Designing Minds: An Eagle Remodel Looks at the “Big Picture”

Whole House Remodel

There’s not a bit of hyperbole in saying that David and Pat’s home truly reflects all the best of what we associate with the southwest Idaho lifestyle.  Nestled into five acres of the Eagle foothills, it’s an ideal setting for horses, dogs (David trains hunting dogs as a pastime), as well as appreciating sweeping vistas of the Treasure Valley below and the Boise mountains all around.

It may seem surprising, then, that the couple would want to remodel a home that was custom built — but their motivation was familiar to STRITE design + remodel: a change in lifestyle and a corresponding re-evaluation of how their space accommodated that change.  Since the couple had retired, they were able to spend more time at home, and they wanted to spend more of that time entertaining and enjoying the beauty surrounding them.  Unfortunately, the original configuration of their home was less than ideal for either of these pursuits.

It was very apparent to both Pat and her husband that the best views from their home were provided by outside decks — a nice place to be for part of the year, but not so practical during the hottest and coldest seasons of Boise.  “I really wanted a more pleasant place to hang out inside, now that I was home pretty much 24×7,” Pat explains.  “Although our home was 2,800 square feet, it was divided into rooms that weren’t a practical size for entertaining.  I also wanted to be able to take advantage of the view and open the home to more light.”

Pat and David discovered STRITE through a NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) Tour of Remodeled Homes.  They were immediately struck by STRITE designer Michael Snow’s design approach, as well as examples he showed the couple from a book he had written on the design of decks, patios, and porches.  “The way Michael takes advantage of light drew us in immediately, and we had confidence in STRITE from the very beginning,” Pat recalls.

“When you consider the placement of the kitchen, the separated dining room and the family/living room, it seemed obvious that Pat and David’s house was more or less oriented to look back,” notes Michael Snow.  “Even though it was situated on a site lot, the original design did not take advantage of the view — in fact, the only public view was from a rarely used front office off of the entry, and from the upper master area, which of course is private space.”

Working with STRITE, the couple decided to add roughly 800 square feet adjoining their kitchen that would serve the combined functions of sun room and casual living room.  STRITE also took out a bearing wall between the dining room, kitchen, and new living room/sun room, which opened up the whole interior of the house.  The room was further designed to open to a covered patio, which STRITE included to compensate for a rear deck that the couple seldom used it because it was situated in such a way that the hillside and house funneled winds through the space.

“What we were looking for was basically all windows, with sufficient sliders to allow for good cross ventilation,” says Pat.  There was a deck that came along the side of our house, with a bay window where the addition begins. We had used the deck quite a bit, but it was so sunny that we wanted something that was partially covered.  We also had a beautiful Japanese Maple next to the deck that we were sure we would lose as a result of the remodel construction, but STRITE found a way to save the tree by digging down under the foundation without damaging it.”

The key to the addition’s design is its understatment.  Like any good remodel, walking into this new section of the home leaves the impression that it was always there, but its impact comes from the vistas it opens the home to, rather than from the architecture itself — a simple elegance that Pat puts quite concisely: “The drama comes from the setting.”

Along with the new addition, Pat and her husband had STRITE address other features of their home that they wanted to improve.  These included a kitchen update, a reconfiguration of the family room that allowed the couple and their guests to no longer choose between a television and a fireplace as a focal point, and even an attic modification above their garage that not only created a more usable living space, but also added a roofline that improved the homes “curb appeal.”  The net effect of these changes, Pat explains, was to make their home more livable.

“Because so much of our living area was chopped up, there just wasn’t much space to spread out when we wanted to entertain larger groups of people.  We can now take advantage of the whole interior of the house, as well as the outside areas when we host larger events.”

Despite the scale of the remodel, the entirety of the projects took under four months to complete.  “We began in the fall, and were back to normal around Thanksgiving,” Pat remembers.  “(STRITE president) Bob Mundy gave us good suggestions on what things to store and how to store them during the remodel, and STRITE was great about partitioning space so we could still use our home.  Their team was great to work with and gave us excellent ideas as well as being extremely good about supporting my concerns.”

