As with any decision, many factors affect the decision to remodel.

It is not a decision to be taken lightly. You will likely be spending a significant amount of money, as well as investing time and emotional effort into the process.

Most families don’t have the luxury of limitless budgets. So, it is important to get the biggest bang for your buck while getting what you want and need out of your new home.

If you have read our columns before, you have probably heard us say that bigger isn’t always better. Sometimes smaller, less expensive additions (when you consider costs per square foot) are better than large additions that merely add space without daily purpose.

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 every day 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 three 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 one 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.

Many people think architecture is all about beauty, and maybe even about luxury.


While there should be some of both in a good project, at its heart architecture is about solving problems. The measure of the success of a remodeling project is how well it solved the problems identified at the outset of the process.

Before you think about beautiful granite counters or French doors, focus on how your family lives, how it could live better, and how your house could support the improved lifestyle.

The value of talking to an architect is the opportunity to have someone look at your situation with “new eyes,” as well as working with someone who is trained to help you in the analysis of both your physical surroundings and your interaction with them. Together we will be able to work toward a design that will benefit your family for years to come.

Architects Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the founders of Renovation Design Group,, a local architectural firm specializing in home remodels.

Renovation Solutions: Analyze your house and your needs before you remodel