Marc O’Grady, designer and builder in Virginia, told Qualified Remodeler magazine in January 2015 that “great design begins with having the right tools.” He learned the ins and outs of building a home at his father’s side “by watching first, then by getting my hands dirty” he says. That approach is effective for designing a home too.
O’Grady begins each project from a bird’s-eye-view that allows him to “see and hear the needs of the client while also analyzing the best approach to building the project.” It’s amazing how effective and functional a design can become when it is based on experience, both the experience of the designer/builder and the experience of the family it is designed for. In fact, it makes all the difference.
Approach your project the same way and experience the difference. Here’s how.
Maybe you never thought much of it before when you banged your hip on the kitchen island. You can’t very well move the island. Or can you? If you are planning an update to your kitchen, why not do something about the placement of that island?
Let your experience inform your new design. Start by paying close attention to the daily functionality of your kitchen. What do you often lament over? What do you wish you had? What would make your kitchen experience better?
Get into as many kitchens as you can. Call up your friends and ask if you can cook them dinner, especially if you love their kitchen design. Go through the motions and try to determine what you like and don’t like about the layout and functionality of their spaces.
Look through endless images on Houzz or Pinterest. Imagine yourself in the space and how you would use it. Do you notice anything that might improve your kitchen? The more information you have about functionality and your experience in a space, the better you can make your new design.
Give the whole family the opportunity to weigh in on the new design. Ask them about what they love and hate about the old bathroom and how they would like to improve the new bathroom. Your husband’s frustration over the height of the counters probably isn’t on your radar. Your teen’s desire for better light to apply makeup by might just be a good idea.
Find a designer or builder who has experience in universal design—or design that is made to suit all sorts of needs and users over a lifetime. Be sure to listen to the suggestions and ideas of your designer. She has been in and created a lot of homes and definitely has some solutions to your problems. Engage with your designer and builder so you can achieve your dream design.
Communication is key when it comes to creating an intelligent design. You might have great ideas in your head, but if you don’t tell anyone, or don’t communicate clearly, your research will be in vain. Don’t assume that your designer will know what you want or will automatically have universal functionality on the radar. Tradition is strong and dies hard. But functional design is gaining popularity. Don’t be afraid to ask for something out of the ordinary.
Let your experiences guide your design and get a better, more functional layout simply by paying attention to what you already know.