$$$ finishes worth it? high end custom home, won't be sold for 10+ yrs

October 7, 2019
last modified: October 7, 2019

I'm getting ready to build a "high end" home near Portland, OR. my husband and I are planning to live there around 10 years. it could be less or more, life has a way of altering plans! I'm trying to determine how nice to make the finishes given that, when we move out they will be dated, whether they're high end or not.

I called the house high-end based on size (6800 sqft) cost to build (land 1m, construction costs 2m). it will also be on a desirable lot: one acre with a river view in a "nice" neighborhood.

we will not be scrimping on construction quality, window quality (+tons of natural light), appliance quality, etc etc. smooth wall texture and 10-12 ft ceilings throughout. I'm really talking about things that are more easily dated: tile, faucets, countertops, and light fixtures.

most of the high-end homes in my city are from the early 2000s. my husband and I thought about buying one of these homes and renovating it to suit our tastes, but after getting a few quotes, quickly discovered the all-in price was comparable to building a new home!! I have noticed that new construction (read:in-style) high-end homes sell much faster than homes from the 2000s with that tan-tile-black-granite-2000s-look. Many of those sit on the market for years before selling.

so I'm assuming:

  • by the time we sell in 10+ years our fabulous home, no matter how carefully we make selections with an eye towards timeless versus fads, will most likely scream 2019.
  • houses that are really dated can either reduced-price until they sell, sit for years, or totally remodel to sell quickly.
  • someone buying this house after us may not care that the tile we have in the kitchen cost $400 a square foot, because to them it's just going to seem dated (some of the 2000s houses we looked at had very expensive finishes, but I still hated the Tuscan kitchens and wanted to replace everything!)
  • so why not spend $10 per sqft on tile instead of 400 or even 50?

I am not price sensitive to the point where we are going to be squeezing every penny of appreciation and trying to sell for the highest price whenever we do sell.

basic dilemma: part of me wants to put in expensive finishes throughout, and part of me thinks it's a huge waste of money to spend tens of thousands of dollars on tile when some of the cheaper stuff is fairly nice looking. (subway tiles can look great! does Ann sacks really seem 100x nicer?) and in ten years all someone who buys it is going to see is what needs updating! basically, that the $6k showerhead will depreciate really fast, so is it worth it??

Comments (50)

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect

    Price does not necessarily mean quality. Go for quality and hopefully the price will be palatable. Personally I can spot the most expensive material, because that will be the one I like the most.

  • cpartist

    Build a house where the overall design will stand the test of time and then add finishes that are more timeless and not trendy

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    Virgil Carter Fine Art


    Will you be paying cash or taking out a mortgage?

    It's worth thinking about, since mortgages tend to be a max of 80% of appraised value. If your house is so far above appraisals for your neighborhood, it means a lot of cash to make up the difference between construction cost and appraised value.

    Do you need to talk to a lender?

  • chispa

    I think the quality of the house needs to be on par with other similar $3 mill houses in the area. You can always splurge on a few things that you care about more, like some of the materials in the master bath and kitchen.

    In some markets $3 mill doesn't get you high end finishes! It seems you have looked around in your area and have a good feel for the RE market there, so use that information to guide your choices.

    There is also value in buying the pretty, but expensive, backsplash that brings you joy every time you walk in the kitchen. Not everyone gets the opportunity to do that, but there are also people that don't see beauty in things they consider practical or utilitarian items, and wouldn't pay more for it. Which one are you?

  • kariyava

    Tristan, I think your analysis is spot on, and you are right not to expect any future buyers to be willing to pay top dollar for your taste in finishes. That being said, I would be sure to get quality finishes throughout that match the level of the home, and only splurge where the splurge really makes you happy. If you are happy with a simple and inexpensive backsplash tile? Save your money and put that in. On the other hand, if you can't find a cheaper alternative to the $$$ light fixture you love, then splurge on it.

  • Olychick

    I'd also look at local tastes if you are new to Portland/PNW. There is a timeless quality to PNW style homes with natural wood, lots of windows (wood), no white kitchens or gray anything (for the most part). It may not be a home someone moving from Houston might want, but there is a high demand market for PNW style homes in the PNW.

  • NYCish

    Have you started to even look at fixtures, tiles, hardware at all? You’ll know soon enough where your taste takes you. You might just like expensive stuff. Go look at some tile (don’t look at price). Go look at fixtures (dont look at price). Go look at lighting, hardware (don’t look at price). I think you’ll find that if you are looking i that range of homes, this simple experiment will show you that most, not all, of the stuff you like will be in the upper echelon price wise. If your range is $-$$$$$, I’m guessing your finished will be in the $$$-$$$$$ range, which is likely appropriate for your house.

    As a buyer of your home, I’d be wary of a $3MM price tag with finishes that made it look like a flip.

  • NYCish

    Also, buy what you love. If love means white subway tile everywhere, get the best damn tile setter money can buy. If it’s intricate handmade waterjets, still get the best tiler ;)

  • lexma90

    Location is a factor to many people, so there will always be buyers for houses in good locations (which may mean different things to different people). Buy what you like, but with an eye toward both quality and value. We put some more costly items in, because we liked them, and some that were cheaper, but good quality and not cheap. If you like the subway tiles, then use them.

