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Making Your Renovation Experience Enjoyable

DESIGNfirst Builders Blog Near Chicago, Illinois

Tips for Making Space in Small Kitchens

Today’s kitchens are the meeting hubs of homes; they’re dynamic spaces that tend to evolve with the needs and lifestyles of homeowners. If your kitchen space is small, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t have to be limiting. Plus, a good kitchen remodel could potentially increase the selling price of your home by as much as $50,000. Consider the following 3 tips on how to maximize space in your kitchen.

Create a Work Triangle That Works for You

Work triangles are formed between the three most important parts of the kitchen: the stove, the sink, and the refrigerator. According to classic theory, the legs of the triangle should be no less than four and no greater than nine feet each, and the total distance of the triangle should be between 13 and 26 feet. Moving between the legs of the triangle should feel natural to you. You may even consider more than one triangle if space permits.

Add Savvy Shelving and Storage

Opt for shelving that’s unique to your kitchen and makes the best use of natural lighting. Consider shelving that can be accessed from both sides or a creative unit that’s custom built into a wall or above your counter space. Create functional storage, such as high cabinets for rarely used gadgets or a crockery drawer for various sized dishes.

Choose the Right Cabinet Hardware

When working with limited space, be sure to choose the right cabinet hardware. Heavy knobs or pulls will negatively affect the visual feel of the space, as streamlined cabinets are crucial in smaller spaces where the wrong pulls will catch your clothes. Consider inset troughs or slim pulls that follow the line of your doors.


Contact DESIGNfirst

DESIGNfirst offers creative ideas and solutions to finish your dream kitchen with sophistication and style, as well as form and function. Contact us today.

4 Things to Consider When Doing an Attic Remodel

When you are summer cleaning, you may want to assess any unused space to renovate to improve your home’s value. Instead of the basement, as is usually the case, you may want to renovate the attic. Bringing new life to your attic presents its own unique set of challenges that you should keep in mind before and during the process.


Why Remodel an Attic?

An attic could potentially become a bedroom, a more functional storage room, or even a home office depending on the ceiling height and layout. There is vast potential when it comes to attic renovation, but ultimately you must work with the available space in your home and make the most of it.

attic remodel

Issues to Consider With an Attic Renovation

Attic renovations are more complex than other home remodeling projects and you may face some unique and challenging problems.


  • You must ensure your attic still complies with all applicable safety codes in your area. Depending on local laws, you may face limitations in your options for an attic remodeling project.
  • Most home attics are not designed with regular use in mind, so you may need to quiet the floor of your attic if you intend to turn it into a functional space you will use on a consistent basis.
  • Some attics may have staircases while others are only accessible via pull-down staircases from the ceiling of the upper floor. Assess the current entryway to your attic and determine if you can reconfigure it for easier access to your new attic.
  • Your existing attic may have exposed insulation or other features that make it unsuitable for regular use. Consult with your contractor about how to make the space functional and safe for you and your family.


Attics provide unique opportunities for improving home functionality and a solid remodeling project can also boost property value. If you’re thinking about renovating your home this summer, consider the possibilities for your attic and work with an experienced contractor to get the job done right.

Why You Should Build a Dedicated Home Office Space During Your Spring Cleaning

If you work from home, particularly if you’re starting out, you understand the numerous difficulties that come with that career lifestyle, such as balancing time between home and work, or getting rid of distractions. If you add a dedicated office space to your home, whether by remodeling an attic or basement, or as a home addition, you can improve your work output and even gain other advantages. Your spring cleaning is the perfect time to transform one of your empty spaces into a home office.


Why Spring?

Spring is when the weather turns warmer in most of the country, and while it may be rainy during the spring months it is still a great time for a home remodeling project because demand for builders and contractors usually spikes during the summer. You can also plan your remodeling project before the hot weather so you can work comfortably during the summer.


