Credit: Unsplash

We hear this term quite a bit these days: “That house has good bones.” “We loved it because it has excellent bones.” Your friend sends you a Zillow listing captioned: “Look at this home — it has such great bones!” But what does that actually mean? It typically implies a house that is in need of work, a fixer, where the surfaces and finishes are less than desirable. The kitchen and bathrooms may need to be gutted, or the style of the finishes screams “built in the 1980s.” But the bones? Most often, this means the walls themselves, and how they create a specific kind of flow within the home. Are the bedrooms in the right places? Are there stairs to a second level? Does the back of the home have the potential to open onto a patio or terrace?

Whenever I’m looking at a new property, or at the start of a project for a client, I immediately flip to the floor plan. I want to see where the main components are located, and how the residents get from one place to the next in the space. It’s no secret that older homes are often choppy and awkward. I’m consistently left wondering what they were thinking when they originally drafted the plans. But it’s important to remember that we live very differently today than we did in the past.

The modern family has different needs and desires than families of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, so these homes need extra thought and care when being renovated and reimagined. Previously, kitchens were hidden in the back of the home, or tucked into an awkward corner without much thought or consideration. This is because the thought of your guests seeing the dishes from dinner piled up in the sink was unsightly. Today, dishes dropped off in the kitchen are welcome evidence that good food was consumed over sparkling conversation and cultivated community.

Credit: Unsplash

Ultimately, “good bones” means different things to different people. No two homeowners are going to use the space in exactly the same way, so the beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder here. What matters to one person is an afterthought to the next. So how do you know what to look for? When searching for a home in need of renovation, there are a few key points to keep in mind: A home with good bones is one that needs minimal structural modification to meet your specific needs for layout and flow. The main rooms are generally in the right place, and you can see yourself and your routine fitting in with the flow of the floor plan. Homes without good bones will require you to move big-ticket rooms, such as kitchens and bathrooms, to different locations in the house to achieve your desired layout. You may want to widen passages or knock down the wall between the kitchen and the family room, but ultimately, in a house with good bones, the walls of the home are where you want them to be. This allows you to focus on the things with big aesthetic impact: millwork, hard finishes, and decor.

Credit: Unsplash

There are a few questions you can ask yourself to help identify exactly what your version of good bones looks like: “What part of my day in my home is most important?” “When I think about being relaxed in my space, where am I and what am I doing?” “What are the top three must-have priorities for my home?” When you’re clear on those answers, you’ll know what good bones means for you.

Laura Gransberry is an interior designer specializing in home renovations and restoration in the Santa Barbara area. She can be reached at

Premier Events

Get News in Your Inbox


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.