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  • Writer's pictureMariel Megan Ross

Building a new home: My 3 best tips for the design center

A builder's design center is a little bit HGTV, a little bit Willy Wonka's factory

Pick out your countertops, flooring, tile, and more at the design center

If you're building a new home, after you sign your new home builder contract you'll likely end up scheduling a visit to your builder's design center. The design center is where you'll make most of your finish selections. With a seemingly endless number of paint colors, flooring, cabinets, and more, the design center seems to have almost every design and finish imaginable.

Picture Willy Wonka's factory - minus the chocolate - plus hundreds of the fixtures, designs, and features you see on HGTV. That's your typical design center!

Mariel and Rachel walk-through Guy's design center - check out the floors!

Curious what a design center looks like? Check out the video above that we shot at Guy's Flooring in Denver, which is a design center several Sterling Ranch builders use (e.g., Parkwood and CalAtlantic, among others). We filmed Guy's during our wonderful client Rachel's visit to the design center. The video should give you a sense of what a design center looks like, as well as some of the cool - and little-known - features of your typical design center.

For example, in the video you'll see that Guy's actually finished part of their floor with more than a dozen different flooring options. You can literally walk on and experience different floors in action - check it out!

Pick a floor, any floor at Guy's

While we're on the topic of design center visits, I wanted to give you 3 of my best tips for your design center visit. Here they are!

1. Create a Pinterest or Houzz design board ASAP

Many design center designers and new home realtors have "been there, done that" in terms of designing and furnishing every type and style of home out there. If you're struggling to decide between hundreds of different tile options, dozens of flooring options, and who knows how many cabinet handles, create a Pinterest or Houzz design board that captures the style and look you're trying to achieve. Give that design board to your realtor and designer, and they'll quickly take you from, say, 20 flooring options to 5, based on your design board alone.

And by the way, I'm not kidding - for some design centers and certain builders, you'll have hundreds of tile, flooring, and other fixtures, features, and options to choose from. For example, there are dozens of minor variations of the tile I'm standing next to in this picture in a Taylor Morrison home. This is of course amazing, but it can also be overwhelming if you don't deal with tiles and the subtle pricing and quality differences between a lot of options you see.

At the end of the day, keep this in mind. Some realtors are in the design center every week (guilty), and the designers are in the design center every day. Rely on their expertise to help navigate you to the options that work in harmony with your design board tastes and styles.

2. It's all about maximizing the impact of the money you spend

One of your key jobs at the design center is to maximize the impact of every dollar in your design center budget to help achieve the "look and feel" you originally wanted for your new home. You probably can't - and wouldn't want to - upgrade everything you can to achieve your design goal. But you can select key upgrades, while leaning heavily on the best standards, to achieve your design, within your budget.

The hard part, of course, is wading through dozens of flooring, tile, and other selections and making careful, budget-conscious decisions - all during your one and only visit to the design center.

Use standards + upgrades to achieve the look of a highly upgraded design, like this bathroom

The first step is knowing your budget. Talk to your realtor about what a realistic budget is for your design center visit (FYI, your builder often can't provide much detailed information about design center budgets, for liability and other reasons). And be sure that budget is specific to your builder, floorplan, and design goals. A Lennar SuperHome is very different than a Parkwood Saybrook Farmhouse, both in terms of design and upgrade options. Lennar also has a different design and upgrade approach than Parkwood. Last, the tricks for getting the most bang for your buck when designing, say, your Lennar or Parkwood are different as well. In short, comparing a Lennar design process/budget to a Parkwood design process/budget can be like comparing apples and oranges. So adjust your budget accordingly.

(By the way, one of the services I offer my new home clients is budget and design consultation for their new homes. I'll be by your side during your design center visit, in addition to attending your pre-drywall and other meetings. Check out our realtor services for your new home, as well as our fees (spoiler: our services are free to you).

3. Design for you, not for resale (but keep resale in mind)

Occasionally when I'm at the design center I'll hear clients mention that they're worried a style or design they like might go out of style down the line, or that they're reluctant to pick, say, the floor of their dreams because they're concerned about resale value. No question these are good things to think about, and, yes, if I'm at the design center with you I might try to steer you away from orange shag carpets because of style and resale issues. But if you love orange shag, have always dreamed of orange shag, and would be disappointed if you didn't go with orange shag, three words:

Go for it.

Most of us will, if we're lucky, maybe build 1 or 2 homes our entire lives. This might be the only time you have something close to a blank palette to work with from a home buying perspective. Make the home yours. Pick what you love. When I built my home, I upgraded to an extra large kitchen island - it's just shy of the length of a SUV at 14+ feet - which eats up kitchen square footage. It might not be ideal for many, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

So act accordingly when you're at the design center. Don't be afraid to pick the finishes and fixtures you've always dreamed about.

There you have it - my 3 best tips. Happy designing friends!

Mariel Ross is a realtor who specializes in helping clients budget for, design, and build their dream homes. At Focus Real Estate we've helped clients build hundreds of new homes around Denver with Lennar, Parkwood, Richmond, Wonderland, and many other builders. Learn more about what I do here. If you'd like to chat, shoot me a note at and be sure to "Like" the Roundup on Facebook. The Sterling Ranch Roundup is powered by Focus Real Estate.

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