The Advantages of Split Master Bathrooms

My grandmother used to say what saved her marriage was having separate bathrooms in her master suite. His space/her space meant separate room for dressing, not having to share counter space or sinks, and the best for last: not having to share the toilet. Hallelujah!

Two separate bathrooms in a master bedroom are quite a luxury, but Dunbar Builders builds master bathrooms where each person gets his or her own space within the master bath, unless of course you’d like two separate bathrooms - we’ll build that too. And if you can't do either, we've got great ideas on how to give everyone breathing room.

Two Separate Vanities in the Master Bathroom

If building two separate spaces or bathrooms isn't in the budget, how can a master bath be signed so that a couple quit jockeying for elbow room in a master bathroom?

Dunbar Builders can configure the layout so that at a minimum, more space is provided for a couple through having separate vanities. Designating separate vanities is a game changer! Women have more room to style their hair, lay out jewelry, beauty products, and apply makeup. In a master bath, there’s nothing like the gift of counter space for women to spread their products out (you know how all our things tend to expand horizontally). Men end up with their own zone to shave, and well - do whatever it is they do to get ready.

Ultimately for men, having a separate vanity means they don’t get kicked out of the bathroom, which saves them time, and keeps them from jockeying for space! Separate vanities in a master bath provide a both a functional and efficient layout for busy couples.

When you can have two separate zones in the master bathroom

Dunbar Builders has designed master bathrooms so that each person gets his or her own space, where everything is separate except for the shower. Talk about saving a marriage! Designating separate vanities is a game changer, but designating separate his-and-her zones altogether within the master bath is hitting the motherlode! Dunbar Builders has configured bathrooms so that not only are the vanities separate, but the closet and dressing areas are separate as well. Carving out space for separate closets is a detail we at Dunbar Builders love to include in our floor plans. We also design master bath footprints where the wife’s zone has a tub placed close to her vanity, and the husband’s zone has a shower placed close to his vanity. One can dream…

We know how to configure space to give everyone room to move

If homeowners don’t have the luxury of including completely separate his-and-her bathrooms or zones in their master bath plans, they need not fret. Dunbar Builders can prevent a couple from feeling boxed-in and finding themselves elbow to elbow at a vanity by designating separate sinks or vanities within their master bath. This layout is functional, efficient, and like my grandmother said, it just might help to keep the peace in a marriage!

Lexington Lake Living

This recently completed home on Lake Murray contains a unique blend of amenities along with wormwood cabinets, stone, reclaimed wood, and more.

Are We Seeing the Decline of the Formal Living Room?


Remember the days of “take your shoes off in the living room, and don’t put your feet on the nice furniture?” You might even recall a plastic covering on your grandma's chintz sofa reminding you that the living room, and its contents, was a “special room.” Fast forward to the days of our parents - the living room became the room we rarely spent time in, the room reserved for family meetings, or perhaps book club. Presently, if a formal living room exists in a home, homeowners often show it to their guests and say, “this is our living room; we are never in here.” This brings us to a highly relevant topic in home construction: are we seeing the decline of the formal living room?

Rarely does a living room make the cut

Dunbar Builders has many clients who ask us to build their home without a formal living room, and you have probably already noticed this room seems to be on the decline in most homes, especially in new construction. Dunbar Builders always ask our clients the top things they want in a home, and rarely does a living room make the cut. Why, you ask?

The homes we build are often centered around the concept of an open layout, and larger rooms instead of smaller, choppy rooms. With the passing of time, design tastes have changed, and with them, out went the formal living room. Open concepts provide a more practical layout for families, which is why Dunbar Builders often excludes this room from our plans altogether.

Inviting people into the heart of the home

Gone are the days of formal entertaining in the living room. We simply don’t have the time, nor do we have the desire. Instead of inviting guests into the special, delicate, formal, reserved-for-special-occasions room, we invite them into the heart of our home, the kitchen and the family room.

The rise of the home office

Asking for a home office to be incorporated into the plans is a top request we get at Dunbar Builders. With the continued growth of technology and the move toward global and vertical markets, more and more of our clients are working from home, and therefore need a functional home office, not a living room that’s never used. Not only is the amount space in a home important, but how the space will be used has become increasingly more important!

