Keti’s Home: How to Elevate a Builder-Grade Living Room & Bathroom

July 5, 2021

Welcome to my house! Long ago, I had a dream of building and designing my own home. I spent years designing and elevating builder-grade homes for clients, picking out timeless yet on-trend materials for flips, and seeing every type of home the Dallas market had to offer. As I did, I narrowed down my list of must-haves — and I was convinced that building from scratch was the way to go.

When the timing was finally right to design my own home, I was ready. I imagined...

  • lots of windows that would let natural light stream in
  • energy efficiency (because why not?)
  • close proximity my “play area” (AKA where my clients are, south of the beltway)
  • three bedrooms (one for hubby and me, and two for family and guests who come to stay)
  • two home offices — a MUST because we both work from home

That's it. Not too much to ask, right? 😉

Once I knew what I wanted, I had to consider how I would go about getting it built. You're probably thinking, "Hire a builder, Keti!" True, but the first thing you should know is that there are actually 3 types of builders out there...

Building a New Home: 3 Types of Builders

1. "Truck-Type Builders"

The first type are the run around “truck-type” builders.  You want to stay away from this type of builder. Run the other way, even. Period. Nothing good can come of it.

2. "Spec Builders"

The second type of builder are the “Spec Builders." These guys will give you the custom house of your dreams with all the bells and whistles. Naturally, they cost more and the process is more lengthy. If you are in a hurry to get into a home (or your budget is tight), this might not be the ideal option for you.

The other thing to watch out for... some of them may have a designer on their team who is really good. Some don't. You will want to research their work first. Designers that work in-house with builders have a tendency to over-personalize the fixed elements in the home and specify what's trendy.

Why is this not a great idea? Well, it means that you are spending more money now and getting less equity in the long run, when you are about to sell. Plus, in a few years, if not months down the road, your home will look dated, and it has therefore lost property value as well.

My suggestion is to either make sure their designer will be able to design a timeless home for you OR hire your own designer, one who knows trends, can distinguish between what's on trend (current) and what's trendy, and is able to select all the fixed elements in the home. That way, you will end up with a beautiful home, that’s timely yet classic and will stand the test of time.

P.S. If you're knew to the blog, you should know that this is always my mission when I design any space! If you're a blog regular, well... you've heard it all before. 😉

3. Production Builder

The third type of builder is a production builder. They are similar to Spec Builders, but they build homes in larger development communities. This means that there is less room for customization, since the home will need to fit the neighborhood's aesthetic.

Which did I choose?

You better believe the truck-type builders did not make it on the short list. Initially, I also nixed the idea of buying from a production builder, mainly because I love renovating homes and thought I would go that route. Having done it so many times for clients, I was confident I could also do it for myself. 

However, I just could not find the right house to renovate. I looked and looked, but nothing popped up that really felt like it could be home. Then, I discovered that a local production builder was building in my desired area, so I had to reconsider. What swung my decision their direction was their reputation: this builder in particular is known for being efficient with their process and for the quality and energy efficiency of their homes.

Even with the design restrictions, I figured, "I will use my tricks of the trade to still get the custom home I want... within their scope of their elevation, floor plan, material selections and finishes, of course."

So I did! Ready to see how it turned out? And how I elevated builder-grade products to a home that feels fresh, custom, and personal? Come take a look!

Updating a Builder-Grade Living Room

Okay, here is what our fireplace looked like when we got the keys...

builder-grade home university park corner fireplace living room

A corner fireplace was not my first choice. In general, it's always a very tricky configuration to work with, but in this case, I had no choice. With the square footage limitations, it was either "Baby in the corner" or "Baby not in the room at all."

Also, if you're wondering why it looks so plain, that's because the builder would not do any custom work. They would only install one of their templated designs... and honestly, I didn't like any of them. I knew that I would just end up ripping out what they put in, so I saved myself the trouble and had them install the bare minimum. No surround... no mantel... just a blank slate.

Here's what I did with it...

builder-grade home after custom interior design new fireplace surround tasteful timeless

SO MUCH BETTER. I designed it with a tile pattern I love, and my very talented team of trades brought my vision to life. Of course, adding cozy furnishings and plenty of space for seating (I have a big family who likes to visit) makes it feel warm and like home.

Alright, let's move on to the bathroom...

Updating a Builder-Grade Master Bathroom

Okay, here's the thing to know about builder bathrooms. They are be-hind. Like, WAY behind. While interior designers are ripping out platform tubs left and right in favor of free-standing tubs, builders keep putting them into new homes. It baffles me.

In fact, I can show you exactly what I mean. I was in Florida recently, touring a brand new house that builder just finished and put on the market... and there's a platform tub and '90s Tuscan tile. Shield my eyes!!

platform tub outdated builder-grade spec home

You get the idea. The designer in me is absolutely cringing knowing that the future homeowners are buying something that is already dated. Ouch. Anywayyyy, back to my story. Luckily, I was able to convince my builders that the platform tub was a dealbreaker.

They were kind enough to accommodate me by switching up the floor plan to my liking and installing a free-standing tub. Here's how it turned out:

builder-grade home subway tile free standing tub vanity

Not a bad starting point. After my team and I put a bit of magic into it — new lighting, mirrors, decor, etc. — here is my master bathroom now...

builder-grade home after custom interior design chandelier free standing tub glass shower herringbone tile
builder-grade home after custom interior design vanity sconces free standing tub decorated
builder-grade home after custom interior design freestanding bathtub and art

Best part? (Other than getting to enjoy this space, that is.) I did not break the bank. Now you tell me, which bathroom do you see yourself getting ready each morning??

Pro Tip: By the way, don’t ever let your builder convince you to skip the tub in favor of a caved-in, walk-in shower. In move-up and luxury homes, a tub is an absolute must!  

Transforming Bare Rooms into Home Offices

Yes, we did get the office spaces we wanted. Of course, they started as four white walls and that was it. After it was turned over to me, I designed all the built-ins in the house and my carpenters worked their magic.

Here is a little sneak peak of my hubby's home office. He is averse to sharing his space with others, so I will only let you see a bit of what goes on in there. 😉

home office custom built-in designed by keti

And here is where I work and make design magic happen... plus relax and watch some TV when the time is there.

home office custom designed by keti built-in carpentry sofa desk photos

Cozy. Fresh. Bright. Timeless!

built-in bookcase tv desk chair home office design by keti
design by keti custom designed built-in shelves drawers cabinets tv home office

I love my home. It’s functional. It’s beautiful. It's on-trend and timely, and I don’t foresee it going out of style any time soon. We scored big! ...and I haven't even shown you the kitchen and dining room yet! But I'll save those for another day. 😉

Until then, download my renovation guide below or reach out to me here to get some help designing your comfortable, livable, and sophisticated home.

— Keti

We increase the value of real estate through profit driven and timeless design for renovations and new home builds.  Whether you’re renovating your home, flipping a property or want to wisely invest in updates and staging before selling your property your ROI is our business.
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