Step 4
How To Design Your Dream Home

Picking out colors for bathroom tiles, kitchen countertop materials and hardwood floor stains – bringing your dream home to life is the stuff of interior design fans’ dreams. But for everyday homebuyers, designing your new home and deciding on every intricate detail and upgrade can be both an exciting, yet daunting experience.

After you wade through the contracts and secure your financing comes the fun stuff: choosing the customizations and upgrades that will personalize your new house, making it your home. 

You’re about to get closely acquainted with your builder’s design center; a study conducted by Wakefield Research suggests that nearly 40 percent of new homebuyers spend more than 20 hours in the design center during the building process. Forty-five percent of them exceeded their budget in upgrades by over $21,000 on average. 

If you’re looking at the blank canvas of your standard home wondering where to get started, here’s our step-by-step guide for designing your dream home.

Know Your Style Aesthetic

Do you prefer a traditional layout with timeless features, modern and sleek upgrades, or colorful and quirky accents? While you don’t have to have precise plans for how you would like to design your home, it’s useful to have a rough idea of what your style preferences are and what you envision. Some homeowners visualize their homes as being warm and cozy with soft, earthy tones, while others want to design a modern home with dark tones and polished finishes.

If you’re indecisive, get some inspiration by visiting model homes, flipping through interior decorating magazines, websites and blogs, and getting hands on with fabric and paint swatches that catch your eye. You can create a design board, pinning together everything you like to see how the color palettes and fixtures come together.

Don’t get too caught up in specifics – identifying the general style you like is the preliminary step to help you and your design consultant during your initial visits to the design center. 

List Your Family’s Needs and Wants

Spend time thinking of how your family will use your home to make each room and the layout functional and practical for your needs. What is your family’s daily routine, where do you spend the most time and what would make each area more useful? With your family’s lifestyle and habits in mind, you can create a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves for your new home. 

This is an important step that separates what you need for your home and day-to-day life to operate smoothly and what’s on trend and stylish.

Maybe you need a Jack and Jill bathroom in your master bedroom, a deep farmhouse sink and a double oven in the kitchen, or built-in storage in the bedrooms for extra space. Families with young kids may want a mudroom to offload shoes and backpacks after school and an open concept kitchen and living room so families can cook, entertain and do homework in a multi-functional space. Parents who work from home may need a home office in a quiet corner of the house with lots of natural light and charging stations for gadgets.

You’ll also need to consider your wants – you could be dreaming of wide French doors opening up into a big backyard made for hosting, a freestanding bathtub and heated towel racks in the master bedroom, or a reading nook by big bay windows.

Set Your Budget

With endless options for granite countertops, deluxe carpeting and marble floors, you may feel like a kid in a candy store while putting together your home at your builder’s design center. Everything can be upgraded in your home, even the stairway banister and spindles! 

Preparing a budget to stick to will keep you grounded and focused on the priority areas you want to upgrade.

Do your number-crunching beforehand so you know how much you can responsibly spend on customizing your home. The last thing you’ll want to do is move into your home on shaky financial footing because of splurging on upgrades. Keep in mind, on top of your mortgage, you’ll need to cover closing costs, homeowner’s insurance and other fees that come with homeownership.

Going in with a plan on how much money you have to work with will help you narrow down your options, too. A smaller budget may limit you to a specific set of materials or finishes while a budget with more wiggle room may widen the scope for what’s on tap.

Schedule Design Center Meetings

With your prep work done with budgets, style and features you’d like in your home thought through, head to your design center appointments. 

Your design center visits are golden opportunities to work with a design consultant who will show you your builder’s packages for the interior and exterior of your home and help you pull together all of the customizations you’re looking for. The center will be your key support as your vision for your new home comes to life. You’ll likely have between two and four appointments at your design center to go over customizations, pricing and sign-off.

The designer will ask you about the style and atmosphere you’re trying to create in your home. Based on your input, they’ll work together with you to nail down specifics –  you’ll choose colors and materials for both the interior and exterior of your home. You will select everything from roof shingles to bricks and siding to cabinets, hardwood floors and carpeting. 

Make the Most of your Design Center’s Tools

Take advantage of all  the resources available to you. For starters, your builder will have an extensive archive of photo galleries, swatches and other materials that showcase your options and potential pairings throughout your home. These tools are extremely beneficial because not every product, paint color or material you see in a magazine or a store will be part of your builder’s selection. You don’t want to fall in love with a color scheme, appliances or kitchen cabinetry that isn’t on the menu of options.

