AUG 24, 2010

Size Doesn't Matter: Lexington Homes Says a Home's Functionality and Livability Trump Square Footage

Chicago Sun Times

In contrast with the super-sized craze predominant just a few years ago, today “smaller” and “efficient” are the standard rule for big-ticket purchases like cars, furniture and houses. These new buzzwords particularly ring true when it comes to a home’s square footage, according to Jeff Benach, co-principal of Lexington Homes. “The criteria for determining a home’s square footage varies not only from the city to suburbs, but from builder to builder and according to housing type,” said Benach. “But, when you are purchasing a home, don’t get fixated on a number. Take a careful look at the home’s design and functionality before ruling out a smaller home. A smaller, well-designed home can live and feel like a larger home because a better design doesn’t use as much space, yet it can function just as a larger one does.”

Lexington Homes currently is developing three communities in the Chicago area. Lexington Square is a community of 39 single-family rowhomes in Bridgeport on the Near South Side. Lexington Park is a community of 120 townhomes in northwest-suburban Des Plaines. Willow Place is a community of 58 townhomes in northwest-suburban Wheeling.

There are no steadfast rules in tallying a home’s square footage, Benach continued. “It’s up to the discretion of the builder’s architect or the seller, and some include extra space to bump up the square footage while simultaneously decreasing the cost per square foot. I wish this weren’t the case and that the rules could be more uniform, but it’s out of my control unfortunately.” Therefore, he says homebuyers must take a close look at the numbers. “In the city, most single-family homes and townhomes count an attached garage in the total square footage for that home,” said Benach. “However, if the garage isn’t attached, or if you’re buying a condo with a space in a parking garage, then that space is not counted in the home’s overall square footage. In the suburbs, the garage space isn’t counted at all. Additionally, buyers should consider whether a home’s square footage includes the basement. “Also, in a multi-level home, the staircase may be counted more than once in a home’s square footage because it’s serving multiple floors,” he said. “However, our architect’s standard practice is to just count the footprint of the stair tower once for every level in which the stairs serve two floors simultaneously. If serving only one level, such as in a basement, the stairs aren’t counted at all.” “What we recommend, however, is that buyers step back and look at the bigger picture,” said Benach. “It’s not the size of a home, but how it lives that should factor most into your purchase decision. Rather than ‘downsizing’ or ‘upsizing’, try ‘rightsizing’.”

Benach says throughout his 28-year career in homebuilding he has witnessed larger homes that are not as functional as much smaller homes. “I’ve seen plenty of 2,500-plus-square-foot homes that live much smaller than they should because of poor layouts with chopped up rooms, inefficient closets and wasted space, such as two-story entryways,” he said. “Conversely, a 1,900-square-foot townhome can live like a palace with the proper open floor plan and features like volume ceilings in the bedrooms.” In fact, the rowhomes at Lexington Square in Bridgeport are a prime example. Both floor plans, the Grant and the Buckingham, come standard with 9-foot ceilings throughout the home’s first and second levels. “The living area on the main level feels expansive and open, while the taller ceilings in the bedrooms provide a touch of luxury,” he said. Benach says a home’s flow is also key in determining whether it works with a buyer’s lifestyle and needs. “You need to consider the traffic flow of the home and how you use the spaces, such as if you need room for more than one person to work in the kitchen,” he said.

To improve functionality even further, Lexington Homes recently revamped a few home designs, and they have actually now become some of the builder’s most popular plans. “At Lexington Park in Des Plaines, we just redesigned our smallest home, The Bristol,” said Benach. “The kitchen was closed off, so we opened it more to the great room, and people love it. It’s still our smallest and least expensive plan at the community, but it is now the most popular. And, it’s priced under $250,000.”

Smart storage solutions is another key to maximizing square footage, says Benach. “Islands and other built-in storage units in the kitchen area can make a huge impact on a home’s design and can really boost the functionality of a smaller design,” he said. “The kitchen in our Coventry floor plan at Lexington Park includes an amazing amount of storage. An island with storage and extra tall built-in cabinetry along the walls provide a plethora of space for storing small appliances, dishes, glassware, linens and vases. Plus, there’s also a separate pantry for food items.” Having the right rooms in the right locations is also a key in selecting a home, says Benach.

At Willow Place in Wheeling, The Hickory floor plan includes a master suite on the first level, along with the kitchen, combination living/dining room and the deck. “This layout is ideal for buyers who don’t want to climb a lot of stairs, but who want the spaces and extra bedrooms of a single-family home on other levels.” Located six blocks west of U.S. Cellular Field at 3704 S. Sangamon Street, Lexington Square offers three floor plans ranging from 2,216 to 2,559 square feet. Base-priced from the mid to upper $300,000s, the three-story homes come standard with three bedrooms, 2½ baths, rooftop decks and attached two-car garages. Options allow for additional bedrooms and powder rooms. Located within walking distance of downtown Des Plaines and the Des Plaines Metra Station, at Western and Harding Avenues, Lexington Park offers three floor plans ranging from 1,605 to 1,913 square feet. Base-priced from $249,990 to $272,990, the three-story homes come standard with two to three bedrooms, 2½ baths and attached two-car garages. Options allow for additional bedrooms and powder rooms.

Located on the south side of Wheeling, at Foster and Old Willow roads, Willow Place offers two floor plans ranging from 1,858 to 2,157 square feet. Base-priced from $266,990 to $289,990, the three-story homes come standard with three bedrooms, 2½ baths and attached two-car garages. Options allow for additional bedrooms and bathrooms. For more information about Lexington Square, call (773)523-5900; for Lexington Park, call (847)299-0500; and for Willow Place, call (847) 818-0800, or visit www.lexingtonchicago.com.

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