Its spring. Which means blossoming trees, vaccinations burgeoning and highways getting busier. But the Hamptons, and every area of escape whether north, south, east or west have had jammed up schools and building departments and been sleepy winter towns this year, even in the pandemic.

Our office has been called for every type and scale of renovation, most requesting we convert summer homes to ones that would suit year-round for remote work and some to even accommodate the transfer of entire businesses.

A great deal of the requests – especially in the Hamptons from west to east – have asked to create more privacy and some sense of separation, especially in contemporary open plan houses. With older houses there is always a request to break up small living spaces but the planning is completely different from a “summer house”.

A few essentials we have found helpful when it comes to conversions are:

  • Dormer windows – these add light, square footage and charm to almost any style house.
  • Dining spaces are meeting spaces – so to keep the circulation area down try to incorporate these.
  • If there is a chance of meeting with clients in your home office, allow for a separate entrance or access to grant privacy to the rest of the household (and any potential mess!)
  • Keep the best views for the living room and master bedrooms. Master bedrooms should also always be in the most private part of the house. This is where you open and close your eyes to the world every day.
  • New high-tech underfloor heating that can be retrofit under many surfaces including wooden floors is becoming popular. If you are on a well, consider open loop geothermal or if you’re changing the HVAC consider a split system recessed ceiling air handling unit above hallways, baths or closets – this is all connected to a single multizone condenser.
  • Think about the longevity of your house and ask ‘how would I get around here in my old age?’ The same question applies if you ever have to hobble around with a broken leg – stairs shouldn’t be the only option!

The top essential, however, is to hire an architect when making changes, even if it’s just for a consult before plunging ahead. Most changes to your home are large expenses and there is usually no inexpensive way of turning back.

I say this, not to toot the professions horn but even the most thoughtful, experienced and considerate contractor will not have the same vision as you. Even though the aesthetics would be top of mind for contractor and owner, its best to look at options and see them on paper – preferably in 3D – which an architect can do. Final aesthetics are also very much in the details. There should also always be two heads on the materials list especially with technology changing so fast, and many online ordering options to defray costs so having an architect on board is a big help.

Generally we’ve found that contractors’ additional costs are more easily contained when there is the prospect of oversight, and of course when drawings ensure you’ll only be doing everything once. And finally the right architect should save you substantial amounts of time and money, and we think that’s a pretty compelling reason to get them involved.