Last week, I shared our whole-home design inspiration for the new construction home. This week, it’s all about what we actually chose (and why) at the design center, and I’m going to take you through it room by room. I know I’ve alluded to some issues with the builder and we are still working to get it resolved, but I’ve decided to go full steam ahead with the house posts because closing day is coming closer if we manage to get things (somewhat) resolved. Which I hope we do, because I’m loving the inside design even if the outside breaks my heart.
I have to admit, before building I thought making the design choices for a new construction home ranked up there with “eating endless cupcakes and never gaining weight” and “being able to take a four hour nap in a cabana on the beach while being fanned with palm fronds and spritzed with rose scented water.” In other words, I never thought it would happen, and when it did, I believed it would be a dream come true.
Turns out, making whole house design selections for a new construction home is more challenging than anticipated: especially when there’s no model to view, the builder’s selections are more traditional than your tastes, and both you and your spouse are famous for being indecisive. Even choosing a restaurant for dinner takes days of preparation, let alone a massive investment like a new home. In other words, the experience was like a whole bunch of ‘nope’ on both our parts.
We settled on a Modern Hamptons Farmhouse style , but when we visited the design center realized it was more geared toward traditional style choices. This should work out well.
We made it work. Eventually. And with several changes along the way. Now that we are past the framing and drywall stages and are actually getting to see these choices installed, the building process is getting exciting! Play by play, room by room, here’s what we chose for our whole home design. If you missed it, here’s where we chronicled how we saved money on the structural choices– just remember to come back and check out the finishing touches afterwards.
Almost the entire first floor is hardwood floors, with the exception of the office and guest room. We decided to carpet those to save money, and if we want to add in hardwoods later it wouldn’t be difficult. I would say that of all the design choices, this was the second hardest. I actually wanted light gray floors, but the Level 2 choice had a yellow undertone I didn’t love. This is from a different builder’s model home, but our builder’s flooring had a yellow undertone that I didn’t think would hold its own for years to come.
The next gray-toned flooring was a level 4 upgrade which was NOT GONNA HAPPEN. Originally, I chose these dark floors and then almost instantly regretted it because knew they wouldn’t work for our style– they are too dark and knotty:
I didn’t love the distressing and irregularities– it didn’t fit with my ‘modern’ style. Plus, they are SO dark. Thankfully the builder was gracious enough to let me change the selection and after much thought I chose a sleeker hardwood (Shaw Delray Bayfront Birch) because I couldn’t find a Level 2 lighter wood that I loved. They also provide a nice contrast to the white cabinets in our kitchen and will look great with the paint colors we hope to use. This looks darker than they are in real life:
I saw a teeny piece of it installed in our kitchen and I think I’m going to love it!
The entire second floor and two rooms on the first (my office and the guest room) are carpeted. That’s what came standard and with little feet running around and an open design plan we knew this would help dull the noise. Also, it was free. My plan is to wear the heck out of the carpet, and replace it with something nicer once the kids are older. Yes, the light color (Coastal Sand) is making parents everywhere question my sanity but we have a ‘shoes off’ rule and don’t allow food upstairs so I’m hoping it will be okay in the long run (stop laughing at me.)
We did upgrade the carpeting in the master to give it more texture. My husband nixed hardwoods because they aren’t as cozy as wall-to-wall carpeting, so I convinced him to get a subtly textured design to give the room some flair and serve as the backdrop to a serene getaway. This is Shaw Instant Impact Berber in Pea Gravel.
As for door hardware, we opted for oil rubbed bronze handles throughout. It’s so easy to upgrade door handles whether you purchase new ones or paint the originals, so I didn’t sweat this decision much. Plus, I love the look of oil rubbed bronze against crisp white doors.
When it came to the staircase, many people in our community chose to upgrade the spindles from standard white to wrought iron. However, that didn’t match our ‘modern farmhouse’ look so we kept the standard spindles. Which is totally fine, because quite frankly, I love how they look with the spiral stairs. The stairs will be stained to match the hardwood floors.
