Designing Minds: Retirement Rightsizing

Empty nests tend not to stay empty for long. Children grow, they leave for school or jobs — or simply to chart their own course in life — and homeowners adjust their lifestyles accordingly. When we combine these changes with retirement, a new set of dynamics drives how we look at our homes. And while the most logical response may be to “downsize,” the more challenging response is to “rightsize” — to look at our living space not as a nest half full or half empty, but as one that accommodates change while also providing an environment in which our children — and their families — can feel as much at home in as we do.

Our clients Don and Irene found that balance through a remodel project we completed with them in the Boise foothills. It was a project that took six months to complete — not because it involved major structural changes (which STRITE remodels are noted for), but because the couple chose to feel their way through the entirety of their newly purchased 4,000 square foot home, room by room, to make sure it felt right. For this project, STRITE joined forces with local designer Amy Snow.

Don and Irene certainly had “downsizing” on their minds when they sold a foothills home with six bedrooms and purchased another with half as many, and 1,500 fewer square feet. They were fortunate enough to fall in love with a brick home with a great floor plan and foothills views, which their previous home had enjoyed as well. The downside was that the interior of their new place had not been touched in the nearly 30 years since it was constructed.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted,” Irene admits. “One of the things I loved about our previous home, which was designed by a devotee of Frank Lloyd Wright, was not only its views, but its excellent natural light. Our new home also had great natural light, and I wanted color and accents that would take advantage of this as well as compliment the antique family furniture we wanted to incorporate.”

From this starting point, Irene and her husband trusted their project manager, Matt Mundy, to listen to their concerns and ideas as they went room-by-room, translate these into a description of work (DOW), and put together a team to execute it. Irene wisely concluded from the outset of the project that one member of that team should be a professional interior designer. Based on recommendations from STRITE, Irene ultimately chose Amy Snow Interior Design.

“Our new home was basically gutted by the remodel, which completely changed the look of it,” says Irene. “Amy worked with me to select primary and accent colors for our walls, and found an upholsterer to create new furniture coverings that tied our existing pieces together with the new ones we’d picked out. We replaced bathroom fixtures, kitchen appliances, and added lighting. Together we also selected new carpets and countertops, as well as pillows and fun accent pieces. Amy even helped incorporate my husband’s hunting trophies into the design of his study.”

A guiding vision for the remodel, based on their new home’s layout, was its division into “daily living” and “family” spaces. “With the exception of the exercise room, we could live entirely on the main level of the home,” Irene explains. To create a focal point for the main level of the home, STRITE and concentrated on a makeover of the kitchen and living room. Since Don and Irene liked the existing tiles in their kitchen, as well as its layout, the remodel effort focused on fixtures, appliances, and cabinetry that tied the color scheme together. The only other change was to modify the island counter to provide more optimal seating. The most major structural change in the course of the project was the demolition of the previous living room fireplace, which was a cozy little brick structure with a white wooden mantel, and the creation of a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace that added a sense of drama to the great room area, and did justice to the its foothills view.

By the end of the project, there was virtually no room of Irene and Don’s new home that hadn’t been touched in some way. This included the ground level exercise room, where a wall was opened up to allow for more light, and resulted in a custom stained glass window replacement that depicted a scene from Irene’s Basque heritage. “Once you start replacing things that have worn out, you naturally want to replace other things as well, even if they are still functional,” Irene explains.

Although we often think of remodeling in the context of adding space or correcting structural or esthetic aspects of a home that are incompatible with how we choose to live in it, imagine instead having a design and build team that could accompany you through each room of your home and render it exactly the way you’d like it to be — right down to decorative finishes. “That’s actually what we did,” says Irene. “That is what we were able to do at this point in our lives. It’s a dream home for us and our family in retirement, and it’s as though we were coming into a new home in the way STRITE finished it. They did a great job of picking up on our aspirations, and now that it’s finished, we miss working with all of them.”

This link takes you to another article about this home and shows pictures.