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5 Steps: How to Design a Home From Scratch After a Natural Disaster

Posted on November 20, 2017 by KylieMawdsley


How to Start-Over After a Flood or Fire (Natural or Unnatural Disaster)

I’ve received dozens of emails over the years from readers who are picking up the pieces after a natural disaster, in particular, hurricanes and fires.

The gist of these emails is usually ‘how do I start over when I’ve lost everything?‘ Well first, you start with a stiff drink (or two). Next, you keep on reading…

how to decorate, design after a flood or natural disaster. Kylie M E-designs, online color consulting (2)

One of my E-Design clients gave me permission to use the above photo of her home…hard to fathom

Because of this need, I’ve decided to come up with ‘how to start from scratch’ blog post. Now of course this can also be applied to those of you who are building or renovating a home by choice, but it’s specifically directed to those of you who are literally…picking up the pieces.

how to decorate, design after a flood or natural disaster. Kylie M E-designs, online color consulting (3)

While the colours are certainly on-trend, the health hazard of mould?  Not so much

You ready Betty? (which would be awesome if you really ARE Betty).

How to design, decorate a home after natural disaster, fire, flood. Kylie M E-design

First, I’m going to give you a ‘what comes first’ list.  This way you can choose products in their order of importance. Their importance is based on how one thing relates to another and of course PRICE. Now of course each room will have different products/needs, but here’s the basics…

What Comes First When Designing a Home

1. Countertop (kitchen and bath)

2. Fireplace stone

3. Flooring (any space)

4. Cabinet or vanity stain/colour/style

5. Backsplash in kitchen, wall/accent tile in bathroom

6. Paint colours that coordinate with the above

7. Plumbing*

8. Light fixtures*

*The only things in there that could be shifted to the top (if you are down to studs and potentially reconfiguring things) is plumbing and lighting fixtures.  For lighting, you’ll want to decide which lights are pot lights/hanging/wall, this way the electrician can know what type of junction box to use/placement.  For plumbing, you’ll need to decide ‘placement’ (ie: rain-head shower, freestanding tub, etc…)

Now really, just that list ALONE will save you a lot of stress, but really, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty as the devil is in the details!

hexagon subway tile backsplash. Maple cabinets painted Cloud White, soapstone formica countertops and gray quartz with kitchen decor

Step 1, designing home after natural disaster

You’ll be flying through products and pamphlets like it’s NOBODY’S business. A week from now you might not remember the name of the countertop you picked or the specific brand of the tile flooring you choose (or your own name). It’s important to keep track of what you need to choose/have chosen and to do this effectively, you’ll need the following:

  • A binder. This will be your bible. Fill it with a few dozen sheets of lined paper.
  • Dividers. As many as you need to compartmentalize the spaces in your home.
  • A box. Whether it’s a simple cardboard one or a pretty one, a box that is approx 18×18 will be SUPER handy for all of your samples. This is their home, make sure they sleep there every nite so you aren’t searching hell’s half-acre every day for bits n’ pieces scattered around.
  • Three pens that live in your binder or in your box.
  • A flask – fill as needed.

TIP: Get a bright coloured binder/box so that it is easy to see whether you are at home, in the car or at a store.

Trust me, this will save a lot of stress and time. EVERY area/room in your home should have its own divided section in the binder (main living areas/bathrooms/bedrooms) and you can divide it even more from there if you’re super anal like me.

HOWEVER, the most important page in your binder will be the very first page – The Master Page. On this page, you’ll have a list of each room and under each room, you’ll have a list of the products that you need to choose. When you’ve made a FINAL choice, you will put the details re: product name/number/price/supplier.

List for designing a home after natural disaster. Kylie M E-designs

Full list also includes lighting/plumbing/countertops/flooring/doors

Would you like to make your life easier? Send me an email ([email protected]) and I’ll send along a complimentary copy of my Excel ‘Master List of Products’. It lists each product and the details you’ll need to know – you can add to it, edit it, and customize it to your personal needs. This doesn’t cover exterior (yet), but it’s a great head-start! 

EVERY product you pick should be written in your book. Any sample you can get your hands on should be in the box. Trust the Ginger…

Designing a home after natural disaster, step 2. Kylie M E-design

Why? This can help you with your product choice and how you explain your preferences to the supplier/salesperson.

