Countdown to Parade of Homes: Only 7 days before Judging!

I just got back from my daily site visit and I am now sitting at my desk staring at my calendar and my facial expression is very similar to this familiar emoji.  OMGEmoji

I don’t think Neil and I have ever completed a Parade Home early.   Every year we seem to be walking out doing last minute details the night before judging and this year looks to be the same.  The good news is during my site visit today everything seemed to be going right.  That makes for a good day.  However, since my last post, there have been some days I was about ready to pull my hair out.

The home has been completely transformed this past month and is really looking good.  So many details are coming together and the past few weeks have been extremely important in staying on schedule.  Building a custom home on such a tight schedule creates certain challenges.   I’ve had to make some adjustments and compromises along the way that I wouldn’t have to do under normal circumstances.

One example of a major adjustment and compromise is the Rec Room.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, Neil and I ended up extending the Rec Room from the original plan and it became a nice large space to work with.  So we designated the left side of the room to include a Wet Bar and eating area, leaving the rest of the space as an entertainment area. One way I wanted to separate the spaces was by adding a flooring that would work well in an “eating” area.  I also wanted the space as a whole to have some added character so my plan was to extend the flooring straight up the bar wall in order to create an accent wall.   In order to showcase the accent wall, I decided to delete the upper cabinets in that area and instead install floating shelves.  I was very excited about my idea.  After exploring several options I ended up choosing a “wood looking” laminate.  Here is a picture.


Unfortunately, when the flooring installer called me up and said they would not be able to install the laminate on the wall the way I requested because the cabinet, trim and sloped wall were going to make it too difficult.  (I hate when I get those type of phone calls.)   So I had to go back to the drawing board, literally.  I worked up a new sketch. Instead of running the laminate boards horizontally on the entire wall, I decided to treat it more like a backsplash and turn in vertical and simply stop it at the end of the countertop like we would any backsplash.  At the time, Bryant had not made my floating shelves yet, so I had him change the top shelf to straight across the top so we could kill the laminate into the bottom of that shelf.  Then, adding two additional, smaller floating shelves with accent lights.  This was my new drawing:


Here’s how it’s actually shaping up:


I love it!  And I really appreciate Special Effects, Bryant Herring, and Parnell Electric for all working with me and my “out of the box” thinking.  It took a team effort but I think the results worked out great.  Can’t wait to see it completely finished.

Although I have other stories such as this I could share, I promised you last week we would take a look at one of my favorite spaces within the home. . .  The Master Bathroom.  I really enjoyed working on this room in the planning stages. However, implementing the plan was much more challenging.   Thankfully, we are almost done, and it’s already looking as beautiful as I imagined it.  Let’s take a closer look.

Let’s start with layout of the space itself.  masterbath

As you are walking from the Master Bedroom into the Master Bath, you open up double doors looking straight at this grand free standing tub flanked by two beautiful arched windows.  As I think about the design of the space, it starts with the double doors.  So I special ordered gorgeous crystal knobs on the double doors because I want you to feel how special this room is before you even walk through the doors.  (P.S. If you come by to see the home, be sure to tell Neil how beautiful the door knobs are because he still hasn’t seen how much they cost yet Wink_Emoji_grande )  As you walk in,  we ran the large 12×24 tile in a herringbone pattern drawing your eye toward the tub.  I wanted the two vanities to look like furniture pieces and added the wainscoting behind the tub.  The accent is a beautiful blend of metallic glass that runs from one side of the room to the other, tying the whole room together.  The plumbing fixtures and light fixtures are like the jewelry that complements the outfit.

Here was my concept on paper:


In this situation, it was much easier coming up with the plan than it was implementing the plan.  It took a lot of different subcontractors coming in and out one at a time for it all to piece together.  It was not easy and I greatly appreciate everyone’s patience.

One last piece to the puzzle was the mirrors.  I had originally wanted to purchase decorative mirror for the vanities but quickly realized it was going to be next to impossible to find two mirrors that look the same but different sizes since the two vanities are different sizes.  So instead, we framed out the mirrors like we do the windows and had custom mirrors cut.  The mirror framing killed into the top trim piece that finished off the 4″ accent.  It turned out great, but again, to actually implement that plan took extra effort and skill that I thankfully relied greatly on Jeff and Ayscue’s Trimwork.

Here’s how it’s shaping up:

Looking at these pics you can easily tell there is still ALOT to do!  And as I am typing this, the hours are ticking by and my face is starting to look more like this:



As of today, I’ve pretty much done all I can do at this point.  Now, I patiently (well I try to be patient) wait and hope everyone shows up and the weather cooperates with final preparations.  I’ll let you know next week if we actually made it in time for judging. Meanwhile, be sure to mark your calendars to come see this home in person April 22-23, 29-30, & May 6-7 from 12pm-5pm.  Hope to see you there.

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Countdown to Parade of Homes-Use of Color & Design

Interior painting has been going on this past week.  Which allows me to finally get to talk about my favorite part of the building process and the area I personally have the most control over- color and design.   When I refer to having “the most control over” I don’t really have total control. Certainly, I get to chose what I feel will look great but I also have to keep in mind what would appeal to the masses.  There have definitely been times when I have absolutely loved something but felt the selection would be too risky and ended up changing the selection to what would appeal to more people.  Not to say I’ve got that concept down perfectly, as Neil will attest I end up pushing the envelope sometimes, but for the most part I try to be sensitive to trends as well as what the local market is wanting.