    I think that while people may choose to replace an entire kitchen if they don't like it, and can afford to do so, people tend to not feel as strongly about things like showerheads.

  • Lyndee Lee

    I would avoid selections in the top or bottom of the range. Toss out the cheapest and most expensive options in a range and then pick price blind within a given range. Limit your expensive items to a few carefully chosen spaces and categories or you run the risk of losing the effect. How many stars of the show can you accomodate?

    It isn't practical to be super concerned about every choice in a 6,800 sq ft house. Pick a few spaces that are quite important to you and make sure you love your choices. For many people, the master bath is filled with expensive choices. However if you don't think of your bathroom as a retreat space where you leisurely get ready to face the world, then spend your money elsewhere.

    Personally, I don't get too concerned about light fixtures or faucets because I can always change my mind later. Flooring and tile are the two areas to be sure of the choices since those are expensive to change out later.

    One expensive aspect you must get right and should occupy quite a bit of your mental energy is finding a good architect. If you want to select lower priced choices, don't extend that to the architect, designer or GC. Great design and craftsmanship will make even lower priced materials look good.

  • worthy

    Our first higher-end home build in 1987 featured an all-white Snaidero kitchen. Then white fell out of favour. Now it's all the rage again.

    Prediction is a mug's game. As noted by others, aim for timeless quality. And go sparingly on the $400 sf tile!

    Around here, unfortunately, US$3m just bumps you into the entry level luxury bracket unless you enjoy a country drive.

  • PRO

    It sounds like you don't have a lot of emotional investment in this house - 10 years or less? And you have not fallen in love with anything. If that is the case, go mid-range on it all - including appliances. I just can't imagine spending that much money and going through a build if I didn't plan on staying there a LONG time and wasn't building a house I'd been dreaming about for years. But that's me...

  • keith Dcil

    Agreed. Go for classic over trendy when you don’t have a preference. Splurge on things that make you happy not for resale. For some it’s La cornue in the kitchen or Toto in the bathroom.

  • hollybar

    If you can't see or feel or appreciate the differences, then sticking to good quality but not $$$$ makes sense. My only caveat would be that it might be wise to ask the opinions of a few others to make sure you aren't creating a house that looks like it was scrimped on. I've seen a few of those and it always makes me wonder about what I can't see.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Ten years can fly by very fast.

    If I knew that I was only going to be in a home for ten years (or less if something unpredictable happens) I think I'd be looking for an existing house and put the rest of my money in the market.

  • D E

    I want to say don't even build the $3m house but the op is clearly in a different league, so I say don't build a $3m house and then put Ikea floor tiles in it. go all the way

  • Kristin S

    I would buy Ann Sacks tile in a basic shape and solid color; if I can get the same look from a nice, solid, good-quality, less "high-end" tile maker, I do. I would buy Ann Sacks if I fell in love with something unique that I couldn't get anywhere else. Though if I were upgrading, say, my kitchen backsplash, I'd go with something custom from Pratt and Larson :-).

    As others have said, I would try to pick things that fit the PNW, and that's where I'd put my money. High quality (big) windows, solid wood floors, wood clad ceilings (if they fit the style), stone (granite, marble, or quartzite) counters, etc.. No someday buyer is going to ask who manufactured your tile; they will ask if the floors are solid and can be refinished, or if the stone is real.

  • Tristan
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?><md>I got some great comments so I wanted to give a little bit more clarity.

    I do have a lot invested in the house emotionally. we are very excited about building this house!! I am an artist and I look forward to designing gorgeous spaces within the home.

    I have looked extensively at many finishes and fallen in love with some. I've browsed lots and lots of tile, and yes, the most expensive range always appeals to me, before we even know the price!

    we're at the stage where we are setting budgets and figuring out just what to spend. we can afford to do high end throughout, but here's my worry -- each of the bathrooms individually could cost between 5k-100k for tile, depending on what price range. I know someone who spent $18,000 on Ann sacks tile for the powder room alone! I did the math and if we did the same tile in our master bathroom it will cost $103,000 for just that bathroom. I am financially conservative and I have a hard time talking myself into spending as much on tile for one bathroom as I could spend on really nice car. and given the fact that we toured a bunch of expensive homes built in the 2006 with all their expensive only-13-year old tile and I thought "yuck!", made me think that maybe somebody touring my house in the year 2030 is going to think "yuck" too! and that's just tile. so why spend the $$? **believe me, Id love a reason to spend the money, it just seems irresponsible.

    for things like Windows or hardwood floors I don't see the same kind of depreciation so I feel more comfortable spending money there.

    of course my goal would be to make it timeless and and classic, not trendy, but I have trouble figuring out where that line is, I doubt if anybody truly could. there was one style of tile I felt convinced was classic, not trendy, and now I'm seeing it in flip homes! my mom built a house in the year 2000, and two of our neighbors built shortly after. I recall all three telling me that their homes were timeless. time proved them wrong.

    just trying to wrap my head around how much I should spend given that it will probably have to be remodeled before it sells anyways due to people's changing tastes
  • Robin Morris

    If you spend that much for Ann Sacks Tile, you are doing it for you and only you. If the design is wonderful, nobody will care if it is $10 a sq. ft. or $400 as there are is a ton of high quality tile available at a reasonable price. Just as long as it is not obviously cheap big box store $1 sq. ft. tile, it will resell well. Also the busier the tile, the more likely it will get torn out.

