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.

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New Design for an Oddly Shaped Bath

Bathroom Remodel

It was bad enough that this ‘80s style bathroom was weighed down in oak and somber finishes — it was also strangely configured.  We breathed new life into its design by opening it up and letting the light shine in!


Here was a master bathroom that enjoyed a killer view of downtown Boise — but the spatial constraints of its layout hardly did justice to the expansive view from its foothills perch.  Our goal was to not only create a sense of spaciousness, but to further enhance this with a lighter and cleaner look and feel.


Two major factors to the choppy layout of this bathroom were the peninsula vanity in its center and the large spa tub that took up an entire corner.  An existing shower that was enclosed in a 3’x3’ space added to a claustrophobic feeling.  To dramatically change the layout of this room, the vanity and the tub had to go.


Removing the peninsula vanity and the spa tub dramatically opened up this room.  We kept the location of the existing shower, but increased its size and installed a glass enclosure.  This gave the space a transparency that complimented the room’s newly discovered openness.  We created a half wall for the shower to give it some privacy, and installed the shower controls in this wall.  In place of the spa tub we added a stylish free standing tub.  We replaced the existing brown carpet with lighter colored tile.  What had formerly been a single vanity against the wall became a double vanity with new cabinetry and a full tile backsplash.


It was our good fortune that a skylight already existed in this room — but thanks to the changes we made to its layout and fixtures, its light was no longer swallowed up in a morass of dark wood, tile, and carpeting.  At last, the open dimensions of the space inside did justice to scene it overlooked outside.

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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.

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A Dramatic Kitchen Remodel

Kitchen Remodel
Most folks would be forgiven for thinking that the ultimate in customization is to build from scratch. Granted, from both a design and construction perspective, a remodel always poses some constraints — for reasons of budget, if nothing else.  The sign of a great remodel project, however, is to make the “after” appear as though the “before” posed no limitations.  Here’s dramatic proof.


When the rooms you live in most are too confining, it’s time to think about annexing some interior real estate from the rooms you live in least.  Our client liked to entertain, but the kitchen was too cramped, the dining room was tucked awkwardly behind a partition wall, and the space occupied by the kitchen table obstructed the flow of traffic to the outside of the house.  Our goal was to improve the livability of all these rooms, while updating the look of the kitchen.


Adding space to the kitchen meant taking it from the adjoining dining room — which meant taking out a wall.  With a full-fledged second story above the kitchen, this also meant relocating plumbing and duct work.  While we preserved the basic layout of the room, we shifted its location to open up more space between it and the family room.  In the process, we removed one window and enlarged and moved a second and centered it over the new sink.


Moving the wall back between the kitchen and the dining room gave us an additional five feet of kitchen area.  In the remaining space from the former dining room we created a spacious and far more useful walk-in pantry.  We complimented the added sense of openness in the kitchen by removing the drop down soffits from the ceiling and replacing the old florescent lighting with can lights.  In place of the former sit down bar we created a larger, two-tiered counter that was more appropriate for entertaining.  Rather than the more expensive option of replacing the hardwood flooring, we refinished and stained ti to go with the new cabinetry we installed.  We even had a stainless steel facade fabricated to replace the panel on the existing refrigerator.  Why replace a perfectly good appliance just for the sake of making it “fit in” with its new surroundings?


The new kitchen was a stunning success, and redefined the look of the home.  We should mention, however, that one of the children in the family had severe allergies.  We’re pleased to say that because of our efforts in isolating the construction area, no one experienced any ill effects.  We also set up a temporary kitchen in the garage, complete with carpet, so the family could maintain some normalcy in their lives.  When it comes to transforming a family’s living space, we believe in taking the trauma out of the drama.

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Also, a picture video can be viewed on YouTube.


Designing Minds: A Foothills Home Rediscovers Itself

Whole House Remodel

However little we may credit our powers of visualization, there are spaces we encounter that whisper to us just what they were meant to be. Sometimes they shout. In the case of our clients Keith and Deborah, one home’s intention was loud enough to be heard during a jog through the Boise foothills.

