How Do I Get the Best Value in a Remodel?

14 min read Make sure you get the best value in your remodel and JUSTIFY your time, energy and expense by considering how you can tweak the layout of your home to fit your life!

Here’s how you can get the best value in a remodel … you can super charge any remodel using adjustments to your home’s layout.  By the way … this episode and topic are the PERFECT preamble to this weekend’s Mid-Century Design Clinic. Listen up here and then go save your seat for the Workshop!

Look, beautiful finishes can make your life so shiny and pretty. 

  • You can wake up in the morning and smile because of the color of your bedroom wall. 
  • Touching the surfaces of your kitchen cabinets can bring you genuine joy multiple times a day.
  • The perfect paver stones under your feet on the patio can be warm, smooth, and classy.

 But just changing the surfaces of things doesn’t have a power to change your life the way adjusting your layout can-do. 

This is essential to my master plan process and the draft phase when we think about bringing everything we’ve studied so far: 

  • What you’ve learned about your hopes and dreams for the life you want to live in your home, 
  • what you’ve learned about the house you have – it’s structure, it’s scale, what it’s made of, 
  • and even the style you’ve distilled. 

Some of that is the surfaces of things but some of it is the quality of light – the amount of openness or separation – the sense of vaulted exalted high ceilings spaces, or cozy niches. 

All of this happens in your floor plan.   Let’s get into it!

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This episode is the perfect lead-in to our workshop. This weekend on Saturday at the mid-century design clinic, we’ll be talking about the specifics of how to set up your porch, patio, or deck your outside space around a mid-century house to suit your life, your house, and your mid-century style perfectly. But today I’m gonna talk about why it’s so important to think about making shifts to the layout of those spaces before you dive in on your home improvement plans. I don’t want you to make the mistake of just replacing the old version of what you’ve got with a new version in new materials. I want you to think about how you can adjust your space either at the ground plane or in three dimensions to make it work even better for your life. So if you’ve already got your seat saved for Saturday’s workshop, this episode is a perfect preamble. If you haven’t already signed up for the mid-century design clinic, then now’s your chance to get your ticket to join us at the live zoom workshop, where we will be using the steps of the master plan method, applied to your house to brainstorm changes to your future favorite outside space in real-time. Come with your sketchpad, your tape measure, and your questions as they come up. And we will set you up on your mid-century space. Get your tickets at midmod-midwest.com/clinic.

Okay? If your pressing question is how to get the most value from your remodel, you might expect me to tell you about the latest trending material you can get for less or what part of the house has the best payback in a resale, but that’s not where this episode is going. Because while finished choices can cost more or less and certain parts of the house have a greater tendency to increase the sale price of your home in a few years, the best value you can get for your remodeling time, money and energy is to end up with a house that makes your life work better. Here’s how to make that happen. Hey there, welcome back to Mid Mod Remodel. This is the show about updating MCM hopes, helping you match a mid-century home to your modern life. I’m Della Hansmann your host, architect, and mid-century ranch enthusiast. You’re listening to season nine, episode five.

Before we get into the topic, let’s do the resource of the week. It is this week, Sarah Susanka’s Not So Big House. And until I publish my own book on planning a great remodel, this is probably going to stay my favorite recommendation for anyone planning a great update. Sarah’s first book, The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live was published in 1998. And my favorite of her follow up books, Not So Big Remodeling: Tailoring Your Home for the Way You Really Live came out 11 years later in 2009. Neither of these books, by the way, is in any way about mid-century style or mid-century homes. But I still recommend them to you because both are filled with practical advice about how to think about a home update and both are singing a song I love to hear. The one that goes, you don’t need a bigger house to have a better life. You need a house that suits you. I highly recommend you check out both of these books, which you can find at an indie bookstore near you. They are also included on my mid-century resource list, along with 88 other great blog posts, books, magazines, videos, web stores, and more places for you to get started on learning about and loving your mid-century home. Grab that list at midmod-midwest.com/resources, or go straight to the show notes for the episode transcript and all the links I mentioned at midmod-midwest.com/905.

