ana Peralta an awesome addition to this kitchen?  I'm calling him Wilbur (not very original, but it fits).




Sean, our super duper handyman did the demolition work on the old counter and sink.  It was his idea to router out the space for the marble piece so it could sit level with the counter.  Genius!  We were all very excited by that idea.




Wanting to keep the artsy vibe going with splashes of color, we added this sassy little rug by Company C at the sink.  Isn't this kitchen SO pretty now?  Nice update, right?





The kitchen table is right next to the new counters and in a lovely bay window, overlooking a spectacular back yard (think trees, flowers, fire pit, eating and grilling space).  All we needed to do here was to replace the light fixture.  




The new fixture is by Dailey and blends oil rubbed bronze with mercury glass lamps brilliantly.  Sparkle and texture baby!




THEN, we moved into the next space, adding two wood beams to the ceiling and updating the ceiling fan.  The world is filled with bulky old ceiling fans and I'm making it my personal duty to draw attention to them and replace them with new ones that are more modern and visually lighter!




The way these rustic beams from AZ Faux Beams work with Jody's woven wood blinds is simply awesome.  I didn't get a very clear picture of the beams.  Let's try another one:




The beams are stained Fall Leaf Brown.  They add so much character to a room and you would never know that they're made out of high density polystyrene!  Sean has installed beams on several projects now and he says they cut like butter.  He always does a fantastic job.  Attention to detail makes all the difference.




Not every project has a huge budget - this one probably cost less than $10,000, with the biggest chunk going to the wood counters (and worth every penny).  However, every project has a homeowner with a personality and a desire to create a beautiful home that makes walking in the door at the end of the day a pleasure.  Jody didn't want a space like everyone else has.  She wanted to update her kitchen and end up with a space that looks like Jody lives there. 

Now we're moving on to the front of the house to make some changes there.  I'll show you what we do when it's done!



New Construction Design Details That Make A Big Difference!

Investing in a design consultation during new construction provides ideas that can make a big difference to the end result.  I want to show you a couple of pics I took last week of a new construction project I consulted on.  The homeowners, John and Diane, were wonderful to work with and the builder, John Dunning of Dunning Custom Homes, did a spectacular job.  When Diane invited me to come see the finished results, I was happy to accept!

Totally worth the wait.

Totally worth the wait.

I've been crushing on stainless cable wire for a long time now, but it still gives me a thrill.  When I mentioned this idea to John and Diane, they jumped right on it.  Diane said waiting for it to be installed was like waiting for Christmas morning!  

What a wonderful hallway.

What a wonderful hallway.

Another idea they ran with was to paint the barn door leading to the pantry a true red.  This is Sherwin's Heritage Red, which is gorgeous, gorgeous. Most of the other doors in the house are hickory with a protective coat of polyurethane.  The door to the garage, as you ca see, is white.  I LOVE it when doors DON'T match!  And look at that hickory floor.  Again, just a clear coat of poly.  Amazing.


Here's a better view of a hickory door in the house.


We talked a lot about using beams in the house.  Final decisions can't be made until sheet rock goes up and everyone can really see the room taking shape.  These are in the Kitchen and look great!


John and Diane are big fans of wood.  They put this yummy walnut on the island counter.  Love it, love it, love it.


The light was really mucking around with my trusty iPhone camera, the art isn't up over the mantel yet and decorating isn't complete, but I wanted to show you that built in shelving doesn't have to symmetrically flank the fireplace.  My suggestion was to have the cabinetry and shelving on one side to display and store what they wanted, but to leave the other side open to create a cozy nook to curl up with a book.  It's going to be a sweet spot in a beautiful room.  I also convinced them to skip putting a soffit at the top of each niche.  Bring the eye up!


I take no credit for this brilliant bit of great design in the Kitchen.  It's built under the stairs and is out of the way from everything else in the room.  Microwave, wine fridge, glassware, etc. - you can be pouring wine, heating things up, pulling out tableware, napkins, small plates, etc. and still be completely out of the way of the master chef.  Like I said, brilliant!


That's soapstone on the counters.  Lovely handcrafted shelving with puck lights make everything sparkle.  A Wolf cooktop looks right at home in the center of it all!

The house, upstairs and down, is filled with great ideas, successfully executed.  It's a wonderful example of attention to detail, creative thinking and pride in workmanship.