Renovate your Lifestyle, Not Just your Home

We all know that people renovate their homes for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes they have purchased a home, and while they like the neighborhood or the location, the home may not meet their own personal design tastes.  You know...floral wallpaper, pink walls, teal carpet, bleached oak – you get the idea.  Maybe the rooms of the home are too small, or too “chopped up” leaving homeowners desperate to create open spaces.  Often the house is simply outdated and requires some new life breathed into it, with more contemporary style.  Or perhaps the home is simply not large enough to meet the needs of a growing family who doesn’t want to move to a newer neighborhood.  The reasons are endless.  

How have our family’s lifestyle needs changed, and how are they going to change or evolve in the future?

Whatever the ultimate goals are in terms of the physical space, home or structure, there is a common theme.  That is, the need – or reasons to renovate are seldom driven by the homeowner simply wanting to improve the home’s looks.  Instead, they are usually motivated by lifestyle needs and desires.  In other words, while all homeowners want a more attractive home at the end of their renovation project, what they are really seeking are things that are more emotionally or psychologically anchored.  Things like private spaces for finding solitude; a warm, welcoming feel for entertaining and connecting with friends and family; a more stylish or prestigious home that gives the homeowner a greater sense of pride; a soothing, comfortable environment that lets the stresses of the day disappear after a hard day; more functional and less crowded living spaces that bring order to the daily routine; an area of the home that the kids can call their own; and the list goes on.  

There is a significant distinction here, and it is important to recognize it at the outset of the design phase of your project.  Any successful renovation or custom home project relies heavily on identifying what lifestyle needs and desires are behind the homeowners’ wishes for each particular space in the house.   Most successful projects will satisfy or address several of these needs, such as those listed above.   An important question to ask yourself is, “How have our family’s lifestyle needs changed, and how are they going to change or evolve in the future?”  Then, and only then, should the design process move onto the physical attributes of the space.  

Unfortunately, this first step in identifying and contemplating lifestyle goals is often ignored or skipped by many homeowners and their contractors.  In these cases, people move directly towards designing the spaces themselves.  This often results in renovation projects that, while they may achieve the aesthetic goals of the homeowner, miss the opportunity to improve the lives of those residing there, and fail to adequately anticipate the changing needs of the family.  Essentially, these homeowners didn’t take full advantage of the opportunity before them, nor did they maximize on their investment.       

So how do you enhance your lifestyle by improving your home?  How do you ensure your lifestyle needs are addressed with your renovation or construction project?  Here are some tips:

Ask yourself the following questions:

Why are we renovating or building in the first place?
What kind of family are we? (Sports, hobbies, pastimes)?
How do we like to live?  (entertaining habits, work habits, need for quite or private time, etc.)
What irritates me about my current home?  How could that be improved?
What do I like about my current home?
Are there any congested areas of our existing home?  Where are they?
What do I want my home to “say” about me and my family?

Another thing to remember is that while budget is always an important consideration, try to avoid letting it become your major criteria.  Many a project with the potential to greatly improve the lives of the homeowners fell just short because the budget created “tunnel vision”, and fell short of accomplishing the real needs. 

The best way of ensuring your contractor is committed to meeting your lifestyle needs is to make sure you speak to more than one, so you can get a feel for some important things.  After meeting with the candidates, ask yourself these questions:

“Who asked the most questions about my lifestyle – not just my house?” 
“Who seemed most genuinely interested in me and my family as opposed to just our project?”
“Who questioned, “Why” we want to do certain things?”
“Who offered objective feedback and input as opposed to just agreeing with our ideas?”
“Who would I feel most comfortable having a daily relationship with for the next 6 months?”

Some contractors understand the importance of their clients’ lifestyles on their business, and treat it as a governing principle.  Sadly, many more don’t, leaving the task of wading through the process of design primarily up to the inexperienced homeowner who may not be aware of the intricacies and complexities of the design process.  

One of the best things you can do is to hire a contractor that has a certified Interior Designer on staff.  Interior Designers are trained specifically in these areas, and a good designer will always address lifestyle needs in conjunction with the physical components of the home or space.  If your contractor doesn’t have an Interior Designer on staff, and if your budget allows for it, do yourself a favour and hire a third party Interior Designer.  This might mean the design phase takes a little longer, and construction starts a little later, but by investing the extra time up front, not only will your project run more smoothly, but it will also greatly increase the likelihood that you achieve the most important goal of all – the goal of improving your lifestyle by improving your home.  

About The Author:

Pat Bezenar is President of LivingScape Homes & Renovations Inc. in Calgary
He can be reached at pat@livingscape.ca