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32 Architects Reveal Budget Breakdowns for Projects Ranging From $1.5K to $910K

Dwell’s Budget Breakdown series reveals the true cost of renovating or building from scratch—from a kitchen makeover for $42,000, to a compact home built for under $250,000, to a major apartment renovation for $910,700. These detailed accounts from architects, designers, and homeowners lift the curtain on the price of lighting, insulation, labor, and more. Read on as we break down the budgets of 32 inspiring projects.

A Portland Couple Design and Build a Compact Home For $222K

Scott Mooney and Lauren Shumaker’s compact backyard home is located in the back half of their 5,000-square-foot lot in the Richmond neighborhood of Southeast Portland.  

Photo by Olivia Ashtonn

The husband-and-wife duo behind Colorado Caravan transform a 1969 Airstream Globetrotter for $19,180. They removed overhead storage and wall cabinetry to make the interior more spacious.

Photo by Alison McQuain

Over the past two years, Denver couple Kerri Cole and Patrick Neely of Colorado Caravan have been renovating vintage Airstream trailers, transforming them into sales offices, bars, and even hotel rooms for motor lodges. Neely, who originally was flipping houses and fixing up vintage cars, recently made his segue into transforming other structures like shipping containers and eventually Airstream trailers. His wife Cole, a talented designer, handled all the aesthetics. Currently, the space is used as the couple’s sales trailer and showroom. And if the mood strikes them, they also have the option of taking it on the open road.

A Tired RV Is Refreshed and Relisted For $21K

A DIY couple in Phoenix give a 2004 Jayco camper a contemporary upgrade and put it back on the market.

Photo Courtesy of Trina Sholin

Ben Carstensen’s screened porch is just a few steps from the back door and deck, making for easy circulation between the different areas.

Photo by Alex Creswell/Schoolhouse Electric

A year after Ben Carstensen moved into his 1925 bungalow in Portland, Oregon, he had a mission: to get his backyard ready for the summer. The focal point of the backyard redesign is his conversion of half of the detached garage into a screened porch. At 540 square feet, “the garage was large, and underutilized,” he says. “I used it as a woodshop and for storage, but I didn’t need all of that space.” Since the backyard is on the smaller side, Carstensen needed a solution that would expand its footprint, as well as an “additional outdoor space that could be utilized even on a rainy Portland day,” he said. “The screen porch approach was the answer.” Over a long weekend in May 2018, he and his parents tackled the project. They framed up a wall to divide the garage in half, then removed the interior and exterior wall cladding on the screened porch side in order to replace it with screening. The result? “The absolute best space to relax in during the evening,” said Carstensen, who likes to hang out there with his two dogs on the regular.

A Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van Turns Into a Chic Tiny Home For $27K

Jack Richens, the expert van renovator behind This Moving House, pulled out all the stops for this incredible conversion. White and light wood cabinetry, along with a cheery blue tile backsplash, give the kitchenette a bright and airy feel. 

Photo by Tim Hall

Michelle Morrison and her two greyhounds pose with her brother and roommate, Michael Anthony Morrison—an artist who is also responsible for much of her art collection.

Photo by Megan Bayley

With one foot in the tech design industry and the other firmly in the art world, producer and community organizer Michelle Morrison started saving to purchase her own home before she turned 30. She was dreaming of her own industrial live/work space, and after 10 years in San Francisco, she started to look in Oakland for a warehouse space which she could convert. After searching for months and being outbid on multiple spaces, she finally upped her budget as much as she could afford and hit the jackpot—winning a 1,300-square-foot former coffee and produce warehouse in Oakland’s waterfront warehouse district. The space was exactly what she was looking for—something she could break down and build back up. Feeling empowered by her purchase, Morrison set her sights on an even loftier goal: to convert the space into her dream home with just a $125,000 budget. With Siol Studios and Elliott Build in tow, the results came in on time and exactly within her budget—and she was able to move in just seven months after closing.

A 1950s Duplex Receives a Striking Makeover For $190K

“Reinforcing the degree of abstraction of the project, the choice of the minimalist furniture and lamps echoes the palette of textures composed of concrete, wood, and steel,” says Naturehumaine.

