History Repeats Itself

History repeats itself

An Insider’s Look into the Details of this Historic Restoration

 

Located close to Chicago’s ‘El’ tracks, this 132-year-old historically significant home has withstood over one hundred years of Chicago’s harsh winters, humid summers, and rumbling elevated trains. In 2010, owners commissioned Areté Renovators to restore this Romanesque Queen Anne-style home to its original beauty.

Our clients were passionately involved in every aspect of architectural, interior design, and construction. What truly excited owners about the house was the potential to restore the residence and then to live in an authentic antique. They had no interest in modernizing or “gut rehabbing”. They were committed to working with the original historic elements of the house by bringing out the home’s completely unique beauty and making it a special home for their family of six.

Our company initiated construction with interior renovations and then proceeded to work on a three-story masonry addition. The addition to the home included space for a two-car garage, scullery, three-story winding maple staircase, loft, energy-efficient Marvin™ windows, doors, an upgraded 400 amp electrical system, radiant heat in the floors and garage concrete slab, TJI engineered joists, OSB sub-flooring, hardwood maple floors throughout addition, Quiet Rock, Majestic Eco-Star roofing slates, and a modified roof. A wrought iron exterior deck and rails with a natural flagstone deck, custom woodwork, and milk-based paint completed the project.

Areté Renovators, the architects and designers, and the clients were committed to maximizing “Green” construction possibilities throughout this project. The most significant and sensitive changes were made to the north and west elevations of the existing house that included kitchen renovation, bathrooms, and a three-story masonry addition. The changes throughout the project improved the living space functionality of the house by improving the work and living areas without altering the original design.

2214 North Bissell Historical Backdrop

The original owners purchased two recently divided lots (each 25 feet by 125 feet) in that area then known as the Sheffield Farm Addition. In 1879-1880, 353 Bissell Street was built. It became 2214 North Bissell Street in early 1889 when the City of Chicago annexed what was then Lakeview Township and changed the street numbering system. Original owners built the first house on the block, a fourteen-room red brick mansion utilizing both lots.

On May 4th of the year before, less than three miles away, the infamous Haymarket Square Riots took place. A few years later construction began on the massive Saint Vincent DePaul Church that would go on to anchor DePaul University that was established in 1898. In 1900, the Northwestern Elevated Railroad Company (which later became the Chicago Transit Authority) built the elevated train tracks running through the back fifty feet of the original owners’ lot.

Concrete footing and foundation placement for addition

Excavating the foundations for the 18’w x 37’L addition with no easements between the existing 132-year-old historic home and Chicago Transit Authority elevated tracks and subway presented a major challenge. Construction equipment had very little room to maneuver during the excavation process.

Concrete is environmentally friendly in a variety of ways. The ingredients of concrete (water, aggregate, and cement) are abundant in supply and take a lesser toll in their extraction than other construction materials. Quarries, the primary source of raw materials, can be easily reclaimed for recreational, residential, or commercial use. Or they can be restored to their natural state.

As a nearly inert material, concrete is an ideal medium for recycling waste or industrial byproducts. Many materials that would end up in landfills can be used instead to make concrete. Blast furnace slag, recycled polystyrene, and fly ash are among materials that can be included in the recipe for concrete and further enhance its appeal. Waste products such as scrap tires and kiln dust are used to fuel the manufacture of cement. And even old concrete itself can be reborn as aggregate for new concrete mixtures.

Further characteristics of concrete are waste minimization and long life. Whether cast-in-place or precast, concrete is used on an as-needed basis. Leftovers are easily reused or recycled. Concrete is a durable material that actually gains strength over time, conserving resources by reducing maintenance and the need for reconstruction.

Masonry

Once the concrete foundation had cured the masonry phase moved into high gear. Due to the fact that winter conditions were in effect, the masonry subcontractor enclosed the work and heated the enclosure. CMU blocks with rebar strengthening were covered with red face brick that closely matched the existing home.

The decision to use masonry for the addition is because masonry is energy efficient with insulating value and high-thermal mass. Also, this type of construction material utilizes thermal lag to reduce peak energy loads, thus decreasing the size of the building HVAC system.

A key reason to use masonry is that the thick, heavy walls of a masonry building give it inherent soundproofing which was critical in the construction because of the close proximity of the CTA trains next to the addition. The heavy walls also give a masonry building ‘heat capacity.’ When you live in a climate with 30-degree temperature swings daily (like Chicago), these heavy walls mean that you do not need as much insulation in the walls. Better insulation capacity means lower heating bills.

The masonry construction included a stairwell enclosure that was to be the location of a winding three-story hardwood maple stairway leading up to the third floor of the existing home. Upon completion of the masonry work, all existing and new masonry was washed and cleaned with a non-toxic cleansing agent.

Framing and Insulation

The framing was started in the heart of the Chicago winter even as the masonry contractor was working on the second-floor level. The floor and roof framing were designed as a singular system using ledgers bolted into the CMU blocks with Hilti anchor bolts, wood “I” beams hung onto the ledger with steel hangers, OSB subflooring glued and screwed to the wood “I” beams to reduce potential squeaks. This system is labor and cost-efficient by using construction techniques that save energy and labor.

One of the most challenging aspects of the project was melding the new addition’s roof framing with the existing home’s multi-angled, multi-dormer, multi-gabled slate roof. The entire existing west elevation slate roof and metal flashing were replaced with new EcoStar recycled slate roofing material. The roof on the new addition also used the same materials.

Once the framing was completed radiant heat tubing was placed on top of the OSB subflooring with 2” x 2” “sleepers 16” on center and then lightweight concrete was placed between the sleepers and over the radiant heat coils. The tubing was then covered with additional OSB subflooring and maple hardwood floors.

Eco-tech spray insulation covered every possible gap in between joists, roof, and wall framing. Once this phase was completed special Quiet Rock gypsum board was placed over the roof and wall framing and taped.

Existing Home Kitchen Renovation & New Addition Scullery

One of the true renovation centerpieces in the existing home is the kitchen design renovation and new addition scullery. The owners had a distinct vision regarding the kitchen design and were intimately involved in every phase starting with the selection of the design team and final installation by our company. Each kitchen wall and base cabinet was unique and distinct in form, finish, and color.

The kitchen countertops reflected this quality and presented different textures from zinc countertops to wood countertops. The kitchen walls were finished in quiet rock gypsum board and finished with milk-based paint. There was period-style wood wainscoting installed by our craftsmen who paid attention to every detail through the installation process. The existing floor was refinished and stained to match the rest of the existing floors throughout the house.

The maple floors in the kitchen are original to the house, but we needed to take up 3 or 4 layers of flooring to get to those floors. Wainscoting in the kitchen is original to the house. The renovated kitchen flowed into the scullery of the new addition. There, a period Kohler 1920’s era cast iron farmhouse style kitchen sink was installed with additional unique cabinetry installed that reflected the same vision that owners brought to the renovation of the kitchen. A

12’ ceiling in the scullery with an open three-story winding hardwood maple staircase framing one side of the scullery puts a dramatic exclamation point to this design.

The goal of this kitchen renovation – with scullery addition, was to bring it into the 21st century while taking into consideration the beautiful Victorian-era details of the original design.

The owners asked for a period kitchen with functionality. They wanted to use a mix of materials and did not want the cabinets to look “new”. We worked together to ensure that all materials looked as if they had been there all along and to create an environment that felt true to the original architecture and styling. The designer created a process so that the client’s intentions could be realized. This evolved over time as they discussed lifestyle, appliance preferences, and materials.

The centerpiece of this beautiful Victorian-era renovation is the kitchen and scullery flowing right out of the kitchen into the new three-story addition built by our company. The 12′ ceiling in the scullery with the open three-story stair framing on one side of the scullery adds a dramatic exclamation point to this design. The owners had a distinct vision regarding the kitchen and were intimately involved in every phase starting with the selection of the design team and final installation by our company. The scullery became a way to extend the working kitchen and provided hidden laundry facilities.

The kitchen and scullery were designed in a period style and reflect an “unfitted” approach to kitchen cabinetry. A mix of finishes and materials provide furniture styling and unique custom vignettes. In the scullery, a period Kohler 1920’s era cast iron farmhouse style kitchen sink was purchased by the client and fitted with additional unique cabinetry that reflected the precise vision of the homeowners. Our client’s enthusiasm and ability to resource wonderful antique lighting fixtures and hardware added to the uniqueness of the finished product.

The designer designed the bones of each space and guided owners in building a functional as well as beautiful space. The painted cabinets – Designer’s Custom Signature line, were primed at the factory and finished painted on the job site by a local craftsman. Antique distressed Hickory was the chosen wood species for the remaining perimeter cabinets while walnut was utilized for a very stylized Gothic hutch.

The kitchen countertop materials include Ocean Stone at the main sink, distressed wood along the window wall, and antiqued zinc on the peninsula. The Sub-Zero 736 is recessed into the walls and is covered in reclaimed wood panels that resemble an old “icebox”. The kitchen walls were finished in quiet rock gypsum board and finished with milk-based paint. There was period-style wood wainscoting installed by our craftsmen who paid attention to every detail through the installation process.