If you have been following along during the building process, I discussed the design of the kitchen in an earlier post.  Within that post, I mentioned when designing a new home I like starting in the Kitchen because I feel it is the heart of the home and then work my way out from there.  To refresh our memories, here is how the Kitchen will look. (Or you can read here to review the entire article.)


Let’s start this week looking at the two rooms adjacent to the Kitchen.  The Powder Room and the Laundry Room.  These two rooms may seem secondary at first thought, but in reality, the Powder Room will be the most visible bathroom guests will use, so it’s an important space.  In this homeplan, I actually have a good size space to work with.  In this situation, I chose the cabinet style first.  I wanted a “furniture style” vanity but left the color undecided at this point.

Next, I chose the flooring. A lot of times in Powder Rooms I simply carry the hardwood flooring into the space.  However, in this situation, when I went to the tile showroom I fell in love with a wood plank type tile that I wanted to use somewhere.  Since this Powder Room is pretty good in size at 8′ long, I decided to use this tile in the Powder.  I knew I wanted to add beadboard wainscoting on the walls.  While looking at tile I had found some beautiful penny round tile that I loved and looked beautiful with the woodplank tile.  So I decided to add the pennyrounds into the trim design.  Once these two colors came together it was easy for me to decide on a Charcoal stain color for the vanity. Here’s what it looks like together.

2017-01-12 15.19.29


The light fixture, plumbing fixture and upgraded toilet helps pull this room together creating a space any guest would love.


Final decision was paint color: Silverplate by Sherwin Williams 7649


Positioned right across from the Powder Room is the Laundry Room.  Personally, I always try to put a lot of thought and color into the Laundry Room.  I’m a mother of three active boys and spend a lot of time doing laundry.  So I want this space to not only be functional but pleasant.  For this home, the first selection was the tile.  During a previous visit to  Triangle Tile & Stone with a client I had seen a new display of tile that I loved.  I knew I wanted to incorporate it somewhere, and decided the Laundry room would be the perfect place.  The pictures of this tile doesn’t do it justice, it looks so much prettier in person.  But here is a photo of the tile in the store.


I chose a pretty shade of blue-gray for the cabinet color (shown in the picture above) which coordinates beautifully with the floor.  I wanted this space to be very functional by adding cabinets and a hanging bar above the washer/dryer side along with a white quartz countertop and laundry sink.  The area beside the laundry sink will be one open shelf to fit two laundry baskets.


On the other wall, I wanted to incorporate a “Dropzone” area for bookbags, shoes, coats, etc. plus a Mail Center and Broom closet.  Here’s the layout.  I did tweak the drawing by making the Mail Center the same size as the Broom Closet.


Added two pendant light fixtures


Wall color:

functional gray


Seeing how it’s all coming together almost makes me want to do a load of laundry, well maybe not, but I am super excited about this space and can’t wait to see it finished.  Join me next week when we look at one of my favorite areas. . .  the Master Suite.


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Countdown to Parade of Homes- Interior Trim

I’ve been visiting the jobsite almost daily now.  So much is happening now that it’s best to keep an eye on everything as it happens because we have no time for delays at this point.  Plus, it’s fun to watch the transformation from day to day.

Since my last post, sheetrock was completed and hardwood floors installed. Tile install began and is looking great, but will hold that subject til next post.


Last week the exterior stone install began and is really looking good.  I have never used this exact stone color and style so I was a little anxious to see how it was going to turn out.  It’s sometimes daunting to make a prominent selection based off a small 16”x16” sample.   I watched in awe as the stone installers studied and worked the space with the pieces they had before them.  It’s especially challenging to install a fieldstone pattern because the shapes are irregular.  It almost requires an artisan to install fieldstone well, and I commend our guys for taking the time to do a good job.

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While stone was going up on the exterior, the interior trim guys have been hard at work cutting trim boards for all the windows and door frames,  coffered ceilings, wainscoting,  and my accent wall for the Dining Room.   Before the trim guys come out, I spend time in the office studying the plans and thinking through each room.  With my notes and pictures in hand, I meet onsite with Neil and Jeff Ayscue with Ayscue’s Trimwork.


I’m going to be honest, I’m not much better at knowing all the trim lingo now than I did 10 years ago. I still get confused knowing the difference between basecap and cove mold.   For some reason, my  brain just doesn’t store it.  However, it doesn’t stop me from thinking up plenty of wonderful ideas and I can trust Jeff to take those ideas and make them happen.

When we purchase interior doors, they come with the trim already attached.  Most suppliers stock a few styles such as 1×4 or #470, or #445.

For this home, I wanted to stick with the 1×4 (straight line, simple) style trim around the windows and doors.  I think it lends itself well to the overall feel of the interior style.  We add two additional pieces of molding at the top to finish the look.

One challenge with the 1×4 style, is how to trim out Arched Windows.  One of the features of this home I love is the beautiful arched windows.  To accommodate the arch, a special flexible cove mold is needed to finish out the top trim piece.


