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How to Use Show Houses to Boost Your Interior Design Business

(Image credit: https://www.instagram.com/p/ClmgEFbOjRt/ @kbshowhouse Site of the Annual Kips Bay Show House in Palm Beach)

In our recent posts on
continuing education and networking tips for interior designers, we listed show houses as a fun and fruitful way to make new contacts and get exposure for your interior design business. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the different ways show houses can help you learn, network, and raise your profile in the industry.

An Overview of How You Can Participate in Show Houses 

Some show houses have an application process where designers submit their portfolio along with additional materials to be considered and are then selected by a board. Other show houses, particularly ones sponsored by publications, invite specific designers; usually ones they have featured in their past editorials. 

You can even tour the show house and introduce yourself to as many of the designers and other attendees as possible. This can serve as an excellent networking opportunity to meet important people in the industry and remain on their radar for future show house opportunities. 

Four Ways to Participate in Show Houses 

  • Participate as a Featured Designer

Once you’ve been selected to design a room or an entire show house, it’s the perfect opportunity to capitalize on your strengths as an interior designer. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/ByTFlsxAoWh/
(Richard Rabel Interiors entryway design for the Kips Bay New York Show House 2019)

 

Other than the excellent networking opportunities, show houses are usually the one place designers have no constraints, other than what they can procure and install within the turnaround time. This allows them to promote themselves exactly as they’d like, offering an optimal first impression to future clients and colleagues and to be as creative as they desire.

Design to Complement a Specific Place

https://www.instagram.com/p/CSxFerhDcha/?hl=en
( 'Le Petit' Kitchen by DMA for the 2019 San Francisco Decorator’s Show House)

 

Show houses are usually held in the same location every year. If the designer has frequented past show house gatherings, they will have time and insight on how they can best capitalize on special characteristics of the place. Having the extra time allows designers to maximize the depths of their creativity. 

And a Specific Space:

https://www.instagram.com/p/COBbTWDgi83/
(Nicole White Designs Interiors at the Kips Bay Palm Beach Show House 2021)


For example, here Nicole White shows how she turned what might be considered a less desirable room into a showcase: a closet. But because of her insights into the space, and of course, talent, she was able to turn a mundane space  into a fantastical, dream-like show stopper. 

  • Attend as a Guest
    If you’re not a designer for the show house, you can still use these opportunities to build your career and client roster by attending as a guest. In addition to the networking opportunities, you'll also learn new and innovative techniques and designs, and hopefully become inspired by the creativity of your peers. 

  • Buy Tickets to Panels and Mini-Events

https://www.instagram.com/p/CFxZelVJ14b/
(Pizza tasting event at the Kips Bay Dallas Show House 2020)


In addition to buying general tickets for the house tours, you can often buy tickets for panels that take place during show house hours, as well as mini-events, such as food and wine tastings. These offer opportunities to learn and network at the same time.

  • Score Invites to the Pre- and Post- Receptions

https://www.instagram.com/p/CZhmtrUPQs1/?hl=en
(Empty House Party at the Pasadena Showcase House, an annual pre-showcase event)


Most of the large show houses have large receptions at different points throughout the life of each annual showcase. With hundreds of attendees, it’s relatively simple to get on the guest list through your local contacts. If you don’t have a personal reference, call the organizers and ask to be invited! You will have a great time meeting new contacts and immersing yourself in the atmosphere of the show house vibe. 

Why Designing a Show House Is Essential for Your Design Business

As you can see, show houses offer so many opportunities and different ways to elevate your interior design business. Attending, and one day being featured, should be high up on your priority list. 

Get Access to the Ultimate Insider Networking

https://www.instagram.com/p/CfKUb_9v8Fk/?hl=en
(Designers featured in the Brooklyn Show House 2022 showcase)


Designing a showroom or house is ideal for building a network, no matter where you are in your career. While working alongside other designers during the show house process, it’s common to make lifelong connections which can further the expansion of your business. These new friends will become your core network. 

If you’re more advanced in your career and have a solid network, it’s still an excellent time to meet new people to broaden your book of business and you can show off different elements of your creativity. And, as you become a more well-known and trusted designer, you will be asked to participate in the biggest design competitions and shows across the country.

While the biggest show houses are on the east and west coasts, there are dozens of regional show houses where you can get started. While your schedule as an interior designer is always busy, making time for show houses is worth the reward.

Margot LaScala
Margot LaScala
Margot is a writer and interior designer based in the NYC area. She is passionate about keeping up with the latest architecture and design news to not only stay informed, but inspired.

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