SE Idaho design trends + how to go custom


Hi, guys. This is an excerpt from an article I wrote for East Idaho Home & Garden this spring; I shot the photos in a home built by River Valley Homes. Happy Friday! I’ll be back next week with an update on our remodel.

Homeowners in general are increasingly seeking customization. According to builder Curtis Ward of Guardian Homes, who won a People’s Choice award for his Idaho Falls Parade of Homes entry last September, two features appealed most to tour goers at the house he built: a fireplace with a soapstone surround situated in the middle of a room to divide the space, and stained gray trim instead of predictable white. Neither was a common feature, and that’s what appealed to the public, he said.

Custom trim on columns, arches, walls and window frames is growing in popularity. Although millwork isn’t cheap, a few touches can make a big difference in the feel of a room, and whether the budget is small or large, most homeowners can afford some custom trim, Ward said.

Regardless of house style, contractors are building big, open rooms with expansive windows. The open spaces improve flow from room to room, and the natural light warms things up (and can cut utility costs). Thompson said that especially with millenials, the emphasis on windows is huge. “We are spending 150 to 200 percent more on window packages because they want efficient windows, and trends have pushed toward unique colors like black. It’s a millenial thing — they know if they spend more, they get more,” he said.

National trends have caught on too. The farmhouse look is popular in east Idaho and elsewhere — think rustic wood, lots of white, touches of gray and subway tile. “My partner always calls it ‘Joanna Gaines,’” Ward said.

One way people achieve the farmhouse look is with reclaimed or barn wood, said Austin Crystal of Crystal Homes. Even if not the real deal, companies are manufacturing products with a distressed look that wear well and, in some cases, aren’t expensive. But Crystal advises against going overboard. “Touches here and there are what people really like,” he said.

For a builder like Roy Ellis with Heartland Builders, following the trends isn’t important, but he said as homeowners have veered towards lots of white, including white cabinets, he has recommended maple cabinets with a light stain instead — the kind of kitchen he installed in his 2016 Parade of Homes entry. “The oohs and aahs I got were worth it,” he said, adding that the finish is more durable than white and looks fresh too.

Style is a matter of taste, and even though gray and white might be trending, Crystal said a wide variety of colors are used in homes nowadays; the success of the look “is just a matter of how you combine them,” he said.

Combining colors and selecting finishes isn’t intuitive for everyone, which is why Crystal suggests working with a designer. “I recommend a designer on the front side because the cost that you’ll spend on a designer will easily outweigh the (cost) of having to have it done twice if you don’t like it. Most projects with designers don’t have to be redone; the designers have the experience of how things go together and how colors work,” Crystal said.

In bigger homes, an increasingly common upgrade is the indoor gym. With one in his own house, Crystal said it’s an ideal hangout space for big families. “We’ve done about a dozen Sport Courts in the area, and the Sport Courts are one of the most used rooms in their house, and that’s true for us,” he said. “There’s not a day that goes by that it isn’t used for a team (practice) or for our kids.”

Going into a house-building project with a clear style in mind will save time and money. Finding the right look can be as simple as perusing sites like Houzz with photos of all kinds of rooms and sharing favorite images with your builder.

“We’ve got (a client) now that knows what she wants — she’s sent a good hundred photos to me,” Ward said. “If a customer knows what they want, it’s a lot easier than with a customer who doesn’t.”

As for up-and-coming styles, Harrow Construction business owner Devan Thompson said he expects to start seeing more shingle-siding houses a la the Hamptons and a French-provincial look that combines a modern farmhouse with more color. •

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