Custom home design fits to perfection

a kitchen filled with lots of furniture: The chef's kitchen in a Silverhorn estate home by McKinley Masters.

© Provided by Calgary Herald
The chef’s kitchen in a Silverhorn estate home by McKinley Masters.

New home builders’ production homes — the various models on display in show home parades in new communities — feature designs with a variable amount of flexibility of being changed by home buyers.


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Set plans add a scale of economy 
to the homes, plus builders can build and deliver the homes to new owners more quickly, just two of the difference between production homes and custom-built homes.

“There are many differences between buying a custom-designed and
a production model home, the main difference being that with custom: you are getting a-one-of-a-kind home that is a reflection of your lifestyle,” says Justis Kwasnicki, sales and marketing manager of Calgary-based McKinley Masters Custom Homes. “With most production homes you are able to change some of the interior layout, but you aren’t able to change the exterior as it has already been approved by the communities’ developers. Our homes are all designed from the ground up and totally unique in their own way.”

There are very few limitations on designs.

“A custom home’s only design limits are the lot you’re building on, your budget and any architectural controls in the area,” says Kwasnicki. “We do all of our home designs in-house and it is totally up to the clients on what architectural style they want for their home, whether it’s a stark modern vibe or warm and traditional.”

Got ideas about what you want in the kitchen, great room, bathroom or any room? The designers want to hear from you.

“Yes, we encourage customers to bring in any ideas they have. Some haven’t thought much past their Pinterest boards while others have drawn out their entire floor plan on graph paper,” says Kwasnicki, adding the final design and other elements are the customer’s choice.

“We always start with a questionnaire, asking clients a multitude of questions to get a feel of how they live. We discuss their project and establish parameters with regards to size, style, budget, building location and any special circumstances that may apply to the home. Plans are developed based on the client’s way of life and current requirements, but we are always sure to maintain the long view as more and more people want to be sure they can age in place in their home. We don’t want a short-term usefulness that only works for the parents and their children at a certain stage in their lives; we want to create dynamic spaces that are built to function symbiotically with the owners as they grow older. From there, we start a preliminary design and work back and forth with the customer until we get it exactly right. Often, the original layouts customers first envisioned can drastically change as the process goes on. When clients are able to see their ideas on paper or on a 3D rendering they’re able to visualize their ideas and optimize their floor plans.

“We believe in the time-honoured architectural mantra that form follows function, meaning if we design spaces

that function correctly for the user, then the look and the esthetic of the home will just organically grow from there.

“In the past 30 years, there hasn’t been an idea that we weren’t able to execute. From wine rooms to pools, the intellectual value we’ve gathered over our time in business helps us to bring pretty well any idea to life.”

The ideas really start coming to life on the plot of land, with some customers buying the land in a chosen location and others choosing a lot where the builder has land holdings.

“It’s about a 70/30 split between them buying a lot somewhere, or rebuilding on a lot they already own or

choosing land we own,” says Kwasnicki. “Whether a customer has come to us with their own lot on an acreage or in the city or is building on one of our inventory lots, we always come out to walk and survey the property to ensure what we’re designing will work with the land. Some examples are: Can we do a walkout basement? How can we maximize the natural light in the kitchen and bedrooms? Where should the home be situated for the most optimal view? As I said earlier, the lot a customer chooses or already owns is one of the few limiting factors for a custom home. If a customer has his or her own lot, we will work within the confines of the land, zoning and architectural controls to maximize the space the best we can.”

Even after a design has been approved, things can change.

“The best part of building a custom home is, after the plans and pricing are finalized, you can still make changes,” says Kwasnicki. “It’s one thing to see your dream home on blueprints compared to when the foundation is poured and framing is up. During our building process, we have many walk-throughs to view such things as framing, plumbing, electrical, etc., where we ask for your approval on sizes and placement of items before moving forward. We aim to make the process as easy and fun as possible.

The intricacies of the process take longer for the home to be completed than a production home, says Kwasnicki.
“On average, design takes three months and from there we price the home. Our pricing process is extremely diligent, so it takes two to three weeks and we end up with an extremely detailed spec of the home,” he says. “From there, depending on the size, we take 14 to 16 months to turn over a project. All said and done, it’s about an 18-month process.”

For those who are more hands-on with designs and features, McKinley Masters has a show home where you can see, touch and feel what can be done.

“It’s called The Ridge, located in the community of Silverhorn in Bearspaw,” says Kwasnicki. “With the current global climate we’ve restricted public viewing hours, but you can contact us for a private viewing and find more information on our website, . We also have hundreds of photos to browse through and plenty more information on our building process.”