Balanced Budget: Firm and Focused

Published: October 29, 2020

A family of four – with one on the way – was looking to update their highly dysfunctional kitchen and five bathrooms in their new-build home in Chicago. The kitchen was closed off to the dining room, and the bathrooms each had multiple levels that made them hard to use. They hired Rebekah Zaveloff, co-founder and principal designer at KitchenLab Interiors, to create light, bright, classic and fun spaces – which also included a mudroom – on a budget.

“Our clients usually come to us with a big menu, and we help them focus on what can realistically be done,” said the designer. “For this project, I had an accurate idea of what things would cost based on similar scopes.”

Tackling the Revisions and the Budget

Zaveloff and her team took on the bathrooms by removing the two-level vanities, steps to the tubs and showers and multi-level floors – which Zaveloff also described as treacherous. In the kitchen, they opened up a wall between it and the dining room. Because the kitchen’s initial placement felt like it was facing backward, the designer flipped the layout.

“A lot of kitchen design firms don’t really start with the question, ‘What’s the best layout of the space?’ because any major construction takes a piece out of the budget pie, so to speak,” said the designer. “When we walk into a space – and if feels like the kitchen literally needs to be flipped to the other wall or even another room – we’re not afraid to bring that up. It may require the budget to increase, or it may mean that there need to be some concessions, but it’s important to investigate the options.”

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Zaveloff said her clients had a strong sense of what their budget needed to be, and she was able to stick to it as close as possible. The wife, a working mom, was clear and direct but was also accepting of certain compromises she would have to make to stay on track.

“I went over some budget worksheets from similar projects with her, which lets clients see how we arrive at certain numbers,” said the designer. “We plug in allowances for all the major categories, and we can then modify here and there – giving them some control over the process.”

Zaveloff also explained that her firm approaches projects as if they were all design/builds. She brings in a contractor early on to get an estimate on the necessary structural work before she starts the design process.

“That way, we know where a big chunk of the pie is going right away,” she continued. “In thisconstruction-heavy project, half of the budget went to the finishes, fixtures and fittings, and the other half was for the contractor.”

Solutions for Saving

To stay on budget but still maintain an upscale and classic look, the design team purchased many of the project furnishings from such retail outlets as Anthropologie, Jonathan Adler and West Elm. Zaveloff chose not-too-trendy colors for items that are more expensive to replace – like cabinets and surfaces – which also creates a more timeless look and feel.

The designer always suggests making lowercost tile selections and explained that a simple 6-in. by 6-in. white tile on the walls paired with a fun floor tile can create a beautiful look without going over the budget. For the kids’ bath and the basement bath, she chose an encaustic concretelook porcelain floor tile that was less than $5 a square foot. The wall tile in all the baths is a basic white subway tile also under $5/square foot.

“In the master bath, we added a Carrara marble base trim and pencil liner on top to make it look more expensive than it is,” said Zaveloff. “The floor tile in this space is from Floor and Décor, which offers mosaics at great price points.” For the plumbing fixtures, cabinet hardware and pendants and sconces, the designer chose budget-friendly options, and the tile backsplash in the kitchen – something the firm specifies in many projects – looks handmade but is not. A butcher-block countertop she bought from a big-box store was used to make the bench in the mudroom.

“My clients also saved money by not having to move out and rent a house during the project,” said Zaveloff, who explained that the team finished the basement spaces first so theqazX family could use that area as a temporary apartment.

Splurging in Certain Sections

The homeowners knew which appliance brands they wanted and would not negotiate on that front. As the designer said she can recognize when clients have made a final decision on something, she also suggested that installing a custom hood would be worth the money spent.

“We felt strongly that this kitchen needed a show-stopping hood, which is one of my favorite designs,” said Zaveloff, who explained that this element was one of the last parts of the overall project. “Since there were no monetary surprises after the demo, we were able to include the custom hood.”

The splurges in the master bath included the custom vanity and the filler for the freestanding tub, which the designer had prepared for in advance.

“An exposed tub filler is always more expensive than one with the valve in the wall,” explained Zaveloff. “This is because of the decorative nature of the exposed pipes and plumbing that are all plated.”

Source List

Designer: Rebekah Zaveloff, KitchenLab Interiors Photographer: Michael Alan Kaskel


Appliances: Wolf/Sub-Zero Backsplash & Wall Tile: TileBar Lancaster Cabinets: Greenfield Counter Stools: Anthropologie Countertops: Opus quartzite Faucets: Rejuvenation Hardware: My Knobs Hood: Custom by Avenue Metal Lighting: Lightology & Rejuvenation & Robert Abbey Sinks: Blanco


Countertops: TileBar Faucets & Fixtures: California Faucets Hardware: Rejuvenation Mirrors: Pottery Barn, Rejuvenation & West Elm Lighting: Circa Lighting, Hudson Valley, Rejuvenation & Schoolhouse Electric Sinks: Kohler Toilets: TOTO Tile: Floor & Décor, Home Depot & TileBar Tub: Vintage Tub and Bath Wallpaper: Osborne & Little Vanities: Custom, Fairmont, Rejuvenation & Restoration Hardware

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