Tuesday, June 30, 2009


As a Design/Build firm, on occasion we have heard surprised reactions from homeowners who don't know why we would need a drawing or plans to execute the remodel project they are dreaming about. The dream starts with an image in your mind, and the next step is to get that image down in concrete terms. This means both words and drawings. Without these tools, the project could go badly awry.


Verbal communication can be tricky, and describing what you envision for your home can be challenging. So how do we tease out the details and arrive at a whole integrated picture? Steve starts with the existing structure, taking measurements and drawing accurately what is there with correct dimensions. How can you transform something until you know exactly what you have and how it relates to the surrounding environment? Together with the homeowner, we identify the precise areas that they are unhappy with and want to see changed.


Steve draws the proposed changes in a new plan, including reconfigured space, dimensions and suggested finishes. He bases this on many things: the homeowner's desires and needs; the basic purpose and function of the room; the need for light, shade, privacy, and other external factors; and Steve's own design ideas. He executes the drawings in two versions: as a plan, which means that you are looking down on it as if the roof were removed from your house and you're in a helicopter hovering above; and as an elevation, which is from the perspective of standing in the room and looking at the opposite wall.


But that's not the end of it. I colorize the drawings by hand (I must admit, the most exciting and fun of my job duties). I use colored pencils and periodically add a charming new color like "jade", "celadon" or "burnt ochre" to my collection to aid in capturing the hues of chosen finishes. I also replicate the texture of marble, granite, patterned tile, wood grain, chrome and steel in the coloring. I base my colors on what the homeowner has told us s/he wants. If they aren't certain about colors or finishes, I usually stick to earth tones. The addition of color and textures - and sometimes trees and bushes - to the drawing makes it easier for the homeowner to read what is on the paper. Looking down from above on lines that represent walls, windows, doorways and stairs can be daunting to the untrained eye. Elevations are easier to read.


Then we present the illustration to the homeowner and discuss all the design ideas, finishes and colors represented. This is the 'bouncing off' period where we exchange ideas with clients to arrive at the perfect solutions to address their remodel project. With drawings to scale, details and finishes, we have a map to steer by.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Warrine Shares More of Her Story

Here is the third installment of Warrine Coffey's remodeling journal. As a guest blogger, she has much to offer from the homeowner's point of view and experience going through a large renovation.


"Another six weeks have passed since my last epistle on our project. We are now 75% through and it's looking good. We've had our ups and downs.

We ordered the appliances and had them all delivered except for the cooktop which we picked up ourselves so our contractor could get the exact measurements. The dishwasher and ovens went directly into the kitchen to await a later installation. The new refrigerator is in the dining room so we are very crowded with two refrigerators and everything else we need in there for our temporary kitchen. It's just for a few weeks, so we just live with it.

One day we had 2-3 of our contractor's men here in the kitchen AND the burglar alarm folks (2 people) working throughout the house AND several exterior painters. Talk about chaos! The new alarm failed that same evening. The next day the alarm guy was back and the appliances were delivered and work continued in the kitchen.

A few weeks ago they removed the plywood barriers between the kitchen and the rest of the house. Now when we want to see the kitchen we don't have to go out the front door and around to the back. We just walk through the interior door.


We had a major argument - I mean difference of opinion - on ovens. Bill felt stronger about it so he got his way. The contractor was agreeable to the changes and now all is well. I thought the hardest part of this remodel was the hundreds of decisions that have to be made, often without adequate knowledge about what is being decided. I was wrong. That is the second hardest part. The hardest part of a major project is the other person...Now I know why people ask if we're still married after several months of construction. I tell them we are, indeed.


Our little temporary balcony off the dining room continues to be a blessing through all this. It has its problems, though. There were the ants that appeared the first week, so we learned to be very careful about leaving any dirty dishes out there. Now there is a tree in the front yard with pollen that attracts bees, so the bees have found our balcony...I learned that ants like dog food and bees like tuna.

As of last week we have lights on in the kitchen and the doorbell works after four months of doing without. Most of the cabinets are in. The crown molding around the ceiling is lovely. The stone countertops are in. The bathroom floor tile and backsplash are in. Today most of the plumbing fixtures were installed and we have water in the new kitchen - with hot water! We no longer have to haul hot water from upstairs. That means we can wash dishes inside like other folks.


An unexpected side effect of doing this major construction project is the personal growth that occurs during it. Choosing to do something truly difficult and actually doing it without too much bellyaching is a real accomplishment. It's so much easier to let things be the way they were. I'm so glad we didn't. We are stronger for the effort we have put in, plus we're going to get a lovely new kitchen when it's all over.