Compromise, or Adapt?

Congratulations, you’ve moved into a new home! This home is likely the biggest investment of your life. You bought this home knowing that you would probably need to update its design. As an interior designer, I’m thrilled that you need my assistance! If this home is not newly constructed, you probably viewed this home with someone else’s furnishings and layout. Don’t assume that the way their furnishings worked in the room is appropriate for you.  An existing use or function of space, may not be be appropriate for your lifestyle.  I advise you to live in your new home for a little while before jumping into a remodel.

Why?  This is a new home for you.  You need to take time to understand how you will live in this home.  Which rooms have high traffic?  What is the traffic flow in, out and around the house? Do you like to cook? If so, this means the kitchen may get top priority for any updates. How does the sun light each room? Do some rooms feel dark and dingy? It may be possible to address this with window treatments or an upgrade of existing lighting. How are the bedrooms organized? Do they meet the needs of each of the inhabitants? What ages are your children (if you have them). How will they need to grow in their bedrooms and in the rest of the house? Do you entertain?  If so, for who? Business clients, friends, family?

As you can see, there are a zillion questions to consider. You probably thought through a lot of these kinds of questions when you bought the house. But they need to be thought about again – in a different way – now that you are living in the home. The design of your home must fit your lifestyle. The flow, color, lighting, flooring and furniture should be appropriate for the way you live.  If the house is over 15 years old, the layout of the house may not fit our newer, more casual lifestyles. Think outside the box! I highly recommend bringing in a designer to any prospective home you are seriously considering buying (this also goes for when you are ready to sell!). We can be invaluable during your decision process. Don’t dismiss a prospect because you cannot see beyond the chandelier or color.  This is not HGTV!  A designer can help you create a home that works for you.  The house can be adapted to fit your life, not you adapting to live within its perceived limitations.

Sometimes a designated function for one room may not be the right use of this room! For example, I’ve turned a dining room into a family room because the family didn’t use a formal dining room and that room was adjacent to the kitchen. In the another case, the function of the room changed because the dining room was near the back of the house and had access to the back  yard. I’ve also turned a living room into a dining room due to the living room location causing a complete family traffic disaster!

Families with young children may prefer stain resistant fabrics.  Sporty families need a place to store gear and drop dirty sneakers.  Technophiles crave easily accessible 3-pronged electrical outlets, while art collectors seek rooms with proper lighting.  Regardless of your lifestyle and interests, your home can fit your life.  Pay attention to to the details of how you live, then, make decisions about how you may want to update your home’s design!

Isn’t a New Layout Enough?

If you are a commercial business, you have sought, found and leased commercial space.  Sometimes the space is completely unstructured giving you the opportunity to design your space from scratch.  Other times the space reflects the office layout of the previous tenant and may even include furniture.  If they are going to design a space that works for their employees and for their business, we need to work together to plan for their future. 

For example, a potential client has leased new space.  The space is available “as is” including a high-end furniture system.  Two thirds of the office space is an open plan, while the rest is offices, storage, kitchen, reception and conference rooms.  The company plans to hire an additional 10-15 people by July.  The clients needs can be summarized as follows:

  • Define work space for existing employees and create pockets of space to accommodate each new employee in their appropriate role
  •  Arrange existing furniture to reflect the business culture and functional needs of existing and future staff – or remove existing systems furniture and get free-standing furniture (known as case goods)
  • Assign one permanent work station for visiting employees
  • Define an entry without need for a staffed receptionist

 As I review the space, measurements and plans are critical.  When plans are not available, a field survey is required for scaled measurements and structural details.  This is my tool to create the best options for layout.  When a space comes with existing furniture, I investigate the furniture system to understand the ability to re-use or reconfigure to meet a clients needs, especially if these systems service the electrical and telecommunication feeds.  This means that replacing such systems is not as easy as replacing desks.  Both an electrician and the  telecom service provider must also be engaged to install the relevant solutions.  My proposals make recommendations related to architecture, electrical, furniture and layout.

My proposal to this client focused on 2 things:  (1)  provide them with a design that would work better communications-wise amongst employees and accommodate growth; and (2) evaluate the re-use of the furniture system left behind. At the moment, this proposal has not been accepted.  The client was thinking only in terms of physical layout with an unreasonable budget.  The existing  furniture system is a high-end system.  Unfortunately, while the system ia a great product as originally installed, it is not easily adapted or re-configured.   The client will have to consider if it is the right system for their needs.  And, in the current economic climate, there are already too many systems laying dormant in warehouses looking for resale.

I am encouraging this client to think about

  • their growth plans
  • how they do business and how their people work
  • how the furniture (existing or new) impacts functionality of their people     
  •  electrical and telecommunication needs

Throwing out a system and getting “cheap” furniture is not always an easy solution – it may cost you more in the long run!  As you consider new space or a redesign of existing space, keep these thoughts in mind.  They will help you collaborate with your interior designer (hopefully me!) to create a space that helps your business succeed!

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