Budget (Money), Size, and Quality are the three items that are top-of-mind during every first meeting with a prospective client I’ve ever had. These initial meetings are mostly about determining if we’ll have a good working relationship and if I’m a style fit for them, but in the end, money (and the size and quality that can be achieved) are always a consideration. When you’re building a luxury property like the kind 2e Architects specializes in, whether the style is modern, traditional, craftsman or a mid-century home, all clients want to know, ‘how much house can I build with my budget?’
Navigating Budget, House Size, and Quality
In many ways, designing and building a home is very complicated. But in at least one way, it is very straightforward… A house cannot be a dream home unless you fully understand the client’s needs. Every luxury home should be unique to its occupants. When designing a home for my clients I start with asking a lot of questions. I talk with them, listen to their needs, understand their wants, and help to translate those into a design and plan. Questions about how you live day-to-day in your home are the key. From the answers to these questions, we’ll create a list of priorities, which we then work with to determine what the right size and level of quality needs to be.
Focus on More than House Size…
We’ve all seen McMansions, they have one thing in common–they focus all of the quality on the front of the building with brick or stone or gables or arched windows. Meanwhile the sides and rear are completely devoid of character (quality) and so become bland vinyl-clad sides of a box that are truly ugly. But here’s the motivator behind this: the decrease in quality allows the McMansion to increase in size.
This happens in the interior, too. The volume of one big open room can seem impressive, but where are the cozy spaces for intimate conversations? Where can you get away to relax and read a book? Do you want everyone who’s come for a holiday dinner to see all the dirty dishes used to prepare the meal? Is there a smart, discrete place for the powder room?
At first glance, the larger home at the same price seems to be an excellent value, but there are things to consider when sacrificing other elements of a home for size. These show up in many, many ways including:
- Enjoyment of Your Home
- Resale Value, bigger doesn’t mean more value
- Energy Bills
Enjoy Your House
You don’t live at the front door… the front elevation is very important, but so is the rear elevation. The back of the home is where you grill, entertain guests, and spend time with your family; it needs to look and feel great, too.
Be thoughtful about how your house can help improve your mood and daily efficiency. All home design should focus on the day-to-day aspects of everyday life: coming into a welcoming, naturally lit mudroom (which I call a family foyer) from the garage is far better than entering your home directly into a laundry room with a pile of dirty clothes. Have a place to put keys, mail, sunglasses, hats, sports equipment, coats and gloves. I promise that by not having these items clutter your kitchen counters, it will improve your mood. You deserve to look forward to years of contentment and joy from your new or renovated home.
Find the right balance and also consider:
- Circulation and flow,
- Interior vistas, and
- The orientation of your home to the sun. A breakfast table that sits in a warm and sunny spot every morning is a welcoming start to the day.
Consider Resale Value
The worst part about lowering the quality as you increase the size is that it eventually lowers the re-sale price. Take a look online in the neighborhood or area of town you’re interested in and look for only homes that all cost the same amount of money, say a million dollars. When I do this exercise, I almost always find some larger homes that are not all that attractive and some smaller homes that are well-designed and beautiful. Bigger doesn’t translate into better resale value. The price per square foot of a home with a focus on quality is higher than a larger home that sacrificed quality for size. And this only becomes more evident as the home ages.
Many people will choose a new home because they want to be as maintenance-free as they can. They don’t want the headache or hassle of failing systems. But when you choose lesser-quality finishes in appliances, tile, flooring, roofing and windows to achieve size, these items, too, will fail sooner than a higher quality item.
Be Smart About Energy Bills
Insulation is an area where some look to save… ‘Because after all,’ the reasoning goes, “you cannot see the insulation in the walls or the attic once it is complete and who wants to spend money on things you can’t see in your new home?” Don’t make this mistake. Not only will it translate into a lifetime of higher monthly energy bills, but it’ll lead to everyday discomfort with the home feeling too cold in winter and too hot in summer.
So What is the Answer? Design matters.
Focus your time and attention on all aspects of the design of your home, not just on size. Find the right architect for your project–one who’s intent on listening to your needs and who doesn’t just have one set of plans for everyone. When you have the budget for a luxury home, you want it to be your dream home. 2e Architects has created a guidebook, “Selecting the Right Architect for Your Luxury Home.” It’s available for free in the Resources section of our website. Download it today to learn more about how to find the best architect for your project.
When considering building a new home, completely redesigning or doing a major addition on an existing home, the reality is there is a certain amount of money budgeted for the project. With a finite amount of money, if you were to only focus on the size of the house, the quality would suffer. The same is true of the inverse–using all of the best finishes and choosing high-end materials to enhance the quality of the home will necessitate a smaller-sized home. You must have a balance between size and quality. This relationship isn’t always obvious at first, but I have found that by talking with my clients about making smart choices and decisions, they can achieve a balance between size and quality and achieve their dream home.