Renos - Where to Start #4 It's Gotta Function

If you have every spent time looking at new homes, open houses, etc, you will have undoubtedly came across floor layouts or unique designs that made you question the decision making process of the prior owners.

I once came across a bedroom with a toilet beside the master bed.

Not master bedroom, BED. 

Not, “oh they just didn’t finish the walls for the ensuite”, 

nae, nae…BED! 

Like, “Oh this would could double as a side table as well”. 

Whatever the outcome of your renovation, it has to function for not only the next several years but also for potential buyers. As much as you think you will own that property for ever, life can introduce some curve balls and all of a sudden you are listing your home. Dramatic floor layout changes and color schemes can make it very difficult to sell a home. Some design ideas may have good intentions, but with unintended consequences...
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When we built our home several years ago, we built it based on functional purpose. It was a 1.5 story farmhouse with a full basement. Each floor served a specific purpose.
  • The basement was for sleeping. Three bedrooms, full bathroom, 3 pcs ensuite, small seating area, laundry and utility room. 
  • Main floor, the living space: kitchen, mudroom, living room, dining room. 
  • Upper floor loft: Office space, lounging area, TV area, place to sit and relax. 
  • This design took into account functional use of the space, but also practical as well. Basements tend to be dark and cool. Great places for a quality sleep (are you a shift worker?). The basement was heated using in floor radiate heating. This kept it comfortable and allowed the heat to naturally rise up throughout the remaining floors, creating some passive heating. A wood stove took care of the upper two floors. Having bedrooms on the top floor would be too hot in the summer. Each floor had a distinct purpose and allowed the choice of materials to meet that need. We could enjoy the day light on the upper floors when they are in most use. 
With that being said, the design made sense to us, we loved it, but it was certainly unique. Many people prefer to NOT have their bedrooms in the basement. To us, it makes perfect sense.

When you begin your renovations, there are some key things to keep in mind:

  1. Functionality – It might be a great idea but is this a long term functional idea? 
    • I once had a neighbor that had a trampoline in the basement. They cut out the living room floor so they could jump on the trampoline and see out the living room window. I'm not joking. 
    • If you are choosing a lighting fixture, it may be the most amazing fixture, but do you need it to be functional (task lighting) or just a visual piece (ambient lighting)? If you need both then you need to search for a fixture that serves both roles or look for two different lighting options. 
    • Removing closet space of one room to gain space in an adjoining room. While this may work for how you are using the rooms currently, if you had to sell, how that would impact the perceived bedrooms or use of those rooms? 
    • Kitchen islands are great but is your kitchen large enough? 
    • Hardwood/engineered flooring: looks great, but if you have a large area it will change the acoustics of the room. Basement bedrooms, great idea. Hardwood flooring on the above floor…bad idea, stomp, stomp, stomp…
    • The one downside to opening up an area is it opens up the area. Our design was open, we loved the feel, but sound travelled easily. There was little to divide up the noise. We never considered that and it was frustrating at times. 
    • I built a Narnia fort in my house through a closet. It is very functional for my daughters but not perhaps for a retired couple. So I ensured to build it in such a way that it can easily be converted to a storage area in the future and still serve a purpose. 
  2. Resale – Will these changes increase or decrease your property value or selling potential? 
    • For me, any time I consider a change to my home, I consider how this will impact the property value. As homes tend to be peoples single greatest investment, ensure you are continually adding value to your investment. 
    • Consider any dramatic changes to layout carefully and seek out the opinions of those in the industry. 
    • See if realtor can do a walk through for a small fee and give you some advice as to what would and what would NOT add value to your home, not just for resale, but also to the increased enjoyment of your home. They see so many different homes and can look at it from both perspectives. 
  3. If you’re going to do it, do it right or else wait – I can use artificial vanilla extract instead of the real thing and no one is going to notice (at least that I know). However, if you cheap out on a shower tile job that could be an expensive mistake. 
    • Invest in your fixtures. Buy quality pieces, everything form bathroom fixtures to tile to lighting choices. They will stand the test of time and depending on the circumstance will give you the functional use you need. 
    • Cheap hardwood can dry and swell dramatically, the pieces are milled to low tolerances, the finishes are of a low quality and the overall product will not hold up well. In the end you would have been better off waiting to invest in order to get more enjoyment out of your investment. 
Take the time to find what you like, find the right materials, the right color, the right contractor and ensure your final result was worth your investment.

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