Qualified Remodeler Magazine

AUG 2014

Qualified Remodeler helps independent remodeling firms to survive, become more professional and more profitable by providing must-have business information, namely best business practices, new product information and timely design ideas.

Issue link: https://qualifiedremodeler.epubxp.com/i/356825

Contents of this Issue


Page 51 of 59

S ome call it our pre- conceived notions or assumptions. I'm calling it presuppo- sition. Whichever phrase you prefer, I'm referring to the way people make deci- sions based on past experiences. Our experiences influence our opinions. Experience is a good thing, but it can be a problem if we allow our experience to control us. We are not designing for ourselves or past clients, but for current clients. Each client is new and different from the last, even if they have the exact same problems. We need to be designing spaces that address our current clients' needs. At Harth Builders, we've seen the results of successful and unsuccessful attempts to follow this rule. A few years back, we were designing the remodel of a kitchen and dining room where we planned to remove the exist- ing wall between the two spaces. The old kitchen was a bit tight and disconnected from the rest of the house. Sound familiar? At that point, it would have been easy for us to do what we were used to doing: figure out how to maximize storage, countertops and seating by using every bit of wall space available to us. Thank goodness we didn't! Instead, we made it our mission to figure out how the clients lived. The family was older, and although their extended family often visited, they did not host many large dinners anymore. Because the clients mostly cooked for themselves, they didn't need an abundance of countertop space. There were two large patio doors going out to a beautifully landscaped back yard, including a pool that they used almost every day. Maintaining the view and access to the back yard was very important. There was no need to remove what we might have seen as an "unnecessary" second door for more usable kitchen space. Addressing these factors and others, the design resulted with a large island in the center of the kitchen. It was surrounded by open walls and passageways, allowing the space to better serve the client's way of life and maxi- mize the view outside, resulting in a happy client. It would be wonderful if we were able to follow this same process for all our projects; unfortunately, that's not always the case. We are currently building a whole house remodel in which we revisited this lesson. The aesthetics were important to the clients, so they were open to unique ideas. For the mas- ter suite, we created a "cool" design for a double-sided fire- place, viewable from the master bedroom and master bathroom soaking tub, with TVs above. The clients loved the idea. Due to framing restrictions and mini- mum clearances, it created extra space in the bedroom that we designated as a seating area. So, what was the problem you ask? As the weeks went by and we got closer to finalizing the design, it gradually occurred to the clients and us we were not solving their original problems. They needed more storage and a much larger bathroom than we planned. Our design, now close to final, only marginally improved their problems. The space required by the "cool" fireplace we were so proud of became quite valuable. Furthermore, the clients had no use for the seating area in their bedroom. As a result, our design team had to redesign the spatial layout of the master suite in a very short time. The new design was equally as "cool" and we even held the project schedule. However, these problems were avoidable had we not projected our presuppositions of how the space could be used. Contrasting these two proj- ects, the benefits of stifling our presuppositions become obvi- ous. First, it saves time for the designer and the client because the designer doesn't waste time exploring the details of ideas that are of no use to the client. Secondly, and most importantly, is that it builds trust. Responding to a client's specific problems shows that the designer cares and is listening, through which results in a happy client, enabling each project to lead to the next. On a conceptual level, this principle seems simple. However, it takes keen self- awareness. A few things that have helped us along the way included talking about ourselves less and asking questions more; taking good notes and review- ing them often; and lastly, but perhaps most importantly, ques- tioning every assumption that is made, including those that the client has told you. If the client had all the answers, they wouldn't need a designer. The trick is to not let our presupposi- tions influence our effectiveness at finding the right solution to their design dilemmas. QR Stifling our presupposition Stephen Campbell, CR, is a designer who works as a draftsman for Harth Builders, an award-winning design-build remodeling firm based in southeastern Pennsylvania. Campbell started working for Harth Builders after earning a Bachelor of Architecture from Philadelphia University in 2009, and performs most of the architectural planning and drawing for the firm's projects. Harth Builders made it their mission to figure out how the clients lived before remodeling a kitchen and dining room into a blended space. Photo: Mike Irby Photography 52 August 2014 QR ForResidentialPros.com PROFITS: Design Lab | By Stephen Campbell

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