The Value of Dedicated Office Space

Some people who work from home may be perfectly comfortable with a laptop on the couch, but others may find the lack of dedicated work space to be a distraction. You may be one of those people who need much more than just a computer to do their jobs, and dedicated office space helps ensure productivity throughout the year.

Tips for a Home Office

Everyone who works from home will have unique issues when it comes to office space. First, determine where you want your office in your home. Next, think of structural changes you need to make the space more inviting and comfortable. You may need to install a door or reconfigure the heating and air system in your home for your new office.


Ask your contractor for recommendations to take advantage of the floor space and structure of your home. Consider going green and investing in eco-friendly appliances and building materials, if possible. This may not only lead to savings on your energy bills but potentially tax benefits as well.

The Beginning of the Beginning: What to Know About Home Remodeling

People buy homes based on location, and that’s especially true in the Chicagoland area. If the perfect house is in the wrong location, it’s not the perfect house. Many people will sacrifice what they truly want in a home in exchange for the perfect location. You shouldn’t have to settle or make your home simply “work.” You can remodel your home to suit you perfectly, and the right contracting team can help you bring your vision to life and make the process seamless and enjoyable.

Beginning new construction or an extensive home remodel should be exciting, not challenging. You have many decisions to make, and when you plan your remodel with a design in mind, your transformed home is built around that aesthetic. If it’s your first time building a home or tackling a remodeling project, here are a few things to know to prepare for the next stage and your new home.

Understand the Relationship Between Form and Function

Whether sewing clothes or building a new house, designers often face a common dilemma regarding their plans: Should they follow form or should they follow function? Traditional wisdom says that form should follow function. This means the look of something – its form – is secondary to its use – its function.

We believe in a balance between these two, and that any home can be built without sacrificing the homeowner’s vision. Here are some tips for marrying form and function during a remodel.

  • Ask questions. Our architects and designers are experts. If you like the way a design looks but are having trouble with how it may affect your daily life, explain why the design might be a challenge and ask about options.


  • Look beyond the floor model. When you find something you like, be it a chair or counter-top, don’t assume that what you see is what you’ll get. If you like the way a chair sits but the fabric is itchy, find a fabric that can suit the chair – both for its look and its texture.


  • Decide what makes you happy. Our builders know what works and our design team knows how to make it look great, but you’re the customer. Your happiness in your home is more important than meeting the latest trends. Learn what you like before your remodel, and we can work to make form and function work together.


Remember that you can enjoy all the beauty of form and all the ease of function, and that design can lead the way.

Recognize the Benefits of an All-in-One Experience

Most remodels require balancing a group of various companies to achieve the outcome you want. An architectural firm, an interior designer, and a construction company are typically involved. During a remodel, you have to locate these companies and ensure they are a fit for you. The most challenging part is making sure they work together to transform your home in the most efficient way possible, and communication is a common complaint during the typical process.

One way to avoid headaches and eliminate inefficiency is to use an all-inclusive team. Having an all-inclusive contracting, building, and design team will make the process much simpler for you as you’ll enjoy the following benefits:

  • Seamless communication. Designers, architects, and planners should be team players – they should know each other and shouldn’t have to chase another business to schedule and make plans for your home.


  • Streamlined processes. When you work with various contractors and designers, each one has a different process for completing your remodel. With all-inclusive building and design companies, the schedule is set from the top down – and everyone is on the same page from the beginning.


  • A better product. When your contractors and design/architecture team all work together, your remodel will benefit from open communication and a clear timeline. It’s bound to produce a product you are happier with because you’ve been part of the communication process all along.


With a team like DESIGNfirst, you don’t have to balance the schedules of various businesses or worry about whether one of them has communicated your ideas clearly to the next one.

