Renovation Step 2 – Determining Your Purpose

By: Kate HambletNovember 7, 2017

You’re ready to start your renovation, right?  Once you have your existing conditions plan, the fun stuff can begin!  The next step after understanding your current floor plan is to understand what you want to achieve with your renovation and why.  Determining your purpose for the reno will help guide the design and give you a clear path to a successful finished product.  Whether you are remodeling a bathroom or doubling the size of your house, understanding your purpose for doing so will be your beacon throughout the renovation, preventing you from heading off course.  The last thing you want in a reno project is to go over budget or end up with a finished product that doesn’t make you happy.  Clearly stating what you want to achieve from the reno and why you want to achieve it BEFORE you begin will create a beautiful, budget-friendly finished product that you will be proud of for the rest of the days you spend in your home.  Let me walk you through how I  determined my purpose and program.  You can find my actual purpose and program list at the end of this post.

How To Determine Your Purpose for Renovating

Find a comfortable spot in your house, preferably in the place you tend to gather the most, that allows you to sit and reflect on what you like and what you don’t like about your home.  Ask yourself the questions listed below.  Write down your answers to make clarity out of your thoughts.  You might need to get up and walk around each room to trigger some thoughts you have about all the spaces of your home.

  • How does the house make me feel right now?  
  • Who uses the house?
  • What rooms get used the most?  Why?
  • What rooms get used the least?  Why?
  • What are my favorite things to do in a house?
  • What drives me crazy about my house?

Define Your Renovation Purpose in a Statement

Now that you have a thoughtful list of what you like and don’t like about the house, you can formulate a statement that encompasses what you want out of your renovation.  Here are some pointers.

  • Read over your answers to the previous questions.  Is there one thing that stands out as holding you back from enjoying your house the way you should be able to?  Maybe your house feels cold and dark all the time so you don’t feel like your happiest self while in it.  Then you can start your statement by saying that you want natural light in the house to bring it warmth.
  • Look at what you wrote down as your favorite things to do in a home.  Are you currently able to do those things?  If not, include them in your statement.
  • Here is my purpose statement for our renovation.  “Above all else, I want to live in a home that lets us be the healthiest version of ourselves.  I want our house to be a calm retreat to come home to everyday with living spaces filled with natural light and a place for all of our belongings to be stored.  I want a kitchen that restores my joy of cooking and makes prepping for the week easy.  Our home needs to keep us warm in the winter and cool in the summer without having massive energy bills.  And knowing our track record for moving, we need to keep in mind the resale value of the home.


Create Your Program

A program is a well thought out list of items you want to achieve in your renovation.  This is what will give you, your designer, and/or your contractor direction for the renovation.  Having an established program will allow you to see if everything you want to do is within your budget before any renovation work has begun.  Here are some tips on how to write a program for your renovation.  Make sure you physically write it down, just as you did with your purpose.

  • Start by reading through your purpose statement and thinking about what it would take to achieve your desired home.
  • Look over your answers to the ‘determine your purpose’ questions and make a list of items that will create a solution to the problems you currently see in the house.  You can’t stand having shoes pile up at the main entry of your house?  A solution would be to create a shoe storage area at your entry.  Go through each item that bugs you and think about what would work instead.
  • Talk to whoever else lives in the house with you.  This is a key point and should probably have been mentioned way before now because you all want to be on the same page before getting too far into a renovation project.  When you talk to them, you might unlock some great ideas for how to fix your current problems.  If you live alone, talk to close friends and family that know you and your house well.  But be careful with this.  Everyone has really great advice to share, but sometimes the advice doesn’t apply to your situation.  You don’t want to go down a renovation path that is meeting someone else’s dreams and not yours.
  • Look at websites like Houzz and Pinterest.  Who doesn’t love getting a little lost in Pinterest on a Saturday morning?  You might find some inspiration in the images you see.  If you have pinned a lot of things, go back and take a look at what you’ve saved.  You might find a trend.  Maybe you have been pinning a bunch of photos with two sinks in a bathroom.  There’s a clue that you want to have two sinks in your bathroom!
  • Talk to a design professional.  It is a designer’s job to hear what isn’t currently working for a client, and come up with a solution that does work.  If hiring an architect or designer sounds too expensive, know that you can often hire them for individual services such as setting a program for your home.


Next Step

Now that you have a clear picture of what you want out of the renovation and why you want it, let’s make sure you can afford to do it all 🙂  Budgeting is a not so fun renovation topic, but it must be discussed.  I will be going over some budgeting basics in my next post.


My Renovation Purpose and How I Got There

The underwhelming Living Room
Experiencing the Underwhelm of the Living Room

Questions I asked myself

How does the house make me feel right now?

Underwhelmed. It’s a bit dark and storage is minimal so we are constantly looking at stuff we don’t care to be looking at.  We now know that the insulation in our walls is covered in mold, so the house makes me nervous to be in.

