Editors' Letter: Design = Problem Solving
Home-design books and magazines tend to focus on the finishing touches, such as color, furniture, and decorating. That changes only when the central issue of the chapter or article is, say, sustainability, energy efficiency, or accessibility—topics that sometimes feel akin to eating spinach. Solving problems, however, is the point of design. It’s integral to the design process: define the problem, fix it, and only then make it pretty.
Problem solving is central, of course, to the article on Universal Design. Look for it in other stories, too. Tangible solutions to real-world problems are at the heart of the Success! feature. A family who’d lived in their modest 1901 house for 20 years hired a design team to address issues that had plagued them the entire time. Before their renovation, the most convenient family entry had been through a side door into the kitchen—so it’s no surprise that the kitchen, already cramped, took on the cluttered trappings of a mudroom. Upstairs, a dark, offset hallway led to a windowless center bath serving three bedrooms, and a room beyond could be entered only through the bathroom.
Dysfunction wasn’t pretty. Still, for project architect Chris Christofferson of David Heide Design Studio, the first task was to solve the problems. At the rear basement level, he added a new exterior door that opens to a mudroom and a flight of relocated stairs leading up to the kitchen and a first-floor bath. The redo improved the family’s everyday life. “It keeps the mess of life out of our living area,” the grateful homeowner says.
On the bedroom level, adding shed dormers increased headroom, which led to solutions for the spatial problems. The hallway was straightened and the bathroom reconfigured: a washroom with sinks on opposite walls now opens to a separate, private area containing the shower and toilet—allowing more than one person at a time to use the bathroom. The renovated house is much better looking now, but that’s just icing on the cake.
If you’re planning a renovation or addition, first consider what problems need solving!
~ Patricia Poore, Editorial Director of Old House Journal
Look below to see stories from this issue.