Author: Betsy Perkins, Studio Designer
When I was a kid, I wanted to live in a tree. To be exact, I wanted to live in the Swiss Family Robinson tree. Since moving to Texas, my home has been a small two-story house sitting on a large lot full of trees. All the main living areas are on the second story, up in the trees. It was even nicknamed “The Treehouse” years ago by friends in my neighborhood.
Twelve years ago, my husband at the time and I added a master bedroom and two-car garage onto our little Treehouse, and it transformed how we lived.
Fast forward to today. My boyfriend and I are thinking about how retirement might someday look for us. This has led us to new priorities. We now dream of a space to enjoy time with friends. A second-story screened-in outdoor living area up in the trees overlooking our yard gained traction with us. We both wanted our own spaces to devote to our individual passions: A music room for him. An art and quilting studio for me that looks out big windows into my beautiful garden.
This time around, the entire process has been vastly different. There are digital tools galore to help homeowners like me (without an interior design or architectural degree) come up with good plans and ideas (whether we wanted a DIY approach or decided to hire out part or all of it).
We did hire an architectural firm to draw up plans for us. But the design was really ours. Rather than the job operating off large blueprints, we found that plans are now just emailed to the homeowner as PDFs. You then email them to your builder, who submits them online to the city for permits. Zoom-zoom.
As I write this, we have a foundation poured and framing has begun. We are looking forward to a Treehouse that will grow once again yet retain the character we love so much. And we largely got there with digital tools.
Here’s a summary of my journey:
What Is the Right Direction?
I used sites like Zillow.com to research finding a new home that would work for us. The easy information we gained there helped us decide to stay put rather than sell, buy and move. The idea of another home addition was born.
Pinterest.com and Houzz.com helped me determine my must-haves and can’t-stands by exploring and compiling current design trends and tips that resonated with me. I organized rooms into special boards and have referred back to them many times to eliminate, refine, etc.
Connecting With Others
Pinterest made it easy to see what other people were doing. Houzz.com made it easy to connect with other homeowners, interior designers, contractors and architects. I could see the companies and people who worked on different projects and ask questions about the products and techniques used. I could see feedback from pros. I easily shared the things I found with those people I asked for feedback.
Coming Up With a Basic Plan
I ended up being bounced to vendor sites that offered me visualization walls to try out colors, textures and products. Because we are using pretty much all of the furniture we already own, I took the architect’s PDF files, measured our furniture, drew and labeled basic element shapes to scale, then imported everything into InDesign. This allowed me to arrange most of the rooms in the house. We altered some elements of our construction easily at the design stage by doing this.
Once inspired, and to help in the design process, I found that ZillowDigs.com had ideas for individual décor items, various rooms, projects and design styles. I could get an idea of the total cost of a project, and I could find any flooring, paint, décor item, countertop, furniture, etc. that I liked. It was great for ideas, and if you find something you can’t live without, you can link to where to buy it and have it shipped to your door.
Making It Happen
Once we had a basic plan from our architect, we needed to find a reliable contractor. In my case, we talked to friends we trust and got recommendations that way, but sites such as Angie’s List collect reviews from other homeowners and provide recommendations. We also relied on a realtor friend who maintains a list of trusted trades on his website that he shared with us.
Last time I remodeled, I ended up with a giant box of files that were hard to keep organized and sorted. They are still sitting in dog-eared folders in my filing cabinet. This time, I am just organizing and filing digitally. And I am hoping to gradually digitize old files that I want to keep for further reference, so that when our project is completed, that old file cabinet won’t be needed anymore!