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Making Your Renovation Experience Enjoyable

DESIGNfirst Builders Blog Near Chicago, Illinois

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How to Finance Your Home Remodel Project

Calculating Financing for home renovation Remodeling your home is easier said than done – particularly when it comes to financing. Between remodel loans, private home loans, and special mortgages, you might not know where to start.

Luckily, help is available for homeowners who want to proceed with a home remodel project. Below is a brief overview of some financing options:

Mainstream Mortgages

Banks and credit unions offer mainstream mortgages for home remodeling, renovation, and improvement projects. These mortgage agreements use your home as collateral. Homeowners will pay a deductible on the loan interest, just as they would for any other mortgage. Renovation mortgages, however, come with the added protection of Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insurance.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are corporations that Congress has set up for the same purpose. To qualify for these “second” mortgages, you will need good credit, as well as money for a down payment. The Fannie Mae HomeStyle Renovation loan is one of the most popular for home improvements.

Home Equity Loan

A home equity loan is a type of mortgage that has the same tax breaks as a mainstream mortgage plan, but it doesn’t come with the closing costs. Homeowners can pay for their renovations over the course of 15 to 30 years, typically with a fixed interest rate. The interest rates for a home equity loan, however, tend to be higher than a conventional second mortgage.

Home Equity Line of Credit

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is another popular option. A HELOC gives a homeowner a spending limit from which he/she can borrow. Then, the lender only charges interest on the amount the homeowner actually borrows. Homeowners can later borrow more, as time passes during a renovation. Some HELOCs have minimum withdrawal amounts while others do not. Interest rates for this type of loan are adjustable. Most HELOC agreements come with 8 to 10-year repayment plans.

FHA 203k

For those who are looking to purchase or refinance a home in need of renovations or repairs, 203k insured loans offer a unique solution aimed to save time and money. By allowing projected construction costs to be added to a home loan, buyers are able to secure a loan for a home that might otherwise be rejected, due to its condition, and simplify both the process and the loan itself into a single mortgage, avoiding the higher interest rates and balloon payments that usually accompany improvement loans.

Additionally, those who are refinancing their homes are able to complete necessary rehabilitation’s with this option. These loans also protect lenders by allowing them to insure the property based on future value, as opposed to current condition.

Talk to your bank or credit union to explore all of your options for your home remodel financing!

How Your Kitchen Can Look Brand New with These Maintenance Tips

Remodeled white kitchen with stainless steal appliances If your kitchen is a regular hangout spot for chatting, doing homework, and cooking plenty of meals, chances are the added traffic keeps it from staying clean. Here are three ways you can change that with little more than a bit of elbow grease:

Get a Microfiber Cloth

Microfiber cloths are a kitchen’s best friend. Not only are they eco-friendly and reusable, but they’re safe to use on all of your kitchen surfaces. Using one won’t scratch your brand-new marble countertops or beautiful tile backsplash. It’s also incredibly versatile. Soak a microfiber cloth in warm, soapy water to clean stone or marble countertops, wipe down kitchen hardware, and safely clean tile stains with a bit of baking soda, vinegar, and water. Throw the cloth in the washing machine and reuse it again and again!

Lemons Are Your Friends

The strong, clean scent of lemon can permeate even the smelliest areas of your kitchen – such as trash cans and the garbage disposal – with a few easy tips. First, simply drop lemon (or other citrus) peels down the garbage disposal and run it through. This is an easy fix that will mask funky smells and deodorize the space. Additionally, you can clean your microwave, cutting boards, copper cookware, and plastic containers all with lemons. Lemon is truly an amazing multi-use, all-natural cleaner for several problem areas in the kitchen.

Invest in Small Improvements

Sometimes, no amount of cleaning or scrubbing can rid yourself of dingy walls, dirty cabinets, or chips in the linoleum. Try investing in a few small improvements such as modern, dirt-resistant materials to give your kitchen the facelift it needs. You can improve your space piece by piece, especially if a major renovation isn’t for you. Painting the cabinets, installing new lights, changing the color of the walls, replacing hardware, or upgrading your countertops are all ways to give your kitchen an updated look.

