Designing for an Informal Lifestyle

The pathway to happy clients begins with great design. As licensed architects, we have the ability to look at spaces and use great design to help our clients redefine them. The end results are spaces that look better and satisfied clients. That leads to the increased repeat and referral business that we depend upon.

Since great design is such a critical part of what we do, Qualified Remodeler has asked me to author a new bi-monthly column called “Design Lab” that will look at design only. We will examine challenges we face every day, and will offer solutions, often using “Before” and “After” plans to illustrate these solutions.

For the past several years, we have seen a trend to a more informal lifestyle. People are dressing more casually. They are also looking to design their houses to fit that more informal lifestyle. One way to do that is to create living spaces that function in more than one capacity. For example, many clients now want a great room in lieu of more formal living and dining rooms.
This makes our job a little bit harder. We need to jump into our client’s head, unscramble all of the design thoughts rolling around inside, and then try to unscramble those ideas into one cohesive design solution. Additionally, when working with an existing home — where the definition between rooms is more formal — it is more difficult to unblur the lines of room definition.

This challenge was recently presented to us by a client who wanted to redesign their three-bedroom, two-story house. The existing rooms were small and enclosed. Because of their ages and the ages of their children, my client’s lifestyle had become more relaxed and informal. The client’s goal was to have a first floor (public areas) that fit that lifestyle.

After our initial design meeting it became clear that our client required a larger kitchen, a transition area between the outside and inside and a place to eat dinner. What was also apparent was that our client was willing to forego the formal dining room for a transition dining area that could be used on a daily basis.

We looked at the entire floor plan to ascertain what, if anything, could be done to open up the flow (circulation) and allow for functionality within the spaces being renovated. As the drawings show, we were able to take a very formal first floor and open it up to match our client’s very informal daily lifestyle.

The final plan opens the den, kitchen and dining area into one large, multi-use space that our clients live in on a daily basis. Cooking, homework, TV watching, etc. has now all come together into one cohesive space. A small mud room was also added off the kitchen.

The client was ecstatic with the new, more informal design. The more difficult part of the design/build process — figuring out how to open up and move bearing walls — was now beginning.

I hope you enjoyed our first “Design Lab” feature. If you have problems that you would like me to address, please forward them to me and I will try and work them into one of our next columns.

I look forward to helping you solve the common — and not so common — design problems we encounter. Thanks for the opportunity.