Building a budget-friendly contemporary home

Times are changing, and what was considered a fundamental principal of home design 20 years ago may seem dated now. There are certain qualities, both aesthetic and functional, that define the contemporary home; contemporary home design also embodies contemporary values. The prominent role of digital technologies, the drive for energy-efficiency, and the trend for open and free-flowing interior spaces are all factors that play an important role in the design of the modern home.

Now, when you hear the word “modern”, you may immediately equate that with “expensive”, but making something slick and modern doesn't necessarily mean it has to be exorbitant and luxurious. If anything, 21st century design emphasises pragmatism and simplicity.

According to Homebuilding & Renovating, the average cost of the contemporary home works out to roughly the same as that of more traditional home designs. So there's no need to exclude modern features for fear of going over budget. In fact, you could save money as modern homes are also energy-efficient homes. Here are a few examples of defining features of modern homes, and how they can be achieved at reduced cost.

Save on glazing: Big windows, and lots of them, epitomise contemporary homes. Modern home owners want to make use of our most powerful natural energy source – the sun. The downside is that all that glass can ramp up the price, but at the same time, you're going to be saving in the long-term as you'll be less reliant on electrical lighting and heating.

That said, there are some ways you can reduce your glazing costs up front. John C. Clem suggests using a window wall in one part of the house, so you can save money by having fewer windows in other parts. Another method, according to Homebuilding & Renovating, is to provide a double glazing manufacturer with the architect's plans for your new home. They can then fashion the glass so it can be fitted in DIY-style.

Open-plan design: Having a living room, kitchen and dining room joined together in one big open space is a staple of modern home design. The perceived space makes the interior feel bigger, while the inter-connectedness makes it feel more intimate. The rising cost of steel – which is required to support the open spaces – may make this appear an expensive option, but this is balanced by the reduced number of internal walls and doors, which means less building materials and labour.

As to what else you can do to keep your open-plan design affordable, Brian Toolan suggests keeping it simple. Complicated designs mean more building materials and higher costs. You could also consider cost-efficient pre-drawn open-plan designs, many of which can be customised to suit your needs. This has the added benefit of saving you the cost of hiring an architect.

Modern materials: The modern look requires a clean and shiny interior, which can be achieved without spending thousands on exotic materials. As Clem says, you can get IKEA cabinets that look as good as Italian cabinets but cost a tenth of the price, while Homebuilding & Renovating points out that travertine can substitute for limestone in many cases, and it costs half the price.

So, put thought into the building materials. You may need to take a more hands-on approach, but that's what building on a budget is all about. You can also consult with your builder early on in the design stage, as they'll be able to keep you abreast of the cost implications of your chosen materials. According to Toolan, you can often find building materials that achieve the same look and feel as their fancier-sounding counterparts at around 20 to 50 per cent of the cost.

Protecting your investment

In the end, the best way to keep your costs down is to involve yourself in the process. So stop watching from the side, put on a bathing cap and dive right in.

Remember, you can add modern, contemporary features to your home just before you sell it to maximum your asking price. If you’re going this route, don't hesitate to seek professional advice from estate agencies such as Tepilo.

Get Started with Sarah Beeny's Tepilo now.