Missing millwork elements were carefully and skillfully recreated by our company. The existing floor was refinished and stained to match the rest of the existing floors throughout the house. The renovated kitchen flows into the scullery in the new addition. The existing back entry door was removed and allowed this connection and increased functionality. In this kitchen, we created beauty as well as function for our clients.

Bathrooms

Bathroom renovation updates reflect a total commitment to quality while maintaining the home’s original integrity and design characteristics. Our company performed remodeling of all five bathrooms in this house. Existing wood wainscoting was carefully removed, refinished using the original color, and reinstalled. Missing or damaged wainscoting was reproduced on site. The second-floor bathroom brick exterior window was removed and a wood-framed fully cased shelving unit was artfully built into the former exterior window opening. All floors were refinished and stained in the original finishes. All fixtures are Chicago faucets.

How We Sourced Our Materials

A believes that developing environmentally sustainable construction practices is a vital step toward decreasing any one of our construction project’s carbon footprint, increasing our competitive advantage, and preparing for inevitable government regulations. For these reasons, we saw a perfect opportunity to source only eco-friendly materials for this historic restoration so it continues to last throughout the centuries.

Roofing Materials

Majestic Slate tiles offer the natural beauty of slate while providing enhanced strength and durability. Manufactured from 80% post-industrial recycled rubber and plastic, Majestic Slate tiles offer an environmentally friendly, lightweight alternative to traditional slate roofing products.

Radiant Floor Heat

Hot-water circulatory heating is a heating system utilizing radiant heat from floors and walls which are generated by circulated hot water. Unlike air heating, this user-friendly system produces clean warmth without polluting the air. As neither fire nor electricity is used inside the rooms, it is environmentally friendly as well.

EcoTech Spray Insulation

Composed of over 27% soy and 45% renewables, EcoTech spray foam is a greener product than other spray foam products on the market, which are petroleum-based. Foam insulation acts as a fundamental building block of green construction by preserving the heat and cool air.

Masonry Construction

Concrete masonry lasts longer and requires little maintenance. The need to manufacture new materials is reduced with every new concrete masonry building. Concrete masonry materials can be recycled for other projects into new masonry materials or aggregates. The ability to reuse existing masonry buildings, including entire structures or the core structure, further enhances its sustainable properties.

Concrete masonry can significantly reduce the energy usage of a building because the structure stays warmer or cooler longer. This consistent temperature helps lower energy costs by shifting peak loads to non-peak hours while ensuring the comfort of those who live and work inside the building.

Eco-Friendly TJI Joists

TJI joist production starts in the forest. iLevel, as part of Weyerhaeuser, creates wood products that are produced in environmentally responsible ways, and uses proprietary technologies, from manufacturing to design software, to optimize every tree.

Sub-flooring: OSB Board (Orientated Strand Board)

We installed ecologically advantageous “OSB panels” manufactured from sustainable fast-growing trees of smaller diameters. This OSB panel is produced using lower levels of dangerous formaldehyde when compared with other similar products.

These types of new OSB subfloor panels are sturdy, long lasting, and are certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Chain of Custody Certified wood, which indicates that the wood used to manufacture this material is harvested from conscientiously managed woods.

Lincrusta Wall Coverings & Milk Paint

Our company is a concerned and proactive partner in making environmentally conscious choices throughout the construction process. There are a number of environmentally safe paint alternatives today. According to Environmental Protect Agency standards, in order to be acceptable, the VOC levels of paint must be lower than 250 grams per liter. Paints that contain less than 5 grams per liter can be labeled and sold as “No VOC” paint. Among the new generation of environmentally friendly paint choices, the choice that truly contains no VOCs is milk paint.

Milk paint is one that is not only safe for the environment but beneficial also. One of its primary ingredients – high-grade calcium lime, makes milk paint environmentally friendly. Calcium lime has unique properties in that it is cured through a reaction called carbonization. This paint draws in carbon dioxide from the air as it continues to harden, so when applied to interior and exterior walls and siding, it will continue cleaning the air.

This environmentally safe paint is an actively beneficial choice among Earth-friendly products. Another benefit of natural lime in milk paint is that it acts as a fire retardant. When choosing environmentally friendly paint that is safer for the Earth, you can also have paint that is safer for your home. Lincrusta is made entirely of natural materials, most of which are sustainable and it is still produced traditionally.

See the photo gallery of this project in our portfolio, History Repeats Itself. To discuss the details of a potential Chicago home remodeling project you may have give us a call at 773-610-4551.

Reduced Square Footage Doesn’t Equal Reduced Costs

Chicago renovations

When it comes to renovating a small area, will it be less expensive?

I think there is a huge misconception that it will be less expensive to renovate a small space. Almost every client that calls us with a bathroom, or a kitchen project will say the words “it’s a small space, so costs should be low.” However, low square footage doesn’t equate to less expensive. Pricing isn’t necessarily based on your square footage, and you still have the same labor involved.

Then you’ll have cost savings – based on square footage, is on the material side, like with buying less flooring. However, when it comes to installation, we will still have the same labor cost.

When it comes to bathroom remodels, even though the space may be small, why is it not less expensive to renovate?

Renovation costs remain the same, regardless of whether it’s a master bathroom or guest bathroom. Some clients may consider replacing the tile in their bathroom and/or shower enclosure as “simple,” when it’s not. What they may not realize is professionals have to remove your tub, vanity or toilet to do the work and clients don’t understand that’s an added labor cost to do that. Labor isn’t exclusive to solely removing your existing floor and replacing it with new tile.

If you think about a large bathroom vs a small bathroom – they have the same components and are not much different. Both are going to have a shower, vanity, and a toilet, and therefore, size isn’t going to make a difference in cost. Their difference is only going to be their square footage.

In a bathroom, what are some of the more expensive projects?

An expensive renovation that clients don’t consider or understand being expensive is converting a tub shower combo into a walk-in shower. A lot goes into that renovation. It starts with rebuilding that entire space. Even though the plumbing remains, you’re removing a tub, reframing the entire enclosure, building the shower base, and then there is the expense of the tile. And no matter what – you still must adjust your plumbing.

What about renovations on a powder room?

Powder rooms are different. A powder room is simpler because it is only a toilet and a sink so costs will be much lower.

Does this same concept apply to kitchen remodels – regardless of square footage?

The same concept applies because you have identical components, regardless of if you want to renovate a small gallery kitchen or a large, open kitchen. Just because your kitchen is small, don’t think it will cost less to renovate.

Be ready to discuss what components in your kitchen you want to keep. If you only want to switch out your sink, fixtures, countertop, and backsplash – and want to keep your appliances, cabinetry, and have smaller upgrades – you’ll keep your costs low.

A client also should consider the work they want to be done and the trades that would be involved in handling that work. For example, if you want to relocate your dishwasher, sink, and move your microwave to the kitchen island, you will drive your costs higher because electrical and plumbing are expensive skills.

Even if you don’t know exactly where you want to put things in your kitchen, you should come to a contractor knowing what you plan to move or rearrange and know what you want to keep or replace. Our job is to help you achieve your vision with our design and knowing what’s possible.

If someone has received quotes from other contractors, what do you discuss with them?

Arete is here to educate clients – especially if they have already received quotes from other contractors. Our pricing is between the mid to high range, so if they’ve already received a couple of quotes, it’s important to ask if another contractor (s) included allowances for their tile on your vanity, or did they price out actual dollar amounts for what the client is looking for?

for us, if a client has an allowance, that’s a red flag, because you’re probably going to get hit with a change order later. Allowances are a contractor’s way of giving you a lower price now for you to sign on with them, and later, the contractor is going to hit you with a more realistic cost.

Currently, giving quotes with allowances is tricky, with everything that’s happening with materials. It’s not uncommon for suppliers to unexpectedly send price increases up to 25 percent on material costs they originally quoted.

What is a change order fee?

A change order is any work above and beyond the initial contract you signed. For example, a contractor may say you need a whole new electrical panel, which is an essential component needed to complete your renovation, and then present you with that additional cost.

How important is it to have a budget?

I always like to get some sort of budget from a client. I know a lot of people are hesitant to give that, but it’s important because – even if we’re not the contractor you select, Arete tries to provide you with alternatives. I believe most people have a realistic budget. You can always do your renovation within your budget, but it’s all about how you do it. If you only want to spend $5,000 on a bathroom remodel, then you’re probably going to have to buy all the material on your own, be your own general contractor for a lot of it, pay for an electrician and someone to install. It all comes down to how much do you want to do by yourself? Also, keep in mind how long you want to live through construction on your kitchen and bathroom.

What about renovating an existing bathroom floor into a heated floor?

Heated floors are really tricky because there is no room for error. There is lots of testing that goes into it because as soon as you get that tile down, you have to make sure the floors still heating and not leaking, otherwise you’re ripping the floor back up for any repairs.

We actually had a client where we redid her guest bath and she had an existing heated floor, which she told us about. With heated floors you must use shorter nails, so you don’t puncture the pipes. We were mindful of that, but during the demo, whoever had initially installed her floor did not use the shorter nails. In the process of ripping the tile out, we unlogged a nail from the pipe, and it caused the leak.

