Marcus Trades a Desk for a Toolbox

Recession Rebound

Name: Marcus
Age: 30
Location: Lakeview, Chicago
Profession: Architect

We are all continually adjusting how we manage budgets and work loads for home improvement. With less-than-stellar economic times, we are taking a new look at how readers are accepting the hand they're dealt, and applying their time and limited budgets to making home (theirs or someone else's) a great place to live. First up is Marcus, an underemployed Chicago architect who set his sights on mom's house in Houston, TX:

Q: How has the economy affected your job scenario?

A: The economy affected the financing for the projects of the architectural firm where I worked, and all projects were either put on hold or canceled altogether. This forced the firm to reduce everyone's hours in January. By September, projects had been so sporadic, and they reduced my hours below a acceptable level. So my creative solution was to build my mother a deck in Houston, TX in exchange for paying my bills. Luckily, after 3 weeks I returned to Chicago and interviewed with a couple architects that have hired me full-time.

Q: What have you done, home-related, to bounce back financially and/or emotionally?

A: I cut my expenses as much as possible. I canceled cable and internet, put my student loans in forbearance, reviewed my budget and shopped a lot more cheaply, and made no unnecessary purchases. Since there weren't many opportunities to feel confident about, it was initially hard to do anything meaningful with all my free time. Finding something rewarding (helping my parents) helped me wait out the lull in the architecture world.

Q: What has been the biggest reward, despite having lost something in the workplace?

A: The rewards have been personal. I was allowed to focus on personal projects and finish some creative book projects. Though many are still unfinished, I at least made progress. I'm most proud of completing my first design-build project with my mother's deck. It was a great learning and practical experience.

Q: What’s your advice for the most budget-friendly, doing-it-yourself, home improvements?

A: The first bit of advice is that man power is the biggest money saver, thus do-it-yourself. There are so many resources out there for home improvements that make it much easier to tackle complex tasks. For materials and ideas, pay attention to garage sales and antique malls for large items that can be refurbished or refinished. Pick knick-knacks and unconventional items for decor. My favorite piece is a used silk-screen with a hypnotic geometrical pattern (makes a nice window screen).

Thanks, Marcus! Read more about his project here.

If you've got a story to share about how you're combating the recession with a pocket full of skill and a whole lot of vision, let us know! Send a brief email (with "Recession Rebound" as the subject title) and sample photos of your project to: heather(at)apartmenttherapy(dot)com