The fireplace mantle was an inexpensive upgrade, and while the one we chose doesn’t scream modern, Hamptons, farmhouse, or glam it does sort of tie all four of those things together more than the other choices. Can you kinda see how they all tie in?
It comes with a slate surround which I plan to tile later with something I love. In the meantime, I think it will blend well with our style once I add curtains, paint, and some furniture!
Originally, we choice Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray as the whole-home paint color. It’s a beautiful color and was happy our builder offered it.
HOWEVER. With new construction, apparently they spray the entire home (including ceilings) with ONE COLOR so both our walls AND our ceilings would be painted Agreeable Gray. To do anything else is considered custom and was a nightmare for our budget. I took the advice of our awesome neighbor and asked for everything to be builder’s white. Now, the walls and ceiling will be sprayed a flat white and the trim semi-gloss white. Seems so much easier to start with a blank slate instead of having to paint 5,000 square feet of tan ceilings, right?!
That means I’ll have some time to go through each room, evaluate how the light hits it during various times, and choose the perfect shade one room at a time. I’m happy with this decision, and now that the drywall is up we are getting an idea of how white walls will look and our home seems filled with sunshine!
As is becoming a common theme, we didn’t like the design center lighting choices. We went with a luxury builder and I think the choices appeal to a traditional crowd. I wish there was a happy medium, so for us that balancing act was to decline most of their lighting upgrades and put in ours after closing.
The one light fixture we did upgrade through the design center was the two-story foyer light because it would be a nightmare to replace. Other than that, we’ll either do it ourselves or hire an electrician for a few hours to get it done in one fell swoop. There’s so many choices for inexpensive light fixtures online and I can’t wait to share which ones we chose!
If you’re thinking ahead for eventually reselling the house, the best place to invest your money is in the kitchen. To that end, that’s the biggest structural element we added by bumping it out structurally (see here for full details). I also knew I wanted white cabinets… actually, I wanted gray cabinets like these but they started at a level 4 pricing structure which is $$$:
I’ll reveal our full kitchen design plan soon (with hardware and lighting choices), but suffice it to say our cabinets are probably not all going to stay white. The only type of white cabinet available at the standard (free) level is a material called thermofoil– basically, very cheap stuff that’s hard to paint. So much to my husband’s chagrin we upgraded to Level 2 cabinets in order to do a painted white finish (as opposed to the Thermofoil which is more like laminate). The style is Wyoming and the color is painted linen, and they’re almost all installed! Here’s a corner of the kitchen:
And from there, I’ll choose the perfect shade or gray or navy (or lichen or whatever I’m feeling in the mood to see) and paint the island that color once everything is installed and we’ve lived with it for awhile.
The granite was the hardest decision of the entire process. I wanted a marble look without actually using marble since it’s so fussy. I fell head over heels for this pattern from Cambria, and while it’s definitely in stock with Cambria it was unfortunately discontinued by our design center:
I actually called Cambria to see if we could work something out since the pattern itself wasn’t discontinued, just unavailable at our design center. They were amazing to work with, which why it’s bittersweet that it didn’t work out. The regional manager called me himself and tried to help make it happen within our budget, his customer service blew me away! Unfortunately, with no credit from our design center to use towards it and the only option being to install the standard granite and then pay a fortune to immediately rip it out (so wasteful), getting that pattern was cost prohibitive. The Cambria was by far the hardest thing to walk away from, I am SO in love I can barely describe it in words. Basically I want to lay across that slab and make out with it (DON’T JUDGE.) Maybe I’ll win the lottery or rank up to Royal Crown Diamond with Young Living. Until then, a girl can dream.
