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Annie V. Schemmer
Jared Bulloch reconfigured his bedroom wing to create a master suite.

This is the time of year for making new goals, resolving to improve yourself and your life.

Some 100 million Americans each year resolve to lose weight, stop smoking, de-stress and enjoy life more.

Home improvement goals for 2012 knock out at least two of those common resolutions — namely de-stressing and enjoying life more (at least once the project is completed).

We always emphasize the necessity of creating a master plan with each client. Once equipped with a master plan, they can determine how they want to execute the plan.

We understand many factors determine how, when, why and what home improvements you undertake and in what order. We understand this because we each have homes, too.

Remember the story of the shoemaker's shoeless children?

Even as architects specializing in home remodels, we have homes that are less than gorgeous, along with dreams we hope to accomplish someday. As with our clients, many circumstances are influencing if and when we can embark on our various projects.

One of our co-owners, Jared Bulloch, recently finished Phase One of his home remodel, but his life circumstance has put a hold on the next phase.

He finishes his MBA in June and has some loans to pay off.

"Finishing school will delay the house projects for awhile," he says. "We just redid the main level two years ago and we are enjoying that right now."

Jared's project included creating a master suite by reconfiguring the bedroom wing. He moved his master bedroom across the hall to the bedroom adjacent to the bathroom.

By adding a door into the bathroom and moving a wall, he created a much more spacious and private master bedroom without adding square footage.

The addition of a cantilevered window seat added needed seating as well as additional volume to the room.

He also updated the bathroom finishes and turned the other main floor bedroom into a laundry room. In the more public space, he opened the top half of the wall between the kitchen and the living room to strengthen the connection between the two spaces, but he hasn't touched the kitchen yet.

The kitchen redo will be a future phase. Jared didn't add any square footage in Phase One, but the space is more comfortable and functions better now for his family.

Ann has some home improvement goals for this next year for her home. Unfortunately, it is not yet time to remodel her less-than-stylish kitchen and get rid of the 1970 cabinets and pink vinyl flooring. As you may have noticed, the problem with a kitchen remodel is you can't go half way. You really have to commit to gut the whole thing.

With a future kitchen remodel in mind, there are projects she does want to accomplish this year that will make the current kitchen more bearable and yet won't disrupt the master plan.

This year she would like to move a door to access the pantry from the kitchen instead of from the back hall. There is no reason to wait until a full kitchen overhaul to fix this functionality issue.

She would also like to raise the ceiling in the kitchen. When a previous owner added a shower upstairs they lowered the kitchen ceiling to hide the pipes. Ann is working out a plan to reroute the pipes and raise the ceiling again.

While we recommend having a master plan for your home and following the sequence of projects that make construction sense, we understand that sometimes you can't put off a project even though you may have to rip it out when you execute the dream plan.

Annie also plans to remodel her kitchen in the future, but that project is in the 10-year plan and her kitchen floor will need to be replaced in the next two years. Instead of being miserable until her dream kitchen takes shape, she plans to replace the peeling kitchen floor with a less expensive material that she will not mind tearing out when she does the kitchen later.

At that point, she can install her dream floor and enjoy it for years to come.

When Annie bought her house, she designed a master plan (of course!), but she has found that life has a way of prioritizing her projects for her.

A new two-car garage and new landscaping quickly moved up the priority list when her neighbors negotiated to sell her a 500-square-foot portion of their property that would gain her access to the street behind her property and allow her to build a garage.

She received special permission from the city during the sale so she didn't want to wait. It is best to hurry before they change their minds or your permit expires. Digging a hole for the garage equaled a big pile of dirt in the yard and lead to re-grading and new landscaping.

Every year she budgets for one $10,000 project on her house.

With every project, she has the master plan in mind. For example, when she was doing the hardscape in the yard, she made sure the retaining walls, patios and pathways were not placed where she eventually wants her small addition. Of course, she will lose some grass and may have to redo some sprinklers, but she won't lose anything in the way of concrete.

Home improvement goals should move you closer to your dream house.

Have a master plan, an ultimate goal for your home, and take the steps to make it happen. Whether you do a full remodel in one fell swoop or tackle one project at a time over the next 10 years, you need a master plan to focus your goals and your projects.

We hope this year may bring you closer to peace and tranquility in your own home.

Happy New Year!

Architects Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the founders of Renovation Design Group, www.renovationdesigngroup.com, a local design firm specializing in home remodels.