10 Steps To Planning Your New Build

10 Steps To Planning Your New Build

In January and February we’re unusually busy in our eDesign department working on New Build packages because this is the time of year when planning begins for renovations or planning your new build.

If you’re planning your new build, you should be aware that colour decisions for the exterior need to be made FIRST. So don’t wait until the last minute (which often happens).

Exterior White


Many people think “I got this” but then when it comes down to the wire and the builder is hounding you for colour decisions, that’s when you start losing sleep worried that you’ve made the right decision.

We constantly receive emails with last minute requests for help with exterior because you started searching on-line for the right answer and then hit my website and started panicking when you realized you can’t just wing it with colour decisions.

To help you out, we have a new build and the link to the exterior new build is on the page.

If you have just finished a renovation or you are currently planning your new build and just found my website? Don’t read this post. It’s not fun when you realize you’ve made mistakes, as I’ve said in the past, ignorance is bliss. Read this post instead.

Just enjoy your new house and if all else fails and you really are cranky with the choices you’ve made, decorate to distract the eye!

The Order of the Decisions

The order of the decisions that need to be made is very important! Once you make a few key colour and design choices in the beginning, the conversation about what comes next is less about ‘What you love’ and more about ‘What will look good with what you’ve already chosen’.

If you feel like you have to ‘fall in love’ with every hard finish choice you make, you might end up with a bathroom that looks like this one (below) with a thought process that probably went like this:

“Hmmm, I love grey, I’m going to love it forever, so let me grab one of these 12″ x 24″ grey tiles. Oh, I really love this horizontal accent tile, I need that right? Oh, and I need a small scale tile for the shower floor and these black and grey stones are gorgeous.”  Check, check and check.

And then in the end, the walls ended up a blue grey when in fact the tile in this image has a green grey undertone.

Plus, this bathroom is so trendy it will forever say “I built my house inside the grey trend”.

Gray Undertone

Trendy not timeless (source)

So, if you are at the beginning of a project and you have not enlisted the help of a designer, here are the steps you need to follow:

Choose your floors first

You have two options. Pale maple or white oak floors (or LVP that looks like that) or medium brown. The end.

Notice there is not a stitch of grey in these images. If you don’t want your house to scream “built in the grey trend” don’t install charcoal or grey floors.

Don’t even get me started on black hardwood floors (since black is the new grey). One of my readers sent me the on-line catalogue of a popular furniture brand and the cover had an emerald green sofa sitting on top of black hardwood floors. NOOOOOOOO. That is a life designed around dusting constantly.

And very far from a classic and timeless look.


Left | Right

If you want tile on your kitchen floors–despite the thousands of apparent options in the showroom–good options are more limited than you think, AND then it needs to relate well to your countertops, so if you don’t want a muddy, blotchy looking mess, this is when the rule of only one pattern in each room should be implemented, which is:

After you’ve chosen one pattern in your hard finishes for the kitchen or bathroom, that’s it. Your pattern quota is done.

It RARELY works to have two patterns in the same room.

And since most homes have traditional kitchens, a solid white tile will look too modern, so consider something like the following instead:

Related post: What Everyone Should Know About Porcelain Tile

left | Right


If you are installing a stained wood kitchen read this post for the most timeless countertop.

Here’s another kitchen suitable for a more rustic style:


Choose Your White Foundation Palette Next

Will your cabinets be a true-white, off-white, or cream? Or if you are installing a wood stained kitchen, which white will you choose for your trim? That is the next decision.

I have spoken with many clients who say “I don’t want stark white cabinets”. That is totally fine. No one ever said that you can’t have a classic and timeless house with a cream palette (see the above kitchen).

Unless I specifically state “True white” when I mention WHITE on the blog, assume I’m talking about the white that works for your house.

So when I say white, it could be anything from a blue-white to off-white, true-white, or cream. It should always be custom to YOUR home.

If you are choosing whites for your renovation or planning your new build and you haven’t bought my White is Complicated eBook which will teach you exactly which white you should choose? Download it here.

