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How architecture can change lives

By Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, July 7 2012 4:00 p.m. MDT

Before: In this project, we removed a wall to open up the family room to the dining room and kitchen.

David T. Price

Happy clients are the measure of our success. We enjoy having our work published and earning design awards, but we get our most direct rewards from our happy clients. Nothing is more rewarding than to hear how our work has truly improved our clients’ lives.

No one client is exactly like another. Though houses may be similar, every family has different needs that require different solutions.

We have been delighted and sometimes surprised by how even simple remodels can drastically impact a client’s life for the better.

At the conclusion of a project, we love to ask how a remodel has changed the way homeowners and their families live their everyday lives. We often hear how clients entertain more because they finally have a gathering space they are proud of. We also hear how they stay home more because their new space has become a sanctuary for them.

One client said her newly remodeled room stays cleaner now. She attributes it to the custom closet she added to her new master suite. “Everything actually has its place now and we don’t throw our clothes on the floor or the chair anymore,” she says.

A few years ago, we did a remodel for a family that added a bedroom wing onto the home. The mother was pleasantly surprised by how drastically the remodel impacted her two daughters. The two girls had been sharing a room for years and fought every day.

“The fighting has stopped,” she says. “It is amazing what happens when kids get their own space. They are actually getting along now.”

Another client redesigned her main level floor plan to add a mudroom/laundry/all-purpose room. She is surprised at how much more efficiently she is able to run her life and organize her family. The multi-purpose room is off the kitchen on the main floor. She set it up with lockers for the kids, a large counter for projects and a computer, as well as her laundry facility that was previously downstairs. There is sufficient room and organization to allow her to pay bills and work on her own projects, all while dinner is in the oven and the spin cycle is finishing nearby. She said she is surprised that her laundry room/mudroom is her new favorite room in the house because it makes her life so much easier.

That really is what it's all about. A home should make your life easier; not harder. While every client feels a change in their lifestyle post-remodel, we find clients with older homes tend to feel the transformation more dramatically.

Clients with older homes typically are in the “my home owns me” phase, as opposed to them owning their home. All the charm of an older home comes with a price. It costs both time and money and many weekends dedicated to fixing the current problem and the rest of the time worrying about what might need attention next.

One client had this exact experience with remodeling her 1940s bungalow. “I didn’t realize before how much time and energy I was spending worrying about my old house,” she says, “wondering if this was the weekend the sewer was going to back up again or if when I turned on the light I would hear that pop for the last time. I didn’t realize how much effort it was taking to just make my older home not look shabby.”

This client even felt herself holding back from the things she wanted to do because of her old house. “I didn’t have anyone over because I was afraid the toilet might back up or of what spider web or scary corner I missed. I usually had a list of house stuff I had to take care of every weekend.”

After she finished the extensive remodel on her home, she was surprised by how much her lifestyle changed. “It is really freeing to have my weekends again,” she says. “It is amazing all the other things I can do with my time now that I don’t have all that house stuff to take care of.”

She says she didn’t realize how much time she was spending just maintaining her house so she could use it. “I can cook in my kitchen without having to deep clean first,” she says. “The grout was coming out of the tile counter top and I didn’t know what might be growing in there. Now it is so nice to be able to just use my home.”

Stories such as these just make us smile and remind us how much we love our job. We are living our dream of making people's lives better through architecture. We like to say we're making the world a better place, one home at a time.

Architects Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the co-founders of Renovation Design Group, an architectural firm specializing in home remodels. Send comments or questions to ask@renovationdesigngroup.com

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