Melanie Jeanne

The Design Center Experience + 5 of My Top Tips & Tricks

I may have been born specifically for this day … My entire life has included me drawing rooms, drafting houses, creating worlds, designing and re-designing spaces. I have an absolute love for imagining home.

We selected the house, determined the lot and made structural decisions … With all those items complete it was time for the Design Center visit to bring the interior of our home to life. Taylor Morrison provides a lot of support in the process to ensure their future residents come to the center well equipped with ideas and knowledge. They have a site dedicated to the Design Center experience; providing a virtual tour view inside and giving residents suggestions such as; reviewing design magazines, watching favorite HGTV shows (have you seen Celebrity IOU yet? Go watch it…), creating Pinterest boards and touring other model homes to truly hone in on one’s taste and style (if you know me, you know I was miles ahead of these suggestions). I had also reached out to a few gals I knew living in Taylor Morrison homes who had been through the Design Center experience to glean additional advice. Advice that would certainly streamline the process and help in making tough decisions when it came down to the nitty gritty of our budget.

We knew for this home we wanted to pendulum swing the vibe a bit. We wanted rich colors, deep hues, stark contrasts and warmth brought in by accents such as hardware, lighting, materials and textures. We also knew our overall design aesthetic hadn’t changed. We love a modern masculine vibe that truly anchors a home, bringing the feminine touches in through accents, decor and personal touches. Having a solid grasp of our combined aesthetic made the process very focused. We were not distracted by all of the design options and more easily discussed the options that matched our style.

Prior to the Design Center visit we also discussed the items worth compromising on and the items we were steadfast in having in our home. Before getting started we knew we were unwilling to compromise on flooring, cabinetry, kitchen layout and a few additional details we did not want to incur cost on in the future or have to invest in additionally once we moved in. We were however, very willing to make some major compromises knowing that we would inevitably be making some updates once we were in our new home.

The Taylor Morrison Design Center experience is a two-day event. Day one is dedicated to selecting all options and potential upgrades required to build the home, drafting and noodling details to bring the home to life. Those options include much more than the design decisions. Options also include electrical, insulation, trim, plumbing, appliances, added cabinetry (additional drawers in leu of a knee bank in the master bathroom, give me all of the storage) and deletable options too (removing mirrors, medicine cabinets, etc). There is so much to review and decide and everything has a cost associated. As a result day two is an essential. Day two is meant for refining and editing all options made. It’s the time to reel in the budget, add anything that was left off the plan but feels necessary and allows one to adjust options after sitting with them a bit emotionally. Day two is the day the home is structurally finalized.

I’ve left y’all hanging long enough… Let’s dig into our decisions. We wanted a moody vibe that felt masculine, modern and cozy all at the same time. Our model, the Cottonwood, has a layout in which each room really gets to be the star of its own show. The front entry and dining room share space. The kitchen, dining nook and first floor family room are all open to one another. Leaving the office, bonus (fit) room, powder room and laundry room to stand alone. Upstairs there is a second family room loft and each bedroom stands alone. Our main goal was to make each space feel specific and leave nothing feeling like an afterthought.

Kitchen + Cabinetry Throughout: We wanted our kitchen to remain the heart of our home. Where we are thrilled to now have two family rooms, we recognize that we love when our kitchen and family room spaces flow together and live connected. Cabinetry throughout our home (bathrooms as well) will be traditional shaker cabinets in maple dusk (black) with Champagne Gold hardware. We added extended cabinetry in the kitchen nook area and took all cabinets to 42″ in height, making for a very modern + functional and full of storage space. The countertops will be a beautiful white ice quartz. Throughout the kitchen there will be white subway tile with white grout in a herringbone pattern. We opted for classic subway tile + grout, but updated the pattern to herringbone to bring in interest and some femininity. We chose stainless steal gas appliances throughout and made sure to add a nugget ice maker and butler’s pantry wine fridge to our gourmet kitchen set-up. Our kitchen has been our favorite space and we intend to keep it that way.