    Finally...$400 sq. ft. for tile!! OMG!!! I went to 9 tile stores, including Ann Sacks, to find the perfect handmade backsplash and the most expensive one I looked at was $80 a sq. ft., most were $30-40.... $400? How?

  • hollybar

    Tristan, under no circumstance would I build a house for my primary residence with an overarching concern about what some unknown buyer's preferences might be in 10 years. Build and choose for you & yours,now. Spend what you are comfortable spending on the finishes you love,the ones that make a difference to you every time you see/use them. I'd try to go into the experience not with a what you "should" spend or even "could" spend, but discovering what you must spend to get the look/function you most want. After knowing that, decide if the cost is acceptable to your wallet and your 'psyche'. Hint: If the first thing you think about when you envision a space with a specific finish is the money it will cost, don't do it. Trust your artist's eye. Don't go into the build with visions of potential remodeling in your head. I'd also clear my mind of all the noise regarding what some one else spent or says they spent.

    In the end, some of your finishes may prove more "timeless" than others. Typically these are finishes that fit the the style and location of the house. e.g., folks in Tangier putting up some zellige don't have to worry about it looking "dated" in 10 years as much as the urbanite in Brooklyn ;-) But ya know, since the first law of real estate is location, that Brooklynite will likely do OK.

    I would love to know which 13yo tiles made you go yuck? (....I am giving the side-eye to tile that I put in years ago....naw,I still love it. ) I would love even more to know the tile you thought would be "timeless" that you now think "trendy". Best wishes and enjoy the process.

    edit to add a pic of a room that is hard to date!

  • robin0919

    -tile we have in the kitchen cost $400 a square foot

    -that the $6k showerhead

    -each of the bathrooms individually could cost between 5k-100k for tile,

    -I did the math and if we did the same tile in our master bathroom it will cost $103,000 for just

    that bathroom

    If anyone spends that much, they have more money than common sense! Are they ALL plated in GOLD???????? Those prices are INSANE!!!!!!!!!!! PERIOD!!!!!!! Tile and showerhead are 'easily' replaced. I really wonder if this post is really 'real'.........

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    The OP needs an experienced architect and designer for counsel, advice and design direction.

    She is making a typical consumer mistake: focusing on interior details without a design concept to guide her.

    There is some good advice above about enduring concepts of PNW architecture and design.

  • PRO
    Jeffrey R. Grenz, General Contractor

    Its more work to build and maintain a budget vs just picking stuff and letting the numbers go where they go. In other works, its easy to pick expensive stuff and blow your budget.

    Don't be shamed into spending money, but 10 years is a long time and you're already spending a lot of money.

    People build homes like this to enjoy them, not sell them.

  • chocolatebunny123

    Here's my opinion.

    If I was a buyer looking at your house, I wouldn't be impressed that you spent over $100K in tile in the master bath. Now if you had spent that money in putting in a fabulous basement (I live in the Midwest where finished basements are important), a fabulous kitchen or yard, I'd be much more willing to pay for your choices than the bathroom. I'd side eye the $6K shower head, but I'd also scoff at the $20 one too.

    You would be spending this money on your specific choices. And with all due respect, you cannot be "financially conservative" if you're even considering spending that kind of money on tile. Maybe instead of doing the entire bathroom with the $$$$ tile, just do the shower. Chances are people looking in your price range are going to remodel to their taste and it's unlikely that they're going to fall in love with every single one of your choices.

    The advice of throwing out choices at both ends of the spectrum, both high and low, is a good idea. I'm not a huge fan of HGTV and the culture it's created, but in their magazine, they have a high/low section where they take a very expensive item, such as a lamp or rug, and find something similar in style that cost less than 1/3 the price. If there was an item, that I absolutely could not replicate or find anything close to it, I would consider spending it just on that..and take it with me when I move : )

  • remodeling1840

    In my previous life, I was in many expensive homes. Whenever I would see cheap finishes, I would wonder about the underlying structure. Did they cut corners in wiring, HVAC, water heaters, insulation, etc. I have also seen cheap homes overwhelmed by expensive tile, light fixtures, frou-frou, etc which made me worry the owners didn’t take care of the basic maintenance because that is a different level. There are artists and there are accountants: different approaches.....

  • D E

    " you cannot be "financially conservative" if you're even considering spending that kind of money on tile. "

    Im picturing the op as a multi multi millionaire who is stroking a check for this build but could in reality build a $20 million house for cash, like their friends, but has chosen to instead only build a $3 million house.

    for someone like this $200/sq ft tile IS conservative.

    for my build I start wincing when the price of the tile is more than $2.59/sq ft.

  • PRO
    The Cook's Kitchen

    As an artist, you know that you need a concept to guide you when creating. That concept could be a social commentary, (social isolation created by social networking) or it could be an exploration of a material’s properties, (the different shades and grains of wood) or a homage to a historical movement, (Arts snd Crafts).

    A build is no different. You develop your parti for the build with your architect. A parti is much more than an “inspiration concept”, but at it’s most consumer friendly accessibility, that’s what it is. It’s a combination of the build’s geographical location, building lot, sun path, budget, and “theme”, for the lack of a more apt word.

