When Less Is More

Big-budget projects photograph well, but I’m more interested in the work that goes on behind the scenes

November 11, 2015
Award-winning remodel, Laughlin Homes & Restoration, Fredericksburg, Texas

Photo: courtesy Laughlin Homes & Restoration

This month’s InBox contains an email from a reader who wonders if construction trade publications are “out of touch with reality in the marketplace” because they exclusively feature big-budget projects. It’s a good question.

Project stories often touch on the business of remodeling, but they are mostly about design, so we draw on our design contest winners quite a lot. Most contest entries come either from architects or from larger design/build companies, many of which have marketing departments with full-time staff who jump at the opportunity to get a little free publicity. They also have budgets to hire professional photographers who produce high-resolution images that are well-lit, in focus, and uncluttered. And because many of these companies also employ professional designers or architects, they win more often because the images show good design and the latest products and materials.

That said, we use cost categories in our design awards. That’s partly because all the other design competitions do and we want to make it easy for people to enter multiple contests. But the other reason is that we believe a bigger budget makes it easier to produce spectacular results. (I have to say, though, that we’ve seen our share of ugly projects that had more than ample budgets.) The fact is, however, that readers look to award-winning projects for inspiration (such as the whole-house remodel shown above, which won gold in our 2015 design awards), and while small projects have the same potential to inspire as large ones do, the large ones deliver more often.

So whether we like it or not, budget matters, and not just for remodelers. A manufacturer with a small R&D budget can produce a breakthrough technology or an innovative product, but the odds favor a big-budget company if only because it can afford to fund more false starts and dead ends.

Show Me

Still, I’m sympathetic to this reader’s concern. I was once a small remodeler and I know that the design problems can be just as challenging and the standards of craftsmanship just as demanding on a low-budget project as on a high-budget job. In fact, a big-budget job may be more complex, but a low-budget job may require more ingenuity and innovation because there’s a lot less money to throw at a problem.

I would like nothing better than to run a feature on the kind of small, bread-and-butter project the email describes. We’ve started to publish these in recent months, and I encourage readers to submit projects of all sizes. And not just for our design contest but any time. If the rest of the existing house isn’t up to the standard of the remodeling project, we’ll work around it—that’s what editors do.

It has also been suggested that we introduce a new category into our design contest, one that is likely to encourage entries from small remodelers who are making the most of a limited budget and earning a good profit as well. We welcome your ideas.

Big projects make for nice covers, but frankly, I’m more interested in the people and the processes and the work that goes on behind the scenes.

Show me what you’ve got.

About the Author


About the Author


Sal Alfano is Director of Content for Professional Remodelersalfano@sgcmail.com, 202.603.4884

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