Put the custom in custom homes: 7 customizations you can’t live without

Putting the custom in a custom home is the best part of building your dream home.

Custom homes are often fraught with things that go sideways — you know like budgets and timelines.

It’s okay – we don’t do custom that way.

If you know anything about our take on custom, you know our approach removes the uncertainties that lead to ballooning budgets and keeps your project humming along.

We start with our collection of Signature Series plans (including our new groundbreaking Flex Houz plan) and work with you to customize them. We also guarantee your price. (Yes, you read that right.)

This lets you focus on the fun/important/meaningful things you want for your new home. It can mean moving some walls or adding custom finishes and features that are all you. It’s really the best of both worlds — your dream home and peace of mind!

Let’s dive in and get inspired.

Here are seven of the most popular, must-have customizations so you can start creating your own must-have list.

And the winner is … The Custom Kitchen!

When it comes to custom, this is the Big Kahuna. Who doesn’t want a custom kitchen? Because the kitchen is where so much life happens—your life—personalizing your kitchen to fit your lifestyle and family only make sense.

You can customize your kitchen to your heart’s content – from finishes to the layout itself. Our “no-limits-kitchens” means you can work directly with our kitchen company to design exactly what suits your tastes and needs (and budget).

Guided by the experts, you’ll have the opportunity to design the kitchen of your dreams – modern, transitional, traditional — a reflection of your style and your needs.

Select everything from the finishes of your countertops, floors and cabinets to your drawer pulls and add smart storage solutions that work for you. It’s a recipe for a kitchen you’ll love!

Having a kitchen that is as good-looking as it is hard-working can make the not so fun tasks, not so bad (clean-up duty, we’re looking at you!) and the happy moments even better.

2. At long last: The Servery or Pantry

Yes, you can.

As in, yes you can buy that professional size mixer. Yes, you can buy the caterer-sized box of wine glasses for your next party. Yes, you can buy Thanksgiving-themed dishes. Yes. You. Can.

Why? Because you’ve got a pantry. It’s the walk-in closet of the kitchen.

So when that custom kitchen is ready to roll, it will continue to look gorgeous with clutter-free countertops.

Similarly, the servery is that essential space between the kitchen and dining room acting like a little prep space for extra serving dishes or bar glasses. It’s a separate counter that gets the overflow out of your kitchen and lets you entertain like a boss.

3. Flexibility: The Home Office

Whether part-time or full-time, more of us are working from home these days. But swapping the traditional office environment for your kitchen table isn’t going to help you work at peak efficiency. And it probably isn’t the most professional backdrop for those video conference calls.

A well-designed home office space can minimize distractions and put you in a professional mindset from the moment you walk through the door so your productivity stays at its peak.

We can help you consider everything from floor plan placement (no need for business visitors to traipse through your home), to adding special touches like built-in bookcases. Our goal is to create a space that will spark your passion and productivity. No commute required.

4. Ceiling Treatments

Adding artwork to your walls and rugs to your floors is an obvious way to add style to a space, but why should the floors and the walls get all the love?

Ceiling treatments add that ‘X-factor’ to your home. In fact, as you study our signature series plans you’ll note our homes are chock full of ceilings that kick your room designs up a notch with tray, vaulted and coffered ceilings — standard. Waffle ceilings have become hugely popular and are also an option. The sky (or in this case, the ceiling) is the limit.

5. Smart Storage

Stuff. We’ve all got it, and we need a place to put it somewhere —preferably a spot that’s out-of-sight but still easy-to-access. Maybe more than any other other space, entry points into your home are a magnet for clutter, from dropped bags, keys, to hockey equipment that can make your entry feel anything but warm and welcoming.

Restore order back to your entryway with custom storage solutions that work for you — whether that’s a simple built-in bench with a few hooks or an extra-deep coat closet with cubbies and shelves for stashing shoes and sports equipment.

6. Finished Basement

When it comes to creating additional living space and boosting your home’s value, focusing on your basement will give you the most bang for your buck. This ultra-versatile space can be anything you need it to be.

Have a need for extra bedrooms? Look to the basement. Want a killer media space or a recreational area where the kids can hang out? Basement again. How about a gym, wine room, or workshop? You guessed it. A finished basement fits the bill every time.

When we help you finish out your space with smart living space and a dose of style, it will almost feel unfair to call it a basement.

7. Custom Closets

Move over master bath, once-utilitarian closets are becoming the new luxury space in a master suite. Is it even fair to call them “closets” anymore? Sure, they’re still a spot for storing clothes, shoes, bags and jewelry, but, when done right, they’re anything but basic.

