Friday, February 26, 2010

A Suite Retreat

There are advantages to working with all forms of housing - I get to see the best of all worlds. There are things that site-built homes do well, there is the efficiency of factory built and modular gives you the best of all types of construction. With all of the changes going on in our industry I'm always looking for a company to refer people to, and today I had the chance to find out what Champion Homes of Texas is up to.
The first thing that impressed me is that when you call their office a real person picks up the phone. I hate the "for xyx dial 123" answering systems -by the time I get through to someone I forgot why I called! They seem very in tune to customer service and these little touches can make all the difference.I went out to their Burleson Texas plant to see what was new, and I can't give away all of the details but there are very exciting times ahead for Champion. They have great people in place that are going to take the company to the head of the class. Their customers love them, they understand and listen to their buyers and they have done some very innovative concepts, including the "Suite Retreat". Everyone talks about doing a luxurious spa bath, but Champion is delivering it. With a fireplace, glass surround shower, and plantation shutters being included, this is a room that has the "wow" feature that customers are looking for. I got to merchandise a few homes with this retreat for Young's Factory Built Homes and they are even more beautiful in person.
If you are looking for a new approach to modular housing, check out what Champion has to offer - you won't be disappointed - tell them the Lifestylist sent you!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm Feeling Blue

The Preserve

Bedroom Before

Bedroom After

Bath with Target Accessories
Earlier this year Pantone named blue, or turquoise to be exact the color of the year. I'm wondering if the winter Olympic committee had consulted with them because blue is definitely a color we are seeing a lot of as we watch the winter games. I love the shades of blue and green that were chosen for the Olympics -it just goes to show how much of a difference the right colors can make in the appearance of an event, branding campaign or even a room. Using navy vs. aqua on a wall makes all the difference, even though they are both blue.
@home Builders hired The Home Idea Factory to merchandise a new model for them, and shades of blue were used in various rooms. This home was around the corner from the previous model which was in different colors, but the challenge was to use as much from the old model in the new one to keep costs down. Everything from the old bedroom was recycled in the new one but we added new bedding and headboards. The kids bath was merchandised with accessories from Target that were on trend and budget conscious. Buyers could actually go out and buy the items they saw and fell in love with in the model home. This new model home has character and personality and lookers became buyers - a community which only sold a few homes a year had 8 sales in snowy November and they now have a waiting list for the next phase.
Color  can affect your mood, and happy colors create happy customers.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Being a Good Neighbor

As a Lifestylist, giving back is something I really believe in. I was in a board meeting the other day at HomeAid and was hearing about a special project that some of our board members did for an injured veteran. To them helping others isn't about "getting credit" it's just the right thing to do.
I found this quote on the Rent-A-Center Community page: "At the crossroads of sharing, caring and compassion is Community. It's a place where people come together with a common goal, to contribute resources and ideas in uncommonly generous and inspired ways. In a Community, compassion just comes with the territory whether that territory's a small town, a big city, or a gathering spot that's borders are only virtual. A Community is a place where no one is meant to go without and everyone belongs"
Rent-A-Center is very much this way, and I'm just beginning to find out how much so. When I travel coast to coast I've seen their stores and they are often in my neighborhood delivering. I've also seen their ads with their new spokesperson Troy Aikman so they were on my radar - great service and lots of value. But when I really took notice is when HomeAid needed some help and Rent-A-Center was the first to step up. And they are the strong silent type - not asking for their logos everywhere or even a mention - just doing it because it's the right thing to do. When a project was having problems keeping the utilities on because the homeowner couldn't afford the bill I saw someone with Rent-A-Center take the needed funds from his own pocket and help out without a word being said.
That intrigued me enough to do some research and I am blown away with how much Rent-A-Center gives back. Besides being a sponsor for the HomeAid Fairway to Haven Golf tournament, they also are very active with Feeding America, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, have their own Make a Difference Scholarship program and much more. Check out their RACommunity page for details on how they get involved on a national level and in the neighborhoods they are a part of.
Being a good neighbor is about doing the right thing no matter how large or small (or random) that act of kindness might be. If we all just did one small thing for a neighbor or a complete stranger every day, think about what a different place the world could be!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Building a Community

As an industry we have done a remarkable job of designing a product that consumers need, but what I am seeing is most consumers don't know we offer that product. The stereotypes of "trailers", "mobile homes" and "sales lots" drive away many people who could really benefit from what we do. This includes everything from the most affordable housing to amazing estates we all would love to live in. There has always been a lot of talk about doing an image campaign (and the cost) but maybe this is an idea who's time has come by taking a different approach.
I've never been very good at doing what everyone else does - that's why I became a Lifestylist instead of a traditional designer or merchandiser. Consumers want more than just a decorated house - they want a home that reflects their lifestyle. This takes a little more time and research but it shouldn't cost anymore - it might even cost less. I also really believe in spreading the word about the great things my clients are doing as well as talking about trends and ideas that can help everyone. I don't charge my clients for this -  I consider it a service and part of my cost of doing business. I also go to trade shows, events and do work in the site built industry so I can bring back more than "what we've always done" as an industry.
This week I got invited to a meeting of the Social Media Club of Dallas. In a few hours I met some amazing new people who I was able to share the message of factory built housing to and they shared with me the importance of social media. Social media by definition is the various online technology tools that enable people to communicate easily via the internet to share information and resources. Social media can include text, audio, video, images, podcasts, and other multimedia communications. These include Twitter, Facebook,YouTube, FourSquare and blogs. For $20 (which included dinner) I learned what to expect from these groups and how to make them work for myself and my clients. They shared case studies that had mind boggling results.
What really made an impression is how easy and cost effective it could be if the members of our community came together and started using social media to promote our industry. There would be minimal or no cost and think about what could happen if every person who benefits from being in our industry got on Facebook or Twitter and started telling the world what a great product we provide. Is this the ultimate answer to change our image? With technology changing as quickly as it does it might be the solution we have been looking for. At least we would be doing something and getting our community connected.
Tony Kovach has done an amazing job in a short period of time sharing the message and bringing the community together with his Manufactured Home Marketing Sales Management site. It is always full of great information and he is always updating what is there and keeping the message current. And I think his idea of having a Virtual Louisville Show is right on trend. I attended most of our traditional shows for the past 8 years and the last two have been painful as far as attendance and sales. We designed some beautiful homes but it was like having a party and no one came. What a great opportunity for the factory built industry with a virtual show to take back our place in the market as an innovative, cost effective and green way to build. I know I'll be attending this virtual show and will also be tweeting and blogging about it.
Let's get this party started and get connected. You can find me at:
Twitter: @homeideafactory
Facebook: (or search LifestylistDesign)
See you at the show!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Falling in Love

