Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Step five & six in your home design adventure

Step five:  Go into the design process with an open mind.  You hopefully will hire an expert in the design field, so use their skill and talents.  Once you have had a meeting or two, you should know if you are on the same track or not.  If you have difficulty visualizing spaces in 3D, tell your designer.  Through pictures and sketches, your designer should be able to convey room sizes or spaces that will fit your lifestyle and needs.  If you are still unsure but comfortable with your designer, then trust them and go with their recommendations. 

Some people are very symmetrical in their design ideas, whereas most designers are more flexible with design concepts.  When these two opposites work together, both parties need to really be open minded to get the final layout just right.  There are areas where symmetry is very desirable and areas where it can be too confining, don't be too rigid either way.  Proportion and scale are two other areas where people often need help.  A trained eye will recognize immediately where these two design concepts need to be adjusted.  Trust the design professional when they suggest a modification to proportion or scale, it will be the difference between a room that "feels" right and one that does not.

Step six:  Compromise on issues that are not deal breakers.  Sometimes when two spouses come together to solve an issue, the result is better than either one of the spouses' ideas alone.  Rein in the desire to control everything, your designer is there to help the process, often through many sketches or concepts, they are not there to be a referee.  If you can't come to a resolution, let your designer know where the issue is and let them come up with a design solution that respects every one's ideas.  If compromise is out of the question, then re-visit step one and re-evaluate your goals and motives.

Nothing is more frustrating for me than having two spouses square off against each other over the conference table.  Often times the issues are fairly minor and don't warrant such contention.  This is just another signal that this couple has not gotten real with why they want to build or remodel a house.  I have had couples who will tell me that if she gets the kitchen she wants, then he gets the garage he wants.  If the budget allows, I can surely live with this compromise.  It all boils down to respecting the people involved in the design process and respecting your goals and motivations for designing a new home. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Step three & four in your design adventure

Step three:  Measure all the rooms in your current home or apartment.  If you are in a very small space, measure the rooms in a parents' or friends' home to get a good feel for what you can do with a 12'x12' room.  Sometimes making a room just one or two feet wider, solves a major problem.  People tend to overcompensate for spaces that really challenge them, such as kitchens and closets.  Start by adding a little more space than you have now and see if that makes the whole room work better.  It doesn't usually work to just double the space because that can really take away functionality.  Space can be created with volume or combining spaces, it doesn't always have to be solved by adding square footage.  While you have the tape measure out, measure all the furniture you have or plan on having.  It's easier to plan for large or special pieces now than it is when you are moving in.

Most people don't have a very good feel on how big 12'x14' really is and if that is big enough for a queen sized bed.  I can often show them by increasing that room size by only inches, that their new home will fit and feel much larger than they think.  I have some clients who don't follow this step and continue to guess at how much bigger they need to go with their new house.  If I could point out to them the size they requested for their bedroom is equal to the size of their current family room, they would probably realize quite quickly that that's probably more than they need.  Measuring furniture is just as important, not only for the client to evaluate what they are really willing to move, but for me to plan spaces for oversized pieces.  I will never forget the family I worked with for many months on designing the "perfect" home, only to get a call six months later asking me where I thought the baby grand piano should go.  Not once during all  our meetings, discussions or personal conversations was a piano brought up, much less, a baby grand.  That's when I began assigning homework.

Step four:  Gather ideas.  Collect pictures from magazines, books or product literature of anything you like or inspires you in any way.  It can be a color that makes you happy, a texture from a carpet or the shadowing on a wall, save the picture.  Save floor plans you like or take pictures of homes you have always been attracted to.  Start collecting as soon as you get that first thought about designing and building a new home.  Keep everything in one place and make sure you make notes on each picture as to what it was that inspired you to keep it.  Share all these pictures and comments with your designer to develop a concept for your own, unique home.

I'm surprised how often new clients will bring me huge folders of ideas they have saved.  First of all because they did this on their own, without anyone suggesting it and secondly the shear volume of stuff people are attracted to.  They will lay this huge bundle on my desk and tell me for what it's worth, they like everything in the whole stack.  That's great, because it means there are a lot of things that they would be happy with-noboby gets the whole stack in one house!  We will spread the pictures out and they will usually tell me they don't really know why they like each picture, they just do.  I can almost always pick up on a reoccuring theme to their pictures.  There will be a common thread that they didn't realize is there.  Either all the trim work is painted white, the cabinets are two tone, the most common color is some shade of green, the rooms have clean lines or are filled with overstuffed furniture.  There is always something common throughout the collection.  When I point this out, they are amazed that they have been so consistant in selecting picture with the same look. This is what "home" feels like to them and this is what they will always feel drawn to when designing their new home.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Step one and two in the home design adventure.

Step One:  Have clear and open motives for designing a new home.  Make sure it is not a whim or notion to impress anyone other than yourself.  Make sure it is something that is on your lifetime "to do" list.  Don't do it because everyone else is doing it, don't do it because you are bored, don't do it to please a parent and most of all, don't do it to save a marriage.  Designing a home for yourself should be a reflection of who you are and how you want to live in this world.  Be real with this first and the home you live in will fall into place.

