7 things I don't regret saving on in building and renovating our new house (and 1 I really do)
We are now somehow coming up on a year in our new home! I can hardly believe how quickly the time has gone. If you’re new around here, here’s a recap of how we got here:
We built our home with a builder and played a very strategic game of customizations vs. builder standard to maximize our budget
We spent one night in our semi-builder basic house
The day after we closed, we took a sledgehammer to it and made it our own
Shortly after we moved in, I shared the 8 things we had no regrets about splurging on in our build and subsequent renovation. Seeing as how we are normal, non-gazillionaire humans, we had a budget to maintain and couldn't splurge on every last thing. All renovations and new construction homes have budgets; we are no different, so we had to offset those costs somewhere.
Today I’m sharing the flip side of that – the 7 things we saved on that, one year later, we still don’t regret in the slightest (plus one thing we do regret skimping on!).
While learning what I spent and saved on will hopefully be entertaining and insightful, be sure to read all the way to the end because I’m sharing how to translate that to make sure YOU spend and save in the right way for your project, since your priorities may be different than mine!
Guys, I don’t know if you know this, but kids are loud. Even being separated by a floor, we are hearing constant BUMPS and THUDS resounding from upstairs. Sometimes it sounds like the WWE wrestling championships are happening up there. Having something soft underfoot that absorbs (at least some) sound has absolutely been the right move. It also saved thousands of dollars during construction. One day when they’re a bit older – and have possibly destroyed the carpet – we may go in with engineered wood upstairs, but for now, no regrets. Even after the Great Stomach Bug Epidemic that ran through the house this year that would have been much easier dealt with on a hard surface, I still stand by our decision.
BASIC WALL TILE
You might remember the fancy pink bathroom tile that we did in our master which made that space extra special. You may not remember that in the other two showers, we did super basic white tile on the walls. I strongly believe that you can mix high and low end tiles in the same space and get an amazing result, which is the move we used here (here’s that how-to blog post in case you missed it!). Those rooms have enough personality that they didn’t require an upgraded wall tile. We do this ALL THE TIME in our client renovations – saving in ancillary bathrooms so we can focus that money on more important areas that are either high use (living room and kitchen) or sanity saving (master suite).
I know this will shock some people, since I LOVE to cook, but I’m going to be honest here – I can’t work 8 burners at the same time. I’m not a short order cook. I can’t even think of one time that I’ve had all 6 of my burners going. Mostly I just wouldn’t want to do that many dishes. I love the look of a 48” cooktop and it makes sense on a lot of projects, especially if you spring for the range with the oven-and-a-half below. Since our kitchen was set up with double ovens, that didn’t apply here, so I’m perfectly happy with the 36” cooktop. The 48” cooktop does typically gain you a flat griddle, which would be cool, but I haven’t been bothered by that enough to spend $30 on a separate griddle, so clearly it’s not a deal breaker for me. Totally a personal preference thing.
I will note that going from a 30" to a 36" cooktop is well worth the investment to me, mostly because it's one of those subtle things that make a kitchen look more luxurious. If you have a higher end home or want a higher end ROI when you sell, upgrade past the standard 30" size.
KEEPING OUR AV SETUP SIMPLE
Again, this will fall squarely into the “personal preference” category because some people LOVE their music and audio visual experience, but we are pretty simple here. Our house included a pre-wire for 4 speakers, so we are wired for 2 in the living room and 2 on our front porch. We keep talking about adding speakers there, but haven’t been motivated yet to do it. We did splurge on a Samsung Frame TV that looks like art when not in use, which was totally worth it. You can read more about why we love the Art TV here.
WAITING ON WALLPAPER
I very nearly wallpapered our powder bathroom in the initial renovation, but I couldn’t fully settle on what I wanted, or get my wallpaper guy lined up in the right timing, so I wound up just painting the walls and ceiling in our powder bath pink as a stop-gap. Turns out I LOVE that look and have no plans to wallpaper it now. After a year, I do think I want to wallpaper our laundry room, so that is on the list for 2022. Having a bit of time and space to make that decision was nice, since wallpaper is far more difficult (and expensive) to change than paint.
FORGOING A FREESTANDING TUB IN THE MASTER
Our rental house had a huge freestanding bathtub, which I was super excited about. The weekend we moved I was exhausted and couldn’t wait to soak my achy muscles in that tub. I ran that bath and after about 8 minutes, found myself completely bored. I forced myself to use the tub one more time just because we had it, and never did it again. As it turns out, I’m just not a bath person. By skipping the tub we saved thousands of dollars AND gained a huge shower, which I get to enjoy much more frequently.
BASIC COUNTERTOPS IN THE ANCILLARY BATHROOMS
We splurged on engineered quartz in the kitchen and master, to get the marble look I wanted without all of the risk of staining or ongoing maintenance. In the other bathrooms, however, we went with the standard white non-branded-composite countertop that came with the house. These aren’t as stain resistant as the engineered quartz counters, but they are getting along just fine. We may upgrade them one day, but they are doing their job and have the look of a solid white quartz, which works perfectly for us.
M Y ONE BIG REGRET
I do have one major regret on a decision I skimped out on. I cheaped out and decided not to spend the extra $500 for an additional hose bib on our front porch. The house came with one in the back for washing cars, and one in the side yard, but every time I need to water the plants in the front of our house, I have to get out the 50’ hose and honestly it’s a pain. I would give $500 in a heartbeat to have that hose closer to my front door now, but of course now it would cost me 5-10x that.
If you’ve read the splurge post, you can definitely see how each of these items are related. There’s a tradeoff happening with each category – like how inexpensive tile on the walls makes room in the budget for more expensive tile on the floor.
With any renovation, what you need to do is get crystal clear on what your priorities are. Knowing what is most important to you will help you see where you could save and still be happy, and where you’ll regret if you don’t do it right the first time. This is going to be different for everyone. We learn in the process that all of our clients have a “thing.” It might be tile or lighting or functionality or just generally making your home convenient and easy to use.
It is always our goal when we work with clients to figure this out early; our very first step in the design process is to find out what all of the needs, hopes, and dreams are and marry that with the budget so we can make incredibly strategic decisions on where to spend and where to save. Think about what drives you crazy and correct it, what makes your heart happy and spend on it, and what you don’t care about at all and ruthlessly cut it to get what you want.
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