Six years ago, my wife and I bought an old 1960 brick home. The design is nearly identical to several of our neighbors’ homes, which was a little unnerving to me knowing they could easily navigate the interior of my home without ever coming inside. It’s a common occurrence in spec home neighborhoods, but not something I wanted as a home owner. The combination of becoming an architect and being the son of a Landscape Architect who always changed the exterior of his homes makes it impossible for me to leave well enough alone. I’ll forever modify the places we’ll live. Design and renovation are in my blood, but I learned a valuable lesson about why I should renovate:
Soon after moving in, my wife and I drew a couple dozen floor plan options together that would make our home different from the other cookie cutter homes in hopes of building equity, which was a worthy goal. But, our goal quickly evolved from simply wanting to be different to really making the home work better for us. The moment we decided to design for us rather than designing to compete in real estate changed everything. Our designs changed a few more times as we concentrated on improving the flow and feel of the spaces we hated.
We decided to demolish a shared wall between our small, skinny master bathroom and our cramped main bathroom and combine the two spaces into one. Even though the design would eliminate a bathroom from our room and bath count, neither bathroom was fully functional or could fit more than one person at a time comfortably. After a few really fun demo days and weeks of renovation we were in love with our home. It required moving plumbing lines, framing and painting new walls, moving and rotating our shower to the exterior wall with new tile and fixtures, installing a new double vanity and all new flooring, and building custom floating wood shelves but we created a space that allowed us to function better on a daily basis. We moved forward and installed new LED recessed lighting in our main living room where there were zero downlights. Only having a few floor lamps in the room prior to installing the new lights, we had never previously spent time in that area of the home – a waste of around 300 square feet of living space. Now, it’s our favorite room in the house!
Function should always be priority number one. Finishes, fixtures, colors, textures, textiles, and artwork take a backseat to function in a home. So, when I say your home isn’t supposed to look like your neighbors’ I don’t mean simply for visual aesthetic or curb appeal. I mean if it doesn’t work for you, that’s the real reason to change things up. Don’t compete with your neighbors for competition’s sake. Your neighbors are never going to live in your home! Aim to create the best environment for YOU and your loved ones. Here's to being different!