Monday, October 25, 2010

Redesign without the Remodel: Future Wealth Creation and Sustainable Living Arrangements

Although the bread and butter of our residential work is working with homeowners who are building or remodeling, our design expertise applies just as much to thinking about your space as it does to laying out floor plans.  In September and October, each Monday design.banter will feature "Redesign without the Remodel, " since the vast majority of us are not currently remodeling our homes or building a new one. It also goes without staying that the greenest design is adapting your current home to your changing needs.  Need some personalized advice? We are always available for consulting on an hourly basis

During our series Redesign without the Remodel, we have been looking at how to think outsider of the drywall box, so to say, about the rooms in your house. Who says you have to use the rooms in conventional ways, if that's not what works best for you? Here's a summary of different ways rooms can be used:

  • Have only one dining area
  • If you use the breakfast nook as your only dining area, just add a table cloth, candles, and dim the lights for when you want a formal feel
  • If you use the formal dining area as your main area, use a table cloth to protect a nice table for everyday meals
  • A breakfast nook can make a great office: it's adjacent to the hub of the home, and parents can monitor homework and computer use while cooking. Bills and other clutter can stop at the kitchen/office and never make it into the other parts of the house that are used for relaxing, not working. 
  • A formal dining area can also be used as a library. Add a few nice chairs and a small table to create a formal parlor area.  
  • Switch your formal dining and family room areas. Make the formal dining room, usually the smaller room, into a more intimate TV watching area. Formal dining areas are usually more closed off from the kitchen than family areas-no more turning up the TV over cooking and dishwasher noises. Family areas are usually larger and may have taller ceilings, making them ideal for a combination formal dining area/library/parlor area.
  • Designate just one corner or wall of a room as office space, and allow it to be closed off with a curtain or desk with doors. Office areas can also be carved out under a staircase or in a closet. 
  • Let your cars live outside and use the extra 400 square feet for active space. An inexpensive shed can house tools and outdoor and sporting equipment. 
  • Think of ways an existing house can generate income or provide a community resource. Create a shared home office in the garage or rarely used formal areas. Identify areas that can be rented out.                                                                      
During the presentation of our project for the AIA Seattle 2009 What Makes it Green Awards, the judges were most interested in this graphic, illustrating the built-in flexibility of the San Juan Channel House. 

The layout of the house and garage apartment allow for future wealth creation and sustainable living arrangements for the family, through rental of different areas of the house, cohousing with another family or allowing adult children a place to live while they find their way financially or take care of aging parents. There are also options for creating a home office, for the owner or for rent to others. So far, the garage apartment has proved its flexibility by acting as a temporary apartment for friends in transition, space for a temporary live-in nanny, and a home office. 

In tough economic times, or just in looking towards a more sustainable future, we may need to use our space in different ways, whether that be working from home, adding a rental unit, or sharing what was once a single family home. New homes should be designed with this in mind, but more realistically existing homes can be retrofitted to adjust to our future needs.

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