Tips from a Residential Architect: Where to Save, Where to Splurge

At Morgante-Wilson architects, we understand budgets are of primary concern. Every one of our residential architecture clients – no matter how much money they have to spend – expects us to invest their budget wisely, making choices that will have the greatest impact on their home, and by extension, their lifestyle. Part of that process includes advising our clients on which design decisions afford opportunities to save, and which are worth splurging on.

In our view, there are two avenues to saving money on your house. You can save money on finishes, or you can save money on size.  Each avenue offers multiple opportunities to stretch your budget.

Let’s discuss size, first. At Morgante-Wilson Architects, we find many of our clients are initially interested in gaining as much square footage as possible as they either design their new home or renovate their existing one.  But this can be a double-edged sword, as greater square footage inevitably eats up a greater portion of any budget. Sure, bigger can be better.  If you expect your family to grow, for instance, you’ll want to plan for bedrooms you’ll need in the future. In that situation, it’s wise to allocate a greater portion of your dollars to space, and perhaps skimp on finishes. Maybe you’ll decide to install relatively inexpensive laminate countertops in your kitchen – after all, you can easily upgrade to natural stone in a few years. Appliances, too, are easy to upgrade later on - a $15,000 (not a $50,000) appliance package may serve your current needs perfectly. Choosing attractive but relatively inexpensive tile for backsplashes and bathrooms is another money-saving move. These are just a few ways you can shave dollars off the cost of finishes and materials and apply those savings to increasing your home’s square footage.

But not everyone wants or needs a tremendous amount of living space. At Morgante-Wilson Architects, we find many of our residential architecture clients prefer to live a bit smaller and a lot smarter. They’re after maximum efficiency, rather than maximum square footage.  In other words, they ultimately decide not to build the largest house they can afford, but the largest house they need.

If you build the largest house you can afford, you may find yourself with closets, hallways, and even rooms that are seldom, if ever, used. For example, today’s increasingly casual lifestyles are rendering formal living rooms less important than ever before. We’re finding our most courageous clients are skipping the living room, and lavishing extraordinary attention to detail on other rooms instead.  In other words, the money you save on square footage can be spent alternatively on life-enhancing niceties that will make you happy and satisfy your functional needs in gorgeous style. Examples: custom bookshelves that supply architecturally-rich storage and display; beautifully detailed millwork and moldings that confer timeless character upon even a brand new house; and outdoor spaces complete with fireplaces, seating areas, and even kitchens, to extend living space and entertaining options far beyond the walls of your home.

No matter where you decide to save, there is one thing we feel will always be worth the splurge. At Morgante-Wilson Architects, we counsel all our clients, regardless of budget, to purchase the highest quality windows they can afford.  High quality windows are always worth the investment – they add immeasurably to the design of your home, they usher maximum light into your home, and they will almost certainly last for as long as you live in your home. And let’s not forget they’ll keep the weather out of your home, too! Surely that’s worth every penny you can afford to spend – especially if you’ve found painless ways to save elsewhere.

Want more information? Call us to schedule a consultation!

Fred Wilson
Morgante-Wilson Architects
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Morgante-Wilson Architects provides residential architectural services in Chicago, Evanston, Winnetka, Glencoe, Glenview, Highland Park, Kenilworth, Wilmette, Northbrook, Deerfield, Northfield, and Ravinia.

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