Courtney Warren is a Texas-based interior designer whose work has been featured in Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens, Good Housekeeping, Apartment Therapy, and Today.com. She is a frequent consultant on Fox 4 TV’s Good Day program in Dallas, was ranked in the top 3 percent of interior designers in the US by Houzz.com, and starred in the Dallas episode of TLC’sFour Houses. She delights in helping overwhelmed clients create beautiful spaces—and will never turn down a warm chocolate chip cookie or Diet Dr Pepper.
Thinking of building a new home? Take this short quiz.
__A. Building a home is great. You get to design it and pick out just what you want!
__B. Building a home is the worst thing ever. The decisions! The budget! Your marriage!
__C. Both A and B
Yes, friends, it’s C. Building a home from the ground up is both agony and ecstasy. Just ask me–I’m in the middle of the process, and can speak to the pros and cons of building a house. So if you’re hoping (daring) to take on this adventure, let me help you out with my four things to know when building a custom home
I promise, you almost can’t overdo this part. Before you begin to build you should accumulate more information than you think you will possibly need. Use Pinterest, Instagram and magazines to get tons of ideas about the look you’re going for. Plus any extras you think you might even possibly need. “Why do I need so many ideas,” you ask? “I pretty much know what I want.”
Here’s why. After you start the building process, all those potential choices will get narrowed down by a number of factors, such as what is 1) possible 2) budget friendly or 3) just the logistically optimal thing. Having more ideas than I could ever need has given me an arsenal to go to when we have a mini-crisis. “That type of ceiling won’t work in here? Ok, how about this one?” “Oh, that tile’s not available anymore? Well, here’s my second choice.”
That’s not to say you won’t stumble across the PERFECT wallpaper in a magazine after you’ve started framing and you just HAVE TO HAVE IT. But you won’t be depending on Hail Mary’s to get you across the goal line.
What can I say? There is no substitute for hiring people who know what they are doing. And, at least as importantly, make sure to pick people you like and who “get you”! These folks will be nearly as close as family by the time you finish your home build, but unlike family, you get to pick them! Who do your friends recommend and why? Who do they warn against? (Big clue: doesn’t return your calls! If ever you needed a ready communicator, it’s with your contractor/builder.)
Here’s an example about picking good people. I had a specific exterior look I wanted but a totally different interior than my plan called for (now there’s a surprise!) It was a lovely plan, and some family will doubtless want it just as it is. The thing is, we wanted more space downstairs and less upstairs than that plan offered. I also wanted my design studio above the garage.
See, no matter how good your plan is, there are changes you will want to make based on your needs, your budget, and the way your family lives. What’s my point? I needed changes, and I chose to work with talented design people who basically said, “You want this instead of this? No problem.” I was able to talk through my specific needs with the experts at Blue Line Design Co. They studied my photos, heard my ideas, and revised our plan until it worked perfectly for us. They helped me bring my vision to life.
Truth be told, I really have no idea how they got what was in my head onto paper. But they did it! And now–we are getting just what we want.
Something seems like a great idea when you are sitting in an office discussing it while looking at a blueprint. But, as the old folks say, “‘Tain’t necessarily so.” For example, we originally asked for three cased windows in a nook overlooking what will be a favorite view, the back yard. But we soon saw that the separation between the windows, however small, would break up prime scenic area. We realized we needed to change out the three smaller windows for one large one–no divisions between–or we would regret it.
It’s difficult and costly to make revisions once the foundation is poured and the walls start going up. So listen to me here. When you get the blueprints back, try to actually envision what the spaces will look like in real life. We measured and taped off areas and room sizes. We imagined furniture and cabinet placement. Some architects and builders offer 3D images of interiors, and that’s also very helpful.
Now, don’t agonize over it, but definitely give this step your time and attention. Make sure that you feel 100% about the plan on paper because that is what the builders work from. Once the build starts, changes will cost you in time and money. Another reason to sign off on changes beforehand is this: if the changes you want are not on the blueprint, mistakes can happen more easily.
Here’s what you don’t want to hear yourself saying: “What?? They’re ready for the kitchen cabinets? But I haven’t finished deciding yet!” Or “Wait! The tilers are here? My tile won’t be in for two weeks!” If ever time was money, it’s on a house build. And not being ready when the builder is ready can delay the entire process. Start peeling off those Benjamins.
So! Take my advice and visit your building site often. Communicate regularly and clearly with your contractor about what’s coming up next design-wise. Surprises on a build are usually not the fun kind, especially when you need some time to choose what you like, maybe find it online, or wait for it to be shipped.
Because I am an interior designer, clients often bring me in on this process. If only you knew how many times I hear something like, “Yikes! The builder needs a decision about [blank] and I have no idea…!” Even as a designer, I’ve had my nail biting moments when choosing finishes, so I truly understand when my clients need this help.
Now, until the next installment on this little saga, I’ll say this: most builders are truly experts in their own field–roof pitch and load bearing walls and plumbing lines and such. BUT (and this is important for you to understand) my nice builder really doesn’t care as much as I do whether the grout I’m considering works well with the subway tile I’ve picked. All he’s responsible for is getting my choice installed. You have to be the boots on the ground (or fingers on the keyboard, as it were) to assemble the pieces for the builder to work his magic with.
That is why designers and builders are a perfect partnership–we both bring our expertise to the part at which we excel. The finish-out is as important as your floor plan and will help to make your home look not only complete, but your very own.
Building a home soon? I’ve helped many others and would love to give you the benefit of my design experience!
Find me at courtneywarren.com
on Instagram @courtneywarren
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Email me to book a call time!