What part of your home doesn’t work for you? How many times have you piled your guest’s coats on the bed or walked by the formal living room that you never go into? Do you have rooms in your house that are underutilized? Does the flow of your floor plan accommodate your current family’s lifestyle? Is your garage a shelter for your cars or a large toy closet? Does your back yard allow you to easily entertain your friends?
Psychological Design – A Series on the Home Design Evolution Revolution – Issue 2 Isolation
In the last issue we discussed how as a society, our lifestyles have continued to change and become more informal and relaxed for the most part. Technology has greatly downsized a lot of our electronics making us a little more versatile. Computing can easily be done from anywhere in the house. A growing number of people are now working from home after they leave the office and if they want to be included during entertaining situations they can generally conduct business by the pool or if they need privacy they can find a quiet space in the home to conduct business. We also discussed some reasons why some rooms make us feel uncomfortable. The biggest reason being the feeling of isolation. We spoke about how the old formal living rooms or studies are cold isolated rooms. We also have valuable square footage that is being taken up in formal rooms. The fact that formal dining rooms only usually get used once or twice a year is the reason why people are gravitating to more practical designs. We are going to explore isolation in a different way in this issue.
During our research on psychological design we uncovered a very disturbing fact about mobility. Studies have shown that 80% of people will end up in a wheelchair sometime in their life, whether it is temporary or permanently. This fact shows that it will be very likely that you or someone close to you will incur mobility issues during the course of their lifetime. If we extend this thought to crutches and walkers the numbers are even higher. This is still only a fraction of the items that factor into universal design aspects.
The isolation that we are talking about in this issue is the isolation caused by poorly thought out floor plans. We generally never realize that there is a problem with our homes until we have some sort of traumatic event happen. A broken arm, a broken leg, a visual impairment, or a back injury could uncover some interesting things in our houses. Most houses will have some tell-tale signs by the way of having small toilet rooms or more than three steps to the front porch or from the garage. Some homes will have small doorways into bedrooms and bathrooms. Kitchens may have some flow problems or have a lot of upper cabinet storage and not enough natural light. These small items can result in big problems in the event of an injury or some kind of degenerative disease. Having difficulties moving your house can be very frustrating and a lot of these issues could have been avoided. Using universal design concepts when designing a new home or remodeling your existing home can pay high dividends in the quality of life category.
Universal design is defined as the concept of designing an environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life. A well thought out floor plan will have features in it that most people won’t even realize. A wider hallway, an extra window, a lever handle doorknob, zero clearance thresholds, wider doorways and light switches with motion sensors are all examples of universal design. These are practical features that are intended for one reason, the ease of livability. Anyone of any age or ability will be able to take advantage of these features.
Your home should be your safe haven, a place of refuge. Hopefully you will never lose mobility or any of your five senses, but if you did wouldn’t it make you feel better that your home would not limit you.
A Series on the Home Design Evolution Revolution
We have been designing several remodels lately and my clients will tell me that they just need more space. What most of them need is to use the space that they have more effectively. I have also seen houses that are for sale sitting for long periods of time in neighborhoods where homes have been selling because of these same old dated floor plans. I read an article the other day about what the most important item that potential home buyers are looking for in a house. I was pleased to see that the number one answer was a well designed floor plan. A house that is properly designed for proper site orientation is important, but having it custom designed to how a modern family will live in it will be incredible.
If we look at older house floor plans we will notice that homes were designed for a more formal lifestyle. Let’s look at society in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. It was commonplace for men to wear a suit and fedora to watch live sporting events. The men were usually the bread winners and worked from eight to five during the week. Women generally stayed home to take care of the children and the cooking and cleaning duties. Children had no reason to play in the house and were generally spending their leisure time outside. Typically, the women stayed in the kitchen which was segregated from the parlor or formal living room, where the men usually gathered. These floor plans were specifically designed to section off certain activities, custom made for the lifestyles of the day.
