Milestone: Design Selections

If you read my Building 101 – The Design Studio post, you’re familiar with what goes on at the design studio and the important things we considered during this phase of our new home build.

I went into my design meetings with a clear vision, a broad understanding of what my options were and most importantly, what my overall budget was for upgrades. Having an organized budget tool to manage the wide range of selections that are involved in the design process was critical. I can’t emphasize how beneficial it was to have a spreadsheet of every upgrade I considered. It helped me refine my upgrades to fit within my budget and included a contingency plan as well.

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Having an organized budget tool to manage the wide range of selections that are involved in the design process was critical. I can’t emphasize how beneficial it was to have a spreadsheet of every upgrade I considered by category.


If that budget tool is something you would like help building, I would love to assist you. I charge a small fee, but I can assure you it will be an invaluable investment to maximize your budget. Just send me a request using my Consultant Request Form and we can get started.

As I mentioned in my Building 101 – Design Studio post, the cost for average for upgrades at this phase in the process is roughly an additional 8-15% of the base price you’re under contract for. For our specific build that amount was just north of $100K and does not include any of the custom lighting I am sourcing for our build. In my original wish-list of upgrades, the total was closer to $200K, so that should provide perspective for how important my budget tool was for narrowing down my wishes into realities!

Below are the details for all the upgrades I selected. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out – I love hearing from you!


Our floor plan came with a short list of structural additions/modifications to select from. We opted to add a simple covered back patio and also converted our first floor powder room into a bathroom with a shower for our guests to use during visits.


There was a variety of selections that had to be made in this category including:

Elevation Style We chose the elevation style called “Mountain Bungalow” with the lightest colorway that was available to us.

Paint Colors in this colorway are Sherwin Williams: Urbane Bronze, Acier, Repose Gray, Ceiling Bright White, and Caviar. I love them all except for that Urbane Bronze for the garage door. I will be changing that as soon as we move in.

Roof and Accent Stone Our roof color is called “Weathered Wood” and our stone accent is Eldorado’s Mountain Ledge in Silverton.

Other Modifications I opted for an interior-set fireplace (1) so the side of the house would be flush. I also added exterior window trim to my side elevation and window grids (2), and opted to not do the partial metal roof (5). After the build I will continue the board and batten under the side windows (3) and add the 3 pendant lights (4).

The rendering below is a good representation of a standard build vs. how our finished home will look.

Electrical and Plumbing On the exterior of the home I opted to add a third hose bib and a second fence gate because we are on a corner lot. I also added switched eave outlets to my front porch and back patios as I discussed in my Structural, Exterior, and Electrical Decisions – Part 2 post. And for all 2 weeks of hot days we have in the Pacific Northwest, I added central air conditioning as well.


This was the space in our home that dedicated the majority of my budget to. When we built our current home, I made a lot of sacrifices in this space and I vowed that was not going to happen this time.

Appliances With Quadrant Homes you are required to select a package of appliances. The build comes Whirlpool appliances, which we have in our current home. The other two options are KitchenAid or Thermador. I really wanted Thermador, however that selection required an upgrade to their top tier cabinets, which combined – appliances and cabinets, adds about $30,000 more to the budget. I decided to go with KitchenAid so I could spend some of that savings upgrading my doors and wrapping all my windows.

Below are the models I selected for my range, combo wall oven, refrigerator, dishwasher and if you’re on the fence and have the budget, go for the pot filler! It adds a higher end look to your kitchen and is such a beautiful statement piece!

Sink For the sink upgraded to the Kohler vaulted stainless steel option and I am so happy I did. I came home and measured our current sink as it compares to the Kohler which is a whole 10″ wider and 3″ deeper than our current sad little sink! I also opted for the matte black Delta Trinsic faucet for its sleek look. If you’re on the fence, get the Touch2o tech. It’s worth it! Also pictured above is the InSinkErator instant hot water tap that I currently have and love. These are totally worth it if you like a quick cup of tea, water that will boil fast and for just good old fashioned filtered water to drink.

Countertops In our current home we have quartz counters and I absolutely love them! I talked about how durable they are in my Building 101 – Countertops post if you want to check that out. It was a no brainer that I was going to select quartz again for our new house and this time I opted to do a marble look with a bit more character and variation than our current home. They style I selected for my kitchen, master bathroom and first floor bathroom is by MSI Surfaces and is called Calacatta Verona. It comes in a 2cm thickness and I added 6″ height slabs on the backsplashes of all my bathrooms.