Know What to Expect From a Remodel or New Construction

The home renovation process should be smooth and enjoyable. You start with a vision and then depend on the company you work with to guide you through the experience. Look for a company that provides:

  • Personalized care. The best companies assign a team to each customer. Your assigned team should help you select from the many options and finishes that your project involves. They should help you choose the right colors, pieces, and accessories that fit your overall design. That kind of care may not be an option for all businesses, but you should expect individualized attention to your unique needs. At DESIGNfirst, we assign a team to each customer.


  • Talent and experience. Anyone investing in a remodel or a new build should look at the reviews of other clients. You should also ask about experience in the trade. Not every customer review will be perfect, but there should be enough to give you an idea of how they treat their customers and how much experience they have.


  • Responsive communication. You should expect streamlined communication and prompt attention. If you don’t hear from your contractor, architect, or designer in a timely fashion, it could be a sign that they will be less communicative once your project starts.

Work With a Unique, All-Inclusive Design and Build Firm

At DESIGNfirst, we do more than build homes; we build relationships. Once we understand who you are and what you’re looking for in a remodel or custom build, we will help you achieve your vision no matter where you live in Chicago. We are innovators in home construction and remodeling, and we want to put our innovation to work for you.

3 Spring Remodeling and Addition Projects to Consider

Spring is on its way, and with it comes a rebirth of nature from the previous winter. You might have the urge to start anew with your home as well by planning a home remodeling or addition project. If spring cleaning inspires you to invest in some remodeling this spring, there are several additions and upgrades you can make for aesthetic, comfort, and practical reasons.


Your Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart and gathering place of the home, so why not focus your attention on remodeling one of the most-used areas of your home? Virtually any kitchen offers vast potential for upgrades and remodeling. Take time to consult with a contractor you trust about functional improvements you can make to capitalize on your floor plan and available square footage. You can also invest in green appliances or install modern appliances for greater energy efficiency.


Add New Rooms

An addition to your home can dramatically increase property value and increase the overall comfort of your home. Perhaps you want to add an extra bedroom or knock out a few walls for a more open floor plan. Whatever your ideas may be, an addition on your home is a major investment that can lead to significant rewards if you take time to consider your options and plan carefully.

Wine Cellars

Wine is more popular than ever in the U.S., and many homeowners are starting their own wine collections at home. Adding a small wine cellar to your home can be easier than you might expect. Some clever homeowners have made use of crawlspaces and existing pantries to create stunning wine cellars, and wine lovers should consider how much space their wine collection needs and plan their remodeling accordingly.


These are just a few ways you can make functional improvements to your home this spring. Remodeling not only breathes new life into your home, but also increases the home’s property value and can offer other practical benefits like savings on your energy bills with more eco-friendly appliances and greater comfort all year round. Contacts us if you want to improve your homes value!

Turn Your Kitchen into an Entertainment Center for Your Spring Parties

Springtime is here, and many homeowners are beginning to plan for gatherings with the better weather. Even though the living room or the guest room are the areas you expect to entertain your guests, have you ever noticed that everyone gathers around the kitchen? If you are worried that your kitchen is not sleek or fancy enough to keep your guests entertained and satisfied, you can always remodel it to your needs.

Invest in Entertainment Fixtures

The kitchen is the natural gathering place in the home, and installing a television may be a great way to make the room more inviting while waiting for meals or unwinding with a snack after a tough day at work. Televisions are lighter and slimmer than ever before, so the space constraints you may have faced in previous years rarely present an issue now. You may also have the chance to install a nice sound system to enjoy your favorite music while cooking.

Create a More Open Space

springA large kitchen is inviting and comfortable, and you may be able to take more advantage of your available floor space with a remodel. Consider how you could rearrange cabinets and other fixtures for more space efficiency. If you currently have an island in your kitchen, determine how much you use it and if you could rearrange that space elsewhere to create a more open space. You could also reconfigure an existing kitchen island into additional seating space.

