Into The Great Wide Open

Whole House Remodel

A Southeast Boise home expands its options as well as its horizons

In residential design, many rooms are no guarantee of having room. At the heart of this seeming paradox is functional intent — and in the case of one Southeast Boise couple, the intent was to fill an empty nest with friends and family in an unobstructed space. What stood in the way of that vision were walls whose removal posed less of a structural challenge (after all, we’re good at that sort of thing) than a financial one. As it turned out, a patient design process and a focus on esthetic priorities ended up producing the best sort of compromise: Everyone got what they wanted.


Our clients had lived in their Lakewood home in Southeast Boise for 15 years, and even after their kids had moved out, its proximity to work, recreation, and downtown life made it a desirable place to continue living. Their change in lifestyle, however, made their home’s design shortcomings more pronounced. To achieve a more open floorpan and a better connection between indoors and outdoors, it was time to either remodel or move.


The ground floor of our clients’ home, as with many homes built in the ‘70s, had plenty of rooms…and no room. Walking into the house you confronted a wall from which a staircase led to the private living spaces upstairs, and behind which was the kitchen and family room. A narrow hall leading to those rooms accentuated the cramped feeling. Opening up these spaces to one another meant removing load bearing walls, one of which “carried” the roof and second story wall and floor system. An obvious solution would have been to transfer the load to pillars, but these would have defeated our clients’ esthetic goals, while structural support through added ceiling beams carried a price premium that exceeded their budget.


Repeated design iterations eventually led to a solution. By switching the floor plan positions of the dining and family rooms, we created a layout that situated the dining room between the family room and kitchen — in essence treating that space as a secondary part of the family room. The resulting floor plan was more in line with how we live in our homes these days. To address the challenge of structural support versus visual appeal, we took a creative design approach that wrapped the pillars in beautifully finished alder wood, which also tied them in nicely with the finishes on the floor and cupboards of the remodeled kitchen. By adding windows and sliders where there had been solid wall space, we not only brought the backyard into the reconfigured living spaces, but also created a horizon that stretched from the clients’ back patio to the front of their neighbor’s home across the street.

In solving the problem of relocating sections of the home’s HVAC system after removing the walls they were in, we also brainstormed an equally creative structural engineering solution to better balance the upstairs and downstairs climates without creating a dual-zone system — thus saving what might otherwise have been a more than $5,000 added expense in the interest of more efficient heating and cooling. But that’s another story altogether!


Although the design we settled on with our clients after much iteration seemed at best a livable compromise at the outset of the project, the end result proved to be everything they were looking for…and more. In terms of budget, what typically would have been the price of a high end kitchen remodel resulted in what was essentially a main level renovation. While credit goes to STRITE’s structural engineering prowess, even more goes to the patience and willingness of our clients to focus on the end rather than the means. In our business, we understand the value of keeping your eyes on the prize.

Hit here to go to another article with more pictures and the detailed process behind the remodel of this home.

Hit here to go to an article that describes relocating the HVAC system to open up the space.

 Click on photos to enlarge. 


A Whole House Rejuvenation

Whole House Remodel

Updating a foothills home, room by room

Well designed and constructed homes may age with grace…but they still age. As with humans, dealing with the “ravages of time” may require replacement, but it can also be achieved at a deeper cosmetic level — without the trauma of surgery. Think of it as optimizing the best of what you have by giving it a fresh look. That’s what our clients were hoping for with a home they purchased for their retirement, and it’s what we helped them achieve over a six-month period, in partnership with a local interior designer.


Our clients wanted to downsize their living space in retirement, but not at the expense of extended family activities or lifestyle. They found a home with a foothills view that reminded them of the one they had sold, and they loved its brick facade and overall layout. The interior of the home had not been touched in nearly thirty years, however, and our clients wanted to update its look and feel, as well as create dedicated if distinct spaces for private and family life.


A new home represents a blank canvas upon which to create, and the inherent possibilities can be simultaneously exhilarating and overwhelming. Other than having some heirloom furniture pieces that they wanted to incorporate, they didn’t really know what they wanted. We began our project together with the realization that the home’s basic floor plan sufficiently met their needs to require no major reconfiguration, and instead focused on a room-by-room rejuvenation that for the most part involved fixtures and finishes. To help in this area, our clients made the wise decision to involve an interior designer from the beginning, and based on our recommendations of local designers we had worked with in the past, they chose Amy Snow Interior Design.


Since their home’s layout ensured that our clients’ daily activities could be lived out almost exclusively on its main level, we made the kitchen and living room our remodel focal points, giving the combined space a “great room” feel. Aside from all new fixtures, appliances and cabinetry, the only change we made to the kitchen was to modify the island counter to provide more optimal seating. Since our clients liked the tile flooring in the kitchen, new cabinetry was selected to better compliment its color scheme. The only 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 — and did justice to its foothills view. Along with repainting every room and replacing carpeting throughout, we also added new lighting and bathroom fixtures, while Amy Snow worked with our clients on finishes and accents that included decorative beams for a more masculine feel to the study.


