Before joining Professional Remodeler, I worked for a magazine that served the swimming pool industry. There are big differences between pool contractors and residential remodelers, but there are similarities as well. One that I think bears mentioning is the role that design plays in both industries, and how I believe that needs to change.
From my observations, 75 percent of pool contractors build acceptable but uninspired-looking projects. Another 23 percent are more special; maybe they took a couple of design classes and have a stronger visual sense. But it’s only about 2 percent of pool builders who know how to use shape, color, proportion, and the water itself to design amazing backyard environments. Instead, the vast majority of exceptional projects are the brainchild of landscape architects.
The remodeling field functions much the same way. Projects we feature in the magazine that get a lot of positive attention mostly are conceived by architects. Even the majority of design/build firms’ work that I’ve seen falls into that 75 percent segment, meaning the projects are adequate, but no better.
Too often in this industry, great design takes a back seat. Yet, the projects that a remodeler puts into the world are an integral part of his or her legacy. Recently I was in a friend’s kitchen that was redone 15 years ago. The browns and golds, granite backsplash, patchwork stone floor, and vaguely Tuscan styling were all very dated. And that’s understandable.
When she remodeled, my friend had wanted an of-the-moment kitchen, and that’s what she got. But now the design looks not just outdated, it’s clear that it lacks imagination and could have been seen in any higher-end Marriott hotel from that period. There’s no thought to the light source, no sense of sightlines, and nothing to relieve the cookie-cutter feel.
So, rather than be part of the “good enough” majority, why not make a push to move up? There are so many great resources for designers, including classes, articles, and perhaps the best teacher of all: examples of projects that get it right.
There’s a difference between a remodeler who designs and a designer who remodels. Why not be both?
Erika Taylor is chief of content for Professional Remodeler. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972.369.9212.