Building your dream home is a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. With the help of an experienced interior designer, you can create a space that is functional, stylish, and reflects your unique personality.
In this Q&A session, we’re chatting with Courtney Showalter, the Interior Designer here at Miller Family Homes. Courtney graduated from Fort Hays State University with a bachelor’s degree in interior design and has experience working with commercial firms and residential homebuyers looking to build their dream homes. She is also a talented woodworker, crafter, and draftswoman. On the weekends, you’ll often find Courtney selling her adorable, well-crafted home décor items at craft shows across the state. Courtney’s expertise and talent are on display in the Miller Family Homes Clear Creek model at 14118 E. Laguna St, Wichita, Kansas.
Whether you’re just starting to plan your dream home or you’re already deep in the construction process, this Q&A is sure to be helpful. Courtney will share her insights on everything from choosing the right floor plan to selecting the perfect finishes. So read on to learn more about how to build the home of your dreams.
Q: What advice do you have for customers when it comes to selecting a floor plan to build as their home?
A: When choosing a floor plan that fits you it is important to keep in mind all the parts and pieces of your lifestyle. What is your family like? Are you empty nesters, or young parents? Are you at retirement age and want a slab home? This will help determine the type of floorplan that will best suit you and your family.
Once that is decided, we can help you dive into how you will use your spaces. Do you need a home office with custom shelving and storage? Or maybe you are a great baker and need lots of counter space and multiple ovens. Perhaps you would like to make primary use of the outdoors and build a large deck or choose a homesite with a large yard to suit that. Keeping all these things in mind in the initial selection of your plan and homesite location will easily make you wishes come true.
Q: What can people expect from the design and selections process?
A: For the selection process typically, there are two design meetings with me for a whole home design. At the first meeting, we will review your floorplan, needs, and features of the home while also selecting the exterior design, colors, and lighting for your new home.
The second meeting will be the fun part! We’ll meet at the showroom to select all your interior finishes and materials.
Each meeting can take between one to three hours with the second meeting generally being the longest. Then, we will have one final meeting called the “redline meeting.” This is where we review all the selections, and make any final changes to your floorplan. After this is finished, we start construction.
Q: What changes can a customer make to a home that is already under construction, and at what stages of construction?
A: When buying an under-construction home, the number of changeable items really depends on the phase of construction it is currently in.
Paint for example is almost always changeable, but something like cabinets may not be. The general rule of thumb for changes is the earlier the better. The earlier in construction the more opportunity for materials and finish changes.
If you purchase a new-build home during the framing or rough-in stage, you would be able to add or take out accent walls, add a fireplace, change tile, and possibly even countertops. But if you purchase a new home that is in the trim stage of construction, it is likely that you will not be able to change much other than paint and hardware colors.
Q: How can people prepare for the design meeting with you?
A: After a contract is signed, I will send over a welcome email stating our whole process. For these meetings, I would like customers to have an idea of what they want for their finishes.
I encourage driving around the neighborhood they are building in or other areas of town to get ideas. Putting together a Pinterest board or gathering a collection of ideas is very helpful.
Something as simple as having a color scheme, a particular countertop, or floor type you want already determined can help the design process go much smoother. Pictures are always fabulous for customers to bring along with them so we can both visualize expectations and ideas.
Q: What tips can you share to help customers make more confident and informed decisions when making selections decisions?
A: This goes back to getting little ideas before we even start. Getting familiar with all the styles, types and colors will quickly identify what you do want in your home and what you absolutely do not.
If you have a photo of what you really want your kitchen to resemble, we can keep this in mind while we make our choices. Maybe you wanted a specific color scheme or vibe in your home, having a goal to shoot towards will help us achieve your goals easier and faster with the result of happy homeowners.
Q: What advice would you have to help people stay on budget while designing their dream home?
A: Set a budget and stick to it. When you sign the purchase agreement for your home, there is a specific amount you designated for selections. I think it is important to set a decent but also realistic budget for the selections amount.
In our second meeting when we are choosing flooring, paint, cabinets, etc. our showroom uses a number system on every material in the store. When you arrive, I will let you know what number to stay below in order to stay within budget. Of course, we can always choose outside of your budget, but we know while choosing it that it will be an upgrade. Almost always we can find something you love for each room within the budget you initially set and possibly even a splurge in one or two rooms. We have diligently created this number system so there is no sticker shock to the homeowners or us as the builder when it comes to the prices.
Q: Should buyers focus on design or function when building their home?
A: BOTH! Both are extremely important and having both qualities is what creates a great design and a livable home.
