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When a home isn’t working any more, it triggers a series of decisions: to keep our not to keep;
to expand; to add storage; to remodel; or to update. By Ann Zimmerman

Homes are almost everyone’s largest investment, but they are much more than that. A home is also the background to our experiences and memories, and they are the physical basis for life’s daily patterns. When the realization comes that a home doesn’t meet our needs, fit with our sense of aesthetics, or isn’t as energy-efficient as is appropriate for today, it launches a series of decisions. Fortunately, local architects and designers have experience, training, and even checklists to walk homeowners through these choices.

First Step
“When people come to me for a possible remodel, I realize that they are really asking me to manage their decision of whether to remodel or to build a new home. It is important for me to stay flexible and to help develop a plan of attack,” explains Jeff Williams, A.I.A., Williams Partners Architects in Ketchum. “At the initial meeting, I ask the clients what about the current space works for them and what they like about the current home. I then develop an understanding of where they are in the progression of their family life; I have learned from my own family that space needs change dramatically as children age. Older children need more privacy, want their own bathrooms and require different recreation space. Also, lifestyle has changed from the past, and most families enjoy a large great room. There are many ways of asking this, but a key question is what is the home that they really want? If the core of the home is suitable, it a positive indicator that a remodel will deliver the house they want. But if the core area is not adequate, another home may better suit their needs.”

The other aspect of this decision is to conduct an unbiased assessment of the home. “If preliminary conversations indicate a remodel is the way to go, a proper survey is needed before any design to proceed,” notes architect Michael Blash, of Michael Blash and Associates, Sun Valley. “I would recommend that the architect assemble with the builder, a structural engineer, and the electrical and mechanical subs for a through walk-through, forensic examination, and documentation of the existing building. Special attention should be given to what can be recycled or reused. This can be stored and inventoried at a later date.”

With the new Blaine County and city energy standards, a remodel must perform better, and Jeff Williams recommends a blower test early on, so the homeowner and team has all the facts. This means, too, that conservation performance becomes an objective for remodels.

Just Better?
There are times when not bigger but better is the answer. If the space is adequate in size, it still may not be what the homeowner wants, so an update is in order. Jeff Williams recounts a similar situation for a client with a rustic log- accented home. “The client loved the spaces, but the interior needed a lot of work.” In this case, Williams and the client worked with Rob McGowan of Architectural Resources to develop a “modern meets rustic” kitchen. The result is a spacious uncluttered kitchen with horizontal view planes to the ample uncovered windows, more counter space than a crazed caterer could clutter, the shimmer of metal and polished stones, and simple clean lines juxtaposed against the natural idiosyncrasies of the logs.

Where to start on an update is a key question, whether for homeowners trying it alone or working with a designer. It used to be an axiom to start selections for an interior based on a piece of art, so we posed the question of why to L’Anne Gilman, owner of Gilman Contemporary in Ketchum. Why do so many people start with a new piece of art? “It is timeless advice that still holds. When someone finds a piece of art that really pleases, there is something in the piece that resonates very deeply. By pulling out the colors for the home and paying attention to the scale and movement in the piece, the home’s interior should please them as much as the painting, and they have the painting as a focal point to draw attention and set the tone.” There are instances where as homeowners we want to improve it so it will sell in a competitive market. Janet Krogh and Connie Hagestad of The Design Studio say they address this question often. “When clients want suggestions for increasing the value of their home, we recommend focusing on remodeling key areas such as the kitchen or the bathrooms. Reconfiguring

the design of these spaces, as well as using new products for hard surfaces and updated color palettes can increase the value and marketability of their home.”

Opportunity to Go Greener
James Bourret of James Bourret Architecture Design Studio in Ketchum, sums up the importance of improving a home’s performance with a remodel. “Beyond the question of style, the issue of how a house performs becomes much more important. In the current and future worlds of restricted energy supply and heightened carbon- emission consciousness, building performance has become even more important. A mountain environment magnifies these concerns,” he says. Bourret also finds that in considering a design approach that will result in a well performing building, modern is a good choice. “In a nutshell, modern design is intelligent and thoughtful. What better way to approach the challenges of building in a harsh climate in a time of material and energy scarcity.”

Michael Blash sees the availability of new green products as an asset for those who want to remodel. “The sourcebook of new cost-effective green products and materials is expanding daily. The good news is that the time and research for sourcing materials has been greatly reduced with the enormity of the products and services now represented on the Internet.”

Plan to Keep Planning
Michael Blash wraps up the discussion of decisions and choices for remodeling. “The most important lesson in remodeling is there is no substitute for thorough planning and evaluation. I would encourage all to take that extra time prior to construction to map out a schedule of construction and the cost of each phase, and analyze and reevaluate with the builder to eliminate as much of the unforeseen as possible prior to construction.” Blash continues, “In short, remodels are always challenging. This is due to demolition, restructuring, and cutting and fitting the materials into place, not to mention unforeseen infrastructure problems discovered during the demolition process.”

Wherever the remodeling decision path may lead, with professional assistance the possibilities are endless, but our experts say to plan on plenty of planning. In future issues, Western Home Journal will return to and expand on the subject of remodeling with assistance from experts. The heart of conservation is reuse, and remodeling revitalizes homes for continued enjoyment.

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