The need to create a Master Plan to define the goals for phased home improvements has been on the minds of several of our clients lately. Large or long term projects can seem daunting, both from a cost and complexity standpoint. Thinking about a larger project or series of projects over time can be overwhelming, and many people decide to just focus on what is before them right now. When it comes to the next project, they decide to just "worry about that later".
I usually counsel people against this approach. A good Master Plan is essential to understanding how your home will evolve to fit your needs over time. It also helps avoid completing projects now that will simply get in the way of a future need. Having to unmake or remove a completed project to make way for a future project is a costly way to learn design lessons. Equally unsatisfactory is compromising the design of your next project in order to accommodate the mistakes in your last project.
A Master Plan is a high-level look at what the future holds for your home. For me, it usually takes the form of simple floor plans and sketches that lay out the likely forms that a phased remodeling project will ultimately take. By having this "roadmap" of the future house (don't forget the landscape and outdoor living areas as well), we can avoid design blunders that will leave you thinking "Gee, I wish I'd thought of that before". This kind of overview does not have to be expensive or time consuming to produce. Generally, the details of the project are not fleshed out until a particular phase hits your short-term radar.
A good designer or architect will always think about the future of a project - how long will it last? how well will it serve the client over time? Keeping a "What's Next?" mindset helps avoid short-sighted planning. Some clients fear this approach is just a fishing expedition for the designer's next paycheck, and in a way they are right. But we see it as doing the right thing for our clients - building and fostering a long-term relationship in which we care as much about your home over time as you do. A large percentage of our clients have completed several projects over many years - one client has completed 9! - and it is deeply satisfying to see the parts "click" into place as you follow the Master Plan roadmap.
Want more insight? Here's a great article on Houzz about the pros and cons of phasing your project: