Warehouse timbers replace walls in this renovation to accommodate a wide-open floor plan.

Rules of renovation

Warehouse timbers replace walls in this renovation to accommodate a wide-open floor plan. Photos by Chipper Hatter.


Excerpted from The Forever Home: How to work with an architect to design the home of your dreams by Kevin Harris

I have three hard and fast rules that I share with my renovation clients:


Rule 1: Renovation of a kitchen + master bathroom = move out. If you plan to renovate both kitchen and master bathroom simultaneously, you must find somewhere else to live during construction. Yes, must! You can’t simply live in the other parts of the home. When only renovating a kitchen, the family can eat out more or camp out with a makeshift kitchen. When they are without the master bathroom, parents can share a bathroom with the kids. Each improvement comes with a level of inconvenience and requisite demand for tolerance.

A sympathetic addition maintains the rustic Tudor charm of this cottage while doubling its size.
A sympathetic addition maintains the rustic Tudor charm of this cottage while doubling its size.

However, when both master bathroom and kitchen are out of commission, even the most skilled campers and the most sharing parents behave differently. In my experience, this level of inconvenience causes great strain and often results in collateral damage to your family, pets, architect, contractor and innocent bystanders. A renovation can, and should, be a dynamic and enjoyable process. But when adults are denied the simple pleasures of master bathroom privacy, compounded with the inconvenience of a kitchenless home, the process ceases to be enjoyable. So buck up and make alternative living arrangements.


Rule 2: Never race a baby. One motivator that drives the enlargement of an existing home is the accommodation of an additional family member. This holds true for in-laws as well as for infants. However, my advice is to never race a baby. The baby always wins. Here is my logic: Human gestation takes nine months and is divided into trimesters. The time between discovering a new baby is arriving and deciding to expand usually consumes the first trimester. All seems well. You then select an architect, approve a design, have drawings prepared, and obtain estimates. Demolition commences by the end of the second trimester. The expectant mother is now in her third trimester, which obstetricians jokingly refer to as the nesting phase. All of our advanced technology, communications and ability to create comfortable environments are no match for competing with natural forces. Just when the demolition crew begins to bust

out walls, creating dust and generally making a huge mess, Mother Nature’s influence demands tidying up in preparation for the new baby. The contractor has lost the battle before he has begun. Racing construction against a baby’s arrival is, predictably, a no-win situation. My advice is to either postpone the start of construction, or grab a comfortable seat to watch the pending fireworks. As the old saying goes, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”


Rule 3: Design must involve coherence. Any additions must be integrated into what already exists to form a coherent new whole. This is in contrast to the common practice of designing each addition as an independent expression, unrelated to, or challenging the design integrity of, the original. In short, I believe that the end result of a renovation should simply be a bigger, better house in which the distinction between old and new is difficult for the casual observer to identify. In some ways, this process is comparable to good plastic surgery: an artistic repair, alteration or enhancement that both respects and beautifies an existing living structure. To use a storybook example, in contrast to rule 3, the infamous surgeon Dr. Frankenstein may have been a genius, but his creation is referred to as a monster.

Interiors book cover.vuThe Forever Home is published by Advantage Media Group and is available in Baton Rouge at Cottonwood Books and can be ordered online through local booksellers, Amazon or Barnes & Noble. For more information, call 225-924-7450 or visit designyourforeverhome.com.