By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon

Last week we gave you a homework assignment. Have you spent the week browsing magazines, checking out books and setting your TiVo to record home design shows? Hopefully you are filling your mind with ideas while you fill your files with photos and articles.

This week’s assignment will take you to the next level. We are surprised how many clients come to us and say, “I really want a bonus room upstairs.” And we say, “That would be fun. Why do you want a bonus room?” And they say, “Well, because all the new houses have bonus rooms.” They clearly haven’t thought through the everyday use of the space once it has been created.

In technical terms, we call that programming: “an intelligent response to everyday needs for space allocation” (American Institute of Architects). In other words, good design reflects how you will use the finished space. Therefore, the first consideration of any successful project — new construction or remodeling — is “programming.”

The key to designing space to function well everyday is analysis. You don’t have to come up with all the answers, but you should thoroughly think through your family’s needs and your home’s shortcomings. Here are a few steps to help you and an example of how one family approached their analysis.

Step 1: Analyze your current home in terms of what’s working and what’s not. For a recent client, a second marriage meant blending two families with teenagers. A home remodel was definitely in order. For them, location (staying within the same school boundaries) and a fabulous valley view was on their “what’s working” list. On their “not working” list was a lack of bedrooms, bathrooms and a large gathering space.

Step 2: List your needs and wants. This family decided a separate bedroom for each child was key to their success as a new family. Since the children were older, the new bedrooms didn’t need to be near the parents’ bedroom. They had two existing bathrooms but wanted four. A space for doing homework was important, along with a larger kitchen and great room arrangement. They also wanted to keep their backyard pool, so any additions to the house could not extend out back.

Step 3: Talk with an architect. When these clients came to us, they had really analyzed their home and their family. When it came to step three—talk with an architect—they were prepared. When they said, “We want more bedrooms,” and we said, “Great! Why?” they knew exactly how to respond, and we understood their needs. So when you meet with an architect, bring a list of needs and wants. The architect will help you refine your list and use this information, along with their knowledge of building codes, structural issues, and good design principles, to start on plans.

Together you will be able to work toward a design that will benefit your family for years to come.e you to get involved, educate yourselves about issues facing your community, and become part of the future of your neighborhood. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

Programming key to good design