Designer Chic vs. Contractor Ick

There are many elements in the home that never quite seem to get proper attention from builders or homeowners. HVAC registers and light switches are two prime candidates that needlessly suffer. Typically when a product isn’t specified, contractors often go with the least expensive. And in many cases the vent or switch that’s installed is whatever the contractor had in their truck or had recently picked up from the local building supply store. The cheapest products are quick to install and usually return a nice profit.

But move up from a $1 toggle switch to an $800 Lutron Grafik Eye dimmer and you immediately see where contractor margins are trimmed in both time and materials. Yet, the result is overwhelmingly worth the added cost in both electricity savings and resale value for the homeowner. The same goes for the humble HVAC register. Inexpensive stamped white metal panels can always stand to be replaced with more stylish and better coordinated higher end products that enhance rather than detract from the interior.

Doors too are often overlooked with the occasional exception of your front entry. Most interior doors are cheap hollow-core doors that are made of either MDF panels or thin plywood veneers. They’re either a slab or paneled design and chosen to reflect the basic architectural style of the home. The cheapest pre-hung door goes for less than $50 whereas a custom aluminum framed, glass panel door starts around a $1000. The Italian Dieffe door below goes for more, but the impact is substantial (click on the image to visit their website).

When updating your home or even designing a new space, you spend time contemplating large items such as countertops, appliances and flooring. But don’t forget the little details that differentiate basic from spectacular. Every time I buy a home or start a design, I always tackle these small details first and it always yields the quickest and highest return for my time. After these, move on to light fixtures, moldings and closet organizers. These small details and a few coats of paint might be all you need to freshen your home.

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2 Responses to Designer Chic vs. Contractor Ick

  1. Great post, David. I love the contrasting this vs. that photos, which really make your point. We replaced most of the hardware in our home (door knobs, cabinet handles, light fixtures, faucets, etc.) – not all that expensive but it made a huge difference in the feel and look of the house.

    • David says:

      Thanks! Glad you like the contrasting photos… I should do more – easier to see and learn from example. And you’re completely on the mark adding door knobs and cabinet handles etc. As long as the walls and general trim are fine – these small changes are usually all you need when on a tight budget.

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