What I’ve Learned from Building My Own Home, Part One by Chicago Residential Architect Fred Wilson

Well folks, the tables have turned: Elissa and I have become clients of our own Chicago residential architecture firm , and are just one month away from moving into our new, Morgante Wilson-designed house in Wilmette. It’s been an exhilarating, stressful, deeply satisfying, and surprisingly eye-opening experience.

This will be the sixth house we’ve lived in during our 28 years of marriage. We’ve renovated two of those homes, and built two from the ground up. You could say we’re house addicts – it’s an occupational hazard to want to put our architectural stamp on every place we live. But this time feels different.

Perhaps it’s because we’ve truly come into our own, in the way that only maturity and experience allow you to do. We like to think it’s a combination of helming our own architecture firm for the last 28 years, along with a marriage’s worth of growing together, making memories, collecting ideas, and tandem decision-making. We’re definitely more in sync on this project than we’ve been on any other. It displays our shared aesthetic, for a richer, deeper, more thorough expression of what we like at this point in our lives – and how to implement it.

Here are a few things we’ve learned while building our new house:

Building a home is unbelievably exciting. Even though we’ve been building houses for more than a quarter century, the day our first wall went up we could hardly contain ourselves. We get how our clients feel, because we’ve had that feeling ourselves.

It’s also an overwhelming process. The sheer number of decisions that have to be made, and all the moving parts and pieces that have to be kept track of, can be mind-boggling.


Which is why it’s so important to work with a team you can trust. You need people who understand you – and understand how to keep the process moving along. Having a vision is one thing. Making it a reality is another, and most of us – including Elissa and I – can’t do it alone.

That said, you’ve got to go with your gut. If you really feel the need to change course, then just do it. You can’t base all your decisions on whether or not they’ll delay the process. An example: Elissa and I ordered a faucet that, when it came in, was a different finish than we expected. We’re trying to decide what to do about it. Either we return it and delay the process, or we keep it and move along. Our dilemma: do we love the new finish enough to live with it for the next decade? We still haven’t decided.

Design deserves to be celebrated. At Morgante Wilson, we’re not strictly about getting to the finish line; we’re also passionate about creating homes that enhances lives, and lifestyles.  It’s a delicate dance. We’re seeing first-hand the give and take that’s required to create a home you love - on time, and on budget.


A new home is a 100% handmade, artistic expression of an idea. There are hundreds of craftspeople involved in building a house. They deserve admiration, appreciation, and gratitude.

It’s critical husbands and wives – or partners of any sort – be respectful of each other. Ideally, a couple will be on the same page and know how to arrive at a decision together. Each half of the pair deserves a voice, and that voice deserves to be heard. Building a house offers an incredible opportunity to make a memory. Try and make it a good one!

Building a home can be a tremendous experience if you hire the right people to guide you through the process – which is why we invite you to call us to discuss plans for your own dream house.

Fred Wilson
Morgante-Wilson Architects
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Related posts by Chicago residential architects Morgante-Wilson:

Before You Renovate:  The Importance of a Residential Architect’s Input
Residential Architecture: How Lifestyle Drives Design
Tips from a Residential Architect: Where to Save, Where to Splurge


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

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