Warm Colours

Warm and neutral paint colours. Design after natural disaster. Kylie M E-designs, online designer, decorator colour consultant

  • Warm colours are neutrals such as beige, brown, cream and some greige colours (greige IS particularly subjective to who’s looking at it). These neutrals can be pretty neutral or have subtle ‘coloured’ undertones in them.
  • Warm colours can also be more obvious such as orange, red and yellow.

Cool Colours

  • Cool colours are neutrals such as white, gray, charcoal, black and some greige colours (greige IS particularly subjective to who’s looking at it). These neutrals can be pretty neutral or have subtle ‘coloured’ undertones in them
  • Cool colours can also be more obvious such as blues, greens and purples

And of course, since you are doing a WHOLE HOME (or a whole lot of one) you can DEFINITELY mix n’ match. You might prefer warmer colours in your main living areas, but cool tones in your bedrooms and bathroom – it’s really up to you! The key is to be aware of your preferences.

TIP: Go to the paint store and grab colour chips that strike your fancy. These aren’t your forever colours, they are just the colours that ‘grab your eye’ and can give a designer/supplier a great idea of your tastes. Tuck these in a ziplock bag in your box or tape them onto a page in your binder.

What is Trending in Paint Colours Right Now

GREIGE baby GREIGE! Oh sure, there is still a LOT of gray going on, but I’d say I’m 40% gray, 40% greige and 20% other in my E-Design and Colour Consulting adventures.

Another big hit is cool colours that have a good degree of gray in them, particularly blue/green/gray blends.

If you prefer warm colours and want an updated home, you will want to consider cream, warm off-whites, beiges with a tiny touch of gray in them and greige colours that lean a bit more beige vs a bit more gray. Also included are those neutral colours with a bit of colour mixed in as well!

Read more:  The 5 Best Sherwin Williams Beige Paint Colours

If you prefer cool colours and want an updated home, you might want to consider grays, whites, cool off-whites, charcoal, cool-toned greiges and those neutral colours with cool colours such as blue, green and purple popping up in them as well!

Read more:  The 10 Best Gray and Greige Paint Colours from Sherwin Williams

What is NOT Trending Right Now 

  • Colours without gray or brown in them (strong colours)
  • Overly warm colours
  • Yellow isn’t a big hit, nor is pink/purple when it comes to colours/undertones

step 3, designing a home after natural disaster. Kylie M E-designs

Sometimes it’s easier to refine what you DON’T like, rather than what you do. This will be important when it comes to choosing countertops, tiles, paint colours, etc…

Benjamin Moore Plymouth Rock, Kylie M E-design, living room, navy blue accents

I could say right now that in general, I don’t like pink, red, blue or colours that don’t have a gray/earth-toned base.  Of course, this leaves the door WIDE open to what I do like, but I’ll know that when I see it, the key is to avoid what you DON’T like and relay that info to the salesperson/supplier.

Designing a home after natural disaster, step 4. Kylie M E-designs

Does this seem like a small detail? It’s not!  Look at what metal finish relates to…

  • Lighting
  • Plumbing
  • Cabinet hardware
  • Door hardware
  • Misc items such as fireplace surround or appliances

Benjamin Moore Gray Owl with industrial style lighting and clock

Today’s trend is to mix metals, and sure you can…but it’s not that easy and can look a bit hodge-podge (super technical term). So, to keep things SIMPLE, here are the finishes that tend to mix n’ match well.

Metal Finishes in the Kitchen

  • Black and ANYTHING/polished nickel, brass, oil rubbed bronze, chrome or gold
  • Polished nickel/black
  • Gold or brass/black
  • Oil rubbed bronze/black.  Along with black, it’s an affordable option for hardware, but a premium price for faucet/plumbing

Gray painted kitchen cabinets, Benjamin Moore Amherst Gray. Quartz white countertops, limestone backsplash. Kylie M E-design and online color consulting

Chrome is usually the most affordable finish when it comes to faucets and the LEAST popular choice for hardware. It works with stainless steel sinks and polished nickel hardware.

Metal Finishes in Main living areas

For permanent fixtures lighting/fireplace surrounds/drapery hardware/door hardware) I’m inclined to stick to ONE finish.