“We loved to recreate in the foothills, but we thought that a home there would be out of reach,” Keith remembers. “Then one day I was running in a neighborhood we had our eye on and saw that a ‘for sale’ sign had gone up. The house needed a lot of work, but the location was just what we had been looking for.”

What Keith and Deborah most liked about their foothills home was its view location, and also the unique triangularity of its architecture. Unfortunately, neither of these aspects were exploited to their full advantage in their carry over from exterior to interior.

Functionally, the most immediate feature of the home’s interior that the couple wanted to change was the kitchen, which was sequestered from the rest of the main floor living area by three-quarter height walls. Another problem area was the master bath that, thanks to a remodel by a previous home owner, protruded awkwardly into the adjoining master bedroom. Because they recognized that their home’s ultimate reconfiguration would involve much more than one or two isolated fixes, they also had the foresight to realize that it would be better to engage in a more holistic approach than in a series of piecemeal projects.

Because of their longterm view, and the fact that life happens while raising a family, eleven years went by before Deborah and Keith began working with STRITE on the realization of their remodel vision. During this period, however, they thought continuously about the fundamentals of layout and flow, and how best to bring lightness, brightness, and a killer view into closer proximity with their interior life. Toward these goals, Deborah had been collecting design ideas and inspirations with which she filled graph paper and sketch books.

Despite a decade’s worth of homework, Deborah and Keith chose not to put all their cards on the design table at their initial meetings with STRITE. “At first we were more focused on architecture and floor plan than on design specifics,” says Keith. “We also wanted to see what (STRITE designer) Michael Snow would come up with. It’s always good to see what a fresh eye can contribute.”

It didn’t take Michael long to grasp not only the vision that Keith and Deborah had in mind, but more fundamentally, the vision the home’s very architecture suggested. “The original architect obviously had a great vision, based on the rooflines, and a good floor plan,” Snow explains. “This was a very dynamic space to begin with — we just needed to take it to the next level.”

“STRITE’s design sketches were pretty much in line with our ideas,” says Keith, “since we had already decided to remove walls. The most notable exceptions were Michael’s idea to rotate the kitchen (to improve the line of sight as well as flow), and add a new window to the bedroom, which opened up a view as you walk down the hallway as well as creating another point of light.”

While some features of their home, such as its triangularity, served as design “anchors,” new ideas suggested themselves to Keith and Deborah during the ensuing 20-plus weeks of the remodel process. Among these were replacing “clunky” wooden staircase railings and removing an existing fireplace. The latter inspiration, Keith explains, came much later in the remodel process. “It was actually our decorator who first suggested getting rid of the fireplace. At the time, we were just thinking of remodeling it — but we were also struggling with the flow of the furniture in the room, and taking out the fireplace and fireplace pit ultimately reclaimed a lot of wasted living space. As it turned out, removing the fireplace cost less than updating it.”

Another inspiration that came to Deborah and Keith was the installation of a glass backsplash wall. As Keith remembers, “STRITE was both a bit nervous as well as excited about installing this feature. The glass had to be tempered, and all the electrical cutouts had to be done to customize it for the wall — but it ended up being one of my favorite elements of the remodel for a reason I hadn’t anticipated.” As it turned out, the glass wall made their kitchen and living space look larger by reflecting the trees outside the opposite wall window.

““Not too many people could have pulled off the installation of that glass,” says Deborah. “We didn’t really appreciate at the time just what we were asking from STRITE, since that single sheet turned out to be the size of a truck and weighs a ton. This really demonstrates where STRITE’s abilities show through — the high end skills involved in what they do.”

In addition to the interior remodel, Keith and Deborah wanted to replace an exterior deck system that was not only aging, but functionally irrelevant. STRITE suggested that the couple hire a company whose expertise they could vouch for. “STRITE was good enough to recognize their strengths and coordinate with another provider who had competencies they didn’t,” says Keith. “Their value add was their huge level of expertise in the details, their eye for things, their finishes, and managing a budget based on what we needed rather than add-ons other than our own.”

