Wednesday, March 26, 2014

IBS Live Design Competition


What happened in Vegas… 

NAHB Design Committee Chairperson, Sanford Steinberg (left) presents the 2014 BALA Live Design Award to AIBD members, Kevin Holdridge and Chuck Harrison.

Harrison, Holdridge, win BALA Live Design.

AIBD members Chuck Harrison (PA) and Kevin Holdridge (NC) teamed up to design an award winning home for one of our wounded warriors, Army Sgt. Joseph Garbianowski. Sgt. Garbianowski is a war veteran in his mid-twenties and is missing both legs and half of his pelvis. He requires a wheelchair 100% of the time. He has also been diagnosed with a severe traumatic brain injury that can periodically affect his hearing. He likes sky-diving and had done it once already. Using this information, Kevin and Chuck designed a highly accessible floor plan with creative connections to the outdoors and a huge open Great Room with a soaring ceiling. In the ceiling, they designed space to suspend an old Army T-11 parachute for nostalgia and to help with the acoustics in the large space. Along with the normal amenities in a 3-bedroom, 2-bath home with a 2-car garage and study, Chuck and Kevin squeezed in two prominent display areas for Sgt. Garbianowski’s career memorabilia. Both the IBS attendees and the panel of judges agreed their entry was the winning design. And, the jury felt, “Even though their design included all the necessary handicap elements, it didn’t seem to be a home designed for someone who has handicaps.”


Friday, January 31, 2014

Re-purposing the space you already have

In this remodel we opened up the kitchen to the living space.  Most older homes section off the living area from the dining area.  Our lifestyles today are indicative of open floor plans.  Have we not only entertained in the living spaces, but everyone always wants to gather around the kitchen spaces to talk.  Life is short, live in cool spaces.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Year's Resolution Already Busted?

         What part of your home doesn't work for you?  How many times have you piled your guest’s coats on the bed or walked by the formal living room that you never go into? Do you have rooms in your house that are underutilized? Does the flow of your floor plan accommodate your current family’s lifestyle? Is your garage a shelter for your cars or a large toy closet?   Does your back yard allow you to easily entertain your friends?
These are only a few questions that you should answer to help you decide if it is time to remodel your home. We all make New Year’s resolutions every year. Most resolutions have to do with exercise or eating better or drinking less coffee or soda. These are generally radical lifestyle changes that we try to abruptly change. It works for a little while but something usually bumps us off track and we revert back to our normal comfortable routine. Why not make a New Year’s resolution that you can stick with?
Having an underperforming home will add unneeded stress in your life. Your home should be a sanctuary, a place to relax.  There are several things to look at that add stress. Is there enough storage in your home? Does the Kitchen flow properly for your preferred cooking style? Is your entertaining style formal or informal and does that match your current floor plan? Do you need a full home office or do you have one that you don’t use?  A common bone of contention with most homes it that the design is choppy and there are too many small rooms and hallways.  Most of these problems can be fixed by a good residential designer. The best thing about this New Year’s resolution is that you are transforming your house to fit your lifestyle and making life a little easier for yourself. Resolutions are easy to keep if you don’t have to change your natural habits.  
Whether it’s a new Kitchen, transforming a formal space into an informal space, changing the function of a small confined room, adding a small mud room area, or adding an outdoor entertainment area, the bottom line is to think about all of the things that bother you about your current situation and write them down. A specific list of the things that you like and dislike as well as the way that you currently work around the problems in your floor plan will be crucial in getting your house functioning to your needs. Every house can be fixed if you’re honest with yourself about the problems.
Don’t make the mistake of further compromising your home by not changing something because of the fear of “re-sale”. Most houses on the market are overly formal and our lifestyles have become very informal. Changing a home to be less formal is very desirable in today’s market. Spaces can still be luxurious without being overly formal.  You, your designer, and your builder should all be on the same page because if one is out of the loop, the project could be compromised or go grossly over budget. Make sure that you surround your project with a great team and don’t forget to dream big.

Come see us at and feel free to ask us any questions about how to begin your resolution or to have us consult on one that you have already stared. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Psychological Design – A Series on the Home Design Evolution Revolution - Issue 2 Isolation

Psychological Design – A Series on the Home Design Evolution Revolution - Issue 2 Isolation

In the last issue we discussed how as a society, our lifestyles have continued to change and become more informal and relaxed for the most part. Technology has greatly downsized a lot of our electronics making us a little more versatile. Computing can easily be done from anywhere in the house. A growing number of people are now working from home after they leave the office and if they want to be included during entertaining situations they can generally conduct business by the pool or if they need privacy they can find a quiet space in the home to conduct business. We also discussed some reasons why some rooms make us feel uncomfortable. The biggest reason being the feeling of isolation. We spoke about how the old formal living rooms or studies are cold isolated rooms. We also have valuable square footage that is being taken up in formal rooms. The fact that formal dining rooms only usually get used once or twice a year is the reason why people are gravitating to more practical designs. We are going to explore isolation in a different way in this issue.