Over the years I hear the same things from most of my clients when I ask them what they don’t like about their existing house. The number one answer is that they only use their formal dining room on holidays or special events. They eat and then immediately leave the room and gather in the kitchen or living room. This is a wasted room in a house because of the room’s psychology. The formal dining room is usually at the front of the house, open to the foyer with a small door to the kitchen or butlery. It normally overlooks the driveway or the street front. As people with generally informal lifestyles, we want to be in open spaces where we can multitask and interact with our families. We want to watch television while we clean the kitchen and help our children with their homework. To go hand and hand with the formal dining room concept we still have a separate breakfast room for everyday eating and usually a raised bar for even more informal dining. That’s three places in our home to eat. I guess that this is how was decided to get the best of both worlds. So now we have two informal dining areas and a formal dining room only for special occasions or because (and I love this one) it’s needed for resale, through years and years of brainwashing. Depends of who is buying I guess; Eisenhower’s – Definitely, Baby Boomers – Maybe, Gen X – Not really, and Gen Y – No Way.
Recently we have been brought in to evaluate why some homes have not been selling as quickly as desired. These homes were all in very nice subdivisions that homes have been moving in. Before speaking with us the only avenue that the sellers and Realtors had explored was to continually drop the price of the homes.
The first thing that KDH Residential Designs looks at is the exterior of the home. Does the exterior make us want to stop the car and look inside? If not, we evaluate what kind of things that we can do to update the facade of the home to make it more appealing.
Next we look at the floor plan. If the floor plan is out of date and doesn’t fit today’s lifestyle, we try to find inexpensive ways to make the flow of the home more desirable. We also try to find any undesirable features of the property and make them less obvious to prospective clients. For instance if the home has a rear terrace that is in direct sunlight (southern exposure) all day, then we try to add porches or shade trees. If the home is in an area where there is some road noise, we try to add screen walls with water features or heavy landscaping sound buffers.
With a little forward thinking you can turn negatives into positives and make your home more appealing to prospective buyers without having to drop your selling price. Once a few items have been addressed, the seller has the option of actually doing the remodel or to simply just show prospective buyers how they can easily improve these situations to make the home their own. Sometimes all that is needed is a visual representation of what could be done to sway a potential home buyer. If you have a home that you would like us to evaluate send us some pictures or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good Luck and Happy Selling!!!
Green Building and Remodeling Starts with Thoughtful Design
By Kevin Holdridge KDH Residential Designs, LLC
A good home design should take into account the most efficient use of space and be fit to the lifestyle of the end-user as well as having a great proportional aesthetic exterior. Many of our custom home design clients get hung up on price per square foot numbers when building a house. The theory is that if a house is too expensive then the natural reaction would be to make the home smaller. I can agree with this theory to a point and then I think it’s just hooey. I used to say that there are two ways to save money on building a house, square footage and specification levels, but now I have learned a few more ways to save money while building a new home.
This is where having a good design firm pays off. Designing a custom home should be just that, custom. A potential client should be prepared to tell their designer not only what style home they are looking for but how they plan to use the space. If the residential designer doesn’t ask you questions about your family size, whether you like to entertain large gatherings, how many vehicles you have, is this a primary residence, and the most important question how long do you plan to live at this residence, then you will not get a custom home. With these basic questions left unanswered the design process can be disastrous. A good design firm should get to know their client’s personality and offer up traffic patterns in the floor plan that match the client’s lifestyle. When thinking about designing a home a client should begin by taking pictures or finding items in magazines as to convey their tastes to a designer. I personally never design a home unless I can walk the lot with the client first. I also like to see the home that they are currently living in and how they use the space. This holds key pieces of information as we are creatures of habit. If a client tells me that they saw a picture of a fireplace in a Master Bedroom that they liked but they currently don’t have this in their house now. Chances are this feature will never be used so I feel that it is my responsibility to discuss the pros and cons of these type features. I personally do not promote that my clients or even the builders that I work with, ever tell a client to go find an on-line or magazine plan to get started. This is an exercise in futility for a custom home client. This process can consume a tremendous amount of time and leave the client feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. On-line or magazine plan books are designed to appeal to masses of people that want to build a nice house, but not a custom house. As there are many great plans and designers to choose from in this avenue of the home design business, this is not a custom home. These may be used for a client to try to hone their likes and dislikes but don’t bring a magazine plan to a custom designer and ask them to fix it to fit your needs. One, that would be copyright infringement to the plan book designer and two, it would be handcuffing your custom home designer’s creativeness. An analogy that fits is that a person that would like a custom motorcycle is not going to shop at the local Harley Davidson dealership. Though the Harley Davidson dealership has plenty of great bikes, that person is going to find a custom fabrication shop and is going to tell the bike designer exactly what they want and have the bike fit to thier personality.
