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Get Ready, Set, Go! The 1st HUGE Design Choices You Make When Building Or Renovating

Are you building or renovating a home? Well, me, too! If you're anything at all like me, it feels just a bit overwhelming. Once you've found the contractor, the lot, the plans (not necessarily in that order) and the building process has started...then what?! Most of us are not onsite swinging a hammer so it feels a little abstract. I am not one to sit on the sidelines and wait for the contractor to give me a week to make an important design decision. Nope. Not gonna happen.

I have to DO something. Each week, I call my contractor for an update. While well meaning, he shares how slow the process is going due to (insert any random reason for delay here) weather, tradesman on other jobs, etc...The only reason that I'm ok with this is because 1) I won't be living here full time so I'm not in a rush and 2) the home is in a ski resort that has all season options but having it ready to enjoy and rent during high season is really all that matters. Even though I'm keeping my cool, I'm a list builder and so, here is my list!

Here are the 3 most important early design decisions that must be made when building or renovating a home (let's assume a full gut job) and my current choices for each.

Decision #1 - Windows Once the dust (literally) settles from the framing process, it is time to make this mass of 2 x 4s and building materials a real house. This step is pure magic. I plan to be onsite with a bag of popcorn the day the windows and doors go in (lol!). When choosing windows and doors, here are a few quick tips to consider -

Style - Is your home a rustic farmhouse, an arts and crafts bungalow or mountain modern (like mine!)? Make sure to choose windows that complement your home's decor. My contractor uses Pella. My windows are Pella Proline Series. My homeowners association mandates windows with no panes so the style of window was chosen for me. It works because I wanted clean lines. Color - I chose black. It's neutral which gives me the most flexibility for the exterior paint color. Black is a popular color for windows (dare I say "trend"). My home is also in a natural setting so white windows or something equally as light would be too much of a contrast with the natural surroundings. Choose your window colors carefully. New windows often allow you to choose one color for the inside and one for the outside. Function - There are so many options for window functionality. I won't get into those details but the key is to keep in mind your location, window placement and how you plan to use the windows.

Decision #2 - Exterior Front Door

Everyone who enters your home goes through the front door (ok not everyone, but most). It is an opportunity to make a positive first impression. From a design perspective, this is a BIG ticket item that deserves careful consideration. Front doors can range from $300 to $10,000. While I don't encourage you to break the bank, look for a door that stands out. Let it be an exclamation point on the end of your sentence! I like exterior door shopping at auctions or builder's supply companies instead of a retailers where the mark up can make the best doors cost prohibitive. We plan on buying the door for our vacation home rental from the same place that we bought the exterior door for our newly renovated home, Southern Sales ( They sell builders' excess inventory at deep discounts. [For the record, I have just shared one of the BEST sources for building materials in the Mid-Atlantic. Don't take my word for it. Go to the auction!]

Quick tip - Even if you are NOT renovating or building a home, the front door is a great place for a mini-makeover!

Decision #3 - Exterior Siding and Trim

There are so many siding choices! My advice here is to keep within the style of the home, but find ways to mix different siding. I've selected a combination of board and batten siding and horizontal plank siding. the mixture of the two adds depth and interest. The trim accent will include several arches in the front gable. You might consider stucco and stone or brick and horizontal plank siding. Having more than one siding option adds visual interest. So, mix and match!

Now on to the 1,236,539 decisions left to be made...Are you building or renovating? What BIG decisions are on the horizon?

Still not impressive, I get it! But here are the progress shots on the house. We now have footing and blocking. Next, is the foundation for the basement and framing!

Photo cred 1) Flavin Architects 2) Scott Pease Photography 3) Springtime Builders

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