26/07/2016 | 3 min read

Design for real needs


I often get asked what’s the best time to extend or renovate your home. My answer is when you know exactly what you want. Often this means once you’ve lived in your home for enough time to figure out what the best modifications would be.

I heard a great story about a university in California who built all of the buildings on campus and when faced with planning the pathways they decided to leave it for a year and see what tracks were formed by the students taking their preferred routes across the grass. Once these muddy tracks were firmly established they paved them. I loved this story because it’s a story about really designing with people in mind. This story also shows that sometimes it’s best to wait to see what the best approach to a particular design solution is.

The campus designers could have discussed the layout of the pathways with the students and then laid them based on this feedback but the result wouldn’t have been as successful as leaving it to see how the students actually started to move through the campus.

I meet a lot of people who say I wish I’d lived in the house for a while before doing the work, or, if I knew how we’d use our home at the time we did the work I’d have done things differently. If you can manage to postpone work until you have lived in your home for a while you will learn a lot and be better informed about how to refurbish or extend. The clearer your vision for how you want your home to be the smoother the whole process will be.

 

By living in the house you’ll come to learn what you like and don’t like, where you like to spend time, where people tend to congregate and the areas that you don’t tend to use at all. You’ll also see where the day to day inefficiencies are. For example I found in my own home that laundry tended to accumulate upstairs whilst the ironing and washing was done downstairs and then everything went back upstairs again to be put away. I moved my laundry room up to the first floor and suddenly the chore of laundry started to work a lot more efficiently. I could never have decided so do this without living in the house first.

From the time you purchase your home your circumstances, regardless of your situation, will start to change. Life moves very quickly and we often struggle to keep up.  By waiting you’ll not only have a chance to plan your refurbishment with a far more insight into what your homes limitations and strong points are but you’ll also have a much clearer picture of what your future plans will be. This will help you to future proof your home and build in some flexibility so your home can adapt as the needs of your family change. This can be one of the biggest challenges for people planning a refurbishment on a house that they have never lived in.

By waiting you’ll also have a chance to save so you’re more likely to have a budget that will enable you to do the work without compromise. It’s far better to be in a position to do all of the work that you want to do in one go. If your plans include an attic conversion it’s best to get it done with the rest of the work. Not only will it cost you less but the the thought of having to go through the disruption of builders in your home again later may stop you from ever doing it.

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