Those of us who work in the home construction and design industry tend to forget how many little things there are that go into the creation of a new home or a redesign. There are design elements that have to be decided upon, from the big picture such as the overall architectural style of the home, down to the simplest things such as the type of kitchen hardware or the balusters for the staircase or deck. Recently in helping some new friends with their home project I was reminded how much there is to take into consideration in even just one area as basic as staircase design.
“Who would have known when we began designing our dream house just how many little details we would have to decide on? Did you know we spent an entire week just looking at balusters, banisters, treads and newels? I had no idea what any of these even were before we started all of this – except that my grandmother used to let us slide down the banister at her home when we were very small. But growing up in a California ranch style house all on one level, stairs were somewhat novel to me. I really had no idea of everything that goes into putting together a staircase – there is practically a new language to be learned! What exactly did we want? What kind of treads? Iron balusters? Wooden newels? It was all overwhelming.” And after listening to them for a bit longer, I understood what they meant, even I felt exhausted just from their recounting all that they’d been going through before coming to see me.
So after reminding them that this process was something they had dreamed about for years and it was something they were supposed to be enjoying as much as possible and having fun with it, they relaxed a bit and listened to my suggestions of how to proceed encouraging them to consider three easy tips that anyone taking on a home project, big or small can use.
Concentrate on one area at a time – Whether you’re starting from the very beginning with having to determine what style of architecture you want for your home or deciding on a particular element, such as my area of focus, staircase design, concentrate on that one area and work through the possibilities. With staircase design, this might mean first learning about all the different things you’ll even need to decide about. What exactly is a newel or a balustrade? Then you can get a bit more specific – what types of treads are characteristic for the architectural style we’ve chosen? Would iron balusters compliment the area of the home the staircase will lead to and from? Although you will be thinking about and focusing on one area in particular, thinking contextually about how this one area fits in with the rest of the home will not only help you to make good decisions, but will also help you uncover other questions to be addressed. The key though is to note those down and come back to them. Remember, one area at a time to keep from going into overwhelm.
Search out pictures of what you like and even what you don’t – This is a great way to help your through your decision making process. Head to the library or a bookstore and spend some time going through magazines and books until you find something that you really like. It’s again important to keep your focus narrow – look only at staircases and their elements in one sitting – don’t let yourself get distracted by chandeliers you like. If you see something you want to come back to, make a note of it so you won’t forget. Looking at particular elements in use is another option. Grab your digital camera and go look at buildings that might have iron balusters if you’re considering them or the particular type of handrails you loved the sample of but would like to see in an actual home setting. Oftentimes, vendors or builders can help you with referrals of where their work or products can be seen. Gather up all of your pictures to not only help you to solidify your vision, but to help to explain what you really want to your architects and home designers – as well as examples of what you absolutely do not want so that they really can get a visual sense of your style.
Remember your budget, but make decisions that you can live with for the years to come – Sometimes your budget as well as home size will decide from the get go for you if certain elements are not to be considered. For example, that grand balcony and sweeping staircase you saw in that Mediterranean estate on your honeymoon simply won’t work or be cost effective if you’re building a 1600 square foot 3 bedroom, 2 bath home. You’ll not only use up too much of your floor space if you go that direction, but lots of your budget as well. But that’s not to say that with a little creativity and inspiration that you can’t capture the same feel of what you loved about it and bring it to your home. The large antique hand-carved iron scroll work you admired can be emulated with today’s iron or aluminum balusters and accent pieces scaled to fit your particular staircase and home. And with the ability to shop online now for virtually any product for your home, you will also be able to find options to fit within your budget. The important thing is to capture the essence of the design style you like, even if initially it seems out of reach, so that you will enjoy living with your choices for years to come – and ideally stay within your budget.
Although these three tips may seem to oversimplify the process you are sitting in the middle of or are about to embark upon, by applying them over and over to all of your different home design decisions, particularly those you aren’t sure of, you’ll be able to focus your energy one step at a time and break down what might at times seem a daunting task. Your home is important and should reflect your style and desires. The project at hand may take time and energy, but the end result should and will be one you love and treasure for years to come, from the kitchen hardware to the iron balusters, if you just relax and take it step by step and enjoy the process as much as possible.