Leader Builders Corp. sets itself apart as a go-to company for quality, design/build additions and renovations.
LEADER BUILDERS CORP. started out in the late 1980s providing more simple services: bathroom remodeling and painting.
But a smaller job done well often can lead to bigger opportunities. Such is the case with Leader Builders Corp., based in the Chicago area. The company now offers full design/build services for home additions and extensive renovation work.
“We were kind of pushed this way by existing clients,” owner and President Pete Antonow says.
Referrals brought in new clients, and requests for the design/build approach increased. More clients wished to have a good idea of the project costs prior to investing in full architectural drawings, so Leader Builders had to add that capability fast before losing that business.
The company now can take projects from concepts to completion, offering clients professional drawings and 3-D renderings before any work takes place.
“A lot of people would request producing additions and they provided the drawings,” Antonow says. “Someone would say I was referred by a past customer and she said you were great, would you like to build the addition my architect drew? Other times, someone would be interested in an addition, and I would say we didn’t do the architecture and you need to hire someone. They had a somewhat tough time finding good professionals.”
Leader Builders Corp. stepped up to the plate to meet that need.
The Design Side
For clients who don’t have unlimited dollars to spend, Leader Builders Corp. says providing design services is especially valuable.
“Sometimes, architects are not able to design in order to achieve certain budgets,” Antonow says. “For rich people who want to add a huge family room and master suite and don’t care how much it costs, it would be OK to hire an architect and find out later how much. For everyday folks – the majority of our clients – it’s very useful to discuss budgets first and then go into producing the drawings.”
That doesn’t mean the end results are everyday, though. The company’s designs, while built to suit each client, showcase a diverse set of capabilities – from sleek, streamlined designs to traditional styles to renovations that preserve and augment antique craftsmanship.
“It turns out that sometimes some of the solutions that are originally thought of as economical, we can use to produce more unique, valuable designs,” he says. “You get a chance to be creative.”
One example of how budget challenges can inspire better design is the use of steel over engineered lumber for beams.
“Sometimes it’s less expensive to use a steel beam because of the material cost and ease of handling and connecting versus engineered lumber beam,” Antonow says.
The steel, though, can hold more weight and, when exposed, provide a distinctively modern look.
Versatility on Display
Recent Leader Builders Corp. projects highlight a wide range of talent.
The company recently more than doubled the size of an original home on Chicago’s north side, blending modern looks in traditional architecture.
In the village of Long Grove, Illinois, Leader Builders provided a complete design/build for an addition that brought a spacious, light-filled kitchen, a roomy laundry room and a new basement room – all with high-end materials.
Another project entailed making 3,500 square feet of attic space a functional, beautiful space with cathedral ceilings, a new bathroom and a kitchenette – as well as a ballet studio, play rooms, window seats and a media space for family gatherings. For that project, Leader Builders first constructed an external staircase for the construction period to minimize disruption and mess for the family.
The company’s work for a Lincoln Park Victorian shows a sensitivity to honoring and restoring the craftsmanship of the past. There, the team carefully preserved existing antique trim – integrating it into the project, which included gutting much of the home. Claw foot tubs, stone tile, antique sinks also were incorporated into the new version of the home, now more open feeling with a two-story open ceiling in the family room.
The same care went into renovating another Lincoln Park home, the only wood building in its area to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Removing decades worth of previous remodeling jobs, Leader Builders created fresh, inviting spaces as well as a new garage, master suite – with a high-tech master bathroom and master-suite roof deck – and an art studio.
The company also has recently completed a handful of more contemporary styles, such as an energy-efficient, glass-filled renovation tucked behind a home with a more traditional elevation in Lincoln Park. That home now features green technology like solar panels and radiant heating as well as a treasure-trove of secrets to discover, like secret roof terraces, skyboxes, sunken patios and multistory open spaces.
Another advantage on Leader Builders side for clients is the company’s estimation software: built in-house, it creates highly sophisticated estimates in a very short time with huge accuracy, down to the materials lists which can be readily printed by Leader project managers. That ends up making the process more efficient and gives clients a clear picture of the cost of their projects early on.
“The quality of our work is one reason people come to us,” Antonow says. “They have trust that we’re going to give them a good product and our warranty service is really good.
“On the other hand, were trying to give people tools to be able to figure the complete cost of what the project is going to run them,” he adds.