Lesson 7. Bigger isn't always better

The original house plans had the kitchen running clear through from front to back in the new ell. But one lap around the framed space made it clear that anyone preparing meals would be logging miles, too. So we reconfigured the layout, narrowing the food-prep area to make it smaller and more efficient. The rest of the footprint became an office, connected to the kitchen through an open doorway — convenient for those of us who bring our work home and need to fuel up for the extra 2 1/2 hours we put in each day.

Lesson 8. Drawings on paper only take you so far

While we believed the revised kitchen configuration was on the money, it took kitchen designer Kathy Marshall to work out the details. She recommended a walk-through of the layout in three dimensions to double-check the scale and placement of the components. Positioning cardboard boxes and sawhorses to represent the cabinets, counters, and island, we got a sense of just how well the work triangle of range-sink-fridge would function. We liked it so much, we built it for real.

Lesson 9. Sometimes Plan B is the better one

An early sketch of the master bath included a large linen closet and a tiny shower stall. The longer we lived with the design, the more we had our doubts about it. So we took another look at the whole space, made the linen closet smaller, set the toilet in what was to be the shower cubby, stole some space from the fireplace we decided not to build in the adjacent dining room, and created a spacious new shower.

Materials

Spa tub, shower spray: American Standard

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