5 ways to right-size your home

Optimize living space by making it fit your lifestyle

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted May. 19, 2010

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Optimize living space by making it fit your lifestyle

Mary Umberger
Inman News

In the 1980s, as editor of Home magazine, Gale Steves said she started being aware of newer homes that looked "amazingly big on the outside but had poorly designed living spaces inside -- with double-height family rooms or foyers that would never function as anything more than an ego trip."

Then, she started taking note of all the older homes that, regardless of size, had names that were no longer relevant to our lifestyles -- no one "lived" in the living room, very little food consumption occurred in the dining room, etc.

To get the functions they desired in their homes, people typically added on or moved up to larger spaces, yet never got past the original problem -- some parts of the house went unused while other rooms were asked to perform too many functions, she said.

Steves became a big believer in what she calls "right-sizing," her concept of making better use of space.

"It's admitting how you live and making the house fit that," said Steves, who is now a consultant to the housing and home-furnishings industries.

She recently wrote "Right-Sizing Your Home: How to Make Your House Fit Your Lifestyle" (Northwest Arm Press, $21.95), which is a guide to figuring out what you really need before remodeling or making other major household changes.

But Steves agreed that the book, which is filled with room-by-room checklists to help determine how you really want your home to function, could be an excellent source in a real estate search, for homebuyers determined to find a place that doesn't waste a single inch of space.

Five things you need to know about right-sizing:

1. Steves' strategy involves making step-by-step plans for getting a room to "right," which requires a lot of soul-searching -- or, at least, room-searching.

In the book, she sets a framework for "audits" of every use you or your family make of a given room. A second inventory would count all the uses you'd like to get out of that room.

Slowly, a game plan will evolve from side-by-side comparisons of the two lists, she wrote. Sometimes, the only obvious way to gain a right-sized room will be to remodel, and the book offers a wealth of suggestions and photographs.

But Steves also said just re-arranging furniture may make all the difference in a room's functionality, and her book also has suggestions for making that task more efficient, such as making paper-bag cut-out "models" of the furniture before dragging the heavy stuff around the house.

2. But where to start? Even though we may have dining rooms and living rooms that we seldom use, surprising as it might sound, the one room that vexes homeowners the most, she said, is the family room.

That's because we use it so much, she said. In interviews with homeowners, she said, their frustration with that room came up again and again.

"It's become that multipurpose, everything room, where everyone gathers," she said. "That's mostly because in many homes, it's too big to be functional.

"I've been in some 'great rooms' that look like hotel lobbies," she said. "Most people don't know how to arrange furniture to make it cozy and comfortable. It seems to be the hardest to arrange -- sometimes you're fighting the fireplace vs. the television. It may be an office by day and a family playroom by night."

Steves said a family-room audit will help prioritize the room's uses in order to make decisions for organizing books, media and workspace needs.

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1. Jennifer Grimes said... on Aug 5, 2010 at 07:36PM

“Gale has implemented dozens of clever design features in her own stunning country house, which is currently for sale. Set in the much sought-after Beaverkill Valley in Roscoe, New York, a bit over 2 hours from the George Washington Bridge. For more information, visit http://www.countryhouserealty.net/ and visit Country House Realty's webpage for the Beaverkill Valley House or call 845.985.7153 for further information.”

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