Who uses the house?

Two adults and an almost 3 year old. We have guests visit regularly and they currently have to sleep on the couch if they want to stay over.  The size of the house works well for 3 people.  The only time we are in each other’s way is when Crosby is playing with his toys on the living room floor.

What are my favorite things to do in a house?

I love to cook and want to have a kitchen that is easy to clean, easy to move around in and has zoned areas for prepping, cooking and cleaning.  I like to entertain and would enjoy having enough space for about 15 people to comfortably be in.  I work out at home and want a place to do this that is not the living room, bedroom, or random spot in the hallway.  Pieter likes working on cars and fixing things.  He wants a space to store tools and work on parts.

What drives me crazy about the house and why?

-Mold, mold everywhere.  We just discovered that there is mold within our exterior walls which is a major health concern.  It also means that the insulation is not doing its job since it is wet and compressed.

-Only one heat source – the wood stove.  It makes for a very cold morning and makes it that much harder to get out of bed in the morning.

-Cramped entry area with no place to hang our coats and set down our stuff.  This leads to a pile of stuff on the dining table and kitchen island.

-The one shower in the house is downstairs and the bedrooms are upstairs.  I find this to be very annoying, especially since there is a half bath upstairs and there is plenty of room to have installed a full bath upstairs.

-I hate going into the creepy basement to do laundry.  Laundry gets done at lot less than it should because it’s far away and in a creepy place.

My Purpose Statement

Above all else, I want to live in a home that lets us be the healthiest version of ourselves.  I want our house to be a calm retreat to come home to everyday with living spaces filled with natural light and a place for all of our belongings to be stored.  I want a kitchen that restores my joy of cooking and makes prepping for the week easy.  Our home needs to keep us warm in the winter and cool in the summer without having massive energy bills.  And knowing our track record for moving, we need to keep in mind the resale value of the home.

Some of my Pinterest Inspiration

Cozy Living Room
(Image Credit: Jason Koxvold for Studio Padron, via Dezeen)


Living Room Divider
(Image Credit: IKEA)

My Renovation Program

A home that keeps us healthy:

  • Remove all mold, determine why the mold is present and stop the source of the mold growth.
  • Replace the windows and properly seal them to prevent water leaks.
  • Replace exterior wall sheathing if necessary.
  • Remove carpet and replace with a hard surface floor like wood.
  • Remove vinyl flooring and replace with a hard surface floor that does not off-gas.
  • Do not use building products that off-gas and negatively effect indoor air quality.
  • Replace railings that are below code required minimum heights.
  • Replace copper pipes with PVC to stop the leaching of lead.
  • Install a whole house water filter.
  • Install a whole house ventilation system so fresh air is constantly being moved through the house.
  • Install lighting fixtures that provide night time safety lighting.

A Calm Retreat:

  • Entry unloading zone – A bench to take off our shoes.  A place to store our in-season shoes and coats.  A place for bags, lunch boxes, mail etc. to rest while we take off our shoes and coats.
  • Natural Light – The living room needs a bigger south-facing window to brighten it up throughout the day.
  • Paint – A light paint color to brighten up the spaces.
  • Lighting – Adjustable lighting that can be warm or cool, bright or dim, based on the time of day.
  • A cozy living room that has room for 8 to comfortably sit.
  • Storage – We need a few storage zones for different storage types.  Coats and shoes not in use, pantry, cleaning supplies.


  • Kitchen needs to be large enough for two people to comfortably work at the same time.
  • Create zones for prep, cooking, and cleaning.
  • Appliances should be easy for everyone to use and at a height where everyone can reach (no microwave over a stove).
  • The kitchen needs to be a safe place to cook – no tripping hazards, slippery floors, drawer pulls that clothing can get caught on, having to reach over an open flame to turn the knob of a stove etc.

Warm, Energy Efficient Home:

  • Replace all wall insulation with new 3 1/2″ mineral wool batts.
  • Add either exterior insulation or second layer of 3 1/2″ batt insulation to interior side of walls.
  • Create an air barrier around the entire envelope of the house.
  • Add windows to let in more southern light in the winter.
  • Add shading devices if necessary to block harsh southern summer sun.
  • Add a heat source in addition to the wood stove.  Preferably radiant heat.

Resale Value / Things to keep me sane:

  • Laundry room on main living level.
  • Full bathroom upstairs with the bedrooms.
  • A half bath on main level for guests.
  • A place for guests to sleep besides our living room couch.
  • A place for Crosby to play.
  • A place for tools and fixing things.
  • A place to workout.


By the way, if our list of items to address seems overwhelming to you, please know that we are taking on an extensive renovation.  As I have mentioned before, we knew how much work this house was going to need to bring it up to safe, healthy living conditions and are seriously overhauling the entire house.  This is not a typical renovation.



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