Cabinetry: Peterson Cabinets in Dusk
Cabinetry Hardware: Amerock Blackrock Cabinet Pulls in Golden Champagne
Kitchen Backsplash (Herringbone Pattern): Daltile Color Wheel Collection Arctic White Matte 3 x 6 

Floors + Bedrooms & Bathrooms: The first floor will be completely tiled with a large plank medium grey (shadow mountain) wood-like tile with dark grout. If we had it our way the whole house would be tiled, however, Taylor Morrison does not allow for tile or wood on the stairs or second story of the house. As a result we selected a low-grade grey carpet, with added padding, that we know we will re-address in the coming years. We chose not to fuss with carpet too much, allowing for it to get destroyed and then eventually replaced. The upstairs bathrooms will all be tiled with a gorgeous Daltile fabric visual tile in grey. Again, the grout will be dark. The master bathroom will have a super shower in leu of a shower / tub set-up. The shower walls will be traditional subway tiling, while the flooring and soap niche will be accented with a white and black hexagon tile. All matte tiling with black grout. In the master bath we included the white ice quartz for a little added pizzaz. We also opted to add extra drawers in leu of a knee bank in the master bath because storage is king in our world. The secondary baths will be cultured marble throughout, until we potentially someday update those bathrooms. The goal was to ensure all secondary bathrooms kept the same look and feel.

1st Floor Tile: Marazzi Chateau Reserve Shadow Mountain 8 x 48
2nd Floor Carpeting: Mohawk Bayfront in Fedora Grey
2nd Floor Bathrooms: Daltile Exhibition Fabric Visual in Fray Grey 12 x 24
Master Bathroom Shower Surround: Daltile Annapolis Flat Sail Matte 6 x 16 
Master Bathroom Shower Floor + Soap Niche: Daltile Color Wheel Collection – Mosaic Arctic White + Black Matte Hexagon

Electrical: We love light! That’s really the bottom line of our electrical choices. We added under cabinet lighting throughout the kitchen for ambiance. We added can lights to every room of our house and prewired for ceiling fans. We also ensured there was ample exterior lighting and plugs for holiday lights (our house at Christmas time is incredible). As far as much of the other electrical decisions, we ensured that each room could house a hung TV and equipped the office with extra goodies for ease of work for the Mr.

Standard Choices: We opted to keep the standard faucets throughout the home and standard lighting as well. In regard to the faucets, we realized we could make the same purchases independent of choosing the upgrades during the Design Center process and save money by having a handyman install after our build is complete. In regard to the lighting options, none of them are within our style aesthetic therefore we chose standard and will invest in updating lighting throughout the house over time. We also stuck with builder grade paint for a couple reasons: 1. the options weren’t great above and beyond the standard choice and 2. we already knew we would bring in our painter to ensure bright white walls and accents throughout similar to our previous home.

Upgrades Selected + Deleted Options: Much of our upgrades focused on flooring, kitchen cabinetry and layout, as well as lighting. However, there were a few items we intentionally deleted. The master closet and laundry rooms were both “deleted”, meaning we will be building out custom organization in both of those spaces. I wanted to maximize both spaces to their full potential. By “deleting” these spaces they come empty without a need for demolition prior to our custom build (looking for the perfect partner for these spaces). We also deleted the mirrors in the master bathroom so that the lighting and mirror situation could look more custom.

And there you have it, that is it… Our Design Center experience. We chose to focus on the items we would not want to update again in the future as well as some electrical that would be far more difficult to wire post build. Most of our design budget was spent on the structural decisions we made early in the process, then filling in our budget aesthetically at the Design Center. After navigating this process and seeking advice from many others, below are 5 tips & tricks to navigating the Design Center process.