During our research on psychological design we uncovered a very disturbing fact about mobility. Studies have shown that 80% of people will end up in a wheelchair sometime in their life, whether it is temporary or permanently. This fact shows that it will be very likely that you or someone close to you will incur mobility issues during the course of their lifetime. If we extend this thought to crutches and walkers the numbers are even higher. This is still only a fraction of the items that factor into universal design aspects.

The isolation that we are talking about in this issue is the isolation caused by poorly thought out floor plans. We generally never realize that there is a problem with our homes until we have some sort of traumatic event happen. A broken arm, a broken leg, a visual impairment, or a back injury could uncover some interesting things in our houses. Most houses will have some tell-tale signs by the way of having small toilet rooms or more than three steps to the front porch or from the garage. Some homes will have small doorways into bedrooms and bathrooms. Kitchens may have some flow problems or have a lot of upper cabinet storage and not enough natural light. These small items can result in big problems in the event of an injury or some kind of degenerative disease. Having difficulties moving your house can be very frustrating and a lot of these issues could have been avoided. Using universal design concepts when designing a new home or remodeling your existing home can pay high dividends in the quality of life category.

Universal design is defined as the concept of designing an environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life. A well thought out floor plan will have features in it that most people won’t even realize. A wider hallway, an extra window, a lever handle doorknob, zero clearance thresholds, wider doorways and light switches with motion sensors are all examples of universal design. These are practical features that are intended for one reason, the ease of livability. Anyone of any age or ability will be able to take advantage of these features.

Your home should be your safe haven, a place of refuge. Hopefully you will never lose mobility or any of your five senses, but if you did wouldn’t it make you feel better that your home would not limit you.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Psychological Home Design

A Series on the Home Design Evolution Revolution

We have been designing several remodels lately and my clients will tell me that they just need more space. What most of them need is to use the space that they have more effectively. I have also seen houses that are for sale sitting for long periods of time in neighborhoods where homes have been selling because of these same old dated floor plans. I read an article the other day about what the most important item that potential home buyers are looking for in a house. I was pleased to see that the number one answer was a well designed floor plan. A house that is properly designed for proper site orientation is important, but having it custom designed to how a modern family will live in it will be incredible.

If we look at older house floor plans we will notice that homes were designed for a more formal lifestyle. Let’s look at society in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. It was commonplace for men to wear a suit and fedora to watch live sporting events. The men were usually the bread winners and worked from eight to five during the week. Women generally stayed home to take care of the children and the cooking and cleaning duties. Children had no reason to play in the house and were generally spending their leisure time outside. Typically, the women stayed in the kitchen which was segregated from the parlor or formal living room, where the men usually gathered. These floor plans were specifically designed to section off certain activities, custom made for the lifestyles of the day.

What you may or may not have noticed is that most of today’s houses have these similar design traits. Our houses still have formal living rooms and formal dining rooms, large soaking tubs in the master bath and segregated kitchens. Our lifestyles however have completely changed. Both spouses generally work full time jobs that spill into our home lives and usually share the household chores. Our children would rather stay inside and play video games than ride their bikes down to the park. Not to mention that because each household has several vehicles, most of the parks are within driving distance rather than safe biking distance. Today the only person at a live sporting event with a suit on is an NBA basketball coach or the players as they enter or exit the locker room.

Over the years I hear the same things from most of my clients when I ask them what they don’t like about their existing house. The number one answer is that they only use their formal dining room on holidays or special events. They eat and then immediately leave the room and gather in the kitchen or living room. This is a wasted room in a house because of the room’s psychology. The formal dining room is usually at the front of the house, open to the foyer with a small door to the kitchen or butlery. It normally overlooks the driveway or the street front. As people with generally informal lifestyles, we want to be in open spaces where we can multitask and interact with our families. We want to watch television while we clean the kitchen and help our children with their homework. To go hand and hand with the formal dining room concept we still have a separate breakfast room for everyday eating and usually a raised bar for even more informal dining. That’s three places in our home to eat. I guess that this is how was decided to get the best of both worlds. So now we have two informal dining areas and a formal dining room only for special occasions or because (and I love this one) it’s needed for resale, through years and years of brainwashing. Depends of who is buying I guess; Eisenhower’s - Definitely, Baby Boomers - Maybe, Gen X - Not really, and Gen Y - No Way.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Price isn't always the reason homes sell slow

   Recently we have been brought in to evaluate why some homes have not been selling as quickly as desired. These homes were all in very nice subdivisions that homes have been moving in. Before speaking with us the only avenue that the sellers and Realtors had explored was to continually drop the price of the homes.
   The first thing that KDH Residential Designs looks at is the exterior of the home. Does the exterior make us want to stop the car and look inside? If not, we evaluate what kind of things that we can do to update the facade of the home to make it more appealing.
    Next we look at the floor plan. If the floor plan is out of date and doesn't fit today's lifestyle, we try to find inexpensive ways to make the flow of the home more desirable. We also try to find any undesirable features of the property and make them less obvious to prospective clients. For instance if the home has a rear terrace that is in direct sunlight (southern exposure) all day, then we try to add porches or shade trees. If the home is in an area where there is some road noise, we try to add screen walls with water features or heavy landscaping sound buffers.
    With a little forward thinking you can turn negatives into positives and make your home more appealing to prospective buyers without having to drop your selling price. Once a few items have been addressed, the seller has the option of actually doing the remodel or to simply just show prospective buyers how they can easily improve these situations to make the home their own. Sometimes all that is needed is a visual representation of what could be done to sway a potential home buyer. If you have a home that you would like us to evaluate send us some pictures or drop us a line at