Photo: Adrien Williams

Emilie Geoffrey and her partner Antoine were in the middle of hunting for rentals in Montreal when it dawned on them that it would be more cost-effective to buy and renovate a duplex in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and rent out the second floor. Emboldened by their calculations and the opportunity to craft a space exactly to their liking, the couple purchased an old, two-story duplex that sat virtually untouched since its construction in 1953. To breathe new life into their dated duplex, Emilie and Antoine reached out to Naturehumaine, a local architecture firm the couple loved for their distinctively modern and minimalist design approach.

Weekend DIYers Renovate a Dated Catskills Retreat For $201K

New York City–based couple Danielle and Ely Franko share the renovation budget for the Hunter Greenhouse, a 1971 Catskills home that they purchased in 2016 and now rent out as a snug holiday home. The house has two levels, and a lofted lounge in the front section of the upper floor.

Photo Courtesy of The Hunter Greenhouse

Designed for his son’s school in Tucson, Arizona, architect Gideon Danilowitz builds a low-cost chicken coop suitable for the desert climate.

Photo by Lisa Robinson

The Suita House by Alts Design Office has 911 square feet of floor space spread across two levels.

Photo Courtesy of Kenta Kawamura

Fitted with a new black-framed window unit, the light-filled living room in BLV Apartment features a sofa and coffee table from Beitili.

Photo by Itay Benit

Ashley and Ross Goldman document their $29,400 master bedroom renovation on their DIY blog The Gold Hive. 

Photo Courtesy of Ashley Goldman

Ashley Goldman, the voice behind the design blog The Gold Hive, and her husband Ross Goldman have been restoring her 1915 craftsman bungalow in San Diego, California, for the past three years. Room by room, they are transforming their home into a polished blend of craftsman character and modern pieces. This master bedroom renovation is the third remodel in their home inspired by an online design challenge. The One Room Challenge is a biannual event in which 20 design influencers are selected to transform a space in just six weeks and document the steps along the way. To transform the master bedroom, the couple focused on re-configuring the layout to provide better functionality, while filling the space with a curated collection of furnishings and accessories.

A Creative Couple Rehab a Vermont Cabin For $18K

Enterprising couple Jenny McClary and Allie Leepson give their snug Vermont cabin a DIY makeover—and it’s currently available to rent.

Photo Courtesy of Jenny McClary and Allie Leepso

In 2017, Jenny McClary and Allie Leepson, a couple based in New York City, bought a small cabin in Vermont on a whim. They had been looking for property in Joshua Tree, but after being outbid several times, a short trip to Wardsboro in the southern part of the state led them to this 1982 gem. Although the home had been sitting on the market for a year, the couple recognized good bones when they saw them. The interior just needed a few small tweaks to give it a more modern look. “Our goal was to turn this traditional Vermont ski cabin into a well-designed space that’s more than just a place to take your snow boots off in,” the couple say. After purchase, the couple spent 4.5 months replacing flooring, swapping out hardware, painting, and wiring new lights in order to achieve a more streamlined style that’s still cozy. Most importantly, they left the predominant knotty pine paneling in place, and not just because it was in good condition. “It gives the home that rustic, Vermont charm,” say the couple, who run a creative studio called The 1909. “We love the way it picks up light in the late afternoon. We also think it makes our cabin smell amazing.”

A Cramped Eichler Kitchen Gets a $49K Refresh

In San Jose, California, interior designer Cathie Hong opens up a dim, confined kitchen to better serve a young family.

Photo Courtesy of Christy Q Photography

A 150-square-foot kitchen in a 1963 Eichler home in San Jose, California, has been transformed into a bright, functional, family-friendly space. Renovated once in the ’80s, the previous kitchen had an L-shaped design that the owners wanted to replace with an island and breakfast counter for better circulation. They needed additional counter and storage space while keeping the kitchen open and uncluttered. Interior designer Cathie Hong of Cathie Hong Interiors met their requests by changing the footprint and orientation of the kitchen, opening up the cramped shape to comfortably accommodate an island. Working with Santa Clara–based builders Arnold’s Custom Homes, Kitchens & Baths, Hong removed all the original cabinetry, appliances, pantry, and wood paneling, and replaced the old window with a dual-pane window.

