Personally I certainly prefer to carry around as least as possible. While it is almost always best to have what you need, because you do need it, while you probably end up carrying hence a lot more than you need to. “The more you have, the more time you are going to spend looking after it”
When you send your kids to college, it seems like it is a good time to downsize. Also when you move into a new city or a new stage in your life, or because you have become less dependent on items. When you face astronomical real estate or Housing costs it is certainly better to have less space but better intangibles, such as comfort, light, sun exposure, views.
Downsizing Tiburon Waterfront Condo. First of all when you look at a small space that is not bad looking to start with, you tend to think it is easy to redo, remodel or complete.
This apartment was new 15 years ago and done by a good Architectural firm, and was not that bad looking to start with. One often wonders if you will improve it or probably mess it up! See Before and after pictures.
Final Furnished Floor Plan.
I got a call one day, the wife told me she would like me to help her and her husband do the apartment they had just purchased. She also added that the Bathroom had to be ADA or barrier free and that it was being done (i.e like by someone else).
I suggested I incorporate the bathroom design into our Interior Design services for the entire unit. Why not have it Designed to look also good too. Why have an ADA specialist do it instead?
My most tempting projects are at home in Marin County or San Francisco North West, as the commute is good, and they are somewhat easier to look after for the same reason.
On the other hand I was very attracted to the challenge of doing an ADA (Americans with disabilities Act) bathroom. In my 40 years of practice I had never done one, nor had I cared to.
First of all I did 300 stores years ago, each requiring an ADA bathroom. Rather than put any design attention on the bathrooms, I had allowed my General Contractors to design the bathrooms, as the Retail Store Image I was focused on, was not affected. The bathrooms were purely utilitarian to code. Aseptic.
Recently as I have aged myself I realized you may want to remain at home for your senior years and that some provisions for ADA should be considered for all those aging, and everyone for that matter. And not only when there is already a disability.
So I accepted the challenge. Not to do an ADA bath and apartment, but therefore to do it esthetically pleasing. Not just functional but particularly beautiful too.
The clients and I met at the condo. They were (are) a very pleasant couple, as interested in beautifying then as I was.
You need to know to the extent possible what the client wants, needs, and what will make them happy; what their budget is; their family issues, and so on. The more you know about them the better. So throughout the relationship you keep interviewing and finding out.
I only take a few notes, getting to know people and their feelings is a must for an Architect or Interior Designer, so you do not need to write everything (though it helps). You take them out to lunch, chat with them while you go shopping for home goods, talk over the phone and you learn about them.
Planning and Design are two different things though they are connected and work together.
Design is the actual imagination, selections of options, drawing and detail, the “Creative Process”. While Planning is considering and finding solutions, and how to achieve them. Planning is also referred as issues that require local planning approval. There were no Local Planning issues here. No exteriors. No growth.
Design on the other hand, the “Creative Process”is infinite. It starts when you start planning and it never ends. You build with it. It is your imagination, if it stops, you are mentally dead.
Two of my favorite statements are:
This is the third step.
Most improvements to spaces are permitted. This way the Building Official and inspector make sure you have done it well. In other words permits are there to protect you. Also when you sell you have a valid document and assessment of what you have spent on the improvements, reducing your tax liability.
Is it difficult? Not really. As Architects and Designers we draft everything in CAD (Computer aided drafting), and we ourselves have done so for over 30 years. One of the first things we request from clients is a record of Plans or as existing previous drawings. This saves a lot of time. With all the tools and initial design you submit for building permit approval.
Inspectors are happy to see you, as they charge for the permit. So we obtained permits. And similarly followed up with inspections.
Again two different things. Building is the shell, the space, how you are going to modify it, finishes, updates and so on.
Purchasing usually refers to Furniture and Fixtures. It is important to start both simultaneously if you can. Because some furniture pieces may take 12-20 weeks specially if coming from Europe or customized, it is therefore important to get started earlier there too
So just as we submit plans for building permits, we go out shopping for furniture and fixtures with our clients.
In Tiburon- Belvedere and the San Francisco bay Area, and probably in all California the building department doesn’t rule for ADA for Single Private Residential design. It is not a Residential Single Apartment requirement, in this case it was a client requirement. Multiple home developments are a different issue, likewise accessibility and other safety issues are too.
Complying with the clients requests, was addressed in:
I had said to myself before I would not do another “Shower” with a threshold or curb. Thresholds look horrible, and since the advent of linear drains, it just makes sense to avoid the curb.
