Bricks and Mortar by Tony Abel

The art in making a show house a home – by Tony Abel of local house builder Abel Homes

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Creating show homes has been uppermost in our minds this month, as we prepare to launch our newest example, at our site in Swaffham, next week. House builders do sometimes take some stick about their show homes, but the fact is that people buy homes, not houses – and trying to visualise what an empty shell will look like once it’s decorated and furnished is nigh on impossible. Of course, we do try to make the homes look as attractive as possible. Nothing wrong with that; many visitors tell us that our show homes give them inspiration for their own new properties, and we do indeed see buyers copying ideas from them. There is a balance, though. If you make a show home too unrealistically ‘designer’, then people won’t identify with it, which can be counter-productive. One of the most successful show homes we ever created was at Old Catton, where we recreated a realistically untidy teenager’s bedroom – something which raised a few laughs, more than a few gasps of recognition, and a lot of media comment!

That exercise did show, however, that making a show home as close as possible to a real home – albeit probably tidier than most of our own homes – is an important part of helping people feel ‘at home’ when they come to view. You need to find the right balance between aspirational and realistic. It’s a real art. My wife Maggie is in charge of our show homes. As a mother, she knows only too well how a family home should feel, so for us there is none of the underhand tricks of the trade – undersized furniture, no internal doors, and so on. Several times a year, she and our sales manager Lena will disappear off to Ikea in one of our vans, to buy just the kind of furniture for our show homes that our buyers will buy for themselves. Our philosophy on show homes is this: if you were expecting a visitor, maybe someone you wanted to impress, you would clean your house, tidy up, put the washing up away, but it would still be – and feel like – your home. That’s how we

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try to make our show homes feel – somewhere where you could definitely live.

We want people to feel that they want to sit down in the living room, make a cup of tea in the kitchen, or relax in the bedroom. A show home should not feel like an exhibition – it should feel like a home. Simple, really.

A rather different show house - depicting what a teenager's bedroom really looks like

A teenager's messy bedroom - recreated to look just like home in one of Abel Homes' show houses.

And how the show houses usually look.

And how the show houses usually look.

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