This home has 10’ ceilings down and 8’ up.  So downstairs we are using a solid core 8’ tall door and standard 6’8” hollow doors upstairs.  Using 8’ solid core does limit the style choices a bit more but there are still several nice styles to choose from.  Since I want to emphasize the arched detail throughout the home and I am using beadboard in several areas, I thought this door style was a perfect fit.


We are using 7 1/8″ wide baseboard and 2-piece crown in the ceilings.   When considering crown moldings and other trim options, builders are often at the mercy of the suppliers and what they stock.  Stock items can be ordered on Monday and arrive onsite Tuesday.  I’ve learned the hard way, to stray from what the suppliers stock will end up costing three times more and take twice as long to get.

Other cool features on the Trim List:

  • Nook Area: added Bench seating
  • Powder Room: added Beadboard up to cabinet height with a decorative tile accent capped off.
  • Family Room: built horizontal beams
  • Dining Room- In the last post, I gave three layout options for the dining room wall. After discussing with Jeff and Neil, we all agreed upon “option 2” using 1×4 plus Window Stop to soften the edge just a bit. When hardwoods were installed, we decided to add a decorative border along the perimeter and we turned the interior floor boards on a diagonal.  It turned out great and I wanted to hint at that decorative border on the ceiling so we added a subtle basecap molding.
  • Study: added Coffer Ceiling
  • Closets have customized wood shelving designed for best use of each space.
  • Master Bath: added wainscoting going from corner to corner acting as the backsplash for the freestanding tub with an accent band. Since my vanities are two different sizes, I found it difficult to find store-bought mirrors, therefore, we are installing trim similar to the windows and having mirrors cut and installed afterward.
  • Stairway railings and balusters.

Bedroom 4:  I want to backtrack a minute and look behind the scenes a bit for this Bedroom.  This home plan was originally drawn like this.


As soon as it was framed, Neil and I stood in the space and immediately wanted to make that room more efficient.  We removed the framing for the walls facing the rear dormer and pushed it back as far as we could.  Then we removed the currently framed closet and set it into the dead space beside the bathroom.  In order to utilize some of the deadspace adjacent to the closet, we created a recessed niche with a flush door to give more storage space.  We added a window seat in the side dormer flanked by two recessed book shelves.  These changes transformed this previously 12×10 room into a 15×15 room. This is what the room looks like now:


During framing we also added a full height access door to a large walk- in attic space through BR 2’s closet and another access door from the Rec room to access another floored attic space.

When I visited Saturday morning, cabinets installation was underway.  smiley-clapping


Join me next time when we take a closer look at how the selections and colors start coming together from a Designer perspective.

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Countdown to Parade of Homes

Rough-in Challenges Creates More Changes

As soon as I finished my last post, Neil and I headed out to the jobsite to meet with all our Rough-in Crews.  Rough-ins are all the internal workings of the home such as Electrical, HVAC, & Plumbing.  As we were discussing the kitchen layout, we ran into a bit of a snag- we realized there was no easy way to vent out for the Hood Vent at its current location.  That meant moving the cooktop all together.  Neil’s immediate solution was move it to the Island.  But my immediate response in my brain was “not in my beautiful island!”.  However, after exhausting all other options, I started to open up to the idea and low and behold it actually made more sense to me once I got over the initial shock of having to rework my kitchen layout again.  Another example of how things can seem good on paper but not necessary will work in the field.  I am actually excited about the new layout.  I think the overall flow and function of the kitchen now works better than the way we originally had in the last post (click here for a look back at last post).

Here’s the new layout.

  • Cooktop is now located in Island with a Downdraft retractable vent
  • We moved refrigerator to wall on right and got rid of any concern of opening the refrigerator doors against the pantry wall.
  • Wall ovens are now moved beside the pantry wall and are a better proximity and use of space to the sink and cooktop.



Although having to mentally accept having to change the kitchen layout at the last minute wasn’t ideal, things like this happen quite frequently while building a new home, especially a new plan.  We try to plan for all scenarios, but until you get into the field you learn that things have to be changed sometimes to work.  Being flexible and open minded during the building process helps alleviate a lot of stress.

The house has now been roughed-in and cabinet drawings approved and in production, so no more changes in the Kitchen. (Whew!)  So let’s move on to the Foyer and Dining Room.

As I mentioned last post, the overall style and selections in the Kitchen will help dictate the look and finishes when making selections for the adjacent areas in the home.  My goal is to be deliberate in creating each area into its own space while keeping a consistent flow and overall feel.

Let’s begin in the Foyer.  When standing in the the Foyer, even at framing stage, you get a sense of its “wow” factor.  Not only is it a two-story ceiling but it’s also vaulted.  The stairway is open the entire way up and beautifully flairs out at the bottom.  For such a grand space, the  light fixture needs to be large.  My goal is to find a fixture that is somewhere around 40″x 30″.  I mentioned in my last post how much I love light fixtures.  Well until I move forward with my dream of owning my own lighting store one day, I rely on Carla with Lights Unlimited to guide me in the right direction.  And on more than one occasion I think we’ve had every lighting catalog in the store out of her desk trying to find just the right fixture.