Looking back, Deborah and Keith see the sheer complexity of the project’s schedule, and its impact on their family life, to have been the most challenging aspect of their remodel. “It’s hard to second guess,” Deborah admits, “but if we had it to do over again, I would have brought the decorator into the process earlier, which Michael suggested. I would also have looked more critically at the project timeline at where there were gaps that could have been more tightly compressed.”

Despite the trauma to daily routine that any extensive remodel entails, there were moments in the process that were truly enjoyable. As Keith recalls, “It was fun to see the walls come out and things opened up. You can’t really understand what a space feels like until it’s empty, and things like the removal of dark, worn out ‘70s carpet and its replacement with light colored wood floors throughout the home, and seeing new windows getting cut out, was really exciting — the feeling that our home was finally going to be what it should be.”

Nearly twelve years after a chance run in the foothills, its reassuring to know that the end of a remodel does much more than justify its means. It validates them.

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Designing Minds: Confessions of a Serial Remodeler

Whole House Remodel

CJ and Melissa hadn’t intended to live in their North End home for more than a few years when they purchased it back in 2005. At the time, Melissa recalls, there just wasn’t much on the market — and when homes did come up for sale, they were often snapped up on the first day. “We bought our house as a ‘fixer-upper,’ and thought at the time that we would just do some upgrades and then sell it when we found something we liked better.”

As it turns out, the “better” home that Melissa envisioned was just a remodel…or five…away.

Melissa and CJ’s home definitely had some challenges. Built in 1915, the Craftsman-style house was large (3,500 square feet), and had undergone a number of modifications that lacked a sense of cohesion — including having been divided at one point into a two-bedroom basement apartment. But the home also had its strong suits, beginning with its North End location, which was situated halfway between the couple’s two families.

“It was kind of a diamond in the rough,” Melissa recalls. “It had been mistreated, but you could see the potential. It was a beautifully shaped home, and the woodwork inside was lovely. It had a nice history, and a nice feel — especially now that we’ve been restoring it.”

The first of what would be a series of projects stretching from 2008 to 2013 began with a full kitchen remodel — precipitated by a DIY gone wrong. “I got in over my head with the demolition before we had an actual plan,” CJ admits sheepishly. “The old kitchen was dated and an eyesore. It had lemon yellow laminate counter tops, and hadn’t been designed to maximize the counter space, so there wasn’t enough room to properly prepare a meal. The appliances were old and placed in free standing positions that were inefficient.”

When it came to getting some professional back up, the couple doesn’t remember exactly how they heard about STRITE, but they were immediately impressed with the company’s problem solving skills. “We were disappointed with the lack of creativity we found in looking at other remodeling resources,” says Melissa, “but STRITE came to us with very specific ideas on how to maximize a small kitchen space and make it work for two people to be in at the same time.”

One of the constraints that STRITE worked around was the couple’s desire to preserve a beautiful built-in buffet on the other side of the kitchen. “We didn’t want to take it out and destroy an important piece of the home’s history,” says Melissa. “STRITE came back with a plan that accomplished this, especially with storage ideas for spaces that would otherwise have been difficult to use. As it is, I love the kitchen — it was thoroughly thought through.”

Three years after the completion of the kitchen, Melissa and CJ expanded their remodel efforts to an area just behind it. “It used to be an open porch where there was a back door,” says CJ. “At some point the porch was closed in, and it still had the original exterior siding. There were some really funky drawers that had been built in but were unusable, so we added a pantry, which meant that all the appliances that we had been storing in the basement now had a place to live.”

One of the features of the room that CJ and Melissa wanted to preserve was its large windows. “They were done in the ‘50s or ‘60s by a former owner,” CJ recalls. “They were really well done for back then, but they leaked a lot of air and made the back of the house really uncomfortable. STRITE did an amazing job of replacing them while keeping the original look, and they trimmed the new windows in with woodwork that matched the rest of the house. They literally took a space that was an outdoor deck providing entry to the downstairs and back door of the house and converted it into what looks today to be part of the original construction of the house.”