Open concept floor plans

Some homeowners have also requested Dunbar Builders exclude formal dining rooms from the building plans. Instead they opt for a larger kitchen, with built-in banquettes backed with lots of pillows, where family and friends can comfortably gather around a large table. Building a large sized kitchen by removing the common wall between the kitchen and the dining room has changed the way we gather for meals, the way we interact with one another. Guests tend to linger longer when a room says “come in, relax, stay a while.”

Dunbar Builders loves creating homes with larger and more functional rooms, often found in open concept plans. We understand the need to make space productive this day and age. Dunbar Builders understands that how you want to use the space, and how you want it to feel is just as important, if not more important, than the quantity of space. Are we chronicling the decline of the formal living room? Yes, perhaps we are. But don’t fret! If you feel stuck with a living room you never use, take that room, make it productive, make it functional by turning it into -

  • a home office (have it wired for Wifi, throw in a desk and a desk chair)
  • a playroom (install cubbies and hooks for kid gear and use baskets for corralling toys)
  • a second family room (use comfortable furniture, install a flat screen above the fireplace or mantel, or drop your child’s video gaming equipment in there)

Voila! Your formal living room will no longer be dead space. It will become a space you use and enjoy. It will become a room you actually spend time in - the way it should be!

Do You Need to Hire an Interior Decorator for Your Custom Home? 6 Things to Consider…

At Dunbar Builders, we’ve discovered during our many years in home construction that some homeowners love interior design and decorating. They have colossal amounts of tear-outs from design magazines they can’t wait to show us. They have created interior design boards all over their Pinterest and Houzz accounts. These homeowners know what they want in a home, and what they don’t. Dunbar Builders has built homes for these design-lovers. They feel confident about selecting finishes from hardwood flooring to tile, and everything in between. They simply don’t want or need the guidance and direction a decorator provides. Give them a decorating challenge, and they will to fly with it! They don’t need to hire an interior decorator.

But what if the design process overwhelms you? What if you walk into a design showroom and develop “design paralysis?” The endless options in the design world make you want to turn around in a flooring, tile, furniture, or any design store, and walk right back out. If this describes you, you are just the kind of homeowner who would benefit from hiring a decorator.

6 Reasons you may want to hire an interior decorator for your custom home

1 – You’ve got limited time

Let’s face it: we are only given so many hours in a day, and pulling a home together takes time; executing your style takes time. Hiring a decorator to handle the design details of your home actually saves you just that – time. A decorator knows where to best source what you need for your home, and has a wide availability of resources. This saves you time on researching, pricing, and shopping.

2 – Save money

Yes, it seems counterintuitive that spending money on a decorator saves you money, but hiring one can do just that. Hiring a decorator can save you from making costly mistakes. When you enlist the services of a design professional, you actually increase the value of your home. Dunbar Builders has seen that homeowners who hired a decorator set their homes above competition in the market when it comes time to sell. Less time on the market means more money in your pocket. And when your home is aesthetically pleasing, you’re going to increase the number of buyers who come through your door.

3 – Stay on a budget

A good decorator will help keep you on a budget since, as we all know, furnishing and decorating your home can get pricey. A good decorator will be up front about hourly rates, and provide estimates for your review before starting the project. And a great decorator knows how to be resourceful and creative when you’re edging near the budget.

4 – Have a liaison

This one is huge! Decorators serve as liaisons between the homeowner and the contractor. A decorator has the ability to foresee mistakes before they are made because they are trained to! A decorator should serve as a strong bridge between the contractor and you. Understanding how the homeowner will live in the home once it’s finished enables the decorator to help the homeowner avoid design misses. If furniture will float within the floor plan, a decorator can spec the need for an electrical outlet to go in the middle of the room where the sofa will float. If large-scaled pendants have been selected for over the kitchen island, the decorator knows where the openings in the ceiling should be correctly placed to drop them above the island. Traffic flow, a paint schematic for the entire home, paint finishes, light fixtures, hardware selections, and cabinet styles are just several of the many ways an interior decorator comes in and serves as a bridge for want the homeowner wants, and how the contractor can best integrate these design elements into the home.

