Design Decisions: Regrettez-vous?*

Former Living Room of Michelle Niday from Meredith Corp. via Cote de Texas

Current loft of Michelle Niday also via Cote de Texas.

Do you have design regrets?  I'm not talking about outright mistakes like the time I decided to paint my already cave-like living room dark brown or the time I painted my kitchen floor bright white (not an aesthetic fail--it looked great---at least for the first 15 minutes---but let's just say I'm not the type that can keep a white floor white for long.  I'm talking about the opportunities that we have to relinquish in order to go with the design we choose.

Example above:   Ms. Niday can ( and did) have a cozy, architecturally wonderful living room, but deal with the (relatively) cramped sq. footage and choppiness, or choose to live in the expansive openness of a loft (in which case, expansive openness is exchanged for privacy and clearly delineated spaces.)  It's hard to have both though---even with the layering and clutter...I wouldn't describe the loft living area as "cozy."

This questioning of choices was spurred by my recent re-screening of the classic 70s film, The Turning Point, with Shirley Maclaine and Anne Bancroft as, repectively, a former dancer who chose to marry and have kids and an aging prima ballerina whose on the verge of being forced into retirement.  If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it, especially for the legendary catfight that starts in a bar, moves up the stairs, and into the parking deck of the Lincoln Center.  Short version....20 years down the road, friends wonder if they made the right life choices, and while not entirely regretting the decisions made by their younger selves, they envy the lives lived by each other.  For 70s decor fans, Deedee's (Shirley) Oklahoma City ranch is full of boho/southwest/middle class pattern and wall paper, and for 70s fashion fans, the glamourous and rail thin Emma (Anne) swans around draped in some fabulous Halston inspired slinky knits.
Anyway, the movie got me to thinking about various choices I've made, leading to the "what if" game.  You know the one...the one where you look at your turning point and think, "what if  I'd made this different choice."  Of course, in the game, the choice would have worked out perfectly and led directly to fabulosity...you're not allowed to consider that the other choice might not have worked out. 

As for as design goes, the one major decision I constantly second guess and play what if with is my kitchen.  Specifically the decision to neither move it's location or to open it up.  Let me explain:  I live in a modified shotgun house.  In fact, the downstairs is a classic shotgun, which means it's a relatively narrow space where all of the rooms open directly onto each other with no hallways.  Because it's narrow, you can typically remove walls between rooms with little or no problem because the span of the rooms is so narrow that they don't need support columns.  Further, my house is raised, which means that moving water, a c (the ducts are under the floor), and gas lines aren't a major deal.  So that means, a lot of people with similar houses, especially ones damaged during Katrina flooding, have knocked all of the rooms together and or moved the kitchen to the front (typically in a shotgun, the kitchen is the final room in the row and opens to the backyard), creating an open loft-like great room.  I didn't do that.  I preserved the original 30's layout, with the kitchen in a small enclosed room at the back.  

I did it for a variety of reasons--though the house flooded, most of the original architectural features, including trim and plaster were able to be saved, and I hated the thought of ripping them out.  Secondly, I'm not a neat person, and I've always hated living in apartments where the kitchen was on constant view and I either had to struggle to keep it neat or look at a mess.  Another reason--since our house is small, most of our entertaining focuses on the back courtyard and it's nice to have the kitchen next to it.  also, the location of our staircase, windows, and fireplace would make cabinet placement difficult.  Finally, during the renovation, cost was a consideration, and while moving the kitchen and knocking out walls would be much cheaper than in a slab foundation ranch, it would have added to the cost.  And most of the time, I'm okay with my choice--I like having the kitchen self-contained and away from public areas....and yet......

When I'm fighting my way through the crowd of guests that throng in my tiny kitchen during a party, I yearn for a larger space.  When I'm visiting friends who did open the rooms up, I enjoy the openness and expansive feeling and I start thinking..."what if..."

Am I the only one?


Anonymous said...

I think you and I need to get a day job. I walked through the rooms of my house saying "what if" a dozen times a day. We built our home 20 years ago and I thought I had mentally walked through every detail. Unfortunately, time changes a lot of our perspective and the way we currently use space. Downloads on design blogs don't help either. The one thing I would say to you is that you kept the floor plan of your home for two very good reasons - one the architectural purity and the other for convenience and housekeeping.

Anonymous said...

I've been to a house party with the kitchen in the front. While there is a sizeable back yard, the party was forced to the front of the home and connecting the two required walking thru the home. Trust me, the back yard entering into the kitchen is still a good idea!