Hard day at work

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to work with someone like Carla who can take my ideas and style and guide me to the best options within my price range.  And when I say price range, believe me, Neil keeps me on a budget so sometimes I have to be very creative to get what I want.  Having to work on a budget is not always easy, but over time I’ve created a “per room” budget I try to stay within.  For a house this size, we’ve allocated $6,000 total for light fixtures (doesn’t include the recessed trims).  I haven’t finalized all the lights for this house yet, so we will see at the end how close I come.

Since I’ve started the Kitchen in Chrome and therefore going with chrome door hardware throughout the home,  I am looking for a finish that will look good with chrome.  After spending some time looking, the size I want narrows the search down quickly. I came up with these options as my favorite contenders.


I keep these Foyer options close by and start looking for a Dining Room fixture. When planning for the Dining Room I usually add some wainscoting on the walls and/or a decorative ceiling of some sort such as a coffer or tray.  Here’s a few examples of some of my favorite past Dining Rooms:

However, when I stand in this Dining Room space I notice a few things- the Dining Room only has only one solid wall. The other wall is mostly windows and the rest is completely open with one column supporting the corner. The room is pretty large and rectangular in shape, therefore that one solid wall is long and big.  So as I stand in the space staring at that long wall, I immediately want to turn that wall into the accent of the room. By using color and trimwork detail I plan to transform that wall into the focal point of the room.  Since the wall will be the focal point, I’ve decided NOT to do a coffer ceiling but install a big, beefy, crown to give it a nice finished look.


Now, I start looking for the right light fixture.   I found three Chandeliers in the chrome family I really like. I start considering the size of that wall again and feel it may be best to break that wall up in thirds and add two decorative sconce lights.  So I take my three favorite chandelier choices and see if they have coordinating sconces.


Now that I have the fixtures, I mock up three wall layouts for the trimwork design for that accent wall.


The accent colors I’m considering:


Now that I have my chrome Dining Room fixtures confirmed I go back to the Foyer light.  There is one more factor to take into account regarding the Foyer fixture.  The stairway look.  One option is to go with black wrought iron balusters or I can go with straight, clean line, white wood balusters.  Here’s two examples:

I think both looks would look nice in this situation. However, because of the “grandness” of this space through the height of the ceiling and the curve of the stairs at the entrance, I feel the black wrought iron would complement the look best.  Since the balusters are going to be black iron, I’m drawn to the large open lantern fixture that is combining the black iron with the chrome candlesticks and feel it will be the perfect compromise for this space.  The size is great, and it’s a great price for the size.


I submitted our Parade of Homes Entry form and fee last week, so its official, we can’t back out now.  Shingles, Siding, Insulation and the Front doors have been installed and Sheetrock is currently underway.  Things are moving quickly and I can’t wait to show you what I’ve got planned for the bathrooms!


February 2, 2017



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Interior Selections begin

Countdown to Parade of Homes series: Interior Selections begin

I start this post with a lot of excitement.  A lot has happened since my last post. Being a small business like ours, Neil and I have to wear many hats. Other than designer, one of my many hats is Marketing Director. During December and early January there are several marketing and personal relations tasks that demand my attention. One such task is finding a way to THANK the many people that have helped make our year a success. This year we gave a gift and a Year in Review card I created and mailed to clients, prospective clients, and the many business partners we count on every day. We have spent 16 years building long term business and personal relationships that help us continue to build our company. Maintaining long term relationships in this industry is not always an easy thing to do and we never take that for granted.

(Putting my “designer hat” back on) In my last post, framing had just started. Neil and I walked the home last week and while the windows were being installed. If you have ever gone through the actual process of building a new home, you realize this is an exciting time. I love getting to this point and standing in the space and realizing first hand all the potential this home can be. This particular floorplan has arched windows throughout and even though it is just at framing stage, the home is already showing signs of its future beauty.


Kitchen/Nook Area windows

Now that we have entered January, we are reminded that a Spring Parade of Homes can be tough on builders because of weather. Neil and I were both born and raised in North Carolina and one of the reasons we love it here is for its relatively mild weather throughout the year. You never know what you will get from Monday to Friday. Last week was a perfect example of that with snow and freezing rain to start the week and mid 60’s to finish out the week.  Unfortunately, NC doesn’t react quickly to snow and ice. Our schools and businesses shut down and we didn’t leave our home for three days. Bad weather can really make it tough to stay on schedule.  Thankfully, the home was 95% under roof, so it could have been worse, but for sure, we can use some cooperating weather for the next three months if we have any chance of making our April 13th deadline.


While Neil has been busy watching over the construction side of things, I have been busy meeting with our Custom Cabinet guy, visiting the tile, plumbing, and lighting showrooms, and local granite yards.  One great perk about my job is I get to spend hours looking at resources like Houzz and Pinterest on my iPad and when Neil asks what I’m doing I can honestly say I’m working. 😉  As a professional, it’s important to use these resources as “inspiration” rather than being a “copycat.” When I work with clients I enjoy seeing their idea boards; it helps me understand their personality and style. However, I also try to make sure my clients have realistic expectations early on by explaining that most of the pictures seen on Houzz are professional photographs from professionally designed and decorated homes worth millions of dollars. They are not the average home within our average client’s price range. Therefore, using these resources are great, as long as everyone has realistic expectations on how they can be best used when designing a new custom home or remodel.

