insights on creating innovative spaces

Does Your Design Follow Function?

As you know, I enjoy attending events at the Horticultural Society of New York. As I was listening to a recent lecture on garden design, I started thinking about what influences the design of a room. By design, I mean more than the superficial elements such as color, fabric and lighting.  I’m thinking about the shape, size and layout of the room. Good design should be dictated by the function of both the room and the user!

Let’s think about the layout of a traditional center hall colonial style house.  The center hall, or foyer, was designed to welcome friends and guests in a more formal time.  It had good lighting and an easily accessible closet.  The furniture was simple, yet elegant – usually a small table or cabinet topped with fresh flowers. Each room in the house served a specific purpose, even to the extent of allowing men and women to have separate after-dinner conversations!

Homes built before the 1960s offered layouts and rooms designed with a specific purpose in mind. As our lifestyles became more casual, home design became more open. No longer did we require (or desire) formal dining rooms, living rooms or libraries. However, we did want homes that allowed us to flow easily from room to room. We wanted to entertain and be able to chat with guests while working in the kitchen. We wanted to be able to see our kids playing in the family room while preparing dinner. Remember how many houses used to have family rooms or romper rooms in the basement?

Many remodels for both stand-alone houses or apartments focus on opening up available space and creating incremental functionality. An open space can be divided into unique living spaces using furniture, paint color, wall hangings or lighting. For example, an eating area may be adjacent to a living room, yet the arrangement of furniture clearly defines each space. Take a look at at a client’s NYC apartment (below left). You can see how the furniture layout clearly defines the living area versus the dining area. Or, see how we used color in the townhouse (below right) to highlight the dining room which opens to the foyer and the living room. (Click on the pictures to see additional perspectives on my website!).


Additionally, we see the addition of islands to kitchens (where space allows or is created). Why? Interestingly, most kitchens simply do not have enough counter space. By the time we place all of our gadgets (coffee maker, toaster, canisters, etc.) on the counters, we are left with little functional work space.  The islands provide space for meal prep, kids’ projects and quick meals.  All reflective of our current lifestyles.

How do you use your home or office space?  The concept of function applies to both homes and offices.  When I’m working with a client, the first questions I ask are related to how a space will be used.  By understanding the client’s needs as related to function, lifestyle or personal need, I can create a space that provides the features most important to the client.

What spaces don’t meet your needs?  What questions do you have about why rooms are designed the way they are?  I’d like to address your questions in future blogs!  Or, better yet, if you have an immediate problem, let’s have a consultation!