Benjamin Moore Jamesboro Gold and NOrthampton Putty living room, warm earth toned palette in living and dining room open layout. oak flooring. Kylie M INteriors

Metal Finishes in Bathrooms

Chrome is usually the most affordable metal for bathrooms, where MOST of the finishes are plumbing fixtures. Oil rubbed bronze/black are usually a premium.

East facing room with paint colour.Bathroom remodel, Moen Glyde fixtures, Bianco Drift quartz countertop Caesarstone, subway tile wall, Gray painted vanity by Kylie M Interiors E-design

And this isn’t set in stone. If you want to do chrome/nickel in your bathroom with black elsewhere – fill ‘yer boots (I did in my own home!). This is just a basic finish guideline for you to work off of with the goal of creating some sort of consistency and flow throughout your home.

TIP: Use THE 80/20 rule if you want to mix metal finishes – 80% your dominant finish, 20% secondary finish.

What is Trending in Metal Finishes Right Now

  • Definitely black, although polished nickel is also a big hit
  • And you WILL see some gold in certain circles but it’s a HUGE trend and isn’t an easy one to do WELL, so think twice…

What is NOT Trending Right Now

  • 1990’s brass
  • Oil rubbed bronze mixed with nickel

E-design, virtual interior design, decorating, paint colour consultant and expert. Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams. circle ad (3)


Step 5, designing a home after natural disaster. Kylie M E designs

Forget paint colours for now, those are the LAST things you should worry about. What you want to do is choose the products that are:

a) the most expensive and

b) the hardest to pick based on limited selection

TIP:  Quotes are free (and if not, then I would look elsewhere). For the big dollar items get at least 2 quotes. Tell each supplier you are getting multiple quotes so they know to bring their ‘A’-game and don’t just assume they have your business/money. 

And don’t just choose the cheapest because it’s the cheapest, choose the company/brand that stands behind their product, has a good reputation and that you are 100% comfortable with.

Main Product #1    Countertops

Sure, there are hundreds upon hundreds of countertops to choose from, but realistically there are only a HANDFUL that you could actually live with. And if you are going with quartz or granite, it’s also one of your PRICIER products.

But before you can choose your countertop, you need to figure out what TYPE of countertop you like – and hopefully, it falls within your budget.  Now pricing can vary from region to region, but here’s some basics…

Laminate countertop

Laminate (often called arborite or formica) is the most affordable countertop product. And it’s come a LONG way, so don’t judge it till you see it! In particular, Formica’s 180 Collection.

Budget friendly bathroom update ideas with Formica 180fx laminate countertops and sinks. KYlie M E-design

  • This isn’t your Grandma’s laminate countertop. Today’s laminate/arborite countertops can be pretty awesome looking
  • Where I live, the average full kitchen countertop is approx $1500 / bathroom $400

Quartz Countertop

95% natural stone, 5% manmade. It’s pretty darned durable. It’s only hold back is that you wouldn’t put a super hot pot on it (which I just naturally cringe at doing with any product). It can heat up that 5% resin and cause discolouration. Really though, it’s an exceptional product and for what’s trendy, I would choose it over granite ANY day.

Bathroom vanity painted Metropolis Benjamin Moore gray. Caesarstone Bianco Drift greige quartz countertop, Moen Glyde faucet and porcelain tile flooring by Kylie M Interiors

  • Quartz can be anywhere from 3-4X expensive as laminate, depending on where you live and which brand you buy. With quartz you DO get what you pay for, so be careful
  • Where I live, the average cost for granite in the kitchen is $5000-7000.  Lower quality quartz can come in approx $3000 in some areas

Granite Countertop

It’s all natural baby! Granite is pretty darned hardy…as long as it’s sealed. You don’t have to seal quartz – you DO have to seal granite…and reseal it.

White glazed cabinets, black granite, stainless farmhouse sink. Design after natural disaster. Kylie M Interiors E-design

  • Granite can be anywhere from 3-4X as expensive as laminate, depending on where you live
  • Where I live, the average cost for granite in the kitchen is $5000-7000

And of course there are other products like marble, butcherblock, concrete, etc…but those 3 are absolutely the top contenders.

Once you’ve decided the TYPE of countertop you want, narrow it down to the 2-3 that speak to you the MOST based on your fave neutral colour. Why neutral? Well, of course, there are blues and greens and other glorious colours out there, but if you want a countertop that is easy to coordinate with, that will have more of a decorative lifetime – neutral is the way to go.