Once I’ve spent some time thinking through my overall concept and feel of a home, I usually begin with the Kitchen and work out from there. I like starting in the Kitchen whether I’m helping a presale client or designing a spec home because I feel the Kitchen is the heart of the home where most of the family’s time will be spent. It is here that the overall feel and style of the home would naturally resonate. I started by meeting with Bryant Herring with Herring Cabinets. We have been using Bryant for several years now. What I like about Bryant is he can build just about anything I come up with. As long as I give him a sketch or a picture of a concept, he  can work with me on achieving the exact look I’m going for. You simply can’t do that that with a manufactured cabinet company. I will admit, a challenge in using Bryant is he does not have a big, fancy showroom for clients to come in and choose one cabinet style from another, but I feel the benefits of his quality in addition to my freedom to customize at every step strongly outweighs the need for a fancy showroom where every time you want to make a change or add something it’s considered an “upgrade”.  Our clients really haven’t missed having a showroom when they can sit down and design their custom Kitchen just the way they want.

For this floor plan, the Kitchen has actually been more challenging than I originally thought. There are some great features to this Kitchen, however, the overall way the Kitchen spreads out in a large space, I’ve had to really think through how to maximize it’s functionality.  Standing in the space really helps get a feel for the layout and function far more than just looking at a plan. As Neil, Bryant, and I stood in the space we went back and forth looking at different options. In the end, we made the following changes to the original plan:


  • I moved the wall ovens away from the cooktop wall. We are going to either use a slide in range or I’m going to combine the cooktop and oven into the same space and butt that area out a bit from the rest of the cabinet. I’m going to attempt to add narrow spice rack pullouts on each side to add additional separation.  I’ve added a pot filler since the sink is on the other side of the kitchen.
  • We decided to square off the refrigerator wall and move the microwave beside the refrigerator.
  • We couldn’t shrink or move the pantry location because it hides a major support beam. Therefore, I plan to turn that Pantry door into a prominent design feature.
  • This plan has a gorgeous arched window right above the sink. I love it! However, a window takes away cabinet space. Therefore, we are going to build a continuous cabinet arched around the window.
  • The dishwasher will be on the right of the sink and a hidden trash pullout will be on the left.
  • The Island is my favorite part of this Kitchen. We tweaked the size from the original plan and added a hangover area for bar seating. I removed the small island sink because I feel they are so small they aren’t very functional, plus the plumbing would take up an entire section of storage I would rather have.
  • Another great feature of this Kitchen is the narrow but spacious Pantry Cabinet on the Powder Room wall. This is a great way to utilize that space. I’ve designed this cabinet to look like an actual antique pantry cabinet I remember in Neil’s grandmother’s Kitchen. This piece will be very functional but also a statement piece.

Now that we’ve talked through the layout,  Bryant sends me drawings I can revise and start adding the special details that will make this Kitchen unique and special. Here are some of my notes that I mark up and give back to Bryant to make revisions and start building.


My next step is selecting cabinet colors and granite. I already have concepts in my head before I head to the granite yard, but I take my Cabinet paint fan with me so I can keep an open mind when I see a slab I really like, I can change the color right there on the spot.

If you have never been to a granite yard, it’s like going on a museum field trip and getting the opportunity to see God’s artistry at work. I love walking down the aisles of these huge canvases of natural beauty. The Raleigh-Durham area has many granite yards to visit. Most use a color code system that helps you understand the cost of one slab over the other. I always stay away from Red & Orange stickers (referred to as level 4 & 5) and look for blue and green stickers (level 1 & 2). Different levels can translate into thousands of dollars. A good rule of thumb is for one average size kitchen, you can add at least a $1,000 per level. So if my level 1 kitchen came to $2,500, then the level 5 granite for the same kitchen would be around $6,500. Granite has really come a long way in just a few years. About 10 years ago, there were only a handful of level 1 granite options and you saw the same five options in almost every home. But today, granite has become so popular and more readily available, the options have really opened up.

As I walked around the granite yard and my fabricator’s warehouse, I chose Delicatus Cream. (This photo taken with my phone doesn’t do it justice, it’s gorgeous)


I have decided to go with granite on both the perimeter and island for this kitchen. I have a lot of different design elements going on in this kitchen already. I didn’t want to change the island granite to a different granite choice or a wood species. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love a wood island countertop. In fact, the last home we built I used a Black Walnut top for the island and it was stunning (pictured below). The kitchen needed some warmth; this kitchen has enough going on I feel keeping the same granite countertops work best this time.

Before I could finalize my kitchen design thoughts, I made a trip to the plumbing and lighting showroom to start piecing the overall look and feel of the kitchen. One thing I knew for sure- I wanted a farmhouse sink.

In last year’s Parade Home I used a Kohler Farmhouse sink. I had originally ordered a white sink and designed the kitchen with that particular sink. However, when I called to schedule a delivery date for the kitchen, I found out that there was a backorder on the sink and there was no date on when one would be available. So I had kitchen cabinets that were scheduled to be installed the following week and they were built around the exact dimensions of that particular sink. The showroom researched different vendors but no other sink could be found with the exact dimensions. They called around all over the country and tracked down two sinks that were the same model just a different color. One of the two colors was called Cashmere (pictured below). I grabbed my samples and drove straight to the showroom to take a look at the color. It was dead on perfect with my granite and backsplash I had already ordered. My 48 hour stress turned into a blessing. The sink ended up being one of my favorite sinks I’ve ever used. Situations such as the backordered-sink dilemma translates into just “another day” in the home building industry.  I’m sure I’ll have plenty of new examples to share with you along the journey of this home.