So what did we go with? After weighing our choices, the closest to marble without being a level 7826 upgrade was the Viatera Rococo quartz. It’s more ‘squiggly’ than I wished, I love the bold veining of the Cambria, but it’s our best option. It was a level 4 upgrade which gives Casey heartburn but in the end I’d rather pay more for what we like than settle for something I’ll regret each time I see it. As the saying goes, buy what you love and you’ll only cry once.
and because I always get asked, I’ll make it easy: those leopard flats are from Sam Edelman and yes they are the most comfortable shoes ever and I wear them just about every day
Let’s talk hardware. I didn’t love any of the choices the builder offered, so instead I’ll be using hardware from Atlas Hardware and installing it myself. I’ll detail the process and reveal our final choices soon! You will SWOON they are so pretty!
The backsplash was another area in which I didn’t see anything that matches our design vision. The only thing they offered standard was square white or ivory tiles, ie McDonalds circa 1985. Even plain white subway tile was a level 5 upgrade, which blew my mind, and not in a good way. Therefore we opted to DIY the backsplash after closing. I’m waiting to see how everything comes together before making a final decision on the tile because so much will depend on the lighting and the color we paint the island. Maybe a marble herringbone if it doesn’t clash with the quartz, or some gray glass subway tiles. Stay tuned!
Appliance wise, we went with the standard choices for cooktop, oven and dishwasher. We are deep into our search for a fridge and washer/dryer, so if you have one you LOVE please comment and tell me all about it!
My husband balked (are you catching a theme here?) when I upgraded the laundry room floor, but after explaining how much time I will be spending there and offering to let him take over the chore himself he stopped pushing back. 😉 I’ve never had a laundry room, so for a few bucks it seemed like a no-brainer to add in what I love– especially since I’m going to turn one wall into a makeshift drop zone for shoes, jackets and backpacks. Here’s the floors installed this week, aren’t they lovely? They’re still wet from being wiped of grout, but they’re faux wood tiles called Emblem Gray and I swear they are my favorite part of the house.
The room itself is much smaller than what I was hoping even though we paid extra to expand it, but since I’ve literally never had one before, it’s my biggest laundry room to date so I’m not going to complain. Perhaps in the future we can bump it out sideways if the footprint of our lot permits it.
We also opted out of cabinets because they were ridiculously expensive. Better to buy that post-sale at a big box store or even Habitat Restore and do it ourselves.
You guys. I CAN’T EVEN with the master bathroom. It wasn’t our desire to have one so large but we’re not complaining. Because we added on an extra garage underneath, the bathroom was pushed out even more and we now have two walk-in closets and a vanity area! Which is why when it came time to chose the tile, I didn’t want to compromise. This would be pricey to renovate and the bathroom is a showstopper so we decided to invest in it now instead of later.
For the flooring, we chose this long gray tile called Linden Point Grigio:
PS- those Hunter boots are LEGIT. I’ve sunk ankle deep in them walking around the construction site. Which I keep showing my husband to prove they WERE worth the price!
Since the shower is encased in glass and the tile will be seen since there’s no shower curtain, we went with Florentine Carrera tile for the walls and Keystones Desert Gray for the shower floors. EEEK, I am loving how it looks!
This was the only room in which we upgraded the faucets because it’s pricey to replace this specific type after closing. Despite my love for oil rubbed bronze, I went with chrome for the sheer fact it complements our tile choices better. Here’s a peek at the tub, minus the fixtures.
We chose not to upgrade the cabinets, which I somewhat regret but truthfully it’s not too expensive should we replace them later. They are a thermofoil material, which as I mentioned is tough but not impossible to paint. In our kitchen I never would attempt it because the space is so huge (and painting thermofoil often involves removing it completely with a heating element) but I’ll attempt it when I’m ready. I’m guessing they’ll eventually end up in lichen (gray/green.)
To save money, we opted for cultured marble countertops over granite. There’s a trick to making the cultured marble countertops look more high end though, and I’m excited to share it! We paid a little extra to get it in matte as opposed to gloss which looks more natural. We also added a thick ogee edge and square bowls to give it a higher-end look. Here’s the sample from the design center:
And when I peeked in our house on Friday they were in! I’m thrilled to report they feel like real marble for thousands of dollars less and none of the upkeep of marble.