So here is how you can get the best value in a remodel. You can power up your work using adjustments to your floor plan. Because look, beautiful finishes can make your life so shiny and pretty. You can wake up in the morning and smile because of the color of your bedroom wall. ouching the surfaces of your kitchen cabinets can bring you genuine joy multiple times a day. The perfect paver stones under your feet on your patio can make you happy. But just changing the surfaces of things, doesn’t have the power to change your life, the way adjusting your floor plan can, this is an essential part of my master plan process. The draft phase, where we think about bringing together everything that you’ve studied so far in the process, what you’ve learned about your hopes and dreams for the life you wanna live in the house, what you’ve learned about the house you have, it’s structured it’s scale, what it’s made of how it’s doing and the style you’ve distilled from all of the possibilities of what is a large definitional bubble – mid-century modern.

Some of that is the surfaces of things, but some of it is the quality of a light, the amount of openness or separation, the sense of vaulted exalted high ceilings or cozy niches. And that comes from your floor plan. My goal, if I could transform the remodeling industry would be to never have anyone spend the time, money, and energy that it takes to remodel a house without at least considering the magical possibilities of adjusting your floor plan. Whether that means just shifting a layout of work surfaces in your kitchen, opening or closing a few doorways to give greater practical communication between your public and private spaces or more privacy to your bedroom area, or whether it means an addition carefully calculated to do the most for your family. Layout changes have an enormous power to up level, any remodel. And today I wanna talk about why planning and update for your mid-century home requires more than just thinking about paint swatches and samples and wood grains for your built in cabinets. An awkward or an irritating layout is an opportunity.

This could be your home superpower. The thing that caused other buyers to walk past it could be the thing that transforms your house from good to great from an okay house to a dream home. Conversely, something that works for other people for most other people in a layout might be something that’s making your day slightly worse, every single day. Creating separations in your family, causing you to go roundabout, causing you to have to backtrack during your morning routine. There are layout changes that have the power to transform your life on a day by day basis. And I would like you to consider them before you get started on calling contractors. And certainly before you begin demolishing parts of your house. Now, I can’t know exactly what those personal changes are that you’ll need in your home, but there are some layout changes that come up fairly often in my one-to-one design work.

One example that comes to mind instantly is a lack of storage space. Mid-century houses on balance seem to have been built to hold less stuff than we have today. And I’m not gonna tell you, you need to Marie Kondo your entire life in order to have a happy home. Now, granted, on the other hand, sometimes it can be much more cost effective to get rid of stuff you literally don’t use than to build bigger house space to hold that stuff. But we need storage and we need storage in practical locations. We need closets in bedrooms. You can borrow space even from a relatively small bedroom for a walk by closet, instead of the classic McMansion style walk-in closet, that many people dream of when they feel like they don’t have enough place to put things in their bedroom. I highly recommend that instead you think about thickening, a wall, possibly even pushing a wall outwards slightly. This could constitute a small addition that merely gives you more storage space to have walk by closets in a bedroom. There are other places you wanna think about building in practical storage in your house, and those include drop zones near your entry and exit points of the house. That might be where you come into the house from the outside world, coming home from jobs, school and other errands, or it might also be a place where you collect the items that you regularly take outside with you to the back patio, to the back deck. A place where you can keep certain things inside, but in totally handy, grab range to bring with you. So you have the lights, the pillows, the hammock, whatever you wanna bring out that doesn’t live outside all year long.

Another place that we think about practical storage is for those deep storage needs. There are certain things you need only certain times of year and having an accessible place to put those in and out of the way, part of your house is really helpful. Rather than jamming them all into the back of your garage, you might wanna think about practical floor, ceiling, shelving, that’s happening at some point in your basement. And you wanna think about, do you have a good pathway from your house, from the main spaces of your house down to those practical, deep storage areas. All of these things can be adjusted with tweaks to your floor plan.

