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Good house, cheap house
Adventures in creating extraordinary homes at everyday prices.
October 13, 2005: 1:39 PM EDT
By Kira Obolensky, for MONEY Magazine
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NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) - Great American homes, built or made over at prices you won't believe!

There is good cheap and there is bad cheap. You know bad cheap when you encounter it. Good cheap can be more elusive, although its best qualities surely include simplicity (a 20-cent Bic pen, for instance), practicality (a $27 set of stackable Tupperware bowls) and style (the $21,500 Mini Cooper convertible).

So too with homes, as you'll see from these construction and renovation projects profiled in the following gallery. Good cheap work requires durable yet inexpensive building materials -- those highlighted in this story include steel, concrete, glass, metal and plywood -- often borrowed from industrial or commercial contexts.

But the most essential material is resourcefulness. The owners here made magic happen, delivering flair and personality as well as durability, because they could successfully re-imagine what they initially thought they needed in a home.

For some, that meant forgoing square footage; for others, it meant rethinking their definitions of quality. Must it always be granite counters, hardwood trims and gold-plated faucets?

No way, says professional appraiser John Bredemeyer of the Appraisal Institute. "Quality is not in itself one style or another."

Bottom line: Simple, practical and stylish design can offer more value than high-end finishes -- words to live by when you're planning your next big renovation or doodling your latest dream house.


Kira Obolensky is the author of "Good House, Cheap House: Adventures in Creating an Extraordinary Home at an Everyday Price" (Taunton Press), available at bookstores in mid-October.

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