Lifestyle Real Estate

building a dream home on a budget: phase 2

Anna Kocharian Avatar

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We’re following interior and textile designer,

caitlin wilson

as she goes along the process of building her dream home on a budget. Here, Wilson shares the key to learning when to save and when to splurge on essentials such as lighting, tiles, and more!

Framing is finished, walls are up, and it’s time to get designing! If there’s anything I’ve learned throughout this process, it’s that you need to be one step ahead of the builder and design every detail, well in advance, to avoid delays and mistakes. I can’t stress this enough – plan ahead! Here is what you should anticipate for the schedule and timeline of a custom home process:

Month 1:

  • Select exterior doors, bathtubs, showers, fireplaces
  • Shower and tub valve placement

Month 2:

  • Cabinet layout and design
  • Select plumbing fixtures
  • Concrete layout, roofing materialand color

Month 3:

  • Electrical walkthrough
  • Select siding finishes, masonry,garage door

Month 4:

  • Flooring selection
  • Countertops and Backsplash selections
  • Millwork material- i.e. doors, casing, base, handrail, balusters, doorknobs
  • Exterior paint colors and Interior paint colors
  • Light fixtures, bathroom accessories, carpet

Month 5: Month 6:


From countertops to tile and lighting, selecting products in advance is key to having the project move smoothly along. There are so many decisions that you make in the first few months that may seem premature, but this is a critical part of the process and every decision needs to be well-thought-out. I highly recommend choosing every light fixture prior to the electrical walk-through so you can anticipate exact placement and avoid extra charges from the electrician. Wall sconces and library lights are one of the best ways to customize a home and it only takes a bit more planning and a few extra dollars. Lighting is an area I feel is worth the splurge and is something you can take with you from home to home. A classic brass light from Circa lighting or a traditional Rejuvenation task light will be worth every penny. Classic light fixtures are versatile and timeless. Lights are like jewelry to an outfit, they give a home an added element of luxury and sophistication!


Communication is key. Spell out all of your needs and wants from day 1 and don’t cut corners for the sake of time. Ask each subcontractor all your questions twice. Nothing should ever be assumed- go through your all ideas and confirm every detail. I’ve learned the hard way from mistakes that have happened from not over-communicating. Be prepared with pictures and drawings for each subcontractor involved to make sure no detail is missed. The marks of a custom home are well-planned spaces and cohesive design elements. Be patient, knowing that each room will evolve as it all plays out. After all, the entire process may take anywhere from 6-18 months, so keep in mind that your taste or trends may change by the time you’re ready for décor.


When it comes to more permanent items like tiles, I like to keep things neutral enough to be versatile but with a little personality through texture and tonal patterns. Neutral colored tiles in whites, greys, and blacks are classic but, can also be utilized to give a palette a modern twist. You can’t go wrong with white ceramics, porcelains, or marbles. I love playing around with texture and dimension, to give simple white spaces a little flair. My cement tile from the Cement Tile Shop was a splurge, but it makes such a statement in the mud room. It’s amazing how unique cement tiles can transform a space. Not to mention, it’s perfect for high traffic areas like mudrooms and the kids’ bath!


Don’t feel like you need to splurge on tiles for every room. Get creative with basic whites like

subway tile

. I used a matte [%335%] as a full height backsplash in my kids’ bathroom in an alternating basketweave pattern. Another great classic is a brick set. Take it up a notch by doing a full wall in a bathroom and add a contrasting grout for a pop!


Ready for the scoop on these gorgeous marble-esque beauties?? Get this, they’re porcelain tiles and cost a fraction of the price of marble. A marble master bath was going to cost me $10,000+, so I searched the market for the best faux Calcuttas and came up with a beautiful option at less than half the price of marble. My Crossville porcelain Virtue tile is a serious winner when it comes to marble alternatives. They’re stronger and have consistent coloring and veining. Gone are the days of marble being the only luxury material! I laid my 6×24 tiles in a herringbone pattern to give it a sophisticated yet interesting design.

Stay tuned to see the progress of Caitlin’s home as she shares the final stages and unveils the completed photos of her new space!

Anna Kocharian Avatar

Anna Kocharian


Anna has a penchant for travel, fresh flowers, and books. You can usually find her on some sort of culinary adventure, seeking the best burgers or waffles in the city.