What are your recommendations for contemporary fixtures and finishes?
July 23, 2013 11:17 AM   Subscribe

I am beginning the process of building a home that is going to be fairly contemporary in style. However, we are on a budget, so I am looking for your suggestions regarding the best budget-friendly, fixtures, finishes, appliances, etc. that would go in a contemporary home. I am really interested in clean lines, stuff that is well made, looks nice, but is affordable.

I have read and loved some of the the threads on home hacks like this, this, and this and have already incorporated some of that stuff into my discussions with our architect. What I am really looking for are suggestions about products, materials, fixtures, and finishes to use. I am especially interested in stuff that is reasonably priced. Specific suggestions and links would be greatly appreciated.

In case this helps, I am in Central Texas and here are a few homes that will give you a taste for what kind of house I am trying to build.
posted by bove to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This question is really huge and vague, as posed. For example, (1) if you're building from scratch, then your idea of "budget" might not jibe with everybody's. can you suggest what counts as a compromise you've already decided to make for cost? (2) do you literally want suggestions for every possible finish and fixture for both interior and exterior? that feels like 100 topics; maybe narrow it down to a few examples, that might jump-start other ideas people have?

I dunno, a lot will depend on your lifestyle. For example, dedicated cooks/scientists might insist on granite or slate kitchen countertops, which can cost a mint; those who like the look but don't need diamonds might be happy with Corian or cast stone; those with fewer funds might be surprised by how nice modern laminates can look, including various granite-like washes and "earth-tones" to offset colored cabinets.

Beyond that, you have a clear aesthetic, so you might be best to find what you love, determine what the attraction is, and then look specifically for less expensive versions that capture the same essential feel. Plus a few splurges where it will count most. And/or, remember you don't have to buy everything at once! :)
posted by acm at 12:14 PM on July 23, 2013

Source: owner of large, formerly-very-decrepit, currently slightly crumbling midcentury modern house with a new kitchen.

IKEA is really the best kitchen for the price. I have put in two of them now. The Applad white fronts paired with a bar handle look very good - the glass fronts would look even better but cost more. The drawer/door hardware is the same as is used in high end kitchens. IKEA is the lone exception to the general rule that clean lines cost a fortune.

There are a lot of fancypants countertop suggestions in contemporary/modern homebuilding. However, for a clean look at a lowish price, look at the very plainest style of quartz. The lowest price should be somewhat comparable installed to a high end laminate or a solid surface. In a plain gray it will look like plastic in the wall sample, but will look and feel like a plainer polished concrete in a real countertop. I love, love love our quartz.

Not particularly cheap but love-it thing is our Kohler Stages 45" sink, with space for a cutting board on top of it. We modified two IKEA cabinets to fit the full sink, so it wasn't too bad to integrate into the overall kitchen. I also like our Delta pulldown kitchen faucet that has the touch to turn on/off tech.

I think appliances are the most difficult part. You could consider paneling your dishwasher. I think IKEA appliances are made by Whirlpool and are definitely the cleanest lines that you can get for the price. Clean lined appliances get very expensive very quickly. Other than IKEA I might look at Samsung's appliance offerings, assuming you want to stay in the big-box type of price range, not integrated appliances (3-5k ish total appliance budget, vs 20-25k+). Another budget tip is to stick with a range rather than a cooktop plus separate ovens. In addition to fewer appliances to buy, the cabinet integration is much, much simpler.

Modwalls has very good mosaic tile for the price. Also look at plainer tiles from Daltile, etc, but maybe in special order colors. For flooring, I would look at BuildDirect for sourcing a larger quantity of tile or wood, so that you can use the same style across the house. BuildDirect has a Daltile Fabrique knockoff at a good price.

For lighting, my MCM bias comes out here but I don't think you can go wrong with these. Combined with well planned recessed lighting. I think it's easy to overdo with elaborate lighting that will date quickly if you're not careful. Look at contemporary style houses built in the late 90s to see what I mean.

In bathrooms, I am just getting started with this, but look at Moen 90 degree collection - well made and not as outrageously priced as a lot of modern stuff. The Kohler Archer tub gets great reviews, is insanely deep and is very reasonably priced. The overall collection is more Craftsman style but on its own it could be styled in a more contemporary way. For true modern, I believe Duravit is the cheapest out there, for example the Starck tub.

