High-end renovations are builder's specialty

By Jean Murphy
Daily Herald Correspondent
Posted5/5/2018 7:00 AM
  • Tara Soderstrom, marketing and client relations manager for DESIGNfirst Builders, says about 40 percent of the jobs the company completes are kitchen renovations.

    Tara Soderstrom, marketing and client relations manager for DESIGNfirst Builders, says about 40 percent of the jobs the company completes are kitchen renovations. Courtesy of DESIGNfirst Builders

After living in a home for a certain number of years, it is not uncommon to become dissatisfied with it. Living day after day with the same-old, same-old can become dreary, no matter how big or small your home may be.

Most satisfy the urge for change with new paint or window coverings or even new flooring. But others choose to go big by renovating their kitchen or basement or even an entire floor of their home. Still others choose to make an addition to their home or to totally re-imagine the exterior look of their abode.

DESIGNfirst Builders of Itasca has helped homeowners make their home-renovation dreams come true for the past 12 years. The home-renovation company and custom builder is owned and run by Tony Slade and Dan Schoendorff who, together, boast many years of construction industry experience.

The growing company simultaneously handles jobs from the far North suburbs to the far South suburbs, as well as in the city and far to the west. But all work is currently done within the borders of Illinois, said Tara Soderstrom, marketing and client relations manager for DESIGNfirst.

"Many of our clients live in higher-end communities like Oak Brook, Downers Grove, Wheaton, Oak Park, Barrington, Arlington Heights and the North Shore, where they don't mind our high-end pricing," she explained.

"DESIGNfirst is an all-inclusive firm with a design element so we handle everything from concept through interior design, architecture and construction, and we can do almost anything," Soderstrom said. "For instance, we just completed a basement in which the homeowners had us build out a bedroom, bathroom, fitness facility, full wet bar, game room and wine storage. Our projects generally go way beyond simply adding drywall and lighting fixtures. We seldom do standard, run-of-the-mill updates."

Once a customer calls for a design consultation where suggestions and ideas are offered and measurements are taken, the process moves on to detailed renderings and a proposed floor plan. Time frames from that point vary widely due to project scope, the time a community takes to issue building permits and weather, Soderstrom said.

DESIGNfirst has 40 projects proceeding simultaneously. Soderstrom estimates that annually 40 percent of its projects involve kitchen renovations. Another 40 percent are additions and exterior home renovations. Ten percent are basement finishing jobs; 5 percent are bathroom renovations; and the final 5 percent are commercial jobs like the Christian Tabernacle Church addition that it is now constructing in Roselle.

"What sets DESIGNfirst apart from its competition is the fact that we are able to handle a very large volume of projects even though we maintain the feel of a small, family company," Soderstrom said. "We have a client-relations staff that works with each client throughout the process. In addition, we assign a project manager to each project; have a financing partner to help with financing the projects; offer periodic special events for clients; and offer free cooking classes at the cooking school within our headquarters."

The company also has a 14,000-square-foot showroom where clients choose their cabinets, countertops, fixtures, flooring, etc. There is no need to make field trips to vendors, except to Abt Electronics in Glenview with which DESIGNfirst has a special relationship. Depending on the needs of the individual client and the price of their particular project, accoutrements are offered in three price and quality categories.

"We also have a custom cabinet shop where we can build any cabinet in any size that our clients want or need. We also have a closet partner because so many of our clients want all of the high-end shelves and cabinets that they see in magazines."

In 2017, DESIGNfirst earned the Super Service Award from Angie's List. The firm has also received an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and boasts three different quality and service awards from Houzz.

As one customer wrote: "The process went extremely well! DESIGNfirst was there when they said they would, and I was kept aware of every step in the process. The employees are meticulous with their work and you can tell they take pride in it. I cannot imagine having this work done with anyone other than DESIGNfirst."

Incidentally, clients who refer others to DESIGNfirst receive a $50 VISA gift card if they set an appointment and another VISA gift card if that person signs a contract for work.

DESIGNfirst can be reached at (630) 250-7777 or by visiting www.designfirstbuilders.com.

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