How To Design Your Dream Home: Tips To Bring a Blueprint to Life

When you design your own home from the ground up, the sky’s the limit when it comes to design. You get to choose the architectural style, the floor plan, and all the flourishes that make this place uniquely, well, you.

Sounds fun, right? It is, but figuring out what you want to build can also be incredibly intimidating. Before you start picking out tile and light fixtures, you need a plan.

In this final installment of our Guide To Building Your Own Home, we’ll help you focus on the joys—and potential pitfalls—of designing your space. We’ll show you where to get inspiration, how to narrow down your needs versus wants, ways to make trade-offs to stay on budget, and much more that will help your architectural plans come to life with as few hiccups as possible.

Where to get home design inspiration

You probably already have a picture in mind of your dream home—its style, feeling, and design. If not, scour sites like Pinterest and Houzz for visual ideas, suggests Elizabeth Sanchez Vaughan, creative principal at In-Site Interior Design. These sites often let you create “idea books” and save images you like.

“When you look at all these images as a whole, you will start to see a pattern of the things that you like, and it will inform your style decisions,” she says. “If there’s an element that repeats itself within those images, then chances are good that it’s really something you will like to live with.”

This process will at least give you a starting point. Sharing these images with your builder and designer will also help them get to know your style so that they can guide you through the process.

Questions to ask before you build a floor plan

Don’t get ahead of yourself when designing your dream home. Justin Riordan, interior designer, architect, and founder of home-staging company Spade and Archer Design Agency, suggests thinking broadly first.

Some questions to consider: Who will be living in the home and what will the home be used for? Are you planning to grow your family, or will you become an empty nester soon? Will you be working from home for the foreseeable future? The answers will help you choose a functional layout that will meet your needs now and in the future.

“Once all of these questions are answered, you can then start to create a bubble diagram to show how the spaces needed will be laid out to best accommodate the various uses of the house,” Riordan says.

This will guide the schematic design, which includes a floor plan. And a budget and timeline for construction can be set based on these drawings.

The biggest mistake people make when building a home is not spending enough time planning, Vaughan says. You may be eager to break ground and start the construction, but don’t skip the prep stage. After all, this is when the budget is set and gets everyone on the same page.

“If the plan is 100% right, then the rest of the construction process will go smoothly and not require time-consuming changes,” she says. “Really have the professional walk you through the space and describe what the flow will be.”

And don’t make these decisions alone—make sure your builder, designer, and anyone else on your team is involved, says Amala Raj Swenson, an interior designer working in Los Angeles and San Diego. “Designers, architects, and the builder will all have knowledge specific to their trade that can help the other plan details more accurately.”

Don’t pick trendy designs you might regret

Have you fallen in love with the latest home design trends on Instagram? Think twice before incorporating them all in your new home. Think about your long-term needs and whether you’ll get sick of decor fads down the road.

“I recommend a mix of long-term classic style incorporated with more trendy, modern styles,” Swenson says. “I find that adding accessories—sofas, throw pillows, and lighting—that are more trendy makes it easier to change in the long run, if you want to update anything.”

A big mistake homeowners make, she adds, is focusing on a specific aesthetic and not considering the functionality of the home.

“It’s so important to consider the use of the space, just as much as the look of it,” Swenson says. Functionality should drive the design, not the other way around.

Make trade-offs to keep your home construction on budget

If you have expensive tastes but a modest budget, you might have to rethink some of your design choices to avoid spending too much. That’s why making a list of needs, wants, and like-to-haves and setting a budget early on are such important steps.

All homes need a roof, for example, but Riordan says an inexpensive composition roof accomplishes this need, even if you have your eye on a pricier option like slate. Maybe you’d rather spend that extra money elsewhere.

Home fixtures and features like appliances, lighting, countertops, tile, and flooring come in all price ranges. Most likely you’ll find something you like that’s also budget-friendly.

“If you need to make trade-offs to stay in budget, I would focus on putting the finances toward anything that is structural,” she explains. “I advise against cutting corners on items like cabinetry, flooring, or paneling because these are the long-term items that will cost more in the long run to update or change.”

And keep revisiting your priority list. Vaughan says it’ll help you make all the important decisions along the way.

Check in on your construction site often

Building a home is a huge investment, so you should keep tabs on how it’s progressing. Vaughan suggests scheduling regular meetings with your builder, designer, and any contractors involved.

“Make sure you spend time in the space—without the contractor, as well as with them—just after framing and just after sheetrocking,” says Vaughan. “This is so critical to make sure the flow of the rooms feels right, as well as the size of the rooms.”