With all the added glass, one might expect that along with killer views the new addition would have included higher energy costs.  Surprisingly, this hasn’t been the case.  “The added space hasn’t affected our gas bill,” says Pat.  “We are on a level pay, and it is low.  We’ve seen some increase in our electric bill, but that’s happened since we both retired.”

What has increased for Pat and David since finishing their remodel is their affection for their home.  In thinking over the most rewarding result of their work with STRITE, Pat summarizes it this way.  “It’s added a lot more serenity and appreciation for the outdoors in our lives, and we enjoy having people over so much more now.  There are so many spots where we can just sit and enjoy the outside while reading a book, and it’s nice in the winter to be able to look at the snow and still be comfortable. We still have some work we’d like to do on our upstairs bathrooms, but at this point we’ve changed our home from something that was plain but had a dynamite view, and turned it into something we’re really proud of.”

Hit on any of the following images to see larger versions.

Remodeling as a Metaphor for Life

Recommendations

“I appreciate that everyone wants to manage a budget, but I’ve learned that the last 20 percent you don’t want to put into it is the 20 percent that really distinguishes it in the end.”

“You can decide not to go there and end up with something ‘ho hum,’ or invest it and be glad you did.” — CJ (a STRITE client in Boise’s North End)

It would be ever so nice if we could have whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted it, with no conditions or compromises attached — but the fact is that we all live in the real world.  And if we didn’t discover this by the time we were two years old, there’s nothing like a remodel project to bring us hurtling back to the reality that life is about trade-offs.

STRITE designer Michael Snow recently shared an online article with us on this very theme, and we thought it worth passing along with some insights of our own.  The article, “Where Should I Splurge and Where Should I Save Money in a Home Remodel,” should be required reading for anyone contemplating a remodel, and the advice mirrors the discussions we have with nearly every client we work with at the outset of a project.  While we encourage you to read the entire article (along with its excellent sidebar links), we’d like to amplify on some of points it raises.

Very few, if any, remodeling projects will return 100% of your investment, so the decision to remodel should be more about your enjoyment of your home and getting more out of it. For any space, think about your family’s lifestyle, and spend more on the areas that support those priorities. — If your immediate goal is to put your home on the market, it certainly makes sense to prioritize those fixes/enhancements that will most likely get you a good offer.  In the case of most remodels, however, our advice to our clients is to always focus on how a project will enhance their lifestyle.  The reason we have always insisted on a design/build model for our business is to make sure that we focus on lifestyle priorities at the very outset of a project.  That said, it’s at least encouraging to note that the cost vs. value ratio for remodel projects has actually improved in 2013 for the first time in years.

You don’t want to overspend and possibly price your home way out of proportion to the rest of the neighborhood. — Following this advice has a lot to do with how long you plan to live in your home…which is a similar consideration you need to make when the question of “over customization” comes up.  This may be a more relevant issue to a young family than to an older couple, especially if that older couple is looking at modifications aimed at “aging in place.”  To get a good perspective on keeping remodel projects in line with logical enhancements to the style and function of a home, as well as it’s value within a neighborhood context, take a look at our blog, “Confessions of a Serial Remodeler.”

Invest in the Most Permanent, Fundamental Items. — One of the great advantages of remodeling compared with most new construction is the degree of choice you can exercise over materials that improve the durability, efficiency, and functionality of your home.  A good remodeler can guide you through those choices and help you weed out the things that are “the flavor of the month” versus those with more fundamental and longer lasting value.

Buy Cheaper Alternatives That Look the Same as Premium Materials — Thanks to the Internet, you can do your homework on how to get the look and performance that you’re looking for, without necessarily paying “name brand” prices.   An advantage we have after nearly forty years in the remodeling business is that we can do a lot of this homework for our clients, based on relationships with a long list of suppliers.

