Model homes are meticulously styled to communicate a theme and establish an emotional connection with potential buyers. Of all of the design and decor elements, artwork provides the strongest potential for that emotional connection. It comes as no surprise then that the selection and placement of artwork in model homes is a process-driven design strategy with clear objectives.

How do model home designers and merchandisers select the artwork? Why do they choose specific pieces for particular rooms? 

It begins with careful consideration of what purpose the art must serve, relative to the target market. The selection of pieces also hinges on how the artwork will communicate the style theme, and how the art can help to curate an environment that underpins that emotional connection with the intangible sense of “home”. 

There is also the aspect of creativity, with designers sourcing pieces and displays that are memorable- which may mean going outside the box of what is considered traditional art.

“Artwork is vital in setting the tone for the design of a model home. Art can make a space have more energy, inspire movement or creativity, as well as support a calm, serene atmosphere,” says Rachel Conner, interior designer, Ultimate Builder Services, LLC.

“For model homes specifically, artwork guides the customer through the home on an emotional pathway,” says Deanna Dickinson, vice president of design with Ultimate Builder Services, LLC.

Creating memory points

One of the overarching goals in designing and decorating a model home is to create memory points that will resonate with buyers. These design elements are meant to pop and linger in the minds of buyers during model home tours and help the home stand out against the competition.

Memory points can run the gamut of dramatic design features, with elements such as a towering fireplace or an open-riser staircase to something more subtle, but innately purposeful – like artwork.

Creating memory points is a crucial component of the emotional connection that will compel people to buy. “We want to give homebuyers something that’s memorable and evokes an individual response. Artwork helps accomplish that,” says Lisa Briand, president, Ultimate Builder Services, LLC.

The challenge is to build memory points, which may differ throughout the house while remaining consistent thematically to flow from space to space. The other challenge is to make the memory points, although stylishly and thoughtfully curated by professionals, feel homey, down-to-earth, and attainable for potential homeowners. Homebuyers have to be able to envision themselves living there on an experiential level.

Artwork is a helpful tool with those memory point objectives, because it is versatile and because of the detailed nature of this design element, lets designers tap into the feelings that homebuyers yearn for when looking for a home, whether, comfort, fun, inspiration, or affirmation. 

Artwork communicates a room’s purpose

Beyond grabbing buyers’ attention, artwork serves to inform buyers on what a particular room’s intended purpose is, which is part of helping a buyer reconcile their lifestyle with the built spaces offered in a model home. The artwork is chosen to remove ambiguity around a space,

For example, a flex space or a secondary bedroom in a home could serve several functions. Artwork can help buyers understand what the builder intended the room(s) for, which is usually in line with what their target market seeks.

“We have had a lot of builder clients switch to making a home office the most important room in the house, so we might lay a room out to be a his–and-hers office or for a kids’ study room,” says Shana Jacobs, principal designer, and creative director, interiors with MP Studios.

“Maybe we would have sophisticated art in a home office that suggests a trade or profession. For example, for an architect, we would have artwork with blueprints. Or, for a kids’ study, we might put a bulletin board or a chalkboard above the desk,” says Jacobs.

In other rooms, a loft might have movie posters and theater prints to suggest a media area. Artwork placed in a possible child’s bedroom might have softer colors, with playful prints or an accent wall designed to delight the younger set.

Designers pay particular attention to artwork in secondary bedrooms intended for children, recognizing the role they play in the family’s purchase process and develop memory points accordingly. 

 “We want the child touring that home to want to house as much as the parents. We want the child to go home at night and continue to talk about that bedroom that they want. This will continually reiterate and reaffirm that this is the house for the family. Children and secondary parts of the target market are just as important,” says Jacobs.

Artwork is chosen to highlight area amenities

Artwork paints a picture of what lifestyle comes along with a model home, literally.

“Artwork is chosen in a way to reinforce the area amenities that could be enjoyed living in a community around a given model,” says Alicia Malinowski, buyer and senior interior designer with Model Home Interiors.  

The nature of these amenities and the promotional artwork correlate with what is thought to be most appealing to the target market that the builder is trying to attract.

For example, if the model is “in an area that is known for their national parks, then a lot of times we will focus in a lower level or maybe a loft on artwork that emphasizes hiking or outdoor activities,” says Malinowski. Landscapes or nature-inspired photographs would be appropriate as well. 

Or perhaps the model home is located near wineries, art that showcases vineyards, or bottles and glassware might be selected. 

A home in a community near the water might have shells or other textural art, or landscapes portraying the beach. Typically, amenity-based artwork wouldn’t necessarily include brand or location names, but rather stay generic and evoke excitement around the idea of proximity to the amenities.

Selecting the right pieces

Designers have varied approaches as to how they will style a home with artwork, but the process generally begins with a solid understanding of the demographic of the target market and what will appeal to them best. This might include specific artwork pieces, colors, textures, and styles.

In addition to serving a marketing purpose, the artwork must be supportive of the overall decor concept and be functional to create memory points.

As important as what the artwork depicts, are the size and scale of the artwork. The designer looks at what display opportunities the home’s layout affords them, keeping in mind wall placement, light, and furniture choices.

