Dress Well


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The Utah Valley Parade of Homes is going on, and this is one of those times I am so grateful for social media, because I’m not able to squeeze it in this year! I’ve been following the hashtag, #uvparadeofhomes and getting all sorts of ideas for the upcoming build of our new home.

I should clarify that we are not currently building our “dream home.” We are building our 5-7 year home, while I work on finishing my graduate education. This heavily influences what I’m sharing with you today. Because I am still in school, our budget is tight. You may be wondering why in the world we would choose to build a new home at this life stage, but in Utah’s current home market, it makes more sense to build new than buy old. The price per square foot is very similar, and we no longer have the time, energy, or funds to keep up with our current fixer-upper. Someday we will build a forever-home with all the bells and whistles.

If you’re looking for a tutorial on building a luxury home, this ain’t the place! If you’re looking for ideas on building a space you love while staying under budget, read on my friend!

When building or remodeling, there are so many decisions to be made. It can feel overwhelming, but also fun to create your very own space. After putting so much thought into our selections, I wanted to share my thought process with you. Here are the factors I considered during the first stage of our design plan.


The first thing to consider is always budget. Going over-budget on a home is perhaps the easiest thing you’ll ever do. My strategy for deciphering needs from wants is this: start by adding everything to your design plan. Top to bottom, back to front, add it all. Once you see the total price, it’s much easier to make cuts. Needs and wants will become painfully clear when written down next to a dollar sign.

For example, our family needs a 3-car garage. My husband wants an extended, supersized third car garage. We added the dream-garage to the original plan to see the price, and decided it was not a good use of our money. Cutting back means we still get the additional space we need, while extending the budget to cover more upgrades.

Additionally, prices can be surprising. What I think is going to be super expensive, often turns out affordable, and vice versa. Get a quote before immediately dismissing ideas you fear are too expensive; you may be pleasantly surprised by your options. I had an option to extend our kitchen into a “grand master chef” kitchen, and I almost said no before I even saw the price. As it turns out, it’s only $1200.00 to add 6 cabinets and 4 feet of counter space! If you are a foodie like me, that’s a MUST-HAVE at that price range.

It pinches a little to say no to a beautiful hanging light fixture in every room, and an enormous deck for summer entertaining, but we don’t need those things to have a quality home we enjoy. No physical possession is worth losing sleep over being able to make ends meet. When I try to convince myself of my need for 3 cm quartz countertops, I remember that I’d prefer frequent vacations with my family, and go for the 2 cm. Throughout your build, keep in mind what really matters, and make decisions based off of those things.

Although this is for finances/budgeting, it’s easily applicable to designing a home


The main reason we are choosing to leave our fixer-upper–that we love–is because our quality of life here isn’t great now that we have a child. Our dogs don’t have a fenced yard, water runs through the property which makes it dangerous for toddlers, and the location is just too far from my job. When choosing our plot of land, blueprints, and design, we kept our quality of life in mind. We care less about the look of the home and more about how well we can live life in the home.

While we don’t need an enormous house, we did opt for a slightly larger design with an extra bedroom because we love to host out-of-town friends and family. Deciding to pay a lot premium for a larger backyard was simple, because it’s valuable for us to have space for our daughter and the dogs to play. A smaller backyard might save money, but it wouldn’t serve us well in the long run. Upgrading to a high-level laminate floor was necessary because we have two big dogs, and we need to keep damage and cleaning time low.

In my opinion, it’s better to skip out on a nicer cosmetic selection if it means increasing day-to-day happiness. It makes us happy to have visitors, a fun outdoor space, and to not spend too much time cleaning. When budget allows, don’t cut corners where your daily quality of life is concerned.

I need a yard for my veggie garden! This homestead may be getting an upgrade, but I still need homegrown veggies! Click the image for deets on this how-to from “An Oregon Cottage”


A home is always an investment. Even if you are building your “forever-home,” life happens. You never know if or when you will be selling your home, so keep the next buyers in mind when you build. I’m not saying don’t customize things, but try to keep things generally appealing, and of high quality.

Nicer countertops will stand up through a lot of use. You can’t go wrong with neutral two-tone paint. A great backyard is something most families look for. A closet with built-in shelves is more attractive–and useful–than without. These are the things we are electing to spend more on. Not only because we like them, but we know someone else will too.

High quality doesn’t mean the most expensive, but it does generally mean more expensive. Laminate countertops won’t look good for more than a few years, and it might mean the difference between selling or not. Building your home with cheap products doesn’t save you money because it will need to be replaced sooner. With this build, our motto is “go with the middle-man.” We aren’t going with the cheapest, or the most expensive, but the affordable selection in between.

A comparison of countertop surfaces for the home
Compare qualities of different countertop materials. Credit: Lowes


 This overlaps a bit with tip #3, but it has more to do with looks than quality. If you aren’t building your forever home, then you know you will eventually need to sell this one. Don’t create a design so custom that others find it off-putting, especially when those trends go out of style. Don’t have the home that screams, “I WAS BUILT IN 1994 WHEN EVERYONE HAD FAKE TURRETS!” But in our case, it will probably be “I WAS BUILT IN 2018 WHEN EVERYONE WANTED ROSE GOLD EVERYTHING.”

I love bold wall colors. I like to make spaces dark and moody, or vibrant and unexpected. Unless it’s a simple accent wall, or wallpaper, I likely won’t be doing any extreme colors in this home. I’m keeping everything neutral to meet the preferred color palette of any buyer, keeping my unique, quirky ideas to furniture and home decor. Trends come and go, but there are things that will always be attractive. Make classic yet contemporary choices, and the look of your home will stand the test of time. Not to mention, updates will be easier and less expensive if you don’t have to make major changes every few years.

A picture of a home kitchen with gray cabinets, white countertop and backsplash, and black hardware
Our kitchen design & color scheme are almost identical to this. The gray cabinets are neutral, but still on trend. I love the contrast of bright white, light gray, and black hardware. Click here for more of my kitchen inspo.


I’m no expert, but I hope these strategies are as helpful for you as they have been for me. Building and/or remodeling is time-consuming and expensive, everyone wants to make smart choices. There is nothing worse than spending thousands of dollars on something you regret a year later.

I will definitely be keeping y’all updated on the different phases of our home build between now and February! Make sure you’re subscribed and you won’t miss a thing.

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