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"Not So Big" Remodeling Tips


We’re delighted to have architect and author Sarah Susanka as a guest of Marvin Windows and Doors at this year’s Remodeling Show. Here are some tips from Sarah’s latest book, “Not So Big Remodeling,” written with Marc Vassallo.

1. Set Priorities. When beginning a remodel, consider the three values of quality, quantity and cost. Determine which two are the most important. Because remodeling is an inexact science, one of these variables must be allowed to “float” in order to make a remodel possible.

2. Examine the Space. Begin exploring remodeling options by first looking at what can be done within the existing footprint of the house. By thinking creatively about the available space, you may discover that no additional space needs to be added on.

3. Think in Terms of Activity Areas. Don’t think about remodeling in terms of rooms. Instead, create a list of activities that need to be accommodated — recognizing that a place for the activity is needed, but not necessarily an entire room.

4. Start With the Simplest Strategy. Begin by exporing the simplest solution — working within the existing footprint — and only move to more complicated solutions, such as a bump-out or a small addition, after determining that the simpler solution won’t work. This is the most important tool for discovering a Not So Big solution.

5. Study Storage. Evaluate the home’s existing storage areas. Many homes have too little storage in places where it is most needed, and too much in places where it is only marginally useful. A little well-designed storage in the right place can replace a lot of poorly designed storage, opening up floor space.

6. Bump Out a Little. Bumping out a section of wall by just a few feet can add some much needed square footage just where it is useful. A bump out that creates an alcove or a small extension running the width of a room will keep costs down while maintaining the scale and proportion of the existing house.

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7. Add On With Grace. If none of the above strategies meets the remodeling needs, and budget allows, a small addition may be the best option. A well-proportioned addition can greatly enhance the value of a house, while a poorly proportioned addition can actually reduce a home’s value.

8. Let the Roof Be the Guide. To ensure that a bump out or addition will look good on a house, let the existing roof inform the design solution. The roof shape will make some options easy and others nearly impossible without looking like a mistake.

9. Work With Windows. Few things can have as much impact on the character of a room as the shapes, patterning and positioning of the windows. In any remodeling decision, an interesting composition of windows can add personailty to both the inside and outside of the house.

10. Include the Exterior. Few remodeling strategies can affect the long term value of a home more than an external face lift. These can be accomplished inexpensively when done with a Not So Big focus on quality rather than quantity.