MSI Surfaces in Calacatta Verona – Photo courtesy of First Class Marble and Granite of Franklin, MA


With Quadrant Homes there are two cabinet manufacturers to select from: Bellmont is their premium line and Merillat is their primary line which has four levels of options from their Basics and Classics lines. I opted to use the highest level Merillat cabinetry from the Classics line in Tolani Square throughout my entire home in three colors, Cotton, Shale and Nightfall. This was a significant investment, but I cannot say how impressed I am with the craftsmanship of their cabinetry options. Especially compared to the cheap cabinetry another local builder in our area uses – ask me how I know!

Features of this line include: dovetail construction, full extension drawer guides, solid wood fronts, roll out trays and soft close hinges to name a few.

A few additional upgrades I selected for the cabinetry were adding the shaker crown and the cabinet valance. They seem excessive when you’re pricing things out, but are worth it in my opinion. Not adding them would be like putting on your fanciest outfit, but skipping the shoes and the handbag. They just complete the look. See below – left has the crown with bottom valance and the right has an inexpensive crown with no valance.

I skipped under cabinet lighting – we will be adding that on our own afterwards. If you’re not handy or comfortable enough doing this yourself, it would be worth the investment at the design studio. But I have to tell you, there are so many easy DIY LED options on the market these days that are very affordable, so do your research before committing to it.

Also, for those wondering, my builder did not have the option to bring my cabinets all the way to the ceiling. Supremely disappointing, but you’ll see a bit further down what I came up with instead.

The lighting below is terrible, but it gives you an idea of what finished are going into the kitchen – both the cotton and shale cabinets are represented below. In the kitchen, the perimeter cabinets will be Cotton and the island will be Shale.


My kitchen backsplash was an area I opted to save some money. I would have loved a full height quartz to match the countertops, but what I would have had to sacrifice elsewhere in the home to afford that was not worth it. It is however, something I could contract out later on down the road if I am having regrets, but I think what I came up with instead is going to be a beautiful statement as well.

As you can see pictured above, I went with simple, classic, white subway tile by Emser Tile, but with a twist! Below is my digital rendering I submitted for the trades to use as a guide when they do our install. As you can see, I opted to bring the tile all the way to the ceilings in a standard pattern lay, except for behind the range and exhaust hood where it will be a classic framed herringbone lay. If you scroll through, you can see some of the other concepts I considered too.

Other tile throughout my design includes a full height 12×24″ matte porcelain, stacked tile for my fireplace surround in Sterlina White by Emser (left below) and12x24″ matte porcelain tiles in Citizen Civilian by Emser for my shower and tub surrounds (right below).


Designing our fireplace was a bit harder than I had hoped. I went into my build wanting a modern floor to ceiling shiplap, but our builder was a hard ‘no’ on that. I had a few options and all of them had to include either faux stone or a tile on the lower 4′ of the surround.


Our bathrooms came standard with a simple one piece faucet system. I have these in my current home and not only do I not like how they look, I loath cleaning them. I commited a good chunk of my budget to upgrade to high end widespread and integrated faucets this time around. Fair warning, this accounted for a bit over $5k but I’ll tell you quickly why it is important to do it now vs. later.

In our current home I wanted to change out my plumbing. For sinks that is usually easy as long as the holes match up. However for showers, that is not the case. Almost always, you will need a special valve that works specifically with the plumbing option you select. The ONLY way to swap that valve out is to cut a hole in the wall behind the shower to remove the current one and instal the new one, then patch and repair the hole. If the back of your valve wall is not easy to access (example: is an exterior facing wall or is a wall in a two level space) then you’re looking at having to pull apart and retile your shower to do it. I know. It’s crazy. But that is how it works and also how project scope creep happens. Moral of the story. Buy and install what you want now and save yourself the cost and/or disappointment down the road.

In our master and first floor bathroom’s I selected the Odin Collection by Jason Wu for Brizo. Here are the links for our shower, roman tub and vanity fixtures. For my son’s bathroom I wanted a brushed stainless look, so I opted for the Ara Collection by Delta, here are the links for the shower and vanity fixtures for those too.

Shower Enclosures

Need an excuse to unnecessarily spend an additional $12k – $30k? Then this section is for you!