Another area where people almost always want to adjust their floor plan is in the kitchen. And I’ve done not just other podcast episodes, but an entire season of the VIN model model podcast. Plus last times two hour live layout workshop last January, which you can get access to if you’re already part of the ready to model program. But here’s the short, short version. Mid-century kitchens were designed as a work zone for one person and today for some people that still how they’re used, but for many more they serve as the center of a family life in most households. And therefore we need to adjust the layout to reflect that change in our behavior. Another area that constantly comes up in terms of making layout adjustments is shifting the layout of spaces to make better flow between inside and outside. Sometimes this means an addition, which gives you a little more interior space and wraps a part of your backyard with an L that sort of brings that backyard space into the psychological connection to the house. And sometimes it just means repairing or replacing a deck in a way that allows its layout to flow from your best social space, right out from the kitchen. If you’re gonna be dining on the deck constantly right out from a living room, if you wanna be able to flow in nice weather from TV time, right out onto the patio with a drink in the evening, rather than sort of feeling like you wish you spent more time sitting outside in the summer, but you always end up just lounging on the sofa. If you’ve got a direct line of sight from the sofa where you sit down after dinner to somewhere, you might step outside for a last breath of fresh air before the night closes. That could change the entire way you experience every day, all summer long. So, the point of this is all floor plans are personal. There is no right floor plan. No one-size-fits-all solution. There’s a constant back and forth on the internet about whether open plan floor plans are the greatest things since sliced bread or literally ruining modern lives.

Honestly, I’m pretty agnostic on the topic because I think the answer again is less what’s right for your plans and more what’s right for you. This shouldn’t be shocking. You know how often I’m singing the praises of a plan that works for you. But one thing that’s true in some regard, no matter what your personality preferences is, is that a great mid-century home should have some openness between its spaces. Now what that means can vary, but flow between spaces is important. So this is where you have to do your master plan homework. You need to know how your house works right now. And you need to think about how you would like your life to work in your house. We do an exercise inside of the ready to remodel program, where we think about your daily routine and your rhythm as they are affected by your house. And basically for every part of your day for your waking up routine, for your leaving the house to go to work routine, for your coming home at the end of the day routine for weekend cleanup, for meal preparation, you think about how you move around your house and whether the way your house is laid out is working for you or against you. We do have this need for more separation within our houses. When everyone is trying to be home more. When a whole family was working from home, studying from home recreating at home, we need more separations between different spaces in the house. And that might certainly be true for you, but there are multiple levels of openness that can work. You can have separated spaces that still foster connections inside the house to create that crucial flow and to make a small house feel larger by extending your view lines.

So what you wanna think about is the difference between site connections between one part of your house and sound connections. Perhaps an interior window could help you have a visual connection and still sound privacy. You need to think about how natural light moves through the house. If there are dark parts of the house during sometimes of the day and light during others. And if that reverses itself, does that affect the way that you live in the house and are there ways you can share light between one part of the house and another there’s more to good layout than just the literal floor plan, the plan of how walls meet the ground. You can also think about these things in three dimensions, and then there’s the crucial flow between the inside of your home and the out. Remember, we’re talking about decks, patios, porches, and those indoor outdoor spaces at the clinic this weekend.

When I was talking about the cornerstones in my podcast two weeks ago, I talked about the multiple ways you can extend the boundary of your house. Your layout is more than just the shape of the floors in your house. When you’re thinking about design, I want you to think in three dimensions. Think about where your floor surfaces are, sure. And those are often defined by where the walls come down to the floor, but the shape of your home is also defined by what’s happening over your head. A wall might be solid from floor to ceiling, or it might have a window opening in it or straight and opening between two spaces in your house, connections between inside your house and out, you can think of how your adjacencies work. What parts of your house does your deck, your patio, your porch connect to? Is it connecting as a private space off of an owner’s suite? Is it connecting and expanding the social space of the house off your living room? Is it flowing directly off of your kitchen so that you’ve got basically a dining space outside on the deck, several seasons outta the year?