Left (true-white) | Right (cream)

Next Choose Your Countertops

If you’ve already skipped the last step, that’s okay because your countertops will dictate whether you should choose a true-white, off-white or cream palette anyway.

In the above photo on the top right, you can see that the countertops are Carrara marble which have a blue undertone. So you could choose a blue-white (which will read more like a colour than a white) or a true-white for the cabinets.

The kitchen on the right is cream (above). With cream, honeycomb backsplash tiles. There’s nothing wrong with a pattern that’s different from subway tile as long as it’s plain and leaves you with the option of switching up the colours in your kitchen anytime you want.

The definition of classic and timeless design is “Will I be stuck in a specific colour scheme forever?” If the answer is NO, you’re golden.

Or with pattern, the question to ask yourself is “Will I get bored of this in 10 minutes?” (below), um yeah.

Hilary Duff’s kitchen (And if you have money to burn, you can change it 10 minutes later, no problem)

Backsplash Tile

And this brings me to the backsplash, now that you’ve chosen the floors and the countertop, you can choose the backsplash.

Yes, it will be installed last so it’s not absolutely imperative that you choose it next, however if you are committed to a classic and timeless palette, you easily could.

Here’s another backsplash with geometric white tile that still gives you lots of flexibility with colour. However keep in mind this is modern which goes best with quartz, NOT granite.

Related post: The Best Backsplash Tile For Your Kitchen



If you are ONLY renovating your kitchen, you can buy our Create a Classic Kitchen eDesign package here.

Living or Great Room Fireplace

This is not obvious to everyone, but your kitchen should coordinate with your fireplaces.

Unless you are planning your new build and its a beach house or a house in the country, I would stay away from stacked stone, as it’s stone (from the earth), so it’s not white (unless it’s manufactured) and that means the colours are generally earthy and will boss around your colour scheme just like a busy granite countertop or busy, colourful tile in a bathroom.

Related post: Should Your Great Room Fireplace Relate to the Kitchen?

You can install millwork even if you have vaulted ceilings, or a double story height great room (see image below).

I don’t know about you, but I would much prefer to have options when decorating my living room rather than having to consider the fireplace colour and add whatever that colour is to my colour scheme.


Bathroom Tile & Countertops

After the kitchen and great room, bathroom tile is next. If you’re after a classic and timeless design, stay away from all the busy, patterned, trendy tile unless your house fits this exception.

Here are some guidelines for choosing tile:

A back and white basketweave (or something similar) is always a classic choice. Why? Because this is what you expect bathroom tile to look like.

Notice how the black has been repeated in the framed art and towels. A black countertop would work here too.

However, if you love the look of the flat black hardware in bathrooms, choose black for the faucet ONLY and go with chrome for the shower hardware. Especially in a white bathroom. It’s prettier (and looks less bitty) to repeat the black in framed artwork instead.


Small scale tile is expensive to install so if you’re on a budget, choose a faux marble tile  (below) and install it everywhere.

For more examples of classic and timeless bathroom tile, shop my Pinterest boards here.

House of Jade

How to Coordinate White Bathroom Tile

Those of you who are fixated with getting your whites right (as I am), notice that the 12″ x 24″ faux marble is not as white as the white hex on the floor underneath the tub or the subway tile on the wall. Don’t try to match it, you won’t be able to do it. Better to contrast it instead. This combination works because the true white tile relates to the bright white bathtub (below):

By the way, notice how hard we are working to coordinate whites! Imagine trying to do this with NEUTRAL undertones. It’s no wonder most bathroom tile doesn’t match or just looks plain bad in the end.

Related post: When Should you Rip out Brand New Tile?


If you need help with your bathroom choices, you can purchase our Create a Classic Bathroom here.

Consider Wood Stained Cabinets in the Bathroom

It adds contrast and looks elegant with any white (or off-white or cream) tile.



Hardware for your cabinet doors looks easy but here’s the guideline to keep in mind.