HGTV and the DIY YouTube channels make it difficult for remodel businesses because it looks so easy on TV. At Arete, we would rather bring the client to our job sites that are in process, or recently finished, to show them proper examples. If you’re thinking of a remodel, we suggest clients talk to our prior clients that had a similar project. Contact us here or call us at 773-610-4551 to discuss your potential project with our Chicago home remodeling experts.

Six Major Challenges In Chicago Home Remodeling

(And How To Overcome Them)

When it comes to remodeling your home in Chicago, there are a lot of things you can prepare for…and unfortunately, a lot of things you cannot prepare for. You could have everything picked out and ordered, just to get an email that says your material will be delayed another two weeks. You can also receive all of your materials on time, just for them to arrive in the wrong color or damaged by mistake.

Remodeling your Chicago home can be just as stressful as it is exciting, but it doesn’t have to be with a little bit of extra preparation. Things like knowing the lead time for materials, having a good idea of what you are looking for out of the remodel, and getting living arrangements in order if you have to move out of your home can be the difference between a remodeling dream come true and a remodeling nightmare.

Below are six common pain points that many Chicago area homeowners experience during their remodeling process and how you can do your best to avoid them as much as possible.

1. Timeline

Although we may wish home renovations can be done with the snap of a finger, that is just not the case. From the pre-construction meeting we hold a couple of weeks prior to starting your remodel to the final “To-Do” being checked off our list, this process takes about one to two months on average to complete, and that’s not with any variables being factored in.

If you have an average-sized bathroom, a complete bathroom remodel will take around three to four weeks to be completed. If you are looking to redo your kitchen, that usually takes five to eight weeks depending on the scope of the project.

If you want a complete interior remodel, you’re looking at anywhere from three to six months, and any total rebuild normally requires a timeline from six months to a year. Good things take time, and while we know how frustrating it is to have to leave your home for an extended period of time, we promise it will all be worth it once the remodel is complete.

2. Schedule Changes

When it comes to the schedule of your project, there are a lot of moving parts. We usually have multiple subcontractors working on one project at a time, and it is our project coordinator’s job to make sure that these subcontractors show up on the days that they are scheduled to work in your place.

Typically, we have workers in and out of your project each day, but it is not uncommon for the subcontractors to not be there for a day or two. If something comes up and the subs are unable to work on your project that day, our project coordinators will be the first to let you know about the schedule changes.

They will send you daily updates on the progress of your project that include photos and a list of things the crew got done that day. We dislike when a project goes over schedule just as much as our clients dislike it, so we do our best to ensure that everything gets completed on time and correct the first time.

3. Oversight Errors

With that being said, sometimes things can go wrong in a project. Our latest puzzle that we had to solve was finding a new spot for an elongated shower niche. In the original plan, we had the shower niche stretched along the whole side of the shower wall, but when we started demolition, we found some pretty important water lines that were unable to be moved in the place where the shower niche was supposed to go.

All this took was a simple visit to the project with our interior designer, some discussion with the homeowner, and some new renderings that split the shower niche in half to leave room for the water pipes. This is one of many examples where we had to roll with the punches and find solutions to issues quickly so our schedule doesn’t get delayed.

However, it is important to note that errors and omissions in remodeling occur on every project. People make mistakes, and generally the more complex the project, the more likely it is that errors will occur. It is up to us to fix these mistakes to the best of our abilities so we can keep the schedule moving and our clients happy.

4. Delayed Materials

Supplies of key building materials such as timber, steel, cement, and roof tiles have been dwindling for months, while prices have risen across several materials. This is expected to continue throughout the year at the very least. Covid-19 is primarily the reason behind the building materials shortage. A large reason for this is the social distancing requirements and limited manpower for material production.

These limitations aren’t only happening for US-based materials, but everywhere in the world. On top of the lack of manpower, the demand for these building materials has increased tenfold. As people spend more time at home, they are looking to upgrade and improve their homes. Being confined indoors made people realize that they want to make a lot of upgrades to their space, and what better time to upgrade your space than when you are stuck inside.

Things like a new at-home office space, a play place for your kids in the backyard, and kitchen upgrades are among some of the most common remodels we have seen throughout the pandemic. However, when everyone starts to need the same thing and there are not ample materials and labor to keep up with the demand, this is when delays and increased prices begin to occur.

The cost of materials for repair and maintenance work rose 1.9% between April-May of this year, and increased by 12.8% between May 2020 and May 2021, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Monthly Statistics of Building Materials and Components report for June.

It is important to make sure that our clients recognize these material and labor shortages and plan for them in their remodeling projects. To limit the delay of your materials, we advise you to minimize customization. The materials that many of our suppliers have readily available come from their standard product lines.

Another important aspect to note is that if you are looking to remodel and then sell, customized homes depreciate faster than a production home. If you design something with just your own family in mind, that same design may not be applicable to the next person looking to buy your place. If you’re remodeling to sell, sticking to standard finishes saves time and money.

5. Difficult Living Situations

Living in the midst of a home renovation is messy, loud, and distracting. While it is inconvenient to stay at your home during a large remodeling project, sometimes it is the only choice you have. First and foremost, your Chicago contractors should have the attitude that they are guests within your home throughout the entirety of the project.

This means communicating with you on a consistent basis, cleaning up any trash, sweeping and vacuuming dust from the construction, and listening to any rules you set in place. While noise is sometimes a difficult thing to control during a remodeling project, noise levels are also something that your contractors should discuss with the client, as well.

If you are working from home and they are doing demolition in your space, it’s important that you prepare for this type of distraction. If it’s possible, we suggest that you move out of the home for the project’s duration. This allows the crews to move unencumbered and complete the project with less downtime than if they’d had to accommodate the family’s schedule. If it’s not possible to move out, remember that the renovation isn’t forever, and the beautiful final result will be well worth the wait…and the noise.

6. Unmet Expectations

Obviously, not meeting our clients’ expectations is something we try really hard not to do. No matter how difficult the project gets or how many curveballs are thrown our way, we always want to make sure that our clients are still feeling confident about their remodel.

However, with that being said, you cannot please everyone. This is something that we have learned the hard way after being in the industry in the Chicago area for twenty years. Homeowners have a lot of expectations when it comes to their house, and rightfully so. We understand wanting things to be perfect when it comes to the space you want to grow in.

Money, time, and effort are all at stake, and sometimes outside forces cause lapses in communication between the contractor and the client. Maintaining good communication with your designated project coordinator as the project progresses is an imperative step to avoid not having your remodeling expectations fulfilled.

Contact The Top-Rated Chicago Home Remodelers At Areté

Areté Renovators strives to make your Chicago home remodeling project as smooth as possible. We are constantly putting new practices into place to improve our communication methods and to properly keep track of all the moving parts your project requires. To learn more about our services, contact us today at 773-610-4551.

Handyman Vs. Contractor Who Should I Hire and Why?

How To Choose Between Hiring A Contractor Or A Handman With summer finally here, a lot of people are turning towards those home improvement projects that they have been pushing off for a while. While it may seem like a more financially responsible decision to try and complete these projects on your own, the bigger tasks might take some help from a licensed contractor.

Chicago home renovationHowever, It is true that some home improvement projects take little or no specialized knowledge. Things like painting walls and sealing furniture are easily within the abilities of many weekend warriors. And regular maintenance tasks—such as light electrical work, cleaning gutters, or mending fences—can also usually be easily done with a little research and know-how beforehand on best practices.

This isn’t to say that you can’t do more advanced projects, but it quickly becomes more about how much time you are willing to invest into a project over hiring someone that is already knowledgeable and experienced in those areas. In other words, how much is your time worth and how much do you enjoy learning about carpentry, plumbing, etc.?

When those scales tip the other way, it may be time to invest in a handyman or a contractor. It may be a little difficult to distinguish when a handyman vs. a contractor is needed, but below are some helpful tips on who to hire to get the job done safely and correctly when the task requirement stretches outside of your capabilities.

Before we get into how to choose between a handyman and a contractor, we should first explain the difference between the two. A handyman is a contractor who specializes in installing, altering, repairing, cleaning, and maintaining residential and commercial property. A handyman can also be categorized as a non-invasive contractor whereas a licensed contractor can be categorized as an invasive contractor.

According to the National Association of Home Appliance Contractors (NAHAC), the defined difference between a non-invasive contractor and an invasive contractor is as follows:

“A non-invasive contractor is a person who does manual labor or work requiring special knowledge and equipment for which a special permit or contract is not required in the case of a sudden unexpected change in the circumstances which makes compliance impractical.” This sounds like a really long definition, so in short, it basically means the project doesn’t require a permit to complete.

This type of contractor may perform the work on his or her own premise and disregard third-party interference. An invasive contractor, on the other hand, is a person who does work requiring special knowledge and equipment that also requires a special permit or contract to complete.

They must go through a third-party system for all building approvals before beginning to work on the project. These definitions can often be confusing, especially for people not involved in the home improvement industry.