Q: What are your top 3 products, features, or designer upgrades that are completely worth the money in your opinion and why?
- Double-stacked upper cabinets in the kitchen. I feel that this really finishes off the kitchen and makes it feel more elevated and elegant. This option is definitely for aesthetics more than functionality; however, it does provide storage for items you may not use as often like crockpots and seasonal fine China. If double-stacked upper cabinets are not in your budget, consider a 42” upper with crown moulding instead of the standard 36” to gain some extra height.
- Upgraded master bathrooms. Choosing a full-tile, curbless shower is a really nice feature to have. OR adding a freestanding tub alongside your tile shower is a great option to consider.
- Covered decks and patios. This adds so much more usability to your outdoor space providing shade and protection from constant sun exposure year round.
Q: In your opinion, what is one thing every home should have?
A: Built-Ins or Trim Accents. Adding built-in shelves or cabinets next to your fireplace or in a little dead-space nook not only adds more character to a home but also provides additional functionality and storage. It can be as simple as adding a trimmed accent wall or a custom tray ceiling to your master, little things like this really elevate your home and make it feel more luxurious and custom.
Another thing I think every home should have is nine-foot ceilings at a minimum. Ten feet is ideal, but nine feet will do. This really makes your home feel so much more open and comfortable. It truly is shocking what an extra one to two feet of ceiling height can do.
Q: What elements and design styles can buyers incorporate to help keep their home timeless?
A: NEUTRALS! Keeping a balance of neutral colors for most of your home will make it easier to update down the road. For instance, keeping a plainer & cozier base palette will allow you to add pops of color here and there either through paint or décor items when you want to change things up. Paint, in my opinion, is always a cheaper and easier fix.
Q: What’s better, quartz or granite?
A: Both are great solid surface options and both can be very visually appealing. Personally, my vote is for Quartz. Granite is a natural material, and quartz is a man-made material. Because granite is from the earth, it is more porous than quartz, making quartz relatively more bacteria-free and more durable.
Granite also recommends adding an annual polish to it. With granite, you can get more of a natural look which can and WILL usually vary from slab to slab. This is why a granite samples may not be a 100% exact match to the slab you get installed. it will be close but not identical.
With Quartz you are more likely to get a uniform piece that looks almost identical to the sample. Quartz has really excelled in recent years in creating more natural-looking slabs and is extremely popular for its stellar veining. This is a big trend I am seeing.
Q: What are your top favorite design trends, styles, or aesthetics?
- Greige. For a while, it was grey everything. Now we are seeing warm neutral tones being introduced back into popular color schemes. This extremely popular “color” is created by mixing greys with warmer tans, taupe, or beige – which is probably where this term “greige” came from. The warmth we see in spaces that use this color provides a cozier vibe rather than the colder feelings that typical grays can give off.
- Natural textures. Over the years we have seen more and more use of natural materials again. Twenty-plus years ago we may have seen a lot of medium to dark wicker, but recently we are seeing a prevalent use of natural toned wicker, caning, bamboo and grass woven furniture, bleached stone, or rattan. Other popular, surprising textiles that are being used include leather or bucle. We are even seeing lighting fixtures adding leather or natural features.
Q: What has been your favorite project/room/home you’ve designed while you’ve been at Miller Family Homes?
A: By far, the Snoopy house under the stairs in our current model home, 14118 E Laguna St. Altogether, the whole model home was a fun project to work on.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you have for those considering building a home?
A: Think, THINK, Think. Have you ever walked into a house and wondered “Why did they do that?” or “They should have put this here instead of there.” You don’t want this to be your home! Houses that leave you puzzled like that were almost always not well thought out from the beginning or there was a mistake made along the way.
This is why it is extremely important to do your research. Get online, tour open houses, and visit new neighborhoods to give you ideas for all the little and big things you want to include in your home.
For example, imagine it’s a cold December night and you’re in your PJs, just about to hop in bed when you suddenly remember the Christmas lights need to be shut off. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a switch in the hall closet to easily shut them off without ever going outside into the cold?
Or maybe you hate clutter on your kitchen countertops – the more that is hidden, the better. So, during the design process, we will plan to install a few specialty cabinets, one for wet dish towels to hang up inside and dry, and another pull-out cabinet with utensil canisters or a spice rack inside, so that you can you’re you can actually keep your counters clutter-free.
These are just some of the things that can be incorporated into your new home to make it that much more functional that you need to think about prior to and during the selections phase. Remember, the pre-construction process is a very important time to fully consider how you will live in your home. Choose selections that will make your dream home one that you want to live in and enjoy for years to come.