One year later it was the turn of the basement and laundry room to go through a metamorphosis. This was an area that CJ describes as, ‘an awful, ugly room” that was just below the kitchen. “It had all kinds of electrical and plumbing issues — exposed pipe and wiring that was an eyesore. It got a lot of traffic because it was the only way from the back of the house that you could go between upstairs and the downstairs basement without having to go outside. It was not functional in the least, so the remodel was about making it a functional mudroom. Again, STRITE made it seem as though that was how it always was.”

In addition to their two children, CJ and Melissa’s household includes her grandmother, who originally moved into the basement where she could have her own kitchen (a feature dating back to when the basement was an apartment, and one that greatly helped the couple get through the inconvenience of their main floor kitchen remodel). As she aged, however, Melissa didn’t want her grandmother to have to go up and down stairs. “We moved her to the main level, but the bathroom was really antiquated, so we did a remodel with a walk-in shower.”

It was during this project that CJ vividly recalls an example of STRITE’s flexibility. “We had done a plan, and we were working diligently to manage our budget when I realized that a stud that would be used to frame the shower would impede the line of sight and make the bathroom appear even smaller than it was. I raised the issue with (STRITE designer) Michael Snow, and he came up with the idea of using pony walls and glass walls at the top of the shower, then tiling it in. This made a huge difference.”

Although CJ and Melissa claim to have “about a dozen projects in mind at all times,” the most recent remodel to their home took place in the basement, where CJ works from home. “It was always cold because the original windows were single pane,” says CJ. “Even with space heaters I could never get the temperature up to 70 degrees in the winter.”

Integral to the success of their remodel efforts has been the couple’s relationship with STRITE — something that Melissa especially appreciates given her background as a graphic designer whose current work with a local hospital is aimed at the creation of “healing environments” through the use of color and art. “My profession makes it more challenging for me to approach a design in my own home — there are just too many options. You get too close to it, so it’s nice to have someone else come in and give you their opinion.”

While some of the couple’s design inspirations came from DIY shows and “tons of booklets,” they credit their collaboration with STRITE as key to preserving the original character of their home and the cohesiveness they knew would be important if they eventually put it on the market. As CJ explains, maintaining this cohesiveness was a distinct challenge that STRITE was able to manage.

“The most challenging aspect of the projects was the upfront design,” says CJ. “STRITE’s execution was always great, but they showed tremendous patience in getting the concept correct in the beginning. Their process is really different in terms of their design development — bringing in schematics, using software to simulate what the final product would look like, and then moving things on the fly as we discussed options. Of course, the hard thing is that by making anything possible, you could let your imagination run a bit too wild,” he adds, “and there ARE practical limits to how much you upgrade a house before you upgrade it right out of the neighborhood.”

At this point in their remodel odyssey, upgrading out of the neighborhood seems like less of a risk to Melissa and CJ. Whether functional, esthetic, or utilitarian in nature, all of their remodel projects have combined to change their attitude toward the longer term livability of their home. Says Melissa, “The remodels have changed the length of time I see us in this space and my overall view of the home. You could say we are invested in the changes, and I attribute much of that to the collaborative working relationship STRITE helped foster.”

Adds CJ, “The most rewarding aspect is having people over and seeing them experience the ‘wow’ factor when they see what we’ve done. STRITE took such great care to ‘map into’ the historic nature of the house, and people are always so impressed with the final outcome.”

CJ adds one parting note regarding “final outcomes” and their relationship to managing a remodel budget — one that he believes everyone contemplating a remodel should take to heart. “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.”

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What Are the Types of Projects for which STRITE is Ideally Suited?

Professional remodeling companies come in different shapes and sizes, from one guy in a truck to the full-service, design-remodel business like STRITE that has a staff of designers, project managers, and others who ensure that every detail of your project is completed to your standards, on budget, and on time. STRITE is the most ideal choice for people looking for the following remodel experience:

Value added design that not only enhances the esthetics of a home, but improves its livability and functionality.

A single point of contact in day-to-day management of the construction process, and accountability for its successful completion on-budget.

Cost savings through the experience to “expect the unexpected,” the skill to execute your vision, and the ability to pass volume savings along to you.

Designing Minds: Going from Good to Great

Kitchen Remodel

When Don and Patty moved from California to Boise, it wasn’t with the goal of either upsizing or downsizing their household; they moved to be closer to their children and grandchildren.

