May 15th 2008

Throwing my body in front of the bus

As a design professional, I pride myself in giving great advice on every aspect of the project. I bring elaborate designs with carefully chosen materials for a look to die for. Then, there are those rare moments when I just have to throw my body in front of the bus. A design disaster is eminent and I just have to stop it. Luckily, I use the utmost tact when body throwing, but I just flat out refuse to let someone make a mistake.

In my initial meeting with people, I always tell them that every choice is always theirs to make. My job is to bring creative ideas to the table, share with them “every trick in the book” about how to get a look and not, necessarily, pay the price. I bring options, they make the choice. But I promise them right then and there that if you are going to make a mistake, I will throw my body in front of the bus.

Your home should reflect you and your lifestyle, so what may be good for one person would be the absolute wrong choice for another. That’s where I come in. We talk about what the client wants, needs and can afford. We also talk about what the goal for the house may be. If you plan to live in a house for two years, your decisions would be very different than if you plan on going out of the place feet first.

Recently, I had a client who transferred in from another city. He wanted to build a house and the plan was to live there about five years before he went to the next city. He was single and really only wanted one bedroom, though the house would be about 5000 square feet.

So, could we build a one bedroom house? The good news is yes, you can build a one bedroom house. The bad news you will never sell it to anyone else. So, it would not be a wise decision to build just a one bedroom house when you will be selling in five years. He seemed very disappointed and I told him I would have some options for him in the next meeting.

I designed a plan that had a great Master Bedroom and two other wonderful suites. One he would use as a Study since he worked from home much of the time and other would be an exercise room. When he planned to move, we would stage the rooms as bedrooms. Problem solved. I threw my body in front of the bus and he was grateful.

Not only did he get the perfect floor plan for him, he also would eventually need it. Within a year, he married a woman with a small child he adores. We are now finishing the lower level for a play room, a media room (for Barney videos, I imagine) and an exercise room. He has decided to stay put in St. Louis to be near family and they want to build a new home in two years to house a whole family of kids! Good thing we didn’t build a one bedroom house!

April 24th 2007

Who’d Ever Imagine (aka Who’d Have Thunk It?)

Sinn Design Build Renovation Ladue LibraryA few years ago I bought a real fixer upper for my own family.  As my husband lovingly reminded me for the DURATION of the design and build, it was more a tear downer.  Regardless, I loved the house.  It had charm that is difficult to build (and afford)  in today’s terms.  There were alcoves in children’s bedrooms upstairs with sloped ceilings, window seats and built-ins in most rooms.  It was flat out cute.  “Cute” is a chick term, the male term is “way too much work heap of bricks”. 

I literally bought the house on the hood of a car and then called my husband to tell him we were moving.  I was very thoughtful in asking him if he wanted to see it.  He declined, trusting my instincts.  After the deal was done, I walked him through.  We drove up to the house, it had a nice presence and was on a beautiful lot.  So far, so good.  Then we walked inside.  He was strangely quiet.  The house rambled from room to room.  There was a breakfast table in the hall to the Master Bedrooms (yes, rooms) because there was no breakfast room.  The kitchen was the size of a powder room in some of the houses we build and the garage was detached with an open breezeway. 

As we approached two bedrooms on the first floor, he managed to speak.  “Are we really going to live here?” 

“Of course!”  I said indignantly.

“Are we planning on having separate bedrooms?”  He looked a little worried.

“No, silly.  This bedroom is the Library.” 

He looked at the green shag carpet and the green foil wallpaper and the green trim and said, “Really?” 

Now, I have been married to this man for 19 years.  He has seen hundreds of elaborate designs go through our office at Sinn Design•Build and then he builds them.   How could he doubt me now?  But, it is true.  When it is your own home you can’t seem to see through what’s there to see what could be there.  Luckily, I had enough vision for the both of us.  I saw it clearly.  There would be four additions to the house with a fabulous Kitchen, Master Suite, Master Bathroom, another bedroom upstairs (since we were losing one to the new Library) and added a stone turret (in the Master Bedroom) and a new stone front entrance.  I was determined to take this cute house and make it grand!

I would run the designs past my husband on a daily basis.  He always did the same thing………looked at me like I had a third eye.  As I was finishing up the floor plans and exterior elevations, I started on the interior.  The Master Bath was incredible with separate water closets, separate vanity areas, separate dressing rooms, separate linen closets and a  “human carwash” of a shower that could clean an extended family all at the same time, separate jet sprays from every angle (one side for him and one for me) and a seat to soak up the steam.  Did you notice how separate came up a lot?  Most of our bathrooms are designed that way…..STAY ON YOUR OWN SIDE!!!!! 

Now, my husband was perking up a bit.  Then came the Library.  He is a master at trim work and at building difficult designs.  He is always consulted about trim in our design process.  Once I had sketched out something, Mr. Builder Man took over and completely planned out this awesome ceiling detail with an octagon and chandelier, bookcases with trim that we had to buy from out of town to get the look we wanted.  When he finally “saw” it, he was like a horse for the barn.  The entire gut renovation and four additions took only five months to complete.  The guy down the street did a similar scope of work renovation and his took 18 months and litigation with the builder.  When he asked how we were doing this so quickly, I explained that I was sleeping with the Builder.  But, I recommended not doing that since he wasn’t married to his.

I am sitting in that Library at this moment writing.  I work in this room every day and love it as much now as I did when it was first completed.  One night I ran across a picture of the room before, green shag carpet and all.  We even had a TeleTubby bed in there for the little coward that would come down in the middle of the night from upstairs.  I showed it to my husband.  He studied it for a moment and said, “Who would have ever thunk?” 

“Me. It’s my job, remember?” 

January 4th 2007

Who’d Have Thunk It?

Many of the beautiful, sought-after homes in the St. Louis area were built 40, 60, 100 years ago … and many of them are in need of renovation.  Renovation to bring them up to today’s way of living and to serve today’s families & lifestyles.  When I walk into these beautiful homes with clients, it’s hard for them to see past the green shag carpet and the huge flowers clinging to the printed wallpapers.  Together, we begin working through it all to get to the bones of the house and see its full potential.  When the design begins to take shape, and especially when the finished project is unveiled, clients overwhelmingly say “who’d have thunk it?”  Sometimes great, yet sometimes subtle, transformations can make a huge difference, with before and after pictures leaving viewers amazed.  “Who’d have thunk it?” you may ask.  Well together, we’d have thunk it.