Weiss Architecture Studio

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Designing an affordable modern home can be intimidating.  Especially when you’re new to the modern aesthetic.  The look is very clean and can be adopted in many other styles: mid-century modern, scandinavian modern, farmhouse modern, and modern barn (just to name a few).  Modern design rids itself of the frills found in traditional design, leaving behind a pure, legible user experience.

The issue is how to design affordably.  Quality modern homes are tough to build and the details are much less forgiving.  To make something look simple can be very complicated.  In my experience designing modern homes, I’ve developed some tips and tricks to keeping cost down.  With a few key design strategies, you may not have to break the bank!


Affordable Design Strategy #1:  Limit the Amount of Unique Conditions

Price creep happens when the builder can’t repeat details.  For example: You design one connection using steel, another using LVLs, and another using standard lumber.  Each of these require completely different fasteners and assembly methods.  As a result, no materials can be ordered in bulk.  Furthermore, your General Contractor has to hire three different tradesman.

Instead, consider a design using fewer structural materials.  This leads to fewer tradesman and the assembly is easily repeated throughout.  Not to mention only one method of fastening.  Efficiency is key when designing an affordable modern home.


Affordable Design Strategy #2:  Simplify the Structural Grid

A structural grid is a set of guides on which your structure lies.  Therefore, it is key to develop a simple structural grid.  Having an irregular grid can pose many issues.

Imagine four columns in a row, spaced at 10′, 12′, 8′ and 18′.  The structure that spans between these columns are four different lengths.  In contrast, suppose you used four evenly spaced columns.  This would result in regular 12′ lengths for all spanning structure.

The name of the game is simplicity when designing an affordable modern home.  You should strive for regular alignments and reduce complex layouts.

Affordable Design Strategy #3:  Control the Location of Glass Facades

Do you want the luxury of floor to ceiling glass?  Who doesn’t?!  Unfortunately this can drive up project cost.  Additionally, it can cause your home to lose thermal stability.  I suggest these three strategies:

1)  Place narrow floor to ceiling windows in strategic locations.  A smaller, more thoughtfully placed window gives a luxurious feeling.  Consider this as opposed to multiple windows scattered throughout your home.

2)  Limit spans of glass to one area.  Don’t waste money on windows in areas that aren’t heavily used (entrance, hallways, storage spaces, etc).

3)  Leave solid walls minimally interrupted.  Not only does this stabilize internal temperature, but it makes for a more dramatic aesthetic.

4)  Consider geographic location of glazing.  Placing large spans of glass on a southern facade will heat up your home when the sun hits.  Something desirable in cold climates, but not ideal in warm climates.

Affordable Design Strategy #4:  Design Around the Stock Material Size

Let’s say you’ve found the perfect wood siding for your affordable modern home.  The boards come in 10′ long pieces.  However, you’ve designed a modern home that uses 8′ pieces.  Now, each piece has to be cut down by 2′ in order to fit.  This results in higher labor costs and 20% more materials (to account for waste).

I suggest reverse engineering this.  Find the material you love, then design an affordable modern home around it.  Efficient design means less waste and better use of factory finished material.  It also means less man hours cutting down each board.

Want to take your affordable design strategies even further? Check out these steps for building on a budget

Modern design rids itself of the frills found in traditional design, leaving behind a legible and pure user experience.

What’s Next?

The right architect should place your interests first when designing an affordable modern home.  It’s important to find a trustworthy design professional who won’t drive up project cost.  If these design strategies left you with more questions than answers, don’t worry – just drop me a line and we can schedule a free consultation!

  • Whitney Stansell
    June 10, 2020

    This article was so well written and with so many amazing cost saving ideas!

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