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  • Writer's pictureCaitlin Kelley

How The Right Choice of Materials Transforms A House Into Your Dream Home

When designing your dream home, think of it as a layering process, like an artist starting with a blank canvas. You and your architect will begin by defining the locations of your main living areas, kitchen, and bedrooms while placing windows and doors in strategic positions to make the most of your site. (See my blog "How the Perfect Site for Your Home Design Promotes Your Well-Being").


Then, consider your preferred style, be it contemporary, traditional, or eclectic, and use that to guide your choices. Next, focus on the exterior and interior aesthetics, including finishes, materials, paint colors, furnishings, light fixtures, textiles, and art. You may envision your dream home as contemporary and elegant, or more elaborate and decorative. Remember, even the smallest of details can have a powerful impact.


Although you will make many decisions with your architect throughout the design process, here are four things to consider.


Choose a suitable flooring


Aesthetic appeal plays a significant role in selecting the appropriate flooring, as does budget and durability. Consider the pros and cons of each material, since replacing your flooring can be difficult and time-consuming.


Natural hardwood floors are not only beautiful but also eco-friendly, and with proper maintenance, they can last for generations. However, in more humid climates, hardwood floors can be prone to cupping, warping, and stains. While sanding and refinishing every ten to twenty years can restore their original shine and luster, it can be a daunting task for some homeowners.



Engineered wood flooring, on the other hand, is made up of a thin layer of natural wood glued on top of plywood. This layered construction provides stability, responds well to various climates, and is cost-effective. Although the top layer can be sanded in the future, it can typically only be done once. When selecting an engineered floor, pay attention to its construction and choose a product that has a thicker top layer.


Laminated flooring, which can mimic the look of hardwood, is more durable and resistant to scratches, stains, and fading. It is also less expensive and easier to clean. However, its aesthetic is only for some, and you may prefer the warmth and welcoming feeling that natural hardwood or engineered wood floors bring to your home.


Stones such as travertine, limestone, and slate offer unique colors and patterns and give your space a luxurious and timeless look. The durability and colors are enticing and can be either a subtle backdrop or a pronounced statement in your design. Natural stones are an excellent passive heating and cooling system because the material absorbs the sun's energy. If your home has been positioned to capture the warmth of the winter sun, the stone retains the heat, keeping the space warm. Alternately, in the summer, the stone will be in the shade and keep the space cooler. However, stone does require regular maintenance to maintain its appearance and retain its beauty.


Terracotta tiles, often used in Mediterranean-style homes, are made of fired clay, have a warm, rustic appearance, and add a charming, earthy character. In comparison, quarry tiles are unglazed ceramic tiles, typically red or brown, with a rough texture.

Ceramic and porcelain tiles provide a wide range of design possibilities with their diverse colors, sizes, and patterns. They are easy to clean and maintain, and they have a high resistance to moisture, stains, and wear. Because of their durability, they are especially suitable for use in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and play areas.


In the design of your dream home, it is essential to consider the functionality of each room and select unique flooring to complement it. A professional architect can help you choose the perfect flooring to bring your vision to life while coordinating with the overall style of your home.


Decide on finishes for your kitchen


The kitchen is called the "Heart of the Home." It marks the beginning and end of your day, where meals are prepared, and family and friends gather, cook, and socialize. The kitchen is usually centered in a prominent space and should reflect your and your family's personality, so it deserves special attention to detail. The finishes in your kitchen, including the countertop, cabinets, sinks, faucets, and backsplash, should all be thoughtfully coordinated. Your appliances will also influence your design decisions. Every item adds another layer to create a cohesive and visually appealing look.


To start conceptualizing your kitchen, it's a good idea to browse through images that inspire you. You can search magazines and surf the internet to discover pictures that align with your taste and help establish a theme. By identifying what you like and dislike, you can provide clarity to your architect to define your unique style.


Decide whether the cabinet doors are painted, stained wood, or a combination of both. You can leave the lower cabinetry wood and paint the upper cabinets, and vice versa, for variation. Or you can select a sleek contemporary cabinet style and let the granite countertop, which is full of movement and color, make a strong statement as a beautiful piece of art. If wild, colorful granite is not to your taste, you can use a subtle white quartz countertop. Your possibilities are endless.



Countertops can be a fascinating topic of discussion. Depending on your kitchen usage, consider both the aesthetic and durability of various material options. Granite and quartzite are natural choices that provide both durability and aesthetic beauty.


Quartzite is highly resistant to heat, scratches, and stains, making it a perfect material for use in a kitchen. Keeping a quartzite countertop clean is an easy task, as it only requires soap and water. It is also one of the most manageable elements of your house to maintain.


