"Don't Just Remodel - Transform"

Steven Clipp, Architect | November 2015 Issue

A few of years ago I met with a couple who lived in a relatively modest house in the country.  She was having problems with her hips and difficulty climbing the steps to the second floor bedrooms.  Their request was simple, to add a master bedroom and bath to the main level.  This would involve constructing 500 sf of new structure and the cost of the bath, about $90K spent and their immediate concern would be resolved.

The house had a few attributes that most people would consider undesirable; the rooms were closed off from each other and felt small, the flow was awkward, and the front door faced away from the approach to the house.  I proposed that for the same money we transform the house.  The 500 sf of new space could be a new entry facing the road and a cathedral ceilinged greatroom open to the existing kitchen.  The old, small livingroom could make a spacious master bedroom with a master bath where the laundry/pantry used to be.  A new, wide front porch completed the picture of a much more gracious and valuable home.

With change comes great opportunity.  Replacing the cabinets, countertops and appliances in a kitchen is remodeling, opening the kitchen up to the familyroom or even moving the kitchen to where it works better in the flow of the house is transforming.  The extra work involved may only be 10% to 30%, but the gain in livability can be enormous.

Transformation is about making your home more attractive, more livable, more valuable.  All houses have negative features.  Transformation is about spending the money to address one issue and resolving two or three negatives at the same time with almost the same effort.  It is about looking beyond what is there to what could be.

I met this summer with a couple who wanted to makeover their master bath with everything in about the same place only new.  I suggested they consider moving some walls to improve both flow and privacy, plus opening up the skylight shafts to increase natural light.  Carpentry and sheetrock are cheap and the increased cost was minimal.  I also suggested we look at moving the master to existing space on the main level.  The cost differential was about 20K but it would allow them to live in the house into their old age and/or put a much more desirable home on the market when they decided to move.

A good contractor knows how to build.  A cabinet supplier knows how to set up a kitchen and a tile sales person knows the latest and greatest tile patterns.  An Architect is a visionary with formal design training and at least in my case, decades of experience in mind-blowing transformations.  It is the magic an Architect brings to the table.

I am often engaged by clients to assist in their search for the right house to buy.  My clients know they will do work on the home.  My role is to identify the potential for greatness; including an understanding of what work would be involved, at what cost.  With one couple I looked at several houses in Hope Valley over a few months.  We found the one with the right bones in the right setting.  It was a decent, mid-level house.  We transformed it into a Grand Manor.  Success came in the ability to build on the house’s inherent strengths to achieve this goal at a reasonable cost, probably with 100% return on investment.  

Renovations often return fifty cents on the dollar spent.  Transformations achieve multiple goals with the same action, enhancing and uplifting the whole house.  Transformations have the potential to raise a home to a higher status, and thus the possibility of being worth more than the sum of the costs.     

If you are considering remodeling, give me a call.  An initial consult starts with your dreams / your goals.   I will give you a range of possible solutions, from the straight forward to the never-would-have-thought-of.  The more you know the better your decisions.