Set the stage

The Lime Tree Valley show home has an interior designed to make people take notice of what the villa has to offer.

A show home's interior plays a crucial role in making a sale.
A show home's interior plays a crucial role in making a sale.

The Lime Tree Valley show home has an interior designed to make people take notice of what the villa has to offer.

Show homes have a very specific purpose: to sell houses. They have to be aspirational and impressive, without intimidating potential buyers.

They have to look homely, inviting and livable, but not too lived in.

It's a delicate balance, but one that considered interior design can help sway in the developer's favour.

That said there isn't much time to make an impression.

Each room in a typical show home gets little more than a few seconds attention from any visitor.

Frequently people don't even go all the way into a room, just poke their head through the door and scan the scene.

Making sure visitors spent plenty of time looking around and ultimately making a sale was the role Selva took on for the show villa in Lime Tree Valley on Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Lime Tree Valley is an emerging development in Dubai and will be home to 121 villas on individual plots.

Located around the edge of the Greg Norman-designed Earth golf course the villas are due for completion in 2009.
 

"The CHI brief was that the development was to be based on a Tuscan feel," said Tanya Wakeham, manager of Selva in Dubai.

"We had to get that idea across within the property, where the main target audience was families. We had to make sure that when someone walked in, they could see themselves living in these properties."

With the idea of a Tuscan style being hard to precisely define combined with the large number of cultures represented in the Gulf region, the original brief was adjusted to encompass a broader Mediterranean feel.

This is seen in the use of warm colours in the furniture, fabrics and wall coverings.

"We made sure all the sofas and upholstery were a dark colour, with reds and yellows," said Wakeham.

"Fixtures and fittings were done in brass and gold. Because of the market we're in, we gave them a taste of what people appreciate here, but also what they can get hold of. People must also be able to relate to the design, which also had to show that there was wealth in there as well."

The touches that achieved this include the addition of a chandelier into the triple height ceiling above the entrance area, not a typically Mediterranean feature.

So far, reaction to the interior design and the show home has been good.
 

"We got a really good response from it. We've had quite a few meetings where people have, there and then, said they want it just like this," said Wakeham.

Fine-tuning the interior design to get this positive response started at the space planning stage. Many details were looked at, right down to the placement of TV aerial sockets and power sources.

"Before the electricity went in we space planned everything," said Wakeham.

"We made sure the beds were in the right place, looking out to the window, so when people walked in they are not walking straight into a bed."

Floors are tiled and feature selected rugs. The design also uses parquet flooring, less frequently seen in the region because of the extreme temperature changes.

"We found a company to deal with that and it worked extremely well," said Wakeham.

"The floor looks beautiful and gives the villa a more European feel."

"The most important thing for CHI was that when people walk through the entrance, they look up straight away, because the large entrance space gives the whole place an enormity."
 

Among the devices deployed to make people stop and take in the scene was a dining table.

"We had to stop people walking straight into the dining area," said Wakeham.

"By putting a table in the middle of the dining room we made people stop and look around. It dispersed people left and right."

"My favourite bit is the entrance because it makes you pause for thought. It's a very tempting place to just sit; spacious, light and really beautiful."

Other furnishings were used to direct the flow of people to certain areas of the house. In the formal and informal sitting rooms, sofas are placed to make sure people walk over to the sofas and sit on them, not just walk around them.

Wakeham explained that people had to be encouraged away from doors or they would walk into the gardens, so furnishings were used to block some spaces off.

Props also played a part in making the show home look livable, and in encouraging visitors to spend longer in a space. This was particularly true in the bedroom areas.

"People never walk around a bedroom," said Wakeham. "They'll walk in the door, look around and leave. So we had to make sure the opposite side of the bedroom was very attractive. In other words we've got to have pictures on the walls, and a clock on a bedside table to make them go over that way."

"The other side of it was to make sure the property looks as big as possible, so we had to play a little bit with bed sizes and window dressings. On all the main windows we featured fancy drapes and curtains, complete with tie backs and other details. In all the side windows we put Roman blinds made from muslin, so they are very transparent."
 

The informal family room located upstairs features damask wallpaper around the entrance area and a rich red paint covering the walls inside the area.

The colours were selected to add a dramatic touch to the room and are offset with a white bookcase.

The use of distinct and sometimes bold colours in different parts of the house was a strategy aimed at helping people remembers the villa.

"Most people don't remember the details of the house," said Wakeham. "Ask them about the wood or finishes and nobody knows. But they do remember the green room with the white bed."

"We found people liked the concept. Because the people who buy these kinds of villas are far too busy, they don't have time to create the look themselves. They responded to the warm homely feeling."

Fabrics chosen for feature furnishings, such as the two-tone striped fabric of the dining chairs, were selected for their durability as well as looks.

The role of the show home means there will be up to two years worth of people walking through the house, so durability also had to be part of the mix. Ultimately the interior design is just one part of a package that has to appeal on many levels.

But with the right emphasis it can make a crucial difference to how long visitors spend in the villa and increase the likelihood of a sale.

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