Good Luck and Happy Selling!!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Five Myths about Green Building for Homes

1. Green Building is a Fad.
Green building is a fad an much as high energy costs are a fad. This always gets compared to the 1970’s gas crisis and the emergence of solar panels on homes. The truth is that the ruling bodies in residential building code creation are pushing to have net zero homes by 2030. When organizations like ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers) and USGBC (United States Green Building Council) are setting goals for homes to be net-zero by 2030, I would say that green building is going to become the new standard and trying to sell an old energy pig will be very difficult in the near future. Because of this updating and remodeling older homes to be more energy efficient will continue to be a growing trend.

2. Building Green is Expensive
Green Building is about education. Yes on the surface certain items that go into a green home can be expensive. Some people will even try to sell these features to you by saying that they have a great pay back. These are things that I call gadgets. Getting the latest technology gadgets will always be expensive and that is true with anything. The latest cell phone may cost $500 and a year later, when something better is out, you can buy it for a quarter of the price. The education comes into building as a way to save money in one area in order to be able to spend it in another. This is general accounting. The home can be designed in such a manner as to maximize the materials used. This cuts down on waste and saves in framing costs. An experienced home designer and builder can work together with the trades to make sure that the home is designed and built in the most efficient manner. A little up front planning will go a long way in saving on construction costs, usually enough to keep some gadgets in the budget. Be smart with your gadgets. A solar photovoltaic system that costs $20,000.00 may only save you $70 a month in energy bills so it may be that there are other less expensive ways to save on monthly utility bills like installing a high efficiency pool pump or low flow water fixtures. Generally you can pay for high efficiency items with pre-planning design or by simply making the house smaller. Having your designer work with your builder to create a team around your project is a key. If they refuse to work together, my advice is to find a new team. Also, make sure that you look at the whole house as a system, as your framing costs go down your insulation costs may go up but your HVAC costs should also come down. 

3. A tight house will trap toxic fumes

In order to have an energy efficient home we must be able to control the air exchanges. The biggest argument against building a tight home that I hear is that a house needs to breathe. This is true, but how does it breathe is the question. I equate this to my boat theory. Every boat needs a drain plug. One hole that you can control when it is open and closed. What the theory of “let the house breathe” equates to on my boat is that it’s ok to have a few holes (that you can’t see) that will let in some water because when you lift the boat out of the water it should just leak right back out the same hole. Never mind that because you can’t see the leaks you can’t tell what kind of damage it is doing to your boat. Is the water getting trapped, so when it freezes it will expand making my problem worse next year? Chances are you never know the answer to questions like these until it becomes a larger problem. In humid climates we have to use air conditioners to pull the humidity out of the air. Think of all of that unwanted humidity that is coming into your leaky house every time the air conditioner kicks on. The rule of thumb that needs to be followed here is, “Build Tight, Ventilate Right”. Common sense should take over here. Have your lot tested for things like radon and if you have radon you should simply design a radon mitigation pipe into you home. Make sure that all of your combustion appliances and fireplaces are properly vented and accounted for in your HVAC calculations. Building a tight home makes the HVAC system more efficient by taking out the random variables of leaky construction. It also solves a lot of the maintenance issues that occur from having unwanted air and water intrusion. Remember that wherever air can go so can water.  

4. Green Building techniques can’t be done to custom houses
This is the biggest myth of them all. Large or small, green building techniques can be instituted on every house built. Custom designing your home to your lifestyle needs is the best way to be efficient. The designer can specifically tailor the home to your needs thus reducing wasted unused spaces and rooms. This coupled with using design techniques that use the building materials to their maximum to reduce construction waste should be enough to pay for the design itself twice over. Advanced framing techniques and value engineering alone can save 15%-20% of the overall framing package. The most important part of designing and building a custom home is to have a team of professionals that are well versed in building science and green building techniques.

5. There is too much paperwork for certified homes
Certifications are important to have as proof of building an energy efficient home. There are several different certification programs, each with the same basis premise of energy efficiency. LEED is probably one of the most well know and was originally just for commercial buildings. Now the LEED for Homes is out and this seems to be the most arduous program for paperwork and fees. There are other programs out there that are a little more builder friendly like NAHB Green, EarthCraft, Healthy Built Homes and some locations have their own local green building programs. Generally it is best to have your designer speak with a local third party verifier early in the design process to see which program would best suit your needs. The verifier should do a lot of the documentation and testing but will ultimately define the duties of each of the build team members. Building a team of professionals around your building process is the best way to insure that your home will perform at a high level.