Thursday, April 16, 2009

Selecting Options: Part 1

One of the aspects of building our new house that I was most looking forward to was selecting among all the options, especially the opportunity to select my own finishes. Unlike in our current house, I wouldn't be beholden to someone else's tastes or required to "make do" with countertops or cabinets that weren't exactly what I had in mind. As with everything else though about building a house (especially one that is not completely custom), my wishes have to be tempered both by my own budgetary constraints and by the limits of the builder's "design center".

Our builder gave Dave and I the opportunity to visit the Design Center twice, for a total of 5 hours, in order to select just about every aspect of the interior of our house, from kitchen sink to door knobs. Of course, many of the options presented to us were upgrades, meaning we'd have to pay up (sometimes substantially) for more customized options like hardwood floors, natural stone surround on the fireplace, or even a larger kitchen sink.

Before even setting foot in the Design Center, Dave and I had to decide generally how much we were willing to spend on options and what our priorities were. For example, both of us felt that it was important to upgrade the carpet in the majority of the first floor to wood floors -- not just for aesthetic reasons, but because of my allergies. And because of the costs associated with replacing carpet with wood floors over a large portion of a 3500 square foot home, we knew we'd have to allocate a significant portion of the money we'd set aside for upgrades for the wood floors alone. Accordingly, I knew I'd have to make sacrifices elsewhere, but it forced us to decide what we really want v. what would just be nice to have (a good exercise generally, I think).

One of the first decisions we were asked to make was what cabinets we wanted for the kitchen. While I like white kitchen cabinets, Dave has a strong preference for dark wood, so I compromised (yes, I do that from time to time) and we selected this:

We're going with maple cabinets in a deep walnut stain they called "English leather" (love that name!). Fortunately for us, these cabinets were in the standard options and we weren't going to be required to pay up for them. We did, however, end up adding a few glass-fronted upper cabinets, some molding around the kitchen island, and a few pull-out trays in the lower cabinets, all of which were extra. At the end of the day though, in light of the expense associated with replacing cabinetry, I think it was a wise investment to select a few options that increased their functionality and gave a more "custom" look to what might otherwise be a standard-issue look.

Next up was countertops and again, with an eye to costs, we made our choice from the half dozen or so granite selections that came standard. I ended up selecting the granite above (can't remember the name, alas), which is a nice medium-toned granite with an array of white, black, gray and a reddish-brown that I thought tied in well with the cabinets. I tried to stay away from anything too dark since the cabinets are already dark (I prefer a contrast, whether that be dark counters and light cabinets or vice versa). I also wanted something with a good bit of gray since I prefer greyish neutrals to beiges. We chose the same granite to go around the fireplace in the family room. Since the kitchen opens out into the space, I thought it would be a good way to tie the two rooms together.

Selecting backsplash was probably the most frustrating experience we had at the Design Center. The default was large ceramic [floor] tiles laid on the diagonal, which I thought looked completely out of scale with the size of the kitchen and the wall. One of my favorite aspects of our current house is the marble mini-subway tile we had installed as kitchen backsplash about a year ago and I wanted to do something similar in our new place. Unfortunately though, the options to do something else were limited, centering around elaborate natural stone mosaic tiles, tumbled travertine, etc. The options for a more modern backsplash were pretty slim, with even the glass tiles coming in only a rather unfortunate shade of pea green or ragweed yellow. I asked if we could forgo backsplash altogether (thinking we could install some ourselves post-move in), but alas, they gave us some gobbledygook about "providing the buyer with a finished product" and we were shot down.*Sigh*

And so, the above is what I settled on. The smaller squares of slate are contemporary enough and I think they work with the cabinets and countertops, but they're hardly the "big statement" I was hoping for.

Finally, Dave and I had to settle on flooring for the kitchen and breakfast room. We had our choice of about a dozen 13" ceramic tiles. We selected the muted brown-greige shown above, and (for a de minimis amount) decided to upgrade the tile size to 20", which we're going to lay on the diagonal (another upgrade, of course -- these builders are sneaky!). I think the larger size will be a great way to make a (relatively) small space feel more expansive and be a more modern statement at the same time.

Overall though, we had a positive experience at the Design Center. I feel so lucky to be able to pick (even if only among a few options) all the details that will be going into our house. On day one there's not going to be anything that I just hate or feel like I have to change immediately, and that's a great feeling. I think the challenge on this house will come later though, as we take our relatively standard issue new build and transform it into a home with some character. Next week I'll do a second post showing you what we picked out for the rest of the house.

Has anyone else had a house built? If so, how was your experience selecting options? Any words of wisdom would be most appreciated.


Christy said...

Nope never, but I LOVE that we get to go along for the ride as you build yours! Love your choices and I'm simply shocked that won't allow you to provide your own tiles for the backsplash...I wonder if maybe they'll change their mind later. You could buy your own tiles then just show up at the build/house site with doughnuts/coffee/beer/whatever and make friends with the foreman and guy doing the tile and see what happens. Or am I living in an alternate reality?! Regardless - how fun to choose all the materials and I can't wait to see what else you chose!

Liz said...

Ahhhh, so fun!!!!!!! Picking out finishes is definitely the most exciting / frustrating thing that my husband and I did when we were remodeling our house. I think we went through at least 3 "versions" of the kitchen and every bathroom before we finally picked some winners. Everything that you picked is just gorgeous, and I can't wait to see the finished product!

Kara said...

All of those choices seem overwhelming! But fun too.

I'm not sure where that photo is from...on my blog. It may have been Sunset magazine.

Mademoiselle Frou-Frou said...

great picks! i've been to the Pacific Design Center and get so overwhelmed!! so many great showrooms, so many choices!!
i can't wait to see you finished product.

Averill said...

Mlle. Frou-Frou: I am SO jealous that you've been to the PDC! Hopefully someday, I'll get to go to (AND have money to spend there). :)

Quotidian Grace said...

I think the backsplash will look better than you think. That slate has some nice colors in it.

Daniela said...

So exciting! Can't wait to see it all come together! When is the expected completion month?

Averill said...

They're set to break down next week and from then it should take 2-3 months to complete so I'm guessing sometime in late July/early August!

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