10 Step Selection Guide for Your New Build

Planning a new build is an exciting time, but it is also often stressful and overwhelming. One decisions leads to and impacts another. Here are some of my thoughts on planning your project and how I recommend putting together selections.

The first quarter of the year is when the planning for most new build projects are getting under way.  I see discussions about renovation and new home construction all over Houzz, mom groups on Facebook, and discussions at luncheons.

I have gotten several questions about where to start and how to create a classic look while still incorporating some of the latest trends in their new builds.  Here are some of my thoughts on planning your project and how I recommend putting together selections.

Tackle the Outside of Your New Build

The first decision you should make on new construction homes is the exterior finish selections.  Exterior finishes have caused more people to pull their hair out and throw their hands up in frustration, and it is no wonder.  The outside of your home is important; it’s the first impression your guests have when they pull up.

  •   If you are building in a planned community, the builders have a rule for how close an elevation and a brick selection can be next to each other so the neighborhood doesn’t look too cookie      cutter.
  • When building a custom home, you still must play nice with the others on your street to maintain your property value.

This is an extreme case, but have you all driven through the Tanglewood area in Houston? A few years ago a young homeowner decided he was going to move into this very conservative neighborhood that has been around since the 1940’s and build a very contemporary home.  Not only was it contemporary, it was bright orange yellow stucco.  Can you imagine???

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Now, where do you start when tackling the outside of your home.   Many of you decide to start with your paint colors first because the perfect colors are already in your head.   But that is the absolutely LAST place to start, both inside and out.  A large majority of homes have brick or stone, or both.   So, you must start there, and the correct sequence is:

  1. brick
  2. stone
  3. the largest paint areas
  4. the trim
  5. the garage door and front door stains
  6. hardware and lighting finishes

The Inside of Your New Build

Okay, now we can get into the pretty stuff that you have been gathering all your Pinterest boards for.

One thing you have to ask yourself, whether you are doing a remodel or a new build, is how often will you get to make new finish selections for your home?  If you have plenty of disposable income, then maybe you can rip everything out every 10 years with the changing of the trends.  But most of you don’t have that luxury, so try not to be seduced by all the trendy selections that you will get tired of.

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Yes, I know that grey is big and the multi-color mosaic tiles are still popular, but bathrooms like this one will get on your last nerve in about 5 – 10 years.   Don’t be seduced by what everyone else is doing and is popular at the moment.  If you have always loved gray, then by all means choose that color scheme and count yourself lucky that you are building when you have a veritable smorgasbord of selections at your feet.  But if you have always loved whites, taupes, or browns, than go with what you love.  It is YOUR home.

Whatever your color scheme, remember to keep it classic for your permanent surfaces and choose trendy for items that are easier to switch out.  Updating the bathroom above will entail replacing most of the hard finishes because of the way they have been used here.


Kitchen Countertops 

The first place to start is in the kitchen because it truly is heart of the home.  Most new build projects – new homes or renovations – have open concept living, at least with the family room and kitchen operating as a unit, and the other rooms flowing off of them with a fairly open view from space to space.

And when in the kitchen, the countertops typically run the show.   What you choose here will determine the undertones of all the rest of your selections.  For example, the kitchen below has quartz countertops with carrera marble subway backsplash tile.  Carrera marble has a blue undertone, so if you want painted white or gray cabinets you will have to choose one with a blue base or a pure white like shown here.  It took me a few photos to find a kitchen with carrera marble and white cabinets that weren’t a yellow or green base instead.


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Next, you should select the backsplash tile before the cabinets because it is the next option for pattern.

  • Okay, we have already discussed what could happen with marbles, if you aren’t careful.  And that is all we really need to cover for this topic because marbles, while having some veining, do not typically have the bossy personalities of granites and quartzites.  So, the undertone is the biggest thing to watch for.
  • Now, if you choose a granite or quartzite ( which in full disclosure – I LOVE for kitchens) they are typically busier and will definitely be the boss of the kitchen.  Granites are tricky because they come in a wide range of selections – from very consistent and open to lots of veins and movement.  But as a whole, you want to choose a backsplash in a neutral that will compliment your countertop, not fight it.
  • Quartz is a very popular choice as a more durable countertop than marble in kitchen (due to acidic items like orange juice and ketchup causing etching and stains).  This offers more choices in tiles for your backsplash because it is more consistent in its coloring and veining.


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The  kitchen above is classic; the backsplash chosen supports the “bell of the ball” beautifully.


