How to Choose the Right Design

Before we go into how to make smart design choices, my first piece of advice is to hire a seasoned professional.  And by professional, I don’t mean getting a cheap sketch from Home Depot.  I mean hiring a seasoned design build firm who specializes in bathrooms, kitchens and other interior renovations.  I can guarantee you the kitchens my company Mayflower Construction designed last year are much better than what we designed ten years ago.  As with any craft, experience leads to perfection.  We’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work and will be able to take your idea to the next level.  A good designer will make suggestions you didn’t even know were possible or will take control of the layout if you have no idea where to start. 

That being said, it’s important to understand the basics of picking the right design as you, the paying client, get the last word.  We’ll give you advice and do our best to guide you in the right direction, but ultimately, we build what you want.  My clients always ask me “what’s possible?” and my answer is always, “my team is talented enough to build anything, our question instead should be what’s practical for your home and what makes sense with your budget?” 

I once had a client insist on putting a pullout trash can in between her kitchen sink and dishwasher.  We strongly cautioned her against it, but she insisted that this choice would give her the perfect workflow.  She could wash fruits and vegetables in her sink, move them straight to a cutting board where she could slide the waste directly in her trashcan and then load her dirty cookware into the dishwasher. This caused two issues.

First, it required a special rough-in to accommodate the unique placement.  While our team was more than capable, it meant that any issues she had with her dishwasher would require either a very experienced technician or a plumber.  Second, it made more mess on her brand-new wood floors.  The further you must travel from your sink to your dishwasher, the greater the risk of dropping water, soap, and food.  While we warned her, she thought she knew better.  By the time she started using her kitchen and realized we were right, it was too late to do anything about it.  The island cabinetry was installed, the plumbing was built specifically for this design and her countertop was cut and installed.  Ripping it out and starting over was a significant expense so she chose to live with her decision.  

This leads me to my second piece of advice: trust your designer.  If you’ve picked the right construction teamyour designer will know the difference between a cool idea and a practical idea.  Some things look great on paper, but not so great in real life.  Your designer will do their best to help you avoid making decisions you may later regret.  So how do you balance trusting your designer with making sure your designer is making YOUR dream room, as opposed to theirs?  I’ve put together a few tips for interior renovations that will help you sign off on your final design with confidence.      

  1. Identify your pain points and make a wish list
    1. As you use your current kitchen or bathroom (or mudroom, closest, etc.), jot down everything that frustrates you and everything you find yourself wishing you had access to.  Presenting this list to your designer will help them create a space that eliminates your current frustrations and therefore provides exactly what you want in your new room.  I’ve created two examples to help guide you in the right direction:
      1. Kitchen
        1. Bulkhead is hideous, would love cabinets to go to the ceiling
        2. Need better lighting in cooking areas
        3. Ventilation is nonexistent
        4. Not enough counterspace for prep work
        5. Need more places to store large pots and pans, tired of hanging them above the island
        6. Countertop stains too easily
        7. Backsplash is hard to clean, too much grout
        8. Not enough drawers in the base cabinets
        9. Would love cabinets to hide my on the counter appliances
      2. Mudroom located at entrance from garage
        1. No space to fold clothes
        2. No storage for detergents and cleaning products
        3. Washer and dryer are way too bulky, almost never fill it more than halfway
        4. Everyone comes in and leaves their stuff everywhere, need storage for shoes, coats, and backpacks
        5. Floor is hard to clean, waterproof flooring would be great
        6. Utility sink large enough to bathe dog would be amazing
        7. Cabinetry to store cleaning rags, beach towels, bug spray, sunscreen, etc. would be great
  2. Maintain aspects that currently function well for you
    1. Some of my clients feel they aren’t getting a “real renovation” if everything isn’t in a completely different place.  At the same time, rarely do I encounter a client who hates every single thing about the room they want to renovate.  There are probably a few aspects you enjoy that make sense to transfer into your new design.  Your design is meant to improve what you currently have.  If 75% is working for you, only change the other 25%.  Not only will this give you more room in your budget for better quality materials, but you already know you’re going to like it! 
  3. Think outside the box
    1. Don’t be afraid to explore off the wall design ideas.  The last thing you want is to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a renovation only to have regrets.  Do your research and Google creative or unique designs for the room you’re renovating.  You’ll be surprised at how many innovative products exist to make your life easier.  While everything you see online may not be practical for your space, you’ll feel much better about your design knowing you’ve explored all available options.    

With these four tips and the guidance of your design-build team, you’re well on your way to signing off on a design fully confident that the result will meet or exceed your expectations.  Knowing you have a solid, well thought out design will give you complete peace of mind as you enter construction.


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