At this stage, think about how you might arrange your furniture and where electrical outlets should be placed. Visit more frequently when finishes are being placed to make sure everything is correct.

Regular check-ins can save you time and money in the long run, since your questions and concerns are being addressed along the way, Swenson says.

“The best way to have fun and not get too stressed about everything being Pinterest-perfect is just to remember what an achievement and blessing it is to be able to build your home,” she adds. “Have fun with the process, and truly take time to enjoy and take in all the details of options, layouts, and materials that are out there.”


Transform Your Space: Makeover a Bedroom in One Weekend

We are all spending some quality time in our homes right now. So while we’re all in it together, let’s all take advantage of this time and completely makeover a space in a weekend’s worth of time! Check out the amazing befores and afters in this video. We’ve broken down all things so that you too can make a transformation happen in your space too!

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This might just be the easiest thing you can do to makeover a space. By updating the paint color you are instantly giving your space a completely new vibe. Make sure to test out your paint colors before committing. All paint reads differently in your own space. The morning, afternoon and evening light is going to affect how your paint reads so be sure to apply a small sample in all the areas to make sure you like it in the different light.

Feature Wall

Create a feature wall. We are huge fans of textured walls. Whether they are board and batten, like in this bedroom, wainscotting, geometric shapes, you name it we probably like it. By giving your wall 3 dimensions you are allowing your eye a new place to rest. In this space we framed out the bed and painted the wall a lighter color than the other walls to make the room feel light, airy and open.

Stylish desk and chair in workspace in vintage genderless kid roomStylish desk and chair in workspace in vintage genderless kid room


Switch out your rug. New rugs always provide a completely new look. Not sure what rug size your room needs, we got you. Here’s our full guide to finding the perfect rug size and a handy visual to reference.


Switching out furniture always gives your room a completely new look. In this space we purchased new ones. If your budget doesn’t allow for new nightstands perhaps you could sand them down and paint or stain them. Or you could simply switch out the hardware. We love how hardware can change the look of almost anything in a matter of minutes.


Change your lighting. This is so impactful in your space and fairly easy to do. Here’s our ultimate guide on how to change a light fixture if you aren’t sure!


Move things around. Yep, the simple moving of things can give you a new love for your space again. We often find taking things out of spaces helps. All too often rooms have more things inside them than they really need! 

Michael and Danielle Gutelli

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Danielle and Michael Gutelli creators and owners of Clark + Aldine, a residential design to build team specializing in home design, customization, and styling. Together with their two little dudes, they are helping people experience life by looking at existing space in a completely new way and offering solutions for a more functional and purposeful space for their clients. On their blog they share content related to home design, decor and styling, DIY tips, and how they manage all the things while prioritizing time with their family, traveling and embracing the everyday moments life brings them!  Follow their journey at or on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest.


What are the Best and Worst Projects for DIY?

Taking on do-it-yourself (DIY) home projects is incredibly satisfying, if not empowering. But, some projects are better left to professionals, as they can potentially impact the integrity, safety, and resale value of your home. If you’re a homeowner, check out this list of the best and worst projects for DIY so you can decide which route is best for next project!

Worst: Flooring

Replacing flooring yourself can be tricky, especially if you’re a DIY newbie. There are a wide variety of flooring choices, but what’s most important is how they are installed. Something like luxury vinyl plank flooring is very forgiving for a person new to DIY, but anything that needs to be glued down — like some wood, linoleum, or tile options — may be better left to a professional installation. The last thing you’d want is to have uneven flooring or inadequate protection from elements like heat, cold, moisture, and even insects. This also includes installing carpet, as there are special tools and techniques that keep carpets tight and secure.

Best: Paint Projects

No “best and worst projects for DIY list” would be complete without mentioning painting. Perhaps the most popular choice for DIYers, painting your space is a budget-friendly project, especially given how impactful it is. Paint protects your space indoors, and can shield your home’s exterior from the elements. But, even though it’s a simpler DIY, doing it wrong could negatively effect your home’s look, and even it’s sale value. Follow these tips for a smooth paint process:

  1. Make sure you know what sheen of paint works best for the area you’re focusing on. For example, painting your bathroom will require a sheen and paint formulation meant for high moisture.
  2. Have the right supplies! Using the wrong kind of brush or roller can make or break your paint project. Don’t hesitate to ask a professional or the person at the paint counter at your local home store for their advice.
  3. Grab a friend to help (but don’t forget to wear your masks)! It’ll go by much faster with a trusted companion working alongside you!

