Building Chicago New Construction: The Decision-Making Process

Once a client has chosen an architect for a Chicago new construction project, it’s important to understand the decisions that will need to be made and what to expect from everyone involved. The client and architect work closely together to ensure the home is exactly what the client is looking for.
I asked Chicago architect Allan J. Grant to share with us the many decisions that a client may want to be involved in when working with an architect on a Chicago new construction project. “It has been my experience that the greater a clients’ involvement in the selections, the fewer unpleasant surprises will occur and the more the client feels the residence truly reflects his or her own aesthetic sensibilities,” Grant said.
Working with the Architect and Designer
Clients want to be involved in the decision-making process for their new construction home and see the products and materials that will be incorporated into kitchens and bathrooms, as well as closet configurations, lighting, and cabinet layouts and design. The numerous choices can be overwhelming to a client, and Grant noted that having an architect and/or designer who will be involved in these decisions can make the difference between a builder/developer house and one that is truly a custom home made for one individual client.
Many architects/builders request that the client hire his or her own interior designer to help with material and product selections and provide insight on the overall budget.
Ideally, the client and architect/designer will meet with outside vendors and showrooms to choose products and materials for the home. This allows the client to see and choose from a breadth of choices, with the architect along side to guide him or her. Such customization decisions that need to be made include:
Kitchen appliances
After the preliminary kitchen layout has been established, the client will choose appliances with the architect involved to ensure it fits with the specifications of the room.
Kitchen cabinets
Kitchen cabinet centers are typically located in the Chicago Merchandise Mart, and clients can visit these to establish the overall preference for cabinet quality, style and finish before deciding.
Stone slab
It is up to the client if he or she would like to personally select tile material from stone slab vendors, or the architect may make these decisions alone after discussing with the client.
Plumbing fixtures
The client will choose kitchen sinks, faucets, toilets, shower fittings, tubs and more, including colors, metal finishes and any additional features. Once these have been chosen, the architect can choose coordinating bath accessories with minimal input from the client.
Door hardware
The client and architect/designer will choose everything from hinges and doorstops to locks and other specific door hardware.
Cabinet hardware
Many clients prefer to select their own cabinet hardware, and may want to visit a showroom or two to see the selection of all custom cabinetry pieces.
Closet interior fittings
If the client is interested in a custom closet, it may be more cost effective having a closet-fitting company create one, versus one that  architect-designed and contractor-built, but the flexibility in these products is often limited.
Glass shower and tub enclosures
Enclosures can be performed by the architect with some preliminary and follow up conversations with the client, without the need for a showroom appointment to specifically decide on these products.
While lighting showrooms can be confusing and overwhelming, it’s important for a client to see actual fixtures and not just photographs whenever possible. Grant assists his clients in narrowing down selections for surface-mounted lighting fixtures that are appropriate for adequate illumination and aesthetic appearance. A designer can also assist with additional decorative lighting that will need to be installed.
Some clients may want to accompany their architect to select tile roofing, stone wall material, patio stone or pavers, brick, etc., or the architect can provide samples for the client to choose from.
Ongoing Meetings with the Architect
In addition to these off-site meetings, the client will meet often with the architect to address any concerns and specific requirements. In one-on-one meetings, the client and architect can discuss everything from the layout to the exterior, to reviewing drawings and design development and progress.
When building a Chicago new construction home, there will also be a number of planned or unplanned miscellaneous meetings to discuss ongoing parts of the project, like contractor pricing, payout requests, contract terms or many other matters and circumstances that come up during the course of building the home.
The Role of the Realtor
In addition to helping you get the right people in place, an experienced realtor can help with choosing selections as well. You’ll want to enlist a realtor experienced in Chicago new construction and who has been exposed to upscale finishes and the most “au current” trends in new homes, as they can provide an objective view on the home’s market value.
Many clients find it helpful to have the realtor become the coordinator for meetings with the various people involved in the home-building process. In my experience with new construction, I’ve found that clients who run their own companies or travel extensively find this service extremely helpful, especially from a realtor who has acted in this capacity for clients who have built homes from scratch in the past.
Whether you are considering building a brand new home, adding an addition to your home or reworking a floor plan in a luxury condo, please do not hesitate to contact us to get answers to your architectural question or to obtain insight as to redesign the property for maximum resale value.
Sheldon Salnick, realtor: 312-264-5853 or
Allan J. Grant
, architect: 312-943-5522 or