Before you start any renovations, it’s a good idea to gather ideas and put the good ones in a portfolio. This opens you up to things you never thought of before. It shows you newest trends and helps you sort out what you like and what you don’t like. 

Before you begin, you might want to check out my blog on trends vs. timeless so that you know what your priorities are. 

Parade of Homes

Every year my town hosts a Parade of Homes and I know a lot of other towns do this as well. Builders feature one or two of their newest homes built by local citizens. They show how colors and materials go together, and are usually decluttered and staged. This is a great place to start. You can see how tiles, flooring, and paint colors work together in real life, instead of in pictures or on samples that are tiny and hard to picture in large quantities.

Countertop samples, for example, are usually a few inches big. It’s so hard to picture how that would look in your kitchen that has a countertop 12 feet long. Going to a new build will give you the chance to see how different finishes, textures, and materials look in actuality. You can see examples of cabinets that reach the ceiling, or new configurations of islands and get a sense of how it looks and feels. You can also meet the builders and get their business cards in case you want some help later with your project. You can get a sense of high end builders and middle of the road builders, which is good information. If you don’t live in an expensive neighborhood, using a high end builder might not make sense. You might not get your money back when you sell. After this year’s Parade of Homes, I saw a countertop that looked like granite, but was actually laminate, which is what I wanted. I didn’t think I could afford granite or that I’d recoup the cost later, but I didn’t want it to look cheap either, so knowing that a builder was an expert in nice laminate was very helpful. I got his card and called him first for an estimate. So, attending a Parade of Homes helps you see products in real homes and gives you ideas for contractors and builders as well. Plus, it’s fun. Take your spouse or a date and have dinner afterward!

Model Homes

Another similar idea is to tour model homes. A lot of cities like Houston, Texas have a whole bunch of model homes you can tour any day of the week. These are great if you want something trendy as the builders usually feature the newest materials and colors in their models. I was just in Houston and saw some homes over 5,000 square feet that helped me see what the new trend of gray cabinetry looked like in person. I was able to see herringbone tile patterns, new light fixtures, and various granite countertops. I decided I’d rather do timeless white on my cabinets instead of a trendy gray, but to put gray on the walls, which are easier to change. I also decided I didn’t want a busy countertop pattern, but preferred something much more simple. These decisions were made after I experienced these homes in person.

HGTV, Of Course

Of course, watching HGTV has really helped me as well. I watch a variety of shows with various designers to see different styles. I watch Love It or List It, Flip or Flop, Hometown, and Property Brothers (nearly every night of the week!). I get a sense of how to refresh the character in old homes, what colors to use where, and how to decorate the room once it’s done. After watching a few episodes, your mind will open to new ideas and you’ll get a sense of what you do and don’t like.

Pinterest, etc.

Last, use the web. Pinterest is a great resource especially if you’ve narrowed down what you’re looking for. I’ve searched things like gray cabinets, white cabinets, wood floors, and open shelving to see pictures that I could flip through. This is really helpful when you’re trying to communicate with a contractor about what you want. You can email these pictures to your builder, who can be on the lookout for materials that match your style. I’ve also enjoyed Better Homes and Gardens’ website as well as other designer’s blogs.

Gathering Materials

Once you have some ideas that you like and want to try or implement in your design, visit websites and home improvement stores for samples. Right now I’m on the lookout for white and black countertop samples and gray paint swatches. I usually grab several samples and bring them home to try out in my space. Keep the ones you like in an accordion folder or box. It becomes your portfolio of ideas. You can also print pictures and stash those in your portfolio so you don’t forget later what you like. Or make a digital portfolio of pinned ideas and samples on Pinterest. Create a board for all your ideas (mine is called kitchen renovation). Pin all your ideas to the board. You can make the board private, or collaborate with others on the same board (like your contractor). They can also contribute as well. If you use chrome as a browser, you can install an extension that allows you to pin straight to your boards. Find your countertop sample and click pin this. Wallah…it’s done!

All of these ideas will broaden your perspective on what is possible. Before you make any decisions or judgements, knowing what’s possible and being open to ideas you’ve never thought of can make the final product even better. For example, I’m trying to decide what kind of tile to use in my kitchen. I didn’t like the plain, neutral samples at most home improvement stores, but I did like the cute patterns I saw on HGTV. I think they’ll really fit the era of my house nicely and is more my style. I wouldn’t have known this option existed if I hadn’t have seen it on HGTV. So, my mind was opened and my kitchen will be way cuter because I was open to new ideas. 

So, start now gathering ideas from multiple sources. The process is fun, informative, and will make your project shine.


  1. Jonathan Bailey August 25, 2019 at 11:29 pm

    Wow, some really great ideas there! You are so right about the countertops, how can you picture it from a tiny sample. What a great place to meet some builders that I could use at the Parade of homes. I really enjoyed this article. Thank you.

    • KARA DENISE ERLANDSON September 8, 2019 at 6:36 pm

      Thanks, Jonathan. Didn’t you get a lot of ideas at the Parade of Homes!

  2. Ron Kesterke September 2, 2019 at 8:45 pm

    Your choice in flooring tile was great!

    • KARA DENISE ERLANDSON September 8, 2019 at 6:37 pm

      Thanks, Dad. Thanks for going through all the renovations with me when you were here!