360 Home Living: Dreaming is not enough... you need vision!

Purchasing a home with potential for future renovations requires more than having the dream of building your own home. We all have fantasies about how our dream home would look like, but not everyone has the ability to “see into the future”. It takes some skill to understand and visualize the picture. How to turn a space into a dream place. It takes vision! I am not saying you don’t have what it takes, some people actually do and then it’s just a matter of time and dedication.

We all have used career counselors, financial planners, wealth advisors, wedding planners, retirement guidance, why not find a team that helps you plan how to put together your dream house from the get go. It helps to have a “dream house planner” that can take you through the process.
“How do we turn a unique house into a relaxing, useful, and entertaining driven yet family inviting home that preserves the charm and character of the original construction but adds contemporary features to it?” This is a mouth full, but a real question from a couple moving into Great Falls, VA. A charming 1954 farm house had captivated all members of the family and it showed a good potential for future remodeling.
Farm House before a new kitchen major remodeling project

Visualizing the dream. The dream is usually more complex than what we originally think. The first challenge comes with finding a property. One that offers potential, in addition to all the prerequisites you are probably looking for in a dream home. If you are steering away from cookie cutters and building from scratch, search options are never enough to find the right house in your preferred neighborhood, with the precise space requirements and specific features you are looking for. Some people even look for the right vibe, which I am sure is not available to find on the internet --despite realtor’s efforts to show it with pictures and marketing phrases that describe properties for sale. What’s most important here is having a clear picture of what you are looking for, so that when you come across it you can make a decision. And, take your time to find the right one! Always have in mind that architects are often called to give the ok on a home for its potential before it’s bought, and we do it gratefully! If a relationship evolves from that first consultation, we’ll all benefit from its potential.

“There is a time for some things, and a time for all things; a time for great things ...” ― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra - Don Quixote

Pick the right planner. When you plan your wedding, you want someone that would let you enjoy one of the most important days of your life without interrupting to tell you that the cake has not arrived. The same may apply to your dream house. You should be able to have a clear idea of what your project looks like on paper before you get started. You want to find someone to help you put your plan together, guide you on how to budget it, and help you look at the big picture. It may save you stress and money in the long run. For this, you may want to choose someone you feel comfortable with. You will see this person for the duration of your project, so you better like them! You don’t want a person who intimidates you and may not let you be creative. Someone who gives you advice and guides you in the right direction. Of course, I don’t need to mention a person with good reputation, honest and with strong ethical values. Finally, think about the benefits of choosing an architect + builder company vs. two different companies. The first option helps you avoid telling your ideas over and over. You will have to repeat the story to a contractor company once you have already worked with the architect if you choose to go with different companies. Did you know that if your architect is not the same company as your contractor, the architect is not entitled to supervise the general contractor?

“I mean, if the relationship can't survive the long term, why on earth would it be worth my time and energy for the short term?” ― Nicholas Sparks, The Last Song

This picture shows the first phase of the kitchen addition- farm house in Great Falls, VA


Planning for the future. The majority of people have over 10 projects that they want to do in their home, but no idea how to make it all happen. It’s important to look at the big picture and break it into bite sizes. One or 10 projects, you still have to plan for the future. I have heard many times “oh, had I known I was going to do this project I wouldn’t have done that other one before”. You may not get to the 10 projects you have in your mind, but if you do, the planning will help you avoid destroying work done to create a new projects. This Great Falls couple approached us to create a plan for a long term, which included all the projects and the ideas they wanted for the next ten years. Plans may change but at least this planning allowed them to prioritize projects and start with one that was crucially important to their present.

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” ― Dwight D. Eisenhower

Final result of the exterior of a charming farm house in Great Falls, VA

Prioritizing. When you are remodeling a house, you want to consider what the most important area in your home will be. Think about the concept of 360 homes and how today’s homes should be built around how you want to live. Whether you do, all the house at once or you start with one project first, it is important to understand where your life happens in the house. While there are other important projects in mind, what this Virginia couple said to me, once we drew all the proposed projects in a plan, was: “We don’t spend time in our rooms or bathrooms, we spend 90% of the time in the kitchen, we want our kids around when cooking and we like entertaining”. That statement is true for many families, but not everyone identifies the kitchen as the first place to start remodeling. This family did, after acknowledging that it was their most important area in the house. It takes some discussion to revealing what is important and what is critical. Giving weight to your present way of living will play well in the future.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey

Style. “We want our kitchen to be a bright, open, an inviting space, where we can entertain our kids, friends and enjoy it ourselves every day”. Style should be defined by what serves your purpose, how you look at yourself and what you want to feel in the stage of life you are at that moment. This couple, wanted to have a family area and an open inviting entertaining area. They wanted to modernize the kitchen, give light to the house yet preserve the idea of a cozy farm house. After long hours of discussion to decide the layout and style details the project took shape. Today, they enjoy spending most of their time in their new kitchen. I happen to know firsthand that their kids do their homework at a centered white quartz island, while mom cooks and husband and dog relax with a glass of wine by the wide window bench.

“For the two of us, home isn't a place. It is a person. And we are finally home.” ― Stephanie Perkins, Anna and the French Kiss

Finished kitchen addition in Great Falls farm house


When in doubt, just ask. It is your house after all. If you want to be involved or not is your choice. Some people just ask for particular features and details to be added. But if you have an idea in mind and you’re not sure that it would work, ask! Everything is possible, sometimes with more money, sometimes with compromises and sometimes just with a variation of what you had in mind. For our Virginia couple, some of the original ideas included exposed beams, a dining booth, a wide island, enough space for storing food and cleaning supplies, a mud room and a barn door. We worked together and finally came to new images to fit all the ideas. For the exposed beams we had to raise the roof. We switched to a functional bench by the window because the space couldn’t fit a dining booth if they wanted a big island. We created closed cubbies to ensure mess free spaces with storage by the back entry, as to simulate a mud room. We concentrated on the island, which resulted in the focus of the room. And the barn door, well….. it looks great!

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” ― Coco Chanel

Finished details on Great Falls farm house addition


If you want your dream project for a life time, why not plan it right from the beginning. Building a home is like a trip that could bring good memories. You can plan the trip yourself or work with an expert who guides you and can make sure that your journey is a pleasant experience. In the end the result should include memories that last a life time.

Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness. ― Frank Gehry