Hope some of that helps. Unfortunately when you get into a modern look, "affordable" becomes relative quickly. I can give more precise suggestions with more specific budget limits - I have suggested things that aren't totally out of line with "average" remodel quality but you may be thinking higher or lower end.
posted by pekala at 12:40 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I especially mean things like faucets, toilets, sinks, appliances, etc.

You are right that budget can be quite vague. Any custom home is not truly "budget" anymore, but we don't have the money to put marble everywhere, and to put in high-end restaurant appliances like Viking, Sub-Zero, Wolf, etc. So for me, budget is stuff that you might find in a Lowes, but is still good quality. We put IKEA cabinets in our last home that we remodeled and while I loved the doors, I probably want slightly better cabinet boxes.

We are a family with four kids. We cook regularly but are not gourmets. We are building space onto the home for my retired parents.

For instance, we like Porcelain tile, but my wife dislikes grout lines. So we want to find tile that can be installed with minimal grout lines. I will happily answer more questions if it is helpful, but I also didn't want to limit suggestions.
posted by bove at 12:50 PM on July 23, 2013

I would recommend spending money on the stuff IN the walls before dropping a bunch on stuff that is easy to change (like faucets, and light fixtures). Stuff like a Schluter-Kerdi lined bathroom for waterproofing, high quality copper (or PEX) for plumbing, good quality 20 amp electrical circuits for everything (or 30 for high load areas like kitchens and bathrooms), quality windows and doors. The best way to get a feel for this is go to Lowe's, home depot or wherever and touch and feel the stuff. Or better yet, higher a custom home architect or even better, a highly regarded custom home contractor to give you recommendations on the inside the walls stuff that is really expensive to change but doesn't cost much more materials wise (wiring and plumbing and insulation is the big one here). For your parents get a book on or hire a specialist on aging in place design. Mike Holmes books are great on this and as subscription to fine homebuilding is really useful.

Something that isn't thought a lot about in modern homes and construction is natural air flow-the solution is just to put in a bigger furnace/ac unit to force the air to move, while a well designed and equipped home will have lot's of little details that mean the difference between running the AC all summer and running it only on the hottest days. Specifically, Double hung and clerestory windows and opening skylights are wonderful for venting heat. And having the house open a lot of the year makes a difference psychologically-it makes you a part of the neighborhood and connects you with the rhythm of the lives around you. A house with good air flow will also not have mold problems or any rot.

One thing I would definitely do is spend the money on the best range hood you can and vent it outside. It helps keep the kitchen clean and cool in even the hottest weather and while good cooking smells are great and feel homey, BAD cooking smells can drive you out of the house.

Things like faucets, fixtures and door handles can go cheap for now and upgrade a little at a time as money allows, but having a good base to build on is crucial.

And document everything you do for the resale of the home. Meaning keep a list of special materials used and any manuals that come with it in a binder as a sort of house book. It makes the next buyers of the home or the next contractor you hire really thankful and much more likely to buy or give you a good quote on the work (and makes it possible to order the one little part that broke in something instead of wholesale replacement).

For some of your requests-I don't have brand recommendation but they make large sheets of faux marble (and probably some porcelain materials) that can be mounted in lieu of tile for showers/tub enclosures and will have zero grout lines and it is really, really easy to clean.

-I went with a Delta cartridge design for my shower controls that is really easy to change.

-I went with pex plumbing over copper for cost, longevity and ease of install.

-Low cost, pre finished solid oak flooring (or any solid wood) looks much, much better than any laminate or engineered wood and is about the same price.

-buy a tankless water heater over a conventional unit.

-Design your yard for ease of maintenance and plant your trees as soon as you can and buy the biggest you can plant. Trees grow slow and they can be nightmares if you buy the wrong kind (stay clear of sweet gum trees). If you want a garden make sure you leave a great space in the yard for that.

-Detached garages are great and help protect your house from fires (a LOT of house fires start in garages) but some people don't like the security aspect of them. I also like them if you want a work shop in your garage as noise there won't disturb people in the house (and a 1/2 or 3/4 bath in the detached garage is better than a mudroom).
posted by bartonlong at 1:56 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

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