Making It Come Out Right

chattanooga modern home

Back in August I posted about this project. It’s particularly important to me for two reasons. I really like the clients personally and want to make them happy. And I want to prove that you can design and build clean, modern residential homes for a price similar to what you would pay for traditional spec builder homes using off-the-shelf home plans.

So, we got our numbers back on this project as designed, and it came in almost $70,000 more than our original target budget. Ooof. We—my colleagues at New Blue Construction, the clients, and I—scratched our heads and came up with a set of changes we hoped would get the price down. 

The biggest move was to eliminate the garage altogether. In its place, I designed an arrangement of screen walls and an overhead canopy to make a sheltered parking place and define the courtyard space. Without the garage, the walls and canopy create a series of overlapping planes that are really more contemporary than the garage was. The clients and I both really like this solution better than the original garage.

Inside, we eliminated a powder room on the ground floor, but rearranged the master bath and closet so that the master bath can be accessed from the hall by guests. Upstairs, we simplified the upstairs reading nook, replacing a bay window with a regular window.

Those changes got us down to within $25,000, which was still too high. So next I turned to the exterior materials. On the parts of the house you can see from the street, I replaced some of the brick with metal siding and Hardie Plank. On the rear and side of the house, I used an integrally colored concrete masonry unit that matches the color of the brick. These changes got us to within 7 percent, of our original target. The client was willing to make the stretch, and the project is a go now.

In the end, I was able to protect the things that were the most important to the clients (and to me as the architect): the courtyard, art studio, a modern open riser stair, and the generous glass doors that open on to the screen porch with its fabulous view. The clients will have a gracious house designed around their preferences and habits, and it won’t cost an arm and a leg. It came out right.