Interior Design for Living: Which new home "extras" add value?

By Susan Gill Spellmeyer

Q: My husband and I are buying a new home which is currently under construction. There are so many "ex­tras" or "upgrades" offered to us above and beyond the basic price that if we opted for all of them, we'd be way over what we can realistically afford.

Do you have any suggestions as to what we might consider and what wouldn't be necessary?

A: It's very difficult to stay within your affordable price range when building a new home. Everything has to be selected, and more than likely, what you like the best is often the most expensive.

The very basic components of the house, such as doors, windows, insula­tion, siding and roofing, should always be of the best quality you can afford. The roof will not be changed for a very long time, and in the case of doors, windows, insulation and siding, per­haps never. Also, a quality door or window will eventually pay for itself by saving you money in heating and cooling costs. The same principle would obviously apply to the insulation as well. It makes no sense to skimp on these items.

Also, pay strict attention to the electrical plan. Have an idea of your proposed furniture arrangements and make sure there are outlets where you will need lamps. You may even need an outlet in the floor if the furniture will be "floating" in the center of the room and not near any walls.

Also, make sure you have enough overhead lights, either recessed or surface-mounted. It's essential for comfortable living that every room be well lit. It costs very little to add an extra outlet or wire for another ceiling light before the walls and ceilings are insulated and sheetrocked.

The actual fixtures you select can be simple and inexpensive, especially the surface and mounted fixtures. They can easily be replaced and upgraded at a later time. The wiring is difficult and costly to change in the future.

In the bathrooms, select the fixtures you want carefully. It is not likely that they will be changed either, once they are installed. You will be living with them for many years. Because of this, a lot of people prefer neutrals; almond, white or gray. They feel they might tire of a color, or realize that what is popular now may "date" the house in ten years.

If you decide that you want ceramic tile in your bathrooms, I would generally advise choosing one that is relatively simple in design. Pattern and accent colors can be added in wallpaper and towels. Tile is another item you're not likely to change.

Reasonably priced tile often works just fine if you decide to keep it simple. II you prefer not to tile the walls, due to expense, a heavy duty washable, vinyl wallpaper would be an alternative.

The choice of floor covering is another crucial item and often one that can be changed later. For instance, if you decide that you'd like marble in your foyer, but don't feel you must absorb the cost right now. Consider installing a medium priced carpeting for the present and plan on installing the marble when the carpet starts to wear out and your expenses have eased a bit.

If you want hardwood floors in certain rooms of the house, it would be best to try and do that now, but even hardwood floors can be installed at a later date.

Most people feel that wall-to-wall carpeting over plywood is very accept­able for bedrooms, halls, as well as living areas and is the most reasonable option. However, you may want to upgrade, the carpet quality in the heavy traffic areas so it doesn't wear out quickly. In the bedrooms, the carpeting can be of a lesser quality and still be attractive and functional.

Wallpaper, wood paneling or wain-scotting, extensive landscaping and decks or patios — these are all things that can be added at a later date if so desired.

In making all selections for your new house, concentrate on those things that can't readily be changed.