They rented a home in southwest Boise with idea of eventually finding a more permanent place to live. Although the kitchen fell short of their expectations, they loved the location of their rented home and its view of the New York canal, which was clearly visible from their dining nook and backyard deck. When the opportunity to purchase the home presented itself, the couple decided that it would be far easier to remodel the existing kitchen than it would to find a new home with a location and view they liked as much.

While both homeowners felt that the kitchen in their home was dated, a more serious issue was its size and the amount of storage space it offered. “Our kitchen in California was much larger,” says Patty, “and a lot of our kitchen stuff was still packed away because we didn’t have room for it in our Boise home. We definitely wanted more cabinetry to use for storage.”

Another issue with their kitchen was its sense of isolation from other rooms in the house. It was available to the formal dining room only through a door, while a bank of cabinets above the kitchen counter obstructed the line of sight to the dining nook and its view of the backyard beyond.

The couple learned about STRITE from a lady that Patty was swimming with at a local health club. “She had used STRITE twice, and she recommended them when I told her about our plans for the kitchen remodel.” Although they had intended to get three bids for the project, after their initial meeting with STRITE designer Michael Snow, Don and Patty decided to look no further. As Don remembers, “After meeting with Michael, we were both convinced that STRITE would be the best choice for us. He was so professional, and we’d heard so many horror stories about flaky contractors. We trusted STRITE could do a quality job on time and at a fair price.”

Looking back at how they approached the design of their new kitchen, Don recalls that he and Patty focused in on a couple of things beyond increased storage in their discussions with Michael. “We wanted a more open kitchen,” says Don. “The cupboards that were hanging from the ceiling blocked the view. We wanted those gone, but we still wanted an island in the kitchen…and we wanted a more modern look like the newer houses that we had seen when we were originally shopping the real estate market.” At the same time, Patty remembers, they recognized that they faced some constraints in design options. “We were limited with the space in which we could do this remodel. We had thought about moving our appliances to other places, but it just didn’t work out, so we had to keep them pretty much where they are now, with the exception of the dishwasher.”

Like most homeowners, Patty and Don faced the challenge of visualizing how a kitchen that would meet their needs would actually look once it was finished. Once STRITE came back to them with drawings, however, their confidence rose immeasurably. Says Patty, “How do you visualize this? Until we had the drawings, I wasn’t really sure. But once STRITE presented them, we could see it was going to be a beautiful kitchen when it was all done.”

As STRITE prepared for an August demolition of the old kitchen, Don and Patty went shopping for appliances and finishes. Somewhat to Patty’s surprise, the granite they decided on as the replacement for the existing counter tile was “Cosmic Black,” for which they selected a matching tile backsplash. They combined dinners out with visits to suppliers STRITE had recommended, which included local partner Chapel Hill for the creation of the cabinetry, which would be extensive given the expansion of the kitchen storage area. With Don’s handyman skills as a commercial carpenter, the couple decided they would take on the installation of new laminate flooring, while Chapel Hill would produce and install baseboards with a wood and stain that matched the cabinets. In choosing a new set of kitchen appliances, Don and Patty were particularly pleased to be able to replace the existing electric range with one using natural gas, which the couple preferred to cook with.

During the remodel process, STRITE created temporary walls to partition off the construction area from the rest of the home, and set up a makeshift kitchen in the couple’s family room. By the end of September, however, Don and Patty were once again cooking in their kitchen — a kitchen that bore little if any resemblance to the one that STRITE had demolished a month earlier. Gone were the extended counter and overhead cabinets that blocked the line of sight into the dining nook. In its place was an island with raised counter top and seating on one side, and additional prep space on the other. Says Don, “The island makes the kitchen look bigger, and it definitely makes it more functional. In addition to the line of sight being opened up, there is a walkway between the kitchen and the dining nook, which we didn’t have before.”

To further enhance this line of sight, STRITE created an opening in the wall between the kitchen and formal dining room and living room — which meant that a person standing at the stove could see and communicate with people at either end of the home. The kitchen was further opened up by extending it along the wall of the dining nook, which now comprised the additional counter and storage space that had been Patty and Don’s goal at the inception of the project.

