Wow! You have to see this Crisp and Clean Model Home in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia
Good Morning! I have such a fun house to share with you today! If you’re new around here, let me fill you in! I work as an interior designer for a large design firm in Washington DC called P[Four]. We design several different types of projects from commercial spaces, multi family, and offices- but our specialty is designing Model Homes for builders along the Eastern Seaboard. Over the summer I designed this beautiful townhouse built by MI Homes in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. My firm P[Four] really knocked it out of the park with this one. Majesty West is a four story stunner with two roof top patios, beautiful details and crisp white walls. I am so happy with how the project turned out and hope you love it as much as I do! Photographer Maxine Schnitzer took some amazing photos of the Majesty West Model and I’m happy to share them with you now:
Beautiful, right? Even The Washington Post did a full article on the home and all of its amenities. They highlighted the perks of the beautifully designed kitchen here:
“We like to cook so we like the huge kitchen island and lots of prep space,” she said. The 10-foot-long marble island is designed with the waterfall feature, meaning the marble top falls to the floor. The microwave is hidden behind a cabinet door with a swing-up hinge. Ceiling lights are recessed, and the ceiling is pre-wired for a sound system. A little alcove houses a pantry, utility closet and powder room. Double-hung windows are large and let in lots of natural light. “Even on cloudy days it’s bright inside,” said Pam Swartz, new home consultant with Prime Building Advantage”
Designing Model Homes isn’t always easy, some times you make a few mistakes. Its all about learning from your experiences and making the best of what you have.
Do you ever read a blog and sort of roll your eyes at how perfect everything seems? The perfect photos of their sparkly clean kitchens with fresh flowers casually placed in the white farm house sink…. the perfectly dressed toddler sitting in the sand box next to a six story sandcastle and not a stain on his freshly pressed linen pants… or the stack of fluffy waffles with fresh picked berries and homemade whipped cream?
Seems unrealistic and unreachable, right? Thats because it mostly is… Bloggers put out the best of the best, Pinterest perfect content. Honestly, I can spend hours photographing one little outfit or room and it still won’t look just like I wanted it to. The point is, not everything in a bloggers life is Instagram worthy. We make mistakes, we mess things up, project don’t turn out how we had envisioned them. We can spend 3 hours picking a perfect paint color… then another 5 hours actually painting.. only to realize it is baby-poop-green. Model homes are kind of the same way.
The point of a model home is so simple. Get the people to buy a house. As a model home interior designer- my goal is to show you how Pinterest perfect your home could be, and how Instagram worthy your life could be if you lived here. Seems deceptive, because it kind of is.
But, designing for a model doesn’t always go to plan.
I designed a model home almost a full year ago and honestly in the end it was one of my favorite ones I’ve ever designed. It just took a little while to get it there. Originally this post was going to be just like any of my others from my “Professional Design” series… show you some photos of a pretty model and some of the sources so you could buy items used in the house. But when I started to look back at this model, I remembered what a stressful time it was getting it together. It made me laugh thinking about how a model home looks so picture-perfect, yet this was such a nightmare to get there.
Side note: this model was never professionally photographed. All I got is these horrible iPhone photos, sorry y’all!
My first problem was when I opened the front door on the furniture installation day- I realized the electrician did not hang the two chandeliers in the dining room. I called him to try to get him over to the house and realized that he never got the lights we ordered. Apparently the lights were backordered and no one ever let us know. Yikes. The models open house would be in 5 days, so there was no option but to shop locally for something until the real lights arrived. I ran off to the local hardware store and made the best with what I got.
These beauties were the best lights I could get at such short notice. It is what it is for the opening. Lucky, we were able to get the original lights to the house about two weeks later. They look much better, don’t you think?
You might notice in the first photo that we are also missing an area rug, while the second photo there is a pretty fluffy rug. Yup, you guessed it, I forgot to order all the rugs for the house. All of them. I have no idea how I didn’t catch this, but I did. It was one hundred percent a “my bad” situation. Like I said, designing a model home doesn’t always go to plan. We ordered some rugs and got them out there as quickly as we could and apologized profusely to the client along the way.
Notice anything missing in this Master Bedroom? Yeah, its the beautiful patterned area rug that would have added depth and texture to the space. The worst part is, I don’t even have a “after” photo. Oh well! This model was missing all of the rugs, and the dining room chandeliers. At this point, I’m thinking, well at least it won’t get any worse. Boy was I wrong.
