BY SHANNON MONEO | PHOTOS BY JODY BECK
How is the functionality of a room defined, and how important is it when thinking about a renovation? Design experts say it comes down to how the room is used.
Function is the big picture; accoutrements or aesthetics are the shading, embellishing, enhancing.
As the cliché goes, form follows function.
The husband and wife team at Step One Design possess over four decades of experience in home and interior designing between them. Michael and Lisa Dunsmuir have handled many home renovations and know that a room designed for optimal use — function — will always be a popular and comfortable spot. When contemplating a home renovation, they say, the best bang for your buck starts with practical matters.
“Before doing a renovation, look at what’s in the existing space that doesn’t work well,” advises Lisa. “What are you missing?”
The answer depends on the age of the home. An older home may poise limitations based on the wiring, plumbing and square footage. And if the house has a slab floor, it’s not easy to reconfigure the plumbing.
How are you planning to use your refreshed space?
Plumbing is an important consideration, given that a sizeable number of renovations involve kitchens and bathrooms. Today, about 25 per cent of high-end new homes in Greater Victoria feature water closets, two-sink vanities that are up to 10 feet long and walk-in showers, built for two, with luxurious shower heads, says Michael. These luxurious, spa-like bathing spaces tend to spur renovations in less-than-new homes.
Those who buy a smaller, older home may decide that the existing bathroom is too small. It becomes the children’s wash-up space and a bedroom is sacrificed to build a fancy ensuite with a large shower and two sinks, Michael says.
In a nod to function, one option is to ditch the bathtub in the smallish bathroom, since it doesn’t get used much, and install a walk-in shower, Lisa says. Trough sinks with two faucets add more functionality. And instead of a vanity with a cupboards, drawers, often U-shaped to fit around the plumbing, are installed.
There are also projects where owners want to add more square feet to their home, usually for a master bedroom or family room. Retaining the flow of the home is critical to the home’s function. “You don’t want to waste existing floor area. Every square foot not being used costs money and is wasted space,” notes Michael. One example is a foyer, with another foyer behind it. An open floor plan is the logical choice.
Function is always key in kitchen renovations
Moving in to the kitchen, options multiply, even in a smallish space. To avoid a half-baked kitchen reno, here is where a design expert can provide a return on investment.
“You need good design to help you with good function,” Lisa says. “It’s someone to help you decipher the choices, make wise decisions, give options.”
Lisa and Michael have witnessed their share of kitchen flops, often leavened with the wish for more space. “People say, I need more counter space,” Lisa says. “No. What you need is more work stations. You’re usually stuck between the stove and the sink. So break it down into zones.” Counter space can be divvied up for work zone, prep zone, baking zone and cleaning zone for example. Many feet of counter space is not required.
“Don’t create dead zones,” Lisa says. An example is one or two large islands. “You probably only use a small percentage of it.”
And the old magic triangle, made up of the stove, sink and fridge, still applies. When appliances are spread in a linear fashion, it becomes inefficient. Another inefficiency is a kitchen with only one entry/exit point, which impedes the free flow of traffic.
Think about your investment
And as with any renovation, the budget is one function not to be ignored. A priority is to determine a comfort level for dollars out, pleasure in. “An old adage is to think of a price and double it,” Michael says. Typically, a renovation typically costs 20 to 30 per cent more than the original estimate.
He recommends going for a quality redo and if the budget cannot support that, break it out in phases. An example would be to start with the ensuite and kitchen and leave the remainder. Alternatively, you can do anything within a budget, but you compromise on material, Michael says.
Now that homeowners are choosing to stay in their homes for longer periods, they are understanding the value of that roof over their heads, which can be measured beyond the dollar value. Ninety-five per cent want a functioning, comfortable home, Lisa says. The remaining five per cent want the show home, where function is dazzled by form.