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Jun 29, 2023

Function vs. Flair: When, and When Not, To Compromise During Remodeling

Homeowners who are doing remodeling projects often have to balance form and function. The average homeowner lives in their house for 13 years, and the environment they and their families interact with daily impacts their quality of life. 

If you are involved in renovations, the temptation may be to focus solely on appearance. However, you can’t ignore other factors in remodeling. Most projects need to have practical motivations. The renovations should be useful for your daily life, add value or equity, or bring new features to the property. 

It’s possible to balance the practical and design aspects of remodeling to get the look you want and the functionality you need. A remodeling professional can assist with the planning and help you decide on the priorities for the project. 

How To Set Your Priorities for a Project

The first step in remodeling starts before you pound in the first nail or make the first paintbrush stroke. Define your priorities. Once you understand what you want to accomplish with the project, you can discern which elements are necessary and which you can include if the budget allows. 

Here are the questions to ask.

  • How will the space be used, and for how long? You can start by defining the functional requirements for the space. This step will allow you to decide on the necessary practical elements. The length-of-use question will help you discern how long you need each improvement to last. The answer to these questions can affect the budget and quality of materials and work.
  • Who will primarily use it and see it? If you are renovating a central space in the home, appearance may have a higher priority as everyone who comes over will see it. In an interior room for daily family use, function and quality are more important.
  • What are the future uses of the space? This can affect the scope of the project. For example, if you are making a child’s bedroom, they may need different features and want to change their appearance as they grow. You can plan the project around elements that are easy to change. 
  • What is the budget? The cost of the project can affect whether you need to choose between functionality and appearance or if you can add both. If you set your priorities by answering the other questions, you can select the improvements you feel are essential and cut those that won’t add value or functionality. 
  • What is the return on investment (ROI)? Some projects, such as adding hardwood floors, can bring a positive ROI. The National Association of REALTORS (NAR) estimates that new hardwood flooring brings a 118% ROI while refinishing hardwood floors offers a 147% ROI. This variable could be a priority if you want to build equity to eventually sell the home.

The NAR also surveyed homeowners to see which improvements made them feel the best about their homes. The organization found that simple improvements, like interior painting and closet renovations, brought the most joy to homeowners. 

Key Considerations for Big Projects

Big projects can increase equity and strongly influence the overall design and function of the home. The larger the project, the more you have to carefully plan, weigh priorities, and calculate the budget and potential pitfalls. 

Not only do big projects have to balance design and functionality, but they require a larger investment. Finally, the more elements a project has, the more chances you will experience delays or problems. 

Here are key considerations for major home remodeling projects. 


Kitchens are among the most essential rooms in a home. The average American spends 400 hours in the kitchen each year. That’s more than one hour per day for cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, or organizing food. 

Functionality is essential for every kitchen. Not only do you need the necessary equipment and features, but everything from the floor to the counters needs to be durable enough to stand up to daily use. 

Kitchens need a proper layout so that you can cook, wash, and reach ingredients efficiently. The goal in planning the design is to minimize movement when cooking. That might mean placing drawers with utensils near the stovetop and storing ingredients in nearby cabinets. 

You also need to ensure you have the correct electrical and plumbing outlets. For example, standard U.S. outlets use 110 to 120 volts, but electric ranges require 240 volts and gas stoves need a special line. The electrical infrastructure must also be able to support heavy use, with a refrigerator, coffee maker, microwave, stove, oven, and blender all requiring power. 

Finally, floors and countertops need to be able to handle daily traffic, repel water, and provide easy cleanup after spills. 

Since no two households have the same cooking needs and habits, it’s best to opt for a customized kitchen remodel to get the features you need. 


The bathroom is the other daily-use living space requiring special remodeling considerations. A properly functioning shower or bath, sink, and toilet are essential elements of every home, regardless of its other details. Renovations should always bring positive changes like durability, comfort, or functionality. 

Bathroom renovations need to account for practical issues, like the ease of cleaning and proper ventilation and circulation to avoid issues like mold growth. 

Renovations also offer opportunities to increase efficiency. Bathrooms account for 45% of indoor water use, so updating fixtures can lower utility costs in the home. Low-flow showerheads, faucets, and toilets can reduce water consumption. The right choice can bring this benefit without forcing users to sacrifice comfort. 

Bathrooms are generally small, meaning simple appearance updates can enhance appearance. Basic paint, hardware, or lighting updates can change the look of the room. You can match these elements to create a specific motif. For example, you can opt for a Southwestern-style bathroom with new tiles, towel and tissue holders, and shelving or cabinets. 

You should consider your priorities and create a bathroom renovation checklist to ensure you account for every aspect of the project. 

Windows and Doors

Windows and door renovations are not only costly, but they have an oversized impact on the efficiency of your home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, houses lose 30% of their energy through the windows. They lack insulation and let in sunlight, producing solar gain that heats the interior of the building. 

Windows and doors are also unique because they are among the few elements impacting both the interior and exterior appearance of the home. Design and style choices can impact interior ambiance and curb appeal. 

An investment in new windows should improve efficiency. You can usually improve efficiency by opting for double-pane windows if your home has older single-pane models, improving the seal around the frame, or upgrading to more durable vinyl windows. Similar considerations can help you choose an efficient door. 

Door efficiency is measured using R-value, which rates insulative performance, and U-factor, which scores heat flow transmission. Finally, the solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) represents the fraction of solar radiation that passes through the door. 

Steel and fiberglass are typically the best insulators, but any door that provides an R-5 or R-6 rating is sufficient for most climates. Meanwhile, lower U-factor and SHGC figures are better in most cases, with Energy Star suggesting U-factors below 0.30 and SHGC ratings below 0.25 (or 0.4 in northern climates).

Once you choose the type based on efficiency needs, you can look for door and window styles that fit your aesthetic tastes. 

With careful planning, you can define your priorities and balance form and function to get the most out of your home remodeling projects.

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