5 – A trained eye

Decorators just have that knack for knowing when something is right or wrong within a space. They can tell you what to use, keep, repurpose, and what to edit from the room. This is simply the result of years of experience (which trains their eye), plus it’s their passion. Even if you simply need someone to act as a sounding board before making a decision, an interior decorator is exactly who can help!

6 – Wow factor

Last, but not least (and it just so happens to be our favorite at Dunbar Builders), a decorator sets homes apart from others by giving your home that wow factor. It is said that “God is in the details,” and decorators are schooled in executing all the details in order to achieve an overall beautiful aesthetic. They not only help your home look finished, they help it look unique!

During the construction process, Dunbar Builders has worked with homeowners who have enlisted the help of a professional decorator, and those who haven’t. We’ve had plenty of success with both sets of clients. The bottom line is if you feel confident in making the many design selections throughout your home, and you have the time to do it, then go for it; we can offer input and suggestions along the way. Yet seldom have we built a home where the homeowner has not benefited from hiring a decorator. A decorator handles the design details of your home, and makes it beautiful by giving it a pulled together, cohesive, finished, warm and inviting look. A decorator gives you the gift of a beautiful home, and by taking on all the design details of the home, the gift of time. And what better gifts to receive!?

Contact us to get started on your new home.

Stone In and Around Your Home – Cultured or Natural?

We get asked the question a lot - if using stone in and around a home, should you use cultured or natural stone?

The look of stone has long been admired in both building and landscape design. There’s something about stone that makes us pause and take in its beauty. Stone connects us to history. It feels other-worldly. It provides a quiet, yet strong architectural element. Stone is simultaneously sophisticated and inviting. Stone also provides beautiful texture in the homes and landscapes we create at Dunbar Builders. Stone comes in a vast array of colors and shapes - the aesthetic options are endless. A stone fireplace, whether indoors or out, makes you want to grab a blanket, pull up right beside it, and get horizontal. A home with a stone exterior, a stone chimney, a stone wall, or a stone driveway makes you want to discover more about the home; it makes you want to go inside.

Now that we have convinced you how awesome stone is, let’s address the original: which is the better choice, cultured (synthetic) stone or natural stone?

First, a little more education on each:

Natural Stone

Natural Stone is just what you would think it is - a stone made by nature. Natural stone is quarried and cut into various sizes and shapes depending on what it will be used for.

Cultured Stone

Cultured stone is manmade stone. Cultured stone is a mixture of cement and other components that are colored to look like real stone.

The Benefits of Using Cultured Stone in Your Home

Dunbar Builders encourages our clients to use cultured stone in the homes we build and the yards we design. Yes, we know - natural stone is real, and cultured stone is not. We get the hesitation, but there are reasons we at Dunbar Builders enjoy using cultured stone.

Lower Cost

First of all, forget that cultured stone isn’t real stone because the beauty of cultured stone has grown exponentially over the years, which means it is both natural and real-looking. Our clients realize they can now achieve the look, the feel, and the historical aesthetic of natural stone with cultured stone, and it costs less.

Less Labor

Installing cultured stone requires less labor and is easier to work with due to the cuts of the pieces. When homeowners choose natural stone, they often have to hire a specialized mason to install it in order to produce the best result possible. Another appealing factor of cultured stone is there is less waste. We are all trying to be more environmentally conscious and reduce our waste these days. Because cultured stone is manufactured, the pieces are produced to fit together better. Fewer cuts mean less waste!

No Visual Difference

There truly isn’t much of a visual difference between natural and cultured stone. Cultured stone has just as many color and shape options as natural stone. Stone manufacturers today use hand-coloring techniques that provide a very realistic look. We enjoy using cultured stone as a material in the homes we build and the landscapes we design.

After all, Dunbar Builders wants to build homes that make you stop, make you pause, make you want to come inside. And we believe we are doing just that.

Contact us to get started on your new home!

Steps to Getting the Best Bang for Your Buck for New Home Construction

As custom home builders in the Midlands of South Carolina for more than 20 years, Dunbar Builders has been building dream homes for our customers while saving them money throughout the home building process. In this article, we’ll cover the three steps involved in ensuring that you get as much value as possible for what you pay for your new custom home construction.

