Design Considerations – Part I - Function First

on Monday, 12 November 2012. Posted in Planning your custom home/remodeling project

When developing a design, many people focus primarily on the eye-catching bells and whistles, the dramatic design details you see in magazines. These types of features are aesthetically pleasing and important to the overall feel of your home, but they are not more important than the function of your home. Your home design must accommodate all the special living needs of your family and needs to be designed in a way that will maximize the efficiency of the space where your family will live, entertain and function.

Get started by thinking about how you and your family live, both now and into the future. For example, how you use your home changes over time: The needs of a childless couple are different than the needs when there are infants or toddlers in the house and these are different then when children become teenagers and different still after the couple are empty nesters. Begin by going through your daily life from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep.

Bedrooms - Think about sleep patterns – in many families one spouse wakes up earlier than the other or one stays up later than the other. If this is the case, a master bedroom suite can be designed so that the spouse who wakes up earlier can leave the sleeping area to use the bathroom and get dressed and go on their way without disturbing their partner. Likewise in the evening, is there a sitting area or a way for one partner to watch TV while the other sleeps? For children – do you need space for homework, are they allowed to have friends in their rooms, what furniture will they have in their rooms?

Bathrooms - How does sharing the bathroom work – in some cases one spouse is messier than the other – so do you share one sink, have two sinks or even have the vanities separated? The same goes for siblings that share a bathroom. Baths can be designed like a buddy bath: the tub and toilet area can be separated from the vanity area so two people can use the bathroom to speed up getting ready for school or work. Will the tub be separate from the shower? Consider if you need a makeup area in the bath and don’t forget space for your linens and towels.

Kitchen – How do you cook, what are your needs? Start with making a list of appliances you would like in your kitchen. Next, measure the lineal footage of counter space, wall cabinets, and base cabinets you currently have and then you can compare those dimensions to your new plan to better communicate your needs. Many kitchens become the primary entertaining space – everyone hangs out in the kitchen as food is being prepped so make sure there is there enough space to accommodate your friends – islands and breakfast bars can be both very functional as well as add a great design feature to your home. One of the more common mistakes is making a kitchen/eating area too small. Just a simple addition of an extra foot or two to the eating area can eliminate children bickering with each other as one wants to get up to get another drink and the other won’t move their chair in to let them get around.

Think about the household command center, every house has one – this is the area where all the family activities are: the family calendar, the birthday party invitations, the school notices. Normally it is in the general kitchen area, but can be unsightly. Plan for this so you can easily access this information without it all laying out on the kitchen island or posted on the refrigerator.

Laundry/Mudroom - Many homes have the laundry room and mudroom combined as the same space. It is usually the primary access from the garage or exterior. You could end up with kids coming in covered with mud or snow walking over baskets of freshly washed clothes or throwing their dirty clothes into the clean piles. Being a father of five children, this has always been important to me. I find a much better set-up is to have a mudroom entry where everyone can shed their outerwear, store their book bags, etc., and have a laundry off of that area so you don’t have to walk through it to get to the rest of the house.

Storage - We all know we will never have too much closet and storage space. Prior to starting your design go through your belongings and get rid of those you really do not want to keep. Do an honest evaluation of all your stuff; most of us are borderline hoarders. Next measure your current closet space in lineal footage of single hung vs. double hung needs. Once you can do that you can then have an accurate benchmark when designing your new closet space. Also think about the use of shelving, cubbies, or drawers for sweaters, hats, pocketbooks, shoes, etc. There are many very efficient closet systems that can help you organize your belongings.

Next we will review more design considerations – light, entertaining areas, flow, and features to consider that are unique to your family.

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