This chandelier by Lee Lighting is curvy and sexy with just the right touch of class without being stuffy—in other words, perfect for that million-dollar home look. photography courtesy of Lee Lighting

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How To Get the Million-Dollar Look

Smart finishing touches are all you need to set you apart from even the priciest custom homes down the street.

Whether you are remodeling or building new, you’ll need to make important choices about color, trim, hardware, flooring, and windows. We asked Dallas architects, designers, and high-end contractors where it makes sense to splurge—not only to create the house of your dreams but also to create a solid investment for the future.

Create a Grand Entrance
Alberto Perez, president of Cantera, says the front door is like a woman’s face. In other words, this is not the place to skimp. Go for a bold, massive door, either ornamental iron or well-preserved carved wood. Or hunt for old doors at antique shops or on European trips; Jayne Peterson brought home a vintage 1940s door from Germany—the WWII bullet holes give it character.

Okay, You Can’t Afford a Grand Entrance
Then buy a stock door and select some special hardware to define it. Today, hardware is jewelry for the home. Try Nob Hill in Inwood Village for a hand-forged knocker, distinctive doorbell, or one-of-a-kind hinges to add richness to the front door and entry. Pierce Hardware in Snider Plaza carries Architectural Hardware Koncepts and Fersa from Argentina—all gorgeous and all handmade.

Frame Up
Cut corners, but don’t skimp on the framing. Sometimes people spend more on impressive finish-out than the bones of the house. How can you tell if the frame job is good after the home has been constructed? Head to the attic and make sure the cuts are tight where the rafters meet the ridge beams, the braces, and the framing you can see. Check exterior cornice work, too. Because the roof is the most complicated aspect of framing, if you see a well-done attic, chances are walls and floors are well framed, too.

A good paint job separates the million-dollar-plus home from the $499,000 special. Quality paint is paramount—that means Sherwin Williams, ICI Glidden (very high quality, used all over Mark Cuban’s house), Benjamin Moore, or Pratt & Lambert. It goes without saying that oil-based products must be used on all woodwork for durability.

Custom Knobs and Pulls
The million-dollar look is nothing if not original. Brad Oldham, who creates one-of-a-kind knobs, pulls, knockers, hinges, and hooks, is based in Dallas, though most of his celebrity clientele are from out of town. (He also makes beautiful custom tile.) Yes, he’s top of the line, but Brad’s work is a great place to splurge.

The Perfect Corner
Rounded corners are a sign of the times and very hot in the local market. And they’ll cost you an extra $1 per linear foot. Jerry Johnson of Caperton Johnson suggests using rounded corners downstairs (in public spaces) and regular corners upstairs (in the kid’s rooms and other private living areas). What you spend on rounded corners you can save in shoe molding. Shoe molding is “out, gone, adios,” says contractor Steve Snider. (Shoe molding is that long wood piece where floor meets wall.) Lazy carpenters never get shoe molding to fit right anyway.

Counter Culture
When Steve Snider came home from Italy a few months ago, he had big news. “It’s over,” he said. “I did not see one piece of granite in Milan.” Well, granite is still very hot in Dallas and probably will be for a while. Stone and cement? Yes, but those who have it are tiring of the upkeep. The brewing trend? Solid laminates, think Corian and Wilsonart’s Gibraltar, are hot in Italy. Really “in”: shiny laminated surfaces. Spring for a solid-core surface, says Sandra Irvine of SMI Designs, in the laundry and pantry where everyone usually uses laminated surfaces such as Formica. The solid-core surface is more durable, gives a sleeker look, and is well worth the extra expense.

Tasteful Molding
The million-dollar look is a “finished” look, and nothing does it better than fine molding, cornices, and door casings. But, friends, there is such a thing as too much molding. In Dallas, I have seen multiple installations where the molding is larger than the doorway. Hello, this is not Versailles; it’s Dallas. Three pieces max, and this will actually save you money. Corners must be mitered perfectly at installation, but you still have to recaulk and repaint in one year—after settling.

Grand Staircases
A great stairway is worth a splurge. Do pretty balustrades with a pewter or nickel finish and a great runner. Or go bare—no carpet at all.

Authentic Faux Finishes
Thank goodness the faux-finish fad has passed and the master artisans and crafts people can resume their work in peace. Dallas-based artist Mary Donahoe Lytle, whose clientele is equally East Coast and high-profile Dallas, studied with Leonard Pardon in London, best known for his work on Buckingham Palace. And this is the level you want to go for if you are truly interested in the million-dollar look. Mary’s fees are not exorbitant, and her work is breathtaking.