When a home is custom designed to fit a clients needs you will find that there is very little wasted space, maximizing the the use of the square footage is a huge plus. Next the plan must be designed in a way to maximize the building materials to prevent waste. Your designer will have to have a good knowledge of construction practices to achieve the maximum use of the building materials. This is where I differ on the just reduce the square footage thoery. Say the house comes in a little too big and the builder suggests taking 6″-12″ out of each room to bring the square footage down. This sounds like a great idea but did it save you any money? That all depends on the floor plan dimensions. More than likely this will just result in more cutting and wasting of building material. Remember the home owner is paying for the material so if I told you that you could have a room that was sixteen feet wide or fifteen feet wide for the same amount of material, which would you want?
If you are in the market for a custom built home or if you are living in a home that has rooms that you never use call KDH Residential Designs and we can help you end your frustrations. Maximize your custom home purchase by creating a knowledgable team around your project. Whether you have a builder or need to meet a few builders give us a call. 704-909-2755 to set up a consultation. We are also looking for builders that would like to bring thier building costs down in order to be more competitive in thier markets by working smarter rather than harder.
Green Building in the Charlotte Metro Area
By Kevin Holdridge KDH Residential Designs, LLC
A slow moving movement has begun and in the coming months will become a fast paced necessity. Green building has been getting widely accepted by many builders, not only in Charlotte but throughout the country. There are some production builders right now that are going to be displaying a HERS rating score on every house they build to prove the home’s efficiency. The new 2012 residential building code is going to up the stakes on energy values throughout the home, and yet I am still seeing opposition from some people in the custom home builders market. The problem stems from trying to take any old house plan that is off the shelf or designed inefficiently and trying to retrofit the home to be energy efficient in the field. This seems like a very frustrating way to do things. I am sure that this would increase costs, have plenty of room for error and slow production. The key thing with green building is that you have to treat each house as a system. The system not only includes the framing, insulation, mechanical systems and the foundation but needs to extend to the designer, home owner, and site conditions. I have spoken to several builders that say that green building is a waste of time or it causes more problems than it solves. To that I say, get better educated or build a better team because you are doing something wrong. Building a tight home does cause other factors of the home to be considered. When building an air tight home, if the builder never accounts for proper ventilation, then the home will fill with moisture and begin to mold. If the HVAC system is not properly sized, then it will not run long enough to dehumidify and will cause a moisture problem. If a sealed crawl space is used without proper positive drainage a water problem will occur. All of these problems can be avoided with proper communication and planning starting with a good home design team. If the HVAC contractor doesn’t know that the house is planned for 2×6 studs @ 24″ on centers with R-20 spray foam insulation and a conditioned attic then he will not be able to properly size the unit or the duct work. The reverse of that is if the builder specifies these items to the HVAC contractor and for some reason goes back to conventional framing and R-13 batt insulation, then the unit again will not be properly sized. Then we have technical items that will ruin all of the efforts of building green homes like where and how to provide proper drainage planes, flashings and sealants.
In order to build a truly efficient home, the design and construction documents must be detailed and devised in a way to increase productivity and decrease the amount of resources used in the construction of the home, as well as being an efficient use of space for the way the home owner will live in the home. Assembling a team of professionals that are educated on building science and that will communicate with each other throughout the entire building process is the only way that green building will be cost effective. A proper home design can be made to reduce construction waste by using advanced framing techniques and using proper sheet good dimensions to reduce material cutting. As our industry looks for ways to make green building more affordable, we need to look at changing the ways we do business. It is very inexpensive to have a meeting with the trades to explain what is expected and to educate them on certain aspects of critical installation. It is very expensive and time consuming to ignore this communication which could cause a builder to change out HVAC, plumbing, or lighting equipment if the wrong items were installed or quoted.
