By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon

dnews house floor plan

Existing floor plan of house where clients wanted to add an addition to their family room.

Recently a couple in Murray asked us for help in designing an addition to their house. This couple likes to entertain and their small kitchen/family room combination is not large enough to accommodate their guests.

After reviewing the couple’s project we determined that they don’t actually need to add on because they already have plenty of space in their adjoining living and dining rooms — they just haven’t been using it. Instead of adding on, all they need to do is visually open and connect this space with their kitchen and family room.

We came up with a design that replaces the walls between the living room, dining room and family room with columns and beams. The design will create a more modern “great room” and allow guests to flow into the former living and dining areas while still maintaining contact with party goers in the kitchen and former family room area. Working with the space this couple already has, rather than making an addition, will save them about $50,000 in construction costs.

This example illustrates one of our primary architectural philosophies: Bigger is not always better.

Too many homeowners today put their money into the sheer size of a home rather than into its quality. What these homeowners don’t know is that a well-designed home with high-quality materials and features better serves its owners than a “big-box” house that lacks these elements.

In architecture, bigger not always better 2

Renovation Design Group recommended a plan where walls would be removed to open up unused living space.

Another thing to remember is that the larger the home or addition, the higher the property taxes and costs for building, finishing, decorating, heating, cooling and maintaining.

Don’t get us wrong. We’re certainly not against making an addition to your home. We simply want you to keep these things in mind as you consider what is best for you. Can the space you already have simply be reconfigured to meet your needs? Or, can you multitask some rooms in your home? For example, dining rooms can also be used as libraries, home offices can function as guest rooms on occasion, and laundry rooms and mudrooms can be combined.

If you’ve considered these things and decide that you still need to expand, remember that the best additions aren’t necessarily the greatest in size, but the greatest in atmosphere, function and comfort. We subscribe to the formula promoted by architect and best-selling author Sarah Susanka: Reduce the size of your original construction project by 30 percent and spend the resulting savings on finer materials and more architectural detail. This will give your project the atmosphere, function and comfort that you seek. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

In architecture, bigger not always better