Warming Drawers

One functional improvement to consider with a kitchen remodel is the installation of a warming drawer. If you entertain guests on a regular basis, a warming drawer can significantly cut down on meal prep time and help you keep dishes prepared in advance warm until you’re ready to serve. This will ultimately help with entertaining purposes as you can prepare large meals and several dishes without having to worry much about timing your prep and cooking.


Ultimately any kitchen has the potential to be an entertainment hub of a home. Since most people naturally gravitate toward the kitchen to socialize during gatherings, investing in some functional comforts can enhance the comfort and welcoming atmosphere of any home kitchen.

The 4 Most Common Renovation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Home renovation can be a daunting project and it’s easy to make mistakes. If you want to have a smooth, stress-free home remodeling process, then it’s important to be aware of some of the common mistakes that homeowners make when handling the home remodel process so you can avoid them.

Unrealistic Budget

renovation mistakesMost homeowners don’t have a clear idea of what a remodel will cost. No matter what room you want to remodel or how extensive the remodel you’re planning is, always assume that the project will consume more time than you’d think and likely cost more than you originally planned. A good rule of thumb when planning a budget is to always increase it by 20%.

Choosing the Wrong Contractor

renovation mistakesDon’t just assume that the first contractor you see is the right choice for the job. Make sure you shop around for at least three contractors and interview them. Ask for references, investigate their background with the Better Business Bureau, and ensure their licensing and insurance is up to date. Most importantly, make sure your contractor communicates well with you and lays out a detailed plan and estimate before signing on to the project.

Changing Your Mind

Once you have a specific plan for a remodel, make sure it goes into action. If you must make changes, point them out during the design phase of the project. Too many changes can delay the process and create costs and inconveniences for the crew. Even a seemingly minor change can delay and increase project costs significantly.

Not Preparing for Problems

renovation mistakesAs the remodeling process continues, there may be some unexpected errors or problems that don’t manifest until the crew uncovers them. Experienced contractors usually have an idea of how to deal with said problems, but it’ll require additional expenses. Stay prepared for anything that may go wrong and keep at least 10% saved for emergencies.

Decrease the number of mistakes you’ll make when handling home renovations by letting DESIGNFirst Builders handle your renovation projects. Contact us to schedule a free consultation with our professional staff.

Are You Ready To Turn Your Home Into a Smart Home?

Technology is changing every part of our lives – the way we enjoy our time at home, even the way we stay safe. Because of this, smart homes are becoming more popular every year. They help cut electrical bills, turning homes green and conserving precious resources. Let’s look at some of the smart technology available for your next home renovation project.

Smart Rooms

Smart rooms mean convenience at the touch of a button. You can control lighting, sound, and temperature with an app on your phone. Forgot to turn down the thermostat, but you’re already at work? No problem. Access smart thermostats and lighting from your phone, fixing the problem with one click. Some smart thermostats and fixtures can sense when no one is home, fixing the problem altogether. On the reverse side, you can turn the heat up or flip on the air conditioner right before you arrive home, creating the perfect environment.

smart homeSmart Appliances

Smart appliances range from refrigerators that recite your shopping list to coffee makers that predict when you need your morning jolt. You can do everything from checking on dinner in your oven to making sure you have enough ice for your party from the store. The world of smart appliances is just starting, with tons of new advancements on the way.

Smart Fixtures and Accessories

Smart fixtures will likely change our lives in the near future. Smart options include faucets, toilets, and mirrors. Your mirror may tell you the weather forecast or show you a YouTube tutorial on how to tie your tie. Toilet seats can be warmed before use, and leaky faucets can alert you to the issue.

smart homeIncreased Safety

Security systems, fire alarms, even live doorbells can all report right to your mobile devices. You can be at home on the couch or miles away and still know everything that is happening. It’s a great way to keep loved ones safe at home, protect your property, and ensure your pets are in a comfortable environment.

Accessibility Options

If you have a family member living on their own, a smart home can help with some daily tasks. When certain things are automated or controlled via smart technology, you can rest easier. Keep an eye on things like the oven, the temperature in the house, the fire alarms, and even their shopping list. You can also set up voice commands for your loved one, making it a piece of cake to order groceries or call for help.