    Once you frame the idea behind the build as a concept, you then judge your choices against the standard. This is what separates most professionally “designed” buildings and rooms from those of even talented amateurs. It takes discipline to say, “I really love the severity of that white farmhouse, or that lime green iridescent tile, or that copper farm sink, but it fits nothing in my house, so I will love it from afar. “ It’s hard to say no to our wants when we have the means to fulfill them. In many ways, a large house with a good budget is harder to do than a small house with a more modest budget.

    Now your concept may be World Traveler Settles in a PNW Forest, and all of those varied things may be tweaked to work in the right concept. But it will be a more successful project if you work with the restraining hand of an experienced and unemotionally involved design professional to help you stay on track.

    That means the right architect, and the right interior designer are on your team. Nothing is done in isolation from the team. You all have regular meetings. The architect doesn’t add this giant west facing window that causes problems with heat gain and light control, just because you like a lot of light. There’s “right” light, and “wrong” light, and the effect that each has on the interior impacts the experience of the home.

    And the ID doesn’t suggest a giant 60” range without working out placement for it and the ductwork and other mechanics that are virtually impossible in an island location with the 18’ vaulted ceiling that the architect designed.

    Pick informed choices that fit the parti. Develop a team that helps you control you, instead of tempts you beyond where you want to be. That control of self is the hard part. It’s easy to go out and pick out a “dream” car or two. It’s harder to pick out a sensible on gas daily driver with good cargo capacity and kid safety.

  • chispa

    Robin Morris, look at New Ravenna tile. Some of their intricate custom mosaics with semi precious stones will probably be in that price range or more.

  • cpartist

    I got some great comments so I wanted to give a little bit more clarity.

    I do have a lot invested in the house emotionally. we are very excited about building this house!! I am an artist and I look forward to designing gorgeous spaces within the home.

    I'm an artist too and we built our house. I even designed it with help from the architects and lay persons on this forum. It's a fabulous house and is probably a bit more "timeless" than some others. Why? Because it's a craftsman inspired house where I actually studied up on craftsman details etc and tried as best as I could to get them right using modern materials.

    Additionally I live in a neighborhood that was built originally in the early 1920's so my house fits in with houses on the block and the neighborhood.

    What is the overall feel of your neighborhood, or if it's a "new" neighborhood, what is the overall feel that you see over and over in the PNW?

    I have looked extensively at many finishes and fallen in love with some. I've browsed lots and lots of tile, and yes, the most expensive range always appeals to me, before we even know the price!
    What I did was choose a few expensive items and then pick more budget items for most other things. Trust me, no one will know if it fits the house style, and is done well by an experienced tradesperson.

    we're at the stage where we are setting budgets and figuring out just what to spend. we can afford to do high end throughout, but here's my worry -- each of the bathrooms individually could cost between 5k-100k for tile, depending on what price range. I know someone who spent $18,000 on Ann sacks tile for the powder room alone! I did the math and if we did the same tile in our master bathroom it will cost $103,000 for just that bathroom. I am financially conservative

    **believe me, Id love a reason to spend the money, it just seems irresponsible.

    To give you an idea, I spent a fortune on my quartzite counters because they were so unusual and looked like a watercolor painting. I also spent a lot for 11 specialty tiles for my fireplace (Rookwood) but then used field tile for the rest of the fireplace that was quite reasonable.

    I spent a lot on two small walls for wallpaper (Bradbury and Bradbury) because I only needed a grand total of 5 rolls.

    For our master bathroom, I refused to spend Ann Sacks prices and actually found Afyon marble for $11 a square foot and the basketweave mosaic was $25 a square foot.
    My cement tile was under $17 a square foot and was custom colored.

    My guest bath was the typical white daltile subway tile with black borders (All under $4 a square foot!) Floors were the old fashioned flat daisy octagon pattern from Heritage tile (under $17 a square foot) and truth is everyone loves that bathroom because it reminds them of earlier times. Classic!

    What I did spend on was for stained glass windows in 4 of the windows, and for simple but well done molding details.
    for things like Windows or hardwood floors I don't see the same kind of depreciation so I feel more comfortable spending money there.

    I too spent on windows. However I found white oak engineered flooring from an excellent company, (we're in FL on a slab) for under $6. No one comes in and says my flooring looks cheap.

    of course my goal would be to make it timeless and and classic, not trendy, but I have trouble figuring out where that line is, I doubt if anybody truly could.

    If you build an MCM house, make it look MCM.

    If you build a georgian colonial, make sure it looks georgian colonial.

    If you build a craftsman style house, make sure it again looks like a craftsman style house.

    Tristan thanked cpartist
  • alley2007

    Of course my goal would be to make it timeless and and classic, not trendy, but I have trouble figuring out where that line is, I doubt if anybody truly could.

    I'd recommend reading Maria Killam's blog as she has several posts about timeless and classic finishes and gives great advice about choosing hard finishes that will "age" well and allow lots of decorating options over time (rather than limiting your/next owner's options).

  • live_wire_oak

    Timeless and classic is fairly easy. But you have to be willing to have your home not be “popular”. Khakis and a button down are classics, even when everyone was wearing MC Hammer drop seat pants and thought that those in khakis and button downs as uncool nerds.

