Building room additions, both large and small, has been Airoom's primary business for 55 years. But today, the longtime Chicago-area contractor has expanded considerably to "keep up with the world" and provide the services today's homeowners want, said Tom Graham, president.
Airoom, founded in 1958 by Burton Klein, has an unusual name with its roots dating back to Klein's Florida honeymoon. It was there where he first saw three-season rooms constructed by Alson's Airoom. He decided to buy into the franchise and bring the glass rooms to Chicago.
The Alson's name was quickly dropped, its headquarters was built on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago and the firm quickly progressed from building three-season rooms to constructing more conventional room additions.
"Ours is a one-stop shop, taking projects from concept through completion, handling all of the financing, permits, architecture, selections and work with the trades, as well as follow-up service under our extensive warranty," Graham said. "In fact, this year customers are getting 55-year structural warranties to celebrate our 55th anniversary."
Airoom now has showrooms in both Chicago and Naperville and is one of the largest remodeling design and build firms in the metropolitan area.
Its holding company, Airoom Cos. LLC, has also created several sister companies besides the original firm: Michael Bennett Homes, which builds custom homes on scattered site lots; Revive Designer Bathroom, a streamlined company that handles smaller bathroom remodeling projects; Elevations, which completes exterior work including roofing, windows, siding and the construction of new facades; and Lamb Financial, a mortgage brokerage firm that helps homeowners get funding for home improvements.
All of the companies work throughout Chicago's six-county area, but primarily in the Western suburbs, the city and along the North Shore, Graham said.
"Despite the slow economy, homeowners have continued to hire us to do room additions," Graham said. "If they are going to remain in their homes and not sell them, they want to make them nicer for themselves and many simply need more space because their parents or their grown children are moving in.
"We have built lots of in-law suites and separate living spaces. In most of those cases where the space is a necessity, people are choosing less grandiose options when it comes to windows and so forth."
On the other side of the coin are those customers who have not been adversely affected by the economy. They are choosing to take advantage of today's lower construction costs and favorable interest rates to complete some of the work they have been hoping to do -- adding indoor pools in the basement or a separate wing, for instance, or adding ceiling height to the old, shallow basement.
"We have also been completing many kitchen renovations with people totally changing the configurations of their kitchens, making them work differently by sometimes taking a portion of another room to enlarge them. Many also add additional windows and doors, as well as an outdoor kitchen space."
Those remodeling their kitchens today are opting for cabinets that look more like furniture. White cabinets with contrasting wood islands or buffet areas are particularly popular, Graham said. Homeowners are often choosing to hide their large appliances behind cabinet pieces, too. Some are even purchasing cabinets with mirrored tops that look like armoires.
Bathrooms are another place where homeowners enjoy remodeling since so much time is spent in them. Some choose to add space to the bath by removing an old, unused closet while others work within the existing space. Popular upgrades include the addition of steam showers, heated floors, large medicine cabinets and towel racks that double as grab bars.
"Many clients are choosing to age in place so that they don't have to move. So they are calling upon us to give them comfort height toilets, night lights underneath wall-hung cabinets and decorative grab bars," he said.
Those who want to improve the exterior of their home because it was built in a cookie-cutter subdivision where all the homes look alike are being directed to Elevations. They can add brick or stone, change siding for less maintenance and a better look, add a portico to protect guests at the front door and add character to the home, and more.
"People generally choose to change their exteriors in order to spend less on future maintenance or to add more personality and curb appeal to the home, or both," Graham said. "Great new products have come out over the past ten years that allow us to add brick and stone, for instance, without increasing the size of the foundation to support the weight.
"We have created these specialized companies in order to meet every homeowner's needs. Many do not need all of the architectural and design work that we offer through Airoom. We used to turn down that work. But now we do it under one of our other companies," Graham said. "We are also building new custom homes for people under the Michael Bennett Homes name. We have all of the expertise, so why not? Most of the homes we have built so far are 3,200 square feet or larger and they have fallen into the $650,000 and up price range."
For more information about Airoom and its sister companies, visit www.airoom.com or call (847) 268-4677. Showrooms are located at 6825 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, and 2764 Aurora Ave., Naperville.