Victoria Smith Interiors – Interior Designer Portland Maine – Tel: 207-865-6609

 

Decorating Step #2: Analyzing Your Home and How it Functions

Decorating Step #2: Analyzing Your Home and How it Functions

[ Blog - POSTED: October 1, 2010 ]

What is the number one thing that bugs you about your house? I guarantee it has something to do with the way it is functioning. Your house has to function, and not just be a layout of rooms, if it’s going to meet your needs.

Before you “decorate” a house—and this also applies to single rooms—or embark on a costly renovation, you need to inventory how your house is working for or frustrating your lifestyle. You can’t fix something until you have clearly defined what is wrong, so ignore trendy decoration and focus on function—for now.

Making it pretty is easy if you get the “bones” right. You are paying to live there, so make sure you get what you are paying for.

Take inventory on room use.

We encourage our clients to consider the following questions:

What is the use of each room, and how is it being used?
Many dining rooms act as dust magnets while people congregate in the kitchen or adjoining family room. Living rooms seem to have virtual velvet ropes across their thresholds, defying visitors except to open Christmas presents or vacuum. Placed too far from the family hub, they come to resemble a museum piece—“Still Life with Pristine Sofa and Fireplace Tools.”

Maybe you have a guest room that’s only been used a handful of times? Or a family room that resembles the size, height, and shape of a football stadium, built to accommodate a TV the size of a JumboTron? Maybe you squeeze into tiny “away” rooms like a library or den because they’re cozy and scaled for humans and not aircraft carriers? Ask yourself whether you truly use and enjoy these spaces, or whether you feel a societal obligation to have them.

Know the purpose of each room. Try to imagine it as an empty box—there are a million ways to fill it, which is far too many options and precisely what confuses people. They end up trying to create rooms that “do it all.” Just like people, rooms are pushed to be “jacks of all trades and masters of none.” Be realistic—unless the room is enormous, start with two uses at the most, and keep in mind how many people (and their ages) will use the room at any one time. In short, challenge your beliefs about single-function rooms.

What activities need to happen in your house?
Make a list of each person living in the house, and include their daily activities during a typical week. Include sleeping, dressing, meals, studying or office work, hobbies, and entertainment like music, TV, or games. Then list less-frequent activities, like a monthly get together, bi-weekly bridge game, or family holidays—anything the family does that requires space.

Make a list of all your current rooms and how each one is used. We’re here to explore how many activities can be moved from overused rooms to underused ones to balance out house function and better use all your space.

How do family members engage with one another?
Consider each person and how their activates interrelate—for example, does one child need a quiet study area while another has to practice an instrument? Does a mother need to be near a napping baby while working or making dinner?

Do your current rooms meet these needs?
Then determine whether you place each activity in an existing room or rooms. Related activities should occur near each other. Food preparation, storage, and consumption should be in close proximity, as should bedrooms, linen storage, and laundry. Garage, mudrooms, garden/potting rooms should be near each other, and guest areas and the family areas are ideally situated with a buffer of a common room.

Map your house using index cards.

To better see how activities flow through your house—especially if you are visually oriented—we recommend using an index card to represent each room. Position the cards to resemble a simplified floor plan, and label each card with its room name at the top. List all activities beneath the name. This shows you at a glance how current room placement affects the way life flows through the house, and makes it easy to see which rooms are “empty” and which are crowded. Note which side of the house has light, breezes, and views, and consider switching rooms so daytime activities can take advantage of scenery and sun.

Combining more than one activity in a room—such as a library/dining room, office/library/guest room, kitchen/office, or master bedroom/exercise room—makes the best use of floor space. Natural room pairings include a single wet area for laundry and a mudroom.

Switching rooms around can breathe new life into the flow of a house. Obviously, changing kitchens and baths can be costly renovations, but surrounding rooms may often be changed easily enough to add efficiency. If you are tight on space and you have an eat-in kitchen, consider changing the use of a room dedicated to formal dining. The freed space would make a great office, quiet reading room/library, or an “away” room. Any room can morph into a dining room with a folding table (or table base and top), a table pad, and tablecloth.

For specific rooms, consider whether putting in doors would provide privacy or sound protection. Glass-paned doors provide a sound barrier but allow light. Would removing doors open spaces up? Note whether the shape and size of the room lends itself to an optimal room use—an L-shaped room, for example, allows for two activity areas. Are there built-ins or a fireplace? Are they needed? Note the position and shape of windows and doors for the flow of the floor plan, keeping in mind whether these features help or hinder the overall goals for the house or room.

Keep asking what you want the function of the room to be, and plan to make the room accommodate it. If that’s impossible, consider changing the room or its location.

The form should follow the function for each room and the house as a whole. This  defines a well-designed house.

Objectively looking at the way your house is functioning puts you in a better position to determine if you can:

a)    live with what you have
b)    renovate to add modify spaces, or
c)    move to another home.

There is a lot to consider, but the process is well worth the time investment. The inventory of activities will help you weigh the pros and cons of renovation or relocation.  You may be able to avoid both with some simple in-room efficiencies or room switches.

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