CHOOSING THE RIGHT DESIGN FOR YOU

While much home remodeling is need driven, a primary purpose of home improvements is to enhance the quality of life for you and your family. In order to gain this you must first address the design. The form, as well as the function, must be carefully considered before delving into your remodeling project. Advice and ideas on planning a remodel can come from many sources: your imagination, pictures in magazines, images and articles on the internet, a friend’s home, a remodeling contractor, an architect, or an interior designer. There are likely too many options for you than too few. When you distill the subject, however, it all boils down to you—to you and your family’s unique way of living. This is not to say, of course, that you’re weird, but that by virtue of being human, you are unique, and so are the people that live with you. Call it “exceptional” if you like.

The best design for you may not be the best design for your neighbor. In the most fundamental sense, a good design makes the best use of the space in question. “Best,” however, is a largely subjective term. Outside of a handful of rules, practices, principles, legalities, and ambiguous “rules of thumb,” ” best use” is little more than an opinion. You may be familiar with the “kitchen work triangle,” for example. This is a principle used in kitchen design since the 1940s. It involves the area between the sink, cook top, and refrigerator. With the advent of new appliances, such as microwaves, mixer lifts, pot fillers, dual fuel wall ovens, and multiple sinks, the kitchen work triangle has evolved into a polygon of ever-increasing complexity, with ever-expanding options. Likewise, not so long ago, a 3 piece bathroom was the norm. Now, it’s fast becoming extinct. A basement used to be where we kept our furnace, hot water heater, and stored our old paint. Now, the hot water heater can hang on a wall, the furnace can go in the attic, leaving the basement available for a home theater, bar, game room, master suite, or a combination of all of the above—and anything else you can dream-up. We used to have to go to a place of worship to see cathedral ceilings. Now, we may have one in our sun room, foyer, or any other room that doesn’t have a floor above it. We can have a fireplace and entertainment center in our bathroom if we choose. The emphasis on open space in homes has rendered the clearly-defined division between rooms obsolete in many cases. This is accomplished more today with furnishings and decorating accoutrements than with walls. The options are so endless, it’s hard to know where to begin.  This is not your grandfather’s home improvement project.

The evolution of residential remodeling design has progressed in leaps and bounds in the last few decades, and what formerly were details worked out between a home improvement contractor and a homeowner, (often while the project was in progress) are now refined by remodeling design professionals. A remodeling design professional can help in countless ways: advise you on alternatives, cost-effectiveness, and logistic reality, but it will be you making the final decisions, and it is you that has to live with those decisions. You need to be steering this process—especially early on. It could be a mistake to allow a relative stranger to make such personal judgments. Regardless of your experience (or lack thereof,) you are uniquely qualified to meld the design and your life together. No one can know more about what you need, want and prefer than you.

It’s unwise to put the cart before the horse. Before decisions regarding cabinetry style, flooring material, tile mosaics, paint colors, etc. are addressed, the fundamental spatial layout should be worked out. It’s crucial that the design works for you and your family. Approaching this yourself, beforehand, will save you time, money and much trial-and-error aggravation. Your best bet is to do whatever it takes to get your planning ideas as close as possible to what you envision–to communicate your ideas. Involve your family. Sketch your ideas out on graphing paper. If need be, make scaled, cardboard cutouts of furniture, cabinetry, islands, etc. Move them around until you achieve the desired effect. Clip, or print photos of things you like. Then call an architect, designer, or home remodeling professional for additional suggestions, costing advice, to finalize design, and produce the project, but do yourself a huge favor—start with you and the people that live with you. The best design is the one that best reflects you. 

*Below are the existing layout and 3 basic floor plan options for a bathroom: The object is to gain space in currently cramped area. The homeowners want to do away with the large whirlpool tub and half of a double entry door, replacing the large tub with a stylish claw foot tub that also leaves the option of an expanded shower with a frameless glass enclosure and possibly a second vanity bowl.

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