Ultimately, the easiest way to decide whether you need a handyman or a licensed contractor is to look at the scope of your project. If you have a simple task in mind that you could perform yourself but cannot for some reason or another, then you should consider hiring a handyman to complete it. If it is a home addition or complete home renovation in Chicago that requires special permits, a licensed contractor is necessary for the job.

Chicago home builderNow that we know the difference between a handyman and a licensed contractor, let’s talk about some of the improvement projects that actually require a licensed contractor.

In general, a licensed or invasive contractor will take on larger projects, such as home additions or major home renovations. This is because these bigger projects require building permits in order for them to be completed.

A contractor license is issued by the government and varies from state to state. In some states, there may be a special certification just for plumbers, or just for electricians.

You may also apply for a roofer contractor or a subcontractor license. In Illinois, plumbing, roofing, and electrical work all require state licensing. A license also enables the contractor to insure their business. If the contractor’s business is already insured, this could save you a lot of money down the road in case any accident takes place on the job site.

It is best to make sure all aspects of the project are insured in order to avoid any legal issues down the road. A general rule of thumb to determine what type of licensed contractor you need is to just simply look up what your state requires. If your project is going to cost $750 or more, a license is necessary to bid on that job. A contractor will need a license to work if the job, including labor and material, exceeds $2,000.

Our project coordinators at Arete are knowledgeable individuals that are educated on Illinois’s licensing requirements. When you choose to work for us, we will do all of the detailed work for you so you don’t have to worry about any surprises along the way.

On the other hand, if your project does not exceed $750 in order to complete it, but you still can’t find the time to do it yourself, that is when a handyman should be considered for hire. For example, installing doors, laying backsplash tiles, painting walls, or adding new fixtures are a variety of things that can be completed with unlicensed outside help. They’re non-invasive tasks and usually don’t break the bank to complete.

When choosing a licensed contractor, it is important to understand where you can find the most qualified people for your project. These references can help narrow down the list of appropriate contractors that can meet your needs and address any concerns you may have.

With Arete, for example, you can look at our Google and Yelp pages for any helpful reviews on what it is like to work with our team. If someone can vouch for your contractor’s experience and competence, you will likely be able to come away with a higher-quality contractor.

While some contractors have knowledgeable associates who can give you the inside scoop on features of a certain product, interactions with these professionals can be labor-intensive and require extensive training. So it’s important to know what you are getting yourself into before agreeing to hire a certain person for the job.

Another factor that can affect the selection of a contractor for your project can be the cost, but this can certainly be a factor sometimes also ruled out altogether if you are looking to invest in something substantial in order to get a bigger return.

At Arete, we are focused on the needs of our clients and how we can get them the biggest return on their investment. We make sure to ask the important questions and ensure we are understanding your vision, budget, and giving realistic expectations and advice on where you will get the most bang for your buck.

Knowing the difference among reputable contractors, electricians, and plumbers comes down to safety. First, if you are looking to get some electrical work done, it is important to know that electricians must be licensed and bonded according to state and local laws.

Electricians also have to follow specific codes when doing repair work on residential properties. If they can’t follow the codes, they won’t safely complete the job. The same goes for plumbers.

However, while it’s usually safer to hire an electrician or plumber to execute the job, it is always a good idea to have, at a minimum, structural engineers or independent contractors check the structure for safety grounds before the job begins.

Communication is also another important aspect to consider. Contractors must be timely, detailed, accurate, responsive, and flexible in the way they communicate. If a contractor delays communication or communicates inadequately before they are awarded a job, they will usually behave even worse during the project. In short, knowing who to hire in these crucial situations is paramount.

To get the job done right the first time, look for references from reputable, upstanding companies who work with contractors on similar projects. With Arete, for example, you can look at our Google and Yelp pages for any helpful reviews on what it is like to work with our team.

If someone can vouch for your contractor’s experience and competence, you will likely be able to come away with a higher-quality contractor. In addition, if you have a strong network of local contractors who are also doing jobs on similar terms or invoice the higher-end services of their peers, you will not have to shell out extortionate amounts for substandard work.

If you are searching for top-rated home contractors in Chicago, look no further than Areté Renovators. Our aim is to achieve excellence by providing the best condo and home remodeling services in Streeterville, West Loop, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, River North, Gold Coast, Old Town, and Roscoe Village.

Spend more time outdoors this summer and less time researching who to hire for the job. We got your back every step of the way. Get in touch with us for a consultation today! Call 773-610-4551

How Interior Design Affects Fine Dining: Home and Away

Interior Design For Fine DiningIt is safe to say that the world really had to adapt to Covid-19’s grip on every aspect of our lives. The last 15 months have been nothing short of difficult for many people, and it has really opened our eyes to how we can modify our way of living and overcome our issues together instead of individually.

One of the many industries that Covid-19 took a huge toll on was the food and restaurant industry. According to a recent survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant and foodservice industry likely lost nearly $120 billion in sales during the first three months of the pandemic alone. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Many Chicago area restaurants had to close their doors for good, unable to keep up with the slow trickle of business and lack of workers. As things start to open up and vaccines begin to roll out, restaurants are starting to get back on their feet again as they comply with the new set of rules and regulations that are being announced by the CDC sporadically.

However, that does not mean things can be picked up right where they left off. Many Chicago restaurants are trying to dig themselves out of the hole 2020 gave them. Things like outdoor dining and take-out are still being encouraged in order to support these restaurants and keep others safe.

Chicago is starting to feel like its bustling self again, and this is especially thanks to restaurants and bars conforming and adapting to the changes, but we are not in the clear just yet. Covid is still an issue that will not be going away anytime soon.

While Covid may be loosening its grip on the world, it hasn’t completely let go of it yet. This raises the question of how patrons and restaurants can bounce back from a year-long hiatus of fine dining services. There are many creative solutions to this question, but the main issue here is how can we make people feel safe again.

How these restaurants create an environment that feels safe, welcoming, and clean will be the difference between them surviving after the pandemic and thriving after the pandemic. Many of these issues can also be applied to at-home dining, as well. Things like lighting, ambiance, and design of the space have a much greater effect on your dining experience than one may think.

While many people are still choosing to stay home, there has never been a better time for an interior facelift. Below are a couple of creative and simple ways to take your fine dining experience to the next level through interior design and make up for all the delicious meals you missed in 2020.

Color

When you are designing a space for a restaurant, it is important to create a look that aims to tap the customer’s senses just right. Successful restaurants know exactly who their target clientele are, and it’s how they’re able to conceive and build a carefully engineered experience around their needs and desires.

With this being said, sight is almost always the first means by which you gather information and make judgments on an establishment, especially if you haven’t been to that restaurant in over a year (or ever). Lucrative restaurants recognize this, and they take great pains to use it to send the right information.

Color is one way you can influence customer behavior. If you are looking for new ways to elevate the look of your restaurant and draw new customers in, using specific colors is one of the simplest ways to do so. Take the color red for example. It is scientifically proven to raise blood pressure and increase heart rate when one looks at it, thus increasing one’s appetite.

And what’s a better way to get your clientele to order more food than psychologically increasing their appetite? Now we know red is a bold color, especially in fine dining restaurants, so it is important to use it subtly and with a purpose. Look at this red leather booth below for example. It catches your eye, but it does not overwhelm the space.

You can also incorporate this color onto your walls as a quick and simple solution to bringing in a more high-end look and indirectly make your guests hungry for more. Other colors like orange and yellow are also appetite stimulants.

Yellow is associated with happiness, which will then translate to your guests feeling happy about the restaurant they chose and the food they ate. We would recommend steering clear of any grays, blacks, blues, or browns unless they are used as accent colors in the space.

Research suggests that this is because these colors rarely exist in nature in the form of food and cause consumers to either lose their appetite or not think of food at all when walking into the establishment.

Lighting

Fine DiningChoosing the lighting of your restaurant space is solely based on the vibe you want to give off to your clientele. In many cases, the more high-end the restaurant is, the more dimly lit the space will be. If you want to take your restaurant to the next level and attract a more high-end clientele, lighting would be the first detail to address.

When you are choosing the correct lighting for your space, there are three types of light to consider: ambient, task, and accent. Ambient lighting is the type of lighting that sets the tone of the entire space. It is the overall illumination of the environment, and it is also what gives the first impression when you walk into the restaurant.

Low lighting creates an intimate, upscale atmosphere, especially in a restaurant’s bar and lounge areas, where patrons are more apt to sit closer together. Bright lighting, however, creates a more busy and animated atmosphere that typically screams casual dining. Depending on the mood you are going for, low lighting has been proven to produce more profitable results.

In addition to ambient lighting, task lighting is a little bit more flexible to work with. Everyone appreciates good task lighting when it comes to things like reading the menu, walkways, and cooking the food. Adding more high-end task lighting to your space can be as simple as placing a candle in the middle of each table or hanging a mini chandelier over each section. Creating better task lighting does not have to be expensive, and your guests will appreciate not having to pull out their cell phone flashlights in order to read the drink specials.

Finally, there is accent lighting. This is probably the least important of all the three, but when used correctly, it can make the whole space. It is decorative rather than functional and is typically used to illuminate things the restaurant wants the guests to notice.