The Castles couldn’t be happier with how their kitchen turned out. Says Patty, “It was hard to envision what it was going to look like on the plans, but as it all came together it opened up the kitchen tremendously, and there was no point in the process that seemed overwhelming because we did things at our leisure.” The Castles were also able to do things according to their budget. “We started with a figure that we gave STRITE right off the bat, and which they stuck with,” notes Patty. “We got everything we wanted for the price we wanted.” It didn’t hurt, of course, that Don was able to do some of the work himself. As a result of the remodel, the Castles also had the opportunity to get to know some really great trades folks. “We were really impressed with the people that STRITE hired,” Don says. “They were very responsive, professional, and easy to work with. I was really impressed with the quality of their work. Since then we’ve hired the plumber to do some other repairs around the house.”

Looking back at their remodel experience, Patty is particular struck by the difference the feeling of openness makes to her new kitchen, and the way it connects to the rest of the home. As to the biggest challenge the project posed? “Having to eat in the family room and wash the dishes in the laundry room sink,” she recalls. “It was like camping…but nicer.”

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From Ho-Hum to Holy Cow!

Living Room Remodel

Some before and after photos leave you wondering if you’re really looking at the same space, or a parallel universe version.  One of the most gratifying aspects about what we do is making that effect much easier than it seems.  


This family room makeover was part of a larger remodel that included a new kitchen.  It’s funny how one renovation can lead to another…and another…


Our client’s family room was what you might call “plain vanilla” — in more ways than just the color scheme.  As part of a more comprehensive remodel project, our goal was to achieve maximum bang for the buck in terms of dramatic effect.  We targeted the fireplace as our design focal point and took it from there.


A new fireplace facade, replacing the carpet with hardwood flooring, new windows, designer lighting, and bold color took this room from drab to dramatic in short order.


The before photos reveal that for whatever reason, the original fireplace was not centered in the wall where it was located.  Physically moving the fireplace wasn’t an option, short of demolition, so we merely played a visual trick with the mantle piece.  Nothing up our sleeves…presto!

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Designing Minds: A West Boise Home Ages Gracefully…Along with its Owners


“Outgrowing” a home is a common motivation for remodeling it — especially as households expand with the addition of children or extended family members. When it comes to aging, however, the concept of outgrowing a home takes on an entirely new meaning — a reality that our clients Pete and Diane discovered with regard to their West Boise residence.

“We both had bad knees and some hip arthritis, and our master suite was located upstairs,” says Pete. “We considered options — moving, elevators, etc. — and in the end we decided instead to expand the house and put a master suite on the ground floor. Our kids came home often enough that we knew we could still use the one upstairs as well.”

In approaching the design of their remodel, which would involve the conversion of two existing rooms (a laundry room and a downstairs bedroom) along with the construction of an additional space, the couple drew on past experience.

Says Pete, “We had been involved in the redesign of places that our parents lived in, and we had also observed my brother as he built a home that he designed himself. We merged the best ideas from those experiences and brought them to our meeting with (STRITE designer) Michael Snow, who contributed more ideas as well. The final product was a compilation of good ideas.”

Among this compilation of good ideas were certain “must haves” for Pete and Diane. These included combining a downstairs bathroom and laundry room to increase the functionality and convenience of washer/dryer/storage orientations, and adding a large walk-in shower and a urinal. On this last item, Pete wryly comments, “Any family that has young boys or an older man should have a urinal. It’s much easier to clean and use — and it makes living easier with the wife.”

Along with the Pete and Diane’s design preferences, Michael Snow came up with a plan that would also give the couple the larger bedroom space they were looking for, while only adding around 500 square feet to the total space of the home. As Pete recalls, STRITE came up with some other enhancements as well. “At first, we were more focused on minimizing cost by placing the plumbing close to the existing fixtures, but Michael showed us a better way to locate them that didn’t really increase cost, but created a much better flow. He also included skylights and a sun tunnel that really added a lot to the space. The biggest contribution he made, however, was with helping us see the best overall layout for the rooms.”