My 5 Top Design Center Tips & Tricks

  1. Budgeting – This is the most important aspect of the entire process… It must be mentioned that you will be incurring costs during your Design Center visit (with any home builder). Along with all the beautiful options to select from there are electrical, plumbing, low voltage, interior hardware, interior trim, etc. decisions to be made as well. You will not walk away from the visit without adding cost to your home. Therefore it is essential to determine two things …
    1. How much are you willing to spend out of pocket while building your home? If there are additional payments to be made due to the Design Center visit, how much are you willing to pay. For example, with Taylor Morrison one can make up to $120,000 worth of optional and upgrade decisions on their home prior to having to write an additional check. If one goes over that dollar amount during the initial structural decisions and Design Center visit, there is added immediate cost. Know what you are willing to pay immediately. The money goes to your downpayment when your house closes, but it will come out of pocket immediately.
    2. How much are you willing to put into the total price / value of your home? The old saying goes you don’t want the most expensive house on the block. From the start costs will continually add up – the initial home cost is simply to purchase a piece of land and determine the structure to be built on it. There are elevation decisions, structural decision and design decisions – once all decisions are made, what do you want the total value of your home to be? Your home could start at $600,000 and by the time all of your decisions are made, could cost $800,000, are you comfortable with that? Know your comfort level.
    3. What is your level of comfort with rate fluctuations? There is inherently an unpredictability to the interest rate you will be able to lock in at. Three months prior to close you can lock in the current rate, until then, there is a risk and limbo to knowing your total investment. Builders have a clause in their agreements that it could take up to 24 months to build your home. That is a long journey of watching and wondering what the rate will be.
    4. What other costs are you going to incur immediately once your home is built? There are also substantial costs that need to be considered while building a new build that do not apply to the total cost of your mortgage, but do impact the total expenditure made on your home in a short period of time. Moving costs. Backyard renovation; your backyard will be dirt at movie-in. Window treatment costs. Unless built into your Design Center selections your house will not come with window treatments. Paint. Furniture. Etc. Ensure you have a slush fund budget as well. Or a plan, budget and timeline, to bite off these items task by task.
  2. Inspiration – Prior to entering the Design Center you should absolutely find inspiration in the wild. There are so many options to select from once the decision making process gets started, you should absolutely enter the process with an idea of what you like and how you want your home to feel. If you do not, the Design Center experience will be overwhelming and lengthy. Pinterest is always my go to in this regard. Whether I am about to travel, researching recipes or focusing on our home, this is my go to site to seek broad visual inspiration and information.
  3. Prioritizing Options + Upgrades – Due to the fact that everything has a cost it is essential to define what your top priorities are and what you may be willing to update or change in the future. It is a hard pill to swallow thinking that building a new home may not get you “your” finished home. But, you must realize that the premium pricing attached to selections made during the Design Center visit will add up and add to the total cost of your mortgage. For no other reason than managing your mortgage total, make a list of everything you can update and change on your own once in the home. There are some items that only cost a couple hundred dollars (our kitchen backsplash) therefore it may make sense to build it in to the build and ensure it is complete prior to move-in. There are other items, such as the laundry room build out, that were in the $5,000’s + and would not have been conducive to an organized and maximized space. That did not feel like a worthy expense. Know what matters most to you.
  4. Editing Selection + Finalizing Home – Slow down. I cannot emphasize this point enough. It is in any builders interest to keep the process moving with each new resident. The process with Taylor Morrison feels expedited to the extreme (we had fully selected everything for our home prior to ground breaking and now 4 weeks into the build process not much progress has been made it our dirt). Take every single minute any builder provides and utilize it in making decisions. Do not rush structural and Design Center decision making. Depending on the home you select, there will be time defined, take the entirety of the time given. Also, if there is doubt in a decision, if you feel you need to make an update – prior to signing on any dotted line – request the change. We had received our document to sign and felt a few changes needed to be made. Though our Design Center visit was over and those hours utilized, we absolutely requested very specific updates prior to signing and got those made. We are building a better house as a result.
  5. Exercise Patience – Y’all, this is a long process. Our builder quoted a 10-month build, but the paperwork we signed indicated the build could take up to 24 months. As mentioned, 4 weeks in to breaking ground and there is barely any progress made in the dirt at our home site. We are currently 2 months / 12 weeks into our quoted 10 month build. Know that this will be a long process, one in which you will experience hurry up and wait a lot. A few things to keep in mind – the builder is essentially the general contractor of your home builder, bringing in construction professionals, scheduling teams and managing the build out of all the homes in the neighborhood. There is a schedule and timeline that needs to be managed and once one contractor completes their task another can be scheduled. It’s the journey of watching dominoes falls slowly.

Now, for us, it is time to buckle up and watch the process from our front row seat. It is time for me to digitally plan rooms and decorate spaces. Dig into Pinterest and plan our home visually. It’s time for the fun stuff and the waiting.

More on the Process of Buying and Building a New Construction Home:
The House That Chose Us + The Beginning of New Home Construction
The Hunt for Our Next Home
Times, They Are a Changin’ …

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