Besides updating virtually every square inch of our clients’ new home, our remodel project gave it a clearer functional distinction between daily private life and extended family interactions — the latter taking place below the home’s main level through a recreational space and informal living room, as well as guest bedrooms and baths. By opening up a wall in the couple’s exercise room, we not only let in more natural light, but also inspired them to design a custom stainless window that we installed for them (Find the best festoon lights supplier online). As with humans, so with homes: Being old doesn’t mean being drab…as long as you’re willing to make an effort.

This link takes you to another article about this home

 Click on photos to enlarge

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.

When Does it Make Sense to Remodel?

While people often think of home remodeling as synonymous with building an “addition,” there are a number of reasons it makes sense to remodel besides adding needed living space. Some of the most common reasons that we have seen in our 40 years of residential design and remodel experience are the following.

Updating the Look of Your Home

Like fashion in general, what was once fresh in the layout and design of a home can become stale over time. Believe it or not, harvest gold and avocado were once trendy, but unless you’re way into the “retro” look, you’d probably prefer a more contemporary style for your kitchen. As our case studies demonstrate, Strite has a long track record of design and build updates that wear well with time.

Improving the Functionality of a Living Space

Unless your home was custom built, its design made generic lifestyle assumptions that simply may not apply to you. We find this to be particularly true in the kitchen, where your own unique approach to food and entertaining can make a huge difference in a room’s size, layout and finishes. Your lifestyle and interests are paramount when we address the functional remodel of your home.

Aging in Place

Homes age…and so do we. As we age, we eventually face mobility issues that in turn affect the livability of our homes. Rather than going through the dislocation of moving to a new house, a remodel that transforms obstacles into conveniences (particularly with regard to bathrooms) can be a better option for how we deal with aging in our homes.

To read more about how STRITE design + remodel addresses these and other needs, view the Services page of our website.

Hit here to visit another post about this property.

Remodeling Resurgence? An Interview with Bob Mundy

Industry Trends

STRITE design + remodel has once again been ranked by the trade publication Qualified Remodeler as among the top 500 remodeling companies in the U.S.  While this is a notable achievement in itself — especially considering that we operate in a much smaller market than most of the other companies in this prestigious ranking — the larger story behind this recognition is something worth sharing for what it reveals about our industry and the environment in which it currently operates.

To gain some insight into the dynamics of the Treasure Valley residential remodeling market, I turned to a veteran of both the upturns and downturns of our industry: STRITE’s president, Bob Mundy.  I asked Bob to characterize and contrast the current remodeling environment with what was happening in our industry just a few years ago.  Whether you are a homeowner who is contemplating a residential remodel, or simply a keen observer of our local economy, his perspective is worth noting.

If the remodeling business is a less volatile place to be since the bursting of the real estate bubble five or so years ago, some credit is due to an overall improvement in the regional economy.  However, this explanation only goes so far.  For one thing, while STRITE has seen its estimated revenue for 2013 improve by roughly 20 percent over the previous year, the pace of economic growth in the Treasure Valley has been far less robust.

From Bob’s perspective, the improvement STRITE has seen in the remodel market can be attributed to five factors that, while they may not constitute a “perfect storm” of business opportunity, at least point to a more sustainable environment in which to continue to do what we’ve been doing for the past 37 years.  In no particular order, Bob Mundy characterizes these factors as follows.

Pent up demand — After a lot of fear and trepidation regarding their economic future, home owners are deciding to no longer put off their home improvement goals.  “People are deciding to live their lives, and they want to genuinely add more value to their homes, and to their experience of their homes.  Folks are just more positive about the future.”

An acceleration of new products and technologies — Not that many years ago, the pace of new products and technologies being introduced into the home improvement market was much slower than it is today.  “We used to wait for five years to entertain new products in the market place.  Now, the quality that is coming out is really exciting to both us and our clients, and we can move forward with much more confidence because of the improved quality of innovations in lighting, materials, colors — things that are really having an impact on peoples’ lifestyles.”

The role of the Internet — In a trend related to the one previously cited, the Internet is fueling an increased awareness of new product and design trends — especially through social media sites such as Facebook, HOUZZ, and Pinterest. “Thanks to the Internet, people are not only exposed to new ideas, but they are able to share them and create conversations around them that add to the ‘buzz’ taking place in our industry.”

The desire to update rather than move — Moving is no guarantee that people will be able to more closely align their lifestyle needs with their homes.  This is especially true if they want to stay in the neighborhood where they currently live.  In that regard, remodeling is an option that allows homeowners to have their cake and eat it too — or at least redecorate it.  “Builders are hard pressed to respond to all the new design ideas that are out there today, so they tend to stick to more generic products and designs.  Remodelers don’t face that constraint.  More than ever, if you want your home to reflect the latest design and product innovations, remodeling is the best avenue.”