For our design installations we typically use the same moving company every time. For this particular install, our movers sent out a few summer temporary employees that were super nice, but not necessarily cut out for the job. You need to be strong enough to carry a sofa up 3 flights of stairs, yet delicate enough to unbox 12 sets of crystal china and not smash them to bits. Unfortunately we had a few casualties that day. One such item was the mirror for the basement teen bedroom. One of the movers dropped the mirror on the driveway while bringing it into the house. RIP. So, we were left with little options but to leave the wall bare for a few days until we could get a replacement in. The manufacturer was so nice and sent out a new one right away.Doesn’t it feel so much better by just having that mirror!? Funny how such a small detail makes all of the difference (especially when its a light reflecting mirror in a dark basement bedroom). I thought my problems would end there, but this is now the house of horrors… Just kidding, but not really.You might not even notice what drives me so crazy about this room but there are two big things. First thing is that the rest of the house was very “modern farmhouse” in style. We used rustic raw woods and kept the color pallet to black, white and soft blue. Do you see it now? The bed pillows are the soft light blue from the rest of the house while the bed frame is mint green. I should have requested a finish sample from the bed manufacturer but it looked so perfectly baby blue in the photos online that I thought it would be fine.
Secondly, our original nightstand for this space fell victim to our movers being stronger than they thought. One of them was dropped and had some damage that was far to gone to be repaired. These were a pair of nightstands so even though only one was broken, we now needed two matching replacements ASAP. I found two little white nightstands in our design storage warehouse. They work just fine for this space when viewed as an individual bedroom, but they are too mid-centruy for the rest of the house. I still think this is a super cute and playful girls bedroom, and I like it as a stand alone bedroom. I just wish it meshed better with the rest of the house.Some mistakes you just have to live with, but it does’t mean I have to like it.
While we are talking about the problems in the bedrooms of this house- Lets talk about white paint. NOT ALL WHITE IS CREATED EQUAL. I learned this the hard way here, guys.
Its sort of hard to tell from the photo (iPhone, sorry!) but the paint color turned out way too cool and was slightly blue in the daylight. The paint I used was Sherwin Williams SW7007 Ceiling Bright White. This is still a great color but not for the warm tones of this room. Can you see how the creamy white drapery and the stripes in the bedding look dirty next to the bright cool paint? I wish I had gone with Sherwin Williams SW 7002 Downy or Sherwin Williams SW7012 Creamy instead. They are both warmer whites that boarder on the line of cream/beige. Hindsight is 20/20 my friends. We did a fun paint stripe to look like baseball stitching in this bedroom. It would have been to expensive to have them repaint this to another white, so it remained the same. Not a huge deal, but from now on, I will be very careful of the undertones in white paint.
Another big lesson I learned in this house was bulkheads. Always consider bulkheads into he design layouts. Now, if this is your own home and you live there, you probably know where bulkheads are in your house and will never run into this problem. However, as a designer I am almost never see the space fully ready until installation day. I had over a full set of deign plans to the construction team to complete the house including flooring, paint and electrical. I’ll do a walk of the house right after its been framed, just to make sure there is no major changes (builder like to move walls without telling you sometimes). Other than that, I am seeing the house finished the same day I am installing furniture. With this house, I wanted to do a fun little moment above a kids desk area in the basement of the home. I wanted to stagger a few pendants to hang at different heights to create the look of a chandelier for about half the cost. Little did I know that a bulkhead was placed directly where two of my pendants would hang. It ended up being okay. While the illusion that they are a chandelier is gone, I still got a pretty staggered effect. While this turned out to be fine, I’ve learned to double check where bulkheads are in the house before designing to avoid problems in future designs. I just feel lucky that my bookshelves weren’t one shelf higher!
The last thing that went a little wrong in this model was the playroom. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE this concept for a playroom. I just wish I added a little bit more, or changed the scale. Scale in design is a hard thing to get right. Sometimes it takes a bit to play with things, or switch items out until it feels right. To me, the stage is a bit too large, or the kid sized furniture is a bit too small. I wish I had used bigger, more comfortable chairs or bean bags as the “audience” seats. I also wish that I had ditched the table and chairs on the stage and gone for something more playful like a microphone or painted the wall behind the stage a different color. Models are hard because we don’t have the luxury to really go back and switch items out until it is just right. Its kind of a one shot gig. Overall, I guess what I am trying to say is- shit happens. Things don’t go to plan. Projects turn into nightmares. Designing a perfect house takes time and a ton of patience. Don’t be fooled by blogs and model homes that look like Martha Stewart is the live-in maid, it takes a lot of work to get there. Learning from your mistakes is part of the path to get there. Trust me, I will never forget to order area rugs for a job ever again! A home takes a lot of time, and adding layers to it is what makes a design great.
Check out some of my other (less painful) model home designs and professional work here!
What design mistakes have you made? Did you have a project go wrong or a DIY fail? Don’t leave me hanging out in mistake land by myself, leave me a comment and let me know what you would have done differently! Stay in touch with me over on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. I love hearing from you!