Design Center Tips: Picking Upgrades at the Builder’s Design Center
Updated August 15, 2023
This post is about builder’s design center tips for a new construction home.
When selecting upgrades and finishes for your new construction home, the choices can often get very overwhelming. I accompanied my mom to her design center meeting to help pick out the finishes for her and my dad’s new build.
Today, I’m sharing about our experience, design center tips, the process of selecting their home finishes, which upgrades they chose for their new home, and the total cost of upgrades!
DESIGN CENTER TIP: Prepare Beforehand and Set Your Priorities. What are your must-haves?
Prior to the builder design center meeting, I had an in-depth discussion with my parents on which upgrades were the most important to them and we set their priorities ahead of time, just in case their upgrades were adding up to be too much.
Their design must-haves for their home were:
- Flooring – luxury vinyl plank or hardwood flooring
- Kitchen cabinets – white shaker style cabinets
- Kitchen countertops – quartz
- Kitchen appliances – stainless steel
THE DESIGN CENTER MEETING
At the start of our meeting, we were given the price list for all upgrades. The design center lady walked us through all the upgrade categories one-by-one and explained what came standard and associated costs with upgrading to certain levels.
The builder actually had a large showroom with many sample kitchens built, which was really helpful to visually see examples of what the finished product would look like, beyond just a tiny sample. Other design centers that I had seen before only had the various samples offered, but no sample kitchens (except what was in the model home).
Our design meetings were split into two – the first to pick selections, and the second would be a week later to finalize and/or change the upgrades after having some time to think it over.
DESIGN CENTER TIP: Start with your must-have design finishes and build the rest of the design around that.
FLOORING: LUXURY VINYL PLANK
After comparing the upgrade costs for hardwood flooring vs. luxury vinyl plank flooring, we decided the luxury vinyl plank would be more cost-effective. The color of the luxury vinyl plank flooring was the most important finish to my parents, so we picked the flooring FIRST and made sure the rest of our design choices would go with it.
We narrowed the flooring selections down to these three below and chose the warmest color option (second from the right).
KITCHEN CABINETS: WHITE SHAKER
Kitchen cabinets were my parent’s next top priority and we knew beforehand they wanted white shaker style kitchen cabinets, so that was an easy and quick decision. The standard option offered was oak cabinets that looked really dated and ugly, so you pretty much had to upgrade these.
The standard option was also at a 30 inch height for the upper cabinets, and the upgrade options were to raise the height of uppers to 36 inches or 42 inches. We chose the 36 inches height upgrade.
KITCHEN COUNTERTOPS: QUARTZ
Next was kitchen countertops, which we had already decided on a quartz countertop. The kitchen countertops were a huge cost, so we stuck to the level 1 upgrade choices and selected a plain white quartz to achieve a clean and minimal kitchen design (and stay within budget!)
KITCHEN TILE BACKSPLASH
The builder’s model home had glass tile in the kitchen, which looked really great so we were considering doing the tile backsplash through the builder. The design center lady didn’t have a price for us though and had to wait to get a quote for the tile upgrade, so we left the meeting unsure whether we would upgrade the tile through the builder or hire someone else to tile after closing.
The other upgrade costs were already adding up a lot, so luckily tiling the kitchen backsplash after closing wouldn’t be too bad of a project. We liked these three glass backsplash options below though!
[UPDATE: We ended up deciding to tile the backsplash after closing and not upgrade through the builder]
The sink that came standard was a double sink and my mom really wanted one large sink, so we chose to upgrade the sink too.
BEDROOM FLOORING: CARPET
My parents opted for carpet in the two bedrooms to keep costs down. My preference would’ve been to extend the luxury vinyl plank flooring into the bedrooms as well, but the budget didn’t allow for that.
We stuck with the level 1 carpet options and narrowed it down to these three below. We ended up choosing the carpet option on the right and upgraded to level 1 carpet padding in addition.
Out of the level 1 upgrades for ceramic tile in the primary bathroom, we narrowed it down to the three tile choices below. We ended up choosing the greige tile on the right, which complemented the bedroom carpet the most.
For the vanity cabinet style, we chose a warm gray/greige shaker cabinet for the primary bathroom, along with the standard white countertop. We selected the same greige shaker cabinet and white countertop combo for the guest bathroom as well. We chose to extend the luxury vinyl plank flooring into the guest bathroom, which is right off the hallway.
DESIGN CENTER UPGRADES TOTAL COST
The total cost for the upgrades chosen at the design center meeting was around $30,000. The builder had offered my parents a $10,000 upgrade credit, so that took the total cost to around $20,000. For reference, this was for a 2-bedroom, 2-bath ranch around 1,700 sq ft.
What We Upgraded at the Design Center:
-Shaker cabinets for kitchen
-Shaker crown moulding for kitchen cabinets
-Raise upper cabinets to 36” height (standard was 30” height)
-Soft-close cabinets, full extended & dovetail drawer construction
-Single bowl stainless steel kitchen sink
-Stainless pull-down kitchen faucet
-Quartz countertops in kitchen
-Glass subway tile kitchen backsplash
-Stainless Steel Appliances (gas range, dishwasher, microwave & side-by-side refrigerator)
Flooring / Carpet Upgrades:
-Luxury Vinyl Plank flooring in kitchen/breakfast area, foyer & hall, hall at bedrooms, hall bath, family room & living/dining room
-Group 1 carpet in primary bedroom, bedroom #2 & stairs to basement
-Group 1 carpet padding in primary bedroom, bedroom #2 & stairs to basement
-Shaker cabinets for both bathrooms
-Ceramic tile flooring in primary bathroom
FINAL DESIGN AND SELECTED FINISHES!
[ RELATED POSTS : How We Designed Our Modern + Minimal Living Room ]
DESIGN CENTER TIPS: CONCLUSION
The standard and upgraded finishes of what builders offer will obviously vary from builder to builder, but hopefully you were able to get a better idea of what the process and finishes may look like if you’re prepping to go to your builder’s design center.
Building a home is exciting and the best part is being able to pick out all your design finishes and creating a home that reflects you! The process may get a little overwhelming, but it will all be worth it in the end.
Upgrade what would be really difficult to change later (like flooring, cabinets, countertop, tile, etc) and keep standard other items (like light fixtures) that you can swap out down the road. Just remember to start with your priorities and must-haves, build the remaining finishes around that, and little by little watch your home design come to life!
This post was about builder design center tips for selecting upgrades.