Design Tips from a Model Home Designer

Wondering how to style your new home? The model homes at The Village of Escaya are a great source of design inspiration. We talked to Jeff Cooley, Design Director of CDC Designs—the Orange County-based firm that gave the Shea Homes’ Sierra collection models their distinctive look—to get a few tips. Jeff gave us the inside scoop on how to get the most out of a space; creating a harmonious flow between indoors and out; and a few current trends he’s excited about. Here’s what he had to say.

Open Up

Open-concept floorplans, available at many of the homes in The Village of Escaya, can be intimidating. Where does the sofa go? “We’ll break the room up into zones,” says Jeff, who likes to use area rugs and bound carpets to define separate spaces (a bound carpet is broad loom carpet cut to size with its edges finished, something a carpet retailer can do for you). “That helps define the space and say, ‘This is the dining room or the living room.’ It adds warmth as well. You want something soft and cozy under your feet when you’re sitting on the sofa.”

Interior design of living room at Escaya community

Pattern Play

While Jeff veers toward neutral colors for bound carpets in the living room space, to define the dining room, it’s all about area rugs, “With more color and more pattern,” says Jeff.  “Something that pops.” Accent walls are another place to wow with color, pattern and texture. In Sierra Residence Three, Jeff used graphic grass-cloth to create a show-stopping living room wall. Behind the wall-mounted flat-screen TV and a floating cabinet, ripples of inky blue dance across a creamy background. “It’s really pretty and just set the tone for the entire house,” says Jeff.

Making Space

Everyone wants their home to look bigger and more spacious. Jeff’s got a tip for that. “We typically run the hard surface flooring throughout all the main rooms,” he says. “It creates cohesion between the living room, dining room, kitchen and entryway.” And, to your eye, the uninterrupted flooring makes the entire space seem bigger.

Smart Storage

Jeff is the first to admit that model homes don’t face all the same challenges as actual residences. “Merchandising a model home is about suggesting how you would live there,” he says. “But we don’t have to worry about where all of life’s stuff goes.” That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have great tips. “Look for furniture that does double duty,” says Jeff. “Under-bed storage is wonderful, like a platform-style bed with drawers underneath.” And in kids’ rooms, in place of night stands, Jeff favors large chests next to the bed. “It looks great, and you can store a child’s entire wardrobe in a 30” chest of drawers.” Then, in the living room, a game room or at the foot of the bed in a master bedroom, try an ottoman that opens up. “That’s a great place to store games, media equipment, pillows, blankets…,” says Jeff. “Anything you want to tuck away.”

Bathroom design of Escaya home

Spa La La

For the model homes at Sierra, Jeff used tile in the master bathrooms to create a serene scene reminiscent of a high-end spa. “In Residence Two, we used porcelain tile with a marble-look in the shower, and then ran that same material around three walls to give that luxurious feel,” he says, noting that marble-look porcelain tile is easy on the budget while still looking expensive.

Indoor-Outdoor Space at Escaya Community

Let It Flow

“The interior/exterior relationship has become a huge trend overall,” Jeff says, highlighting a design element showcased at many homes in The Village of Escaya, where outdoor living is a way of life. “As much as possible, you want the transition to be seamless. Builders are doing that with things like multi-panel sliding doors to combine indoor and outdoor spaces. Designers work with color palettes and hard surface flooring materials.” To create a harmonious flow from the inside, out, Jeff turns to tile or stone in similar tones as the indoor flooring. “Then, we coordinate the outside design with the home’s colors, styles and fabrics.” Even in small spaces, the trick works. Sierra features side yards, so for Residence Two, Jeff worked with the project’s landscape architect to create an elegant privacy screen that wouldn’t be out-of-place indoors. A table setting with cushions in on-trend millennial pink completes the look.

What’s Next?

“We try not to get too trendy when we’re creating a look for a home,” says Jeff. “You want the rooms to have longevity and life.” That being said, he’s keen on a couple of trends on the horizon. “Velvet’s making a comeback,” he says. “I’m keeping an eye on it. And I’m hearing that deep, rich jewel tones are going to be big in the coming year. That will be exciting, because for the last few years, everything has been very grayed out.” Some fun ideas to play with! And there’s a home at The Village of Escaya ready to welcome you, your family, and your design inspiration. Visit the models at The Village of Escaya soon and start dreaming.