A Prison Bus Becomes a Couple’s First Home For $26K

A young couple converts a 31-foot, 1989 Chevy B6P bus that was formerly a prison transport vehicle into a charming tiny home. 

Photo by Garrick Hoffman Photography

A client’s childhood love of terrazzo and minimalist living inspires a contemporary transformation of a dated master bath by Design Bar Detroit.

Photo by Diana Liang

Charmed by the Instagram feed of Design Bar Detroit, a client reached out to the interior design studio with a vision for a bathroom renovation she coined “’60s Italian Dystopia.” A well-traveled individual unafraid of experimental design, the client sought a modern remodel that would highlight terrazzo—a material she’s loved since childhood—and complement her minimalist lifestyle as well as the aesthetics of her loft. “The design was truly a meeting of the minds between us and the client,” says Lisa Backus and Andrea Richardson, the founders of Design Bar Detroit. Completed for just over $17,000, the renovation stripped the 40-square-foot master bathroom to its studs and introduced new materials and fixtures to create a “bright, highly custom, modernized master bathroom with increased lighting functionality.”

A SoCal Couple Revamp Their Fixer-Upper For $63K

Not afraid to get their hands dirty, a creative couple on a budget transformed their Mission Viejo bungalow into a chic abode for their growing family. 

Photo by Sarah Tillman

Florida firm Process Architecture’s series of modern, affordable, low-maintenance homes help HIV/AIDS clients and LGBT homeless youth get back on their feet. 

Photo by Chad Baumer

A poorly designed kitchen in a 1940s Denver home receives an affordable renovation with IKEA products and DIY touches.

Photo Courtesy of

Spurred by a recent state law aimed at easing California’s housing shortage, a Los Angeles family turns to architect Martin Fenlon to add an ADU to their backyard. 

Photo by John Linden

Homeowners Kathryn Heller and Kevin Short tackled much of the work themselves to refashion a dated home into the ultimate, 700-square-foot city loft. 

Photo by Kevin Short

When they first set foot inside their Mission District loft in 2015, Kathryn Heller and Kevin Short knew they’d found what they were looking for, though surface impressions were deceiving. “The interiors were ugly, stained, and completely outdated,” the couple tell Dwell. “The previous tenant had smoked cigarettes inside for nearly a decade, so it was particularly dreary and felt like a time capsule from the ’90s.” Even so, with such a great location and no structural or exterior problems, the couple—she’s a designer and he’s an architect, both at Tiny Monster Design—knew that they had found the perfect blank canvas in the loft. “We both had had that urban loft fantasy, and this space was our opportunity to not only live it, but also design it,” say the couple.

A 1972 Airstream Sovereign Is Transformed Into a Family Home For $23K

Arkansas couple Colleen and Zach Cashio spent two years overhauling a 1972 Airstream Sovereign—where they now live with their sons, Ezra and Harvey, and their Australian Shepherd Luna. 

Photo Courtesy of Colleen Cashio

Rescued from demolition, a cantilevered home in Michigan becomes a refined retreat with a magnificent indoor/outdoor connection.

Photo by Jacob Lewkow Photography

This single-family residence in Bloomfield, Michigan, known as the Treehaus, embodies the iconic style of midcentury modernism. Owner Shane Pliska, president of interior landscaping company Planterra, stumbled upon this home in 2012 when it was headed for demolition. Although it was appraised at $0, Pliska appreciated the natural beauty of the site and the simple, modern architecture the home represented. For the next few years, he strove to carefully restore the home to its modern roots. The process began with a mystery, as Pliska sought to uncover the original architect of the residence. Midcentury-modern massing led many to believe it was the work of the great Mies Van Der Rohe. Through exploration, Pliska discovered it was the work of Edwin William de Cossy, a creator of “Sarasota Modern” architecture and one of famed architect Paul Rudolf’s collaborators.

A Creative Couple in Minneapolis Build a Multipurpose Backyard Studio For $18K

The 195-square-foot, shingled Fish Scale Studio includes a library, reading nook, and workstation—and it’s DIY inside and out. 

