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Design studio decisions

by Gremlyn Bradley-Waddell on May 1, 2015

When it comes to your new home, design decisions can be overwhelming whether you’ve been through the process before or not. Luckily, most — if not all — homebuilders either contract with a design studio or have their own in-house experts so that homebuyers can work side-by-side with interior designers.

So how exactly does it all work? In a nutshell, something like this: 

Sign…and you’re off!

Amy Williams, the design center manager at Interior Logic in Tempe, a company that partners with many of the Valley’s production builders, said every builder has a different timeline, but in general, once you sign the contract to purchase your new home, the clock starts ticking for you to make all the design selections. Plan on attending anywhere from a four-hour to a multi-day design consultation.

Laya Boschee, vice president of product and design for Robson Communities, said the company’s design consultants like to schedule the first meeting at the on-site design studios within a month from the signing. They then meet with homebuyers for a minimum of three full days to make sure their clients get exactly what they want. “This is often their last home and we want it to be their dream home,” she said.

Gather ideas

Williams said it’s wise to create an “ideas book” which can take the form of an accessible web page (such as Pinterest) or a notebook of design inspirations you’ve gathered from magazines, books, TV, online research or even your neighbor’s house. Be sure to take it with you to the first design consultation to give studio staff a better idea of what you want in your new home.

Boschee said Robson Communities also has an online options library that buyers can peruse before their design center visit. “They can create their initial wish list and bring it with them,” she said. “This way, the homebuyer knows what’s offered for what price before even meeting with a consultant.”

Consider your options

If your homebuilder doesn’t offer an online options library, you should receive an options list when you sign your new-home contract, Williams said. The list contains some of the product options and respective prices offered by your builder — typically everything from appliances to plumbing fixtures and, if included, architectural elements. Items that tend to have numerous choices (such as countertops and flooring) are often priced during the design appointment because the price depends on what materials you select and where you decide to put them.

The interior designer who’s assisting you will often offer suggestions and ‘tricks of the trade‘. “Kitchens and bathrooms are where you want to put your money,” Williams said, adding that there are also ways “to cheat” in order to get a more high-end look for fewer dollars. One example: “The color of the cabinets is more visually important than the style of the cabinet,” she said. Use more vivid color on removable items such as pillows, towels and draperies, she suggested, and go for timeless colors — such as taupe — on cabinetry and more permanent items.

Make a friend

The interior designer who’s working with you has seen and heard it all, so reach out if you have any questions or concerns during the selection process, Williams said. If your spouse wants navy blue carpet and your heart is set on white, there may be some issues that need to be addressed first — and that’s where a good designer can help and get both parties to start compromising.

On that note, Williams advised against bringing friends, real estate agents and family members — other than your spouse — to the design consultation. “It’s hard enough to get two people on the same page,” she said, “and these are decisions where you need a clear head. It’s a lot of money and you need to be clear about what makes you happy, not what your mother wants.” The time you spend with a design consultant will be short, but it’s intense, and many homebuyers make a good friend in the process. 

The big finale

At the last design consultation, you’ll finalize your selections and sign off on them. Be cognizant of the fact that making changes after you sign on the dotted line could cost you additional fees.

At Robson Communities, Boschee said a buyer will likely make all the decisions from countertops and electrical to window coverings and decorative lighting. “Our goal is that when they move into that house, everything is completely done,” she said. 

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