    Medium color wood floors that are neither 12” king’s board wide or 1” super narrow have been popular for hundreds of years. Parquet in one form or another has also been a standard for a special accent when using wood floors.

    Smooth plaster or full Level 5 skim coat for those areas that don’t have plasterer, has been popular for centuries. White walls are always the right choice, especially when contrasted with stained woodwork. Wide stained trim is a classic choice, even while all around are painting theirs and and it isn’t popular. It’s especially classic in the home of timber production. Timber framed homes are also a classic, and create great open volumes that are both historic and contemporary.

    Theres a lot more, but just those as a start are a good start. Find the right architect, designer, and kitchen designer to build on that basis.

  • PRO

    I think if one avoids "trends", one will get it "right". When I was retiling my master bath about 7 years ago, everything in the two local tile stores was "tuscan" or "southwest". Well, this is KY and frankly either of those looks ridiculous here. I chose a porcelain tile that looked like carrera marble for the floors and the walls (used it on the floor of a 2nd bath), and it looks as good today as it did then. It was quite reasonably priced, easy to maintain (that's why I didn't get "real" marble), and goes well in my 1948 house.

    If I had chosen what the tile stores were pushing (and these were not "big box" type tile stores), my bathrooms would look dated today.

    Ann Sacks has some lovely tiles but I prefer a calmer, more serene bathroom that is classic. Tile is not something that is easy to rip off a wall. Change the paint or the wallpaper, but not the tile, has always been my mantra!

    When I re-did my kitchen, I was well aware that in my neighborhood, new buyers nearly always rip out the existing kitchen, even if it's only 2 years old. It's "not their taste". So, I did the kitchen for ME, but I watched the cost very closely and I came in on-budget. I think spending a fortune on a kitchen or a bathroom is ridiculous unless one intends to live there for a VERY long time. I was 73 when I re-did my kitchen, so clearly I was not likely to do so. I look at many of the kitchens that were done about 10 years ago - ornate, elaborate wood hoods, corbels on everything. Everything "glazed" over the paint. Now it all looks very dated and it cost a fortune at the time.

    Kitchens and baths have become "fashion" items today, and the companies that make them must constantly be changing their "look". I remember the gorgeous dragged cabinets that Smallbone made in the 80's and 90's - now their kitchens bear no resemblance to those. Even Plain English, which started out to be simple and classic, is not changing all the time. Farrow & Ball is constantly adding and archiving colors that were classic. Clearly, the public's love of change is completely out of control!

    So, do these expensive rooms the way YOU like them, and keep the costs in the moderate range. If there is some "splurge" item you adore and you can afford it, go for it. Just be aware that none of this will add to your home's value - it will most likely not be the buyer's "taste" when you sell. And be sure that you chose things that YOU will not tire of, either! I find that I rarely tire of the "simple" but often do of the "elaborate" or highly decorative.

  • Tristan

    live_wire_oak -- I totally agree with you on those timeless elements, that's why I cited smooth wall, tall ceilings, and solid hardwoods and lots of natural light as my "timeless" choices. I'd love to see an example of a "timeless" tile -- NOT from today with someone's prediction that it will become timeless, I'd love to see someone pick an era, say 2004 or 1978 or 1965, and point to examples of timeless selections that were made then. Not saying there aren't any (there are plenty) but just that it's much harder to find timeless bathroom countertops than it is timeless hardwood floors. My best guess for a "timeless" tile is a square or rectangular subway in a neutral color?? But then again, "tan" is a neutral color and I'm sick of it after it got overused in the 2000s! Things come back into fashion all the time, though, so maybe there will be another brief moment where the 2000's tan will come back.

    Robin0901 -- At ann sacks they have everything from a simple square subway at $10 per sqft to a more interesting iridescent hex for $50, to complex patterned tiles -- where they give you a pattern and you select different materials, the lowest range costs $80, the highest costs $684 per sqft!! But ann sacks is clearly expensive. At United, something similar to ann sacks goes for $150-250. and at Bedrosians, the "artistic tile" line goes for $80-150. My favorite tiles so far are from Bedrosians. I love things in every range, but have a soft spot for the artistic style type. I do think plain porcelain square tiles can look amazing if done well.

    Robin Morris, I can post pictures of the expensive tile with the price printed on it if you like!!

    Vigil Carter Fine Art -- I do have an interior designer. he is amazing! He recommends the $10/sqft!! LOL! In his opinion the ann sacks ranges are WAY too personalized. He has urged me a lot to think about resale, which is why I got started thinking of it. He's had other people make their homes too flashy and it doesn't appeal to anyone, In fact, I've been in one of the homes he designed that's currently for sale. It's breath taking! but the price is WAY too high, because the couple used ridiculously expensive finishes, that the market doesn't support, and don't want to lose what they put into it. A cautionary tale, I guess. That's why I've come here to ask about this, really. Trying to find out what's the happy medium? Sounds like it's not too low and not too high. But then I factor into that that every house I've seen that's 20 years old -- I could care less how high end their tile was because I was going to remodel it all away. I'm just trying to wrap my head around it all, sounds like that's a bad idea and I should just go with what I like but maybe try not to go crazy. :D