If you start to use the mid-century design strategies, we’ll talk about in this workshop, you can make your deck even better as you create anchored outside corners of a room using a semi opaque railing or a built-in bench or a shade structure that extends the overhead protection of your outside space. And you can start to feel like the spaces on the outside of your house are really connected and expanding the spaces on the inside, by the way, this is another reason for those beautiful long, deep eaves that you see on many mid-century homes out west and on Frank Lloyd Wright examples here in the Midwest. I was photographing some of them this weekend, um, when I was doing the Wright and Like Tour and put that in my story on Instagram, the effect of extending your interior space out beyond the walls can happen with any deep eave or adjoining outside covered space. Because when you stand at your window, you see the ceiling above you seeming to extend out beyond the underside of the roof. And, especially if that outside soffit is same height and color as your inside ceiling, this happens to feel like you are standing at one edge inside a room and the room itself goes out beyond the house. You can create bigger spaces in your house without ever putting on an addition by simply expanding your eaves or creating a pergola or a shade structure in an adjacent patio or direct outside the house.

In the end, I wanna reiterate the power of your layout, the power of floor plan to get the best value in a remodel. It’s so important that you at least consider making some shifts to your layout, either at the ground plane, or maybe the change of the shape of your home. Elevating a ceiling, expanding the eaves, bringing the psychological ceiling out a little farther with something as simple as a shade sale over your patio that you could purchase this weekend for 20 bucks at Target. Adjusting, not just the look of your house, but the shape of it has such power to transform the way you live in your home. And I wanna make sure you’re thinking about those things, the way you experience life in your house not just what it looks like, whenever you plan a home improvement project, this is the way to really get value for your time, energy and money spent remodeling because you can spend the exact same number of dollars to put the exact same materials into your new space. But depending on the way that you change the layout or keep it the same, you may end up transforming the way you live in your house or changing literally nothing about your day to day experience.

Quick reminder, this is your last chance to sign up for the mid-century design clinic that’s happening August 6th. And in that workshop, I will not only be sharing specific examples of patios, decks, and expanded front porch areas for my ongoing one-to-one design work. But we will also go through the entire master plan process together in microcosm, focused on one area of your home. In this case, your patios, your decks, and your outside spaces. I actually put these clinics together as a bonus activity for my current ready to remodel students, because it’s such a great chance for them to do a deep dive into one area of the house. But I also open them up to listeners to this podcast and followers on Instagram, to the public, because it’s the perfect opportunity for people who aren’t totally familiar with the master plan method to check it out in real time and apply it to something real on their house.

One more thing, um, for all my listeners to the podcast, you’re my favorite people. And I wanna let you in on a little secret because the people who tend to show up to these mid-century design clinics are just like you. They’re enthusiastic curious, mid-century lovers who are ready to start making plans. They’re my favorite people. You are my favorite people to have inside, Ready to Remodel. And that’s why there’s usually a secret backdoor to join the next cohort of ready to remodel early at these workshops. Pssst…there will be this time too, if you’re listening to this episode after August 6th, and you’ve missed the opportunity to join this clinic, keep your eye open for the next mid-century design clinic – topic yet to be determined – because there will probably be a backdoor entrance and possibly a discount into ready to remodel at that event.

If you’re catching this on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, and you’re not already signed up for the clinic, get your seat right now. I can’t wait to talk to you about how to plan the perfect update for your home, starting with a patio porch or deck. And if you are signed up, then now’s the time to start brainstorming layout changes, and to start thinking about one of the big drivers for those layout changes, dreaming about what you wish your life was like in the home you’re gonna have when you’re done updating it. Should it be more social? Should it be more connected? Should it be more private and restorative? Whatever your goal is for the life you wanna lead in your house, we can make that goal more possible by adjusting the layout of your house, see you on Saturday to make that happen.