Step One: Hire an experienced custom home builder

In order to make sure that the home building process stays within your budget and is on schedule, it is critical to start the home building process by hiring an experienced custom home builder with a solid reputation. When you’re first building a new home, it is difficult to know where to splurge and where to hold back (and where to do both). A great home builder will guide you through the home building process and make sure you know exactly where your money is going, and why.

Step Two: Work with your builder to identify the “big ticket” items

At Dunbar Builders, we’re often asked about the price per square foot of new home construction: what all goes into that price? Our method is to give you a price that includes everything from building to landscaping – basically everything but the cost of the land itself. Also, our allowances leave room for high quality finishes, plumbing, light fixtures, flooring, and other materials. These numbers are covered in detail with the homeowner prior to construction.

Some of the big ticket items that can drive prices up include:

  • Porches
  • Windows and doors
  • Appliances
  • Other large details, such as metal roofing

It’s when you’re budgeting for these bigger expenditures that working with an experienced custom home builder can be crucial to getting the home of your dreams versus a home that has only a couple of the features you’ve dreamed of.

Step Three: Work with your builder and the subcontractors to value-engineer your new home construction

At Dunbar, we have created a solid network of high-quality subcontractors over the course of more than 20 years. Our framers, trim carpenters, plumbers, roofers, flooring providers, lighting providers, HVAC providers, tile experts, electricians, landscaping providers, etc. work with us and our customers to maintain high quality while value-engineering the building of your home. We pride ourselves on our ability to figure out design and contracting solutions that achieve looks that would otherwise be barred by budget constraints. Below are just a few examples of value engineering:

  • The tiled porch is currently a very popular look in homes. Achieving this look by laying tile can be relatively pricey when you account for the cost of the tile, the tile layer, the grout, and the time. We can achieve the same nuanced look for homeowners by scoring the concrete for your porch. Both methods result in the attractive look homeowners are looking for, but through value-engineering, we can provide the right look for the right cost.
  • Wooden garage doors are another popular, high priced feature that we can help distill the cost of through value-engineering. We’re able to create the same look using metal garage doors that are less expensive and involve far less upkeep.

In Summary

Dunbar Builders is known for our ability to create that extra “wow” value at a much lower price in large part because we work with skilled, easy-to-communicate-with, trustworthy subcontractors who specialize in custom home building. Based on the quality of their work, you might think you will have to pay extra for their services compared to other subcontractors. In reality, you will get a great deal by working with our subcontractors. Our customers benefit financially from the longevity and strength of our relationships with our subcontractors. We think you’ll feel as lucky as we do to work with these skilled, experienced subcontractors once you see the difference in quality of their work.

For more than two decades, Dunbar Builders has been helping people create the homes they have dreamed about for prices they never could have expected. Contact us to get started with your dream home!

Painted Brick Exteriors – Simply Beautiful

We at Dunbar Builders are loving the look of painted brick exteriors, and have recently finished several homes with painted brick. Let’s talk about these exteriors that you’ve probably noticed more of in your neighborhood recently…

As design trends continue to move toward a more calm, clean aesthetic, more of our clients want the fresh look of painted brick for their home’s exterior. Painted brick is also a great way to update a home that looks dated, needs curb appeal, or is just plain blah.

Dunbar Builders often uses brick for the exterior because 1) it is a material with inherent strength and 2) it provides texture. While it is a very traditional look to leave the brick exposed on the exterior, these days more homeowners are choosing to paint the brick. Brick has texture, but painted brick has texture, a clean finish, and character!

You’ve probably noticed that the paint colors white, greige (gray + beige), and gray are here to stay. The beauty of painting brick is that the homeowner keeps the texture and character of brick AND has the ability to choose their favorite hue for the paint. It’s a win-win! You can take old, “orangey” brick and give it a dramatic look by painting it a dark color, or you can take dated brick and give it a classic, clean look by painting it a bright, crisp color with white paint. Dunbar Builders loves dark, moody paint colors on brick because they command attention and provide major curb appeal. We also love brick exteriors painted white or light gray because these homes read as modern, timeless, and sophisticated. Painting brick is simply an excellent way to refresh an older home’s exterior, or to make a new home look like it’s been there for years.

