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I think one of the greatest design myths is that taking your home from builder-basic to feeling more custom and high end is expensive. Whenever I visit a show home, these are the things that I look for: the few upgrades that can make a huge difference in how luxe a home looks. Some of these upgrades aren’t as expensive as you’d think to add when you build a home and are reasonably priced “renovations” that you can DIY or hire someone local to do for you.

Here are 5 ways to make your home look more custom and high end!

#1: Framed Mirrors

bathroom view of mirror

Framed mirrors are one of the most inexpensive ways to upgrade the look of your bathrooms! You can do solid wood or painted MDF or even mirrors with frosted borders. There is something so simple and elegant about a framed mirror that takes a space from cheap and basic to luxe and grand. This is a super simple weekend DIY project, too!

#2: Custom Shelving (No Wire Shelving)

pantry shelving with wire baskets

I hate wire shelving so much. It has been one of the main builder-grade items that I have been ridding our home of with each renovation. What’s crazy about wire shelving, too, is that it isn’t inexpensive! It can really be costly despite how basic it looks.

white closet shelves with clothing

I know that custom closets can really break the bank. When it comes to closets and pantries, I recommend either custom MDF shelves and custom hanging bars (an easy DIY if you’re handy and have the tools) or my personal favorite: the IKEA PAX Wardrobe System. These wardrobe frames have a ton of custom interior fittings to choose from to make your closet work for your needs and budget.

#3: Tiled Shower Walls (No Fibreglass Surrounds)

bathroom shower with white and black tile

It’s no secret that I love tile and that if you decide to renovate down the line that it’s easier to swap out tile for tile than it is to demo a fibreglass wall, but that’s not why I make this suggestion. I’ve seen some builders lay tile above the fibreglass walls to fill the gap when there are 9′ ceilings and that almost looks worse.

Tile looks more luxe and expensive than a fibreglass shower wall. At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that “kitchens and bathroom sell homes” and this is one of those places where you can add a lot of wow-factor and value for a fairly small budget (Depending on tile choices).

#4: Bathroom Vanity Cabinets (No Pedestal Sinks)

round bathroom mirror over sink

When we built our home we had a pedestal sink in our powder room. I liked it at first but in time, it just felt kind of lacklustre. We eventually renovated the space and installed what seemed like an oversized vanity in the space and it was a serious design upgrade! The space not only appeared larger, but the vanity provided a ton of much-needed storage.

bathroom sink and mirror images

Don’t get me wrong – pedestal sinks have their place. If you’re trying to create a vintage Parisian apartment bath, I say go for it!

#5: Stone Countertops Throughout

bathroom vanity

I’m a proponent of stone countertops not just because I love them aesthetically but also because they wear well. I’ve had people tell me that they have laminate counters that “look identical to stone” to which I reply “put a hot pan/curling iron on it and get back to me”. I’ve often visited show homes where the builder has installed stone counters in the kitchen but then done laminate in the bathrooms. This to me feels a little bit half-assed and cheap. I know I’ve already said it but it bears repeating “kitchens and bathrooms sell houses” so stone countertops throughout is one of the best ways to maximize the resale value of your home.

If stone isn’t in the budget, one of the only exceptions is butcher block. When done right, it can look incredibly luxe and add a lot of warmth to a space. My favorite places for butcher block countertops are kitchen islands, butler’s pantries and laundry rooms.

A Few Other Design Specifics In Our Home

We’ve done a few upgrades to our home since we built and I’ve suggested these changes to a few friends who have recently built as ways to add just a little extra wow-factor to their spaces.

  • We raised the height of the shower heads in our bathrooms to accommodate my 6’2″ husband!
  • We have 9′ ceilings on all 3 floors (main, upper and basement) and did 8′ doors to match the scale of the space. Many new homes are doing a 9′-10′-9′ ceiling configuration which is even more grand!
  • We finished the stairs that lead to our basement rather than having a door on our main floor closing off the basement stairwell. This helped to make the space feel more open and finished.
  • I added a ‘makeup drawer’ in each of our ensuite vanities. Instead of leaving the space unfinished behind the false-front, we had custom drawers built that surround our sinks. This gives us additional storage!
  • I used the additional sink false-front in our kitchen to create a tip out tray to house sponges and scrub brushes.
  • Adding custom millwork around our home in feature walls made a huge difference, too. This is a simple DIY!
  • In our kitchen, we had the builder install cabinetry up to the ceiling. This not only maximized our storage, but also makes our home look more finished and high end.

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