The most disheartening thing I run across in home design is the couple who "desperately" want a new house.  The home they are currently living in is structurally sound, seems to be large enough to fit their family, is in a decent neighborhood and from all outward appearances, is a pretty good family home.  Their list of complaints about the existing house are vague, inconsistant and differ greatly from him to her.  These are the first warning signs I get that all in not right in this house and most of the problems are probably coming from the bedroom.  Another warning sign is that one person is much more involved in the design process than the other and the uninterested one refuses to give any constructive input.  These situations need a marriage counselor not a residential designer.  It's very sad when you spend the time to design a nice home for a couple and they file for divorce before the roof is on it.  A new home won't solve all your problems, if your spouse claims they need their own space, make sure you know what they mean.  They might not be talking about just another room in the house.

Step two:  Have realistic expectations about what you can and cannot afford.  Visit open houses, parades of homes or local home shows to get a feel for what things cost in your area.  Research the cost of home loans, insurace and local property taxes, familiarize yourself with the location, size and costs of lots, these are all expenses that contribute to the price of the home.  Check your credit scores, they need to be at their best right now-before you talk to anyone at the bank.  Go on-line and find a banking site that offers a loan calculator.  Plug in the numbers that you think will work for you, calculating principle borrowed, interest rate, length of loan and monthly payment.  Figure at least 10% down and don't forget to add the cost of taxes and insurance to the monthly payment number.  Play with this until you are comfortable with the numbers.  If you and your spouse have major disagreements about these numbers, go back to step one and re-think your motives and goals.

I usually suggest to my clients that they make a wish list of all the things they want in their new home and to be as specific as possible.  If you want pink ceramic tile floors in all the bathrooms, write it down.  If you want clean, angular lines throughout the home, write it down.  If you want a second floor balcony or knotty pine trim or in-floor heat, write it down.  Now is the time to brain storm all the possibilities.  Consider all the wishes of everyone who lives in the house, sometimes the kids have the best ideas.  Now, being rather ruthless, highlight, star, underline or otherwise mark all the items on the list that are needed.  Is pink ceramic tile in all the baths really needed?  Is the garbage disposal really needed?  How about the $5,000 kitchen range?  Be honest and make sure everyone has a say about the items that are truely needed.  The person who takes out the garbage every day might rate the recycling center higher than the pink ceramic tile and the one who cleans the bathrooms might rate the ceramic tile higher than the color pink.  However you do it, everything on the list will be divided into wants and needs and then they will be ranked most inportant to least important.  When the discussion comes down to money, you might eliminate most of the want list and some of the bottom things on the need list.  Be open and honest with what you really need and if it looks like there is the possibility of upgrading things in the future, items like flooring, appliances, light fixtures, furnishings and counter tops can be replaced when that lottery ticket wins the big one for you.

Hello World

I am a residential designer, who has been designing and drawing plans for new homes, remodels and additions for 32 years.  I bring the female perspective to what has been a predominately male world.  I approach home design with a strong sense of functionality, individuality and an instinctual feeling for "home".  I believe that we all have our own definition for "home" and that the key to finding comfort and peace in a living space is connecting to that definition, designing it and creating it.

The first question most people ask me is, "where do I start?"  The first place to start a home design of any kind, whether it is a new home, a remodel or an addition, is within yourself.  What are your motivating factors for creating a living space?  Most people expect living spaces to provide shelter, protection, safety and some level of comfort.  Living spaces can also be a monitary investment, a status symbol, a money pit, a work of art, reproduction architecture, earth-friendly, durable, highly energy efficient......  The discription list could be endless.  What you want to aim for is something YOU want, fulfills your needs, addresses your desires and embraces your lifestyle.

Designing a new home is the first step in building a new home.  Ideally, you would like to avoid designing as you build.  Small details can be designed during construction, but the majority of the house should be designed and documented before construction begins.  The home design is the launching pad for getting cost estimates on materials and labor, it is the basis for obtaining financing and appraisals and the drawings and related documents are what binding contracts with contractors are based on.  If this step is not well thought out or is lightly brushed over, there will most likely be difficulties, often expensive ones, during the building process.

Designing and building a custom home is not like buying a new car.  You can not decide to build a new home on Friday and pick a plan out of a book on Saturday and expect to start digging on Monday.  Many hours of consideration should go into this decision to build or remodel a home.  I have devoloped ten steps you should consider when designing your own home.  These steps are designed to get you thinking about your living space and how to work with a designer. 

I highly recommend that you hire a design professional to do the actual design and construction drawings that will be used to build the home.  They will bring clarity of design concepts to the project and an ability to visualize in 3-d; two major design elements that most homeowners really need help with.  Before you contact a builder or designer, work through these ten steps and make sure you are comfortable with your decision.

Next Post: Steps one & two