If you want a painted brick exterior, make sure you are committed for the long haul! Once brick has been painted, it is major work to remove, and worse, it is often impossible. Once the brick has been painted, there is also some upkeep to consider. Painted brick shows dirt and mildew more visibly than exposed brick, especially if it is painted white or light color. Homeowners also must take care in choosing the right kind of paint because bricks are porous, and the wrong paint can trap moisture inside the brick and begin to break it down. We recommend repainting the brick every 20 years in order to properly maintain it. Sometimes homeowners can go longer, but they should be prepared that repainting could be needed this often.

Though painting brick requires more maintenance than leaving it alone, we can’t take our eyes off these beautiful, painted brick homes we are building; they are simply beautiful. These exteriors command attention because they possess both texture and sophistication. Not loving your home’s dated, boring, brick exterior? Paint the brick, and take your home from uninspiring to one you will love!

Why gold fixtures and hardware are back in style. Did they ever go out in the first place?

Flip through any home design magazine, peruse photos on Pinterest and Houzz, and you’ll notice that gold fixtures and hardware are back in style. But the real question is, did brass ever go out of style? The answer is yes, and no.

At Dunbar Builders, we are using more brass finishes in homes, but not the brass you recall from the 1980s - bright, shiny, overpowering - your grandmom’s brass. Homeowners are a bit hesitant to put brass back in their homes when they feel they’ve just removed all the 1980s brass, from chandeliers to bright door handles. But the brass that is on the rise in homes is different. It is more understated, subdued, quiet. The gold finish of brass provides warmth, sophistication, and elegance to any room, and these days, it has a brushed finish, not a “brassy” one.

Homeowners are requesting gold and brass hardware more often in the kitchens we build. Cabinet hardware is the finishing touch - it's like the jewelry of the kitchen.

In the past, we often used silver finishes (stainless steel, brushed and polished nickel) in a kitchen because of their beauty, but brass finishes are on the rise. Why? Because painted gray, blue, and white cabinetry adorn innumerable kitchens, and brass hardware provides a golden warmth against the cool tones of the painted cabinetry. We love the combination of white cabinetry with gold pulls and handles; it is a timeless kind of beauty that will never go out of style. And our current favorite is a kitchen with painted gray cabinetry and gold hardware - the contrast of the cool and warm tones is universally pleasing.

Gold fixtures and brass are more beautiful these days because the finishes are brushed and more understated than those of the 1980s. The quiet, golden tone of the brass commands more attention than the loud, shiny brass of before. It provides an element of warmth and sophistication in a home. Since it is time to change your thoughts about brass, we have some tips on how to approach gold and brass in your home:

  • Treat brass as an accessory. When used in a tasteful way in a home, brass never goes out of style.  It’s not necessary to use it all over your home. Look for brushed finishes in gold/ brass that are quiet, not the shiny, loud brass of the 1980s. A little brass goes a long way!
  • Is brass going to be the new stainless steel? Likely not. Brass is well-suited to accent pieces, fixtures, lights, hardware, and other smaller decor items. This is why you see brass more often in kitchens than bathrooms - constant water and humidity are hard on brass, and brass shows fingerprints and spotting more than stainless steel and porcelain. Usually when you see brushed gold and brass fixtures in a bathroom it is on faucets and fixtures because they are smaller places which mean easier maintenance.
  • If you are a bit hesitant to bring gold  into your home, fixtures are a good way to ease into the brass scene. They’re an easy and inexpensive way to accessorize and update a room. Brass light fixtures can make a big impact in a room, or provide a small pop of warmth - it all depends on the look you are after.
  • Can you mix metal finishes in a home? This is a question we are often asked. Our answer is yes! The trick is making sure that one metal dominates, and don’t use more than three metals within your home. So if you love silver finishes, use them throughout your home, and add in brass elements here and there.  Sometimes all a room needs is one touch of brass to bring in that element of sophistication!  Brass mixes well with nickel because both are metals with inherent warmth, and black, as you know, goes with everything!  Another trick we use when we mix various metal finishes in a home is to make sure all the planes within a room are the same.  For example, all the hardware on cabinetry would be brass, while the light fixtures would be the same - whether silver or wrought iron.

Maybe it is time to change your mind about using brass and gold in your home.  As far as we can see, the trend of subdued brass and brushed gold fixtures is not going anywhere!

