Go on Pinterest and Houzz and you’ll find plenty of exotic ideas for new home designs, both interior and exterior. But how many of them work in a dreary, rainy, and dark Alaska? Here are some ideas to consider when building a new home, none of which will break your budget. First and foremost, buyers buy with their eyes and the first thing they see is the exterior of a home, so our local builders need to make their exteriors more attractive. Exteriors should include three types of siding on the front elevation. Let’s be frank. No one cares if the sides and back of the home are T1-11 because it can’t be seen. T1-11 is OK on the sides of a home as long as it is painted the same color as the front so that it doesn’t have a sharp contrast. Front porches are an attractive exterior element, but they are expensive and have you ever seen anyone actually sitting on that porch? Better to emphasize your entry with some wide steps, front door with glass and side lights and an interesting light fixture. Why is it builders skimp on small exterior light fixtures on a large exterior wall? It’s dark outside and interesting (and large) exterior light fixtures add character to any home.

Shakes versus stone wainscot? Obviously, stone is much more expensive, but shake elements add character, just don’t scatter them around the front exterior. Make it a large element that stands out underneath the gables, around the entry and garage doors. A good rule is that any detail element should be one-third of the exterior. Ultimately, it’s all about mixing the textures on the exterior front elevation, and adding a corbel, rafters, or grids on windows. Although I disagree with many requirements of the new Title 21, more attractive exterior elevations makes any streetscape and new home community more attractive. Forget the beige and light paint colors. Today, it is all about greens and grays, in medium and dark shades. Exterior home colors are meant to blend into nature. Homes sell faster when they are painted a neutral medium to dark color. And minimize or eliminate the white trim, please. It is so l980s, especially corner white trim which obtrusively stands out as you drive down the street. So l980s is also the arched two-story entry. Entries need quiet, welcoming appeal. Not the ‘look at me’ attitude.

Interiors continue to have wide open great room plans, but sneaking into new homes is the return of the dining room. Who would have thought that the least used room of any house would have a comeback, but it is here. But that extra living room love and sofa set has long been sent to the garage sale. The kitchen is still the heart of the home, but where is it? In 2016, it looks more and more like the rest of the home with under-counter appliances, large bi-level islands with mixed countertop material of wood and concrete, open cabinet shelving, and wide, wide windows. It’s a living space with food prep features. Who isn’t tired of orange peel texture? For an extra thousand dollars or so, you can have skip trowel. It’s a totally fresh and custom look and will revolutionize your interiors without much added cost. It gives the home a feeling of solidarity that those little pebbles of orange peel don’t have so give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.

Finally, forget the built-in jetted spa tub in the master bathroom. Today it’s all about the stand-alone tub. Add a five foot tiled shower with bench and double shower heads, and his and hers separated vanities in quartz (it’s so quiet without movement), and custom mirrors. The plate glass mirror is only for prefab homes. Whether the mirror has a craftsman’s trim or you buy it at Pier 1 or Lowe’s, it’s a personal style statement that is easily affordable in all price points.