Spend More on Your Room’s Focal Points — Something we always take into account in any remodel design is the ways that “line of sight” and “flow” enhance the experience of a living space.  We find this to very often be the case in updating “http://www.stritedr.com/kitchen-remodel-20/”>kitchens, when taking out a wall can connect a key center of family activity with the rest of a home’s public spaces.

Start Off on the Right Foot — The article recommends creating a realistic budget…and then adding 50% “just in case.”  As a remodeling company that has made “knowing our numbers” an essential part of the value we bring to our clients, our general practice is to allow between 3 and 5% for “additional work requests” (AWRs) that typically arise when a client chooses to add or upgrade something to a remodel project beyond the original scope of work.  In other words, give yourself some “wiggle room” if it means the difference between getting what you want and, as CJ so poetically put it, “ho hum.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Qualifications Should You Look For When Choosing a Remodeler?

Next to building or buying a home, a remodel may be one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make — and choosing the right remodeling partner is the single most critical component to whether or not that investment maintains its value.

The best place to start in considering a remodeling partner is to identify those that are registered and/or licensed with the state to do business as remodeling contractors. In addition, check for their membership in local and state remodeling professional organizations, such as NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) and NARI-Idaho, and whether they have certifications in their trades — i.e., Green Certified Professional Certification, Certified Remodeler (CR), Certified Remodeler Specialist (CRS), Certified Remodeler Associate (CRA), Certified Kitchen and Bath Remodeler (CKBR), Certified Lead Carpenter (CLC), Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS), etc.

Other factors to consider include years in business, reputation, recommendations and references, and membership in local business, civic and community organizations. NARI suggests the following questions you should ask prospective remodelers:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job?
  • Who will be working on the project? Are they employees or subcontractors?
  • Does your company carry workers compensation and liability insurance?
  • What is your approach to a project such as mine?
  • How many projects like mine have you completed in the past year?
  • May I have a list of references from those projects?
  • May I have a list of business referrals or suppliers?
  • What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business?

If you are getting competitive bids, be sure to only work with reputable companies.  We also recommend researching articles and tips from industry websites such as RemodelingMag.com and NARIofIdaho.org to learn more about the importance of selecting a professional remodeler.  Another excellent source for information on local remodeling companies is GuildQuality, which publishes surveys of remodel customers in communities throughout the country.

*The photograph shows A STRITE “trades party” convening at the home of a client at the start of a remodel project.

From Empty Nest to Guests: A Simple Bathroom Remodel

Bathroom Remodel

Not every remodel project has to be a full-scale makeover.  Sometimes the goal is simply to change the esthetics of a space to reflect a different set of circumstances in one’s life — like the departure of children for college and the big world beyond.

Vision

When our client’s children were still living at home, they shared a hall bathroom.  Needless to say, with two growing kids, the emphasis was on functionality.  When the children went away to college, however, the role of the bathroom shifted to accommodating guests — and our client wanted the esthetics of that room to reflect a more contemporary and welcoming design.

Challenge

Because our client’s home was slab on grade, we faced some constraints in the placement of fixtures if we wanted to make this remodel as economical as possible — and since our client’s goal was to “freshen” the look of the room rather than a perform a complete makeover, we stayed within those constraints and focused on the greatest impact for the lowest cost.

Accomplishment

While keeping the plumbing in the same location, we made the floating toilet less obtrusive in a small bathroom by installing the tank in a wall cavity.  We put in a new shower, replaced the old vanity with a larger and more contemporary one, and added new tile and fixtures.  To compliment these upgrades, we went with a new color scheme that better suited a more “mature” audience than a couple of growing kids!

Highlights

Anyone who has ever watched their children grow up and leave the nest knows what a bittersweet experience that can be…but one upside can be refashioning your living space to reflect a newly rediscovered sense of freedom.  Because we were able to accomplish this for our client so economically, we have since been asked to convert the children’s bedrooms into a single living space — proving once again that the highest compliment one can earn in our business is a repeat customer.

As footnote, we should add that this particular remodel project earned our firm a first place award in NARI’s photo competition.  We’re very proud of that!

Click on photos to enlarge.