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How to Prepare for Your Design Appointment

6 tips and tricks on how to prepare for your design selections appointment: What you should bring with you, how to get the most out of your appointment, and what you should be planning ahead of time.

Unless you’re building through a custom builder, it’s likely that you will need to attend a design/selections appointment (or multiple!) to make selections for your new build. While the content of these appointments will vary slightly from builder to builder, there are generally a few things they all have in common. Namely, you’ll spend the afternoon making choices about the fixtures, fittings, and trims being used in your new house. Almost certainly, this is where you’ll get to choose your flooring, bricks, and tiles. Most builders will also help you design your electrical layout and cabinetry during this time. It’s an exciting day but can quickly become a stressful one if you come unprepared. 

My boyfriend and I built during the peak of the covid 19 pandemic, which made for an even more stressful appointment than most. Building materials were scarce, appointment times had been shortened and rescheduled many times due to lockdowns. More than anything, it taught me how important it was to come fully prepared. Given the uncertainty, we wanted to ensure we could make all our selections in one afternoon.

While the choices you make at these design appointments aren’t necessarily set in stone, you’ll usually have to pay an administration fee to make changes after the day. Given how expensive the building process can be, it’s best to try and avoid these extra costs where possible.

1. Electrical Plans

Most large, residential builders allow you to make alterations to your electrical plan at your selections appointment. While this mightn’t be the most exciting decision you’ll make on the day, it’s arguably the most important. Taking time in the weeks/months prior to your appointment to look over your plan will ensure you don’t miss anything vital on the day. If your design consultant is anything like ours, they may have some additional notes/suggestions for you to consider, but the more prepared you are, the less stressful these curveballs will be.

The best advice I can give when it comes to perfecting your electrical layout would be to have an A3 copy of your house plan printed and laminated. From there, grab yourself a few whiteboard markers and start sketching. Also, check out our article on where to include electrical outlets in your build!

2. Moodboards and Flatlays

You’ve probably heard the term ‘mood board’ thrown around a lot in the interior design/building community- and for good reason! A mood board is a collection of different images, patterns, colours, and samples used to convey a particular feeling or aesthetic. It’s arguably the best tool you have as a homebuilder to convey your vision to a selections consultant.

We won’t lie… creating a mood board can be hard work. In its simplest form, a mood board is an album of inspiration photos on your phone, Instagram or Pinterest; at its most complex, it’s a collection of different samples from the selections studio, suppliers, and pictures you’ve taken at display homes. When building my own house I kept a large box in the garage just for samples, cutouts and pictures. I would collect two or three different samples from every supplier I visited and narrowed the options down over time. I had Pinterest boards dedicated to each room of my house, three different photo albums and an untold number of phone applications (check out our article on must-have apps & websites) to keep myself organized. Not everyone is going to want (or need) to take things to the same extremes, but starting some sort of mood board or sample collection will help ensure all of your selection picks are cohesive and work together.

3. Appliance/Whitegoods Measurements 

This may seem like a given, but it’s astounding how many people overlook this step when planning their homes. If your kitchen layout and cabinetry are handled at the design appointment (like ours were), it’s important to measure all of your pre-purchased appliances beforehand. This can include but is certainly not limited to: the fridge, microwave, oven, stovetop, dishwasher, and rangehood. Outside of the kitchen, you may also have bar fridges, washing machines, or dryers. You’ll need to bring these measurements along to ensure that the cabinetry is made to the right specifications- without them, you may end up with a fridge provision too small for your beautiful, new, french doored fridge or massive gaps in the cabinetry around your built-in dishwasher. 

If you’re planning on buying, or have already purchased, any oversized appliances or white goods, it’s also important to ensure there is access for delivery/installation. The main sore points tend to be doorways, tight corners, and narrow hallways. We learned the hard way that access to our kitchen was limited by a 900mm wide entranceway and a 720mm wide door frame. If we had our time again, we may have moved the kitchen or widened our hallway to prevent dents and scratches on our brand new walls!

4. Cabinetry Plans

Speaking of cabinetry, have you given any thought to your kitchen, wardrobes or laundry layout? The worst thing you can do is walk into your selections appointment without a well-thought-out plan for these spaces. While some builders may provide you with drawings/sketches for your kitchen and laundry layout… most don’t. Unless you’ve drawn something out yourself (or used an app to do so), you’re going to end up stuck with base model kitchens and cabinets that will decrease the value and usability of your home. There’s no use spending money upgrading to beautiful, stone benchtops if you have nowhere to store your glassware. In most cases, you will have been quoted on basic utensil drawers and shelves/cupboards. While these kinds of cabinets have a time and place, there are often much better storage solutions out there- you just need to know what to ask for.

We’ve created a cohesive list here of things you should consider when planning your kitchen layout, but to keep it short: you should consider where exactly you plan on storing all of your kitchen appliances, utensils, pots, pans and cookware before going into your selections appointment. Do you want to add pot drawers, a pull-out bin, or spice rack? Now’s the time to add them.

When it comes to pantries and wardrobes, the story is much the same. Unless you know what to ask for, it’s likely you’ll end up with something very basic. For laundries, this usually means a single doored linen cupboard and no bench space. For wardrobes, perhaps a single shelf for storage and some clothes racks. Spend some time thinking about how you use these spaces, and what kind of storage is going to best suit your needs.

5. Outside Quotes 

Getting outside quotes on things like flooring, landscaping, air conditioning, stormwater, and electrical can save you a considerable amount of money. This is especially true if you have a friend or family member working in one of these industries. Volume builders often make huge margins on these kinds of services, so it’s worthwhile getting a second opinion wherever possible.

Personally, my boyfriend and I were able to save a huge amount of money on our air conditioning. For 3/4 of the cost, we were able to get a larger unit roof-mounted, with mobile controls! If you’ve ever wished you could turn your air conditioner on from your office, or while lying in bed- it’s something you should definitely look into.

Even if you’re adamant about getting these services done through your builder, external quotes can still be valuable. Selections consultants are often more than happy to match quotes for things like air conditioning and wastewater. While you’ll have a harder time getting them to match quotes for electrical work, fittings, or flooring, there’s certainly no harm in asking! 

If you want a full rundown of exactly which services you should be getting quoted externally, we’ve got you covered!

6. Visit the showroom

If you’re lucky enough to be building with a company that has a selections studio or showroom, make use of it! Most of these spaces are open throughout the week, on weekends, and sometimes even on public holidays. 

When my boyfriend and I built our first home, I was on a first-name basis with many of the staff. It became my second home for the months leading up to my appointment. I’d spend every weekend sifting through paint and floor samples, and snagging as many freebies as I could to add to my mood board. Partially, this is because my boyfriend and I couldn’t agree on anything… but also because I wanted to come prepared. 

If you’re unsure where to start, it’s best to ask someone! If you know in advance which decisions you’re going to need to make during your appointment, you’ll be able to prepare. This information will give you time to mull things over and change your mind. You can’t be railroaded into making a choice you’ll later regret if you’ve already spent weeks thinking it over.

Did you love our tips on how to prepare for your design appointment? If so, here’s some other blogs we think you’ll like!

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