Currently in the process of building a new home? Congratulations! This is an exciting time. The freedom to choose finishes and design details is what draws many people to a new build. But at the same time, anyone who has stepped foot into a design center knows how overwhelming it can be. Where should you upgrade and where should you stick with the builder standard? What should you choose up front versus put off until after you’ve moved in?
I’ve helped many clients navigate these tricky questions and many more at the design center. Here are some of my biggest design center do’s and don’ts to help you through the process.
DO Establish a (Reasonable) Budget
Once you have a very good idea of what your builder includes and doesn’t, draw up a wish list and a reasonable budget that will cover it. (Hint: It’s not reasonable to want to upgrade the whole house to hardwood floors but only budget $1000!)
One thing to keep in mind is that $5000 in upgrades will not add a huge amount to your monthly mortgage cost. So I say go for what you love! Just keep in mind the advice below regarding what to prioritize now versus later.
DO Spend Money on Cabinets, Floors, and Countertops
The three big ticket items that you want to get right the first time are cabinetry, wood floors, and countertops. These are all a hassle to replace later on, and picking the ones you really like up front will mean years of enjoyment.
Cabinets: When possible, opt for cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling. This allows you to avoid that weird dead space above the cabinets and to maximize your storage space. Shaker-style cabinets are very “now,” as are shades of white, grey, blue, and green. Also think about adding custom features like pullout drawers for pots and pans, holders for recycling and garbage bins, and racks for spices and canned goods. If you’re dying to try out the open-shelving trend, I advise doing a mix of some open shelving and some cabinets with doors so that you have somewhere to stash those plastic sippy cups and mismatched mugs.
Wood Floors: Even when builders say that wood floors are “standard,” they might not mean through the whole first floor. To avoid a big headache later on when it comes to matching woods and pulling out carpet, I recommend getting the wood floor you like in all the places you want. There are several different types of wood floors to consider, so be sure to have your design center consultant explain the pros and cons of each.
Countertops: When your budget is tight, I recommend going with your ideal countertop but waiting on a backsplash. This means NOT doing the 4” countertop backsplash that builders often push (and sometimes require). The 4” backsplash will just make it more difficult for a tile installer to put in a backsplash later on.
DON’T Worry about Carpet, Paint, and Lighting
Carpet: The standard builder carpet is usually pretty bad, but if you want to save some money at the design center, skip the carpet upgrade. Carpet is easy to replace in a few years.
Paint: For paint, pick a good neutral to be used throughout the house. Some builders offer great standard paint colors and some don’t—it’s definitely worth upgrading to a color you love if you are going to paint your entire house that color. But don’t worry about accent colors in specific rooms. You can tackle rooms one at a time if necessary. I tell my clients to take some time living in their home before deciding on an overall palette.
Lighting: Add recessed can lighting during the building process, but all decorative lighting can be saved for later. Again, spending some time in the home will give you a better sense of lighting needs and your specific aesthetic.
I help my clients through questions like this and many more. If you’re ready to hire an interior designer, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-261-4662.