Ready to Update Your Kitchen?  Get a Free Quote

Creative Ideas to Transform Your Basement into the Hottest Room in the House

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Remodeled basement with movie theatre screen and seats Your basement has a ton of potential, even if you can’t yet see past all the clutter. In fact, the basement is often the most neglected room in the house. As a homeowner, you should see your basement as a blank canvas waiting for the right idea, and then transform your basement into the hottest room in the house!

The opportunities for renovations are endless. Many of our clients choose to include a big wet bar, a game area with a pool table, foosball, or dartboard, and an extra bathroom. Here are a few additional ways you can make innovative upgrades to your basement.

Guest Suite

One of the most popular basement remodels is the guest suite – and for good reason. The average basement has more than enough space for a roomy and comfortable guest quarters. Depending on your budget, this space can also include a bathroom and kitchen. If you often have family or friends staying with you, a guest suite could be the perfect way to welcome them.

Office and Play Room

If you’re a work-from-home parent, the basement could be the ideal solution for working while watching the kids. Make part of the basement your home office, complete with a sound-proof glass door or window. Meanwhile, make the rest of the space a fun playroom for the kids, with plenty of activities to keep them occupied. You can work in a dedicated (and hopefully peaceful) environment while still keeping an eye on the kiddos right outside your door.

Home Theater

Take advantage of a lack of windows in your basement by creating a comfy home theater. By installing movie-theater-style seats, a large projection screen, lush red carpet, a sound system, and a popcorn machine, you will have an incredible entertainment space for guests and family. Use the rest of the basement for further entertainment, installing gaming systems or a ping-pong table, or simply go all-in with a complete game room and hangout area.

One renovation is all it takes to breathe new life into your home. Make your basement your favorite room in the house with one of these great ideas.

Transform your Basement Today – Contact Us for a Free Quote


What to Do When Your Room’s Design Isn’t Working

living room with gray and white furnishingsSometimes you have a vision for a space, but the design just isn’t turning out the way you’d like it to. You might feel like there’s something missing, but you’re unsure of what to do. If you’re currently struggling with this problem, there are steps you can take for when a room is missing something.

Check Back With Your Original Inspiration

If you’re basing your space based off an inspiration photo, it might help to check it again to see what might be missing in the design. It could be the color palette or maybe you forgot to add a certain element that brings the room together. Stepping back and comparing your space with the original inspiration will help you determine what’s missing or needs changing.

Less Is Sometimes More

When we’re designing a room, sometimes we might keep adding items because there are so many gorgeous interior decorations out there. But, once it makes its way into your space, it might be too much for the room and overtake the design. Taking out elements from your room, such as curtains, wall art, or furniture, might help you realize what was off about the room.

Add Something Unexpected or Meaningful

Maybe the reason why your room isn’t just right is because you’re playing too safe. Sometimes choosing an unexpected piece is what will tie the space together and make it feel unique.

On the other hand, if you’re a sentimental person, it could be that the room doesn’t have a personal touch to make it feel homey. Add in family photos or your favorite memories in the form of pictures or keepsakes to add some warmth to the room.

Work With the design You Have

If you’ve purged the room and added all new furniture and items, it might feel strange or too new. Updating what you already own or adding pieces you already have will make it feel more familiar and comfortable.

Get a Free Quote to Update Your Room

Most Common Home Renovating Mistakes to Avoid

couple at design consultationIf homeowners are planning a home renovating project anytime in the near future, they should be aware of what to avoid to prevent big issues or unsatisfactory results. Some of these mistakes are not having a clear goal and plan in mind, underestimating the budget, and not doing enough research.

Not Having a Goal or Plan

This could be one of the biggest mistakes because it leaves room for so much to go wrong. Without a plan, homeowners might go over budget, forget about certain parts of the renovation, miscalculate the timeline, and incorrectly measure items.

Instead, homeowners should create a budget with wiggle room for unexpected costs and check to see the renovation doesn’t overlap with other important dates. Researching the materials and accurately measuring everything will save time and money in the long run.

