Building a new home is an exciting (albeit stressful) experience, and with so many choices to make, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
We had a pretty great experience building our new home, so I thought I would share some things I found to be helpful when going through the process.
I will add the disclaimer that our builder was very flexible and that is definitely not the norm from what I’ve heard from friends who have also gone through this process. What I will say though is that’s it’s always worth asking— after all, the worst you can hear is “no.”
If you’re building or considering building, read on!
Editing Your Floor Plan
If you buy before construction begins, like we did, you may have the opportunity to make revisions to your floor plan. We were fortunate to see a finished model of the home we purchased and we realized there were some minor changes that would make the house even better.
One change we made to our floor plan was to remove a closet next to the powder room on our main level. This allowed us to extend our office by at least four feet and to get rid of a closet we didn’t need that was in an impractical location.
| gold shelf- buy it here |
We also requested that the large window in our living room (in the picture below) be moved about three feet to the left to make more room to space our furniture without it obstructing that window (there was very little wall space before that window was moved and it would have limited our living space arrangement). Little tweaks like this can make a big difference in the flow of your home, especially if you have an open floor plan like ours. If you don’t have the opportunity to see a model of your home, carefully review the floor plan to see if there are any spaces that could benefit from a small tweak.
Making Your Home Work for Your Family
One of the benefits of building is that you can really think about how you’ll live in your home and make small changes based on your family’s needs. You can also reflect on what you wish you had in your previous home that you might be able to make happen in your new space.
Some changes I made include:
Having the carpenter install extra shelving around the perimeter of our master closet for storage and specifying the spacing of the shelves that hold my shoes. In the model, the shelves were spaced quite widely apart— to maximize the amount of shoes I could store, I asked that the shelves be placed closer together, which made a huge difference.
I also purchased hardware for the built-in dresser in the master closet so that the drawers would be easy to open— plus, I love the finished look with the hardware added!We had the builder add a wooden rod (just like the ones in our closets) to our laundry room since we hang-dry a large percentage of our clothes.
I was able to request where I wanted lights placed on the ceiling which was great because I wanted my light fixtures and ceiling fans centered in the spaces where I planned to have them and they weren’t all like that in the model home. I was also able to have the builder wire for lighting in some areas and have those lights “blank plated.” This means that I can add light fixtures at a later time and didn’t have to decide right then. One area I did this was over our kitchen island. The model had some pendant lights but I didn’t like the style. I still wanted to have the option to add more lighting in the future and I’m on the hunt for the perfect fixtures, but now my home is wired for easy installation when I finally make up my mind!
| chandelier- buy it here | giraffe- buy it here |
I had the carpenter change the surround of our master bath tub. I didn’t like the way the model home tub was framed out and I was able to send a photo to our project manager that I found on Pinterest and the carpenter replicated the woodwork very closely.
We had the carpenter add woodwork framing/trim on the underneath portion of our kitchen island. They had planned to leave it as painted drywall, but I knew that would take away from the look of the island overall and had them add wood trim to finish off the space and add a little dimension. It has been one of my favorite design decisions!
Additionally, we had our kitchen island “indented” so that we would have plenty of room for bar stools since we like to eat at our island. The model home’s island had an entire row of extra cabinets across the backside of the island (which was an upgrade), but it was impractical because you couldn’t eat there (there was no indent for bar stools). This simple change makes the space perfect for how we like to eat as a family.
One thing that came standard in our home was electrical outlets that are hidden underneath the kitchen cabinets— the outlets in our old house were in our kitchen’s backsplash. I love that our backsplash is clear of outlets now— it looks so much better/cleaner. Ask if your builder can do this!
Though most builders install these types of hardware as a standard practice, I did not have any random hardware like towel racks, rings or hooks installed in our bathrooms. I hated the position of the towel rings in our last house’s master bathroom and the towel rod was located in an area of the bathroom that didn’t make sense for how we used the space. We decided to simply live in our space for a few months before making decisions about things like towel hooks. It seems like such a small thing— and it is, but I’m so glad we waited to install these because now we can be more thoughtful about where these things make sense (and where we may not need them at all!) They’re much easier to install than they are to remove since they’re typically drilled into or glued onto the wall.
Lastly, I selected a beautiful light gray tile that has almost a wood grain look to it for our kids bathroom, upstairs power room and laundry room. It was available in a rectangular size, so I asked the builder to order that and then have the tile installers lay it like hardwood. I love how the way it’s laid really brings out the look of the tile— it’s definitely something to consider when looking at your tile options.
Most builders have showrooms or vendors they work with to offer buyers choices for finishes in their homes— from cabinets, flooring and hardware to lighting and mirrors. Because we purchased our new home before it had even started construction, we had design meetings with the project manager to select all of our finishes. I expressed some of my desires for the new home and she suggested that instead of choosing from their stock items, they were happy to provide me with a budget for things like lighting, mirrors and hardware.
| mirrors- buy them here |
| kitchen hardware- buy them here & here |
We spent a little more than our allotted budget—but it allowed us to give our home more of a custom feel instead of just choosing from the limited selections available that weren’t what we envisioned. I was able to purchase my own lighting, mirrors and cabinet hardware (and it was all installed for us!) and we are so thrilled with how everything looks. We really lucked out and were able to make each space our own. We were even able to go to the granite yard and select our own slabs since we didn’t like any of the styles offered in their stock (we picked one called “snowflakes” for anyone wondering!) This can definitely be the more stressful route especially if you’re indecisive, but it was very much worth it for us.
Upgrades can be costly when you’re building. This is where builders make a lot of money because upgrades tend to cost more when you go through them versus hiring a contractor after the fact. One thing we did before we made our offer on the house was to have our realtor add an addendum to our contract that certain upgrades from the model home would also be available to us with no upgrade fee. This allowed us to get upgraded cabinets, including an entire row of glass cabinets in our kitchen and fancier/pricier tile for our master bathroom at no additional cost.
We did pay extra to have triple crown molding added to our entire second floor, including the kid’s rooms and hallway, because it made such a beautiful impact from an aesthetic standpoint and really finished off the rooms. We also upgraded from a level 2 to a level 5 granite, which was well worth it to us for the final look we achieved. Lastly, we paid a little extra to have the builder use zero VOC paint (especially since I was pregnant when we moved and we have two kids in the house). We also paid a little extra to have rooms painted different colors. Most builders offer one or two selections for the entire house (ours offered two selections that were included in the cost). We ended up using four colors total and the small fee to have two rooms painted outside of the two main colors we chose was much less expensive than if we had to hire painters after the fact.
By request, below are the paint colors we used in our home:
Main living spaces, office and nursery: “first star” by Sherwin Williams
Master bedroom and bath: “marilyn’s dress” by Benjamin Moore
Harper’s room: “irish mint” by Benjamin Moore
Playroom: “mint essence” by Olympic, colormatched to Sherwin Williams paint
One thing we didn’t upgrade was to add hardwoods to the master. The builder wanted nearly $5,000 for the large space, so we decided if we ever wanted to do that down the line, we could hire a contractor. We love our carpet so it wasn’t a big sacrifice.
Upgrades can really enhance the appearance of a home, but sometimes it’s best to wait until after you close on your home for certain upgrades as it can be easy to go overboard. Consider each upgrade and try to prioritize what might be better to do during construction and what can wait.
I hope this blog post is helpful for anyone who is building or considering building. I’m definitely much more attached to our current home because of the level of customization we got to do. I still wake up every day and feel so lucky to see all of our design decisions come to life and to get to enjoy them like we do!