Margaret’s Renovation Dilemma Part 1

Margaret from Hamilton, Ontario messaged us recently asking us the following:

“Hello John,

I have discovered your wonderful Slow Home Studio site and am amazed at the wealth of good ideas there.

My husband and I live in Ancaster, a suburban area of Hamilton, Ontario and are in the planning stage of a major renovation to our small 1950s era bungalow.

We decided on a floor plan after going over a number of options and want to start work this spring but now I am questioning our choice because of concerns about the number and location of entries. Would you be able to look at the two options we have and provide input on which would work best?”

Here’s what John and Matthew think of Margaret’s two redesigns!

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  • Srdan Nagy

    I hope John and Matthew don’t mind some additional input…. :) 
    I am not trying to “steal the show”, just couldn’t resist doing some sketching…. :)

    So first of all I agree with Margaret, second option is a bit too open… 
    I see a big potential in redoing option one, so here is what i did:

    First of all I got rid of two entrances… J&M are right with that… you will use only one…. and there are big issues in circulation-furniture conflicts
    Overall, my goal was to create well defined rooms. so you have traditional dining room, a den/formal living room/library, and a larger open space living/ family room.
    You can see in the second sketch that I moved walls around to correct proportion of the rooms and improve their functionality. Small changes resulted in big difference…

    Hope you like it….


  • John Brown

    Hi SN,
    It is good to hear from you again. Thanks for working on a solution for Margaret’s house. We are still developing our proposal. We can discuss all of the schemes later in the week.

  • Srdan Nagy

    Hi Thanks all for the comments…. and thank you John and Matthew for uploading my drawings on Facebook page.

    This is so interesting project that I also had do some work on the option two…
    This one is actually more interesting then the first one it opens up a huge space in the middle of the house…
    as in the first option I tried to correct all the issues that John and Matthew pointed out…. corrections are really minimal but they solve some big issues in
    circulation/furniture conflicts. 
    BTW, I am not really happy how the connection between den and dining room turned out… it is something that needs more work… and I am short on time… :(

    P.S. Margaret, I just realized that I forgot to draw your piano in the den …. :( :( sorry……

  • Srdan Nagy

    OMG what a mistake…. :( horrible….. the position of the fridge….. :( the kitchen triangle with a conflict…. 
    what was I thinking…. :( 

    anyways it is fixed now….ah, that is what happens when you work for 12 hours…..

    and the piano is in the den!, with some bookshelves…..


  • Margaret

    Hi Srdan, I’m interested in your redesign of the hallway to the bedrooms. It fixes a problem with the bath entry and  provides more privacy for this area; closet space is more efficient too and it adds depth to the living room at the rear. I’m glad you find our project an interesting one. A small space presents many constraints.. a change to one part affects all the others.

  • Bradw

    Kudos to J+M for showing a really great way to look a floor plan. And for mentioning the dirty cost word. 

    Also kudos to SN for bringing back memories of past Slow Home design exercises. Your floor plans are both terrific. Personally, I would work with the existing stair location mainly because I prefer a slightly less open plan (I like to have at least one space that is more private). Of course, cost is also a factor. No doubt, both options require significant changes and costs but moving the staircase might get messy. There is also plan C demolish and start again or plan D sell and buy something else but these are easy outs. Real men/women reno.

  • Srdan Nagy

    hi, BradW….thanks for the comments I really appreciate it…Yes, I agree with you; for me there is fine balance regarding how much one opens the space. A big factor is ceiling height. If it is low, and you open a huge space, it will look odd because room proportions lenght/with to height are not appropriate. Same in the opposite situation… small rooms high ceiling… no good.

    I am always impressed how easy it is to rearrange floor plans on a timber frame houses… In my part of the world houses are mostly built from concrete doing big changes to a floor plan (like changing position of the stairs) is really hard, usually impossible. Moving walls (except partition walls) is impossible, not to mention earthquake proofing issues That is why I really enjoy working for slowhome…. 


  • Srdan Nagy

    Hi Margaret,I applaud you for considering remodeling your house. It is just the right size, not too small, not too large. just right for 2/3 bedroom house. 
    Most of the people would sell it and move on, as old house doesn’t have three car garage, five bedrooms,and ten bathrooms you really don’t need.
    Your house really has a great potential to make it better, and more efficient. 
    As I mentioned before, and as you remarked a small interventions really make a great difference. Redoing the bedroom hallway made significant influence to other parts of the house, specially the living room. 

    Let see what J&M have to say, what plan will they come up with….


    P.S. Hamilton ON, great place, my grandfather used to live there, and your mayor is from my part of the world. :)

  • Margaret

    Hi, Srdan and Brad raised the issue of whether to remodel, move or tear down. We decided to remodel rather than move because of the lot – very private – in a mature area within walking distance of most amenities; our house is structurally sound, and is the right size (except for entry).  The chance to make some creative changes to improve our home appeals to me too, as long as we can stay within budget.  I really appreciate the discussion and different approaches presented so far. It will be interesting to see what John and Matthew come up with.
    On a different technical note: I’ve been accessing the comments through facebook and on my ipad, but don’t seem to see all the posts, – likely due to my limited tech skills- so am trying the slow home site directly. Here goes…

  • Oscar B. Morales

    Hello John and Mathew,

    I am a little lost, have you moved “Design Minutes” completely to F.B.?

    There is some confusion following  this project, I enjoy the discussion so far, and would like to comment on S.N. designs as well as Margaret’s, but not sure where it will be more beneficial to the discussion.

    As always thank you, for this forum.


  • John Brown

     Hi Oscar,
    Nice to hear from you and thanks for the question. Although we are posting the projects on both the site and facebook we would prefer the discussion to migrate to facebook. It has a wider reach and is a more personable environment for these types of projects.

    I look forward to hearing your comments.

  • Bradw

    Not in favour of Facebook only for these design minutes.

    I forces me to get a Facebook account and as a Mac user also will required a Flash player.

    Not happy…

  • Li-Na

    John and Matthew,

    I’m a little surprised and rather disappointed to hear that you are moving the Design Minute discussions to Facebook. Call me paranoid but I am always in favour of directing traffic to your own website rather than pointing folks to a site under the control of someone else who can change their terms of service any time they like. :)

    I have to admit that I have not been as diligent in watching the videos lately as I noticed the shift in priority to Facebook…their latest page layout strikes me as totally disorganised and drives me absolutely bonkers!

    Due to the shift to Facebook, I’ll probably just end up downloading your videos–please keep updating the podcast regularly!! I’ll miss the intelligent and informative discussions we’ve had in the past on this website.

  • John Brown

    Hi BradW and Li-Na,
    Thanks for your comments and observations about the site. Don’t worry, we aren’t going to stop posting the project work to the site. However, we are trying to encourage more people to get involved with Slow Home Studio through facebook. 

    I also want to let you know that we are about to launch a new and improved version of slowhomestudio with new content and features including a section of design tutorial videos based on the in-house workshops we have been running for the past 8 months. I think you are going to find them interesting and useful.