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Every Picture Tells a Story

Whole House Remodel

Every picture tells a story…and the pictures associated with this remodel tell quite a few — which should come as no surprise given the history of this home.  Our job was to bring those disparate stories together into one seamless tale of beauty, comfort, and grace.  Mission accomplished!

Vision

This home was moved to its present location in the Boise foothills in the 1960s, at which time an addition was built.  Some 20 years later a second level was added.  The ground floor living space was subsequently divided into several areas, out of which our vision was to open up and integrate an updated kitchen, dining room, and family room.  The dramatic transformation that followed was based on yet another collaboration with Gina Wagner of Seed Interiors.

Challenge

It’s not often that a floor is the starting point for all the elements in a remodel, but the structural reality of this project was that we were dealing with different floor systems from the home’s past.  An even more significant structural challenge that we faced was in removing the posts and walls of the main living area — no small feat when you consider that they were supporting the second level!

Accomplishment

We unified the floor system by starting at its highest point and leveling it using a laser, then laying down a roasted oak hardwood (the color that you see in the photos is natural, not a stain).  We removed the walls and posts of the former kitchen area and spanned it with a steel beam for structural support, then reframed the entire system to raise the ceiling height as much as possible.  By taking out a wall system we created a dining area separated from the kitchen by a large cabinet unit, with a pocket door added for additional separation if desired.  We converted a space that had formerly been a large closet accessible off the main hallway into a kitchen pantry.  For the adjoining family room we kept the fireplace in the same location, but installed a new unit and surround, then wrapped the ceiling beams so that we could stain them the same color as the mantle and flooring.  We also updated the lighting and redid the ceiling texture.

Highlights

To say that this remodel involved some focused effort is an understatement, but the before and after results speak for themselves.  After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Click 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.

A Question of Balance

How STRITE returned an HVAC system to its comfort zone

The paradox of remodeling is finding limitless opportunity in constraint. It’s kind of a zen thing — and if you’ve been doing it for four decades, it definitely colors the way you look at so called obstacles. Just ask STRITE president and “field marshal” Bob Mundy — a man for whom challenges are but thinly disguised opportunities.

Take a recent Southeast Boise project, for example. To realize our clients’ vision of opening up their floor plan to bring their kitchen, dining, and family rooms into a more unified space (the better in which to entertain, now that their nest was empty), we had to first remove load bearing walls. While the most obvious challenge in doing this (one we face quite often) was in finding structural support alternatives, we also needed to reroute the hidden infrastructure of wires, pipes, and ducts.

For the most part, finding new paths for plumbing and electrical conduits is a fairly mundane, if not always expeditious, exercise — one in which matters of efficiency typically rule the day. In the case of this project, however, Bob saw an opportunity to improve on the home’s comfort as well as its esthetics. To appreciate the challenge in which that opportunity was embedded, there are some things you first need to know about the world of HVAC. We’ll let Bob explain.

“Most two-story homes built in the ‘70s, as was the case with our clients’ house, have an HVAC design that does a poor job of balancing climate. In short, the upstairs is generally too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. Trying to correct this with control units that are typically on the ground floor means making the downstairs, where people generally live during the day, uncomfortable…not to mention driving up utility costs. The answer, in most cases, is to add a secondary system for a dual zone approach — but that option just wasn’t in the budget with this project.”

The HVAC ductwork in our clients’ home — what we call a “3×10” ducting system — went up through stud walls that we were taking out. For Bob, rerouting the ducts was unavoidable, but he wanted to do it in a way that would address the system’s inefficiencies. Following a brainstorming session with our HVAC trades folk, he came up the breakthrough concept of relocating the system’s trunk line, which had previously been located in a downstairs crawl space, to the attic by going up through the floor system via a downstairs pantry and then through an upstairs bedroom closet (both of which we then closed off). From this new location upstairs the system branched off to condition the house through vents we added under the home to replace those in the walls we removed. Since the return air and thermostat wasn’t balancing the upper floor with the newly opened area below, we moved the thermostat to the top of the stairs.

“We ended up with a system that far exceeds our clients’ air conditioning needs,” Bob reports. “Their master suite upstairs is very cool and we got a balance throughout the house without replacing or adding another unit — just by revamping the ducting. We probably saved between $5,000 and $7,000 with that approach, which we’ve since used again in another similar situation. We could have taken the attitude that since the ideal solution wasn’t in the budget, we’d simply walk away from it. As it was, we found an alternative that worked out beautifully.”

As it turns out, there’s thinking outside the box…and then there’s thinking outside the crawlspace.