At KDH Residential Designs we have a passion for delivering to our client the best possible system that they can have. A green home doesn’t necessarily need expensive gadgets and gizmos. All it needs is to be designed, detailed and built efficiently and tight. Items such as solar panels, geo-thermal heating/cooling systems, spray foam insulation, and recycled building materials obviously factor into building a sustainable home and will continue to become more affordable, but none of these items are needed to build a green home. Call it what you will, a high performance house, a green home, a sustainable home, or whatever catch phase in popular today, the key is to build a team of educated professionals that understand building science. Start with a good home design that is not only tailored to the way the home will be used but tailored to the lot, the climate, the home owner and the overall energy efficiency goals.
Green is not always something that a consumer can buy. It’s a lifestyle change. If you can’t afford a 20% water reducing shower head then simply cut four minutes off of your twenty minute shower. If you do buy the water reducing shower head then snow ball the effect by reducing your shower time anyway. If you have solar panels on your house that save you three hundred dollars a year on your energy bill, don’t brag to me when buy an Energy Star refrigerator and put the old non rated refrigerator in your garage that costs you four hundred dollars a year to run in a hot unconditioned space. The high performance home is a system and should be properly planned, executed and maintained. The system should include the residential designer, the builder, all of the trades, the mechanical equipment, plumbing fixtures, electrical components, and most of all the home owner. If the home owner doesn’t know how to properly maintain or operate the components of the home or if it the system is overly complicated, the system will break down and not be used to it’s maximum capacity. It would be like wondering why your car is broken down only to find out that the dealer should have told you that you should change your oil periodically. A true high efficiency home should come with an owner’s manual. If you don’t have one then you are probably not living in a high efficiency home.
Feel free to contact KDH Residential Designs and ask for Kevin Holdridge. He will be able to help you unlock your imagination and help you assemble your team to build your next dream home or to remodel your existing home to make it fit your lifestyle and save on energy in the process.
We started with a blank canvas. A vacant lot with some slight topography. Working the current slight right to left fall of the property KDH Residential Designs designed this custom home to maximize the allotted space. Kevin Holdridge designed this home with the garage on the low side of the lot to allow for the ability to work out a split level design on the left side of the property. The design allows for the garage to be located between the first floor and the basement. This home has a home office and recreation room over the garage which is a half of a flight of stairs above the standard first floor elevation. The almost finished front elevation, pictured here, ties this design feature in seamlessly. We were able to get a daylight basement to the rear of the property by using this split level design without a tremendous amount of fall from front to back on this particular lot. The elevated front porch gives the house great presence from the street and from the garage level we are a half of a flight of stairs in from the first floor or the basement. The traffic flow of the floor is wonderfully unique in that from the home office, the owner is on an intermediate level five feet above the first floor and five feet below the second floor. This home office design allows for quiet and privacy during working hours with the flexibility of being near the family in a moments notice.
KDH Residential Designs is always looking for it’s next challenge whether it’s a new home design or a remodel to an existing home. Let us help you Unlock Your Imagination. www.kdhresidentialdesigns.com
Ask us about how to design green features into your home without breaking the bank.
Question Small but Funtional Laundry Room
We have made a move to DOWNSIZE our life. And one of the hardest to do was my laundry room. We are a busy, stinky, dirty family of Five that has tons of laundry n a daily bases. So when we moved in to our new home and the laundry room was pint size I have to make some alterations!
First Thing we did was to take down the useless above laundry cabinets. Then we painted it all nice and pretty. They we added a shelf where we could put baskets to sort each family members small items. We made sure the shelf could also accommodate hangers. So now all laundry that comes out of the dryer is either hung up and sorted on the hanging part of the shelf or it is sorted in the baskets. Each day (in an ideal world) my family gets “their” folded and hung clean cloths and takes them to their room. Also I got a “over the door” shoe organizer that I sort each persons socks! If you have any organizing ideas I would love to hear them.
