by David Wulff

I have been an architect now for over 45 years.  Yes, I am that old!  Here’s a typical scenario that I have seen numerous times in my practice.  A family requests an addition of a family room.  When I tour the house, I note that they have a formal living room and a rarely used dining room already exist.  In spite of the obvious efficiency of using preexisting space to fulfill their needs, many homeowners cite the conventional real estate wisdom that a formal living room and dining room need to be preserved to maintain resale value.  My take: use your home for your needs, not for some one in the future.  You might be in this home for another 15-20 years.   It seems a very expensive proposition to maintain five hundred square feet of space or more for the sole purpose of getting a higher price in the future.

In this case there is little doubt that something needs to be done, but adding on to a house that already has large rooms gathering dust may not be the solution.  If one follows the art of Feng shui, it teaches us that a house, like our personal talents, should be used to the fullest.  Unused talent, like unused space, is not only a waste, but can disrupt the harmony that exists when all parts of a system operate at their best.  In this case, rooms that are not used regularly drain us because they are a metaphor for failing to tap into our potential.

Your goal is to create a home that emotionally satisfies you by rethinking the quality of the spaces in the home rather than the quantity.  Many of us are trying to live twenty-first century lives in homes whose architectural styles were developed early in the twentieth century or earlier.  The large TV screens, computer setups, audio equipment, etc. of today have replaced the conversation and card games that were the main source of home entertainment decades ago. 

So, if you live in an older home, even one built in the last 50 years, that has little-used existing spaces, consider reallocating space to serve present needs before considering an addition.   Maybe, in the final analysis, an addition is not needed or perhaps just a small addition will add to the quality of your home.  And as an added benefit, you have less space to clean.

David H. Wulff, AIA is an architect in Lake Lure