Home bar with wine display and storage, beer and wine fridge. Bianco Drift quart countertop, painted gray cabinets and Sherwin Williams Cyberspace. Kylie M INteriors E-design

Once you have your 2-3 faves, do your research. Bring them home, look at them at day and night, as well as on Pinterest.

What is Trending in Countertops Right Now?

  • Quartz has definitely jumped ahead of granite with my clients. This is because it’s hardy, doesn’t need to be sealed and is offered in a WIDE array of patterns/styles – some that mimic granite!
  • For quartz colour, it’s defintely white with gray veining. I’m also seeing some softer grays and greige’s
  • Granite that mimics marble (white with gray)
  • Laminate that looks like marble or quartz
  • Laminate that has a more simple, not busy look to it
  • Sheen that mimics a lot of quartz/granite countertops (non-honed ones)

What is NOT Trending in Countertops Right Now?

  • Colour – any type of definitive colour (beyond small scale)
  • Super busy, graphic design – other than countertops that mimic marble
  • In laminate, the matte finish is not trending


Main Product #2     Flooring

You are probably picking 2-5 flooring surfaces for your home. For example:

  • Living areas:  laminate, engineered or hardwood (or carpet)
  • Kitchen:  The above products or tile/vinyl
  • Bedrooms:  The above products or carpet
  • Bathrooms/Utility Room:  Tile or vinyl

Family room with stone fireplace, Sherwin Williams Cyberspace, leather, laminate wood flooring, chartreuse chair. Kylie M INteriors E-design and home

The above flooring is in our own home and I think it looks PRETTY damn good! It’s laminate that was approx $2.25 sq ft (USD).

Again, hundreds of products to chose from, but only a FEW that you will desperately fall in love with.

  1. For each flooring area of your home, write down which product you are going with
  2. For each product write down any details that are important to you

Why the details? Because when you’re swimming in samples, you can show your supplier your list and they can help you narrow your choices down. And this doesn’t need to be a HIRED pro (like me), it can be the person who works at the tile store or the paint store.

TIP: When it comes to longevity of style, ‘medium-toned anything’ is usually the best way to go.  Medium toned, wood, tile or laminate is a more safe bet than ones that are overly light or overly dark.

What is trending in flooring right now?

Laminate, LVT, and solid or engineered wood are FAR more popular than carpet – even in bedrooms!

  • Wider planks (approx 7″)
  • Wire-brushed or slightly distressed looking finish
  • Lighter woods and medium toned woods
  • Brown or brown with gray mixed in
  • Gray IS on the way out…slowly but surely
  • With laminate, don’t buy it if it’s less than 10mm thick

Tile is also far outweighing traditional sheet vinyl/linoleum type products.

Ensuite bathroom with porcelain tile floor and large tile shower surround, glass doors and vanity painted Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray by Kyilie M Interiors Online Consulting and E-Design

  • 12×24 is the most popular size
  • Tiles with some visual interesting but nothing overwhelming
  • Grays and greiges

What is not trending right now?

  • Smaller wood strips (5″ or less)
  • Woods that have a stronger colour to them ie: yellow/orange/red
  • Definitely no 12×12 tiles – that’s a hard no

And remember, the key is to NOT have this info swimming around in your noggin’ – get it down on paper in your binder. And maybe you don’t know the details right now and you only know the basics, but the more you have on paper, the less you’ll have to think about.

Let me repeat that last part as it’s SOOO important…

The more you have down on paper, the less you’ll have to think about!


Main Product #3     Fireplace Stone

This can be another big budget item and needs to be coordinated to the countertop – even if they aren’t in the same room!

E-decor and Online Decorating Services. Beautiful ledgestone, travertine fireplace with Tv above, dark wood mantel and built-in bookshelves wtih 2 cream accent chairs. Kylie M Interiors

Figure out whether you want real-stone, manufactured stone, brick or even shiplap. When you go to the supplier, get pamphlets, hole punch ’em and tuck them in your binder!

What is trending in fireplaces right now?

  • Long, linear gas inserts OR large square ones
  • Stone and whitewashed bricks
  • Shiplap, but more as a secondary detail in addition to some stone (ie: above the mantel)

What is not trending in fireplaces right now?

  • Brick that doesn’t have some sort of whitewash on it
  • Smaller ledgestone – the bigger stones are more popular

Main Product #4     Cabinetry

Cabinetry is another big dollar item and it’s also one that takes time for order/delivery, so you want to get the ball rolling sooner rather than later.

