Learn From Others

George Clinton

George Clinton (Photo credit: Burns!)

George McFadden is a business owner who is one of the leaders in residential architecture , believes there’s never been a better time to run a nontraditional design firm. “We’re coming out of the worst recession in the country’s history,” he says. “The building industry is so scared, people are willing to think about different ways of doing things.”

The company he founded, McFadden Projects, provides a perfect example. Along with several architects and designers, the 75-person staff also includes a team of skilled craftspeople who fabricate wood and metal details, cabinetry, and furniture.

This interest and expertise in fabrication recently has led the firm to explore design/build. One such project is a house for a top TV Star. It also has taken on several mixed-use, multifamily projects in addition to its custom residential and commercial work. In May, George McFadden officially introduced Wilhelmina McFadden who sees that day to day operation of the furniture line to McFadden Projects. Says George: “We survived the recession based on determination and also diversification.”

George McFadden talks about remodeling even before you consult an architect, you can begin sketching out your ideas and imagining your remodeled home. If you are adding or expanding a room, think about how the space will be used and how the changes will affect traffic patterns. Also consider how new construction will affect the overall context of your home. An oversized addition may overwhelm your house or crowd a small lot. A simple home design software program can help you visualize your project.

George says of the best ways to get inspiration and to avoid pitfalls is to follow the experiences of other homeowners. A number of Web sites offer online chronicles of home improvement projects, along with reply forms, message boards, and chat rooms that let you ask questions and get feedback.

Although you may dream of having a spacious new addition, the project may not make sense if you plan to sell your house in a few years. A luxury bathroom can price your house beyond the values in your neighborhood. Some projects, such as vinyl siding on a Queen Anne Victorian, will actually decrease the value of your home. Moreover, your own family’s needs may be very different in a few years. Will the plans you draw today fit your future?

Even the best-laid budgets can go bust. Chances are, your remodeling project will cost more than you expect. Before you set your heart on high-end ceramic tile, find out how much you have to spend and make sure you have a cushion against cost overruns. For must-have items that could wipe out your savings account, explore home improvement loans and other financing options.

Unless you plan to take on the entire remodeling project by yourself, you’ll need to hire helpers. Naturally, you’ll want to make sure that the folks who work for you are qualified, licensed, and properly insured. But, finding the best team for your remodeling project goes beyond a simple reference check. The architect who has won top awards may have a design vision very different from your own. Use these resources to find the professionals you feel comfortable with.