Today we’re going to explore the best ways of elevating the style of a routine tract home. The American planned community and tract home is appealing for many reasons. Many families prefer to live in a new home over one previously lived-in, but lack the daunting financial and overwhelming time commitment of building a custom dream home from scratch. That can make a brand new tract home really appealing. These new communities tend to be family-centric and designed around school systems and school life. Great! 

Photo by D Ramey Logan

Tract homes also have some obvious downsides. They can feel cookie-cutter. Their genericism can be isolating. Paradoxically, they don’t often cultivate a sense of warmth and community that the proximity to close-by neighbors suggests. Today on the Build Blog, we’re exploring the best ways to elevate a typical tract homes with premium designer style so that they deliver on those promises. Mix and match these designer tips to design a house you’re happy to call home.   

Architectural Elements Used to Elevate Ordinary Suburban Tract Homes

Of course, when you’re working on any home improvement project, you want to make sure any work done is in scale, both literally, and tonally, with the size and style of your home (otherwise, it’s not really an improvement). We’ve all seen the tract home with the overwhelmingly large winding staircase better suited for the Palace of Versailles – this is not a home improvement, this is an ego-driven vanity project. Instead, look at the ways of optimizing what you have. Many of the tips we suggest have to do with reestablishing a relationship between your home’s interior and exterior. For example: 

Stone Features

Throughout this Tahoe home, we used Eldorado Stone to give the space its organic, unique texture. Eldorado Stone helps homeowners and trade professionals select products that embody the rich color, texture and character of the landscapes surrounding them, which makes them perfect inspiration for any Green Interior Design.

The bedroom, by interior designer Lori Dennis, even won the Southern Accents Green Design Interior award! Eldorado Stone is also a cost effective way to integrate stone textures into a project because it weighs less than natural stone and doesn’t typically require significant structural adjustments. 

Ceramic Tile — Everywhere!

One of the best things you can do when you move into a home is rip out any carpet. We’re huge fans of ceramic tile as a replacement because of how much customization and creativity you have with color, pattern, and style.

ceramic mosaic tile flooring in modern coastal farmhouse bathroom


Not to mention it is much healthier, easier to maintain, and looks much cleaner. The same goes for backsplashes or other places you can tile for decoration. For this home’s entryway, we used a Villa Lagoon tile for a colorful statement and matched the motif throughout the home. 


Windows & Doors

When it comes to window, the majority of cost is accounted for by 1. The product material and 2. The installation. Worry more about #2. You want to look first for a reputable window source with excellent customer service. See, what many people don’t realize is that a vinyl window would do the job just as well (if not better) than a wooden window, when it comes to installation and energy-efficiency. The major difference is that the design features and colors might be less customizable.

white windows in bathroom with cheetah rug

A reputable window company with team members who have build experience, like our partners at Lion Windows & Doors, here in Los Angeles, are not going to be incentivized to up-sell you on the wood windows, if they’re not right for your home. That is architectural integrity! It’s not about the ‘objective’ best or fanciest, it’s about the right choice for the architectural style of the home. 

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Kitchen Appliances & Upgrades

More and more the kitchen is becoming an investment center of the home – it’s where families are spending all of their time, together and separately, it’s where people are entertaining. A major attitude shift in consumer buying behavior has been unfolding for a while now, and that is the realization that something doesn’t have to be ‘fancy’ to be nice and that you’re best off investing more in the things you actually do use everyday. So here is the permission if you needed it: buy the better refrigerator or dishwasher.

Buy the Better Fridge…

Gone are the days of investing in formal living and dining rooms – aka the spaces noone uses but once or twice a year — it’s all about maximizing the spaces and buying the best of the items you actually do use. Be realistic about how long you plan to stay in a home. You don’t necessarily have to resort to renovating just to sell unless you plan on doing that soon, otherwise you’re trend predicting based on… what? HGTV shows? Take it from the professionals: we saw beige carpet and granite countertops come on strong and leave just as quickly. 

Lighting in Layers

We write a lot about lighting because it is one of the most misunderstood parts of designing a home and yet, it is one of the most efficient and effective upgrades you can do. Before you decide that a room is too dark and start cutting holes in walls for windows, consider installing some light features (Then add the window ; ) ). It is rare that you can have too much lighting.

modern farmhouse loft in los angeles guest bedroom

Creative Lighting Ideas

More likely, you have the wrong type of bulbs, or maybe you need better tinted shades. Lighting in layers is essential for encouraging one to spend more time in a room, day-to-night. We go where the light touches. If you have the option to easily turn on a reading light over a chair in the living room, maybe you’ll spend evenings reading a book in that chair from now on. You can really get creative with lighting. This is an excellent place to start!

Landscaping & Outdoor Spaces

Use a combination of the above tips, with slight amendments, to design your outdoor spaces with as much gusto as the interior, especially here in Southern California with all of our warmer months! Lighting your outdoors – uplights on trees, string lights or lanterns over patios, and lights lining pathways and driveways are inviting ways to encourage the outdoor dinner party to continue. Tile flooring that continues from indoors to out is another excellent way to extend your home into the surroundings outside the walls of the physical home. Large-scale windows and patio doors that completely open up to the outdoors are another way or smoothing out the transition from indoors to out.

Outdoor Patio in Los Angeles home

Landscaping for Your Tract Home

And lastly, a specific tip on landscaping: That grass lawn may be the cheapest and easiest landscaping option to install–BUT it is actually among the priciest to maintain overtime, both in terms of time and finances. So our pro designer tip is this: Tear out the lawn. Install a garden, some pavers, carve out space for a water feature or a bistro table and chairs instead. Get creative. It may cost more up front, but overtime will pay for itself and you’ll be much happier with all the time you spend outside. 

Peaceful Garden moment