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Remember, subway tiles are one classic option but they are not your only option.  These are examples of some other tasteful tiles that are out there for your backsplash.



Let’s talk cabinet selections.  First, you have to decide if you want painted, stained, or a combination.

  • Wood stained cabinets are making a comeback.  They add warmth and texture to the other hard, sleek surfaces.  But not all stains are equal.  You want to be care you select a stain that has a neutral undertone – not red, orange, pink or yellow.  They are very hard to work with other finishes.
  • Painted cabinets are classic and you have several colors and combinations to choose from.
  • Mixing painted with stained is my favorite way to go because you get the best of both textures!
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The stained cabinets in the kitchen above are a nice medium, neutral undertone that plays nice with several other hard surface selections.

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Source Pinterest

This elegant kitchen showcases how you can use stained cabinets strategically in your white kitchens for added depth and texture.


The principles of the kitchen hold true for the bathroom.  Counter tops first, then shower and backsplash tiles, then cabinets.  These are examples of some classic bathrooms.

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Stunning dual vanity in gray.


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Source Pinterest

The combination of the dark wood vanity mixed with the white tones of the floor, tub and walls is gorgeous.  And I love the light fixture!

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A graceful white and marble spa-like bathroom with gold hardware that warms up the cooler tones.



Your floors are a major investment that you don’t want to have rip out every 10 years.  When choosing floors for your new build, you want to look for durable and timeless.  My favorite is hardwood and have the same recommendation as I do in cabinets.

  • Go for a neutral undertone – no red, orange, or yellow.
  • As for light, medium, or dark –  go with what blends with your other selections and makes you happy.
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These hardwood floors are a classic selection that have nice medium and dark tones in it.

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Tile or stone are also great choices.  Tile and stone have a lifespan of 50 years which makes it a more cost effective flooring option over others that require replacement much sooner.  When considering tile:

  • Avoid tiles that is glossy because they are slippery
  • Do not go with very uneven edges –  they get so busy and the grout lines are too big!


Your fireplace should coordinate with your kitchen because your family room and kitchen are typically open to each other.  So you need to take in to consideration your kitchen selections when deciding on your fireplace for a new build.

Now, stacked stone is a very popular material to use on fireplaces right now.  Keep in mind, it is a very visually heavy material and has a definite look to it.  It is a trendy selection and will be very expensive and dirty to rip out down the road if you tire of it.  And it is a very bossy material, like granite and quartzite.

Classic limestone fireplaces or ones with beautiful millwork detailing are timeless and don’t lock you in a particular style or color down the road.

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Hardware and Lighting

Hardware and lighting are the jewelry of the home; your home just isn’t done with out the finishing touches.

When selecting hardware for your new build, there is a basic rule to follow – pulls are for your drawers and knobs are for your doors.  Make sure you coordinate you hardware throughout your house for a cohesive, designer feel to your home.

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And if you are on a budget, go for all knobs on your cabinets instead of pulls.  Lots of long  pulls can look very busy!

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As for lighting, you can have fun and choose trendy items here because they are much less expensive and a lot easier to change out.  Do not buy the upgraded builder lighting packages.

It is like buying furniture off the floor – matchy matchy in not a good thing, and why put your lighting on a 30 year mortgage?  Lighting is where you can let your personality shine!

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The paint palette is the last selection for your home.  You simply cannot choose paint until you have selected all your hard finishes.  Now, I like to choose actual color for a house, not just all neutral for every room.  But, again, depending on your budget and disposable income, you may want to go ahead and choose the builders basic paint selection and then have a separate contractor paint your home before you move in.


This blog gives you the order in which choices need to be made and a basic guide line for how to do it.  But it barely scratches the surface on all the decisions that need to be made and how to coordinate them in your new build project.

Building a house or doing a full renovation is a big exciting project. You want to make sure that all your finishes and colors are just perfect so you will love your home for years to come. You don’t have to work around anyone else’s bad choices and you certainly don’t want to make any that you will regret. Each selection influences the next, it can get quite overwhelming.   From reading this blog, you know you definitely want to avoid clashing undertones with bossy finishes.

I have helped hundreds of homeowners create their own custom classic and timeless home and I would love to offer our experience and expertise to yours too.  To get your one-of-kind home that hugs you when you walk in the door, contact us today! :)




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Sherry Millien in Spring, TX on Houzz

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Sherry Millien, one of America’s premier interior designers and is known for the unique, one-of-a-kind interiors she creates for prominent clients throughout the metropolitan Houston area.

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