For instance, items like paintings, sculptures, menus on the wall, and bars are all illuminated by accent lighting. It draws the customer’s eye and brings attention to smaller details in the space. When combining all three of these lighting elements together, it can change the whole ambiance of the environment in a positive way.

Fine Dining for the Home

Fine Dining In ChicagoOf course, not everyone is a restaurant owner or ready to go back to eating indoors quite just yet, but that does not mean you cannot translate lighting and color to affect the mood of your at-home dinner party experience. If you are like one of our great clients, Jill Lowe, you realize the importance of a fine dining atmosphere in the comfort and safety of your own home during these ever-changing times.

Jill, like many others, adapted to the at-home style of fine dining for two during the pandemic, and she did not disappoint. Check out her article that explains just how she was able to create a fine dining experience with a little help from Areté here. We were able to renovate the interior of her home to help give a high-end ambiance to any dinner party she is willing to throw, whether that be for two or twenty.

She experimented with table settings, task lighting, floral arrangements, and recipes that were inspired by some of her favorite Chicago area restaurants. She understands the importance of how color, lighting, and mood can affect the fine-dining space and made sure to incorporate all of these elements into each experience she created. If you are still unsure about dining indoors, you can always follow the advice of Jill and create a fine dining atmosphere while still supporting your local restaurants.

Take-out can be just as fun, if not better when you get to decide how to set the table. And when you finally feel comfortable enough to begin visiting your favorite restaurants once more, make sure to keep an eye out for these tiny details that make your dining experience that much more special.

If you are looking for an interior facelift to your restaurant or home that reflects a high-end ambiance, look no further. Areté Renovators can help turn any space into an upscale dream. Our aim is to achieve creative excellence by providing the best remodeling services in Streeterville, West Loop, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, River North, Gold Coast, Old Town, and Roscoe Village. Breathe some art into your space and get in touch with us for a consultation today! Call us at 773-610-4551.

Chicago Home Renovation Process Discussed By Arete’ Home And Condo Designer

As a design consultant for Arete Renovations, describe the renovation steps and how you contribute to the process.

As a design consultant, we’re not just picking beautiful colors, we do much more. We manage our projects alongside the project managers. If you’re a homeowner and you want to remodel your kitchen, you may not know where to start or understand the remodeling process. You’d start by calling the number on our website, talk to Gina, and she will schedule someone to come out for an estimate.

We come out, check your kitchen, talk to you, and propose some ideas. A client may want white kitchen cabinets – something simple with an entry-level budget. We may suggest another cabinet or suggest converting their peninsula to an island. We’ll show them where electrical and new outlets need to go. They may want to keep their faucet and fridge, but they may have to replace other items.

After we see their kitchen in person and collect information, we start creating labor and rough material estimates – this way, we know everything that has to be done. That information gets passed to me, to Ivana, or Maria – Arete Renovations three design consultants. Ivana is our lead designer, and she manages more luxurious, high-end, complicated projects. I manage entry-level to medium-sized projects, and Maria manages smaller projects. We sit down and talk about the project, discuss everything that needs to be done, look at photos of the existing condition, and figure out how we can cater to our client’s desires.

Taking Ownership Of Project As A Designer

kitchen designers in ChicagoFrom there, the project is mine. I contact the client, usually with an email, and introduce myself as the design consultant. I ask them to send me all their wishes, all their inspirational photos. I usually suggest sending 30-40 inspirational photos. We discuss tiles they may be interested in or backsplash tile. I want to get all the information I can so I can understand the client’s design vision – all with the client’s budget in mind.

Next is to discuss the technical aspects for the remodeling. We schedule a meeting with the client for a free, one-hour design consultation. During this meeting, I talk to the client about their design needs, preferred material, budget, etc. This meeting allows me to do educate them about, let’s say, marble vs. quartz countertops, standard kitchen cabinets vs. semi-custom made or fully custom made. We discuss all the details. It’s more of an educational and introductory process. I also get a feel for all of their design needs and prepare a design package. For a kitchen remodel, I will need eight hours to complete the design. We do the drawings, 2D renderings, and if the client wants – 3D renderings. When the client is ready to jump into the design process – this is where the actual work begins.

Present Proposed Style And Design To Client

I collect all their inspirational photos and create the design within their budget. I’ll also create a mood board. I pick a faucet, cabinetry – everything, and then present it to the client. I will let them know my perspective on their project. Usually, that’s a win-win. About 70- to 80 percent of the time, the client will agree with the style I have for with. With the other 30 percent, we will work back and forth, adjust the finer details, and have an agreement on how we want the project to look.

Fine Tuning The Design And Ordering Materials

When we have all the materials we want to use for the kitchen, we start the kitchen design process and present the design to the client – as well as the material selections. If they agree on that, then I go ahead and create a material estimate, which will include the kitchen cabinetry, countertop – everything that is needed, will be on a single material estimate.

When the client signs-off on the material estimate, we start ordering their materials. A lot of materials are on backorder right now due to Covid-19, so we collect lead times so if there is an issue, let’s say we find out their faucet is going to take up to four months to receive, I can call the client with that info and discuss finding something similar or an alternative within the same style. Once materials arrive, we inspect them to be sure they’re in a good condition and the right material arrived. If there is an issue, we immediately take care of it. We contact the client, and either return it or replace it and then coordinate delivery to the job site.

Staying On Schedule Once Demolition Begins

When demolition starts, we have a schedule. One week, we will do electrical, the next week we will do tiles, then after that, we will do grout. With the schedule, I know when to send which material to the job site. Unfortunately, if we keep all materials on the job site, sometimes there’s not enough space or things can get damaged, so we send by needs. It’s all about coordinating, designing, and doing a lot of the little things to make sure the project goes smoothly.

Once a week – or even more if needed, we go to the job site and check on our projects. The project coordinator never allows installers to install something that is not on the drawings. If something is not clear, they always confirm everything with me and with the client. We make sure items are installed where it’s supposed to be installed and we make sure the actual materials that we planned for are installed.

That is the process we go through on every project. Of course, there are different projects. Sometimes a project has to start with the design first so I can send the bids to the estimator, so he can create the material estimates. Recently, we had a project that requires a fireplace design and cabinetry around it in the living room. We were not able to make an estimate until I presented the design. In that project, I started the design process first. We selected the materials, did the drawings and 3D renderings, then went back and forth with the clients. I even consulted with the architects we collaborate with. Once we had all the materials for the entire design, I presented it and we were able to create the rough labor estimates.

There are a lot of moving parts. If something must be delivered to the job site, and none of our drivers are available, then we go and deliver ourselves. I have done deliveries to a job site from my car. Sometimes, materials have to be brought immediately to a job site and I’ll go purchase that from our supplier and deliver it to the job site.

As a design consultant, how often are you in communication with the client throughout the entire process?

We communicate through the entire process. I would say the main contact on a project will usually be the project manager because the project manager is onsite every day during the project, the demolition, installation, etc. I’m usually going back and forth. I’m 50 percent in the showroom, 25 percent on job sites, and 25 percent going around to suppliers researching materials I like or picking up samples.

It’s quite dynamic work, a lot of back and forth, but one of us (designers) and the project manager are the two main contacts for the client. We keep in touch every single day, every week during the whole project, and before and after the project.

How many projects are you currently working on? 

I’m working currently on eight projects. Some of them are at the very beginning, some of them have not begun yet, some of them are in the design process, some of them are in the material ordering process.

What kind of renovation projects are you currently working on? 

One project I have is kitchen, bathroom, and lighting fixtures. In another project, they are keeping the kitchen, but replacing the countertop and replacing all of the hardware for the kitchen. There is another project where I am replacing the whole unit floor, doing new wall paint, new carpet in the bedrooms, new kitchen, and new light fixtures throughout the unit. I have the job with the fireplace I was previously discussing, where we are refinishing the floor, building a completely new fireplace, doing the cabinetry around them, and also new wall paint.

Another project we have is with an astrophysicist who has this great bathroom design. It’s all about the galaxy and precious stones, and it should be a very fun project. The main designer in this project was the client. He had his own vision. I was just translating his vision by searching for tiles and creating the drawing and the layout for the tiles going back and forth. He was the main person in the design process, while I was just helping out. Sometimes people like something and they don’t know how to translate that into a project, so we do help them out.

How does the process change when the clients want their renovation to be fully customized? 

Some people do want to go fully custom. Usually, they have inspirational photos that convey the look they want. Then we just translate that vision to prints on tiles. We do have to have suppliers who can do custom art on tile.

Another project we have right now is a big master bathroom where the client wanted to remove a giant jacuzzi and convert it to a big walk-in shower. This is very unique. We used special custom-made art tiles with the Chicago flag on them, so it was special.

We have another bathroom that is mid-century modern, which is going to have waterproof vinyl wallpaper with a wall bureau. It will have a custom-made vanity of walnut and is going to be a completely mid-century modern vibe with the tile slab, hexagon tiles, something very unique that I have not seen. Because it’s custom-made, I designed the vanity. It’ll be another super fun one. The wallpaper also is fully custom made.

If a client wants something unusual, how do you lead them in the right direction? 