Dunbar Builders is Building New Mid-Size Homes in Selwood Trace

Have you been looking for a new home but can’t seem to find one that you can truly call “your home?”

You know – that house has the perfect kitchen, but that has living room floors that aren’t your style…or that has windows that just aren’t what exactly you’re looking for?

Why settle for a place that is just halfway perfect when you can have a house that’s one hundred percent perfect? A house that is personalized to your every need…

At Selwood Trace, your dream home can become a reality with the help of Dunbar Builders.

Selwood Trace is a historically inspired community that Dunbar is revitalizing. It’s nested intimately near the Lake Murray Dam and only twenty minutes from downtown Columbia. Selwood Trace offers a short commute to Irmo, Lexington, and downtown Columbia. It’s close enough to the hustle of the busy city but far enough away to be immersed in a quiet, intimate historical community. And the location is just a bonus compared to what Selwood Trace really has to offer: completely customizable mid-sized homes.

Dunbar Builders is building new mid-size homes in Selwood Trace.

Dunbar Builders will be personalizing 2800 square foot houses for young professionals, retired couples, or anyone else who wants a custom home that is in an affordable price range. Some of the features of these houses include durable Hardiplank clapboard, metal roof accents, antique brick, porches, and charming gardenscapes.

Each house will be built around the owners’ preferences. Options include customizable floor plans, finishes, kitchen appliances, landscape designs, exteriors, windows, cabinets, closets, plumbing fixtures, and more.

So…Start putting together ideas for your dream house, and let Dunbar help you build it.

Selwood Trace is located here:

What should you look for in a residential custom builder?

Choosing the right builder is one of the most critical decisions you will make in the home building process. You want the construction process to be a good experience. Read on for guiding principles of what to look for in a professional builder. Ultimately, you and your builder will build the home together!

  • Define your needs in the new home so the builder can evaluate them. Be clear with your expectations for the build. Buyers who provide organized lists, images, and details not only find the experience to run more smoothly, they set the builder up for more success as well.
  • Verify (where required) that the builder is licensed and carries insurance. This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised at the number of people who have hired a builder only to be completely taken advantage of and worse, who have experienced great financial loss.
  • Experience counts. You want a builder with experience – a builder who has built homes before yours.
  • Tour homes completed by the builder. This is a must and one of the most crucial steps! Look for signs of workmanship and quality of materials when you tour the builder’s homes. Call a past home buyer and set up an appointment to tour the home, and ask the homeowner if you may take photos while you’re there. Pay attention to the style of the home and the quality while you are in it. There is no substitute for this step!  Get out there and tour the builder’s homes – it’s fun!
  • Does this builder fit your design needs? Does the builder have experience in your design preferences? Ask the builder for a design portfolio so you can see if the majority of homes are traditional or modern. Usually builders have expertise in various types of architecture and styles, but if you want a traditional home, yet only see modern homes presented in the portfolio, ask the builder if he feels confident and capable of building a traditional home, and vice-versa.
  • Industry involvement. Is the builder a member of the local Home Builder’s Association (if there is one)? Is the builder current on industry trends?
  • Ask for references from past home buyers. Talk to them. Are they satisfied? Would they would recommend the builder to friends and family? Ask if they would build or buy another home from the builder.
  • A good builder has control over the project and good working relationship with the subcontractors and tradesmen. A successful builder employs the right people and right number of people. Look for a builder who maintains control and a strong relationship with his subcontractors and tradesmen. This way there is no confusion or blurred lines at the job site. When a builder has control over the project and workers who respect him, you can leave the day-to-day details of the project to him!
  • Good subcontractors. The quality of people who work for the builder is important. Do the subcontractors show interest in you and your needs?  Do they listen to you?  Do they provide appropriate answers to your questions? When they are uncertain of the answer do they offer to call the builder?  Can they reach the builder easily?  Do they have use and access to necessary materials to complete the project?
  • Clear and specific information during the bidding process. The building contract matters. You need to know what’s included and what’s not. A good contract sets out all the “what ifs”- like what if the work takes longer than agreed, what if there are changes along the way? The builder should demonstrate an ability to communicate clearly on expected timetables, and be very organized.

If you choose to work with Dunbar Builders, we think that you’ll be pleased with the choice you made. Contact us if you’d like to get the process started!