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FUNCTIONAL & FLEXIBLE DESIGN HELPS DELIVER HOMES THAT FEEL ‘JUST RIGHT’


Over the past two years, homeowners have changed how they live and use their homes. With kids remote learning and parents working from home, there has been an increased demand for multifunctional spaces. In response, builders are increasingly having to think about functional and flexible design that feels just right for homeowners. During the education session “Deliver the Goldilocks Experience: Right-Sizing & Design Strategies to Make Homes Feel ‘Just Right’” at the 2022 International Builders' Show, Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki of tsk ink, Allison Paul of Lessard Design, and Ryan White of Dahlin Group Architecture Planning discussed how design can be reimagined to deliver spaces that work in multiple ways for homeowners.

“Unique solutions don’t always have to come from thinking outside the box,” White said during the session. “How can we do a better job of filling the box? People are working from home, [kids are in] school from home, we’re at home more, and these homes just can’t continue to get bigger.”

Paul emphasized that the design process should consider the fluidity and flexibility of spaces within the home to ensure that, over time, they can be used for every function needed by the homeowner. Homes are now offices, gyms, playrooms, and classrooms, meaning the design can be creative to help spaces serve multiple functions at different points in a home's lifespan.

“Just making a space 5 feet bigger because you have an extra 5 feet isn’t always the answer,” Paul said. “You can recapture the space and use it for something else. We’re not always making spaces big and open now, but we’re not necessarily going back to compartmentalizing [spaces], but compartmentalizing in the right strategic way and preparing spaces to close back down, because you don’t want three Zoom rooms that are open right next to each other.”

Slavik-Tsuyuki discussed the idea of multipurpose designing as opposed to a rigid set of functions and the importance of thinking about a prospective buyer in the design process.

“I always ask myself, 'think about who will come here when, seeking what experience,'” she said in relation to different sections of the home. “Think about the kitchen island. At some point in the day, the kids are there doing homework, you’re eating as a family, your children are preparing their own breakfast, and when the kids have gone to bed, it’s where you have a glass of wine with your spouse. How do [the multiple uses] affect lighting, the height of seating areas, and so on?”

The panelists said considering a different point of view is helpful in the design process, as well as understanding that bigger spaces are not always better. A floor plan that can be segmented to provide a remote working space, an area for an exercise bike, and a reading nook is more valuable to a homeowner than one large space.

“We tend to think we’ve got this square footage and this size lot, how do we make all this work within the floor plan?” Slavik-Tsuyuki said. “But if you step away from the product you’re creating and think of the people you’re creating it for, it opens your head to think about things differently.”

One area that provides flexible use for homeowners is the garage. While it can solely serve as storage and a place to park the car, the panelists discussed how creative design can give the garage a new purpose as a school classroom for children, a play area, a home office, a pet grooming area, or even a combination of multiple functions. According to the recently conducted American Home Study, of homeowners who made changes to how they used the garage during the pandemic, 80% said they want to make those changes permanent.