Hit on this link to learn more about the goals of this remodel and see more pictures.

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

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A Foothills Remodel Takes a ‘70s Home “Back to the Future”

Whole House Remodel

Our clients came to their home for the view, and stayed for the architecture. But before they reached that point, there was a lot to get done — as you’ll learn in this whole-house remodel case study that was featured in this year’s NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) Remodeled Homes Tour.

Vision

Our clients loved the Boise foothills for their beauty and recreational opportunities, and when a chance run high above their North End home led past a certain “for sale” sign, they knew a change of address was the way to take greater advantage of this jewel in Boise’s crown. Although they saw a lot to work with in the bones of their ‘70s era home, they knew with equal certainty that it would take a lot of design talent, engineering insight, and project management — not to mention plenty of good old-fashioned demolition — to pay off their home’s architectural potential.

Challenge

The architecture of our clients’ home certainly made it unique, and its view of the Boise Valley from amid a cluster of trees was gorgeous — but the home’s floor plan not only failed to take full advantage of its design and site, it also robbed its inhabitants of the daily inspiration they should otherwise have enjoyed. To open up new lines of sight, add more points of light, and take full advantage of the views from around the second floor living space, a lot of walls and other “obstructions” would have to be removed, as would an aging and dysfunctional deck system. In the process, our clients also wanted the aesthetic improvements of an updated look and amenities in their kitchen and master bathroom.

Accomplishment

STRITE’s initial focus in realizing out our clients’ vision was to remove anything on the second floor, including the existing kitchen and fireplace, that would obstruct or diminish the views from the south side of their home, and in so doing make possible the corresponding light those views could bring to a more open floor plan.  Accomplishing this goal involved not only the demolition of walls, but also the replacement of an existing wall bearing point with a less intrusive steel beam that, when polished, picked up the metal highlights of the new kitchen fixtures.  By reclaiming an area of wasted space adjoining the kitchen, STRITE was able to convert it into a large, walk-in pantry with enough storage to eliminate the need for kitchen cupboards — thus adding to the clean lines and open feeling that our clients valued, in contrast to the cramped feeling of the original kitchen layout.

To further improve the views from the reconfigured living room, dining room, and kitchen, we added and enhanced window spaces. Although our clients’ original intention, thanks to input from the interior designer who STRITE brought on to the project team, was to relocate the existing fireplace, the fact that they seldom used it made its complete removal a more logical design decision.  By reclaiming the wasted space represented by the fire pit, as well as removing an alcove on one side of the fireplace, we were able to add another 200 square feet to the living room, as well as effectively making a previously “hidden” door to an outside walkway work as another view window.  To carry over the emerging look in other areas of the home, we replaced original carpet with lightly stained wood floors, and updated both the master bedroom (adding another point of light as one approached it from the hall) and the master bath (creating its own space distinct from the bedroom floorplan). On the outside of the house, our clients wanted to replace an aging and unsightly deck with a more aesthetically pleasing and functional option, as well as create a family-friendly patio in a backyard that they had described as “an un-level patch of cheatgrass.” To accomplish these latter renovations, we shared concepts and schedules with chosen local professionals whose expertise in their trades exceeded and complimented our own.

Highlights

Our clients had lived in their home for 11 years before executing their ambitious remodel plan — but they had been working on that plan for most of this time, and they had a very clear idea of what they wanted as an end result. They hired STRITE to help them get there, and we in turn enlisted the services of an accomplished interior designer to coordinate architecture and decor. Along the way we replaced dated wooden bannisters with custom-designed metal railings, reconfigured the entryway to open up a better line of site, updated the children’s bedrooms, and added unique touches like a single, wall-sized tempered glass backsplash (our clients’ inspiration) that reflected the trees through the windows in the main living area. It was a complicated project that lasted five months (the latter part during which our clients lived in the ground floor of their home), and at times taxed our scheduling abilities — but the end result was what our clients’ have described as a home that “looks and functions even better than we thought it would.” Those 10 words are what we are in business to hear.

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

Click here to learn more about this project.

Designing Minds: A Tuscan Facade Reveals a Contemporary European Heart

Whole House Remodel

In considering the scope of their remodel project, Laura and Steve soon came to the realization that when the issue of “spaciousness” has little to do with the actual amount of space, the only viable option is to “reconfigure.”

Steve and Laura moved into their Southeast Boise home fourteen years ago.  They loved the neighborhood, and while the Tuscan-inspired exterior of their house was attractive, the carry over of that theme into its interior created a number of issues for the couple from the very beginning.  There was a cramped and dark feeling to some of the rooms that just couldn’t be alleviated with new paint or flooring — particularly when it came to the kitchen.

