considering a renovation

Wishes, Wants & Needs

Considering a remodeling project? Are you just a bit overwhelmed by options? Don’t worry, this is a typical reaction to remodeling. You are so familiar with your home the way it is, it’s sometimes hard to visualize it differently. It’s also difficult to decide how to make your home a better place to live. Granted, a good architect or designer can help immensely. But the best place to start defining your wishes, wants and needs is to break it all down, then write it down. The more you can convey to your contractor about your design desires, the more successful your remodeling project will be.

Step One: Be Critical

Sure, you know what’s wrong with your home … but have you ever written it down? If you are considering remodeling your kitchen, spend a little time in there as an objective observer. Watch a family member making dinner. Ask your friends and family to tell you what works and what doesn’t in the kitchen as it is now.

Divide a sheet of paper in half and write down all the good things you like about your kitchen, from the window view to the gas range. Take your time. Make the list as complete as possible. Don’t eliminate any item or feature you like from the list just because it seems small or insignificant. It will all matter when it comes time to budget and plan your remodeling project.

Then start the second column on your paper — the things you don’t like about your kitchen. This side is usually easier to complete (or you wouldn’t want to remodel so badly). But even though it seems easy, take your time to add every little item you dislike, from the avocado green refrigerator to the ancient vinyl flooring that bubbles up when you walk. It all matters.

Don’t forget to ask your family and friends for their comments as well, from the tiniest child to the oldest adult. The items and features you have on this list will have a large impact on the final design.

When you are working on this assignment, don’t forget to think about things like storage and traffic flow. It may not be a singular item that is the biggest problem. It may be the simple fact that you keep bumping into your spouse every time the two of you try to cook. What about the fact that you have no where to put dirty dishes while you cook and have to keep moving the dirty ones from place to place just to put a meal on the table? Think about every inconvenience related to the kitchen (or surrounding rooms) and add them to the list.

This exercise is the true test of your design.

Step Two: Make a Wish, Declare a Want, Establish a Need

The next step in defining your project is to figure out what you wish you could have, what you want to have and what you need to have in your new kitchen. This means a foray into your imagination and those interior decorating magazines you’ve been hoarding for years. Go ahead and forget about practicality for a minute. Put aside your critical list from above and let your mind wander. You are now ready for the next exercise.

On a blank sheet of paper, create three columns marked “need,” “want” and “wish.”

In the “need” column list everything you absolutely must have in your new kitchen. This would include such things as an energy efficient refrigerator, double sinks, a gas range, etc. Be as specific as possible when you make your list. If you are a gourmet cook and adamant about having a specific type of gas range, be sure to list the brand name and model you need. This is the time to be as clear and as complete about your needs as possible. Don’t leave anything out. If you need a recycling area in your kitchen, define what kind of recycling storage you must have.

Once you have listed your needs, move to the “want” column. This list should include everything you would really love to include in your kitchen but could live without if price or space becomes an issue. This could include things like two sinks, a warming drawer, custom cabinetry … anything that would be great to have but wouldn’t kill you if it had to go.

Now you can pull out all the stops and move to the “wish” list. This is where there are no holds barred. You can add anything you have ever wished for in your dream kitchen. It can include a fireplace, a built-in grill, shelves for your cookbook collection … anything that seems too good to be true. Be as fanciful as you wish. This is your dream kitchen … and the good news is, dreaming can’t raise your budget.

Why did you do this? Well, first it helps define your desires. It also gives your designer a great place to start. He or she will know exactly where you stand. It also helps him/her create the best kitchen for you. It may turn out that some of your “wish” items can actually be included without breaking the bank.

Combine this exercise with the first one and your contractor may be able to meet some of your wishes, wants and needs by salvaging some good features already in your current kitchen. The two lists will help define your needs even better for your designer.

Step Three: How Do You Live?

Step three is the final step toward the best kitchen (or any other room in your home) you can design. This exercise will help define how you and your family actually use the room in question. There are so many options and choices available in the home market these days it is easy to be swayed by the pretty pictures and fancy displays. This exercise will lend a little reality to your previous lists. Sure, you may have listed a top-of-the-line gas range to your “needs” list, but if you have trouble boiling water, that may not be reality speaking.

At this point, you must start looking at things more practically. Start by making a list of everything you will be doing in the room. If your children tend to do their homework at the kitchen table while you are making dinner, add that to the list. You will want to make sure to include a spot for that activity in the new room. You may even want to include a storage area for school books and backpacks.

Ask everyone in the family to list everything they do in the kitchen. This can be everything from paying bills to stealing a few cookies or sodas after school. Be sure to include everyone in the family. If you have a baby, be sure to list the ways you use the kitchen with the baby. The point here is to make sure the new design is functional for everyone. If you have an elderly parent or grandparent living in the home, you may want to consider adding a lower counter so he or she can sit while helping prepare meals.

The only way to determine whether a design really works is to test it against the lifestyle of those who use it. Think about your family. If your clan goes through sodas so fast you can hardly keep up, you may want to consider a second, smaller refrigerator just for the cans with a recycling bin close by.

Step Four: Putting It All Together

The last step is easy. It’s just handing over your exercises to your designer for interpretation. He or she will be able to take your critique, your wishes, wants and needs list and your lifestyle analysis and turn it into the perfect kitchen for your family.

There are so many options during a remodeling project it is easy to forget your objectives — a fully functional kitchen that pleases the eye.

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