Our company motto is “Making the world a better place, one home at a time.” We enjoy having a positive impact on our community and in our clients’ lives. We get an occasional “hot mess” to fix up, but more often it is a matter of taking a good house and making it better.
Homes have their own history, character and spirit. The older the home, the more respect it deserves as it has served its owners well over decades of time. As we all know personally, there is no shame in an occasional makeover. A new hairdo, new clothes or even a nip and tuck keep us in better shape, so why shouldn’t our houses deserve the same care and attention?
We are all exposed to design “decoration” these days through HGTV, Pinterest and Houzz. With the exception of opening the kitchen to spaces around it, these media often focus on finishes and furnishings rather than the bones of the house. A room can look terrific in a picture and still not function well in a home.
It requires a strong sense of space in three dimensions to really understand what a home needs to flow smoothly and support a family’s daily activities. Some people are born with this spatial instinct; if you weren’t, it is important that you find a design professional who can help you with the redesign of your home.
One of the key differences between a house that was designed by a builder or other non-design professional and those designed by an architect is evidenced in how one moves through and about in the home. An architectural education is broadly based and begins with basic design training that teaches how to see, feel and use space of all kinds. A home that flows well and has well-proportioned spaces will function better and feel larger than the same sized-space that is not so well thought out.
Because circulation is so critical, the placement of doors and stairs plays a key role in managing how people move through a space. Window placement can make a difference as well. These are the “bones” of the house and must be carefully analyzed in the process of remodeling. One of the advantages of working with an architect is that we are not intimidated by moving these elements if it makes all the difference in a plan.
Of course, some say, it is not our money we are spending to move such seemingly fixed elements. We can assure you we don’t suggest such things lightly, but there are many instances where the key to the whole redesign is relocating one or more of these elements. To us, it is worth the money to get those bones in the right place. It may require a realignment of the budget, but ignoring such basic design principles is like putting lipstick on the pig.
When remodeling, it is important to identify which new elements will be regarded as permanent versus those that can be installed or upgraded in the future. For instance, in a bathroom the tile surround in the shower is going to have to remain for many years. The light fixtures and the mirror, on the other hand, are easily changed out. This should be a guide as to where the budget should be assigned; perhaps we can’t have it all at the outset, but will need to channel our resources where we can get the biggest bang for the buck.
Consider also that some features in a beautiful home can be added in the future if the initial budget is focused more on getting the basic layout right. For instance, lovely wood wainscots and additional cabinetry and trim can be added into an existing home if the walls are already in the correct places. Similarly, flooring and countertops can be upgraded in the years following a remodel without having to rework existing spaces if they were correctly designed in the first place.
Professional architectural design doesn’t come cheap. Getting accurate as-built drawings (showing the existing house as it currently is) and working to create a master plan can easily cost $4,000 to $6,000, depending on the size of the house and the complexity of the project. Construction documents on the selected master plan can cost another two to four times this initial investment. Is professional design really worth it?
Well, what are the consequences of skipping this step during your remodeling process? Basically, you can invest a lot of money and end up with a house that you still don’t love that doesn’t function well for your family and that will not stand the test of time or provide a positive return on what is probably the biggest investment you have. While not all homes and not all projects need architects, many do. If you are not sure about your prospective project, consult with an architect who specializes in residential remodeling to determine the best way for you to proceed. A free initial consultation is a good way for you to meet an architect and explore the possibility of working together to create your “dream” right in the home where you currently live.
Make sure your home not only looks great, but “lives” great, too. A home is a living, dynamic creation that should be your family’s best support and a refuge from a stressful world. Talk to an architect before you remodel to see if your project will benefit from the experience and expertise of a design professional.
Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs. To learn more, visit RenovationDesignGroup.com or contact ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.