Adapting to lifestyle needs — As more people choose to invest in the long term livability of their homes, they are taking a more critical look at how they use their living space.  “We’re seeing less of an interest in adding space through additions, and more of an interest in better using existing space through changes in layout.  This is going to be an even more pronounced trend as the aging ‘boomer’ population increasingly looks at ‘aging in place’ as an option to retirement communities or assisted living situations.”

This last trend points to a broader and more fundamental factor that STRITE believes will contribute to a more sustainable growth in the remodeling business over the next decade: the growing interest in universal design.  “While the new construction industry may continue to experience ups and downs along with the economy, the interest in adapting homes for changing lifestyle needs such as aging in place will be more significant as time goes by.  People will always have an interest in updating the look of their homes, but improving the livability of their homes is a more fundamental investment in value that bodes well for our business.”

For some additional perspective on the Treasure Valley remodeling market, read our blog “The New Normal.”






Better Living by Design



While residential design trends may not be as subject to the vagaries of fashion as hemlines, they do change.  Consequently, what is esthetically pleasing today will probably appear “dated” in a couple of decades.  As a remodeling company, the best we can do at chasing the ephemera of “timelessness” is to focus not just on appeal, but on functionality — especially functionality that evolves with the needs of a homeowner over time.

Which is why a recent article in Qualified Remodeler (Actionable Ideas for Universal Design) caught my eye.  If the concept of universal design (aka, UD) is a new one to you, the article’s author offers the following definition: “Universal design simply means inclusive design – thoughtfully filling homes with features that provide comfort and convenience, regardless of age, stature or ability.”

The article goes on to point out that the appeal of universal design has been somewhat muted by its association with “aging-in-place” — a misconception, the author notes, that is best addressed with examples such as the following.

“Let’s say you are building a bath sink vanity. If you built it with an open knee space under the sink with clearance for a wheelchair user, that would be a typical aging-in-place element. However, if you added a removable cabinet front that could convert it easily to a typical sink base with a floor and cabinet doors, that would be a universal design element because it could easily be converted to fit a variety of user’s needs.”

In an effort to “rebrand” UD, a number of industry notables have come together to create Better Living Design, an institute whose goal is to “promote, educate and encourage wide adoption of Better Living Design, the sensible design approach to improve how homes are built and remodeled in America.”

BLD’s mission to “change how homes and the products that go in them are designed, built and remodeled to better meet the needs of everyone at every age, life stage and ability” is an ambitious one, but it has some heavy hitters backing it, including not only the AARP, but more than 30 other organizations, companies, universities, and leaders in the universal design category.

With an aging boomer population that has indicated a strong desire to stay in their homes, STRITE echoes BLD’s observation that “the demand for more livable home design across the life span becomes increasingly more important” — which is why we will be paying attention to BLD and its recommendations to designers, builders, and remodelers.  Regardless of your age, if you are considering a home remodel, we recommend BLD’s website as a resource for ideas on how create a more livable home for any stage in your life.

For a case study on how STRITE approached an “aging-in-place” remodel, click here.




A Bathroom Matures with its Owners

Master Bath Remodel

No home, however well designed, can continually meet our needs — much less our desires — because these both continually change.  In the case of one couple that we had worked for in the past, ambulatory challenges required a master bathroom remodel that combined convenience, accessibility, and more efficient use of space with a fresh look.


In previous blogs, we’ve talked about how spa tubs can be not only an impractical, but a huge waste of space.  In the case of one bathroom remodel, ambulatory issues required the redesign of a shower to make it both safer and more accessible.  Creating the space to accomplish this, as well as addressing other features that would better suit our clients‘ needs as they aged, meant removing the old tub — but that was just the start.


Besides making the shower easier to get in and out of, including accommodating a chair if needed, we wanted to get rid of the old shower pan.  These will eventually crack and fail and are impossible to clean.  And while new showers have curbs, we wanted to avoid these because of our clients’ ambulatory concerns.  Addressing these issues also required us to make the toilet more accessible rather than have our clients negotiate another doorway.


Removing the old spa tub and replacing it with a vintage standalone bathtub opened up a lot of space for the rest of our remodel, which included integrating the toilet into the main room rather than have it situated in a separate space.  At the same time, we both protected the toilet and maintained some privacy with a half wall.  We were able to forego the use of curbs in the shower by notching out a floor joist where it was being installed and insetting a new floor into the joist, creating a gentle slope toward the drain.  We also built a bench into the shower.  By removing the soffit above the vanity, we created additional space for a cabinet, since our clients had also wanted more storage in the bathroom.  We were able to add even more storage by setting the toilet out just enough to install a deeper cabinet above it.  As a final convenience, we installed heated floors with a programmable thermostat for added comfort on chilly mornings.


This remodel project did much more than respond to the changing needs of an aging couple — we created a much better flow to the room, in part by squaring up the angles.  We also updated its appearance through new tile, his and her sinks, and new cabinets.  After all, even as we age, we still appreciate a fresh take on the world.

Click on photos to enlarge.