Great Design for All

The 2019 Professional Builder Design Awards provide ample evidence that great design can be realized in all types of housing at any price point in any market August 26, 2019

2019 professional builder design awards project of the year kitchen and living room

Photo: Ryan Gamma Photography

I’ve never really bought into the talk that great housing design costs more money. But then, I’m not a builder, and certainly not one large enough to invest in an in-house design team or to commission plans from a big-name architectural firm for every new community. 

I’m also aware that most builders usually pull from a library of house plans, perhaps making a few minor changes to accommodate a particular lot or buyer, but otherwise rely on what’s been built, with some degree of sales success, in the past. If it ain’t broke, right?

But two days spent sifting through entries to our annual Design Awards and another two days touring product with a well-known builder applying its luxury-home prowess to more attainable price points reinforced my belief that great design can be realized in all types of housing at any price point in any market. You just have to want to do it.

For proof, the kitchen of our 2019 Project of the Year(shown, above)features a single wall of major appliances within base and wall cabinets fronted by a long island fitted with a sink, more storage, and seating—a simple yet elegant solution. “It’s easier to make small things look good,” says the builder Josh Wynne, who provided a walk-in pantry behind the kitchen at far less cost. “It’s hard to design a big kitchen that looks good and is inexpensive.” 

2019 Professional Builder Design Awards judges
It was my distinct pleasure and honor to join our team of Design Awards judges, who not only worked diligently and collaboratively, but genuinely enjoyed one another. Clockwise from top left: architect Tessa Smith, builder Michael Freiburger, designer Larry Garnett, and architect Lorelei Petit.

In the case of the luxury production builder shifting into more attainable product, it comes down to respect and choices. Yes, they down-spec the big-ticket stuff, but they still offer contrasting colors for the island cabinets and countertop, distinctive tile on the backsplash, deep baseboard trim, and a package of connected home devices powered by a robust wireless signal (all standard), not to mention outdoor areas and indoor niches that belie lower price points. “It’s our responsibility to come up with design elements that respect the investment buyers are making in a new home, regardless of price,” the builder told me. 

So when you get a chance, take a close look at the Design Award winners and at the other design resources we offer, for ideas that suit your budget and deliver higher value than the “tired-but-true” plans you’re (re)using now. It just may provide the boost you need to refresh your product and outplay the competition.