Photo: Michael Hara

Creative couple Michael and Christina Hara built a kid-free retreat just steps away from their back door, thanks to a recent amendment to the Minneapolis building code that lets accessory structures under 200 square feet circumvent the traditional permitting process. The Haras carried out the project, called Fish Scale Studio, over eight months. They did all of the design and construction themselves—for just $18,275—in order to carve out “space for creativity and respite from our chaotic, toddler-filled house,” as Michael explains.

Built For Under $10K, a Cabinet Room Expands a San Francisco Loft

Rather than relocate, architect Rebal Knayzeh devises a flexible, mobile bedroom with built-in storage space.

Photo by Rebal Knayzeh

A Toronto garage is transformed by Anya Moryoussef Architect into an airy four-room studio for just under $102,000.

Photo by Scott Norsworthy

Custom-built from the ground up, a 360-square-foot tiny house on wheels is an affordable, off-grid paradise for a family of three in Hawaii.

Photo by Toni Colombo

Fed up with the lack of affordable housing in Maui, Zeena and Shane decided to take matters into their own hands by designing and building a custom tiny house from the ground up. “Rather than paying a chunk of our income into something we would never own, we decided to take the risk to build something specifically for us,” Zeena says. “It also helped that my husband comes from a family of carpenters, which influenced our decision greatly because we had the tools and skills to complete this project.” A self-described “labor of love,” the tiny house took the couple two years to complete between their full-time jobs. The ambitious design/build was also made all the more challenging by the couple’s concurrent wedding planning. To stay within their tight budget of $45,000, the newlyweds did all the work themselves with help from Shane’s father, a master carpenter.

A Brooklyn Brownstone Gets a Vibrant Renovation For $910K

When a Brooklyn-based couple sought to renovate a brownstone in Crown Heights, they knew exactly which architect they wanted for the job—Alexandra Barker of BFDO Architects.

Photo Courtesy of Francis Dzikowski/OTTO

In the home’s new kitchen and principal bathroom, interior designer Corine Maggio of CM Natural Designs creates bold moments via a high-contrast palette warmed with wood. 

Photo by Chipper Hatter

A suburban colonial home in Raleigh, North Carolina, is filled with light and garden views after a renovation and addition by the architect homeowner Don Kranbuehl. 

Photo: Mark Herboth

In order to convert his 1981 colonial into a sun-drenched home, architect Don Kranbuehl started by removing the garage. “The goal was to transform a closed-in, inward-looking colonial box into an open, transparent volume connected with nature,” said Kranbuehl, a principal at the firm Clark Nexsen. The subtraction of the little-used attached garage made way for a two-story, 1,200-square-foot addition. Kranbuehl then proceeded to conduct a complete renovation of the 2,100-square-foot interior. The first floor of the addition is now home to a cedar-wrapped work room. Newly opened-up living spaces are lined with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the garden. Kranbuehl installed a master suite on the second floor of the addition, and then connected it to the other second-floor bedrooms and a staircase via a steel bridge.

A 1920s Guest House Bathroom Gets a Bold Revamp For $34,800

In a 1925 home designed by modernist architect Rudolph Schindler, a tiny bathroom gets a big and bold renovation. 

Photo by Bree McCool Photography

Nestled in East Austin, Texas, Maude Street House by Murray Legge accomplishes the unique task of bringing three units under one roof.

Photo by Leonid Furmanksy

Some say two is better than one, but when it comes to design, three is the magic number. As a self-proclaimed design enthusiast, writer Alejandro Puyana has built several single-family residences across Austin. But when he found this property in the eastern part of town, he realized that more is oftentimes merrier. “Alejandro had very specific ideas about the basic elements he wanted to include in the house,” says architect Murray Legge, who worked on the project with Puyana. “From the beginning, he wanted to do two houses on the lot: A primary dwelling he would live in, and an auxiliary dwelling unit (ADU) that he could sell.” Legge says the client also wanted to include a kitchenless guest suite for friends and family to stay at when they visited. Indeed, placing three living quarters on one lot is a big feat, not to mention a costly one. However, Legge and Puyana worked together to keep costs down. In total, the renovation cost $512,750, with the main house costing a little over $331k.

Related Reading: 

36 Stunning “Before and After” Modern Home Renovations

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