Designing Minds: The Ultimate Compromise
Open Concept Remodel
Is it really a compromise when everyone involved gets more than they bargained for? Based on their experience, our clients Paul and Becky would probably tell you that when you trust your remodel partner and keep your eyes on the prize, no one has to settle for less than everything they wanted. It’s an experience that reinforces a fundamental tenet of the STRITE culture: keeping your clients’ best interests at the center of any negotiation is the best way to get what you want.
It’s not as though Paul and Becky didn’t know what they wanted. They had lived in their Lakewood home in Southeast Boise for 10 years — long enough to know that its location fit their lifestyle. That lifestyle changed, however, when their children left home. While Becky wanted to scale down to a smaller home without a yard, Paul really wanted a yard. “It was either move or remodel,” Paul recalls.
The couple looked at a lot of homes but couldn’t find the lot size that matched the price they were willing to pay, and both loved the proximity to the Greenbelt and work that their current location offered. In the process of house hunting, Becky had compiled a notebook of ideas that inspired her, and that she and Paul eventually decided to incorporate into the remodel of their existing home.
“The biggest issue was to create a more open living space,” says Becky. “We love to entertain, but the way our house was set up was just not conducive to having a bunch of people over.” The couple chose STRITE based on the experience of friends in their Lakewood community. “We’d noticed STRITE signs over the years,” Paul recalls, “and we can probably name three homes we know of that were remodeled by them. If you have little kids and you’re going through a remodel — and it’s going well — there must be something to that.”
What Paul and Becky most wanted from a remodel was to create a more open floor plan. “There was no line of sight,” says Paul. “When you looked into our house, you looked right into a wall. The house was segregated by a living room, dining room, kitchen, and den.” Guests were confronted with a short, narrow hallway that further contributed to the sense of constriction created by their home’s layout. On the front page of her notebook, Becky had highlighted “better flow, counter space, lighting, and access to outdoors and patio space.”
In discussing their goals with designer Michael Snow, the challenge quickly became one of removing load bearing walls without obstructing the line of sight the couple wanted from one end of the house to the other. Initial design concepts envisioned steel beam supports, but this approach was untenable within the budget framework. Snow developed design options that made use of posts and half walls, none of which met the clients’ approval. “He would draw something, and I’d say that it wouldn’t work. It took some time,” Becky recalls.
The design phase in fact took several months to work through, during which time it was decided that the kitchen would be moved and the original budget would be increased to find the best compromise between adequate structural support, openness, and cost. Although Becky admits to being “a little nervous when we went into it,” she and her husband agreed that if STRITE couldn’t do the project, they would opt for a new home rather than a remodel. We should here note that we don’t take this sort of trust lightly.
Ultimately, the agreed upon remodel design switched the floor plan positions of the dining and family rooms to create a layout that situated the dining room between the other two rooms — in essence treating that space as a secondary part of the family room. The resulting floor plan was more in line with how we live in our homes these days.
To address the challenge of structural support versus visual appeal, STRITE took a creative design approach that wrapped carefully placed pillars in beautifully finished alder wood, which tied them in with the finishes on the floor and cupboards of the remodeled kitchen. By adding windows and sliders where there had been solid wall space, we not only brought the backyard into the reconfigured living spaces, but also created a horizon that stretched from the clients’ back patio to the front of their neighbor’s home across the street.
“I can sit on the patio outside my kitchen door and see all the way through my house to my neighbor’s front door,” says Becky. “I love this neighborhood, and it’s great to be able to see so much of it from my backyard. It is one of my favorite things to do. I wanted the outdoors brought in, and that’s what we got.”
In addition to integrating previously divided rooms, the remodel resulted in a kitchen that better met Becky’s ambitions as a baker. “I love everything about the kitchen. What I love the most is something that I came up with, which is the long baking counter underneath a long window that faces the garden and has all my baking stuff with it. It is a working space that is absolutely gorgeous and accommodates all my baking goods. It is beautiful and light.”
In tackling the rerouting of the HVAC system that was necessitated by the demolition phase of the project, STRITE designed an innovative way to better balance the climates of the two levels of the home, without the expense of adding an additional zone. “I was really happy with this compromise,” says Paul, even while admitting that “STRITE might have left some margin on the table.”
During the twelve weeks of the remodel, Paul and Becky had their share of patio grilled steaks, microwave eggs, and coffee in the garage — although Becky admits that, “It was nothing a couple of bottles of wine couldn’t fix.” What most impressed the couple, however, was the overall order that STRITE maintained in their home while they continued to live there during the course of the project.
“They were so organized,” Becky recounts, “particularly (project manager) Ed Lee. I can’t say enough about that guy. He would see things and take care of them before I even had to ask, and we saw eye-to-eye on things that didn’t work as we went along. He was here day after day, and after awhile he became like a part of the family, and everyone of the trades people we worked with were so polite and so hard working and professional. We would walk in after something major was done and just be amazed by it, and by how well the clean up was done.”
Paul recalls that although there were challenges to getting past the design phase of the project, “we knew that once we got going everything would be fine, since we knew how strong STRITE is on the back end of things.” Looking back on the realization of their original remodel vision, Becky adds, “The notebook I put together is almost identical to what we actually ended up with! We sit in this dining room every night — at the epicenter of our home — and look at each other and say, ‘This is so great.’ We’ll be here for awhile.”