Designer + Writer

Christine Brun Portrait

Christine Brun is an expert in lifestyle trends and interior design topics. She also offers color consultation and interior design.

 

Working Around Odd Architectural Designs

Working Around Odd Architectural Designs

With interior design, there are just some things you cannot ignore. Old houses often have very quirky architectural elements that have been changed over time and created even more challenges in smaller rooms. Not only are you coping with limited space but now you have to overcome these oddities. Generally, they are structures that modern building codes would not allow but were grandfathered in due to the fact that they have been around longer than us. Perhaps you have to duck down or step up when entering a space, which are illegal building techniques. Still, unless you want to gut everything, it is often more practical to work with what you have.

In this example you see a staircase running through a kitchen space on the right side of the room. It seems as if the bottom of the stairs was originally behind a wall, but now the area is exposed. It obviously doesn't meet minimum standing clearances. When using the microwave under the counter, unless you are short, there will be a danger of hitting your head. Even so, the designer worked diligently with what was available to capture new space and deliver a functioning modern kitchen. Symmetry has been neglected in favor of function. The sink has been positioned on an angle in order to make full use of the corner. And notice how the narrow bank of box drawers separates the oven from the other appliance. This throws off the positioning of the oven from being centered under the high window, but it guarantees good operating conditions. When designing high-functioning spaces like kitchens and bathrooms, sometimes you must break long-held design notions in favor of increased function.

If you are coping with the remodel of an old house, know that it is acceptable to do things in a slightly avant-garde manner. That said, there are a few common sense guidelines: It makes sense to avoid a solution that is plain old ugly because it juts out too far, or blocks a window or a doorway. Never make a design choice that is actually worse than the original condition in an attempt to upgrade the space. Try to eliminate dangerous changes in elevation — like an illegal stair — because you will risk someone tripping. Avoid confusing changes in colors. In a strange space, it is generally better to avoid calling attention to inconsistencies. So, adopt a monochromatic finish whenever possible. Keep things simple.

Most importantly, do not be afraid to revamp a peculiar area. Doing research online can yield space-friendly ideas for hardware, appliances, bathroom fixtures and more. Getting your hands on the best possible tools and pieces of the puzzle can create a very workable solution! The good news is that these days there are a substantial number of well-known manufacturers and specialty companies whose products are well suited to smaller space. Check for uniquely sized sinks or drop-in tubs, for example. There are diminutive dishwashers, wall ovens, ranges, microwaves, refrigerators and freezers as well. Even freestanding bathtubs and shower enclosures come in sizes that are favorable to unusual conditions.

The problem is usually never that the odd space is too large. The trouble stems from the area in question being very small and awkward, thus making a good modern design a bit of a challenge. Do not succumb to frustration. Know that it is far more difficult to create a good design for a small and challenging space than to do so for a big one. You are in good company.

Photo Cred: Maytag

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