31 Replies

What finishes are popular in your areas for higher end properties? 

What style is popular? (Modern, Traditional, Craftsman, Ranch, or?)

Cabinets? (What colors are popular?) 

Countertops? (Granite, Quartz, Solid surface, etc.?) 

Flooring? (Wood, engineered wood, travertine, tile, or ?)

Bathrooms? (Acrylic, Cast iron, or?) 

Faucets, etc.? 

Appliances? (Brands, Stainless or white?) 

@Will Barnard  @J Scott @Jon Klaus  @Lynn Currie  @Kenneth Bell  @John Blackman  others too, please weigh in. 


Most of what we do on the residential side is historic exterior bungalows and cottages. We also do 99% infill which usually means smaller lots. Story and a half to two and half story homes. There are certain expectations as far as finish materials granite or quartz counters, semi custom cabinets, gas stainless kitchens real hardwoods, under mount sinks or vessel's. Brass body plumbing fixtures no plastic or abs. I don't do vinyl siding or over the range microwaves. Where we develop people have specific taste and want bang for the buck!


What buyers like or expect is very, very area specific so answers to your questions will only be truly relevant from those within your area (Southern Cal) and of that, each neighborhood differs too.

With that said, and as a whole, I can tell you that modern contemporary and Spanish med typically bring the highest prices. Granite is considered out dated on high end homes here in CA (Cesar stone, quartz stone, and marble- Carrera & Calcutta are the best options). Appliances must be stainless steel and Viking is one of the top preferences with Wolf being a good alternative option. Double ovens and gas range tops with hoods are also in high demand.

Plumbing fixtures - depends on style of house, for modern, go with polished nickel and very sleek, for Spanish med the bronze finish is the best choice, same with door hardware. 

Flooring, again style dependent, but you can not go wrong with wood floors, even in kitchen areas and travertine stone is also a great choice for Spanish med style in kitchen and bathrooms. For contemporary, I go with the glass mosaics and sleek porcelain tiles, grays are popular as are other light colors.

Cabinets - definitely custom and depending on style of home, medium to dark stain is great and sometimes white with the option of mixing in stain on the island cabinets to create more contrast.

Beach cities - go with modern contemporary. CA ranch is also a good choice assuming the specific neighborhood calls for that. 

Hope that helps.

@Kenneth Bell  and @Will Barnard   I realize that my market here in southern California is different than both of yours, (even though you are here in so cal too Will). I just like seeing the different architectural styles people are doing, what finishes they're using, etc. I was reading that brass fixtures are coming back for instance (though that doesn't appeal to me at all) so it's always fun to snoop in on others projects! You never know when something that someone is doing in New York, Texas or someplace else might be a new idea here. Though I  do keep up on all my builder ezines, etc.

@Karen Margrave  

  we are doing Quartz on counters and high end marble on island.. custom cabinets from local cabinet maker... country sink is popular our way... appliances I prefer wolf ( I like the red handles)  Sub zero. WE do high end engineered wood floors and they are well received also do some bamboo and Cork... Really neat fireplace ... undermount and quartz in bathrooms... big accent wall in master bath and high end nickel fixtures... this in our market for under 750k

In our mid range homes 300 to 400k we still do granite undermount oil rub bronze stainless etc that's still popular with that price range

We are doing an island that's 10', originally were thinking 15' but then it limits the countertop if we want to keep it one piece. We'll do Quartz countertops. 

We are doing Thermador induction on the island, with under counter oven and maybe a wall/microwave combo (island will be plumbed for gas should someone prefer that) Stainless appliances. Wood on floors, maybe engineered (they're actually stronger)  I like Wolf too, but with the modern style and it being in the island, thought induction would be clean. 

For cabinets I think we're doing slab doors as they look more modern. The island will be some type of Ipe or Walnut that has variations in color, like the one below. 

However; we're listing the house as soon as we start framing, so who knows, a buyer might come along and have a totally different vision! 

Updated over 4 years ago

I'm not 100% on the induction, may still go with the range oven. I actually have gas and plumbing lines in both locations should someone prefer range on wall and sink in island. That's the problem with specs you never know who wants what!!

We currently have specs ranging in price from 285k up to 950k.  We do vastly different finishes, appliance packages, etc based on the neighborhood, what the buyers want for a certain market, and the price point.  That being said, some common themes we see are lots of dark stained hardwoods (people are starting to ask for wider planks), wood stained front doors, ceramic tile or natural stones ( we don't do any laminate or vinyl products), painted cabinets (generally a white or gray), combined with an accent piece (could be an island or wet bar area) of a different color.  We've been doing a lot of black granite mixed with white Carrera marble as well.  The picture below is from a lower priced home for us, a 350k home.  You can see I routinely  mix a lot of brushed stainless and nickel, chrome, and oil rubbed bronze.  I know a lot of people think things should be matchy matchy, but I've only had one person think it was strange so far.. would love to hear thoughts and opinions.  In this house all door hardware was ORB, as you can see on the back door hinges, the island pendants were chrome, and it's hard to make out, but the faucet and cabinet hardware is a brushed stainless. 

