Today’s homeowners are more adamant than ever about what they want to incorporate into a remodeling project. The winners of Qualified Remodeler’s 2010 Master Design Awards in the kitchen and bath categories largely agree educating clients about what works and what doesn’t work is one of the many challenges facing remodelers.
Another challenge of homeowners’ I-want-what-I-want attitudes is they expect to stay in their homes indefinitely and seem less attuned to the impact of alterations on resale values, a contradiction to the return-on-investment remodeling theory.
Regardless, changes in consumer attitudes, including a heightened concern with getting more for less money, make the remodeler’s task as a consultant and his or her ability to tactfully compromise even more crucial today.
The Art of Compromise
Laura Orfield-Skrivseth, co-owner and designer/project manager with Orfield Design & Construction Inc., Minnetonka, Minn., particularly relied on her team’s ability to compromise in their project that won Silver in the 2010 Master Design Awards’ Kitchens Below $50,000 category.
The homeowners approached Orfield-Skrivseth with a color palette of bright blue and bright yellow. They wanted a cottage-style kitchen and were against installing a dishwasher. Orfield-Skrivseth and Amy Hinck, another design/project manager at the firm, found a way to work these ideas into the project without compromising future homeowners’ ability to have a dishwasher. “We were able to tone down the homeowners’ original colors and choose higher-end countertops while giving her the bold accents she wanted,” Orfield-Skrivseth notes. “The couple was very strict about not wanting a dishwasher, but we put in a rolling cart so a future owner can easily put a dishwasher in.”
Most of the kitchen and bath category winners said they find compromises to give clients what they want without being detrimental to future homeowners’ comfort. Will Cole, owner of Design Destinations Inc., Houston, says: “There are times when the homeowner will have a ‘me’ attitude. That’s when we’ll provide guidance about the issues they’ll have if we build it according to their ideas. For example, we have a client who wants us to build a bathroom onto the backside of his kitchen while turning the existing hall bath into a laundry room. The hall bath services the three bedrooms, so I mentioned to him that it will be highly undesirable to have the kids walk through the kitchen to take a bath. We’re now looking at different ways we can get the bathroom into the existing floor plan.”
“We’ve been fortunate that our clients are not interested in a quick sale and, therefore, we’re not in business to flip homes,” says Greg Kraus, a designer with Otogawa-Anschel Design-Build LLC, Minneapolis. “However, we try to include the infrastructure for future needs whether that is roughed-in plumbing lines or chase ways for electrical updates.”
Connections to Existing Architecture
Despite wanting their own tastes integrated into their remodels, homeowners still are sensitive to connecting a new design with their home’s existing architecture. Tatiana Machado-Rosas, senior designer/design department head with Jackson Design & Remodeling, San Diego, received an Honorable Mention in the Kitchens Over $100,000 category for a renovation/addition to a home listed on the San Diego Historical Registry. The 10,000-square-foot house, which was built in the early 1900s, had a 150-square-foot kitchen that didn’t correlate in scale or character to the rest of the home. The homeowners wanted modern conveniences, but they didn’t want to compromise the home’s design integrity.
“I think people are paying a little more attention to the architecture of their homes,” she says. “Even in extensive remodels the design is cohesive between the inside and outside. Sometimes they have an idea of what style they want but they want to be sure the style will fit the house.”