While the middle of winter might not seem the ideal time to start a residential remodel/addition project in Boise, Pete and Diane’s project began in January. Although the cold weather presented challenges, the new master suite was ready that summer. “The weather caused us some grief — I remember trying to get the backhoe work completed before the ground froze, and there were rainy days that complicated things, but there weren’t many issues that extended the completion date for the project.”

Pete and Diane's new addition gets a chilly start.

Pete and Diane’s new addition gets a chilly start.

Pete and Diane’s patience with the construction process was more than rewarded by its results. “The remodel is the best thing we’ve done — it’s just phenomenal,” Pete says. “As you get older, there is a greater ease of living with having everything on one floor. At the same time, we have an expandable part of the house upstairs for when the kids come. We can have both our children’s families stay with us, and there’s plenty of room. We can take things out of the dryer and put them in drawers or hang them up — that’s a real convenience — and our new bathrooms are safer with the walk-in shower instead of the tub shower.”

Flush from the success of the master bedroom addition, Pete and Diane decided to take on yet another project aimed at further accommodating children and grandchildren: a family room remodel. As Pete explains their decision, “Our motivation was simply to have enough room for five grandsons to be here and romp and stomp and enjoy themselves, while allowing us to participate in whatever is going on.”

The couple’s home had a great room where their kitchen and family room met, with an eating area in between the two. The original family room was a too small for five boys (who are now between the ages of 18 and 8), so STRITE added about 200 square feet to the area by repositioning a fireplace and windows, then putting in a couple of sliding glass doors to allow access to the back and side yards.

The new master suite creates an unobtrusive bump out to the existing floor plan of the home.

“It was a fairly straight forward remodel,” Pete explains. “The biggest issue was the positioning of the windows and moving the fireplace, which was in the center of a wall that had to go in order to open the space up. It either had to move, or be converted to a walk around, which conflicted with having the open space for the grandkids.” In addition to relocating the fireplace, STRITE converted it from wood burning to gas — another lifestyle convenience that the couple appreciates every winter. “The area we spend most of our time in is warmed enough by the gas fireplace that the furnace doesn’t come on unless it gets really cold,” says Pete, “which saves us from having to heat all the other rooms. I wish I had put one in the bathroom!”

Looking back at the modification of the family room, Pete still marvels at the way it complimented the existing design. “Michael did great work on blending the rooflines, so as with the main suite extension, you can’t tell that it was added on — it just looks like it was built that way from the get go. STRITE has an unbelievable talent for this.”

Having experienced home construction and remodeling on a first hand basis, as well as an interested bystander, Pete succinctly sums up his lessons learned: “You get what you pay for.” Another especially applicable piece of advice that Pete offers anyone considering a remodel is to “be involved from start to finish — you’ll end up with a much better product in the end.” And since living with the remodel process for six months can be trying, Pete also advocates patience.

“You know its going to be a mess — it’s going to be noisy, it’s going to be dusty — but all that will eventually be gone and you’ll be happy with the results. STRITE is very conscious of the impact of a remodel on your life, and they isolate the work area from you as much as they possibly can. In our case, they totally isolated the construction area with false walls. They protected the house, even while still making the laundry room accessible. It was more like living next door to a construction site than living in one.”

Thinking about the most enjoyable aspects of his and his wife’s remodel experience, Pete describes it in two words: Michael Snow. “Doing the design was a lot of fun, and Michael made it that way. Diane and I had our little square footage models and cut outs that we played with, and we had the enjoyment of actually seeing our ideas come into being. Michael would do anything for us, and we know that STRITE will stand by what they say. If we called them today and said that something needed to be fixed, they’d send someone over to do it.”

Thinking about his home, post-remodel, Pete can’t imagine that he and Diane will ever want to leave — and thanks to their remodel, there is no reason they should have to anytime soon. Which begs a question going back to Pete’s earlier comment on cost: How do you amortize peace of mind?


After…before…during. STRITE’s remodel not only adds not only space, but visual appeal to Pete and Diane’s west Boise home.


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