For the kids’ bathrooms, we put our money towards the tile on the bathroom floor since that’s what you see, and did standard (free) white tile in the shower because those will be covered with shower curtains. The bathrooms are similar with subtle differences.
Ben’s bathroom is the color scheme below and I believe Abby’s had a grayer toned tile:
The downstairs bath is the only one on the first floor and also doubles as our guest bathroom. The biggest consideration here was that my mom needs a step-in shower so we upgraded that in lieu of a bathtub/shower combo. Since it will be seen by pretty much everyone who visits, we invested more here. We upgraded the vanity to an expresso color with oil rubbed bronze faucets, and the floor tile is Exquisite Silverstone. I struggled with the decision, but in the end we did the standard white shower wall tiles instead of something fancier. I think it will be a nice backdrop for the patterned floor, but if I hate it, we can re-do it after closing. Here’s how it looked last week as they were installing the floor!
I bungled this one big time. The exterior choices were offered our very last meeting (it was meeting #6 in four days, to give you an idea of our level of enthusiasm at this point) and we chose it in 15 minutes because the kids were D-O-N-E. Since the community was brand new, we couldn’t view any actual home exteriors to see what the combos looked like in real life. Instead of a computer model, choosing the exterior involved propping up a photo of what the front of the house looks like and then placing the samples around it to try to envision what it looks like if you superimposed those choices on top.
YIKES. I’m going to wait to share photos until I can make sure they don’t accidentally reveal our address. Not that I don’t trust the internet, but… 😉
We had no idea what it would look like on the sides or back, and you couldn’t custom choose your combinations. In other words, we HAD to choose one of the plans exactly and couldn’t pick and choose your color combos. I wanted tan siding with white trim, white garage, and black shutters– just like the photo. However they didn’t HAVE that (classic) combo, so in a rush I apparently chose the one with tan siding in the front, white on the sides (ugh! why two colors?!) and light tan trim and garage doors (double ugh! I hate tan trim!) I’m not sure what I was thinking, it was a moment of temporary insanity that I’m going to have to live with for awhile. We plan to paint the siding and trim at some point because it makes me absolutely cringe, but as you probably have guessed that’s a huge expense for something I should have chosen better to begin with.
Our builder actually started to put up the wrong siding color in the front (white horizontal siding, to be exact) but thankfully I had my original brochure to show that we didn’t sign up for that. One thing I’ve learned from this experience is it’s essential to have proof, so if keep that in mind if/when you ever build a home– get everything in writing and communicate via email whenever possible!
For those who thought this was TL;DR (too long and didn’t read), here’s the summary:
DESIGN CENTER UPGRADES:
- kitchen cabinets
- bathroom and laundry room tile
- hardwood floors
- carpeting in the master bedroom
- fireplace mantel
- quartz countertops
- kitchen backsplash tile
- kitchen hardware
- bathroom faucets
- adding on a porch (didn’t talk about it here, but that’s the plan)
- laundry cabinets
- the white bathroom vanities
- painting the kitchen island
- maybe paint exterior and garage doors if we can afford it
- upstairs carpeting
- stairway spindles
- the dark bathroom vanities
Overall, I think the choices we made were good work-arounds for the challenges we faced. I’m thankful our builder was gracious enough to allow me to make some last minute changes, and when we didn’t find what we were looking for were able to upgrade after closing with the brands we choose. There’s a lot more work to be done after closing, which I wasn’t anticipating with new construction, but we’ll be starting with a blank slate so for the most part it’ll be easier.
Hopefully this doesn’t sound like a negative post, truly we are extremely grateful for this experience. However we’ll soon be 3 months behind the date we were originally told we’d close, and something happened that greatly altered our lot so the entire family is feeling discouraged and exhausted with dealing with it all. Seeing these choices get installed is helping, and I’m praying everything can be resolved because we sure would love to be in a home and have a yard again. Love to you all, and let me know what you think about the design choices!
Read the entire Building Up series about building a new construction home from the ground up here:
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