In Tiburon and elsewhere though, there is a 2” floor slope required towards the drain, and if the bathroom is small, this is difficult to achieve. Or on a building with Steel Structure you cannot retrofit the plumbing so easily. In fact we had to do a ramp into the bathroom entrance, then slope to the drain.
The Vanity. Requiring leg space below and a side cabinet. We designed it is a shelf that slides in, allowing not only leg space underneath but a full floor clearance so once the cabinet under the vanity is installed it remains suspended or wall supported.
The anchoring system is impressive. This allowed us to tile the floor, while the vanity top was being produced elsewhere.
A 900 sq. ft. apartment usually has very little storage. The clients were actually downsizing, their only son just started college. They had learned from the realtors, this condominium unit had been difficult to sell, as most people thought the unit had no storage space. So we improved that as much as we could.
A difficult thing is to get rid of built elements that look nice but don’t do the job. The fireplace was old and to either side of it there was some kind of bric a brac storage, and in front of it all was most noteworthy a great limestone bench.
While we were used to sitting on the bench and talk about our plans, and it looked good as well, it had to go to improve the storage space. Now full height wardrobes sit on each side of the new fireplace.
A fireplace-TV wall is a standard combination now days and since flat TV’s came out, not a problem to achieve. The Fireplace was outdated hence a problem as it was 15 years old. Now days much more efficient “Sealed” units are used.
Problem was this condominium unit had another PentHouse apartment above, through which the flue vent went through. Because the existing flue was 6” in diameter, and the current sealed units require 8-1/2”diameter, therefore we had to do exploratory demolition first to make sure the new ducts would fit, then confirm feasibility and then order and install the unit.
The Bonus in addition to efficiency is the shape so called “Landscape” as they are horizontal 14” in height only by 46-72” in length, and custom to any length as well.
This is a particularly tricky design as the TV requested and which the client already had was to be a 70” class, and of course you want it as close to eye level as possible, when you are sitting down.
First of all Black is a favorite color of mine, if it is a color at all. Then it serves to disguise because the two elements central to the composition, the Fireplace and most notably the TV are black. Therefore if the rest of the composition, the cabinetry and so on are black, then as a result you don’t see the TV or the Fireplace. Hence when they are not turned on they tend to disappear. You do see the flames and what is playing on the TV set, and you do so better without losing focus.
The new Fireplace unit by Ortal, is specified to allow heat from the concealed box to dissipate at the top, therefore wasting no energy. Heat that is not coming from the glass front does so from the top as well, recirculating the air nicely. No waste totally sustainable.
On the left “Before”. On the right “In progress. See next for completed.
Before. While it was actually very pleasant, it was also not bad looking. First of all storage, was not useful. Certainly not useful for full time residents. In contrast storage is now more than double, furthermore it allows for hanging and closet space rather than for “Bric a Brac” as before. Provision for a 70″ class TV, and at a lower more eye level position. While the Fireplace is now replaced finally for a new one with more efficient operation, and with a Landscape look.
This is what it looks like almost completed.
All the quality lighting fixtures coming out recently are LED. Often offered as LED only option. We replaced all existing lighting and fixtures and introduced new ones, particularly pendants. We expect energy costs to be very low. Actually owner recently shared with me that the first month’s electrical bill was 4.00 dlls.
While the initial investment is a bit more, your consumption is reduced substantially. Furthermore the industry finally has cut up. Color temperature and look are no longer an issue. Similarly all important light fixture manufacturers are already there, rather now you can’t get new style fixtures with old technology.
Most noteworthy you are helping save the planet as well! Totally sustainable.
While all the above criteria could perhaps be handled in different styles, I prefer contemporary, as we live today, and the clients did specifically wanted contemporary style too.
Located right in front of the water and next to the Yacht Club, the Marina Style is very popular, woodsy and blue and white (see before), just like your standard wood boat, or seafood restaurant, and that is what the apartment looked like.
So we painted the Cherry cabinets Gray, and everything else Gray. You do not need to remain the stereotype, design actually offers a multitude of selections, moods and colors. The Sky’s the limit.
We like to interpret our clients dreams and each one of them dreams in a different color.
She liked Gray and Gray would serve as a neutral background softer than a contrasting white. We replaced the wood floor for a grayish wood tone and 7” wide plank.
It reminded me of French gray so Parisian, and like the Aca Joe stores I designed in the late 80’s.
Again making a bathroom ADA compliant does not mean that for that reason it has to be aseptic.
While our design composition is rather minimalist (less is more), while we did use large (12″x 24″) staggered light gray ceramic tile on the walls, in contrast we used small (2″x 2″) darker gray floor tile, the latter to prevent slippage, while contouring the floor slope.