Unique and beautiful design takes time. First comes the design process. Second is drawings and third is materials. I’ll discuss with clients that unique materials may take some time to get. To make sure installation goes as planned, I’ll also be on the job site to make sure materials are installed correctly. With the astrophysicist’s bathroom – it was not a simple pattern. It’s very unique. I had to be on the job site with clients, project managers, and tile installers during this process. We always make sure everything is done exactly the way the client wants it.

For home renovation in Chicago by top-rated home and condo designers call Arete’ Renovators today at 773-610-4551 for a free consultation about your home or condo remodeling project.

7 Creative Ways to Breathe Art into Your Space

When we think of the arts, we normally picture artists painting on a blank canvas, a twirling ballerina dancing across a stage, or a grand orchestra playing classical music. But if you really stop and think about it, art can be so much more than what we make it out to be.

It is the newly paved highway you drive on your way home from work that annoyingly took months to complete, it is the tulip garden that sprouted just in time for Spring, and it is vanilla latte your barista made for you this morning.

At Arete, we believe anything can be art if it is looked at through a creative lens, and that is exactly what we like to do with each project we take on. No matter the size of the project, the art of remodeling can be found all throughout the renovation process.

Finding creative home solutions for our clients is an art form within itself, and we love the art that we make. Here are seven ways that will help you view your project through an artistic lens every step of the way, and hopefully leave you with a practical and charming space for your whole family to enjoy.

Creative Corners

Chicago bedroom remodelingWe all have those awkward corner spaces in our homes that we’re just not sure what to do with. They’re just barely too small to shove a piece of furniture into, but slightly too large to leave empty. In addition to that issue, there are also those rooms where we just wish we had a little extra storage or seating or display space.

Usually, these rooms and corners combine into one space and end up with piles of miscellaneous items in mismatched storage containers, staring at you from across the room until you finally work up the courage to tackle the mess on a Sunday afternoon. Well, not anymore! There are tons of ways to make use of those corners that you probably never even thought of.

You can add geometric shelving for books, create a plant sanctuary, build a reading nook, add L-shaped furniture, or make a tiny closet with hanging rods and a folding screen. The possibilities of creating more storage or seating space with added charm are endless. All it takes is just a bit of creativity (and a lot of Pinterest scrolling).

Mix Up Your Materials

Kitchen Remodeling in ChicagoMany clients want to go for that modern, mainstream look and are afraid to step outside of the box with the types of materials used in their build.

But what if you could incorporate many different materials in order to capture the perfect look that is custom to what YOU want?

Creative remodeling can turn that mainstream mentality on its head. A great example of this can be seen here with this oven hood. This unconventional vent hood picks up on the wood tones of the floor, even as it adds its own perfect imperfections to the room’s mix.

This is an inventive use of materials that adds trend-forward personalization as well as warmth and visual interest. Your kitchen doesn’t have to be the only room you mix and match materials, either. Bathrooms, fireplaces, and even exterior builds are all great spaces to add artistic contrast.

 

It’s All in the Architecture

stairway remodeling in ChicagoWhen you walk through a home that has a great flow to it, everything just feels right. The space is used practically, but it is still cozy and welcoming.

Almost always this is due to the extreme precision of the architectural detailing.

Architectural detailing such as wainscoting, molding, tile, cabinetry details, and lighting style have to work together from room to room, but some architects tend to overlook the small details in order to save time and money.

The charm of a design can be easily diminished by poor preparation and execution which is why it is so important to ensure that your architect has an extremely meticulous (and artistic) eye.

Designing the way a home is structured truly is a craft that not everyone can master. From the mitered edge on the molding to the inconspicuous wall outlets and under cabinet lighting, these small items make a big difference when it comes to the finished product.

 

Add More Molding

custom ceilingMany people underestimate the power molding has on a home. It helps cover unevenness, crooked lines, and many other cosmetic errors, and it also enhances the space to give it that “finished” look.

The main types of molding generally fall into three categories: cove, base, and casing. Cove molding is usually used on ceilings, base molding is applied to the space between floors and walls, and casing is used around doors and windows.

Cove molding is frequently combined with crown molding depending on the look you want to achieve. However, molding does not always have to be used to frame a room. Take these closet doors for example. On their own, these floor-to-ceiling cabinet doors would simply overpower the room. But with graceful molding, the doors offer an elegant, artful display. It is eye-catching, creative, and an easy way to add a touch of originality to your space.

 

Pops of Color

Chicago bathroom remodelingColor can have a huge impact in a home. It can control the feeling you get when you step into a room, your overall mood, and even your appetite.

The colors you surround yourself with will have a direct impact on your state of mind so it is important to choose what colors you incorporate into your space wisely.

Color is also a great way to take a creative spin on your home improvement project. But you don’t always have to get your pops of color from paint. Adding things like sofas, accent chairs, and art on the walls is more than enough for those who don’t feel like breaking out their paintbrushes and buckets.

However, if you are in the mood to paint, adding color to bookshelves, doors, window frames, and trim are all subtle ways of breathing creativity into your space. If you’re looking for a bolder look, try painting an accent wall with an unexpected color like emerald, ruby red, or ocean blue.

This leaves endless opportunities for you to play off these bold colors with smaller accent pieces throughout the space. That way, the color creates a unique look without feeling too overwhelming.

Multi-Functional Design

MultiFunctional designCreative remodeling is at its best when it solves multiple problems at once. If the design is just as great as its function, it really captures what the whole point of the remodeling process is about.

There are many different examples of combining functionality with design, some being extreme and others being a little more slight.

Take this hidden wine cellar for the extreme example. The kitchen island literally opens up to a hidden wine cellar in the basement of the home. This unexpected door to any wine lover’s heaven is covered by a normal quartz countertop.

No one would ever suspect that there is anything underneath this kitchen island, but that is the point of it. It takes a certain artistic eye to dream this idea up and turn it into reality.

Now, we understand that not everyone has the ability to add a hidden wine cellar underneath their kitchen island, but that does not mean you cannot combine functionality and design still. You can build a wall with built-in pull-out drawers that will not only increase your storage space but add to the visual interest of the room, as well. The possibilities are endless if you can dream them.

Let There Be Light

Skylights in ChicagoWhen it comes to smaller spaces, bringing light into the room can put up a bit of a challenge. Even with large spaces, it is hard to figure out what the best route to go is with window placement.

A few ways to work around these problems include wall color, mirrors, and scaled-down windows. Painting a room light gray or white actually allows the natural light to bounce off the walls and allows the space to feel larger.

Darker walls and furniture typically make the room feel smaller and cramped, so stay away from those things if you are looking to brighten up a room. Another option is to add mirrors in spaces that already reflect light. If you have a small window in your room, add a mirror wherever the light floods the room the most.

The natural light will be distributed throughout the room, and you can even get artistic with the shapes of mirrors you use. Lastly, the obvious way to flood light into a space is to add windows. However, they don’t have to be as large as you originally thought. Even adding casement or awning windows above your kitchen sink or couch can make a huge difference in the look of the space.

Adding an artistic touch to your home remodeling project could be the difference between a mediocre finished product and a jaw-dropping transformation.

Our tagline at Arete Renovators is “The Art of Remodeling”, and we make sure to do just that–turn remodeling into an art form. Our aim is to achieve creative excellence by providing the best remodeling services in Streeterville, West Loop, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, River North, Gold Coast, Old Town, and Roscoe Village. Breathe some art into your space and get in touch with us for a consultation today! Call us at 773-610-4551

How Does a Property Management Company Go About Choosing The Right Contractor For The Job?

For property management companies of all sizes, a key aspect of managing effectively is the quality of the workforce they have at their disposal. Property managers need employees, handymen, licensed tradesmen, and contractors to keep all parts of their business working optimally.

Cleaners, gardeners, and janitors are important for meeting the day-to-day needs of tenants for clean, attractive, comfortable, and accessible living quarters. Handymen and technicians take care of the repair and replacement of parts in the building’s structures and systems.

When Property Managers Need A Licensed Contractor In Chicago

But, once in a while, property managers need the services of a contractor to oversee projects they cannot comfortably assign to a handyman or tradesman. Typically, these types of projects go beyond basic repairs and involve major changes that alter the existing footprint of a property.

Property managers will normally give jobs like patching walls and unclogging toilets or kitchen drains to a handyman. While these small and inexpensive repair jobs are essential for maintaining the smooth operation of a home, they don’t do much to improve the property’s value.

On the other hand, jobs undertaken by contractors have the capacity to significantly improve the market value of a property. They are more expensive, take a longer time to complete, and are more disruptive in the way they affect the overall operation of the property manager’s business.

This is why a property management company’s approach to finding the contractors it uses for such projects is important, says MTD Management in Chicago. Because such projects have the potential to damage a home’s appeal and the property manager’s reputation; managers must ensure the contractors they use for these jobs are top-notch.

How can a property management company do this? How should property managers go about choosing contractors for their most important projects?