    Chocolate bunny123, Definitely financially conservative! That's why I'm asking if I can use $4 subway tile in a mansion. LOL. I would never spend $100k on master bath tile, was using that as an example, tried to make a joke about how that tile would cost as much as a car, guess it didn't come across as a joke! ;)

    hollybar, super practical advice. Seems to be the consensus that I shouldn't think too much about resale and find a look that I like for the price that I find most reasonable to me -- with the understanding that splurging is for me alone. Totally agree that what only time will tell which of my selections is actually "timeless". I love the photo you posted, hard to pin the date down! That's what I'd like to do, I'd like to design a house that's beautiful that doesn't have a clear date. However I know this will be a challenge because... it does have a date! in that I have to choose from materials available in stores, and those are based on trends. Funny you should mention zellige! That's the tile, that I thought was timeless, but now it's appearing in cheaper flips -- at least imitation zellige. I saw cheaper zellige-style tiles in a flip over the weekend and thought "crap!"

  • One Devoted Dame

    of course my goal would be to make it timeless and and classic, not
    trendy, but I have trouble figuring out where that line is, I doubt if
    anybody truly could.

    I've gathered, in my relatively short time on these forums, that the best way to accomplish "timeless" is to be consistent, inside and out. Your finishes should reflect the architectural style of the house. That seems to avoid "dated" pretty well. :-D

  • alley2007

    ...but just that it's much harder to find timeless bathroom countertops than it is timeless hardwood floors

    Marble has been used as a counter top material for 100's of years in high-end homes. A marble counter top would not pin a house to a specific date.

    My best guess for a "timeless" tile is a square or rectangular subway in a neutral color?? But then again, "tan" is a neutral color and I'm sick of it after it got overused in the 2000s.

    Tiles in patterns like these (hex, basketweave, pinwheel, etc) have been used for 100's of years. My sister's 100+ year old home has black and white pinwheel tile and my 5 year old home has black and white pinwheel tile. The wallpaper in her powder room dates the bathroom to when the previous owner installed it. The tile does not date the bathroom (other than it being clearly original to the house given a few chipped areas and the grout being almost black at this point after so many years of use :)).

    Tan and other "neutrals" will date a house to the period when that "neutral" was popular and also limit choices for other hard finishes and paint to something that coordinates with that neutral. The gray trend replaced the tan/Tuscan brown trend and will date houses to this period.

    With the tile choices below, you could put in a vanity that is white, black, dark stained wood, light stained wood, painted color, etc, etc. You could also do pretty much whatever wall color or wallpaper you wanted.

    Totally agree that what only time will tell which of my selections is actually "timeless". I love the photo you posted, hard to pin the date down! That's what I'd like to do, I'd like to design a house that's beautiful that doesn't have a clear date.

    It's interesting to me that a lot of the "timeless and classic" selections, such as the tile in the picture above are also "trendy" right now. I believe they will remain timeless even after the trend fades, but time will tell. When I took Maria Killam's live training a few years ago, one of the exercises was guessing the date on various bathroom and kitchen images. For the homes that used materials and patterns that have been around for 100's of years, it was the style of the cabinet doors, light fixtures, mirrors, etc that "dated" the room. Those are also the items that are easily changed.

    I think the best way to design a house that doesn't have a clear date (in addition to the items you've already noted) is to use these hard finishes: medium brown hardwood floors, marble counter tops, white subway tile backsplash, bathroom tile like the options above (and I would also say white cabinets, but realize that is more subject to personal opinion). The light fixtures, paint colors furnishings and decorations can bring your personality to the home.

  • alley2007

    Also thought you may enjoy reading this blog post, about what makes a house have "good bones".

  • einportlandor

    I've never been in a position to build a home or decorate with high end finishes so keep that in mind. But very close friends of mine did just that. They built a gorgeous architect-designed home on a beautiful property. They put their heart and soul into the project, chose every hinge, knob and tile with great thought. In fact my friend and I lugged handmade tiles and a few other house treasures home from a trip to Italy -- what a load! The house was designed with their lifestyle and unique needs in mind, and it was unlike any other house in the area. It was just fabulous.

    Fast forward a dozen years . . . life changed and they needed to sell the house. It turned out to be challenging because of the home's unique character. Both the design and finishes were just too taste-specific for most buyers who opted for more traditional layouts and neutral finishes. My friends eventually sold the house but for quite a bit less than they anticipated -- and took a big financial loss. After watching my friends struggle, my advice is to build for yourself but don't disregard resale. Keep the layout and big ticket items (windows, doors, flooring) classic and don't go crazy with of-the-moment trends. Good luck with your project.

  • chocolatebunny123

    Tristan, I see no problem using $4 tile in a mansion master bath. I tend to have expensive tastes as well; when I was looking at backsplash tiles I always gravitated to the $ ones and I had the knack of loving the most expensive one. I happen to find a tile that was a quarter of the price of the fancy one that I liked and instead splurged a bit on the new lights for my kitchen. I'm not a designer and I don't have a discerning enough eye to tell the difference between something $ and something $$$$ on first glance. So if it would make you feel financially irresponsible to spend big bucks on finishes that the next buyer will likely rip out, then I think you have your answer.