Using color is one of the least expensive, most terrifying but also most rewarding ways to change a room. When I'm designing a new model home most builders will encourage me to use memorable colors, but when they first paint the room and see it without any accessories or furniture I often get a call wondering if they have the right information.
These rooms are a perfect example. You can imagine the call the builder got from the superintendent the first time they saw these! This is a model for Canoa Homes in Tucson, and they trusted me enough to wait and see what happened. This is also a great example of designing for your buyer, not yourself - we were targeting families with school age children. A Lifestylist targets in on what the buyer is really looking for, even when they may not realize it themselves.Once we had a few families go through the home we found that almost every female from 2 - 50 wanted that room with those paint colors. It was something the buyer might not have been brave enough to try on their own, but when they saw it completed they loved it.
This is also a great example of Partnership Merchandising. The Home Idea Factory had a great relationship with Home Interiors and Gifts - a direct sell company that we had done styling and product development with. Many of the accessories and "wallies" - the decals on the bath wall - we theirs and we identified them as such so buyers could reproduce what they saw in the room at a price they could afford. The bedding was from Bombay and the furniture from Ashley so all could be bought at local stores or from a Home Interiors and Gifts consultant.
Let your child have a say in what they want their room to look like. It might not be a color you would chose or a style you would like but by letting them be a part of the decorating decision they'll take ownership of their decisions and be even more proud of what they accomplished.
Happy Valentines Day from all of us at The Home Idea Factory!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Night Lights

What a crazy week in Dallas! This town is all about the NBA All Star Game which is this weekend, but mother nature decided to steal the show and dusted us with over a ft. of snow!

The is the largest amount we ever had so we decided to take advantage of it and declared a snow day. The Lifestylists were all out playing in it trying to outdo each other with snowball fights and snow sculptures and when it got dark out I realized I had the opportunity of a lifetime to get some really unique shots of the Home Idea Factory. Fortunately I share the factory with the very talented Lisa Stewart of L.a.S. Photography and we headed out to see what we could find. After she used her magic and skills I love what we ended up with, and to me these really capture the personality of what The Home Idea Factory is all about - Your Life. Your Style. Your Way.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Making your Model Homes Memorable

Noted designer and retailer Alexander Julian made the following observation:
“We have to be creative about getting people into our homes and stores now. In deciding if what you offer turns them on, consumers look you over for an average of 15 seconds. In that time, you need to rock ‘em and sock‘em and give them something that moves them. And you can’t do that with anything but product that is visually stimulating and exciting.”
With the contraction of the economy, everyone is on a budget and there is a lot more thought and time spent on how they are going to spend every hard earned dollar. Consumers visiting an average of 30 model homes before they even begin to think about making a decision. What makes your models memorable and brings them back to your sales center/ community? One of the favorite models Lifestylist Design worked on was the Purple Cow model and campaign with Patriot Homes. Tying into Seth Godin’s Purple Cow book by building and merchandising something remarkable, we created a home and marketing campaign people still talk about, as well as winning a marketing award at the Nationals.
Making a model memorable doesn't have to be extreme or expensive - it just needs to be well thought out. Highlighting a local non-profit can bring interest into your home. Doing a room that displays materials from the local Boy Scout troop, a gymnastics team or the aquatic center that is part of the planned community you are building in can give the buyer a memory point to make them remember your model above the rest.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Window Dressings

Window treatments are something that is needed in every home, but few people know where to find the right treatments for their needs at a cost that they can afford.
Great news! This is a design area that had become much more affordable in the past few years, and now you can get beautiful treatments without breaking the bank. One of my favorite sources is Country Curtains. The name is deceiving - much of what they offer really isn't "country" but styles that would fit in any decor. their fabrics and colors are also very on-trend and I've used them in many of the model home interiors that I've done recently as well as the Homearama House for @home Builders in Rochester, NY. They have stores around the country, but you can also purchase them on their website or from their catalog. One of the services that help take the guesswork out of finding the right treatment for your home is that they will send you swatches of the actual fabrics at no charge, and they also offer suggestions of Sherwin Williams paints that coordinate.
JC Penney is another favorite, and you can't beat the quality or price. A great service is that they use different color pallettes every season and you can find coordinating linens, towels, bath accessories - you name it - that making your decorating decisions stress free.
Whatever your price range or style is, now you can do it your self from the comfort of your new home.

Lifestylist Articles Published on MH Marketing Sales Management

This year has started off as a busy editorial one -we had our Design Trends article published, then our answers to the Design Trends 2010 survey, and now we will have a new article published as of Wednesday on merchandising your model homes! There's lots of information that can help the smallest to the largest builder, retailer, and developer - be sure to check it out. Lifestylist Suzanne Felber loves sharing all of the things she see when she travels across the country so be sure to check in often and see what's new.