Granite is also highly durable and heat-resistant, making it another great option for countertops. It is easy to clean, again using warm soapy water. It has an advantage over quartzite regarding moisture resistance and does not require re-sealing as often.


If you are looking for a sleek and elegant appearance that requires minimal maintenance, then quartz countertops would be a great option. Quartz is a man-made material that can be highly attractive. It is non-porous, making it more resistant to stains than other materials like granite, marble, and concrete. However, it is essential to note that quartz is relatively expensive and less heat-resistant than other materials.


There are other countertop materials, including concrete, stainless steel, wood, laminate, glass, resin, soapstone, or solid surfaces such as Corian®. Working with your architect can help you determine the best surface to meet your lifestyle and aesthetic.


The backsplash in your kitchen can be an interesting visual element that connects the lower and upper cabinets. You have many options to choose from when designing your backsplash. You might prefer a colorful glass mosaic or a geometrically textured tile. Your backsplash is a unifying thread that ties your kitchen's look together.


Sink selections, faucet fixtures, and cabinet hardware may seem like small items, but ironically, they make a significant impact on the general appeal of your kitchen. Will it be a farmhouse sink, drop-in sink, stainless steel, or porcelain? Are the faucet fixtures contemporary or traditional? Your cabinet hardware should align with your cabinet style and be functional.


Every detail matters, so it's important to consider your preferences. When I designed my kitchen, I was very specific about the sink. I wanted a flat-front stainless-steel farmhouse sink with tightly squared corners without any curves. Everyone has unique tastes and styles, and attention to these small details can turn your house into your dream home.


My client in Hawaii, Dawn, needed help deciding on the shape of her kitchen and vegetable sinks. Should the sinks be soft and rounded or have tight, square corners? We assisted her in selecting matching sink shapes, so these two elements harmonized.


As the heart of the home, the finishes you choose for your kitchen design not only tell who you are, but are significant to your lifestyle.


Select materials for your bathroom


A lot of time is spent in the bathroom, so selecting finishes and fixtures that bring you joy in the morning and comfort at night is a critical decision in designing your custom dream home. Each item requires consideration, from the bathtub and shower to the toilet and sink.


Do you prefer to take baths or showers? Imagine being illuminated by candles while you relax in your freestanding tub, bathing with lavender-scented bubbles at the end of a long day. Or enjoy the hot water spray as you stand in your natural stone shower, feeling like you are one with nature.


Consider using an electric radiant heating mat under porcelain or ceramic tiles, so you can step onto a warm bathroom floor on a cold winter morning.



Pick wall tiles that blend well with your flooring and countertops, with a decorative or textured accent tile for interest. Sinks can be under the countertop or a vessel sink sitting on top.

Planning each element of your bathroom, including faucets, towel racks, toilet paper holders, and soap dishes, is essential to create a cohesive design that reflects your personal taste and style.


With guidance from a professional architect, you can carefully select finishes and materials that bring your dream home to life.


Add layers of color and texture to create visual appeal


Choosing the right color is essential to achieving the desired ambiance and reflecting your unique personality throughout your home. Changing the color of your walls is easier than renovating and can have a significant impact on how a space feels. For instance, you may use a bold color like deep red for a while and then switch to a different one, and the entire mood of the space changes completely.


Red is a high-energy color associated with passion, love, and excitement and can make your space feel warm and inviting. In comparison, blue is linked to calmness, tranquility, and relaxation. Choose yellow to evoke feelings of happiness, optimism, and energy. Or green, which is associated with nature, growth, and renewal.


Textures also add interest and visual appeal. The floor tile may be penny-round for texture. Or add small glass tiles and sparkles to your kitchen backsplash. You may be living with these choices for a long time, so be sure that what you select is ultimately what you want.

In my kitchen, I opted for a stunning gray-toned granite countertop with a subtle movement. However, I still needed to decide on the backsplash. I waited patiently for the kitchen to speak and guide me in the right direction. I searched for options until I came across a plain white horizontal tile with a wavy texture. These tiles complement the countertop and add interest to the design.


The right materials transform your dream home


Choosing suitable materials for your dream home can be a challenging task due to the numerous options available. Every decision you make, from the flooring to the cabinetry in your kitchen, should contribute to creating a cohesive and harmonious design. The finishes, fixtures, colors, and textures you select will give your home a unique character and reflect your family's taste and style.


Much like an artist begins with a blank canvas and carefully adds each brush stroke, I'll work with you to bring your dream home to life. Call me today to start the conversation. Tel: 858-344-2404, or email: caitlin@caitlinkelleyarchitect.com.

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