We use a lot of grays or paint colors with cooler tones as well-- as seen on the door in the picture below. 

We're doing urban infill in Austin and do a combination of what I like to call paired homes (a much sexier name than duplex) and single family. Our current prices are ranging from $700k up to about $1.5 million.

Style: all are contemporary on the interior. Exteriors are either contemporary or what I like to call Tradern - traditional in forms with some nods to the contemporary side. In most of my properties there is an Austin feel - we use a lot of hand made steel planters and black rock gravel in the landscaping, metal roofs, and screened in porches. I didn't realize these things were "Austin" until I started spending more time on Houzz and creating notebooks.

Cabinets: I have all custom cabinets and there is always an island. In the paired homes, the cabinets are painted - either white or light, light gray. Bottom cabinets are a combination of drawers and doors. Countertops are either white quartz, slate gray quartz, or soapstone.

Appliances: All stainless, usually Bosch. Gas cooktop, convection oven. Convection microwave installed in bottom cabinets or in a butler's pantry if there is one. I add a wine refrigerator on a lot of the projects.

Backsplash: Either marble or glass.

Flooring: diamond polished concrete downstairs, hardwoods (engineered, usually) on the stairs and upstairs, tile in the bathrooms. Never, ever, ever, carpet. I consider that criminal.

Bathtubs: Acrylic and deep, even in the non-masters. Bigger in the master, though.

Showers: I've been doing a European tub/shower combo lately. My buyers love it.

Fixtures: polished chrome, contemporary.

Here are a couple of photos:

@Lynn Currie  your photos look wonderful! Those polished concrete floors are really cool. How do the numbers compare on that versus your engineered wood floors? (Is it easier to pour/polish concrete than it is to install the wood floors?)

And how do we see more of your stuff (on Houzz or wherever)?

Thanks @Will Porter  !

You can find some more of my projects on my website. The link is in my signature.

Diamond polishing the concrete is cheaper than hardwoods, but more expensive than simply staining them. The difference is that the polishing actually penetrates into the concrete instead of sitting on top of it, making it more beautiful and durable. Diamond polishing runs a little under $3 per square ft. Hardwood prices + installation will vary, but will be at least double that if you're buying a higher quality product.

As far as concrete cost, we're polishing the existing foundation, so there is no additional cost. We don't pour concrete where it doesn't already exist in order to polish it.

@Lynn Currie  I love those floors. We've considered doing concrete too, and may do them on the condos we'll be building. They're close to the beach and seems like it would make sense in that area. Though, concrete can be SOOOOOO slippery!! 

@Lynn Currie  I'm thinking of using the polished concrete on the Capistrano Beach Spec  

  • When doing that, are you using just the standard concrete color, or putting color in? 
  • Is there anything different done other than typical pour that is required? 
  • How do you seal? 
  • Also, what paint finish do you use in living areas, flat, velvet or ? 
  • What is the age of your typical buyers? 
Originally posted by :

Cabinets? (What colors are popular?) - Blues, Grays, Greens with Brass Hardware. Backsplash go up to to ceiling. Dual color cabinets also good.

Countertops? (Granite, Quartz, Solid surface, etc.?) - Quartz

Flooring? (Wood, engineered wood, travertine, tile, or ?) - Hardwoods - wide planks, reclaimed wood with history even better

Bathrooms? (Acrylic, Cast iron, or?) - Cast Iron over acrylic any day. Tiles go from floor to ceiling.

Faucets, etc.? - Brass

Appliances? (Brands, Stainless or white?) - Kitchenaid, Stainless is timeless, white is crazy hot (think Miele Brilliant White

White shaker with some sort of solid surface, and stainless appliances.

Account Closed

 That's interesting. I've seen a resurgence of brass in some of the style magazines, but haven't seen it starting to take hold yet, even in southern California, though I have been considering it. Same goes for the white appliances. Maybe you can post some pics sometime? 

Also what style of homes or condos are you doing? Traditional, modern, loft? 

