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When to Splurge and When to Save on Kitchen and Bath Renovations

Three local designers share their secrets to balancing your budget.

Go big on a custom backsplash and pull back on bamboo flooring. That’s one example of how local interior designers splurge on wow-worthy kitchens and baths and make up the difference on less noticeable line items. We tapped three area experts for insight on what’s worth the big bucks and when to stick to the budget. On the following pages, Jereme Smith of the architectural firm Design Insight Inc. reveals his savvy cost-cutting ideas for his own Prospect Heights kitchen, Tom Segal (with help from Scott Grooms) of Kaufman Segal Design urged his Boystown clients to go with the most striking stone countertops for the bar but repurposed artwork and lighting, and Jodi Morton of 2to5 Design (in collaboration with Jeanie Petrick of Petrick Architecture) juxtaposed kid-friendly materials with a spa-like color scheme for a children’s bathroom in Evanston.

Jereme Smith, Design Insight Inc.

Jereme Smith kitchen
Photo: Black Olive Photographic


  • “The backsplash is one solid piece of granite instead of mosaic or subway tile.” River White granite, $1,100, M S International, 1441 Jarvis Ave., Elk Grove Village
  • “The polished chrome pendants set the mood.” ET2 5-Light Pendant, $448 each, lightingdirect.com
  • “The cabinets are painted solid maple wood, with dovetail self-close drawers.” Kitchen Craft Cabinetry, $24,000, 1600 Delany Rd., Gurnee
  • “The oven and fridge were pricey but worth it.” Monogram, $10,750, Merchandise Mart
  • “We divided the room with translucent blue sliders.” Eco-Resin panel doors, $4,600, Lumicor, lumicor.com


  • “The bamboo flooring was from a wholesale outlet.” Strand woven bamboo, $4 per square foot, Floor & Decor, 3300 Oakton St., Skokie
  • “My wife wanted the brightest, whitest stone countertops to contrast with the cabinets. We couldn’t do a delicate Carrara marble since we’re wine lovers and would stain it. So we found a wholesale granite and were sold.” River White granite, $40 per square foot, M S International
  • “We found the ‘Eat’ sign at a going-out-of-business sale at Ashley Furniture.” Similar metal sign, from $50, jet.com

Tom Segal, Kaufman Segal Design

Tom Segal kitchen
Photo: David Cutrano


  • “We all fell in love with the idea of a book-matched full slab of limestone for the island and backsplash.” Antique Morewood, $24,000, GI Stone, 1420 W. Hubbard St.
  • “The clients are big wine enthusiasts, so we planned the space to accommodate two full-height wine coolers.” Avanti Dual-Zone wine cooler, from $1,754, Abt Electronics, 1200 N. Milwaukee Ave., Glenview
  • “While it’s not a huge cost in the scheme of things, it is a bit of a luxury to have fresh orchids all the time on the bar!”


  • “The bar cabinetry is textured melamine.” Ultracraft Metropolis Collection, $6,500, Crawford Supply, 3924 N. Lincoln Ave.
  • “We wanted a smooth texture on the barstools to contrast the cabinetry and stone, so we went with leather.” Phoenix carbon bar stools, $149 each, CB2, 800 W. North Ave.
  • “The clients already had the antique poster, so we used it to add drama to the large open wall. We also reused chandeliers previously hung in the dining room.”

Jodi Morton, 2to5 Design

Jodi Morton bathroom
Photo: Dustin Halleck Photography


  • “The inset submarine-style medicine cabinet packs a big design punch. What little boy wouldn’t want to brush his teeth in a submarine every day?” Submarine inset medicine cabinet, from $735, RH, 1300 N. Dearborn Pkwy.
  • “The solid walnut base under the sink creates a strong silhouette against the white walls and tile. It’s a nice alternative to a more traditional pedestal sink or vanity.” Duravit DuraStyle furniture washbasin and wall-mounted shelf, $1,230 for both, Studio 41, 225 W. Hubbard St.


  • “The subway tiles are affordable and classic, and they never go out of style.” Rittenhouse Square Arctic White subway tile, $4 per square foot, Daltile, 316 W. Hubbard St.
  • “This faucet ships in a day and is maintenance-free. Chrome is your friend when designing kids’ baths!” Grohe Concetto one-handle bathroom faucet, from $115, efaucets.com


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