Design Considerations, New vs. Upgrades

By Gregory Thomas

Building a new home involves a very different kind of design process than renovating an existing home. At Powell Construction, we specialize in remodeling and additions, however, it is rewarding on occasion to build a new home.

In our renovation work, we must always address the condition of the existing structure—including necessary maintenance, structural issues, code and the possibility of unseen conditions—beyond the particular goals of a project. We also have to consider how our new work relates to and ties in with the existing design, both stylistically and technologically.

For these reasons, remodeling and additions inevitably involve working with constraints of various kinds. Believe it or not, these concerns help keep our work varied and interesting, in that we have to use our problem-solving skills and creativity to properly attend to the many issues at hand. We feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as we fix long-standing problems while also renovating and adding on to our clients’ homes.

Alternatively, with new construction, we are freed from many constraints and are able to work with our clients to get just what they want—within the limits of their budget, of course. This allows us as designers to focus our attention and talents almost exclusively on our clients’ vision for their new home.

A current project is a case in point. This home is for a couple and their extended family, and it is designed for both functionality and aesthetics. Private spaces are zoned so that the residents and guests have bedrooms at opposite ends of the house, with shared common spaces in between. The design takes advantage of its site, with expansive views of the Cascade Mountains. An outdoor living porch and a private library round out the home’s spaces.
The real opportunity in the design, however, is that it is carefully tailored to the clients’ aesthetic vision. Whereas the tone of a remodel might have been set with what existed before, in this case we have been able to pursue our clients’ vision in a relatively free way. Working in close collaboration with our clients—who sent us ideas and suggestions from their Houzz “Ideabooks”—we helped bring their design ideas into focus.

Finishes in the common spaces have been selected for a clean, fresh, and light look. In the private areas, warm materials work to bring about a cozy feeling. The exterior takes advantage of east-facing views of the Cascades. The library, breakfast nook, living room, and master suite all have expansive views and windows that let in lots of morning light.

As you can see in these computer-generated images, our digital modeling capabilities—something we use in all of our design work—allowed us to construct a virtual model of the house. Our clients could look at these images and even walk through their virtual home and see how the design and selections work together to achieve their vision for their new home. Our 3D modeling is a useful tool to explore ideas, and lets both our designers and our clients confirm that the design has cohesiveness and meets their aesthetic vision. This helps make the construction process more predictable and less stressful—always our goal!

Having done our careful planning, we are now starting construction and enjoy seeing the vision come to fruition. Please tune in to our remodeling blog at to watch the construction as it progresses. We look forward to sharing the journey with you!

Gregory Thomas, Architect
Powell Construction

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