While having the opportunity to start from scratch with a new build is a décor dream for some, many homebuyers are overwhelmed at the thought of a blank canvas.
There is also the fear of picking the “wrong” colors or materials and having to live with the choices.
Adopting a step-by-step approach will help homeowners find the style they seek for their new home.
Gather inspiration for new build finishes
Before visiting the design studio, actively source inspiration. Settle in for an HGTV marathon. Scroll through Pinterest, Houzz and other design and social media, noting favorites.
Pay particular attention to model homes in your chosen development, because they have been carefully curated to celebrate the location and the design of specific homes. They also offer an opportunity to contextualize style, explains Lee Crowder, national director of design & model experience with Taylor Morrison.
“Take a walk around model homes with your community sales manager to get a better idea of the design options selected, what you like and what you dislike. Sometimes understanding what you don’t like is just as helpful and what you do like,” Crowder says.
Inspiration shouldn’t focus solely on the way something looks. Homes need to be beautiful, but more importantly they need to support the homeowner’s lifestyle. Lifestyle, not taste or trend, should drive style choices.
“Homebuyers need both design and function. Implementing their aesthetic styles along with personal lifestyle touches can help ensure they have a truly beautiful, customized home that functions for their life,” says Sherri Drew, vice president of design studios for Tri Pointe Homes.
Finding your style
Take note of similarities among the aesthetics that appeal to you. Is it color, layout, décor, shapes, lines or a combination of all of these? When you see similarities, it can help to consider them together to broadly name what your style is (and conversely what it isn’t).
Homeowners shouldn’t feel pressured to stick to a certain style either, as many successful designs combine aesthetics from different categories, such as traditional, farmhouse, transitional, boho, modern or minimalist etc. The best designs are cohesive, and don’t necessarily require identical elements throughout a home, but rather are mindful and supportive of flow between spaces.
A quick online search will reveal style quizzes galore, which can help to narrow focus. A number of builders offer similar services, where homeowners can contemplate different styles and how they match their design studio selections.
It’s recommended that homeowners access digital style surveys (if their builder offers them) prior to their first appointment so they can hit the ground running. For example, Toll Brothers offers a survey that lets homeowners “review the newest design trends for consideration in personalizing their new home and complete a brief series of questions including photography references to hone in on their personal style,” says Lisa McClelland, Toll Brothers senior vice president of design studios.
Display favorites on a mood board
One of the challenges with design is that it is conceptual, so visualizing and deciding on options can be difficult.
A mood board helps homeowners narrow down aesthetics as well as assign different colors, textures and materials to create a style. Similarly, a mood board is a useful tool for homeowners to articulate their wishes to the consultant at the design center.
There are a number of apps, software and online tools available to create digital mood boards that are easily shareable, or if a homeowner prefers a more tactile experience, putting together a physical mood board with photos and samples is a good option.
Deciding where to start
Following a selection process to apply to the whole home lets homeowners see how different design elements come together and create momentum in moving from one choice to the next.
- Determine any structural upgrades first, as these may take the bulk of the budget and will influence the rest of the design and décor choices for the home.
- When picking colors and finishes, start with the home’s exterior. Generally, there is less to select outside as opposed to inside, and it can help to be able to check a task off the list early.
- Inside, do one room at a time, starting with the kitchen. The kitchen is the heart of the home and it will set the style tone for the rest of the house.
- Next come the bathrooms. Bathrooms and kitchens both require extra thought because of cabinetry, counters and fixtures and are typically rooms where homeowners spend some of the upgrade allowances.
- Pick style and materials for the fireplace (s), especially if the area is open concept, as the fireplace will often serve as the focal point to anchor the space on a main floor. The fireplace should complement the kitchen finishes and style, especially if they share a sightline.
Work from the ground up
When working in a specific room, start with the flooring. Flooring occupies a lot of space and sets the stage for the rest of the room in terms of color and how a room feels. If you are choosing multiple types and styles of flooring, be mindful of transitions, especially if the area is open.
Next, select cabinetry and hard finishes like counters and/or backsplash, followed by fixtures, hardware and other details, like trim.
Lastly, choose paint colors. Paint colors serve to emphasize the chosen aesthetic. Some homeowners choose to do the same color throughout the home for design continuity, or it can be very effective to use different colors that complement and/or offer contrast to a dominant color palette.
If a homeowner is considering darker or more dramatic colors, it might be best to experiment first in a smaller, enclosed area to see how the color works in real-time before committing to more prominent areas of the home. A home office is a great place to start.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
Although it can seem overwhelming to make so many decisions, remember that not every décor or design item is crucial to the overall aesthetic. Prioritize energy towards bigger items that take up the most visual space.
It can help to include a future wish list for home projects. This alleviates pressure to make long-lasting decisions and gives homeowners a chance to live with their choices for a while, with options on the table for a later date.