The rise of the design centre

No matter how many magazines you’ve drooled over or how many blogs or webpages you’ve stared at for hours on end, nothing quite replaces the ‘touch and feel’ experience. And that’s without taking into account the copious number of photos you’ve stored on Pinterest boards and pages of notes you may have assembled during your new-home journey.

Considering that most new-home buyers are confronted with about 100 home styling decisions that will affect the overall look of their home, it makes sense to see your choices in person, as well as having an expert helping hand or two. These selections may include the facade (bricks or Hebel, roof tiles or Colorbond, render, tiles or stone), garage door, liveability (insulation, soundproofing, ventilation, solar panels), floors (tiles, timber, laminate, carpet), internal decor (walls, doors, trims – architraves, cornices, skirting boards), electrical and lighting, bathrooms (basins, tapware, bath), kitchen and laundry (benchtops, cabinets, handles, splashback), wardrobes and window furnishings. And that’s only the beginning!

For this reason most builders have a design or display centre for selecting colour, decor and products. Among many others, Dennis Family Homes has its Colour Room, JG King has its Colour Selection Studio, Burbank Homes has its Edge Selection Studio, Carlisle Homes has Spectra, and Metricon has Studio M. But the big daddy of them all is Porter Davis’s World of Style in South Melbourne – the country’s biggest and most comprehensive display centre that stretches over 2000sq m of floor space.

Opened in July 2014 in a former mechanical warehouse, the gallery-like World of Style is “designed to engage your senses, excite you with the possibilities, give you real-time quotes and plenty to explore. This is your opportunity to surround yourself in interior design – where you can touch it, feel it, see it and live it”. Marketing manager Erin Field said clients were asked to identify their design style (Classic, Resort, Contemporary and Designer) in an interactive quiz ( to avoid “decision paralysis” before attending their appointments. Interestingly, Field said the majority of clients opted for Classic. “People know what they like, but coming in here can bring to life the pictures in people’s heads,” Field said. 

She recommended clients come to the centre at least twice before their official appointments were conducted. Anyone is free to attend for inspiration, and if you are the indecisive type, bring your partner or an interested friend along to help steer you in the right direction. “Your home is the ultimate expression of who you are, so it make sense to take the time to ensure that it does reflect the real you,” Field explains. “And if you can’t choose, our team of passionate interior designers are here to make the decisions easier.”

For example, staff from Kitchen Culture can discuss cabinet finishes and configuration, Argus staff are on hand for home automation and security advice, Birk Solutions assists with window furnishings, National Tiles helps with flooring, and Crystal provides wardrobe advice. Other builders also have specialist firms and suppliers on hand for quality advice.

Selections for single-storey homes typically require one day, while consultations for a double-storey design take two days. Within that, appointments are made for each section of the home (i.e. a two-hour slot for kitchen consultation, one hour for lighting, etc). Given the long time periods involved, it’s best to arrange for someone to mind your children so the focus can be on the task at hand. But if you’re only popping in briefly, there are usually designated play areas for kids.

In most cases of selection, it’s a matter of keeping things simple. The No.1 consideration throughout the process should be sticking to your budget, as it can be easy to get caught up in the emotion of bringing your dream to reality.

American builder Shea Homes says buyers should rank the importance of rooms (kitchen, living room, bedroom, dining room, bathrooms or others) and factor in their lifestyle (have kids or pets, love cooking, primary residence, empty nester, etc) when prioritising decisions. The firm’s design counsellor Jaclyn Burrage said knowing what to prioritise can make the experience easier, as it often leads to a domino effect of decisions being made.

“Some people may think to themselves. ‘I spend a lot of time cooking, so I definitely want a killer kitchen that has high-end appliances and countertops,” she said. “A young couple with children and a large dog may not end up happy with a high-gloss hardwood floor as it will show scratches far more prominently than a highly distressed hardwood floor. And if they spend a lot of time in the kitchen, we may suggest more resilient alternatives that are softer underfoot than a ceramic tile or stone.”

Thankfully, technology is our friend and many builders have online tools to help you with selections. Beforehand, determine the standard inclusions and potential upgrades with your sales consultant. If possible, think ahead to five or 10 years down the track and set up the wiring for networking or home automation now, even if the budget doesn’t allow for your grand plans to be implemented right away. The choice is yours, and the possibilities are endless. Good luck!

Words: Ross McGravie

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