Only one month into the new year and those resolutions are already taking a beating. Our self-improvement goals of a better diet and more sleep are suffering from the reality of work and family demands. But our home improvement resolutions—a kitchen makeover, master suite, or outdoor living—may still be realized with some expert help.
People have always gathered in kitchens, even when they weren’t designed for that purpose. The open floor plan trend challenges traditional notions of this critical space.
“Kitchens are no longer rooms,” says John Senhauser, FAIA, the principal and owner of John Senhauser Architects. “Today, they are open areas with functional zones for cooking, cleaning, and storage.”
The change from functional service to entertainment space impacts other parts of a home.
Hearth Versus HD
As televisions get thinner and bigger, and central heat is ubiquitous, TVs are challenging the fireplace as the central focus of the home.
“Hanging the TV over the fireplace isn’t good for your neck or the design,” says Cynthia Williams, AIA, the owner of Cynthia Williams Architect. “Most homes aren’t designed to deal with that conflict. It’s an important detail that an architect will consider from the beginning of a renovation project.”
The prevalence of smart homes adds another challenge for remodeling projects. Although most devices are wireless, the location of the central hub, ventilation for electronics, and discrete locations for cords and charging stations impact design.
Bathtubs are becoming an endangered species thanks in part to the popularity of the large, walk-in showers featured in lifestyle magazines and home improvement television programs. It might surprise homeowners to know that those no-threshold showers are not just spacious, but they’re also central to the growing emphasis on Universal Design (UD).
“Most UD features are just good design elements,” says Mark Streicher, AIA, the CEO and president of C3 Architecture & Design. “Any major bathroom remodel should consider using UD features. If you can achieve an aesthetically beautiful design that accommodates people without regard to their physical abilities or inabilities, then why wouldn’t you?”
No-threshold showers work for a mom trying to teach a child to shower, amorous newlyweds, and older adults who might be less steady on their feet.
Outdoor living may seem like the realm of a contractor or landscaper, but an architect provides a holistic perspective to ensure that the size, shape, and materials relate to the house.
“We make sure your outdoor space looks like it belongs there, and not like a parking lot,” says Williams. “These are outdoor rooms, so they need a sense of enclosure, framed views, and smooth transitions from the house.”
Is Bigger Better?
In greater Cincinnati, there is a growing interest in urban living and smaller homes, among both first-time home buyers and downsizers. Architects offer expertise and value to projects of all sizes.
“We start with a design possibility study to look at what the owner is asking for and how we can solve those problems,” says Streicher. “This gives owners a chance to see the good, better, and best options, then pick and choose or pare it back.”
Architects offer a homeowner more than drawings. They help you assess bids from contractors, monitor construction to make sure it’s going according to plan, and address the unexpected issues that often arise during a renovation.
“Good design is not a function of money or adding more square feet,” says Senhauser. “The value we deliver is to take all aspects of a project, solve the problems so the space does what you need it to do while enhancing your life.”
Any home improvement project, no matter how small, requires a myriad of decisions from the function and the surface finishes. Architects can help homeowners navigate what may feel like an overwhelming series of choices.
AIA Cincinnati offers resources for finding an architect and tips to help you work with them to realize your 2020 home improvement resolutions.