Amp up the design quotient of your closets with custom storage solutions (think: built-ins with shoe shelving, compartmentalized drawers and hanging racks), dressing areas with seating and full-length mirrors, and luxe design details, like custom lighting and wall or ceiling treatments.

Inspired?

At this point, it’s probably a good idea to download our Signature Series plans. Which plan most closely matches must-haves? Don’t forget to take a look at the ceiling treatments!

Have a question? Ask away! Talk to one of our custom home specialists at 905-683-0050 or 1-888-983-0050.

From “oh no!” to “oh wow!”: How the Woods dream home became a reality.

For four decades, Steve and Donna Woods spent lazy summer days at their family’s cottage in the Haliburton Highlands. They came for the lakes, trails, shops and welcoming culture, but most of all, they loved the laid-back vibe.

When it came time for the couple to retire, they knew there was nowhere else they’d rather be. But their cottage wasn’t suited to year-round living or aging in place, so they began looking into a custom build. They purchased a piece of property on 12 Mile Lake in Minden and designed their dream house.

Their must-have list:

  • amply-sized rooms,
  • an outdoor living area,
  • a walkout basement and
  • a master on the main floor

When they reached out to builders to price it out, their hearts sank.

“The numbers were astronomical,” Steve says. Donna adds: “There was no question that building was out of reach for us.”

Then, they visited our Port 32 community in Bobcaygeon, and everything changed.

“We stopped by the model home and immediately felt at home,” Steve says. “We walked around, got a feel of the floor plan and realized it was very similar to what we had designed. We were ready to just move to Port 32; then we discovered they had a custom-home building service.”

When it was time to talk numbers, Steve and Donna braced themselves for another letdown. But this time their surprise was a good one. “It was half of what we were quoted for the custom build from the other builders,” Steve says. “As soon as we heard the price, we got excited.”

Once they sat down with our design team, Steve and Donna’s enthusiasm continued. They chose The Bobcaygeon – a four bedroom, three-bath 1960 floor plan used in the model that included all of their “must-haves” and modified it to suit their lifestyle and tastes even more closely. (The original design called for brick, but the Woods wanted more of a cottage feel and craftsman style.)

We were a match. Quickly, the couple realized we cared as much as they did about getting things right. “Three days. That’s how long we spent going over all the details with Marshall Homes,” laughs Steve.

That’s not uncommon. That’s what our stress-free custom cottages and custom homes approach is all about: starting with a great plan and customizing it. It’s how we get to your ideal and avoid those jaw-dropping budgets.

A few feet here, a window there and a great big fridge…

During those three days refining the Woods’ home, much of the discussion centered around customizing the design. The couple loved the open concept in the original model but wanted to adjust a few areas in the main living area.

For starters, they wanted a larger dining room to accommodate an antique table. We bumped the house out an additional four feet in the front, and also shifted a pair of windows to frame the matching sideboard.

In the kitchen, the couple relocated the wall oven to the opposite side of the room and requested a side-by-side refrigerator freezer. We removed a small pantry to make room for the the larger appliance.

“With the addition of the refrigerator, the island had to be shifted down to accommodate the doors opening,” Steven explains. “It was the Sales & Decor Manager at Port 32, Georgina, who alerted us to that. Marshall Homes really nailed out the details.”

After removing the pantry, the couple knew they needed additional storage and serving space, so they removed a bathtub from a main floor bathroom to create room for a spacious butler’s pantry.

The couple made a few changes outside, as well. They planned to convert the screened-in porch portion of the home overlooking the lake into a sunroom but wanted to finish the project themselves. They also hoped to take on finishing lower level bedroom and adding granite to the fireplace surround.

“Marshall Homes is very flexible on a custom build,” Steve explains. “They’ll let you do as much or as little as you want.”

If you ask us, that flexibility is one of the things that sets us apart in the world of custom home builders. None of our clients are exactly the same, and we don’t think their houses should be either. That’s why we are committed to helping our clients fully customize their finishes.

“Georgina took time to source things out and get us pricing,” Steve says. “We looked at tons of samples, but there was no rushing at all on Marshall Homes’ end.” The couple says the crew who worked on their home was equally attentive and patient. “You could see they really took pride in their work.”

Now, with all of the design details and construction decisions behind them, the couple agree the experience was even better than they expected. “It was actually a ton of fun. There were a few bumps along the way, but Marshall Homes helped us through it all. Building a home should be an enjoyable experience, and it really was,” Steve says.

Donna agrees that building with Marshall Homes was fun, but living in a Marshall Homes house has been even better: “It’s a wonderful, relaxed and informal lifestyle. We sit out at night and have bonfires and enjoy the beautiful views of the forest, lake and wildlife. It’s everything we hoped for.”