My current plumbing showroom has a beautiful white farm sink that is being discontinued; therefore, they are selling me that sink for about half the cost of my usual budget. Yeah! A quality white farmhouse sink we usually budget $800-1000. For a good quality stainless we give an allowance of $600. I realize you can go online to some “sinkwarehouse” type company and get one for much less, but from a builder standpoint, that means trouble. Half the time, important components are missing or if anything is wrong with it at all, it causes headaches and delays. I’m all for saving money, but ordering from a website that we can’t exchange the product easily is not worth the risk.

The next piece to this puzzle is lighting. I absolutely love lighting. The perfect lighting fixture is like the jewelry with a nice outfit, just ties it all together and helps give a nice finished look. I spend hours on lighting for each project–I take it very seriously. The challenge for this house wasn’t that I couldn’t find the right lights, but it was that I fell in love with two totally different looks. The bigger challenge is each look is different enough that it will totally affect the corresponding look in the Foyer and Dining. From the time you walk through the front door, I want the lights and overall feel of the home to work harmoniously with one another, especially in an open floorplan such as this where multiple spaces converge into one another. Therefore, each look in the kitchen led to its own specific look in the Foyer and Dining. However, I’m quickly running out of time and need to make a decision so what do I do??? Well, I phoned a friend that I trust will give me their honest opinion. Just talking through the two scenarios out loud helped me make the decision for this home and getting a second opinion helped clinch it. I’ll happily save Option B as a possibility for a future home.

Regarding this home, let’s break apart these design elements a bit so you can get a feel for where this kitchen is headed.


Rough-ins began today!  Beforehand, Neil and I spent an hour creating the Lighting Plan.  I’m heading out there now to walk and confirm a few things and make sure our proposed electrical plans make sense while standing in the space.  I can’t wait to share with you next time how some of the other spaces are coming along.  If you want to make sure you don’t miss any posts from this series, be sure to “follow”.  I have been enjoying your feedback, so keep it up and feel free to share this blog series with others.

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Countdown to Parade of Homes Week 3: Exterior Selections

I want to thank everyone for patiently waiting for week 3 of my new series Countdown to the Parade of Homes.  A lot has happened in the three weeks since I last wrote so let me catch you up with where we are to date.  So far, we picked a plan, tweaked it, picked up permits, dug the footing, built the foundation, and now we are currently FRAMING.  Things are moving quickly now but before we ever started to dig the footing, I had to have all my exterior selections made, submitted to the Architectural Review Board (ARB), and approved weeks before Neil was able to start construction.  So let’s take a closer look at the exterior selections process for this year’s Parade Home entry.

When building in a subdivision, usually all Exterior Selections and improvements to the lot/home have to be submitted before the Architectural Review Board (ARB) for that subdivision.  The ARB is either run by the Home Owners Association (HOA) or the Developer.  As a builder, I like having an ARB that is in control of what can and cannot be built in the subdivision.  I realize sometimes HOA’s can get a little extreme and overboard with some of their rules and policies, but for the most part, they are there to protect the homeowner from others building or doing something that would ultimately lower property values.  As a general rule of Real Estate value, the concept of Conformity means properties within a given area tend to be similar in size, style, age, construction, and quality.  The more you stray from these principles, the higher the likelihood of depreciating property values.  Now, even though an ARB is in place, that doesn’t mean everything goes as smooth as you would like, but, from a builder point of view, it would be a greater risk to build a home in a subdivision with no ARB in place.  Higher appraisal values are good for everyone.

I already discussed in week one that curb appeal is one of the most important factors when choosing a Parade Worthy floor plan.  The trick is selecting a color and texture combination that stands out from the crowd yet is appealing and inviting at the same time.  That is not always easy.  I usually have some ideas in my head of some color schemes I’m wanting to go with early on.  However, before I get too focused on a certain color and look, I need to make a site visit first to see what the surrounding home color schemes are.  We don’t want to choose too similar of a color scheme and look as a neighboring home already built.  The good news with this year’s Parade Home is there is only one other home right beside it we need to worry about since it’s a new section in the subdivision.  I happen to know that color scheme because it is a presale of ours.  So I am going to stay away from the Gray/taupe palette in order to stand out from the neighbor.

