Starting at the beginning
Just as is true with so many things we undertake, from reading a book, attending a course, building a home, refinishing a car or boat, going on a long hike or bike trek, or anything else we endeavor to accomplish, we have to survey the overall setting, come to terms with what we are facing, and lay out a course of action before we reasonably can begin.
Can we just dive into a project and figure it out as we go? Often we can, but we may have done work that will need to be undone or spent time or money unnecessarily and unwisely. Understanding what we are facing goes a long way toward achieving a successful outcome – from assembling a toy to making a gourmet meal or modifying the bathroom.
When it comes to working with our clients to help them have a better lifestyle, we have to understand what is going on now and how we can help them.
In helping people evaluate their current living space for a potential remodeling or renovation solution – particularly for an aging-in-place approach to help them continue to remain living in their home – we need to learn about how they use their home now as well as the general condition of their home.
We must determine how they use various aspects of their home, which areas of the home are the most important to them in terms of where they spend the majority of their waking hours, which parts of the home are not that important to them, what areas of the home present significant challenges in the way they use that space, and how making modifications will enhance their overall quality of life in their home and the general enjoyment of living there.
It’s important to learn what their home will not allow them to do that they feel is necessary. It might be constructing an additional room or rooms, reconfiguring or reallocating existing space, or enlarging a particular space such as a hallway, kitchen, porch, bathroom, or family room by taking space from adjacent rooms or removing built-ins that restrict how the space can be used. Perhaps there is a hobby that cannot be pursued or enjoyed as much as they would like due to the way the current space is designed.
There might be general lighting issues, where the space that they want to use for a specific activity is too dark or insufficiently lit to allow them to use it effectively – or safely. Maybe there is not enough natural light available because the windows are not large enough or plentiful enough. It could be a wiring issue where the additional lighting that is needed or required cannot be supported without more circuits or outlets.
Continuing our investigation of their living space
We need to get people to reveal what they are interested in doing in their home that they presently cannot do at all or cannot do to the extent they desire – or perform it safely. Then, our challenge is to help them determine how this can be done and to gain agreement on doing it.
It might be that there are rather simple ways to accommodate their interests, such as clearing out storage items, moving furniture, or removing cabinets that might be infringing on a particular space. We might observe or detect other ways that a space can be enlarged or improved by moving activities from one room to another or by installing pull-out or pull-down shelving, tables, or beds to be available when needed but essentially removed from the floor space when they are not needed or required by returning them to their storage positions.
Depending on the current layout of the home, their budget, and the characteristics of their homesite, adding a garage or an auxiliary structure in the back yard (for storage, living space, a studio, or hobby area) – or enlarging or reconfiguring the existing floor plan (to the extent reasonably and inexpensively possible) – might provide the space they are seeking as well as allow their activities.
Designing for the client
Regardless of what will help the client, what they can afford to invest (and whether we can offer some lower-cost options for them), and how quickly they need the improvements to be in place, we approach each project specifically for that client. Even if we had made similar recommendations under similar conditions, each project – and the client that is the subject of them – is unique. No two are exactly alike.
We wouldn’t just start a project without a firm idea of what we were trying to achieve, and the client wouldn’t let us anyway. Therefore, after a thorough investigation of the client’s living space, their needs (current and anticipated), their timing, and their budget, we can fashion a renovation project for them.