Design with character

I have always loved the arts of home design: architecture, landscaping, interior structures, and interior design. When I was a kid, my mom subscribed to home decorating and remodeling magazines; I’d pore over them eagerly, dreaming of the spaces I’d one day create.

Even though I’ve never owned any property, and thus haven’t had the opportunity to really make a design mark anywhere I’ve lived, my enthusiasm for design hasn’t waned. These days I watch home buying shows and home makeover shows whenever I’m staying somewhere with cable (this kind of programming is oddly limited on Netflix and Hulu). I also greatly enjoy going on tours of homes, be they national landmarks or simply local houses with plenty of history and character. Ultimately, that’s what I’m interested in: how long the home has been around, who has lived there, what architectural and design features it started with and what got added along the way.

My personal design philosophy is that the history, the things that make a home unique, should be preserved when a home is renovated. I prefer remodels that maintain structures and features from the home’s original look, or from somewhere along the timeline of the home’s life. With new builds, there’s no need to try to interject fake vintage style; you can go ahead and use modern building and design techniques such as open floorplans, clean lines, and light colors. But if you’ve got an older home, why strip away everything it’s been for the years and years it’s existed to try to fit into a cookie cutter modern mold?

One example keeps coming back to me over the years. It was a bathroom remodel on some TV show I watched with my mom. The focal point of the room was a huge blue bathtub, completely walled off by a blocky structure covered in meticulously-applied blue tile. The owners admitted to a love/hate relationship with the bathtub; they loved the character, but felt the dark blue color and blocky style overwhelmed the room. The rest of the room was tiled as well, adding to the busy feel.

Ultimately the designer ripped that tub out and replaced it with a modern beige one, luxurious of course, with a clean, updated look. It was the most disappointing remodel I’d ever seen. The room went from fascinating to just like every other modern bathroom.

I agree that the room felt small due to all the dark blue, but surely that issue could have been mitigated in some way other than destroying the main reason the room was interesting. Lighten the walls. Increase the size of or add windows. Something. I could even see removing the old tub and replacing it with a nice garden Jacuzzi, so long as the blue tile structure remained.

I think the homeowners were pleased at first, but I bet nowadays the utter blandness of that bathroom gets to them, at least a little.

One thing I’m not sure designers think about when they do “modern remodels” is the fact that all they’re really doing is giving the home a later date than its original design. In a decade, or perhaps even less, the things that seemed so cutting-edge and fresh will look like throwbacks. Just enough out of style that the home starts to feel dated.

And then another renovation starts to seem necessary. Perhaps designers are aware of what they’re doing.

Someday, I would love to own property with character. I’d strive to keep the home’s character in its design. I’d make it usable and livable for modern needs and desires, but not at the cost of what made the home attractive in the first place. And I’d look into the history of the place and maintain records for it. It would be my way of preserving a little corner of history.

Okay, how about this?

I’ve lived with Apartment Arrangement Option 5 for two weeks now…and I’ve decided I hate it.

My goal was to create comfortable home bases for me and Sean while expanding seating areas for visitors. What ended up happening was Sean would sit on my couch to play video games or watch DVDs. If you remember, I moved his area to be against the wall. That ended up being fine for using his laptops, but not for just relaxing, so he’d lounge out on the big couch when he wanted to do that. I like sitting next to him, don’t get me wrong, but if he feels like stretching out, there’s no room for me.

Another problem is that the loveseat, along the wall next to him, became a dumping ground for stuff while serving zero purpose in terms of seating. It turns out it’s just awkwardly placed, with no decent views of anything.

Yesterday I came home to find Sean and his dad sitting on my couch, and that made me fully realize how inconvenient the layout is. The couch offers the best view of the TV, so obviously guests would want to sit there…meaning I probably get cut off from my laptop, which I don’t really like moving around.

It didn’t solve the problems after all; it just shifted them.

I’d been unhappy for days, but that galvanized my need to do something. So I went back to my Photoshop file and messed around some more. A lot more. Until eventually, finally, I came up with Apartment Arrangement Option 10, a revision of Option 5.

See how Sean and I will have our own departmentalized seating areas? But we can both move to the main couch, directly in front of the TV, and snuggle together if we want. It’s the best I could do, given our ridiculously narrow living room with its inconvenient doors and bizarro closet jutting into the room.

Sean’s agreed to try it, but he said “Not today”. ;> So we’ll see how this does, here in a couple of days. Wish us luck :>

Final office layout

Here it is: the second best possible configuration for my office. (I can’t do the first best configuration because the cables and internet jacks are all on the wrong side of the room.)

The floor plan.

View from the door leading to the north side of the building. Speaking of wires…I’m thinking of covering them with a curtain.

My workspace.

View from the door leading to the south side of the building.

View from that same door, looking straight over my desk.

View from the north side door again.

So far I really like the new layout. People have plenty of room to walk, and I don’t have people coming up behind me all the time. I think this’ll work!

Previously: Office Evolution

Even More Previously: Transition and What can I say, I like moving furniture.

Edit: Added floor plan and captions.

Office evolution

This is what my office looked like originally.

At first I shared the office with a full-time graphic designer. Nowadays I have the office to myself, except when various people come in and use the graphics computer.

When that change first happened, I rearranged the desks like this:

This was okay for many months. I really liked having the extra work space that the second L-shaped desk gave me. However, the room was really cluttered, and I felt I could do more with the space if that second desk was taken out. I ended up trading it for my boss’ old desk, and I put the graphics computer on her desk rather than the flimsy white table it had been sitting on. Everyone was pleased to be using a real desk at last, and I was happy that the room was more open. You can see that layout in this movie I took at Christmas time, and in these two pictures:

However, the loss of the arm of that second L-shaped desk eliminated what I considered to be useful privacy. Now I had people coming up standing behind me all the time, which was the last thing I wanted to encourage. It’s just not feng shui.

So I spent a few months pondering what sort of furniture arrangement would make it so that people wouldn’t stand behind me, and also allow better traffic flow through the office, since it’s essentially a hallway these days. Finally I drew up a floorplan of the room using the ceiling tiles as measurements, and that enabled me to move things around without actually moving them…so I tried lots of different arrangements that I hadn’t considered before.

That led me to this work-in-progress:

It may not look like much in the pictures, but I got it rearranged a bit more after I took them, and I think it’s going to be pretty sweet when I’m all finished (and I’ve had a chance to dust, yeesh). Only time will tell if it’ll keep people from coming up behind me, but the idea is that the arm of the desk pointing towards the door will create the feeling of a hallway, so that people won’t turn left and come into my desk area.

What’s great about this layout is that there is a much wider path to walk through the office. I’m thinking it will work out pretty well.

I’ll put up final photos once I’m done.

Edit: I just realized you can’t really make out the door I’m talking about in any of the new pics. It’s to the left of the CD shelf. You actually do see it in the second new picture, but it’s hard to tell that it’s a door :>

(That gray strip alongside it is not the door frame; it’s a shadow due to the fact that the wall juts out behind the door, causing the door to only open about 90 degrees. The reason for this is there is a water fountain on the other side of the wall. And Now You Know.)