The husband-wife duo behind this home renovation specialist have led the way with a unique philosophy, as they ask, “Why shouldn’t the design and construction sides communicate before the work begins?”
Advance Design Studio is approaching its 30th anniversary, but this complete home remodeling company actually traces its roots to more than a century ago.
“The deed to our studio showroom is dated 1905,” says Christine Jurs, who launched Advance Design Studio Ltd. with her husband, Todd, in 2002. “Todd’s great-grandfather purchased the building for $500.”
In past lives, the building at 30 Railroad Street in downtown Gilberts was a blacksmith shop, then an auto mechanic’s shop.
It wasn’t until Todd began woodworking projects in his father’s garage that the seeds were planted for what would become an award-winning home renovation and design studio.
“Todd became a carpenter because he thought if his father owned a business, and his grandfather owned a business, then everyone just owned their own businesses,” Christine says. “When his skills as a carpenter became evident as a teenager, he decided to start a business of his own.”
Todd founded Advance Builders Inc. in 1992 with a focus on contracting and construction of new homes and home additions.Soon, he expanded to include kitchen and bath remodeling.
Along the way, Todd met and married Christine, a graduate of Northern Illinois University with a BFA in Architecture and Interior Design. “That’s where the chocolate met the peanut butter,” jokes Christine. Her experience in design paired perfectly with Todd’s experience as a carpenter and contractor.
It was a union that stood in juxtaposition with the design-build industry. Traditionally, there has been a disconnect between the design side and the construction side of home renovation, says Jurs. To Todd and Christine, that made little sense.
“They started asking themselves why there was so much finger pointing while the client was caught in the middle,” says Brianna Bardonner, marketing coordinator for Advance Design Studio. “They teamed up and decided to bring design into the construction space.”
For the team at Advance Design Studio, this blending of design and construction has a name: Common Sense Remodeling. It’s a process and philosophy that stands at the heart of Advance Design Studio’s success.
“Miscommunication prevents everyone, from the architect to the laborers and subcontractors, from talking about the project from beginning to end,” says Bardonner. “You might end up with a design that couldn’t have been done in the first place because nobody talked about the logistics, timeline and budget.”
Common Sense Remodeling eliminates this confusion by including everyone in the conversation.
“The homeowner knows the timeline,” says Bardonner. “Because everyone is involved from the beginning, projects are predictable, designed to budget, have a smooth process and avoid common renovation pitfalls. It really is just common sense. Why do it any other way?”
Putting the process in place didn’t happen overnight, but it quickly proved its worth.
“It was a major transition at the time,” says Christine. “To re-create the company from a basic remodeling contracting model to one that offered a complete design experience from start to finish – that is something that has carried us through to the company we are today.”
It’s also what carried them through two very difficult periods.
“The recession of 2008 and COVID both created very interesting challenges for our industry,” says Christine. “2008 was kind of a reckoning for a lot of companies in the remodeling industry. A lot of companies didn’t make it past that year, and the years immediately after were rough.”
The COVID pandemic created an equally tough challenge. Material costs became unpredictable and lockdowns caused a brief stoppage of workflow.
As people found themselves both working and staying longer in their homes, renovation became a high-demand service.
“We were very grateful to be able to keep our team together,” says Bardonner. “Because business suddenly skyrocketed.”
This, of course, led to new challenges.
“Last year was also really tough for many small businesses,” says Christine, “but the fact that we’ve managed to grow through two really tough periods – that alone is something that, I think, is a significant accomplishment.”
That growth isn’t stopping any time soon. Todd and Christine are focusing on the future in two key approaches.
First, they’re providing more autonomy for their leadership teams. “Todd and I have worked in every role in this organization,” Christine says. “Now the roles we’re in are really more about working on the business instead of in the business.”
This means transitioning the company to a place where the leadership teams are making more of the decisions.
“Going forward, the goal is to continue growing the organization in a way that makes it more self-sufficient,” says Christine. “That is a huge transformation for any small business.”
The other growth area is the creation of a new cabinet company, Artisan Made Cabinetry, a move that will allow Advance Design Studio to supply its own cabinets. “That has been a fun ride,” says Christine. “We’re trying to secure a property in the local area, so we can literally build a new company from scratch.”
As a co-founder of a growing design and build company, Christine has some words of advice for anyone who is thinking of starting a career in design. It starts with seeking an internship.
“As important as it is to learn what you want to do, it is equally important to learn what you don’t want to do,” she says. “The only way to truly learn that is to get your feet wet and shadow a designer.”
Christine also points out that there is more to design than simply picking color schemes, tiles and fixtures. “What new designers don’t realize is that, behind the scenes, what our teams actually do is highly technical. The best experience you can get is to actually work in the field, so you can have that dose of reality.”
For experienced designers who are seeking to go it alone, Christine recommends they find a way to be involved in the process from start to finish.
“Remodeling is like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle, where the pieces haven’t been created yet,” she says. “The only way you can succeed is to develop partnerships with experts in other areas.”
The partnership Christine and Todd Jurs have established, both in business and in life, is built on communication, collaboration and the ability to adapt and evolve. It’s a formula that has worked for Advance Design Studio for almost 30 years.
“Renovations can be a scary thing,” says Christine. “You’re opening your home to people who are going to tear it up and put it back together. We partner with our homeowners. We’re coming alongside you and making that realization come true. We’ve grown and we’ve innovated to the point where we’ve created a product that people want. And that product is the experience. We want our homeowners to say, ‘I enjoyed that’ and want to do it again.”
And doesn’t that seem like common sense?