Builder Design Centers

Ask anyone who has built a home. Running around from store to store all over the metro area to pick out the details of a new home can be more than a little wearing. The trunk and back seat are filled with samples of this and photos and catalogs of that. With a little bit of savvy and a lot of luck, all the pieces will coordinate and turn into the home of your dreams.

Several area home builders are all about making that time of selecting details easier to cut the stress of the process. Jake Happe, owner of Happe Homes of Ankeny, says, “Having a home design center allows us to help our clients personalize the interiors, exteriors, and finishes of their home. Our on-staff interior designer helps them coordinate and choose the details.”

At home design centers, clients can have one-stop shopping for sure, but with everything in one spot, they also can brainstorm and plan more easily without scheduling various appointments for each detail. Items such as granite, quartz, Corian, bathroom vanities, kitchen drawer pulls, and hardwood flooring choices are in one spot, not many.

Controlling the details

Happe Homes started its design center about five years ago. Clients building custom homes find the most satisfaction, Happe says, because it helps them get overall control of details they are choosing. The design center covers 2,500 square feet. “The design center takes the burden off the homeowner from going to store to store and vendor to vendor. Our designer can help them keep up with the changing market in finishing details.”

With everything from doorknob styles to colors in shingles, the design center helps the client see how all the details coordinate and work together. Clients can, of course, bring in items from other sources that they specifically want to add. Also, the design centers can order items from myriad sources.

“In addition, we now have an internal CAD (computer-aided design) designer and a 90-foot Smart Board so that clients can see how a room design will look and work into their total home plan. “Yes, just like Home and Garden TV (HGTV),” Happe explains.

Jake Ried, owner of Neighborhood Builders of West Des Moines, included a design center from the beginning of his business, about 10 years ago. “We established partnerships with various vendors from the outset; it really helps us as builders and our subcontractors, too, to do a better job for the clients.”

The key reason for having a design center is simple, Ried says. “We can have everything right in front of our clients. They can see what goes together to make their new home the way they want it. Plus, it’s all in one spot. They’re not running all over town.” Neighborhood Builders custom-builds about 30 homes each year, nearly all in the $500,000 and above category, Ried says.

It’s a family situation for the company. Jennifer Ried, Jake’s wife, is the interior designer on staff, so she has a vested interest in satisfied customers. Jake says, “We on the building side can construct the home, but it needs a design person to add the finishing touches.

“We have a huge island on which we can lay out that whole house with all the components. The clients can see what they have chosen and how everything can go together. It works out beautifully for everyone.”

KRM Development in Urbandale opened its 2,000-square-foot design center in March 2013, says Audrey McCoy, customer relations manager. “The one-stop shopping idea works so well for our custom home clients and also for our KRM Renovations division. People are so surprised at how streamlined and easy the process becomes when everything is in one spot. In just a couple of meetings, they can pick out most of the details for their new home.”

Certainly, she says, people might want items they have seen from other sources. “Many people have a focused area for their new home that they want to be extra special. Perhaps it’s a luxurious master bath or certain items for their kitchen, and they have certain must-have details. We can order those specific components for them. Or, if there are certain appliances they want, we send them to other vendors. That’s not a problem. We are extremely flexible when it comes to helping clients get exactly what they want.”

Tanzanite Homes, KRM’s semi-custom home line, uses the design studio almost exclusively for clients.

An invaluable source

One KRM client, Amy Wolff, would never ever consider working with a builder who didn’t have a design center. “When my husband, Sam, and I built our home this past year in the Granger area, having a design center was a life-saver for us. I truly wouldn’t and couldn’t have built a home without the design center available.” The family moved into their new home on March 1st this year.

Amy, an intensive care nurse at the VA Hospital in Des Moines, had a one-year-old child and was pregnant with a second baby during the building process. “There is no way that I could have traveled all over town getting samples for the details of our home. For anything not available that we wanted, Audrey could order it for us.”

Another factor that worked for the Wolffs was that Amy could have an appointment at 5 p.m. and make a number of selections. Then Sam could come at 6 p.m., after her selections had been pared down, and help make final decisions. “That turned out to be the beauty of the whole idea for us.”

Peace of mind

Also, through the design center, the couple’s selections could be uploaded to the computer, so they could see how everything coordinated and worked together. “Plus, the subcontractors’ schedules were there, so we could tell what would happen each day during the construction process. That was wonderful and gave us peace of mind.”

The Wolffs had never built a home before, so the process streamlined all the details for them. “It helped us mix and match everything and keep us on track with our budget,” she explains. To be able to pick out everything from grout to fireplace to shower accents in one stop made the process so much easier, Amy says.

“Our home was as custom as we wanted it to be. To make all the selections with no legwork was perfect for us, with our work and family situation,” she says. “We could not have been happier with the ease of the design center process.”

Happe Homes is finishing up the new home of Josh and Julie Strang in the Ashland Ridge area of Ankeny. “This is the second home we have built, and we’re so glad we went with a builder with a design center. It has just made making all the decisions so much easier because we could do most of it in one spot. That has been fantastic.”

The builder on their first home didn’t offer that option. “It truly has made all the difference in the process. With that first experience, we were just told how much we could spend on standard choices and how much upgrades would cost us. The design center has been a world of difference.”

Right out of the starting gate, the builder design center has a lot going for it, say the builders who offer that option. It’s easier for the client, to be sure, because of the one-stop shopping aspect. But it’s easier for the builder and the subcontractors, too, because they have a better handle on the choices made by the client and know the products and how they work. From all sides, it’s a win-win for everyone involved.