Chicago Townhouses: Renovation & Interior Design

Here are a few things to consider if you have a townhouse and are looking to upgrade it from builders specifications–to put elegance, and complete livability into the unit.

1. Closed off Kitchens are a major turnoff to buyers these days.  Townhouse kitchens are typically a room closed off in the back. Clients don’t like this and these townhouses don’t sell as well as in townhouses that have open floor plans. When you renovate your house, you have to seriously consider this because you will not sell as easily as someone who invested to open up the kitchen so that its more central to the rest of the home. However if you cannot open up the walls due to structural challenges, than try to make the kitchen feel open and airy, and have a large back window put in to bring in plenty of light and to make the space feel less constricted. Create symmetry so the space feels clean and light.

2.  Skylights above the stairs and sun tunnels in upstairs bathrooms are a great addition: A more expensive brand but the most reputable product. You don’t want to skimp on skylights because if you do, they will have more condensation problems.

3. Soundproof if you have noise issues between townhouse units with better insulation than you developer installed: Roxul batting insulation or Quiet rock.

4. Stairs are a large central part of townhomes.  But they are often cheaply put together by the builders. You can add a ton of character to your town home by upgrading your stairwell.

5. Townhouses need character.  Try to determine how you can add quality character to the home on your budget and also make a consistent statement throughout with wood floors, millwork, custom trim, non builders grade fireplaces mantles,  interesting kitchens with non builder’s grade looking details, putting up grasscloth in a room that feels like a drywall box. This is what sets your place apart in this difficult real estate market.

6.  A/V and all low voltage wiring should happen in the renovation stage during framing. Make sure you have a plan and furniture layout prior to planning for media/av wiring so you know where speakers will need to go. I like the hidden invisible speakers best but if the budget calls for ceiling speakers– then this is fine too. Placement is key . You need a space plan first and all your millwork worked out. Speakers do not look good sitting on bookshelves. Its better to put them in the ceiling. I even have a client who put his woofer in a wall because there was no good way to have this in his millwork-and it looks so much nicer being in the wall because woofers are  not a focal point.

7. Storage & Attention to Doors: Its nice to find more storage in a townhouse.  You can make a home feel more open and airy by using pocket doors. Also definitely use closet organizers,  putting in more shallow storage in the front of the garage or on the sides if possible, potentially fitting a closet underneath the stairs in the basement, storage under beds, and purging old stuff you don’t need and haven’t used lately is a key discipline.

Pocket doors in tighter, smaller rooms are so useful and worth the extra dollars. Also your doors have to go with the overall feel of your home so don’t do arched doors when you have no arches to tie into the rest of the house. If you are doing minimalist than perhaps you need beautiful wood doors to balance white walls everywhere?  Doors are part of the architecture of the house so its a detail that matters.

8. Lighting plans:  A well designed lighting design plan will light your space plan properly,  so finishes look luxe, even if they are not expensive. Remember, lighting plans are not a perfect grid on the ceiling……that look like a space ship taking off when on at night. Can lighting doesn’t have to line up. They are up there specifically to light specific areas of the space plan–highlight and low light specific areas and light the floor plans for specific activities in each room.

9. Window Treatments: Yet another way to definitely add character and layers. Townhouses need window treatments and drapery which control the amount of light and privacy. Even if the house is  modern.

10. Always have a set of your original plans from the city (and hire someone to get them for you if you don’t have the time) before you start planning with your designer or architect. Make sure that you have the proper loads and supports if you are adding more cabinetry, and heavier items to the general construction of the townhouse. Make sure you pull a permit in order to do the construction so that your builder will be accountable not only to you but to city code. This is very important.


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