It sounds like you have already done a lot of the right things. At KDH Residential Designs we have been helping people downsize from a larger home to a smaller more sustainable home recently. When we can design for this from scratch we can design to take advantage of every inch of space. We also get involved with remodeling projects and quite often see your exact situation. Staying organized in a confined space is key. The use of the short hanging and basket storage that you have could possibly be more efficient if you were able to run a wooden shelf and rod a little higher than your existing shelf and left a center section for full taller hanging and built simple open faced cubbies on either side. The shelf can be near the ceiling because we aren’t trying to access anything on top of it. The cubbies would be down lower and more accessible than the baskets you have now. I don’t know the layout of your home but I know that quite often a laundry closet is near an attic or second floor stair. Locating this small area under a stair is useful for easy storage with minimal remodeling. With front load washers a counter top can be installed above the machines and provide you a much needed workspace or folding space also. Our company tag line when designing custom homes and remodels is “Unlock Your Imagination” and sometimes that relates to how you make your existing space work for you. Good Luck, I hope some of this helps. Kevin Holdridge - KDH Residential Designs.
If you have any similar questions that you need answered about how to better utilize space please feel free to drop us a line and we will try to help in any way we can.
The launch of our Evolved Home Plan prototype at the Southern Ideal Home Show was a huge success. We won the People’s Choice Award and the live model home was toured and admired by thousands of attendees. Furthering the momentum of the Home Show prototype, in October we are launching the second home design in this collection, Evolved Home Plan 2000. Follow this link to veiw all of the homes in the Evolved Home Collection
The Evolved Home Collection brings to life the passion Cobalt DBS has to provide affordable, sustainable housing that never compromises on style. Our designer, Kevin Holdridge at KDH Residential Home Designs
brings a unique vision to the partnership.
KDH Residential Designs and builder Cobalt DBS have team together to create a series of homes that are sustainable, green certified ready and affordable. If you or any of your clients are looking for land or currently own land and are looking to build an energy efficient green home, please check out these sustainable house plans from 1,000 sf to 2,500 sf. These plans are perfect for small infill lots. The feedback that we have received from the Southern Ideal Home Show proved that we reached a large demographic from empty nesters to first time home buyers. These are high performing homes with a tremendous amount of green features designed into the plans and specifications. Designing the home to use less material and have less waste is important but working with a builder to pull everything together is key. Cobalt DBS has teamed up with our firm to come up with a specification level that addresses water efficiency, indoor air quality, high performance windows, high perforamnce HVAC and insulation systems and the use of low maintenance veneers while staying on a very strict budget.
As a mainly custom home design firm, we can also offer any of these green design features to our custom clients that have specific needs. Please feel free to contact KDH Residential Designs at 704.909.2755 or Cobalt DBS at 704.365.3038 if you have any specific needs, comments or questions.
In these times of slow to no development in the real estate market I have seen many of my Realtor contacts lose their positions or go into other forms of work. As one to Charlotte’s premiere design firms we are all about team building and offering specials to like minded individuals. We have been running specials and referral fees with our builder clients that are members of the local HBA to build our business network. The one area that our company would like to focus on now is the Realtor market. Recently, I spoke to a few agents and asked them how I could help them sell lots in their subdivision. What we came up with was to design “phantom spec homes”. They would give me their “trouble” lots that seemed to be less attractive to their prospective clients due to questions about how to use the site properly. I would design homes to fit these lots to show the clients what type of home could be build on the lot. Advertising the property with a vision of what could be built on the particular site helped the prospective clients to visulalize what their home could look like or how the current topography could be used. This has also worked for clients that need to fix up their homes or make small additions to make their property more desirable for re-sale. We will also create a quick sketch for a prospective client that is preparing to buy a current home but would like to make slight alterations after the purchase. When our Realtor associate hears that a certain client would buy the home if it had a screened porch or if the master bedroom was a little bigger, we can quickly go to the home and draw up what this addition could look like. From the design sketch the prospective buyer can figure into their budget the cost of said renovation and make an educated offer based on their findings. This is generally done by our associte taking a picture of the home and giving us a couple key dimensions. We offer this as a team building exercise right now at no cost to our Realtor associates. The effort is to build better business relationships and help boost new and old home sales. If you are interested about being part of the team please visit http://www.kdhdesign.com/ for our contact information and portfolio of work. Thank you and I look forward to meeting and building lasting relationships with some of our forward thinking associates. Also, I would love to hear if anyone has any other ideas about how our design firm could help you boost sales.