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The Skinny on Smaller Homes

Unique Floor Plans Capture Value-Seeking Customers

Tighter budgets mean tighter floor plans, but potential homebuyers have a lot to love about new homes today, including wall-to-wall amenities, flexible floor plans and energy-efficient technology.

Smaller & Smarter

Today, builders are offering more value than ever before in new-home construction. With a trend toward smaller homes, it’s a great time for many budget-conscious Fox Citians to make their dream home come true.

Carl Romenesko, of Romenesko Developments Inc., is minding his P’s and Q’s.

“We’re downsizing,” Romenesko says. “Builders have to be very aware of their floor plan.”

His 2,667 square-foot, 2-story home is substantially smaller than some of the homes he has featured in previous parades.

Christine Shaefer, executive vice president of VHBA, says builders are creating areas that are less formal and facilitate multifunction space.

“Less of everything is more – clean, crisp and classic in design and furnishings,” Shaefer says. “Flexible thinking is leading to cost reduction.”

In his parade home, Romenesko created an open loft that can be used as a computer nook, open study or a quiet place for kids to do homework. He also reduced construction costs by not including a 2-story great room. All the first-floor rooms have 9-foot ceilings, which means the second floor has spacious bedrooms.

A smaller footprint home can be made to appear larger, Shaefer adds. Builders are increasing ceiling height, installing skylights, adding more windows and incorporating an open floor plan.

Builder Jon Huss also is building smaller homes and points out that folks don’t have to spend $1 million to have five-star amenities.

“We take their lifestyle and design the house around it and make it unique to them,” Huss says.

His Midwest Design Homes ranch is 1,809 square feet and includes a gourmet kitchen with a double oven and granite countertops. The 2-bedroom ranch is a great place for a young family to call home. It features a split-bedroom concept, open foyer and stone fireplace.

Smaller homes can be designed to appear larger with open floor plans, cathedral and tray ceilings and oversized patio doors and windows, says Silvercrest Homes owner Scott Murphy.

As a custom homebuilder, Murphy sits down with people to discuss their needs and wants.

“A lot of people will sacrifice space in their homes to accommodate more energy efficiency, keeping in line with their budget, while still attaining amenities,” he says. “You’re seeing dining rooms or hearth rooms that people are using for entertainment. Formal dining rooms are turning into kids’ playrooms. When the kids get older, those areas turn back into a dining room or office.”

“Consumers are willing to pay for quality, but not the extra square footage,” says Rock Kanyuh, co-owner of Keystone Homes of the Fox Valley Inc, of the trend toward smaller homes.

His Keystone Homes 1,795 square-foot ranch features a sunroom with an arched opening, decorative columns and vaulted wood ceiling. Custom maple millwork, casing and base complement the entire home.

Conserving Energy

Energy efficiencies are not so much trendy these days, but essential in new home construction.

Cypress Homes owner Mike Blank says people are building smaller, more energy-efficient homes for good reasons.

“Homes today are more energy efficient, so energy costs are lower,” Blank explains. “Expandable foam is packed into all the hairline crevices for good insulation.”

All homes built by Cypress Homes are ENERGY STAR homes, meeting strict guidelines for energy efficiency. They typically are 20- to 30-percent more efficient than standard homes, translating into big savings in utility bills.

Blank’s 3-bedroom, 2-bath, 1,663 square-foot ranch features a kitchen and dining room that flow into a great room with a gas fireplace and cathedral ceiling. The master suite features a tray ceiling, walk-in closet and dual sinks.

Amenities Galore

Builder Mark Hartzheim, owner of Hartwood Homes Inc., says people know what they want in their home and where they want to spend their money.

If folks love to cook, they’ll invest more money in the kitchen, while others would rather spend it on a theater in their basement, Hartzheim adds.
Visitors touring his 4-bedroom, 3,804 square-foot ranch will adore the large study with built-in cabinetry and window seat. The spacious master suite has a tray ceiling and walk-in closet. An open, U-shaped staircase leads to the lower level.

People walking through the door of Roshak Builders’ one-of-a-kind ranch will be dazzled by the dramatic barrelled cherry wood ceiling and venetian plaster beams. Extending from the ceiling is a 6-foot high by 6-foot wide back splash behind the gas cooktop.

A storage area on each end of the U-shaped snack bar can be used to store glassware. The space in the columns that flow into the kitchen ceiling can be used to store crystal or collectibles. Light chocolate-brown ceramic tile in one of the baths is imported from Spain. It resembles stitched leather and runs up the walls about four feet in a few areas.

Sit down with a design professional and discuss a floor plan that will match your lifestyle and your budget.

“People build custom homes because they can fill up the interior of the home in any way, shape or form,” says Hartzheim. “They can build their dream home instead of trying to find the right house that gets close to their needs and wants.”

—By Jan Sommerfeld

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