Designers at HGTV share the best upgrades for your money…

“The key to any new-build is the upgrades,but they can cost a fortune. A lot of them are worth spending the money, however, because they’re not things you’re going to back and do later.” Find out what both designers chose as the best upgrades for their model homes.



This is a common upgrade and it’s well worth the money. If it’s your preference and you can afford it, go for hardwood throughout the house. It’s great for resale and is easy to clean. If you want to save some money, do what both Cheryl and Andrew did and opt for carpet in the bedrooms only. Having carpet in the bedroom is what many new home buyers still prefer, plus it’s cozy and cost-effective.

Andrew's dark hardwood draws the eye through the first floor



Choosing upgrades wisely is all about maximum effect. Everyone knows that kitchens and bathrooms are among the most important rooms to spend money on, and upgrading your backsplash tile is a popular choice. “Even if you were going to do the basic white kitchen and you have stainless steel appliances, a stainless steel subway tile or any of the glass mosaics would look incredible,” says Andrew. “Right away you’ve taken it from a basic kitchen to something a little more special.” Andrew chose a white glass tile in his kitchen that popped against his dark cabinetry. Cheryl chose a metallic glass mosiac tile which added the sense of drama she loves, while picking up on the metallic theme throughout her house. “Choose cabinetry that’s standard or a level 1, and you’re not spending tons of money so you can spruce it up with something as simple as tile,” she says.

Marble Where it Counts: Bathrooms and Entryways

“Use higher quality materials in small spaces like the entryway,” Cheryl says. She used marble to get the most bang for her buck which creates a sense of luxury the minute you step into the house. Marble looks expensive and a small amount goes a long way. Andrew went for a marble vanity in his master ensuite, another popular upgrade, because “it adds an expensive, elegant look to bathrooms, especially an ensuite.” He used a basic floor tile, but turned it on the diagonal to create visual interest. Cheryl’s ensuite has a corner tub — and here’s a good-to-know design tip — turning the tiles “would create too many angles.” So hers are laid in a traditional pattern.

Bathroom Details: Shower Trim and Tiling to the Ceiling

Cheryl also chose smaller upgrades for her ensuite that don’t cost a lot, but really add impact. In the shower, she turned the basic tiles horizontally to mimic a subway tile grid pattern (Andrew did as well), but went one affordable step further. She added a strip of tile trim to the top and bottom of the shower to break up the white and continued both the tile and the mirrors the full height of the ceiling, an affordable upgrade that most people don’t consider.

Details: Extending Kitchen Cabinetry

Nine foot ceilings are becoming standard in new-builds, but often the kitchen cabinets stop at eight. Andrew opted to extend his kitchen cabinetry right to the ceiling. He admits it isn’t a common choice, “but when you have nine foot ceilings, it really makes the space look bigger and more dramatic.” It also provides space to showcase beautiful collectibles

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