Get the floor plan the Woods used – The Bobcaygeon, as well as two others, The Kawartha and The Haliburton:

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Custom kitchens: what’s new, what’s hot, what’s smart.

It’s no secret: the kitchen is likely the hardest-working room in your house, and if you ask us, it should be one of the best looking, too. That’s why, when it comes to kitchens, we like to show off a little.

At Marshall Homes, we’re not about run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter kitchens. For our detached homes, it’s all about custom. In fact, we encourage our customers to go right to the source!

We’ve teamed up with custom kitchen wizards AyA Kitchen Gallery to make sure the kitchen in your Marshall home looks great and functions even better. We’ll help you pick one of our customizable plans then if you’d like to customize your kitchen to fit your tastes and your life, we’ll make it happen. Thankfully, in the world of custom kitchens, there are nearly endless options for adding beauty and smart function to your kitchen.

To help inspire your new home, check out a few of the custom touches we’re loving right now:

Stylish Surfaces

With so much happening in the kitchen, from food prep to entertaining, it should be a space you and your guests gravitate towards day after day. How to make sure that happens? Choose the right finishes; they can transform the vibe of the room.

When it comes to countertops, granite has been the go-to for years, and it’s a solid choice. (See what we did there?). But there’s a newcomer on the scene shaking things up. Quartz comes in an impressive range of colors, from neutral grey to bold blue, and finishes, from sleek and shiny to matte and suede-like. Go traditional with a rounded or reverse waterfall edge or more contemporary with a raw-edge look. Super durable, it resists scratching and cracking, and unlike natural stone, it’s virtually maintenance-free, with no need for regular sealing.

In the world of backsplashes, tiles are still a mainstay, but think outside the ceramic box and opt for natural stone or mirrored surfaces for an extra boost of style in your custom kitchen.

While clean and classic white subway tiles will always be a winner in the kitchen, patterns (think: hexagon, chevron and herringbone) are coming on the scene in a big way. (That little pop of pattern looks fab against a neutral quartz countertop.) Or, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, foray into metal—a pretty hammered copper is a popular option—or choose a colored backsplash to add a pop of personality and color into an otherwise neutral space.

For flooring, hardwoods are always in style. Keep them fresh by choosing the right finish. Opt for a grey-toned driftwood look with a bit of texture, if you’re looking for something low maintenance and less fussy. The only hard and fast rule here? Stay away from the warm, honey-toned shades and anything too glossy. You can’t go wrong with neutrals; they’re timeless. And for a really current look opt for greys and light coloured white oak.

Fabulous Fixtures

Fixtures serve a largely utilitarian purpose, but they should up your style quotient, too. Think of them like a statement piece for your kitchen—an accessory that can pull together the whole look of your space.

Brushed nickel and stainless steel are a safe choice when it comes to fixtures, but if you’re hoping to keep your selections up-to-the-minute try gold or flat black. These aren’t your grandmother’s dated, overpowering, overly-shiny and, well, overly-brassy fixtures. The updated versions are understated and modern, hinting at luxury.

If gold isn’t your thing, but you still want something striking, black fixtures are your new best friend, like the little black dress of the kitchen. The smooth finish is fresh and crisp. And the best part? It won’t suffer from fingerprints and water spot marks like some other finishes. (Stainless steel we’re looking at you.)

Smart Storage Solutions

With open concept being a mainstay in home design, the look of your kitchen needs to meld seamlessly into the rest of your decor. That means the clutter on the countertops has to go. Because who wants to see the blender you used to make smoothies in the morning while entertaining over cocktails in the evening? Since you can’t just ditch those kitchen appliances, storage solutions are clutch.

When you design a custom kitchen with us, your built-in storage choices are nearly endless, from pull-out drawers for storing heavy pots and pans to cookie tray and cutting board cubbies and hidden waste cabinets.

Beyond the basic storage components, you can opt for a server, the perfect spot for entertaining buffet-style. Or, use it as a built-in drink bar to make easy work of mixing those pre-dinner aperitifs or prepping coffee in the morning. If a walk-in pantry to keep all of your appliances and ingredients concealed but handy is in your dream kitchen, we’ve got you covered there, too.

Ready to start creating the custom kitchen of your dreams? Here’s the perfect opportunity…

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Freshen Up: Ten tips for renewing your style for the next stage of your life

If you’ve been stuck in a decorating rut for the last decade (or two), here’s some amazing news: Encore will be your opportunity to up your style.

Just as our tastes in fashion and food can change over the years, so can our individual decorating styles. Maybe you once loved more traditional details but now you crave a clean, streamlined approach.

