By AWA+D Member,  Kate Svoboda-Spanbock

Embarking on a design and construction project is a large and complex task. Here are some tips to help ensure your project is successful.

1. Identify the problems to be addressed before you try to find solutions to them. Don’t just try to duplicate what you have seen somewhere else. Take seriously the life you are really living. Think carefully about which issues have the greatest effect on your quality of life now, and prioritize them. Keep that list foremost in your mind, because you will forget what you are trying to do once you start looking at all of those pretty magazines.
2. Plan ahead and take the long view, and don’t limit yourself to thinking about what you already have. It will occasionally be the best solution to just leave everything the way it is, poke a hole in one wall and add on a single room, but, not often. This is especially an issue for people who have done some work already and realized during the course of the project that they have a much larger problem to address. Go back to Item #1, and ask yourself what problems you are trying to solve? An experienced second pair of eyes can be quite helpful here.

3. Don’t necessarily wait to build. Many people wait to remodel until their children are halfway to college or they are about to sell the house. Do what makes the house livable for yourselves now, but, design spaces that are flexible. Things change – wet bars, hot tubs, indoor barbecues…? Transitioning from having small children to having teenagers to an empty nest? Life goes on, and things happen fast. Do the big things while you can, because they will have the greatest effect.







Ventura Kitchen – BEFORE: This young family had a kitchen that was dark, inefficient and cut off visually from the rest of the house, making it difficult to cook and mind children simultaneously. It was also the only room with direct access to the much-used garage, but, the path cut diagonally across the kitchen.













             (photo by Skye Moorhead)
Ventura Kitchen AFTER: With no changes to the window locations, the kitchen was made significantly brighter by opening it to the living room, installing new lighting and revising the color scheme.


(photo by Skye Moorhead)

Ventura Kitchen AFTER: The family decided that they would splurge on two items: quartz countertops (for durability and ease of cleaning) and a professional style range.
4. Avoid being dazzled by fancy finishes. Yes, finishes are beautiful and, when you look at a magazine, they can be the first thing that you see. The truth is, however, that nobody’s life was ever made significantly better by a fancy backsplash. What does make your life better is having a space that is warm and beautiful, filled with light and easy to maintain, where you can be with the people you love and get your work done. You can always put the backsplash in later.

5. Spend money where it has the greatest impact. Spend your money on systems and items that function well – particularly those that require maintenance or have moving parts. Save money on finishes and things that are easy to change later.




















(photo by Skye Moorhead)

Avoid being dazzled by finishes. Spend money where it has the greatest impact.
North Valley Kitchen: Quartz counter-tops, yes, but plastic laminate cabinets and an under-mount sink.

6. Prioritize natural light. It is relatively easy to provide yourself with natural light, view, and fresh air while you are building. It is much harder to fix later on. A window that sticks, or that you cannot paint, is a burden forever. Spend your money on the good stuff.

















(photo by HERE Design and Architecture)
Prioritize natural light.  Ojai House

  1. Prioritize circulation. The way that you move through the house has a daily effect on your quality of life. Inefficient circulation wastes your time and makes people want to leave things where they do not belong, causing extra stress. Plus, you will be paying to construct all of those paths (hallways or otherwise) that aren’t usable space.























(photo by Skye Moorhead)

Prioritize circulation. Ojai House

8. Prioritize storage. Good storage has 4 characteristics. It should always:

•  Protect your things from damage
•  Be located as close as is practical to where those things are going to be used
•  Allow you to see your things so that you can find them with minimal activity
•  Allow you to put things away with minimal activity.



















(photo by HERE Design and Architecture)
Prioritize storage.  Eucalyptus Hill

9. Start with a clear vision. A successful project is one where you spend an appropriate amount of money to get the greatest possible benefit to your quality of life, understanding that people are complex, that things change, and that physical things require maintenance. Someone needs to keep in mind what are the problems to be solved and figure out some really effective ways to solve them. If you are not a person who can do all of those things, then hire a trained and experienced design professional who can.















(photo by HERE Design and Architecture)
Start with a clear vision. Eucalyptus Hill