Worst: Porches and decks

Lots of thought and planning is required for a successful porch or deck build — after all, the last thing that you want is for the structure to collapse and cause injury. Equally important is how it’s attached to your home, and making sure it’s structurally sound so it won’t damage your property. This is why a building permit is usually required to construct them. To maintain this high level of integrity calls for at least a basic knowledge of construction skills and materials, plus access to the heavy-duty tools required to do the job. For those reasons and their major implications for safety, we definitely recommend a professional for porches and decks if you’re newer to DIY.

best and worst projects to DIYbest and worst projects to DIY
Heavy-duty power tools are usually needed for porch and deck builds.

Best: Backsplash Tile

Adding or changing backsplash tile is the perfect beginner DIY project, because it’s a simpler way to learn the ins and outs of tile work. Usually, areas with backsplash are smaller compared to shower walls or floors, and can be a little more forgiving if you make a mistake. To make DIY backsplash even easier, there peel-and-stick tile options are available that require no thin set or grout. Some don’t even require a tile saw to cut the product. Easy peasy!

Worst: Electrical Work

Basic electrical work, like swapping out ceiling fans or lights, is doable for most new DIYers. On the other hand, rewiring your lights completely or adding new electrical systems to your home are complex tasks and are definitely something to leave in the hands of a licensed electrician. Wiring fixtures can mean the difference between safety and peace of mind, and an electrical fire that damages the home or worse, causes injury or death. If you’ve got your eyes on a more extensive electrical project, let the pros handle it!

(READ MORE: It’s Electric! What You Need to Know About Electrical Panels)

Worst: Structural Changes

Any time you want to add on to your home or open up a room, this is definitely something to hand over to a professional. Depending on your project, you’ll need proper permitting and inspections to ensure the space is up to code. Even if you want to remove a wall from within your home (they make it look so simple on HGTV, don’t they?), you need to know if it’s load bearing (meaning, the weight of the floor above it or the roof line, is literally resting on that wall). Remove a load bearing wall and your home could potentially collapse, so this is something best left for a professional.

Best AND Worst: Roof repairs

It’s helpful to know how to fix minor roof damage and proper safety protocols for working on your roof. Not fixing your roof correctly could not only compromise it’s integrity, but also put the inside of your home in danger of extensive damage. Issues like a loose shingles are relatively simple fixes that you can typically DIY; plus, this type of proactive maintenance can extend the life of the roof. But, for issues like extensive leaks, major storm damage or structural sagging, a roofing expert should be your go-to. They can diagnose the issue, give options for safe and sturdy repair, and provide you with a ballpark cost estimate so you aren’t caught off guard (something we can’t promise if you try to DIY it!).

best and worst projects for DIYbest and worst projects for DIY

The Bottom Line

Even though a professional might be a better option for your home project, it doesn’t mean the project is impossible for you to DIY. It just means that you need to take extra caution and care to understand the project scope and what the implications are if something goes wrong. If you’re not sure about something, it’s always better to invest the money to have projects done correctly so mistakes or overlooked issues don’t end up costing you even more later. While DIY is meant to be rewarding, protecting your investment should always be your number one priority. 

For more DIY tips, be sure to subscribe to’s bi-monthly newsletter and check back here for all things DIY-related!


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Brooke has a lifestyle blog called Cribbs Style and currently lives in Charleston, SC. This wife, mom of two almost tweens, and mom of three fur children enjoys all things DIY and organizing. When she’s not helping others tackle the chaos of life, she’s either working out, at the beach, or just enjoying time with family and friends.


How to Remodel your Bathroom for Under $1000

Contrary to popular belief, updating your home doesn’t have to require a complete gut job. Often times just updating a few things can help change your perspective and breathe new life into your space. Bathrooms rank as one of the most important rooms in our homes, especially when you consider return on investment, but also in terms of comfort. Whether you’re looking for a spa like environment or a space that reflects your personal style, there are a lot of budget friendly ways to update your space. 

Read: 8 Signs It’s Time to Remodel Your Bathroom

spa bathroomspa bathroom
This post contains affiliate links, which cost you nothing extra, but help to bring amazing ideas your way. Read about Cribbs Style disclosure here.


It’s one of the most inexpensive, yet impactful ways to update any space, bathrooms included. If your room is smaller, paint the walls light and bright and do a fun color or focal treatment on the ceiling. It will help draw the eyes up making the room feel larger. Paint doesn’t stop just there. If you have an outdated vanity, spruce it up with a couple of coats of paint to give it a more updated look. 