Not Doing Enough Research

There are several factors to think about and research before starting a remodeling project. Homeowners should understand their house and work with it, not against it. They should find out the prices of the item they want to use and make sure it’ll work in the house. This, along with measuring the home, will prevent the need to buy different materials later on.

Homeowners should also seriously research contractors. Just because a contractor offers the best price doesn’t mean they have the experience to carry out the project. Look up contractors and make sure they’ve done good work in the past. Homeowners can also ask around for recommendations from friends, family, and neighbors.

Not Having a Budget in Place

If homeowners don’t have a budget or underestimate costs, they could be in for some future problems. Even when there’s a set budget, unexpected costs and delays can pop up. But by overestimating the budget, it allows homeowners to cover those expenses should they happen. If there is no budget, homeowners may spend too much money and either splurge on unnecessary items or skimp on items they do need.

If homeowners can avoid these three mistakes, renovating a home should be easier to navigate and the results will turn out well.

Looking to renovate your home?  Call 630-250-7777 or email us.

What to Consider When Deciding Whether to Renovate Your Home or Move

Kitchen remodeling design with material selectionFor prospective homeowners, finding the perfect home is usually a long journey and finally moving in is a time of relief. After a few years, though, that home may not satisfy their needs or wants anymore for several reasons.

When this happens, it is time to choose between renovation or moving. Before making a decision, homeowners should think about their budget, why they want to move or remodel, if they can stay within their budget, and if they can solve their current issues with moving or remodeling.

What Are the Current Issues?

One of the most common issues for homeowners is the need for more space. A growing family can start to feel cramped in a once-comfy home, or feel frustrated with outdated layouts and appliances. While the temptation can be there to move, selling a home can be a huge hassle, involving finding realtors, packing, fixing up and staging the house, and researching new homes and neighborhoods. Moving often has many hidden expenses, and can mean leaving behind neighbors, friends, or school districts.

Remodeling can often solve many of these issues with less hassle. Adding on a floor, extending a room, finishing a basement, or updating appliances can modernize and refresh a home, giving the homeowner more space and an updated look – all without the headaches of selling, buying, and moving.


Does the House Feel Like Home?

Some people can move whenever they feel like it because they’re not particularly attached to any specific location. However, sometimes a house starts feeling like a home and the residents become emotionally attached. Living in a peaceful neighborhood, making friends with neighbors, and liking the surrounding area all strengthen this feeling. If the home feels comfortable, remodeling is a good choice to avoid moving.

What Is the Budget?

The budget can relate to renovations or moving. Homeowners need to be sure they can stay within budget when they remodel and that they will keep the home long-term so it’s worth renovating. On the other hand, it’s important to have a budget in place when moving. This is sometimes difficult because owners already spent a large amount of money on the current home, so they should plan accordingly.

Looking at all the options and weighing the advantages and disadvantages should help with figuring out what to do. Remodeling and moving are both big steps, so homeowners should carefully think about their decision before taking action.

If you are ready to renovate and flip a room (or two) in your home, call DesignFirst Builders today at 630-250-7777 or send them an email.


It’s dingy, damp, and you causes you to run when someone turns the lights off; but your Basement is a potential gold mine when it comes to improving your property!

According to an article written by houselogic, most basements can offer a high return on your investment; nearly 69% of its cost, as well as add valuable and usable space to your home. Here in Chicago-land, especially in the city, lots are tight. Building out or even up isn’t always a viable solution. So; why not focus on what you have under those feet?

Remodeling your basement can range greatly in price, depending on what you want to add to the space. With DESIGNfirst, a typical bare-bones basement may run you close to $35,000; but add in all the things that will truly make a basement great and the cost climbs appropriately. Many of our clients need more living space, but also additional bathrooms as well as sleeping areas.

The good news is, DESIGNfirst is completely transparent with our pricing. We have no problem showing you line item cost for the project at hand, as well as details as to how we’ll get it done. Considering your return is often close to 70% of your investment at completion; the project basically pays for itself, given it’s designed appropriately of course. How can it be so high you ask? Much of the return comes from the idea that the scope is much more limited than it is dealing with property lines, setbacks and new construction. Many of the structural components are already built for you; therefore you won’t have to worry about increased costs.

