Twenty Years of Dream Homes

Architect and interior designer Brent Nyquist has taught our class “Designing, Building and Remodeling Your Dream Home” for 20 years this spring. Through that time, Mr. Nyquist has helped hundreds of people remodel or build the home of their dreams. We had a chance to ask Mr. Nyquist about the class and common pitfalls that homeowners face when building their homes.

What is the first thing someone should do when considering remodeling their home?
The critical first steps are to determine what, if any, legal restrictions may impact their project. A homeowner should study a survey of their lot as well as read the deed restrictions for their neighborhood. Some neighborhoods have restrictions on the number of stories a house can be, what materials may be used in construction as well as building setback lines and utility easements. Most homeowners receive a copy of a survey at the time they purchase the home so they should look in the closing documents for their house. Deed restrictions are often available online at their neighborhood’s homeowner association website.

What are some common mistakes that owners make when building their dream homes?
One of the most difficult aspects of home building or remodeling is getting an accurate grasp of the potential cost. Often, when given a range of potential cost, the homeowner will focus on the lowest possible cost instead of the high range and proceed with the design and engineering documents. Once the design is complete, they find out that the project is more expensive than they had hoped and they are faced with having to cut costs and redesign the project. Additionally, homeowners too often advance money to a contractor and find out too late that the money wasn’t used for their project.

Any special memories from your past classes?
One of my favorite memories stemming from this class came from a woman who took the class after having hired an architect and finding that her dream home was going to cost more than 3 times her budget. She explained that she had already spent the money she and her husband had allotted for design and engineering and she was fearful she would have to abandon her dream of building their home. Realizing that her situation was the result of a design that was simply too big, I worked with her to come up with a suitable design that was the smallest size allowed by her neighborhood and suggested materials and details that could reduce the cost of construction. In the end, they were able to move into a house they loved for a cost very close to their original budget.

Why do you enjoy teaching this course?
I love residential design and construction and I enjoy helping people who are contemplating projects of their own. The class puts me in touch with homeowners who have had a variety of experiences with home building and remodeling projects both good and bad. Often, I feel I can offer better services to my clients because I can help them to avoid conditions and situations that have been problems for others.

Building a new home or undertaking a major remodel is something most people only will do once in their lives so any wisdom they learn is often not utilized a second time. This class serves as a forum where homeowners can learn from the experiences of others without any of the pain.


If you are considering making changes to your home, a great place to start would be taking this course, “Designing, Building and Remodeling Your Dream Home” starting April 1.

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