THE FLOOR PLAN IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN A REMODEL!
Last month I had the special opportunity to consult with a string of clients who contacted me after embarking on a home remodel project only to realize that they didn’t know how to proceed. One client told me forthrightly that they had built a house and remodeled another but they just didn’t know what to do with this house. Where should the refrigerator go; I want to move the pantry, where can it go; what are we going to do with that huge window, board it up? It was quite disconcerting to them that they didn’t know how to re-design their kitchen. Another couple told me that they thought that they would ‘wing it’ like they had in the past until they realized that they were over their heads with this one and might need a designer. I was glad to consult with all of them and offer them encouragement and creative ways to work with their spaces.
What this experience brought home for me is the realization that the average home owner is not adept at seeing and imagining their space differently. Many of these people had the idea that pulling this wall down or that wall down would be the trick, often irrespective of the structural implications of doing so. Or, they thought that a skylight here or there would be the answer to this or that when the quality of light wasn’t really why the space wasn’t working for them.
This also underscored for me that most people in this situation don’t quite understand the importance of the floor plan. For me, the floor plan in a remodel or a new house is everything. It is the foundation on which the entire experience of the house is built. Most homeowners prefer to skip over the floor plan and get on with the fun stuff— picking the cabinets, beautiful paint colors, new appliances and yes, the perfect stone slab for the new counters. Regrettably, the floor plan is rarely the focus that it should be.
Why is this so? The simple answer, of course, is that reworking the plan is difficult for most people to conceive of. For this requires problem solving in three dimensions and deft spatial manipulation. It requires that you imagine how you want to live in your house, prioritize the activities that will occur there, and decide how to direct the traffic flow through and within the space. It means deciding how best to utilize the space you have and where to steal an inch or two here so that you can put it over there where it is most needed. And, this is just the beginning of the list of things that a skillful designer is going to look at and evaluate before incorporating it into the ‘final’ plan.
I know this first hand from my studies, training and years of remodeling experience. I also know it from teaching a course on home remodels for many years at the community college. My students would redesign their spaces with home remodel software and bring to class their redesign. It was truly amazing; they had produced a floor plan! And even though it kind of, sort of worked, these plans invariably lacked the qualities and the finesse that comes from an experienced practitioner who is deeply interested in ‘how we live at home’ and possesses the unique ability to fashion a space around the wants, needs and desires of the future inhabitants. Knowing how to do this is a skill that comes from experience, as well as, dare I say, a compulsion and a confidence to pull old ideas and old spaces apart to be rearranged in new and satisfying ways. If you don’t believe me, do give it a try yourself—it’s like writing a short story which requires a very clever idea, or two; patience, several drafts, and a lot of hard work to successfully complete the task. If you, on the other hand, are stuck or, one of the ones who wants to get on to the fun stuff, you may want to consider hiring a designer to help you through the forest.