@Karen Margrave

I don't build...yet. Therefore, I don't have any personal pictures to show. Although I am currently looking for a few lots to build on :)

In the next rehab we will be doing (in contract, so hopefully just a few weeks away), I am considering white cabinets with brass hardware/fixtures and SS appliances. However, my broker recommends traditional finishes (broader appeal) and my husband cannot get down with brass (but he's not going to live there, so...). Plus, the same faucet in brass is so much more expensive than nickel/chrome/ss! It all adds up...which might be ok for million/multi-million builds - but for the regular spec or flip, it can be costly percentage-wise. 

The brass/white appliance combo won't apply to traditional homes. I'd say they go with more modern homes with modern finishes, more minimal lines and less angles to really let the brass bling and white lines shine through. That combo will work for lofts too since lofts toe the line between modern & industrial. 

It might not be mainstream at the moment, but with so many retailers on the bandwagon now, it's tough to avoid. A lot of people might start the brass movement with a light fixture here and there, see how they like it after a while, then discover they might like it elsewhere (like the kitchen/bath). But if the buyer base is more traditional like my husband and sisters - they just won't sign up for brass at all - not in the modern brass way. I still see the 80s builder brass-finish out there.

If you have not seen it yet in the market, maybe you can be the maverick and be one of the first to step out! :D

As I mentioned, I've seen it in various magazines, on Houzz, etc. but the time from it being shown in Homeshows, magazines, online, etc. to the time buyers are comfortable with it takes a little time. However; we might offer it as an option in the new house we will be starting later this week. 

Here's my 2c on these questions.

  • When doing that, are you using just the standard concrete color, or putting color in?

We have stained regular concrete and done river rock finishes which take about a week longer to dry at the foundation stage but make a unique look for the floors.

  • Is there anything different done other than typical pour that is required?

The dry time is longer to prevent cracking.  It is watered for two weeks.

  • How do you seal?

The floor vendors do their voodoo.  I leave this up to my GCs

  • Also, what paint finish do you use in living areas, flat, velvet or ?

Light orange peel, flat.  We use a lot of light colors (lots of white) and anything smoother than orange peel with flat paint shows even the slightest nicks, and it a huge pain to get show ready.

  • What is the age of your typical buyers? 

Either in their mid twenties or over 50.  No families.  But this is likely due to our location.

@John Blackman  thank you for weighing in! On the concrete floors, do you put radiant heating in them? Do you have any pics of the river rock, I'd love to see that. Thanks for everything, I know I @mention you so often, and I appreciate your insight. 

This post has been removed.

We do not use radiant heating. It's Texas.  :)

Here is a sample of the river rock finish (at the foundation stage, not final).

It's hard to tell from the above picture, but if you look down, it looks like this.  This is also not polished since there is no house on it yet.

Sorry for the delay on answering, @Karen Margrave . I was on vacation.

  • When doing that, are you using just the standard concrete color, or putting color in?

We've done both, but usually just leave the natural concrete color. We diamond polish our floors. Since this process removes a lot of the top layers, the color is unpredictable. For example on this house, we stained the floors a super dark brown, almost black, and then back in and diamond polished. It lightened them up a lot. They're still beautiful, but not what I was going for.

  • Is there anything different done other than typical pour that is required?

We do a typical pour. Sometimes there are some striations in the concrete from the leveler, but I've never had a floor come out bad. The nature of polished concrete is that it's imperfect. I just roll with that.

  • How do you seal?

It's part of the process, the final coat of the polishing. I like to do a semi-gloss. I've been tempted to do high-gloss, but never pulled the trigger. 

  • Also, what paint finish do you use in living areas, flat, velvet or ?

Sometimes velvet, sometimes eggshell, always with high gloss trim and doors.

  • What is the age of your typical buyers? 

Generally, my buyers are early 30s to Mid 50s. All of our house are at least 2 story and none have elevators (yet!), so I wouldn't think we'll get buyers much older.

@John Blackman  I really like those, once complete they'll look really sharp, and totally Texas! Lots of character, love it 

 @Lynn Currie Nice look with the color. Did you not put the same color on the steps? What do you do for the finish on floors on the 2nd story? Also, in looking on your website, that one house where you had the light color cabinets, with the white subway tile on wall, those floors looked almost a light brown color, was that natural color concrete or colored?

 Wow, I need to look at more pics of your interiors to see what those paint finishes look like, because on your website pics they don't seem to have a sheen at all.  I haven't been paying enough attention! 

 Thanks for the pictures, both of you. 

@Karen Margrave

I built the steps out of steel. The second story is a handscraped, dark pecan.

You're referring to this one, right?

That color is pretty accurate. Some photographers change their color balance and make them appear more gray. There is no stain on this, it's just polished. Here are cell phone snappies (un-retouched) that show the color pretty accurately on two different houses (the bottom one is the one that I think you asked about).

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