Home renovation

What constraint? Here’s how renovating your home can be like therapy, according to an architect

There’s no doubt that renovating a home can be a stressful undertaking. Whether you decide to build an extension, install a new kitchen or simply choose a new shade of paint, the process can sometimes leave you overwhelmed and overwhelmed if you are not used to taking on these projects.

Making the decision for a renovation project, especially when you’re spending a lot of money on an extension idea and working with an architect or interior designer, can definitely be one of the most trying parts. for the nerves. But does it have to be?

According to architect Duncan McLeod, it can (and should) feel like therapy. We spoke to Duncan of Studio McLeod about his unique process for getting the most out of a client’s brief and why you should put your own happiness at the heart of any home improvement project. Here is his advice.

1. Take a different approach to wellness

a bench in a modern space

(Image credit: Anna Stathaki)

Wellness has become a buzzword in architecture and interiors, and everything from biophilic design ideas to ways to keep your home healthy is now a priority for many renovators. Studio McLeod, however, takes a different approach. “The way we approach wellness with our customers is not to try to impose the next thing on them, whether it’s ‘play’, or a color, or just introduce the nature,” he explains.

Instead of applying these generic feel-good principles to every design, Duncan believes the key to a happy home is more in the people who will be living there.

“The starting point for me is not necessarily to ask customers what they think will make them happy,” he says. “They might reply that they want a kitchen facing the garden because they dream of making cakes and the children come in and out to help. But in reality, if this only happens five times in the lifetime of a house, this is not a useful approach.

“Instead, we ask our customers to tell us what actually makes them happy. Tell us about the times in your life when you felt happiest, the challenges you went through and gave you a real sense of accomplishment at the end. This is where we can try to understand what works for you and what doesn’t.

“I think people should start with themselves and try to better understand what makes them happy. This is the real foundation of your project,” he says.

2. Ask the right questions and answer them

an interior door with an arched window

(Image credit: Mary Wadsworth)

In any type of interview, sometimes the questions you think you should ask or should answer are not always the right ones.

“We start by asking very specific questions. What do you like about your existing home? It’s a simple question, and they’ll write lists. “I love it when the kids huddle on the couch and we’re watching a movie on a Saturday afternoon,” and suddenly they get really excited because they’re talking about things they know well.

“We try not to tell customers what they need, until we really understand what makes them happy,” says Duncan.

While most of us aren’t immune to following interior design trends, there’s always a designer out there who doesn’t use a one-size-fits-all approach to your space.

“Yes, most of our clients like the light and the space, but we had one client who we did the same process with, and they wanted as few windows as possible – to make it look like something out of a horror movie Argento,” Duncan said. “It’s an extreme example of how people don’t always fit into the same cookie cutter. You have to let people have very personal opinions and experiences about their homes.

“By asking questions in this way, we can really dig. For our practice, it became known as architectural therapy, mainly because after a few projects, clients described the process as therapy.

3. Break the rules (if you must)

a contemporary living room with a marble coffee table

(Image credit: Anna Stathaki)

But what about the practical and functional elements of a design? “With this process, we get insight into what the customer wants. That file then evolves and changes, but it still has that framework of what the client wants their life to be,” says Duncan.

In the battle of the heart against the head, sometimes the head has to win too. Studio McLeod can take this very personal approach, but it also includes hands-on audits. If a client currently lives alone, will the space work if someone else were to move in or have guests. A homeowner might say they also want to keep resale in mind, another practical concern that needs to be part of the overall design.

“We avoid those architectural manifestos that say things like ‘the kitchen should always face the garden’ and the like,” Duncan continues. “It’s someone’s idea of ​​the perfect home, but it’s not necessarily that person’s idea.”

It’s easy to introduce your own limiting factors into the design process of your space. “They might say they want the kitchen here and the bathroom there because of the plumbing,” he says. “Plumbing comes up a lot, but you don’t want to start a design based on where your stack is, of all things.”

4. Measure results

a curly armchair in a pink bedroom

(Image credit: Suzy Hoodless)

In Duncan’s opinion, someone looking to design a home with just the basic ingredients of space composition will have a low success rate. “It actually misses the main goal of wellness,” he says. “It’s to heal people. And the way to make people good is to try to figure out what’s wrong and how to improve it.

“What’s great is that at the end of the project, we can come back to them and ask them how their house is doing. We can literally check off the parts of the brief we have created. Do you read more? Do you do your yoga in the bedroom without hitting your leg on the bed like you did before? It is measurable at the end.

Of course, not all architects work this way. Still, it’s something as a potential renovator you can take into your approach to renovating your home. Centering your happiness in your designs for a new space before looking at practical considerations is a great starting point for designing a happy home.