“The kitchen was large from the standpoint of floor plan,” Steve explained, “but it always felt crowded.  If you had more than one person in the kitchen, you would run into each other.”  Laura loves to cook, and as a venue for expressing her culinary passion, the space just didn’t measure up.  “It was very inefficient,” said Steve.  “There wasn’t a good workflow between the cooktop, the preparation space and the refrigerator, and the cabinetry was neither efficient nor sufficient.”

The description, “cramped” is a recurring adjective in the litany of dissatisfactions that Steve expressed regarding the original layout of his and Laura’s home.  “The house felt smaller to me than it really is,” said Steve.  “I’m a tall person, so I like tall ceilings and open space.  The ceiling felt low, and the spaces felt small just by their design.  They felt chopped up.”

Besides the kitchen, several other spaces suffered from the afflictions that Steve and Laura so keenly felt.  The house had a separate dining room, but it wasn’t large enough to host the family gatherings that the couple had envisioned — while the dining area next to the kitchen gave the term “nook” a meaning more synonymous with “cramped” than “cozy.”  And then there was the home’s decor.

“None of the decor was anything that we would have picked out,” Steve said.  “We did some minimal stuff when we moved in — changed out some flooring, did some painting to put a little of our signature on the place, but nothing else.  The house was in need of an overall update, so we held off until we decided to do a full remodel.”

In considering the scope of their remodel project, Laura and Steve soon came to the realization that when the issue of “spaciousness” has little to do with the actual amount of space, the only viable option is to “reconfigure” — which in their minds clearly made it a project for Strite.

Laura had spent years looking through remodeling magazines and websites for inspiration.  As Steve recalled, “She had a stack of remodeling magazines about three feet deep, and she would go through them and mark the things that she liked.  There was a lot of hard work and years of thinking that went into considering what we wanted.”

Along the way, however, Steve noticed a profound evolution in their attitudes toward design.  “Over the years, we found that we’ve changed our view of things.  Earlier in our marriage we probably would have never looked at a house with a great room or a contemporary European feel, but that is where we evolved to — simpler, cleaner lines.”  It didn’t hurt that Steve’s brother and his wife, who live in Seattle, had recently completed a kitchen and bathroom remodel with a similar sense of esthetics.  “It is more contemporary than the look we wanted, but we really liked the feel of it.”

How that feel translated into the remodeling project that Steve and Laura undertook with Strite resulted in nothing less than a virtual gutting of their home’s interior, beginning with the transformation of their kitchen and dining area into contiguous spaces in which form follows function with a contemporary European sensibility.

“The kitchen is completely rearranged from what it was originally,” said Steve.  “Even though we didn’t significantly change the footprint, we changed the nature of the space and visually opened it up.”  This was achieved partly by adding a bank of windows over the kitchen sink — an effect that was repeated in the former breakfast nook, which was squared off to pick up enough additional square footage to make it a viable family dining room (the former dining area has since become a cozy sitting room alternative to the family room adjoining the kitchen).  The bank of windows installed in the reconfigured breakfast nook also had the effect of bringing in views of a beautiful backyard to enhance the overall feeling of light and space in the home.

The flow of great room/kitchen/dining area was further enhanced by continuous cork flooring throughout, where it eventually met with another interior design issue that had increasingly troubled Steve and Laura as they began the remodel process: the staircase.

“The staircase ended up being a bit of an afterthought,” Steve recalled, “but as we talked through the design meetings, one of the things that really came up was that it was unattractive: bulky, dark, ugly.  There was a half wall that went all the way up the stairs, and we wanted to take it out and create a more open bannister.  (Strite designer) Michael (Snow) said that a custom rail that would match the curve of the stairs would be cost prohibitive, so we began to look at other options.

The option that Strite designed for Laura and Steve involved the demolition of the old staircase, and its subsequent reframing to create the straight, clean lines that the couple was looking for as the consistent theme of their remodel design.  This was a theme that continued to carry itself out, under Strite’s supervision, to the updating and reconfiguration of almost every other space in the downstairs area of the home, including the laundry room, guest bath/powder room, and master bathroom — subjects of separate Strite case studies.

If the thought of a whole house remodel as extensive as the one Laura and Steve embarked upon with Strite seems overwhelming enough to warrant considering the purchase of a new home, look at it from one couple’s perspective: how else could you get the personalization of a custom build without having to leave a home and neighborhood you’d come to love over 14 years?  Think of it as the remodeling equivalent of having your cake and eating it too.

Hit here to read another article and see more pictures of this home.

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