Monday, July 23, 2012

Looking Back: Our Design Studio Experience

Since I didn't start this blog until about 10 weeks into our 32ish week construction saga, there are some aspects of those early weeks that I obviously never blogged about. Probably the biggest chunk of that time was spent at the Design Studio, Toll Brothers' facility where you design your home's interior. This is where you choose your flooring, fixtures, cabinets, cabinet hardware, countertops, paint colors, tile, etc.

The hardest part for us was probably the light fixtures, since the majority of Toll's offerings in that arena were not so fabulous. We had to get custom prices to ordering extras of a certain foyer chandelier for other parts of the house, which took awhile but luckily our consultant didn't mind and was really helpful. The lighting issue was further compounded when we discovered that some rooms don't come with lighting power... not just sans light fixtures, but also sans the power hook-up to hook up the non-existent light fixture! Isn't that crazy? Shouldn't all houses have power for lights in every room? They recommend you either pay the $175 to add power in each of those rooms or "use a lamp." Seriously?

Buyers with Toll supposedly have 45 days after signing to finalize all of their Design Studio selections, although I don't think they enforce this at all because they know how hard it is to get an appointment there. You're supposed to make three, three hour appointments at the studio with your consultant to make all of these tough decisions, but these meetings all have to be between 9 and 5, M-F, which is nearly impossible for us working Barbies and Kens. They're open on Saturdays too, but only for browsing, not for appointments.

The way it ended up for Ross and I was that we went on Saturdays for 3 or 4 (btw, it's a MAJOR cluster in there on most Saturdays - you're almost fist fighting over granite samples) weeks in a row and made our decisions, logged them ourselves in an OCDish 20 page spreadsheet I made, then had one appointment where we gave those selections to our fabulous Design Studio consultant, Yosra. This one appointment wouldn't have even been possible if I hadn't been generously given a floating half-day off of work by my boss. I really have no clue how they expect working people to be able to take so much time off of work to get these appointments done, but that's another rant for another day.

We were told that, on average, buyers spend $60,000 at the Design Studio in interior upgrades for their homes. Yikes. We're proud to report that we came in well under that figure, partially due to the quality of standard features that Toll gave us. For example, the kitchen and master bath come with granite standard. Hardwoods are also standard on almost all of the first floor. All of our door knobs and hinges come in oil rubbed bronze for free. This really helped keep the budget in check.

Our biggest costs at the design studio were: enlarging our island, upgrading the kitchen granite to a higher quality, upgrading the tile size (to 18x18) and quality in our master bath and creating our custom oven hood in the kitchen. Another huge Design Studio expense was adding lighting to the rooms that didn't come with it, adding fixtures to those rooms, and upgrading the light fixtures in the rooms that came standard with crappy ones. Even still, there are a few rooms that we didn't order a light fixture for and will have to find our own between now and then (which, in all honesty, has been super fun so far).

All in all, there were a bunch of tough decisions we had to make at the Design Studio, but with a really helpful consultant and several "I don't even care anymore, Yosra just pick your favorite" moments, we were able to get it all done. To other Toll Brothers homebuyers, I caution you that this process is not for the faint of heart. It's a ton to decide and a TON of information to keep track of. If you're buying in North Carolina though, I highly recommend working with Yosra. We were very happy with the quality and selection of choices for everything, except for the light fixtures, but even there we were able to find some that worked.

Here are a few pictures of the North Carolina Toll Brothers Design Studio, which luckily for us is in Cary. These images belong to Toll Brothers and were taken from their website.


  1. I love your blog and wish I had read this bit of information about the design studio before today! lol I am building with Toll and was contacted by the design studio today and almost fainted when they told me they only have appointments during the day and not on weekends! I was totally shocked.

  2. What a fantastic blog! I'm also building a house with Toll Brothers in NC and am starting a spreadsheet of all of the options. We are getting ready for the design phase and I wanted to see if you might be open to sharing your 20 page OCD-ish spreadsheet with me. I would be forever grateful! The house looks gorgeous, by the way! Nice work :-)

  3. Hi Tracy! Sorry I'm just now seeing this. Email me at and I'd be happy to send it your way. :)

  4. I visited the design studio today - Mind blown by the choices, I can see why they suggest three 3hr appointments! Looking back is there anything you would have selected differently? Your home is stunning and you have made it your own far beyond what the studio could have done, but curious as we are beginning this adventure!

  5. Hi Whitney...I've certainly enjoyed reading your blog and learned so much. We are building a Toll Brothers home in Orlando and have our Design Studio meeting early March. Two days...2 hrs each morning..break lunch..two hours afternoon. I'd love to see your spreadsheet as you seem so organized....and any tips...We visited the studio here in DC but they didn't have the floor plans for the Orlando homes to help...we did look around. If you saw an email last week it was me...Melissa


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