Choose knobs for your cabinet doors and pulls for the drawers. If you coordinate both, and even go so far as to choose custom lengths for the pulls (depending on how large your drawers are) it will look like a designer was here.


If you are on a budget or you just don’t have time to figure out what goes where, choose knobs instead of pulls (below). Visually, less is more when it comes to hardware. A kitchen full of 4″ long pulls on all the doors and drawers gets busy looking very fast!



Choosing lighting is hard. It look me many years of being in the design industry to get good at choosing lighting.

It’s the reason why builder lighting is usually bad and all matchy. Lighting should be chosen to coordinate with the style of the home and each light should coordinate with the other.

I don’t understand why more builders don’t just install a simple drum shade chandelier for dining rooms. They go with everything and in a pinch, if you’re on a budget you can live with it until you find something more interesting:

Williams & Sonoma


I usually don’t specify lighting with bare bulbs (unless it really works with the style of the home) because the light is softer and more consistent when there’s a shade around it.

As lighting choices are custom to the style of the home, I’m not choosing lighting for this post, however if you purchase a New Build Consultation, we include coordinated lighting.

Paint Colours 

Notice paint colours are dead last!


Because now we have chosen all the hard finishes.

Related post: Are you Waiting for your Paint Colours to Propose?

It would be even better if you had a colour scheme for the living or great room at this point but most people can barely keep up with all the above decisions to think about which colour their sofa will be.

If you need help with your colour scheme, get the help you need here.

I didn’t think the trend to painting walls white could get any bigger but it is. I receive more and more questions and comments every day about white and most importantly, readers who have painted their walls plain white and ended up disappointed with the result.

So here’s the thing, most people do not have a house that will look good with true-white or off-white, in other words, art gallery white walls, this statement says it the best:

White is a snob, white walls create an art gallery effect, spotlighting attention on every object so each must be worthy. White walls highlight shape and colour and tolerate no chaotic mess. Each object is part of the composition and so has to be selected and positioned with a curatorial eye for arrangement.

If you are a designer and think you’re off the hook because your client has requested a white, think again.

When My Clients Say White

When my clients say white, I automatically hear greige because most homes need SOME colour in order to look finished instead of that the walls have been primed and are still waiting for colour. Go back to the above quote and read it again if you still didn’t get it.

Which greige you choose or specify should be based on the existing neutral undertones of your house, here’s a post I wrote about greige, scroll down to the end.

As you can see this post gives you the order in which choices need to be made, it barely scratches the surface on all the decisions that need to be made and how to coordinate them.

If you want to learn how to choose the right colours and finishes for your renovation or planning your new build, you can purchase my on-line webinar training for interior here and exterior here.

Create a Colour Plan

If you want me to help you create a colour and hard finish plan for your renovation or planning your new build including coordinating lighting and hardware, here’s the eDesign consultation for this.

Whatever you do, DO NOT go about spending thousands of dollars WITHOUT any training or guidance. You would never get hired as a buyer in any company responsible for spending thousands of dollars without training.

It works the same way for your very expensive house. And every day for as long as you live there, you’ll have to live with hasty decisions, made under pressure.

My best advice is to not make risky choices on your own. Go with the safe option and get crazy with wallpaper and fabrics instead! And then the chances are much higher that your house will fill you with happiness every time you walk in the door.

Here’s a lovely testimonial we just received from a happy client:

 A while back, I purchased assistance in choosing new paint color for my pantry, kitchen, and living areas. I went with the suggestions, and they were spot on! Today the painters got the first coat on in the kitchen, and it’s perfect. Thank you…it was worth every penny to have your input.    Anne, Bartlett TN

Related posts:

‘I’ve Got This’ and Other Unrealistic Thoughts about Decorating

Why Stone and Accent Tile are not as Important as You Think

Do’s and Don’ts on Decorating an Empty Room



leave aREPLY

  1. Hi Maria,

    Thanks for the post. It has lots of helpful advice. Do you know where to find that blue drum pendant over the kitchen island in your true-white example? It’s really quite lovely. Thanks!