Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Design Criteria…. “This isn’t how it is normally done”…

… EXACTLY!!!!!!!!

This morning I was reading and commenting on the blog “Greige” in regards to some photos she had posted on “Bedroom or bath??  She has posted some interesting images of bedrooms that have an open bathing area within the space. 


Image via Greige

It brought to mind a couple of instances that I had encountered many years ago while studying design.  In one of my classes we were given an assignment to design a bedroom with its own bath.  The design I came up with was based on the bedroom being either a guest or secondary bedroom.  I designed the space where the tub and vanity was in an open alcove area of the bedroom, and the toilet was in a private water closet.  My teacher was uncomfortable with the idea of the open bathing area… saying that it was “not practical”.

In another class (and a different teacher), our assignment was the space planning of a kitchen.  The plan was carried all the way through final development with the designing of the cabinetry.  I chose to design my base cabinets with a plinth base… to make them look more like pieces of furniture… rather than the typical 3” toe kick.  Again… I was told by the teacher that this was “not practical”.

Perfect example of lower cabinets with a plinth base… I guess my thinking wasn’t so “off base”

 (can someone please tell me the source and credit for this photo?)

My thoughts were… are we studying practicalities or exploring design and its possibilities? 

I guess I have never fallen into the camp of the “go with the flow” or “status quo”.   I believe that if a client hires me for a project, it is incumbent upon me to create something that is not the typical or norm.  This is true for any client, but to an even greater extent when the project involves new construction and/or custom work.  The beauty of custom design is the ability to manipulate the elements into something unique… or something other than the norm.

This is an ongoing challenge because, until you can get through to people what a particular design concept is, you are faced with people having a preconceived idea of how something should be.  

From the previous post “Diary of a Project” , a new project that I am working on and have begun a discussion about... I was out at the project site to discuss framing issues with the client.  The client’s Realtor, who had sold them the property, was also there so that she could see the progress of the project. 

I was discussing window placement so the framers could finish up some of the framing.  In the master bath, the original architect’s drawing indicated a built-in tub in the bathing alcove.  I had made changes, indicating a free standing tub with a steel framed window behind it, to go almost to the floor.  The question from the client was... “Is it OK for the tub to be seen from the outside and the window to be so low?”  She had not seen this before.  The Realtor chimed in “Oh no, this is not normal”… indicating that this would not be a very smart idea!   

 My reply… “You’re right!  It isn’t the norm… but this is a custom home!   I wasn’t designing with the typical in mind.  When you are building a new home on over 130 acres of land… you probably won’t need to worry about someone invading your privacy.  Not to mention, that you will probably be skinny dipping in your pool, which affords even less privacy.  Besides... we can do an interesting window treatment so that privacy can be maintained as needed.”

A couple of days later when the husband weighed in on the issue, he stated he did not want a free standing tub and was going to go out to show the contractor how high to set the window.  I certainly respect my client’s choices… as this is their home and not mine.   It is my job to filter ideas to create what they want.  But as a designer it is my responsibility to show them their options and ideas that they may not have considered.  Therefore… I emailed the clients a sketch of what my design concept was in order to back up my design selection, before any decision was set in stone.

As I explained… what I wanted to create was a focal point with the tub… and makes it look almost like a piece of sculpture.  The layout of the alcove at the end of the corridor from the bedroom created the opportunity for this design.

Free Standing Tub as a Focal Point from the end of the Corridor

Much to the surprise and delight of the wife, her husband liked the design and was on board with the concept. 

There is a line between pushing a design on a client, and presenting ideas and options… and to me designing is all about the options.

What are your thoughts on a designer’s role in presenting ideas to a client?



  1. I am usually veru open if the client has extreme likes / dislikes....
    but rather often enough if the client is totally comfy with you, then they will trust your vision and go with the entire concept. I would say there is a 50 - 50 chance when you begin.

    One rule of thumb for me;
    in today's marketplace..... be flexible and open to your clients needs.

  2. I agree... I have been fortunate to have clients that trust me, and have welcomed and loved the concepts that I prepared for them. It is also important to acknowledge that not all clients are a good fit...and vise-versa.

  3. Thought provoking post! I commented on the Greige blog because I am thinking of doing that exact thing in my home tubwise. I think with any client that is willing to employ one as a designer you are absolutely obligated to address their needs and wants...But they want you to be honest and to back up your opinions with valid and educated reasons for them. Bottom line the client is not only writing the checks but will be living with the results of your collaboration after the job is finished. Mutual respect is always in style. Maryanne xo

  4. Maryanne, I think that is interesting that you are considering putting a tub in your bedroom... what type of foundation is your house on?

    Yes you are right, the client is writing the checks...and paying for professional expertise, which is why they hired a designer and not the sales person from Home Depot. The designer must spend time educating the client on possible design solutions that the client is not expected to have considered since they are not the professional. When a designer just cranks out a design to get the job done... without going the extra mile... they are short changing the client.

    The final result always has to be the customer"s satisfaction.

  5. I love your design with the tub as a focus at the end or the hall. It reminds me of Gabby's from Desperate housewives. I loved it so much I took a photo of it on pause on the TV.Fiona

  6. Thank you chateaudelille, I love focal points where an allee or pathway converge.


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