  • D E


    buy the $400 psf tile you love, and when it comes time to move, take it with ya. and give the buyer a concession for tile.

    problem solved :D

  • PRO
    Jeffrey R. Grenz, General Contractor


    Since you have a number for construction, its a good time to understand how that number was constructed. Assuming the budget was provided by a builder, explore each number that can change with finish selections and understand their basis. Or (this may be more expedient) get with your interior designer and make some placeholder selections: flooring, slab, tile, cabinets, fixtures, etc. and get these priced into the project.

    I'm assuming windows, doors, fireplaces and the construction of the structure are already firmed up.

    While your budget is perfectly legitimate at first glance, a home that size could easily cost 1/2 million less or double the budget, depending on the complexity of the build and level of finish.

  • B Carey

    The financially conservative route would be a much smaller home. At 3 million and 6,800 sq feet, I will assume that you are building under your means. No judgement here...we are building a 2,800 sq ft ranch with a fully finished walkout basement on a good amount of land. This is our second acreage and we will not likely move again. I have a much smaller budget (still living below our means) that we want to keep the mortgage at. To stay at that and because we enjoy it, we will be doing a good amount of the work ourselves. Some of our extras (like if I found $400 tile I loved) will be done as we have extra cash (fluctuating income streams). Of course that is easier said when we can go buy the overpriced tile and install ourselves. The kitchen will have several splurge items. We also have some areas that will be done as separate projects after the fact (like basement bar/kitchen).

    I am picking what I want to splurge on based on what I love overall. My idea of a living room chandelier splurge is $5-7,500. Maybe yours is $30,000! I think if you are building, you do need to have some splurge items to make it your home. Let's say you have $250,000 in extra finishes above the minimum to get the home exactly how you want it. And you live in the home for 10 years. Let's say you are 40 now and live in your own homes until you are 80. And you build every 10 years and "blow" $250,000 on finishes each time you build. Okay, you blew threw 1 million dollars over the 40 years. Sounds like a lot to everyone else in a different budget, but if you are buying 3 million dollar homes and living below your means, have funds saved for retirement, etc...then why not enjoy your home?

    I also don't believe that you really can pick finishes that won't date the house. One of the posters showed black/white tile examples. Yes, that was in older homes...but it is also totally "modern farmhouse" right now. Everyone is going to get sick of the black/white combo just like they are getting sick of the greys. If you want to get the most out of your resale, then redo some of the finishes right before selling the house to modernize it to whatever the trend then is. In the meantime, enjoy the home you are lucky enough to be able to build.

  • Tristan

    I spent yesterday pouring over images of vintage bathrooms and kitchens (the two most easy to date rooms). I looked at images from 1900-2018 and every year in between. My estimation is this, and some may disagree with me: nothing, and I mean NOTHING, stays fashionable forever. It may have a resurgence in popularity several decades later, but it will also have dated times in between, no matter the era. And when it does come back, it usually comes back in a slightly different "version" so that even the original carries a bit of "off" ness. Some of the modern bathrooms today carry a bit of 1920s look, or 1980s look, but actual bathrooms from the 1920s and 1980s would still be remodeled by the discriminating homeowner. (I am one, my husband is less fussy!)

    Funnily enough -- I tried to get my parents to use black and white tile in their bathroom in 2000, and they both said "yuck!" LOL! My dad said "no way, that is so dated, it reminds me of the tile from the 30s" (he was a kid then). LOL!!! I said "yuck" at the time to their tan stone tile (not a fan of tan).

    Looking at the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, only elements here and there come back into fashion. I looked at plenty of 20s and 30s bathrooms and while the tile color was similar to todays tile colors, often the way tile was laid out can become dated; like tiling halfway up all walls, and all around a confined shower room, as opposed to having an open walk-in shower with glass doors. Now mix in a floating vanity from the 1970s and quartz countertops and vessel sinks and you've got 2019. Patterned tile from the 1970s is also back in fashion, but NOT with the same color pallatte. You may have to go 100 years before your tile comes back into fashion! 10 years out - almost certainly dated.

    The closest thing I can see to making a home timeless is try not to make it look like every other house on the block that's being built this year, but even with that there's a limit to how much you can do. I'll try my best. Remodel or price reduction may be inevitable.

    Lots of good advice on pricing. I'll try to understand that any $400 tile is for me and me alone, and if I can't stomach the cost, I'll try to make subway tile look good. :D

    einportlander -- what your friends went through, this is EXACTLY what' I'm seeing! From your name I assume you're from Portland so you know what I'm talking about -- how there are lots of things from the year 2000 suddenly hitting the market, especially on the Washington side (Camas, WA was practically built in 2000) or further out from the city like in West Linn. One 4500 sqft home sold in one week for 2.5 million in Lake Oswego, while larger homes, even 9,000 sqft on 3 acres in Lake Oswego sold for 1.7 after sitting on the market for over 1 year and going through a price reduction! This could really only be a pricing problem -- people expect to get top dollar for their home but their idea of it's worth isn't realistic. Looking at these homes as a buyer, all I thought was how much will it cost to replace the finishes in 9000 sqft? We learned after getting a quote from a trusted contractor that it costs nearly as much as it does to just build your own, so that's what we're doing! I'm having a hard time talking myself into splurging on finishes only to become a story like your friend. I've conceded that there's a good chance we'll have to sell for less than we "think" it's worth when the time comes. But at least I'm going into the process with my eyes wide open!

