"I spend a lot of time selecting accessories," said designer Barbara Brenner of Brenner & Associates in Calabasas. "People want to see value. They want nice things."
Brenner does her own research to make sure she tailors each interior to the life style of the area. She checks with the Chamber of Commerce, researches local residents and then drives the neighborhood looking for clues: children riding bicycles, adults jogging.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday December 10, 1989 Home Edition Real Estate Part K Page 4 Column 3 Real Estate Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
Model dressing--In a Nov. 12 story on model home decorating, a picture caption incorrectly referred to designer Kari Kincaid as an assistant with the firm of Barbara Brenner & Associates. She is an associate with the interior design firm.
"People are very into their bodies today," Brenner said. "We have turned extra bedrooms into exercise rooms" and worked with landscape architects to install a back-yard spa. With touches like these, she said, "You get the feeling that somebody really lives there."
Tracking demographic trends has become an important part of a model decorator's job.
Unlike move-up buyers with established tastes and cherished furnishings, the younger market pays more attention to model home decor. "They want to know how accessory pieces work with the rest of the design," said Karen Stygar, marketing manager for Creative Design Consultants Inc. of Costa Mesa.
Designer Norman Colburt, who decorates themed rooms, says the age of the target market is a key factor in the selection of accessories.
In an exercise room designed for younger couples or a single mother, Colburt may slip a Jane Fonda tape into a continuous-play VCR. In the same room, designed for an older couple shopping for a move-down, Colburt might substitute Jack LaLanne for Fonda.
The increasing number of baby boomers having babies has put designers on notice to decorate nurseries and children's bedrooms with great care. Children's rooms are themed in ways that identify a youngster's passion: sports, dance, computers, music.
Trupp sees other trends in the kitchen, master bedrooms and family rooms. She customizes kitchens with a recipe desk built into a counter area, fitted with a computer that could be used to store recipes and the family financial records.
Master bedroom suites are bigger than ever, incorporating sitting areas with living room-style furniture and fireplaces, giving parents a private place to relax.
Family rooms are continuing to grow as formal dining rooms shrink, Trupp says. She uses custom built-ins to house the array of entertainment hardware used in family rooms to hide the wiring and showcase the equipment attractively.
Designers say geographic-based themes continue to be important in the overall design. The Santa Fe or Southwestern theme--cactus, desert browns and beiges, turquoise--has been popular for some time, and does well in areas where it mirrors the decor of community institutions, such as banks, libraries and hotels.
Designer Colburt says a California contemporary theme with a tropical flavor in aqua, mauve and off-white, using large-blade shutters as window coverings, is popular with more affluent Southland buyers who travel.
As themes evolve, so do names of themes. What once was California Casual is now called Textural Contemporary by some designers, and Villa Mediterranean, a standard, has been renamed South Coast Contemporary by others.
One of the emerging themes in Southern California is Pacific Rim, which has an Oriental flavor revealed in colors and textures.
As Asian themes grow in influence, the California look continues to be a marketable export. An effective product can bring assignments in overseas venues where Southern California style now has great appeal.
Toni Anderson designed a project in Torrance that was seen by M. Aoyagi & Co., which hired her to bring her Southland style to a model lobby, penthouse condominium, restaurant and art gallery in a high-rise in Yokohama, Japan, called The Copper Roof.
While they may work from different styles and tastes, all model-home decorators want the same result, says designer Carole Eichen of Carole Eichen Inc. of Costa Mesa.
"When a buyer walks in the door . . . we want them to feel that if they were living here, they would be reaching their next plateau."
Karen Stygar, Creative Design's marketing manager, said every model home is dressed with that in mind: "The home must look to the buyer as if the buyer should strive to buy it soon."
Brenner said she feels she has succeeded when she walks into a model and sees a couple comfortably seated on the living room sofa discussing the merits of the house.
"Look but don't touch--I don't like that," she says. "The house should feel like a home. That's what you're selling."
TIPS FROM MODEL DRESSERS Here are some tricks of the model-dressing trade:
Light walls and deeper colored accents make a room appear larger than it is.
Paint the trim darker than the wall to frame a room and give it a formal finish.
Custom-built furniture, scaled down, also helps enlarge smaller rooms.
Mirrors on living room walls and bedroom closet doors give the illusion of more space.
Keep windows as "open" as possible by keeping window coverings to a minimum. Use shutters or blinds instead of draperies.
Custom built-ins keep books, computers and home entertainment equipment from cluttering up a room.
Decorate bathrooms with modern fixtures and accessories. Install a spa-tub or dual showers.
Mix "masculine" and "feminine" colors in larger pieces and accents to create a comfortable environment for both sexes. Designers say women tend to be more adventurous and men feel safer with a more conservative look.
Dress children's rooms with a theme. Paint a wall mural and choose accessories that express the theme (ballet, baseball).
Keep your eye on the big picture. Every fabric, wallpaper and lamp should complement the decor.