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Building Affordably and Living Comfortably

Keep It Tight

As we look at the houses around us, we see one common problem – the building is too big. Just how much space do we really need? This is important to evaluate as most people begin acquiring things and then you design/build square footage around them, housing those "things"! However, think about streamlining the spaces that you are not utilizing? The trend is to open up spaces so that they function better than a bunch of smaller and more segregated spaces.


Avoid Useless Complexity

One common feature today is a roof line with gables, towers, dormers etc along the facade with a myriad of things glued on. Rarely can anyone experience that complexity of space inside. Is it just a gift to your neighbors to stare at from across the street? Learn to love the box. The box is the simplest and most affordable shape to build.

Make sure walls line up between floors. In many house designs, there is no logic between floors, requiring additional structural elements to be added to hold everything up, especially the roof. It’s a waste of expense because you can’t see it or experience it. Good design lives well and you are able to use all the square footage everyday.


Open Floor Plan

Keeping the plan simple and open accomplishes so much -fewer walls equals less material. In addition, the visual connection between spaces increases the perceived space, making it feel larger. This means different parts of the first floor (kitchen, living, dining), still remain connected. When the space feels bigger, you can actually build smaller (see image 3). This is a win-win situation. Insist on a good plan design to eliminate wasted space.


Simple details

This is somewhat related to the selected style of the house, but it is critical to the overall price. Fussy details can quickly raise the price. One way to accomplish this is to use no wood casing around the windows (and never crown molding). The jambs are wrapped in drywall with a painted wood sill – quite stylish and clean. The only trim you will need is the base board and we are even seeing that go away, being replaced with j- channels and recessed sheet rock instead. At the exterior, the brick and stone details can be limited to soldier coursing at the window heads and along the parapet. Simple details do not equate to lesser quality or impact, but can keep it much more affordable.


Smart material choices image 6– and 7

This is where some people lose their minds in an effort to keep up with the Neighbors . Put your money in the areas that count like your public spaces, and simplify your private areas like secondary bedrooms and baths.

Consider doors that are solid, but paint grade not stain grade. Make real and hard cuts – do you really notice the authentic slate roof or does one of the more affordable slate looking asphalt roofs work just fine with a 40 year warranty! You’ll appreciate it when you write your mortgage check. Also think bold colors and durable materials. Color can bring the unexpected pop to the design that you might be looking for; durable materials save money on future maintenance.


Splurge Strategically

Frugality doesn’t necessarily equal sacrifice. If you want to have a few special elements or details, decide where they really make the most impact. The remainder of the house can be more modest. The public spaces such as the kitchen, dining and living room can have a higher degree of finish while keeping the bedrooms and bathrooms subdued. You don’t need travertine in your bathroom if you’re building on a budget. I’m sure you can get by with ceramic or one of the newer porcelain tiles with just as much punch. Another way to address this is to choose great lighting fixtures for rooms such as the dining room and entry. And use plainer, budget fixtures elsewhere.


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