  • hollybar

    Tristan, have you an actual house plan yet? I think your evolving insights are spot on. I would say though that,like cpartist, I used a mixture of high/low elements in my 1920s Tudor Revival remodel/addition including some plain white Daltile (because it had all the trim pieces I wanted) and 15 years later those two baths still look pretty a 1920s Tudor Revival sorta way ;-) Now, would I change anything if I were hitting the market tomorrow...NO. Not because my house is particularly on trend but because I know I'd make enough profit 'as is' to not bother much. Which is more a function of real estate markets than anything else.

  • Tristan

    I do have a house plan. We are making tweaks here and there but it's mostly finished. GC has been working on pricing with us since we started the design process. Things that haven't been nailed down yet are in the budget under a high estimate so we can have room to come down. I know the "look" I want for the house, and I've been working with an interior designer to refine that. It's fairly close to many of the portland homes from the 20s and 30s (Per designer's words, you want something that looks like it's been standing there a hundred years) so hopefully trying to stick with that aesthetic will keep it from sticking out TOO much as 2019. I had already realized the home would be somewhat dated when we went to sell (unavoidable) but am still curious how people let that factor into their selection decisions. I've ranged from the nihilist "it doesn't matter anyways, use something cheap", to the splurger "this is for me, so who cares if the next guy doesn't like it?", to the optimistic "if I work hard enough at it maybe I'll be able to pick stuff that will NEVER go out of style!" My husband is urging me to splurge because he's big on "quality of life" choices, but even though I adore the high-end stuff I still feel incredibly guilty about spending the money. Square footage, we need (big family, both running businesses from home, mine requires a lot of space) -- but do I really need the this tile? Couldn't that money be spent in better ways? Like, I could buy my great aunt a house if I pared down some of these selections (the house she lives in costs $60k) So why not go as cheap as I can get away with and put the money to better use. But how cheap is too cheap, I don't want to make any decisions to keep me from being able to sell the place. And around and around and around, indecision.

  • Kate E

    My personal advice is to focus on finishes you LOVE. If you really love and are happy with (for example) a certain subway tile- go for it and be happy saving some $$ as an added bonus. In the flip side, if you fall in love with something that’s more of a splurge - do it as long as it makes sense financially.

    Don’t focus on what will appeal to buyers entirely. Maybe don’t design your entire kitchen in a way that any buyer would want to completely cut it, ha! But - pick what you love and save where it works out and splurge when you really want to.

    Have fun!! ;)

  • hollybar

    Tristan, this dilemma is sounding less like a rumination on "how much to spend on finishes" and more like one on "do I deserve to have what I want"? Tough place to put yourself in.

  • Tristan

    Haha, Hollybar, that's exactly it! Oh gosh.

    Maybe a better question might be, if I decide to put in subway tile, will it matter at the end of the day? I should ask that question to a Realtor, and then to a spiritual advisor or therapist!! LOL!!!

    Because part of me is really curious if, from an "investment" stand point if finish quality matters at all, given that all finishes depreciate over time. (Sounds like they matter some what as indicators of quality more than anything else?) And the other part of me is trying to overcome what I was taught as a child, that every dollar you spend must have a PRACTICAL purpose, and liking the way something looks isn't practical! This house is really testing me! ;)

    I know people recommended I cut square footage, but that does have an investment reason (other homes on the block are comparably sized, we don't want to build too small, especially since the land was expensive, a 3000 sqft home would be more likely to lose money) and practical use (running two businesses, family, this is the size we want.)

  • D E

    the op really wants expensive tile. but the op is also concerned about recoupment.

    we assume that the value ascribed to ANY tile bought today, in ten years, is zero.

    So the real question is - do I buy what I want and spend half a million knowing I'll never get it back, it do I but want I don't want and spend 50k knowing I'll never get it back.?

    well? how Rich are you?

  • Kristin S

    As long as you pick things in the good-quality range, I don’t think the finish quality (or, more realistically, finish cost, because above a certain point I think you’re paying for style and exclusivity rather than quality) matters from an investment standpoint.

    You’ve looked at a lot of houses, right? Did you ask who the tile manufacturer was for a single one? I know I never have. And too have seen houses sit on the market because the sellers want to get back what they put in, when it represents a lot of expensive choice that were worth the cost to them but aren’t to most buyers, who have different priorities and valuations.

    I don’t think putting in $10/square foot tile v. $100/square foot tile will make a single dollar difference in the eventual sale price. Put in what you love and feel is “worth it” for your enjoyment. Don’t feel guilty if it’s either choice.

  • shead

    I'm all for using materials that you love, but I've found throughout the years that I tend to get hyper-focused on certain things that I feel like I just have to have and then, 2 years later, those things usually don't bring me quite the satisfaction that I envisioned or I really just don't think about it anymore.

    That being said, timeless doesn't not have to equal expensive or vice versa. Assume any buyer is going to rip out tile, counters, and cabinets (I would if I were buying in that price range) and make your decisions based on what YOU want and what you can live with spending. Just don't sucker yourself into believing that you really want $400/sf tile just because it says "Ann Sacks" on the box. Frankly, I'd save anywhere and everywhere I could and use the money towards other quality of life expenses (maybe a second home or a boat or a great pool, etc.).

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