Courtesy Gomes + Staub

A custom home kitted out with all the latest luxury fittings, fixtures, and finishes is the ultimate house fantasy. It’s relatively easy to build lavishly appointed houses, but only the well-heeled can afford such indulgences.

Austin, Texas–based Gomes + Staub Architects takes the opposite approach—good space planning mixed with salvaged materials and inexpensive finishes sourced from the most unlikely places.

“On a pragmatic level, devoting a smaller proportion of the client’s available funds into fixtures and finishes allows more of the budget to be used on spatial reconfiguration,” says principal Francisco Gomes. “While exotic surfaces and imported fixtures certainly have their satisfactions, good space with ample natural light, generous and unexpected volumes, and spatial connectivity is more important in making a building which people enjoy inhabiting.”

That’s not to say that Gomes + Staub isn’t tricking out its interiors as well; the homes the firm designs seem just as luxurious even though the materials list is way different from your typical spec. Case in point is the firm’s Beaver Dam Road House project in North Carolina.

In renovating the 55-year-old house, the firm righted the flaws typical of an old house, but the real story is the interior finishes.

“We cobbled together inexpensive fixtures with character because we felt that reconfiguring and connecting the living spaces of the house on the ground floor was the first priority and demanded the majority of the budget,” Gomes says.

In one bath, Gomes + Staub took a wood salad bowl from Target, applied an ebony stain and urethane finish, and used it as a sink (about $35). For a ceiling light, the firm used a ceramic lamp holder ($4) with an IKEA Skima shade ($5). The wall-mount faucet from B&K—“well made and inexpensive,” says Gomes—cost about $40. And the flamed-finish bluestone counter cost approximately $100. In other areas of the home, the firm used brown plastic laminate counters, blonde slate floors, and IKEA kitchen cabinets.

Though Gomes + Staub knows how to stretch a dollar, it also knows that picking the more expensive product or finish sometimes is the better move.

Says Gomes, “When substantial materials can clearly contribute to a longer service life for building elements, then they often make great sense even if they are more costly.”