Funny story- I’ve had people ask me before how it is working with my husband.  Well, to be honest, it’s not always as smooth as we would like.  We are both head strong individuals that like to be the “right” one.  Thankfully, for the most part, we complement each other very well.  When I come up with ideas Neil tells me how it can be done and how much it’s going to cost.  If we went with everything I wanted to do we would surely be bankrupt by now.  For the most part, Neil has supported most of my design decisions.  However, once, several years ago, I got a call from Neil.  He was at one of our jobsites and the house was being painted that day.  He called me with clear concern in his voice regarding the “yellow” that was being painted on the exterior.  He called me because he thought surely that could not be the color I selected.  I explained that once all the colors came together it was going to look great.  He didn’t agree but let the painters continue.  It took til near the completion of that home when he finally told me he thought the house looked great.  But for a few weeks, I was definitely nervous thinking what if no one liked it, and the house doesn’t sell, then it would be all my fault.  That’s a lot of pressure.  Thankfully, it turned out great, and it sold quickly and we remained happily married. 😉

The “Yellow” home:


Back to 2016.  In this situation, I have been looking at the same photograph from the website we purchased the plan from for over two years.  So I have become accustomed to that look and would like to stay pretty close to the same palette which is in the brown family.  One tip when selecting exterior paint colors, the color will turn out lighter than you initially think from the sample.  So I usually go darker rather than lighter for my exterior paint selections.  I immediately get my Sherwin Williams paint fan out and start looking at my old faithful brown colors that I know look great as well as start looking at some of the new colors Sherwin Williams added this past year to the new paint fans.  (If you keep following this blog, you will quickly realize I love NEW things.) In this situation I quickly narrow down to the following options.


Next, I look at stone options because stone is the accent material that will be on the front elevation.  If this was a predominantly brick home, I would start with the brick selection.  But here, the brick will only be used on the foundation.  Since the lot if flat, not much of the brick will be visible.  So my brick choice will simply compliment the stone choice I make.

When choosing stone, I’m looking at two different things: one is color and the other is style or shape of the stone.  I’ll share a quick ‘learn from experience’ story- once when choosing exterior selections for a new spec home, the location was one of the last lots available on the street.  I made a site visit first to see what color palettes were already used on the surrounding properties.  Since I had 5-6 other homes to take into consideration, I found it challenging to come up with a color scheme that would be different enough, yet compliment the others on the street.  I was so caught up in the color scheme that I didn’t even notice I had ended up using the same color and style of the stone on the house right beside us.  Now the overall home was different enough that I don’t think anyone even noticed, but I can guarantee the existing homeowner noticed, and that was a mistake on my part that I want to avoid in the future.  Therefore, step one- I look at what stone choice the house next door has already chosen and I stay away from that.

In this situation, I already know the stone choice next door so I can avoid that choice, and I know I want to stay in the brown family.  I quickly narrow down to these two choices:

Now I take the few paint colors I’ve selected and look at them with the two stone choices.  I immediately narrow down to:

In this circumstance I am leaning toward the Sienna color.  I also want to incorporate some texture, therefore, I want to stay away from the more linear styles like weather ledge, stack ledge, or ledgestone.  I’m not ready to commit all the way to the fieldstone look so I’m learning toward the Tuscan Ledge profile which combines some of the ledgestone with fieldstone pieces for the perfect combination and look I’m wanting for this home.

One big challenge of choosing any selections but especially exterior selections is looking at a small sample ranging from a small paint chip to a stone board measuring about 12×12 but in reality is going to be on the side of the house. Well, it’s not always easy but my years of experience helps tremendously.  If you are building a new home yourself, having a professional eye on your selections will help ease your mind and eliminate any undue stress throughout the building process.

After considering my stone choice and the two paint colors, I decided upon  Sherwin Williams new color Song Thrush 9112.

Now that we have the two major exterior selections made, we can add the “supporting” characters such as:

  • Trim color
  • Shutters
  • Flagstone for the steps and porch perimeter
  • Metal roof accents
  • Shingles
  • Gutters
  • Window style and color
  • Garage doors
  • And my favorite exterior selection- the Front Door.

Although I refer to these items as “supporting” the main selection, each one is very important.  Any one of these should support and complement the other.  When looking at the home from the street, if you make a bad selection, it can throw off the entire look of the home. For example: one of my pet peeves is to use white windows in certain color schemes such as this one.  I think white windows look great with certain color schemes, but in the overall look I’m going with white will be a big contrast.  When someone drives by I don’t want the windows to say “look at me, I’m white.”  So in this color scheme, we will definitely go with tan windows.

Trim: In some circumstances I love white crisp trim that will bring contrast to the siding door.  But in this situation, I’m going for a softer look and want to blend with the tan windows.  I chose trim color Urban Putty SW7532.

Shutters: This home is a little more classic/traditional so I’m going with the Raised Panel shutter style in a dark brown/blackish color called Black Fox SW7020.

Metal Roofing: I’m going with a Medium Brown.

Shingles: Shingles are another thing that can be very important. Most of the time we don’t really pay much attention to shingles driving down the road, but when you come across a home that chose the wrong color, you know it immediately.  My personal opinion regarding shingles is they should not be the first thing you notice.  If they are, that is usually NOT a good thing.  In this situation, the roof lines on this home are very appealing so the roofing style and color are really important.  Because of the complexity of the roof lines, we have decided to upgrade these shingles to a High Definition shingle by Certainteed.  The three colors you see most used especially by builders are Weatherwood, Driftwood, and Black.  Weatherwood and Driftwood work great with almost every color combination and tend to pull out whatever color you are using on the home.  Black is best when you are looking for more contrast or anytime you have black accent colors like shutters, metal roofing, or a painted black door.  In this situation, we are going with the Max Def Weatherwood.