“We think about homebuyers walking their house. Where are the largest walls and where are my impact walls? They’re not always the same. We try to think of every view and how the pieces are going to play with each other. From there we make a game plan on paper of what we’re looking for,” says Jacobs.

With so many homes having open-concept spaces, planning the relationship between the artwork pieces’ color schemes and other built elements is essential, as sightlines might incorporate multiple pieces at once, in different light exposure and from different vantage points.

In terms of establishing a decor theme, designers usually move from room to room to decide what role each space will play in the overall aesthetic of the home. While rooms may differ in color or aesthetic, the overall look should be cohesive, and artwork is a way of connecting separate spaces thematically.

Many designers use mood boards with the builders to determine what features, colors, and fabrics would be most appealing and then come up with concepts. A lot of model home merchandisers work in concert with artwork suppliers, who tailor artwork to suit budgets and desired themes. Together, they sift through print galleries until they decide on potential artwork pieces and select matting and framing, if necessary.

Beyond the print, matting, and framing contributes to the overall aesthetic and is an important detail. It’s a testament to the level of detail that goes into the planning, and how a simple choice can be leveraged to amplify the overall impact. 

“You can take a really busy piece of art and make it clean with an oversized mat. It just immediately elevates it to something that looks more sophisticated,” says Jacobs.

Artwork doesn’t just mean canvas or framed prints

While canvas or framed pieces are most common, model home designers are getting more creative with ways to accent walls to grab buyers’ attention.

Large framed mirrors are a popular choice. Not only do mirrors add an elegant accent, their reflective qualities aid in amplifying the perception of space. They also are a smart choice in several different rooms in a home, where they are also useful, like in a foyer or bedroom.

Another popular option are textural tiles, made from wood or wicker, stacked in various patterns on a wall. This is an example of the popular biophilic design trend, where natural materials are incorporated as much as possible to recreate the calm of the outdoor environment. 

Plants are easy and effective accents to breathe color and life into a room. Arranging open shelving or ledges with a selection of plants is impactful.

Metal art makes a statement, as do hats, masks, or maps. Sports equipment, like tennis racquets, skis, or golf clubs hung on a wall can help to define a space and stand out.

One of the benefits of using artwork that is textured or bulkier than a traditional canvas or framed print is the visual variety that adds dimension and interest, which can be effective in larger spaces, helping to direct the eye.

Artwork tips for homeowners

Homeowners keen to replicate model home artwork display in their own homes can do so by following a few basic rules of design.

The common advice for hanging art is that it should be centered at eye level on the wall. Keep in mind though, that eye level will mean something different to people of varying heights. 

To translate eye level into easy-to-follow measurements, eye level is generally considered to be 57-60 inches from the floor. Take time to consider what the natural eye line by standing in front of the wall is before committing to hanging art. Measure twice and drill once.

If a homeowner is hanging multiple pieces, large or medium-sized items should be about 2-3 inches apart, while smaller pieces can be closer together. This includes space on the sides of the artwork, as well as above and below, in a stacked pattern.

It can be helpful to use painter’s tape to map out the intended gallery on the wall if it is hard to visualize the levels and placement of the art pieces.

Collage and cluster pieces are trending. Determine the position and order of pieces by laying them out on the floor and “get them arranged before starting to hang. 

Then start from the center and work your way out,” says Dickenson.

When choosing pieces, the artwork is one design element where even the most cautious of homeowners should be bold enough to take risks. Comparatively speaking, the financial investment is smaller than with furniture or a structural design element, and you may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Similarly, it’s quick and easy to swap a piece out, if a homeowner changes their mind or changes their decor scheme.

Given the emotional nature of art, if a homeowner feels a connection to a piece, they are advised to get it and then settle on the perfect spot at home for it to hang.

Artwork may need to be curated over time, as a homeowner adjusts to the interplay of light and space with the pieces at hand.

While pieces should cater to individual tastes and personalities, they should be appropriately sized to the wall(s) where they will be hung. Art placement will direct the eye, so be mindful of size and scale.

The trend is for oversize art pieces, rather than a host of smaller prints. Having too many on a wall, or too many pieces in a space adds to visual clutter and lessens the drama of the statement piece. Filling wall space for the sake of it will be counterproductive to the design objectives.

“You need the room to breathe a little bit. Trending is one larger, more impactful piece in the space, and then everything else kind of steps back. You don’t necessarily need a piece on of every wall in a room,” says Malinowski.

The artwork also needs to make sense directionally with the wall space in a room (long & horizontal vs. high and narrow). It also needs to be proportional not only to the wall space but to other things in the room, like the furniture, for example. Artwork hung over a sofa should keep a ratio of about 2/3 so as not to look crowded or out of place. 

Hanging art on a wall isn’t the only way to display the collection. Popular now as well is leaning and layering art pieces on top of furniture, a mantel, or a ledge. 

For example, in the dining room, “Take two or more pieces, that are simple but somehow relate to each other. Instead of hanging them, prop them on a server and then layer another piece propped against that piece,” says Malinowski. “It’s a nice casual look and it’s not necessarily as formal as having something hung on the wall. “

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