Cabinet door profiles, ideas to update oak cabinets

  1. Decide what style of cabinet you want – shaker style, flat, raised panel, etc…
  2. Decide what paint colour/stain you would like.  Start with the kitchen and then work out to the bathrooms
  3. The details ADD-up, so if you want all of the fancy tricks like spice drawers and lazy susans that do pirouettes – then you’ll be paying for them, so make sure you only get what you REALLY need/want

TIP: The cabinet profile with the LONGEST style-lifetime will be shaker style

What is trending in cabinets right now?

  • White for sure is the big one
  • I also have a lot of clients going back into the light and medium toned woods
  • You’ll also see some mix n’ match such as white perimeter cabinets and gray or coloured islands (this trend is still kickin’ but it’s day will come)
  • Shaker profile – 90% of the time (top right)

White shaker style cabinets, white quartz countertops, Coventry Gray island and Stonington Gray walls

What is not trending right now?

  • Traditional oak or cherry
  • Dark stains
  • Cathedral or arched cabinet profiles (bottom 2 in above image)

So THOSE 4 things are the big budget items and need to be chosen before ANYTHING else. Don’t think about backsplash, don’t think about paint colours or specific lighting fixtures – pick those 3 main things and then…keep on readin’.

This was a tough one to write.  How much is TOO much info? Hopefully these tips and ideas will get you well on your way to pulling things back together.

Want some help? 

Check out my E-design and Online Colour Consulting for some hands-on, affordable advice! 

E-design, virtual interior design, decorating, paint colour consultant and expert. Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams. circle ad (13)


I also have some GREAT ARTICLES for reference, so if you need more info on the above steps and ideas, you might find what you need here…

Paint Colour Ideas

The 5 Best Sherwin Williams Beige Paint Colours 

The 10 Best Gray and Greige Paint Colours from Sherwin Williams

The 8 Best Blue/Green/Gray Paint Colours

The 8 Best Benjamin Moore White Paint Colours

The Best Paint Colours for a South Facing Room (north, east, and west)

YOUR Best Paint Number – 62

The Best Paint Finish for Walls, Ceilings, Trims and More


The New Era of Laminate Countertops and Why They Rock

3 Ways to Save Money on Countertops


How to Choose the Best Subway Tile Backsplash

Bathroom Update Ideas – High End Look, Low-End Price

Kylie M Interiors, decorating blog, e-design, online colour consulting expert. signature







  1. Hi Kylie. Great timing! We had a small flood which affected my bathroom and kitchen. Then Hurricane Irma hit and did more damage to the roof and ceiling. Luckily, it was minor (but we still need to get our roof replaced). We have damage in several areas. The binder is a great idea because I am using a large bag that isn’t very organized! My husband calls
    It my Hermoine bag from Harry Potter. I am using 12×12 tiles on the bathroom walls and I do have some polished nickel with oil rubbed bronze (but not next to each other), so it appears I am breaking your major “no’s!” I am also loving some of the new oak kitchens coming out! Lol. Oh well. Honestly a “forced” remodel isn’t very fun and money is tight but I do look forward to life being back to “normal!”

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      Hi Ann, I’m sorry about your troubles! On bathroom walls, 12×12 can totally be forgiven! Really, it’s all just guidelines and you can tweak things to your personal tastes and budget from there! And I know, some of the oak kitchen (particularly Rift Cut Oak) are amazing – I’m glad wood is coming back!

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  2. This is exactly what I needed! I’ve been lost in the “Where to start” mode for months and keep hopping around from one (partially finished) project to the next. Is it possible to get a copy of this post in a print out format?
    Thanks again for all of the fabulous advice and the fun in your blogs!

    1. Post

      Hi Kasey, I’m SO glad you found it helpful! And no, I don’t have a print-out version, I’m sorry! Question for you? Do you feel like it was too much info/just enough/need more? Also, did you want the Master Product list that I mentioned in the post – you might find it helpful! If so, just send me an email at [email protected]

      🙂 Kylie

  3. Wow. Amazing post. So helpful to…most anyone redoing anything “in the now”. I’m sure this particular post is appreciated by many. Great job . As usual your wit and humor never fail to crack me up and make me laugh out loud.

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