View 3 Items
Annie V. Schwemmer
A master plan is especially crucial before remodeling project is started. The worst thing a homeowner can do is plunge in and see how far money will go.

With the Fourth of July, we've got freedom on our minds.

A very different kind of freedom is found in the process of remodeling when clients become aware that there are many options available to address their particular issues. For instance, needing more space in a family room does not have to mean an addition. Often, unused space within the existing home can be repurposed to meet the client’s current needs.

In many instances, our clients — especially clients with older homes — are controlled by their houses. Every weekend is dedicated to the latest fix-it project. They are not choosing the projects; rather, the projects are choosing themselves by way of necessity. These homeowners spend more time working on their house than enjoying it.

We understand houses take maintenance, but they shouldn’t be hard to live in or dictate how you spend all your free time.

While a big remodeling project ties up your house for a couple months, once it is done you can spend time enjoying it rather than constantly wondering what will break next. It is easier to maintain a fresh, remodeled house than to constantly be in repair mode.

Ideally, you will consider remodeling before your home reaches such a state that it becomes a physical necessity. Unfortunately, we have seen homes where "deferred maintenance" is a polite euphemism. This type of home generally needs a total redo, since it doesn’t make much sense to spend money on attaching a lovely addition to a falling-down wreck of a house.

When a client comes to us with an idea, he or she often doesn't realize the range of choices that exist for solving problems. Clients see stairs or walls as an absolute, something to be worked around. The truth, however, is that walls can be moved and stairs can be relocated. It is liberating to help homeowners look past those barriers.

Of course, every house has limitations — structural as well as code restrictions and building ordinances — that an architect will need to work with. However, an architect can typically see more options within a house than the average homeowner. Yes, architects are trained to see the potential of a house, but it also has something to do with looking at the house with fresh eyes. Honestly, even architects have a hard time seeing past the barriers in their own homes. It is the same idea as not being able to see the forest for all the trees.

When homeowners are ready to remodel, they usually have a list of goals they want to accomplish. Most of these goals reclaim some kind of "freedom" — from clutter with new storage space and mudrooms; from sparring siblings with additional bedrooms; and from cramped quarters with a new office, pantry, craft room or man cave, to name a few.

Comment on this story

We enjoy helping our clients see a wide range of choices beyond the constraints of their home’s current layout. We recently had a client who didn't set out to create a party house. However, after the remodel, her home was so comfortable and functional that all the family and neighborhood get-togethers now end up at her house by default. She doesn't mind, because she is finally proud of her house and happy to be the hostess.

We hope you had a fun and safe holiday.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the Principal Architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at Send comments or questions to