The return trip home, after leaving Mark and Anne’s yearly Thanksgiving open house, presented a wonderful opportunity to think about everything that made their major 1970s ranch home remodeling project special. Then, a familiar question, “How can more homeowners achieve the best results possible — with fewer anxieties, hassles, and regrets?” Here’s what made a big difference for Anne and Mark when they remodeled (and added onto) their home, and what can make a big difference for you:
Everyone took responsibility for their role in making the project successful
> Knew what they wanted, and made a comprehensive prioritized list. This allowed us to focus on their goals, and discuss the range of their investment, so they could make an informed decision about the scope and size of their project.
> Considered all information carefully, and asked questions to help them make important decisions. This kept the design phase moving ahead smoothly, with a natural progression of decisions.
> Made all product decisions as quickly as possible. This allowed inclusion of important details in the plans and specifications, and expedited product orders, which helped to make the construction phase relatively hassle-free for everyone.
> Understood the importance of communication and maintaining a positive attitude. All requests began with “please” and all discussions ended with a genuine “thank you”.
THE CONTRACTOR, PROJECT MANAGER, AND TRADE CONTRACTORS:
> Shared valuable information about options and relative investment. This helped the homeowners make good decisions based on reason, without any regrets.
> Had extensive experience working as a team. The best foundation for any working relationship is mutual respect, high ethical standards, and similar business philosophies.
> Respected the home and its occupants. Extreme measures were employed to control dust, debris, and cold air, so the family could live in their home as normally as possible during construction.
> Honored the schedule and their commitment to the project. There were no major delays once the construction began.
> Followed the plans and verified important details. When a problem with existing conditions arose, the project manager would call immediately, so we could resolve the challenge and stay on track with the homeowners’ goals and the construction schedule.
> They provided reliable information about product features, price, and availability. This enabled the homeowners to make good decisions about everything that would be included in their home.
> They verified orders, and provided everything in a timely manner. This helped the project to proceed smoothly, especially at the end (when homeowners tend to feel more anxiety about getting finished and moved in).
I’d like to share the eight-step process of creating this project, so you understand how this design evolved, i.e., what I do consistently to creatively solve problems and achieve reality-based results.
> Analyze the existing structure.
- Does the neighborhood have a particular or predominant style?
- What needs to be improved — how can it be improved?
The ranch-style home, when viewed from the street, was overwhelmed by the roofline. The garden was well-manicured, except for a large area on the left-hand corner of the property, which looked like an attempt to create a vegetable garden.
> Get detailed information about what the homeowners want, and what they want to invest (this information is included in a written proposal/agreement). ADDRESS EACH AND EVERY FEAR, ANXIETY, FRUSTRATION, AND CONFUSION HONESTLY AND IMMEDIATELY.
During the first meeting, Mark and Anne shared their love of entertaining, their idea of enlarging the kitchen to cover most of the wasted property on the left-hand corner.
> Take measurements, prepare the as-built plan and proposed plans.
A typical addition to the end of a house would have extended the roofline. That’s “ordinary”. My idea was to create a large dormer over the kitchen, to visually break up the roofline, and allow a higher ceiling inside the dormer. I called the project manager to verify the feasibility of and investment for the large dormer. His feedback was favorable, so I proceeded with three alternative plans, elevations, and perspectives to review with Mark and Anne at the next scheduled meeting.
> Review the plans with homeowners; ask how they feel about the details, what appeals to them and why, and answer any questions they might have.
We went outside briefly, to look at the existing house and compare it to exterior elevations which showed the addition with and without the dormer. When they saw the interior perspective I’d prepared, which showed the raised ceiling inside the dormer, and heard what the project manager said about the dormer alternative, they chose to include the dormer with the raised ceiling.
> Maintain an open mind about possibilities, and keep all lines of communication flowing.
Several days later, Anne called with questions about two additional alternatives, and one concern: Including a barrel-vault ceiling inside the dormer, adding another (smaller) dormer to enlarge the front entry, and how to deal with the area that had been the vegetable garden. I promised answers by the end of the week.
> Provide sketches and details to strengthen communication.
Before calling the project manager, I sketched some ideas to verify that a small dormer would complement the large dormer, and that a barrel-vault ceiling would fit into the space. By this time in the process, I had opted to include rounded features (“horseshoe” ceiling opening, round-top clerestory window, and elliptical island), so it seemed natural to add a private patio on the northeast corner, enclosed by an elliptical stone wall. None of these features were included in the original project estimate. Mark and Anne needed to know what their additional investment would be, so they could make informed decisions. The project manager called them directly with estimates, and they called me with their decision to include the entry dormer and the elliptical stone wall only, because both features would positively impact the appearance and function of their home. On the other hand, while the barrel-vault ceiling would add character, achieving it was beyond their financial pain threshold.
> Help homeowners select all products, and include detailed product information in the plans and specifications (I do not sell products, so there is never a conflict of interest).
The following weeks were spent meeting and shopping with the homeowners, and communicating with the project manager and suppliers. Here is what we accomplished:
* Windows and patio doors were chosen (Millgard)
* Appliance decision was finalized (Dacor and Sub-Zero)
* Countertop was selected (Silestone)
* Cabinet details were completed, including all storage accessories, custom features, and cabinet pulls (Custom)
Anne wanted the cabinets to blend with the reddish-brown color of all existing trim. I did a colored rendering for her, and suggested that some of the cabinets remain “natural,” for contrast
* Backsplash tiles were chosen (United Tile)
Shown in detail on the elevations, so the electrician knew where outlets and switches would be located, and the tile setter knew where Anne wanted the decorative inserts
* Flooring decision was made (Amtico)
At the time, they had a large dog. Experience with previous clients was my reason for recommending a commercial-grade vinyl instead of a wood floor; the project manager confirmed that there was no difference in investment, and the vinyl floor would look great for a longer time, with less maintenance
* Light fixtures, switches, and outlets were selected (Belfer, Tech, Juno, Lutron)
High priority was given to energy-efficient lighting, which included continuous dimmable fluorescent fixtures inside the “horseshoe,” fluorescent task lighting for the work areas, with dimmable recessed fixtures used as passage and fill lighting. Anne and Mark also selected new fixtures for the entry and the stone wall(NOTE: This project happened immediately before I began recommending LED fixtures).
* Stone selections for the elliptical wall and new patio were finalized (Cultured Stone)
* Wall and ceiling colors were chosen (Benjamin Moore)
> Coordinate the project through completion.
Working with Anne and Mark, the contractors and suppliers was a wonderful experience, because we all worked together, fulfilling our respective roles, to make it successful, and enjoyable. Respect, and reality-based creativity helped us achieve the best results possible.
© 2012 Diane Plesset, D. P. Design — All Rights Reserved