Which is more important… form or function… as the key consideration in any design or home remodeling project? It’s an intriguing question we consider this week as we explore the delicate balance between visual aesthetics and practical functionality.
Defining Form and Function
Let’s start with the basics. When we talk about “form,” we’re referring to the visual elements, aesthetics, and design styles that define a space. This includes architectural elements, design styles (modern, traditional, farmhouse, transitional), color schemes, material choices, and more. Whether you include beams on the ceilings or add a gorgeous wainscoting to the walls are design or form related decisions.
The idea of using a “mixed metals” approach to the accessories in your remodeled space is primarily visual and has little impact on the functional use of the space.
On the flip side, “function” encompasses the practical aspects of a space. It’s all about ensuring that the space serves its intended purpose efficiently and conveniently. This involves considerations like space utilization, layout optimization, safety features, accessibility, and addressing the everyday activities that will take place in the space. The example we often use is the location of the utensil drawer. Who wants to unload the dishwasher and take the forks, knives and spoons across the kitchen to a distant drawer? It doesn’t make sense, does it? Rather, an efficient design that considers function would provide a dedicated drawer within a step (if that) to allow you to efficiently unload the dishwasher. Whether it’s the location of your silverware drawer or planning effective walk space around an island and creating a layout for 2 cooks in the kitchen, considering function is a critical element of any remodeling project.
The Balancing Act
Achieving the perfect blend of form and function requires thoughtful consideration and collaboration. At The Lifestyle Group, we prioritize function while ensuring that the design enhances and maximizes the space’s potential. Our approach involves understanding client habits, collaborating with professionals, and addressing structural limitations early in the process, but we work from the premise that if the space does not function well, the client will think about that deficiency every day and we lose the opportunity to gain a “lifelong client”. Thus, function always wins the war with us unless the client clearly understands the tradeoffs and chooses the design driven option knowingly.
Manufacturer Product & Warranty Considerations Vary
This was alluded to above, but not all manufacturers are the same. As noted, some use thin aluminum, some use thick. Some apply their aluminum differently than others when constructing the window. There are also paint finish considerations that are outlined below, and all those details affect the length of warranty each manufacturer will offer for their product. Some of the most popular manufacturers will only offer a 1 year warranty on their product while others will offer a 20 year warranty. As you might imagine, those product price points are likely to be different as the materials and workmanship that go into a window offering to stand behind their window for 20 years is far different than a company with a 1-year warranty.
Navigating the Budget Dilemma
While we spend much of our time asking all of the pertinent questions to understand how a client intends to use the space and anxiously await inspiration pictures they may have gathered to get the process started, one often overlooked factor in the form-function debate is the elephant in the room – project cost. We understand that all clients have budget constraints (as well as varying initial expectations on what the project might cost), so we introduce this topic very early on in an effort to align our entire design build process with the client’s financial goals. Our goal is to create a functional project that meets visual aspirations and stays within budget. It is incredibly important to note that it is not always possible to meet the client price goal, but having open and honest conversations throughout the process about product options and functional layout changes to get them to their goal is part of our process. At the end of the day, we trust that our clients are capable of choosing how they want to spend their hard-earned money, so we serve as a tour guide through the design process and provide the information and the options to help them get there.
Other Design Approaches
Beginning the process with an interior designer or architect is another popular path that clients choose. In those situations, budget tends to take a bit of a back seat in the process as the driver quickly becomes “what can the space become” with slightly less regard to cost. We often work with designers and architects and they bring incredible ideas to the process that create stunning projects. In those cases, the designer or architect tends to focus more on the “wow” and less on the financial. I consider interior designers and architects as artists and creatives… and your design is their canvas. You must understand the choice to pursue this path results in a substantial financial investment up front as you will pay for the designer or architect to work their magic by the hour until the vision is complete. Upon completion of the design phase, these fine folks turn their end product over to us so we may begin the project pricing and (hopefully) the project execution phase.
Choosing Your Partner
Ultimately, the success of a project hinges on choosing the right partner. Whether it’s The Lifestyle Group using a design/build process, an architectural firm, or an interior design studio, the key is finding the right partner – one who listens, understands, and brings to life a design that meets YOUR goals, not theirs! Form and function do come at a cost, and alignment with your design partners early in the process is key to a successful project to avoid a costly investment in the design process only to create a project on paper that never gets built because you can’t make the numbers work with the design that was created.
Our best advice is to choose the path and the partner that feels right to you. The best design partners are willing to adjust layouts, recommend different materials, or explore creative alternatives to make the project align with their client’s vision and budget.