Don’t just stop with updating your vanity with paint, update the door and drawer pulls. You can go as inexpensive as spray painting the door and drawer pulls, or switching them out of a completely different style and/ or color. While you’re at it, don’t be afraid to update your tired towel bar, toilet paper holder, and don’t forget maybe giving your shower head an upgrade. 

Vanity Swap

Tired old vanities that can’t be salvaged with paint, can be swapped out for something that’s more on trend.


What’s On Trend

Wanting to take things up a notch without breaking the bank? Peel and stick wallpaper is all the rage. Fashionable, functional, and perfect if you have no experience hanging wall paper. Best yet, peel and stick wallpaper won’t wreck your walls if you change your mind and decide later to remove it. 

If you like the look of this bathroom and want to draw some inspiration try incorporating this peel-and-stick wallpaper, my favorite shower curtain, and purchasing a floor stencil for added design.

Board and batten or shiplap can also be a great way to update your walls and you would be very surprised at how easy and inexpensive these wall treatments can actually be. Take it one step further and add these features half way up the wall, then either paint or add peel and stick wallpaper to the top of the wall. 

Update your flooring by adding some paint. Not only is it inexpensive, but you can totally change the look and colors of your flooring to better fit your space. Tile, linoleum, and wood can all be painted which is the perfect way to update without ripping out your floors. 

If this bathroom is more up your alley, you can start to update you space by using this peel-and-stick Wallpaper, this shower curtain, replacing your current hardware with this brushed gold hardware and creating a floor design with this floor stencil.


Bath mats, towels, and shower curtains have come a very long way. There are an array of colors and patterns out there to compliment any space. Switch it them out seasonally to keep your space fresh. 

Don’t forget that even swapping out your mirror can do a world of difference. If you’re still wanting to shine a new light on your bathroom, changing out your lighting may be a bright idea.

Freshening up the place where you freshen up can easily be done on a budget and without completely gutting your bathroom. Switching out your hardware, adding some paint or trying your hand at peel and stick wallpaper, can easily achieve a new look. Best part is, you can save yourself thousands of dollars and give yourself years of enjoyment in your new bathroom.

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Brooke has a lifestyle blog called Cribbs Style and currently lives in Charleston, SC. This wife, mom of two almost tweens, and mom of three fur children enjoys all things DIY and organizing. When she’s not helping others tackle the chaos of life, she’s either working out, at the beach, or just enjoying time with family and friends.


Staging Your Home Beautifully While on a Budget

The real estate market is knee-deep in peak season despite the pandemic. And given the seller’s market, homeowners are wanting to maximize their profits from their home to upgrade to larger homes. And one of the proven tools to help to maximize a sale’s price is home staging. According to a 2019 NAR study, “25% of buyer’s agents said that staging a home increased the dollar value offered between one and five percent, compared to other similar homes on the market that are not staged.”

But home staging comes with a price tag, so what’s a homeowner to do if they’re on a tight budget?

staging a scandinavian home interior of living room with mock up postaging a scandinavian home interior of living room with mock up po

Donna Lamb, owner of Premier Home Staging and Design of Northwest Arkansas, offers budget-friendly home staging tips for homeowners that plan to sell.

Take Care Of The Basics First

While not all homeowners can afford thousands of dollars for home staging, there are some basics that homeowners can address to get top dollar when selling their home. Lamb suggests “It is critically important to take care of the basics first.” Basics that every homeowner can tackle before listing:

Partial Staging To Save Money

Staging every room of a home could be quite costly. Lamb even says, “As far as vacant, unoccupied homes, we actually don’t recommend staging the entire property.” Rather than staging an entire property, focus on the rooms that will provide the biggest bang for your buck. In Lamb’s experience, “We recommend only staging the entry, dining, living, kitchen and master suite. If there happens to be another room at the front of the home such as an office, we would recommend staging it as well.” Other tips for partial staging:

  • Properly scaled furniture. “Every room should have adequate space for movement, absent of excessive furniture.”
  • Hire a stager to do a walkthrough. “If the home is occupied or the sellers are leaving their furniture, employing a professional stager to walk through and conduct a consultation with them.”
  • Inquire about less staging options. “Options can be provided to stage less spaces to make the install more affordable for the seller.”

staging a home Brand new luxury Canadian style furnished and staged apartment istaging a home Brand new luxury Canadian style furnished and staged apartment i

Virtual Staging For Photos

One of the most affordable home staging options is virtual staging. 40% of buyers desire to look at the home they have seen staged online, making virtual staging a critical step. Lamb’s tips for virtual staging:

  • Ensure the company providing this service has a software program that provides realistic life like, and on trend furnishings as part of their program offering.
  • Inquire if the individual completing the virtual staging assignment is a professional stager and not an individual that is self-taught
  • She also cautions, “I believe any potential buyer touring the home is not going to physically experience the same emotions by looking at the virtual photos and then walking through an empty home.”