Or, maybe you leaned towards vivid colors and now it’s neutrals all the way. And it isn’t only aesthetic preferences that shift; it’s likely the way you use your spaces have morphed over time, as well. (Three cheers for change!)

Helping people find their new style that works for them, both in form and function, is one of our passions here at Port 32. Over the years our various models homes have inspired fresh design and decor directions for more than a few our homebuyers. So as we eagerly anticipate the launch of Encore, we’re sharing our best tips so that you can start to envision your ideal environment.

Make a plan

Whether you want to totally revamp your style or just freshen things up a bit, it can be hard to get started. The key to success is finding your vision. Think beyond architectural styles and consider instead how you want your home to feel. (Of course, it’s a given your home at Encore will feel light and bright and spacious—the plentiful windows, vaulted ceilings and open floor plan will see to that.)

To pinpoint your vision, ask questions like, “Do I want a space that is cozy and restful or one that exudes energy?” “Will I entertain often or just host an occasional guest?” These types of questions will help you create intentional spaces that function well for the way you live in your new home.

Go easy

The best part of this new stage of life is you can spend less (or zero!) time working and more time enjoying the things you love. And, unless you’re Mr. Clean, scrubbing your interiors probably isn’t one of the things you hope to do with your newfound freedom.

At Encore, all of your finishes can fit you and your lifestyle. Customizing your home with hardworking, easy-to-maintain finishes, such as hardwood floors, granite countertops and low-sheen paints will allow you to spend more time golfing or gardening and less time maintaining your spaces.

Edit, edit, edit

It’s no secret that living in the same place for a number of years you inevitably collect what can be an overwhelming amount of “stuff.” So many of our purchasers used the move to Port 32 the catalyst finally to pare down your belongings. If it is no longer beautiful or useful to you, let it go. Starting with a clean slate will open up room for things you truly love and reflect you in this new chapter.

Keep it neutral

The interiors at Encore are made for today’s casual lifestyle. The open concept design combines the kitchen and dining areas with the living room, allowing you and your guests to flow freely through the spaces. To keep a cohesive flow from room to room, opt for a neutral palette and create visual interest with textures instead.

Get inspired

Let this new chapter bring a fresh perspective. Look to your favorite magazines, websites, or places you visit to find styles that resonate. What stands out to you? What turns you off? Create a folder with clippings from your favorite magazines, or do as we do here at the Port 32 sales centre and fire up a Pinterest board to help guide your design and decoration decisions.

Don’t let it (all) go

Holding onto those furnishings and accessories that speak to you, whether it’s a family heirloom or a piece of art you picked up on a memorable trip, will give your new space an instant sense of meaning and collected-over-time look. (Tip: Your new home at Encore can be customized to accommodate and highlight your special belongings, whether it’s an antique buffet or a collection of baskets.)

Put your interests on display

Personalize your spaces by including elements that speak to your favorite hobbies and activities. If you love to read, create comfortable reading nooks throughout your home and arrange books artfully on shelves and tables. Love to paint? Put your artwork on display. Do you enjoy the outdoors? Incorporate natural elements, such as wood and stone into your finishes and decor.

Accessorize like an expert

Breathe new life into a space instantly with textiles and accessories. Encore’s contemporary spaces are the perfect canvas for creating a relaxed feel. Trade heavy draperies for sheer curtain panels. Choose cotton or sisal area rugs in neutral colors for a casual look. Add a punch of color and texture with throw pillows and blankets. Never underestimate the power of fresh flowers or a new candle to transform a space. It’s always the little things that seem to bring it all together.

Enjoy the journey

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and perfectly decorated interiors won’t be either. Just as you gathered things over time to make your previous house your home, expect the same as you re-enter the decorating process. Allow your home at Encore to evolve over time by gradually collecting pieces that read well with your new style story. Every layer you add is like a new chapter in your style story.

Style your spaces with confidence

Over the years, you’ve had time to learn what you love and what you’re happy to say adios to. And that’s a great thing! You can make design and decor choices with confidence, knowing this isn’t your first rodeo and that every home at Encore is the perfect canvas for creating beautiful, stylish spaces you’ll love for years to come.

Finding the perfect Kawartha Lakes cottage property

Searching for the perfect piece of land for your new getaway? Check out these tips to help you on the hunt through cottage country.

If you’re planning to build a Marshall Homes cottage in the Kawarthas, selecting the right cottage property is a vital step in ensuring the successful outcome of your project. For most, the dream of owning a cottage is as much about your surroundings as the cottage itself. A spot that makes you feel inspired, relaxed and at home is ideal.