Most noteworthy the Vanity Top is Cranberry Red. Done in Resin with a Polished stainless frame and sink, and backlit. The point is it is alive, and Sexy!
When I moved out of my parents home I did into a 300 sq. ft. space. I stayed there for around 5 years until I got married and at that point increased the area for myself and my wife to area to about double of thent 600 sq. ft.. We lived there for about 8 years until our daughter was born.
Hence from my personal experience 900 sq. ft. is not so bad…
Remember some of the intangibles. Those years in the small space, we had access to a garden. At this Waterfront Condo, they have a view and a dramatic one, water and a cityscape across the bay, the San Francisco Financial District. So how much is too little is relative to several conditions. It is ultimately what you feel. Design does help make small spaces feel better, if executed correctly.
All remodels bring surprises, when you open the walls (the can of worms), worms do come out. They increase the degree of difficulty as well as the costs.
Most important is the clients “Patience”. As a design-build firm we are used to dealing with surprises, in this case fortunately the owners had done a couple of homes from the ground up before, and realised this could happen.
When you assume the responsibility to make sure things happen and that there is a timely and convenient way to move in, you are on top of everything, every day, making sure it happens, there is a cost benefit to every decision as well.
The hardest thing of the small space is to fit. No only the puzzle pieces but the work team. One would have more people and more trades working together, however because of the limited space you can’t, consequently you end up on top of each other and damages occur, and you have to redo it again. This makes it more time consuming and costly. Logistics do not work nearly as well as in a larger space.
Test. Test everything before the Guest or Owner moves in. You don’t want to spoil the honeymoon, if the toilet or the heating malfunction, even more so if they were already there.
Closets and Wardrobes. As you can notice in the above photo of the fireplace, storage was doubled there. So is the bedroom closet, which we had to modify entirely and relocate part of the functions.
Bed. Don’t do it yourself. Those who store under the bed never see the items again, and waste money when they add drawers. Here is the best solution, used thoroughly in Europe where apartments are usually smaller. Flip mechanism. Please note the strap at the foot of the bed, released allows for much better access (here shown strapped). Night stands shown in the photograph below are temporary, those with storage are under production at this time.
Bathroom. Though the basin allows underneath for leg space while on a wheelchair, a custom cabinet underneath was provided as well. This is convenient for the person on the wheelchair. While on the other hand the entire back wall portion above the vanity is covered in mirrored medicine cabinets and is composed of cabinets 4″ in depth. These cabinets can be deeper as well.
We are happy so long as our clients are happy with our work, and they feel our efforts, theirs and the team, while they were worth it and they above all got their money’s worth and are certainly enjoying life more in their new setting.
If in addition to that we feel like we achieved something and conquered some challenges to do so, and we also created a different and distinctive space, perhaps art for the Art of living, then we are happy too.
A recent new law in California encourages the creation or addition of a second unit in houses.
The Housing and Rent crises in the State has turned this around. While it used to be against the law to add a second unit in most homes it is now the opposite. You would need to hide a second kitchen with a separate entrance, an in-law, granny flat or second dwelling before. Not now.
While this is meant to help generate additional dwellings for people who need to be close to their jobs and to reduce commuter and traffic times, it is helping solve another issue. Rather than sell your home and pay large amounts of taxes, you might be able to stay and “Age-in-place”, by dividing your home, downsizing and turning part of your home into a separate dwelling for someone else. So you occupy less space, and receive rent for the rest of your space.
For many people who’s family size has been reduced because of a move of a member of the family, that extra space might represent income, instead of additional space you might no longer need.
You might need to remodel. Perhaps provide a separate entrance and kitchen, while you might want to update the portion you are keeping to work for you current or future needs.
It might be a basement or a space over your garage that you convert to a second unit. You might move to the smaller new unit and rent the larger one, or keep your main area and rent the small one.
This represent Remodeling and Design needs where Architects and Interior Designer can be instrumental in a successful plan.
A link to the law is shown below under our “Links and Sources section”.
Make sure you don’t waste any space. There isn’t much of it to start with. It’s too valuable. Some good ones we achieved were: Fireplace depth surrounding areas. Medicine cabinets. Under the bed.
Plan for aging in place or barrier free. It can still be beautiful. Let alone useful at a future time.
Think of Accessory Dwelling Units, so called in- law.
The View from the condo, to the San Francisco financial district and the Tiburon Corinthian Yacht Club below.
The Ark. Tiburon’s weekly newspaper. Spring Home edition cover.
Please note all photography above is copyrighted and may not be reproduced. Snaps only on some images.
Professional photography by Michael Hospelt.
JACOBS DESIGN, INC.©2019