What Property Managers Should Look At When Choosing Contractors

DraftsmanThe overall ease with which a project manager (PM) completes their projects depends on three things:

  • The breadth of their contractor selection criteria: how well-defined and relevant the conditions the company uses are
  • The level of adherence to the selected criteria: this is about the quality of attention a property manager gives to the contractor selection process
  • Proper project supervision: property managers must recognize that the best contractor may underperform if the PM does not keep their eyes on the project

How Is This Related To The Criteria Listed?

project managerEssentially, it means that the criteria are meaningless if they are not accompanied by a resolve to follow the guidelines to the letter. The level of detail a property management company brings to the processes for choosing contractors determines its success with finding the best contractors.

Where To Source For Contractors

Where the company goes to look for potential contractors determines the overall quality of the contractors they find. Property managers are often advised to start their search for reputable contractors by asking friends, relatives, or their real estate agent.

These approaches don’t work unless those friends or family members have the same high standards as the PM. Estate agents, on the other hand, may simply recommend contractors they have a relationship with.

Three of the best methods for finding good contractors are:

  • Visit local big-box stores

Local contractors will often visit box stores and building supplies wholesalers to get materials for their jobs. If a contractor is in a store early in the morning, it means they have a job to complete and are probably better than average.

Contractors are easily identified in these stores by the volume of materials that they purchase. Some stores will give out the names and telephone numbers of contractors.

  • Use Home Depot’s contractor services

Home Depot has a list of contacts of good contractors wherever they are needed in the country. The contractors available through this service are usually more expensive but they are quality companies.

  • Ask a local engineer

This is probably the best way to find a competent local contractor. Local engineers have the benefit of seeing various contractors’ work up close. They often see the state of the home before the contractor works on it and after they have finished their work. Local engineers also visit building sites during projects and they soon get an idea of who the best contractors are.

Licensing And Bonding

hardhatContractors who are not licensed and recognized by their local professional bodies should not be considered. Additionally, the contractors must have a stellar reputation on Yelp, BBB, and other similar platforms. Contractors must also have adequate insurance (including liability insurance) and they must be bonded.

Documents to back a contractor’s claims about their insurance or bonding status must come directly from the insurer or surety to the property manager’s office or email and not from the contractor.

Contractor’s Work History

If a contractor has been working in an area for a reasonably long time, it is usually better to work with them. This is because their work history is easier to verify and they have knowledge of local laws and some conditions that may affect a project.

Additionally, a company that has been in operation within an area for a long time will have built a reputation. If that reputation is a bad one, the company’s fortunes will often decline. Moreover, it will be easier to find locals who have complaints about the contractor.

Get And Check References

Finding the right contractor is often a game of numbers. The law of averages operates here also; the more prospective contractors a PM talks to, the greater the likelihood of finding a good one among them.

Every contractor on the shortlist must provide between 5 to 10 references. But beyond the number of references contractors provide, the system for verifying those references is the key.

Two methods can be applied here:

  • Talk to the contractor’s references

The contractor should provide the names and phone numbers of the owners of their past projects and not just the photos of those projects. These references should be contacted. If the owner is willing, the property manager should visit the building to view the contractor’s finished work or the reference should send pictures of it.

  • Verify with the city that the job was done

Details of jobs a contractor has done may be verified by pulling the permits for those jobs from city records. If the records don’t exist, the contractor lied or they did the job without a permit. In either case, they have failed.

The Quality Of Their Subcontractors

Unless a property manager chooses to work directly with subcontractors (which though more demanding is cheaper), they must depend on the contractor to hire and oversee subcontractors for the project. Before a contractor is hired, it is important to find out the subcontractors they work with and their relationship with those subcontractors.

Contractors who have a firm and binding agreement with subcontractors can usually be trusted to finish a project within schedule. Having solid relationships with competent subcontractors also means the contractor will have access to the best hands at all times.

A Written Bid Is Non-negotiable

Before submitting their bid, the contractor must be fully briefed on the details of the job, possibly with a visit to the site. The contractor’s bid must be written. How timely they are in submitting the bid and how detailed it is matters.

It must contain a complete breakdown of how much they are charging for every aspect of the job. Bids should also include a timeframe for completing the job. A written bid is a way to ensure the contractor fully understands the scope of the job. If it is signed by both the PM and the contractor, the document serves as a reference throughout the project.

Professionalism And Integrity

Most contractors are poor managers of time. They are often dishonest about their availability for projects and give sketchy details about the project timetable. Contractors who do this will destroy a property manager’s ability to plan and their relationship with tenants. Issues of timeliness and honesty should be one of the key questions to ask the contractor’s references.

A contractor must be willing to enter a contractual commitment to project dates and timelines so that their availability is assured. Contractors who refuse to sign a binding agreement on dates may not be trustworthy.

Their Payment Schedule

Another way to judge a contractor’s integrity and professionalism is how they structure payments for a job.  If the contractor is committed to providing the highest level of service, they will have no problems with receiving payment after a job is done.

Contractors who do a shoddy job prefer to get the bulk of their money upfront because they know that clients, on seeing the work, may be unwilling to complete payment. As a rule, no work should be paid for unless it has been completed. If a contractor demands money upfront to purchase materials, the materials can easily be purchased by the PM from Home Depot.

Communication Is Important

This is another question to ask a contractor’s references. Contractors must be timely, detailed, accurate, responsive, and flexible in the way they communicate. If a contractor delays to communicate or communicates inadequately before they are awarded a job, they will usually behave even worse during the project.

Contractors who don’t keep project owners in the loop will leave the property manager without a way of knowing that the job is going to schedule or being done to the requirement. An incommunicative contractor will make managing change orders very difficult.

There you have it, tips on how to choose the right contractor for your rental property needs.

Interior Design – Trusting the Process

Chicago Interior DesignersInterior Design In Chicago When I tell people I work as a social media coordinator for a design and build firm in Chicago, their eyes light up at the thought of interior design. So many people are interested in this field thanks to HGTV, Instagram influencers, and many other outlets that have glamorized designing living spaces. While most of it is fun and creative work, a lot of people do not see the nitty-gritty details that go into being an interior designer. From dealing with suppliers to making sure you get every last detail correct for the client…it can be a pretty stressful job.

In the world of interior design, there are a couple of routes you can take when it comes to bringing the client’s vision to life. At Areté, our process is dependent on what the client envisions, their budget, and any time constraints they may have. Our designers keep in mind the client’s best interest throughout the whole process, and they are in constant communication with them to make any necessary changes as the project progresses.

I spoke with two of our designers, Vasilka Todorovska and Ivana Stojanovska, about how they take on the design process, any advice they have for clients, and how their process has been safely reformed due to Covid-19. Below are the steps they take from start to finish to help our clients get exactly what they are looking for in their homes.

Step 1: Meeting the Client

Getting to know your client might be the most important step of the whole process. In order to capture exactly what the client wants, you have to fully understand the scope of the project. It is imperative you ask for photos, Pinterest boards, material samples, and anything else that would help explain what exactly the client wants out of their remodel. During this meeting, our designers are also looking at the architecture of the client’s home and any rooms that they will not change to ensure the project is going to be the right fit for the space.

Natural MaterialsMany times, a client comes in with a picture of a design that they love, but they do not understand how much that design will cost them or how it will affect other design aspects in their home. It is important that our designers are upfront about the cost of the material and labor before moving forward with the client’s vision. Our designers prefer to meet with their clients in person at our showroom so they can show them the material selection we have on hand, but due to Covid, they have been using different avenues. Many clients are now choosing to meet with the designers over virtual calls, and the designers are sending material samples to the client’s homes so they can get a good feel for what the flooring, tile, or paint swatches would look like in their space.

This is where the client realizes that the most expensive option isn’t always the best when it comes to meeting their particular needs, and their Pinterest boards can still be brought to life with a few changes to the materials. Once the client gives their budget and chooses their material selection, our designers start walking them through their design process and schedule a time to measure the space. An estimate is given on what the materials and work are going to cost, but nothing is finalized until the designers create drawings, confirm material selection, and measure how much material is needed. This planning period is crucial to the design process going smoothly throughout the entirety of the project.

Step 2: The Design Process

Once the client has their materials selected and the designers have their inspirational photos, measurements, and budget, it is time for the designers to create final drawings to present at the final proposal meeting. A proposal clearly states and shows what tasks are there to be accomplished and which party is responsible for the respective tasks, the timeline that would have to be a realistic one, the working budget, and the fees.

Many times, our designers like to create mood boards on Photoshop that go along with the vibe of the space to add to the proposal. Mood boards can show paint colors, appliances, fixtures, flooring, and any other details that would be included in the project. Along with the mood boards, our designers also create CAD drawings that show 2D drawings of the space they are designing. CAD is an architectural software that creates 3D models or 2D drawings of physical components, but it is also used throughout the design process to help visualize the layout of the materials, any additions being added, or any current structures that will be taken away from the space.

Step 3: Approval Of Design And Materials

Once the client sees the drawings, approves of the materials, and agrees with the budget, they sign the proposal and the designers get to work. From here, our designers are in charge of ordering the material selection, coordinating labor times, and staying in constant communication with the client. Due to Covid, many of the shipping times and cost of products have increased, making it more difficult for the laborers to install the products according to schedule. When this happens, it is the designer’s job to get into contact with the client and either order something different for the space or push back the project completion time. They also must fix any problems that the contractors run into with the space and make frequent visits to the project sites, themselves. It is imperative that they stay extremely organized and flexible when a project runs into any issues.