If you are ready to upgrade your home to smart technology, contact us today. We’d be happy to help you set up a remodeling project for you or a family member. Keep everyone in your family safe this season with the home upgrades they need.

Don’t Believe These 4 Myths About Home Remodeling

Before you decide to take on a remodeling project on your own, it might be best to dispel some myths about remodeling projects. The better informed you are prior to taking on a remodel, the better prepared you will be, and the more likely you are to see the results you envision.

Following Design Trends

It’s tempting to follow the latest housing trend and add a specific color or feature to your home that might modernize it. Most trends only stay popular for a small moment, however, before other trends replace them. Blindly following trends can cost you money on an addition that will date your home years from now. Always focus on durability and timelessness instead.

Adding a Pool

mythsMost people believe that adding a swimming pool will increase their home value. This is probably true for people living in areas with a warmer climate. For everyone else, pools are often unappealing because they require extensive maintenance work that most owners aren’t willing to do. Installing a pool often costs more money than it’s worth.

Any Remodel Adds Value

Not every single remodel will automatically add value to your home. Some materials may be more expensive than the return on the investment will show, or certain home additions may price you out of comparable homes in your neighborhood. Conduct research on return of investment (ROI) for each remodel and investigate rival homes in your neighborhood before you start a remodel.

DIY To Save Money

mythsSome people truly believe that they’ll spare expenses by performing remodels themselves. While you can handle some minor upgrades, repairs, and touch-ups, a professional group should handle larger remodeling projects. They have more expertise on what to do and will use the right tools for the job. In addition, their knowledge allows them to complete remodels faster, safer, and with the most efficient materials. You’ll likely end up saving money and get to enjoy your home sooner by requesting help.


Do you want to enjoy the benefits of professional home remodeling? Contact DESIGNFirst Builders today for a free consultation with our trained staff to discuss your remodeling project.

4 Ways to Increase Your Home’s Value

Sometimes you need to update your surroundings with a new aesthetic. Remodeling can give you that same thrill as when you first move into a new home, and it can also offer you financial benefits. Certain remodels are a better investment than others, however, so carefully consider what you choose to remodel in order to increase your home’s value.


home's valueA kitchen remodel is a great choice, and is a favorite with real-estate agents and potential buyers. Complete kitchen remodels offer a return of investment (ROI) of 62%, so if you spend $65,000, for example, you can realize a $40,000 increase in value. You will need to decide how specific upgrades, such as granite or marble counter tops fit into your remodeling budget. It is also a good idea to know the comparable value of homes in your area, to avoid spending more on the remodel than you will actually see in a return.

Landscape and Curb Appeal

home's valueImproving the outside of your home is critical, since this is the first thing a potential buyer will notice. A fresh coat of quality paint for the outside of your home can translate into as much as 110% ROI. Consider freshening up your garden and making sure the lawn is well maintained. Outdoor spaces are currently in demand and are a great reselling point. If your budget allows consider upgrading your outdoor patio area or deck space.

Wood Flooring

Replacing your carpeted areas with wood flooring almost always pays off, with a 91% ROI. Hardwood floors cost around $2,000 more than carpet to install, but have a longer lifespan and are easier to clean. Laminates can be a less expensive and easy to install product, allowing homeowners to do the installation themselves.

Basement and Decks

Renovating a basement into a playroom or a leisure area can result in as much ROI as 63%, with an average increase of $25,000. This is a great option for increasing the living space without increasing the square footage. Adding an outside deck is also a desirable addition, as it’ll help you recoup up to 80% of your investment at sale time.


Whether you choose to remodel your kitchen, your bathrooms, or your basement, DESIGNFirst Builders will assist you in every step of the way to add value to your home. Call us now to schedule a free consultation.

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