The One Room You Can’t Afford To NOT Stage

If homeowners are incredibly restrained by budget, there is one room that they must budget for when staging: the living room. The most used and versatile space, buyers want to see how the space feels and flows if they lived there. Forty-seven percent of buyer’s agents say the living room is the most critical room to have staged– and Lamb agrees. “This is the space that the majority of homeowners will spend time with their family.”

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Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.


5 Things You Should Pay Premium for as a Homeowner or Renter

There’s no denying that everyone wants to make their money stretch as far as possible. When it comes to any major purchases or projects you want to do in your home, naturally we want to find the best deal. However, there are some things that could actually end up costing you more money down the road should you decide to take the cheap route.

Here are a few areas where you may want to think on before you choose the less expensive option:


No matter if you own or rent your home, buying furniture should be seen as an investment. It’s important to read reviews about the quality of the construction and the fabric. Poorly constructed furniture may not be durable which is important especially if you have children or pets. It’s one thing to change furniture because your taste in decor style changes, it’s another to have to buy new because it didn’t last. On average, a sofa should last about 7-15 years, depending on the fabric, and longer for leather.

cat on a bedcat on a bed

If you are on a budget and need some assistance prioritizing the most important pieces to spend more money on, go with this:

  1. Mattress and Bed Frame: This one should go without saying, and you’ve most likely heard it before, but you spend more than one-third of your life sleeping. Getting a quality night sleep can impact your health and well-being, and similar to a sofa, a quality mattress can last up to 10 years! If comfort is important to you, you should prioritize spending that premium amount of money on a mattress and good-quality bed frame.

Read: Transform Your Space: Makeover Your Bedroom in One Weekend

  1. Couch: Similar to a mattress, this is something you’ll find yourself using quite often. If you’re big on entertaining, having a comfortable, quality place to sit should be important to you.
  2. Dining Table and Chairs: Lastly, a sturdy, heavy-duty dining table and chair set can go a long way. Not to mention, classic tables and chairs rarely go out of style, so finding a set you love – even if it’s a steep price – would be well worth the investment.


Bargain paint is thinner and more watery. No matter what brush or roller you use, it will streak and not give great coverage. In the end, you may end up using more paint to complete your painting job and in turn spending more money. Aside from the coverage, because the consistency, bargain paint will not hold up to normal wear and tear. Higher quality paints often contain a built in primer and their technology can provide one coat coverage. In the end a higher quality paint could cost you less money and time to complete your project. 

Read: Trending Interior Paint Colors for 2020


Making the decision to do a home improvement project is not a decision that’s made lightly. It’s an investment in your home and can impact the value down the road. Choosing the right contractor to handle the job is the next most important decision you’re going to make in your project. Ask around for recommendations, but also do your own research to see how this contractor is viewed regarding the quality of their workmanship.

Read: A Quick and Practical Guide to Renovation Budgets

inspector looking at the foundation to determine flood insurance premiuminspector looking at the foundation to determine flood insurance premium

If you’re planning on doing any major additions or reworking the footprint of your home, you’ll need a contractor who understands the importance of pulling permits, and following building code. Again, the lack of quality could end up costing you more money down the road if something has to be fixed or replaced. 

Read: Maximizing Your Home’s Renovation ROI

Bathroom and Kitchen Renovations

The two spaces in your home which will bring you the most return for your investment, are also the two spaces you don’t want to take any shortcuts. Picking timeless and quality products are important because these two rooms put in the most work. The products need to not only look good, but be able to withstand a lot of use. 

white ceramic toilet bowl beside white ceramic toilet bowl

white ceramic toilet bowl beside white ceramic toilet bowl

Read: How to Remodel Your Bathroom for Less Than $1,000

Getting a good deal applies to some things, just not everything you decide to use your hard earned money to purchase. Taking short cuts or choosing lesser quality products or services, could end up costing you more in the long run. Take advantage of sales, coupons, or promotions when making major purchases or doing any projects, but whatever you do, don’t sell yourself short. 

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Brooke has a lifestyle blog called Cribbs Style and currently lives in Charleston, SC. This wife, mom of two almost tweens, and mom of three fur children enjoys all things DIY and organizing. When she’s not helping others tackle the chaos of life, she’s either working out, at the beach, or just enjoying time with family and friends.