Step 4: The Final Product

Once any issues with ordering the materials and coordinating labor times are smoothed out, the designers walk the client through the remodeling process. They help inspect any issues that come from products, and they make sure everything is installed according to plan. There should be plenty of communication between your designer and your contractor to make sure that everything gets built out as planned.

If possible, we always encourage our clients to do both the design and labor portion through Areté. If you choose Areté’s contractors, all of the design fees are waived, and you only have to pay for labor costs and materials. It also ensures smooth communication between contractors and designers and gives the functionality of everything being done under one roof. When the space is finished, they take a final walk-through with the client to tend to any final details that need to be touched up. This is when the client starts to realize that their dream home design has come to life.

Transforming Your Vision Into Reality

Our designers love being able to transform the client’s vision into reality, and seeing the client delighted with the final product is their favorite part. The client’s home is the epicenter of all parts of their life. If the client loves the look of their newly renovated home, then our designers’ work just influenced them in more ways imaginable.

It takes creativity, organization, and good communication skills to become a good designer, but most importantly, it requires a passion for interior design. Without that passion, it is easy to get caught up in the daily struggles of the design process, and it would be difficult to foster good relationships with clients. Areté is very grateful to have design consultants that not only care about the scope of the project but also pay attention to what exactly the client wants.

To sum up, interior design is not always a walk in the park, especially during these challenging times. Our designers have gone the extra mile to truly get to know their client’s wants and needs, and that shows once they reach the final product. Having the capability to actually think in a step by step process and follow through on all of the steps means that our designers can concentrate on the creative side of the job and work through the design process checklist, not having to worry that they might miss an important part of the process.

Constant Communication Is Crucial In The Design Process

It is crucial that the designers stay in constant communication with both the contractor and the client, and if any problems arise, they must be quick to resolve them. Job site visits are frequent and occasionally necessary to ensure that you get your dream remodel. Regularly checking in on the progress of the project can help to avoid delays and last-minute issues that may arise. By choosing Areté for both your interior design needs and contractor, you automatically have the continued service of our designer throughout the entire process. They help guide our clients through each step of the way and create the bridge between the initial plan and the final product.

Our designers are passionate about what they do and it reflects in the final product they create. If you are looking for quality interior designers, along with experienced contractors, who can help you realize your home design dreams within budget, get in touch with Areté Renovators today. We offer design and build services within Chicago in Streeterville, West Loop, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, River North, Gold Coast, Old Town, and Roscoe Village.

3 Exterior Home Additions That Will Add Value and Functionality

Exterior Home Additions In Chicago And Surrounding Area
At Areté, we are not just interior home remodeling experts, we also specialize in exterior home additions in Chicago and all of the popular neighborhoods. We also have completed many exterior home projects, as well. With Chicago’s summertime fast approaching, exterior projects are coming to the forefront of many people’s minds. After losing the ability to socialize properly with one’s family and friends the past year, people are now turning to enhancing their own homes to accommodate any outdoor parties or any other social gatherings they may have.

As the warmer months approach, it’s fun to take advantage of the nicer weather and dine outside with your favorite people. Exterior home additions like a front porch, back deck, patio, and multi-use garages are useful spaces to have that family get-together you have been thinking about, and if you are looking to sell, investing in enhancing your home’s exterior will bring a guaranteed return on investment. It increases the living space of your home while also improving your home’s aesthetic, and what home buyer wouldn’t like having a beautiful backyard space?

Whether you have a patio, screened-in porch, or a backyard escape, you’ll be able to get some fresh air as you relax and enjoy the warm temperatures that Chicago has to offer. Here are some exterior home additions that you should consider adding this spring that will enhance your home (and your social life) for months to come.

Deck Additions in Chicago

Exterior Home Additions in Chicago 3821 W. Montrose Avenue Chicago IL 60618Your backyard is a perfect space to increase your square footage while simultaneously offering another area to gather with friends and family. Building a deck can add value to your home and enhance its enjoyability. Relax in the sun, cozy up to a fire pit, host a cookout, or brunch under your favorite tree – the possibilities are endless. However, there are a couple of things you should know before adding a deck to your home.

Decks usually require a bit more upkeep in comparison to a patio or screened-in porch, and they can be more susceptible to weather damage over time if not kept up properly. But, there is a bright side to all of this. Deck additions usually bring a much higher return on investment compared to other home renovations, interior included.

This high resale value is something to consider when faced the costs upfront. Many homeowners see a 100% return on their investment after adding a deck, and it increases the aesthetic appeal of your home for those looking to sell. There are more decking materials on the market now than ever before. You can bring your design aesthetic from the inside of your home to outside of your home with natural or composite materials, from exotic hardwoods to rustic pine, or by creating a traditional look or complex geometric design depending on your style.

The design possibilities are endless, and it can add a whole new look to the exterior of your home. Many homeowners also use decks as places to plant herb or flower pots in order to enhance the living space while adding natural beauty to the outdoor décor. Another benefit to adding a deck to your home is that it is not extremely time-consuming. Contrary to what many people think, it is a pretty fast process. As compared to the process of building something new, which might take months to complete, a deck can be completed in just a few weeks. Overall, it is an extremely smart and useful investment in your home.

Garage Additions In Chicago

Chicago garage remodelingThe addition of a garage can provide a range of benefits for homeowners. Garages provide shelter for cars and other vehicles, not to mention added space to store tools, holiday decorations, and other household items. But adding a garage can also add to the value of your home, which can increase your equity and boost your return on investment when selling the property, very similar to how a deck would. Homeowners can see about a 75% return on their investment when adding a garage, and for many people who are looking to buy a home, not having a garage can be a deal-breaker (especially with Chicago parking).

On the other hand, if you are not planning on moving anytime soon, the true value of your garage addition is not recognized solely in the resale value of your home. For instance, garages often reduce weather-related and street damage to your vehicles. Garages also give you extra storage space, which might negate the need for you to rent or purchase a storage unit. You can also use your garage as a workspace, allowing you to take care of many household repairs or yard work without having to hire a handyman.

It can also be a great place for socializing with friends and family. Just be sure to add enough windows and seating so it does not feel too stuffy in there. Another important factor to consider when adding a garage to your home is deciding between an attached or freestanding garage, but obviously, your home layout and lot size will be a major determining factor in this decision.

On average, an attached garage is less expensive to construct because it shares a wall with your home already, however, many people prefer a freestanding garage because they keep dirt, grime, and fumes out of the main house entirely. But with the way Chicago winters are, an attached garage might be a better option, as you can then get into your car without stepping outside. All in all, it is a great investment for both those looking to sell and looking to stay.

Backyard and Patio Additions In Chicago

Home RemodelingThere are numerous home improvements that you can build inside your backyard to make it cozier and raise its market value at the same time. An especially advantageous investment is building a patio that would serve as the ideal place for relaxation, dining, and spending time outside in general. Plus, they are really easy to keep up with in comparison to having a deck or front porch. There is close to zero maintenance when it comes to having a patio, but most of the upkeep will be made of visual inspections that are fairly easy to conduct. The reason for this is that the materials the patio is built from, like stone, concrete, and brick,  are all sturdy and long-lasting building materials.

Apart from the regular sweeping of the floor of the patio, the only thing you really have to keep up with is weeding out the joints between paving stones from time to time. Another benefit to a patio is that you can provide some type of roofing or shade covering to protect you and your guests from the sun, making it a provisional social hub of the backyard. Adding a pergola here would be the perfect way to add shade, protection from the elements, and a pretty aesthetic to your backyard.

You can also add a fireplace to extend the use of your patio into the fall months or put your grill here, as well. Add a table and chairs and you are all set for any summertime gathering! An important thing to note is that whatever you decide to place on the patio, make sure it is weather-proof to a certain degree because it is still going to sit outside, regardless of the overhead protection.

Finally, just like adding a garage or deck, building a patio means that the market value of your property will go up so you will cash in on this home improvement when the selling time arrives. Just like how you and your family enjoy the outdoor living space, prospective buyers will also like this addition to your house and more importantly, they will be ready to pay extra for it. Don’t be afraid to spruce up the space around it, as well, by adding flowers, lots of greenery, or maybe even a small pond. A gorgeous backyard space could make or break someone’s decision to buy your home.

It is pretty clear to see why many homeowners are turning to the exterior of their homes when considering new renovations. It increases livable space, is extremely functional, and can bring a huge return on investment if you are looking to sell. It also serves as a great space to host safe social gatherings and gives you an excuse to spend more time outdoors this summer. In the case of exterior home renovations, your project’s success can come down to the right contractor. They will be able to help plan and oversee the entire renovation, making this a crucial role.

If you are searching for top-rated exterior home remodelers in Chicago, look no further than Areté Renovators. Our aim is to achieve excellence by providing the best remodeling services in Streeterville, West Loop, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, River North, Gold Coast, Old Town, and Roscoe Village. Spend more time outdoors this summer and get in touch with us for a consultation today!