Remember, not all lower levels are created equal, and some limitations apply based on zoning, head height space, light and vent, etc. We at DESIGNfirst take all those limitations into consideration when we design your space!


Your bathroom is your safe space. It’s the one room in the house you can “escape” to. So why haven’t more people taken the opportunity to make that ‘safe space’ a magnificent one? Most homeowners look at remodeling as a struggle in which they are responsible for it’s completion. However, DESIGNfirst Builders approach allows the client to fully embrace a process that give them peace of mind, and no ‘dirty hands’. The biggest hurdle is setting up a consultation… but with our ‘Free In-home consultation, we took care of that excuse.

According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association today’s remodels are trending toward simplicity. Home-owners want that clean, more contemporary look and feel, all while keeping a sense of comfort and coziness. Home-owners look for a fusion of styles, both rustic and modern in feel. It can be a touch mix, but with the right designers, it can turn out better than excepted.

Typically bathrooms lend themselves to be more white; white materials giving the sense of cleanliness of course, but that trend is shifting to darker cabinets and more metal. We here at DESIGNfirst have seen first hand the shift happening. It’s excited to see clients explore the possibilities of stepping outside of the ‘norm’, so to speak.


This home, in the Hoffman Estates area was transformed into a showstopper by renovating spaces throughout the entire house. For this project the homeowners resulting design provided more modern facilities such as updated kitchen and bath designs. Much more than that, the design integrated the owners’ style and personality throughout the entire home, such as the reclaimed barn wood flooring incorporated into several rooms.

A kitchen renovation is a significant endeavor that involves seeing both the big picture (layout, design, and style) and the details (appliances, cabinet accessories, tiles, and much more). The design you select must fit your home decor and enhance your lifestyle, and the details you add must be both functional and fit the style of your space. For the avid cook in a busy household, an Elkay Lustertone Triple Bowl Kitchen Sink is one of those small details that can make a big difference in your day-to-day kitchen life. Hand blended to a highlighted Lustertone satin finish, this durable sink is constructed of thick 18-gauge stainless steel. A magnificent blend of traditional and contemporary themes, Ekay Harmony Lusterstone sinks embodies simplicity yet resonates sophistication. Featuring straight lines and round profiles, this family offers an unrivaled transitional geometry.

The beautifully open space designed, has created more storage and walk way throughout the home. Our designers went with cabinetry by Diamond in an Opaque Coconut (Opaque with Glaze) or “Inspired Collection” painted finish. Because of its unique characteristics, this finish is quite different from other cabinetry finishes you may be familiar with. These cabinets really give this kitchen the perfect touch for someone who is in need of much space and storage for a big busy family.

As you’ll notice, you’ll find the accent backsplash throughout the kitchen counters. Our designers chose MSI Premium Natural Stones in Colonial White. Natural Stone is a product of nature and is natrually subject to inherent variations in color, shade & veining. Natural stone’s mineral characteristics create a visible texture within the stone and are to be expected in the finished product.

From drab to fab, this whole remodel is such an inspiration!

Have a look at the difference a total home renovation can make!


Today’s Feature Friday presents, Miss Bonni’s Kitchen from Lake Forest, IL.

What better way to start off the new year, with a brand new kitchen remodel? This beautifully modernized kitchen will make you want to reconsider the functions of your own kitchenette! With the tastefully finished flooring from Eleganza, our designers used a Wood Land Maple/Gray styled floor tiling along the kitchen, laundry room and powder room. If you notice you’ll be able to see the detailed back splash from Vicostone Quartz in Bianco Romano, these details really give the kitchen area a special touch. Let’s not forget the rich cabinetry and counter tops that really puts this kitchen together! The cabinetry and counter tops, featured are from Decora in a Brandywine Espresso finish (cabinets) and Cobblestone finish for their counter tops.

Be inspired with this design, and have the kitchen you deserve!

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