A Sense of Place

We’ve had an uptick in calls from out of town folks moving to Davis and looking to remodel a home they’ve purchased. I often have variations of the same conversation with them: wow, Davis houses are expensive, and they all need so much work!

It’s true: much of Davis was built out in the 50’s, 70’s, and 80’s in concentric rings from the downtown core, and even the newest existing homes are starting to show their age. Many had just one or two owners (which can result is a backlog of deferred maintenance and upkeep). Others have been rented for years. Still others are quietly but surely showing the wear and tear of family life and ready for updates.

People are drawn to Davis for jobs, often government or university related. They stay because of our vibrant sense of community: farmers markets, food co-ops, arts classes, youth sports, community theater, local political engagement, greenbelts, great schools. As a result, Davis houses are priced a solid jump above those around us and comparable to the bigger, newer developments on the far side of Sacramento. But our houses are neither large nor new, and often come with a laundry list of repairs as well as dated styles and layouts.

People are often drawn to our firm because of our beautiful designs – and that’s rewarding. But we also do a lot of legwork behind the scenes, which is harder to convey in photos. Often we need to spend a large chunk of a remodel’s budget updating a house’s systems: electrical, hvac, insulation, roofing. These are critical to the durability, efficiency (read: utility bills) and comfort of a home. A lot of thought and careful designing goes into maximizing these systems because they really can make or a break the experience of residing in a space, even if that space is lovely on the surface.

We also spend a lot of design time improving traffic flows, storage options, and how homeowners can live in and use their space. This also does not often get conveyed in an “after photo” but makes an enormous impact on the “after” experience.

Remodeling is full of tradeoff decisions: budget versus costs. Household size versus space. Lot size versus square footage of the house. The important systemic upgrades (hvac, roofing, windows) versus the tangibles (tile, counters, flooring). These tradeoffs mean each remodel is unique – not only to the particular home and goals for using that space, but as a reflection of the priorities and desires of the people living there. One client may want a stellar backsplash or soothing color palette. Another may be thrilled by new opportunities to host and entertain. Yet another may be soothed by built-in storage that makes life functional.

In addition to tackling these many goals and often competing interests, we also have to ask: how do we create a sense of place in our projects, just as the community of Davis has created a sense of place that many are willing to pay a real estate premium to be a part of? How do we create the spaces for connection, relaxation, organization, and inspiration in the homes we are improving? A remodel is more than a new furnace or new countertops – it’s an opportunity to build value into a dwelling space. That value may or may not translate into real estate dollars – most of the time you can’t out what you put in, in terms of financial investment. But we can create a place of meaning, of pleasant function, a container for life to happen in a meaningful way.

This sense of opportunity is one of the underlying values at MAK. We want to make things better, on all levels. We carry a hefty sense of responsibility for the financial investment our clients are making in their homes – and we know it could be easier to just start over in a new house in a new neighborhood. Instead, our clients are investing in remaining in their homes and their communities, and that means a lot. We work hard to honor those investments and choices by creating beautiful, pleasing places to live. Each of our remodels is a story – of what was, of what will be, and of creating a sense of place for our client – a place to call home.


Ask the Expert 2022 – Matt K.

MAK's own Matt K. was featured this year as SacTown magazine's construction expert. Read an extended version of his expert advice here!

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