The innovation behind virtual design centers is game-changing, handing families an opportunity to set foot – at least, virtually – into thousands of model homes, and even some fully customized to their liking.

While physical model homes only present one of infinite possibilities for finished home designs, virtual reality technology can help buyers play around with different visions for layout, flooring, and fixtures. If homebuyers are curious about swapping different color schemes and custom finishes, these can be applied to their potential home in the virtual setting.

Builders also use interactive floorplan tools to help their clients visualize each room in their house, so they can plan where to place lighting, windows, doors, outlets, and even furniture.

Understanding the flow of a layout based on 2D floor plans can be tricky for homebuyers to fully visualize, but with this 3D features, families can see how the floor plans come together; they can “walkthrough” the space to see how the rooms and their functions connect.

On a smaller scale, you can also experiment with color schemes, using digital tools like online color visualizers. Sherwin Williams offers users an app where homeowners can upload a photo of a room, and drag and drop various colors into the space. If homebuyers see a color they like in person, they can use the app to find a match with paint colors they offer.

Understand What is Standard

Model homes are stunning because they are often packed with upgrades and premium finishes that you’ll be paying extra for. As you’re touring model homes, it’s highly recommended that you ask your builder or sales representative which amenities and features come standard with the home and which are upgrades.

You can even ask for a walkthrough of a basic home and request a list of standard features before or at your design center meetings. Compare the standard features next to their upgraded versions; this will help you determine which standard features work well and which upgrades will elevate your home’s look or efficiency.

Standard cabinet knobs and pulls, for example, may be suitable, while opting to upgrade to taller and deeper cabinets that run to the ceiling add more storage space and height to the kitchen. Some homeowners can’t tell the difference between laminate floors and hardwood and decide to use their budget towards other upgrades. 

Crown moulding is beautiful feature that doesn’t come standard – in this case, the addition is purely aesthetic and some homeowners forgo this upgrade and go with standard walls and cabinetry.

It’s worth asking about warranties on standard and upgraded finishes and appliances, the durability of materials, and which customizations are better to do now rather than later. Think of it this way: if it requires a big mess and tearing out of the space to renovate later, you should opt for the upgrade, which will make you happier in the long run. Major structural changes like adding a room, removing a wall, or adding windows could be nearly impossible to do later.

You can also do your research on which upgrades can be done as DIY projects, such as swapping dimmer switches, installing smoke detectors or adding in a backsplash in the kitchen.

Choose Your Upgrades

With so many upgrades to choose from, your task is to zero in on the ones that are of highest priority to you. Upgrades can make your home more functional and also provide a healthy return on investment.


Choosing energy efficient kitchen appliances, premium grade roofing material and double-glazed windows, for example, could cut down on your heating and cooling bills, saving you money in the long-run. Fire detectors, a steel door, and a home security system will also drive down insurance costs.


The kitchen tends to be the room that gets upgraded the most, according to a survey by Professional Builder. Seventy-five percent of builders surveyed said their homebuyers’ top choice of upgrades were in the kitchen, followed by the master bedroom.

Homebuyers tend to upgrade cabinets, countertops, flooring, and energy-efficient appliances like the refrigerator, dishwasher and oven. Another popular choice is to add a kitchen island, lots of pantry space and better lighting. Homebuyers can give their bathrooms a lift with upgraded plumbing fixtures, dual vanities, flooring, air-jet bathtubs and faucets and sinks.


Return frequently to your list of must-haves along with your budget and decide on where to allocate your funds to upgrades that will make a difference in your home. 


Ask for More Time if Needed

Working through your design choices in the span of a few afternoons can be overwhelming for some homebuyers. Take your time! Ask for an extra stop to the design center to see more swatches; take galleries home to browse through selections. Ask your designer questions – your builder has decades of experience in making families’ dream homes a reality and can offer great expertise and insight. 


Have fun with this step of the homebuying process; use the opportunity to get your fingerprints all over the blueprints and design of your home. There’s a big reward for all of your hard work and decision-making at the end – a house that’s fully customized to suit your tastes and your needs!


Courtesy of NewHomeSource.com

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