But, the land you choose for your custom cottage must also meet a number of practicalities, such as location and site elements. Striking the right balance between convenience, beauty and cost, isn’t a simple task, but you can help narrow the field by keeping a few simple criteria in mind.

Read on for our best suggestions for finding a piece of land that you’ll love (nearly) as much as your new, Marshall Homes cottage and get our list of preferred Kawartha realtors to help jump start your search.

 

Imagine your ideal escape and create your checklist

Before beginning (or continuing) your hunt for a property, take time to build a springboard of search criteria.

Location, location, location

That’s real estate’s number one rule, right? So let’s start here.

One of the reasons we’re so bullish about the Kawarthas is access. While none of us is spared the snarl of traffic, the Kawarthas offers more routes and less traffic to beloved cottage towns and lakes than heading up on Hwy 400 to Muskoka.

And in the next couple of years, we’ll be zipping all the way to Hwy 115 on the newly extended 407 (a four lane highway) in no time. And guess what? That’s going to make your cottage property a whole lot more desirable in the coming years.

So where in the Kawarthas should you focus on?

When selecting the right spot for your future Marshall Homes cottage in the Kawarthas, it’s essential to balance your dream of a remote getaway with the practicalities of everyday life.

You’ll want to think of favourite cottage villages and towns that offer the kind of amenities and fun you envision. Also consider how far you want to drive. Weigh the pros and cons of a more remote property with any time restrictions you may have. Remote may work if you plan to spend weeks at a time at the cottage. Something closer may be more practical if you’ll be a weekend warrior.

Do you want to be right in your favourite cottage town? Or out-of-town?

You’ll want to consider access to public utilities, as well as drive-time to shopping and emergency facilities, such as hospitals and fire stations.

Likewise, factor in how much privacy you crave. Do you want a property with acreage or would you prefer a close, community feel? Determine your preference, then evaluate each site accordingly.

Look to your interests. Take a moment to envision your ideal cottage vacation. Do you spend your time boating, swimming, hunting or hiking? Consider how conducive each site is to your desired activities. If you prefer boating, a property with a dock or access to a local marina may fit the bill. If you love swimming or have children, a beachy spot along the shore might be a better fit. If a watery locale isn’t imperative, an off-water site can result in significant savings.

What kind of landscape do you envision?

To help narrow down a location in the Kawarthas, decide on the physical landscape you want to be surrounded by during your cottage escapes. Do you want an agricultural feel, forested, or is it the wild, rocky terrain of the Canadian Shield that you crave?

After you’ve settled on a landscape, create a checklist of site essentials. Is water access a must? Do killer views top your wish list? Are you looking for a sloped property to accommodate a walkout basement?

And, lastly, to keep each property’s pros and cons clear in your mind, take physical notes on the plusses and minuses while walking the property. After your visit, compare the notes against your checklist.

Here’s where a good Realtor can help

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When you’re narrowing down the perfect property, a good local Realtor can be your best ally.

They may be able to show you properties with old cottages ready for tear-down.

They’ll know about properties going on the market … before they’re on the market. And they’ll be able to answer questions about technical practicalities such as …

Road Access.

While undeveloped land has a raw beauty that may make it appealing, it may also come with its own set of extenuating factors. A remote location can be a challenge during construction, making it tough (and costly) to deliver materials. It can also make accessing your cottage problematic in the winter months. If you plan on using the property during the winter, find out if the roads are maintained year-round.

Asking your Realtor the following questions will help you avoid having to dole out some serious cash for unexpected bills:

  • Is access to public utilities readily available?
  • Where will your water come from? If it’s a well, is it reliable and potable (drinkable)?
  • Are there any easements or right-of-way considerations that could limit the amount of property you can build on or keep you from accessing it at certain times of the year?
  • What is the topography of the land where you hope to place the cottage? Look carefully into whether you’ll need to take any erosion-control measures. Or, if your site is particularly rocky factor in the cost of excavating and preparing the ground for the foundation.

Bonus round: Here’s where we come in

Once you’ve purchased your property, our team will come in and assess your property including everything from zoning to septic tanks (if needed) and building permits. Need local approval? We’ll handle that as part of our custom package and fixed price commitment. It’s all part of our pledge to make custom easier for you.

So go with your gut. After considering the pros and cons of each site (refer to your notes, as mentioned in Tip #1), go beyond your checklist and reflect on the distinct character of each property. Like every person, each piece of land has a unique look and feel. Close your eyes and revisit each property in your mind. Which one stands out—makes you feel at ease and at home? Ultimately, building on a property that speaks to your heart, not just checks the spaces on your criteria list, will help make your Marshall custom cottage an even more perfect place to get away.

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