For most of us, the largest investment we’ll ever make is buying our home.

That investment is much more than financial. Sure, there’s the initial down payment and mortgage, not to mention regular maintenance and perhaps remodeling. More importantly in the long run is the time we spend sinking roots, raising a family, being part of the fabric of the community and making memories.

So, what is the state of home life here in SW Lake County? We asked this of a number of people who have dedicated their lives to helping families make their homes in the area. According to Sandra Frampton, real estate agent with @Properties in Barrington, the quality of local schools remains a big driver for families moving to the area. “Buyers will compare school report cards online to get into the best schools they can afford,” Frampton says. “I always encourage buyers to speak to the administration or visit the school before writing-off a specific location. Not every child will be a straight-A student; some may need programs more specific to their needs that may open up other options for the family overall when choosing the right home.”

The move-in quality of a home is also important. “For sure we’re seeing buyers gravitate toward homes that have upgrades,” according to Frampton. “Many of our buyers don’t have the time or finances to do major projects, so they are looking for homes they can move into, unpack and enjoy right away.”

Kerry Briggs, president of Briggs Design Associates, a North Barrington design firm, shared his checklist of items resonating with homeowners lately. These include:

  • Pantries: either walk-in, or shallow floor-to-ceiling storage.
  • Wood-plank tile and large format porcelain slabs that are “great for shower walls” along with “shower experiences,” multi-head shower systems, combining water, sound, steam and lighting.
  • Thoughtfully designed mudrooms to handle the chaos of families coming-and-going.
  • Lighting innovations that include LEDs: “Incandescent lamps are going away, but decorative lighting can be re-lamped properly by someone who understands the myriad of dimmable LED lamps and their dimming requirements.”

Overall, residential design continues to morph. Briggs says his clients “are not interested in copying their neighbors. Instead they are looking for design solutions uniquely tailored to their own needs.” Interest is also growing in products that help our homes save energy and reduce greenhouse gases beyond LED lighting, including time-controlled fans, Energy-Star-rated appliances and Smart Homes.

Also evolving is home automation that builders, architects, interior designers and home owners are increasingly adopting, according to Erick Olech, owner of ECO Automated Designs (Mundelein). “Many people believe that a thermostat, door lock or video doorbell equates to a smart home; however, they’re just products. They’re great on their own, but what if they can all work together?”

For example, Nest Smart Home products offer tremendous value and security for homeowners. “The Nest Hello video doorbell lets you know who’s there, so you never miss a visitor or package,” Olech says. “Then add the Nest smart door lock. You can lock and unlock the door with a personal code, or let someone in from anywhere using Nest’s app. Most importantly, you will always know who comes and goes. Most locks are made for keys, but this lock is made for people.”

ECO Automated Designs works directly with area families to bind together a broad array of smart home devices into a single friendly user interface. His recommended solution is Control4, “the industry leading home entertainment and automation solution,” Olech says, adding that he helps his clients discover that “Control4 is the one-tap solution for your home.”

Kitchens are always been gathering places, and appliances are becoming smarter by the day. According to Denis Buch, who with his wife Michele owns Boone Creek Cabinetry & Design (McHenry), a significant aspect of design is the functionality of a kitchen island.

 “Today it is about family, friends for home entertaining and good conversation,” Buch says. “Islands are at the top of the list for just about everyone; they promote a good working kitchen. Everyone collects around it: for children to do homework, for parties, and for large family gatherings. And along with it comes some of the most innovative midrange to upper-end Wi-Fi-connected appliances to make cooking fun,” Buch says. “And sometimes, challenging to learn.”

Technology has even found its way into the centerpiece of a kitchen sink faucet. John Ford, owner of Ford Plumbing in Lake Zurich, advises homeowners interested in new touch-control kitchen faucets to do their research first.

 “We don’t install very many of them, but the ones we’ve seen require changing batteries in the power pack, which should be placed or mounted for ease of access for the homeowner,” Ford says. “We find the whole concept exciting at first, but it wears off after a while.” Ford is still a fan of the good-old, reach-over-and-just-turn-it-on-by-hand faucet. “It will be less annoying, and homeowners will save money on service calls,” Ford says.

As the population ages in a desired neighborhood, trends emerge. Homes in established neighborhoods change hands. Streets that became quiet as children grew up and moved away become livelier again, as another generation makes that neighborhood their home.

When time comes for empty-nesters to transition to something else there are plenty of options in SW Lake County, whether it’s golf course living, a newish townhouse, or a condo downtown like those now available in downtown Barrington.


Local contractor Brian Allendorfer Jr., the fifth generation owner of Brian Allendorfer Co., is finding that right-sizing doesn’t mean leaving behind the advantages of a single family home. In North Barrington, on a stunning lot perched on a bluff, he’s building an all-new, highly efficient, easy-to-maintain 1,600 square foot home for a mature occupant.

“This home kind of feels like a treehouse from the rear deck with a view that slopes down to a flowing creek,” Allendorfer says. “When it’s ready for the owner it will really be quite lovely.”

Using a range of materials, some imported from Europe, this three-bedroom, two-bath home with a soaring great room on a wooded lot is designed for easy maintenance and upkeep. Featuring pre-finished engineered siding, high efficiency windows and a “lifetime” roof, the home allows the owner to spend more time enjoying the natural setting and independence that comes with a single-family home. Not specifically constructed as a “senior home,” Allendorfer says the concept could be easily adapted as a starter home for a family with young children.

Page 3 Pull Quote:

“Home is where I want to be

But I guess I’m already there

I come home, she lifted up her wings

I guess that this must be the place”   (Talking Heads)

Consult the Pros

1. Briggs Design Associates, Briggs.Design, 847.387.3088

2. John & Kerry Briggs, owners, Briggs Design Associates

3. “We’re still a fan of the just-turn-it-on faucets.” Ford Plumbing,, 847.550.9452  (photo from Boone Creek Cabinetry & Design display kitchen)

4. Sandra Frampton (@Properties),, 847.207.7551

5. Brian Allendorfer of B. Allendorfer General Contracting,, 773.292.0600

6. Control4 Mobile screen, ECO Automated Designs,, 847.476.4442

7. Erick Olech, owner, ECO Automated Designs

8. Boone Creek Cabinetry & Design,, 815.385.8414