Anywhere you’re looking to upgrade from fiberglass shower pans or fiberglass shower surrounds to tile or quartz, be prepared to spend an additional $5k – $20k per bathroom. Tile itself isn’t what adds to this cost; it’s the labor and if you do quartz, that’s a hefty price tag too.

Needless to say I used that $20k in other areas on my house and stuck with the fiberglass options. In the grand scheme of things they are easier to maintain and I don’t plan to host any parties in my bathrooms sooooo….

One additional upgrade I did do was the 78″ height heavy glass shower surround in the master. It’s sleek and seamless and I love how it blends in with the room. Below are examples of a semi-frameless and a full frameless shower for reference.

Doors and Windows

I could carry on in this category but I will try to keep it simple. Millwork is one of those things you’ll be tempted to skimp or save money on during your build so you can upgrade other things. It’s easy enough to convince yourself that you can DIY it later to save some money but hear me out before you commit to that.

Millwork is a professional trade for a reason. It is hard. You might think you can just slap up trim or case a window with a few cuts of wood but I can tell you from experience that it is much harder than you think.

No house is built perfectly plumb, so unless you are really good at measuring 10,000 angle variances and are just as skilled at cutting them perfect with a chop saw, I suggest you slow your roll.

Remember when I installed shiplap in my master bathroom, living room niche and entry hall? Guess what? Not a single one of those walls were square. Every. Single. Measurement was different by fractions of an inch with a variance of up to 1″ total from top to bottom. And that was just for laying a simple flat piece of wood. Start planning for window wraps or crown moulding and you’re in a whole new ballgame.

You may think you’re adding value to your home with that simple DIY, but I can tell you that if you’re not doing it right, your causing more damage than good because anyone with a trained eye is going to come in, take one look and realize it was a hack job.


A professional knows this and will bring the skills, shims, tools and patience to do it correctly. And trust me, I see all the DIY millwork projects on social media and can tell you from the naked eye who knows what they are doing and who winged it. You may think you’re adding value to your home with that simple DIY, but I can tell you that if you’re not doing it right, your causing more damage than good because anyone with a trained eye is going to come in, take one look and realize it was a hack job. It’s not good for resale if you catch my drift.

Okay – so all that to say, I don’t plan to hack any of my doors or windows in my new house. I budgeted for it to be done professionally and I am so glad I did.

I had the option to upgrade all my doors to 8′ tall single panel for a high end touch and I chose to wrap all of my windows top to bottom with a modern finish. Because our home leans more modern than traditional, I skipped the crown moulding. The base mouldings however are 6″ height and anywhere there is wood, there will be an additional quarter round trim added too.

Here are a few examples from model homes of what my modern millwork and upgraded doors will look like.


I covered this topic pretty extensively in my Building 101 – Flooring post so for the sake of brevity, I will simply share what I selected for my home and why.

Enhanced Vinyl Plank I put this flooring anywhere I could afford to. I extended it into my first floor bathroom in lieu of tile and also carried it into my first floor office/guest room. I also selected it for my master bathroom, hallway bathroom and my laundry room. It’s really good looking, durable, and feels so nice underfoot.

I have a 4 year old son who is tough on our floors and we will be getting a puppy in the future so this type of floor made the most sense for us over engineered or solid hardwood in our main living spaces.

If you’re wondering why I put EVP in my bathrooms the honest truth is that I do not like tile on floors. I love tile in general. Don’t get me wrong. But it is such a headache to maintain and clean the grout so I always avoid it for floors whenever there is a viable option to do so as I prefer practical over trendy.

The manufacturer of our EVP floors is Shaw and the type is Supino HD Plus in the color Tufo. You can buy it pretty much anywhere, but do note that different retailers call it by different names (see above). Here are two links from Home Depot (calls it Primavera in Basil) and Wayfair (calls is Unshakable in Bramble).

Carpet For our carpet I wanted something with a lot of variation and great texture. Our options in this category were limited so I had to upgrade to their level 4 product to get what I wanted. Our carpet is by Mohawk Flooring and I opted to go with a the version called River Rocks. The shade in the above photo is called Sand Pebble and the shade on the right below is called Yearling for reference.

I also added an 8lb pad underneath so there would be a good volume of cushion as well. The nicer your carpet pad, the better your carpet will feel, so don’t skimp on something cheap!

And that’s about it. If you have any specific questions or need help sorting through your budget or plans, please reach out.

Until next time, stay well!