Max Def Weatherwood

Gutters: There are two schools of thought.  I usually like to blend the gutters away and try to match them with the trim color OR make them a particular color that would play more as an accent.  See the difference:


In this situation, I don’t really want to “see” the gutters so I’m going with a color that matches the trim.

Garage Doors- My new favorite garage doors are the wood grain version of the Amarr Classica or Oak Summit.  I’ve used both the Walnut and the Golden Oak.  I think the Walnut will look great on this home.

Last but not least: The Front Door- In my opinion, the front door is hugely important to a home.  It is your guest’s first impression and can impact the overall look and feel of the home.  My favorite style doors right now are double arched wood doors of any style.  When a plan doesn’t have the space for double doors I often select an oversize door of either 3’6″ x 8′ or I have had custom 4’x8′ doors made on several occasions including my own home.  The front doors don’t have to be expensive if you are on a tight budget, sometimes just having the right color can create a nice curb appeal.  Here are some of my favorite doors I’ve used in the past:

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This is the set of doors I’ve selected for this home:


Now that all the exterior selections have been chosen, I create a Selection sheet and turn in for ARB approval.  I can’t wait to see it all come together.


Coming soon: CABINETS

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Countdown to Parade of Homes series Week 2:

How to turn a good plan into a WOW plan

Thanks for joining me on Week 2 of my new blog series “Countdown to Parade of Homes”.  Last week we looked at what elements make a plan “Parade Worthy”.  Not all plans measure up.  As a builder, we spend hours and hours looking for just the right plan in order to showcase our talents and style while appealing to today’s market.  Hopefully, you read last week’s post and have been waiting in suspense to see which plan we ended up choosing.


Which one, which one???

If you have stumbled upon this blog by accident and didn’t read last week, STOP AND CLICK HERE to read last week’s post first.

Thank you to all who voted on our social media platforms last week.  New this week, I’ve added a poll directly onto the blog itself.  Based on the combined total votes, the WINNER is. . .

That is really exciting because we dug the footing for that plan last week.  However, as much as Neil and I both love the Jennings plan, I also love the Clifton Place plan and am hopeful we will get to build it some day in the near future.  But for now, let’s look a little deeper into the Jennings plan and how we took the original plan which was good, and tweaked it to create a WOW plan.

The Original Plan (before):


The Tweaked version (after):



As I mentioned last week, it is hard to find a perfect plan.  Our goal is to find a plan that with a little tweaking can be a really great plan.  I want to point out that if you plan to purchase a plan yourself from one of the many sites available online, you will need to purchase the plan license and either work directly with the plan company to make changes or you can take it to a local architect and have changes made.  But either way, you have to purchase the original plan license first.

Another option is to work directly with an architect and have a plan drawn from scratch to fit your exact needs and wants.  We personally like working with clients in the early stages of space planning and designing a home.  We have found the entire process goes much smoother when we can work with the client and the architect during the drawing phase.  More than once we have been asked to price a home that has already been drawn by an architect.  The client has already spent months and a good amount of money on having the plan drawn and then we take a look at the plan and automatically see areas that would benefit from some changes.  Architects do a great job drawing aesthetically pleasing home designs, however, from a builder’s point of view, the plans aren’t always as functional or budget friendly as most of our clients would appreciate.  Therefore, I feel a more efficient process when designing a new home is working with both an architect and your builder together so the end result will be a beautiful and functional home that meets your needs, wants, and budget.

Back to the Jennings plan.  After reviewing all the different changes, what do you think?? Thankfully, none of these changes required any major re-engineering so we were able to make these changes pretty easily.  However, that is not always the case.  For example, we had already started framing last year’s Parade Home and as I was walking through one day I had an epiphany that I wanted to open up the kitchen and create a large island.  Unfortunately, Neil quickly let me know it was too late for such a change.  Framing had already started, we were on a tight building schedule as it was and it simply wasn’t an option at that point to stop framing and have the plan re-engineered and a new steel beam ordered.  I was a little pouty for a few days but quickly came to the realization Neil was absolutely right because we would have never made judging if we had gone with my late idea (he’s probably going to print and frame this).

The good news- it turned out beautiful anyway and the home sold during sheetrock stage.  The even better news, we had a new client come in and love everything about the home but always wanted a big kitchen island, so guess what, we are currently rebuilding that same plan with the big island.  It’s framing now and I’m so excited and can’t wait to see it finished.  Now we are both happy! 🙂

Here is the original Kitchen layout:


This wall will stay the same


Original Cabinet drawing


This area has been removed


New Kitchen layout adding the big island

Now that I have taken you through the process of customizing an existing plan, I hope it inspires you to view plans in an entirely different way.  Don’t just look at the plan as drawn, but look at is as a starting point that you can customize and make your very own.  One note of caution, I’m speaking from a Custom Builder mindset.  If you chose to work with more of a Production-type builder, I caution you to ask first before you get your heart set on a change because it could end up costing you a lot more than you anticipated.  Production builders are cost effective for a reason, they don’t like changes.  Changes slow things down and cost money.  Custom Building is certainly not for everyone.  You may prefer to have everything already decided for you.  If you are considering buying or building a new home, consider carefully which method would work best for you.

So now that we have the plan and permits, and the foundation is underway, the real fun begins!  Hope you will join me next week as start the Exterior Selections and ARB (Architectural Review Board) process.

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