How to Pick the Big Six in Option Choices for Your New Home

By Ana Connery

Glass tile backsplashes — like the one that graces the kitchen of the Ellsworth II model by Toll Brothers in Valhalla, NY — are a hot choice this year. Glass tile provides a custom look at an affordable price and it's easy to maintain.

Photo: Toll Brothers

Part of the fun of building a new home is getting to personalize it by choosing cabinets, countertops, appliances, fixtures, flooring and lighting, or as we like to call them, “The Big Six” in options selections.

Here are our tips when it's time for you to choose your options for your new home:

Cabinets

Open shelves and glass doors allow homeowners to display their vintage teacup collection or a simple set of beautiful dinnerware. It also makes it easy to find something when you’re trying to do multiple things at once.

The European style of cabinetry with hidden hinges and frameless, soft-close doors and drawers is also popping up. It gives kitchens a sleek and unified look that screams “21st century.”

Having one or two floor-to-ceiling cabinets in lieu of kitchens with cabinets pretty much everywhere can maximize storage space while making rooms appear less cluttered.

Concern for sustainability also continues remains important. Many buyers request materials that are easy on the environment, with alder and bamboo consistently ranking high. “Try sustainable wood in the lower cabinets,” says Miami-based designer Kevin Grey of KGD Interiors. “They take a bigger banging.”

Countertops

It turns out quartz is the new granite. It provides the same non-porous aesthetic that’s easy to clean with a greater durability and resistance to cracking. Whereas granite is a natural stone, quartz is partially manmade, which means you score the beauty of the real thing, mixed with the hardiness of an engineered material. Quartz is also less expensive than granite and comes in a myriad colors and finishes, providing plenty of options at a lower cost.

Finally, backsplashes are no longer relegated to the stove area as a spot to catch grease stains. Homeowners are turning them into bona fide design features. From mosaics to textured and recycled glass tiles, the sheer number of materials available has skyrocketed. This allows for a custom look on a smaller, more affordable scale, giving a room a focal point. “I’m a big fan of sheets of glass tile as a backsplash,” Gray says. “There’s no grout to clean, you just wipe and go.”

Appliances

For the most part, built-in, concealed and stainless steel appliances are still more sought-after than the eye-popping colors we’ve seen in recent years. These are neutral choices that won’t get in the way of a resale down the road, when the color trend is long gone.

Flush, unframed cooktops have become a popular choice. They provide a clean aesthetic and uniform look to what’s normally a very messy situation.

Microwaves, dishwashers and warming drawers are now hiding in cabinets and under islands and countertops, freeing up space and providing more accessibility to those whose mobility might be compromised.

The green trend continues with appliances, perhaps more than any other category. Having high Energy Star ratings continues to be a selling point, as consumers know they yield both financial savings and a smaller environmental footprint.

Fixtures

Designers are maximizing storage space while making rooms appear less cluttered. More savings can be had by going with a touchless faucet with a built-in sensor that detects when your hand is near. Other options allow you to touch the faucet anywhere to turn it on or off. Not only does this help when your hands are dirty, it also keeps germs from spreading. Touchless faucets are credited with keeping water bills down.

High-efficiency fixtures in general are key, and not just for faucets. High-efficiency showerheads and high-performance, dual-flush toilets continue to dominate the retail scene.

For something truly unique, check out the new bath cabinets with built-in LCD TVs from Robern. When not in use, a simple film gives way to a clear, reflective mirror surface.

“Brass and chrome are coming back as brushed stainless steel is going out of fashion,” says Gray. “Chrome is a little dressier, so I sometimes mix door handles with a little chrome.”

Flooring

Tile and wood are still the go-to floors, with wood edging out, even in bathrooms. The smooth surface and endless options in color, texture and sustainability provide an opportunity to put a customized stamp on a home’s largest canvas.

After years of cherry tones, homeowners are now playing with lighter shades again and they’re choosing one floor option for the entire house. “This provides ample continuity and flow,” Gray says.

Travertine and marble on a diagonal are popular, especially if you love that mid-century modern look. Concrete tile is an economical choice, plus it's easy to clean and very forgiving.

Lighting

LED undercabinet lighting continues to make a splash, especially in kitchens, but everything is moving toward dimmers. This allows homeowners to adjust the light depending on the task and time of day.

As far as color finish, gold and brass are gaining on longtime star nickel, but in matte tones that keep shiny reflections at bay. Suspension lights and those with designs that make architectural statements continue to rule. All of this creative freedom will probably keep the flush-mounts of years past from coming back.
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Ana Connery is a Florida-based content strategist and storyteller whose work has appeared in numerous magazines and websites, including Cooking Light, HGTV, Travel and Leisure, and Better Homes and Gardens. While editor-in-chief of Florida Travel & Life magazine in 2006-09, she covered the state’s real estate and home design market and travel destinations.

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