Trend watchers generally agree that upscale consumers want their kitchen and bath spaces designed to support their unique and individual lifestyles. As designers, we recognize this, and focus our attention on finding out just what is most important to our client.
We begin this search as we interview the consumer for the first time, reviewing plans or visiting a home to be remodeled. Oftentimes, as we walk into a kitchen or bath space, a great solution will immediately “jump to mind.” However, when a great solution jumps to mind, that’s no guarantee that it’s the absolute best solution for the space. The best spaces are often a result of taking the time to consider more than one design solution.
For that reason, I would like to suggest a new approach to challenging spaces, one that hones your skills at exploring different design options. This is a process I call “what iffing.”
When more than one solution is evaluated for a given space, it takes clear thinking, first to articulate the various solutions and then to critique them. It’s equally important to sort through several space study options with an organized review process, so the client is not confused by the presentation.
Recently I had the opportunity to renovate a stately, 85-year-old home built of Pennsylvania brownstone and brick. Both the kitchen and bath were a challenge, leading to the consideration of a
collection of solutions. I’d like to share them with you in an attempt to demonstrate how you may consider various solutions.
The new owners – a Baby Boomer-aged couple with no children at home – purchased the property with an eye toward making it a great adult space. The remodeling goals included offices for each adult, a “wellness center,” a private guest retreat, a convenient laundry area, a great master bedroom suite and a kitchen where friends and family could gather.
Restructuring the kitchen/breakfast/rear staircase area of the first floor took top priority. A major concern was to create a gathering-space kitchen with an open floor plan. Ideally, the new area needed to be oriented toward the back garden.
Laundry facilities on the first floor was also a request.
Such a “wish list” required major structural changes; I had to consider and estimate these changes first.
The key in this project was the early decision to eliminate the stairwell at the back of the home that led to the basement laundry room, down to the garden ground level, and up to the staff quarters on the second floor. I reasoned that this very valuable square footage could become part of the kitchen on the first floor and offer a unique “flex space” on the second floor.
When considering construction changes, individual ideas need to be isolated and priced separately to judge the possible return on investment for each.
In this case, part of this restructuring expense revolved around adding new doorways. Cutting a door from the garage to the new kitchen was one new access request. Replacing the breakfast room window with a doorway was a high priority. Both were expensive construction undertakings because of the stone construction.
The new owners could justify the construction expense to remove the entire three floors of stairwell (basement to second living area) and add the garden door, however, the team decided a door from the garage was not critical and providing access would infringe on the double-car parking space.
Consider Relocating The Room
Another thing designers need to keep in mind is to not limit their horizons based on existing-room names. In this case, two options considered relocating the kitchen – in its entirety – into the dining room. This placed the kitchen in the center of the home, with easy access to the outside flagstone terrace.
An attractive dining alcove was suggested in the adjacent oversized living room, with furniture locations noted. In option number one, the plan allowed the current kitchen/breakfast area to be redesigned to include a casual gathering space and a full-sized laundry or, perhaps, a home office in the space.