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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.

Vision

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.

Challenge

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.

Accomplishment

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!

Highlights

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.

Vision

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.

Challenge

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.

Accomplishment

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.

Highlights

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: The Ultimate Compromise

Open Concept Remodel

Is it really a compromise when everyone involved gets more than they bargained for? Based on their experience, our clients Paul and Becky would probably tell you that when you trust your remodel partner and keep your eyes on the prize, no one has to settle for less than everything they wanted. It’s an experience that reinforces a fundamental tenet of the STRITE culture: keeping your clients’ best interests at the center of any negotiation is the best way to get what you want.

It’s not as though Paul and Becky didn’t know what they wanted. They had lived in their Lakewood home in Southeast Boise for 10 years — long enough to know that its location fit their lifestyle. That lifestyle changed, however, when their children left home. While Becky wanted to scale down to a smaller home without a yard, Paul really wanted a yard. “It was either move or remodel,” Paul recalls.

The couple looked at a lot of homes but couldn’t find the lot size that matched the price they were willing to pay, and both loved the proximity to the Greenbelt and work that their current location offered. In the process of house hunting, Becky had compiled a notebook of ideas that inspired her, and that she and Paul eventually decided to incorporate into the remodel of their existing home.

“The biggest issue was to create a more open living space,” says Becky. “We love to entertain, but the way our house was set up was just not conducive to having a bunch of people over.” The couple chose STRITE based on the experience of friends in their Lakewood community. “We’d noticed STRITE signs over the years,” Paul recalls, “and we can probably name three homes we know of that were remodeled by them. If you have little kids and you’re going through a remodel — and it’s going well — there must be something to that.”

What Paul and Becky most wanted from a remodel was to create a more open floor plan. “There was no line of sight,” says Paul. “When you looked into our house, you looked right into a wall. The house was segregated by a living room, dining room, kitchen, and den.” Guests were confronted with a short, narrow hallway that further contributed to the sense of constriction created by their home’s layout. On the front page of her notebook, Becky had highlighted “better flow, counter space, lighting, and access to outdoors and patio space.”

In discussing their goals with designer Michael Snow, the challenge quickly became one of removing load bearing walls without obstructing the line of sight the couple wanted from one end of the house to the other. Initial design concepts envisioned steel beam supports, but this approach was untenable within the budget framework. Snow developed design options that made use of posts and half walls, none of which met the clients’ approval. “He would draw something, and I’d say that it wouldn’t work. It took some time,” Becky recalls.

The design phase in fact took several months to work through, during which time it was decided that the kitchen would be moved and the original budget would be increased to find the best compromise between adequate structural support, openness, and cost. Although Becky admits to being “a little nervous when we went into it,” she and her husband agreed that if STRITE couldn’t do the project, they would opt for a new home rather than a remodel. We should here note that we don’t take this sort of trust lightly.

Ultimately, the agreed upon remodel design switched the floor plan positions of the dining and family rooms to create a layout that situated the dining room between the other two rooms — 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, STRITE took a creative design approach that wrapped carefully placed pillars in beautifully finished alder wood, which tied them in 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.

“I can sit on the patio outside my kitchen door and see all the way through my house to my neighbor’s front door,” says Becky. “I love this neighborhood, and it’s great to be able to see so much of it from my backyard. It is one of my favorite things to do. I wanted the outdoors brought in, and that’s what we got.”

In addition to integrating previously divided rooms, the remodel resulted in a kitchen that better met Becky’s ambitions as a baker. “I love everything about the kitchen. What I love the most is something that I came up with, which is the long baking counter underneath a long window that faces the garden and has all my baking stuff with it. It is a working space that is absolutely gorgeous and accommodates all my baking goods. It is beautiful and light.”

In tackling the rerouting of the HVAC system that was necessitated by the demolition phase of the project, STRITE designed an innovative way to better balance the climates of the two levels of the home, without the expense of adding an additional zone. “I was really happy with this compromise,” says Paul, even while admitting that “STRITE might have left some margin on the table.”

During the twelve weeks of the remodel, Paul and Becky had their share of patio grilled steaks, microwave eggs, and coffee in the garage — although Becky admits that, “It was nothing a couple of bottles of wine couldn’t fix.” What most impressed the couple, however, was the overall order that STRITE maintained in their home while they continued to live there during the course of the project.

“They were so organized,” Becky recounts, “particularly (project manager) Ed Lee. I can’t say enough about that guy. He would see things and take care of them before I even had to ask, and we saw eye-to-eye on things that didn’t work as we went along. He was here day after day, and after awhile he became like a part of the family, and everyone of the trades people we worked with were so polite and so hard working and professional. We would walk in after something major was done and just be amazed by it, and by how well the clean up was done.”

Paul recalls that although there were challenges to getting past the design phase of the project, “we knew that once we got going everything would be fine, since we knew how strong STRITE is on the back end of things.” Looking back on the realization of their original remodel vision, Becky adds, “The notebook I put together is almost identical to what we actually ended up with! We sit in this dining room every night — at the epicenter of our home — and look at each other and say, ‘This is so great.’ We’ll be here for awhile.”

Hit on this link to read another article about this property and to see pictures.

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

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 Bathroom Remodel that Played Well with Others

Bathroom Remodel

We love a good collaborative effort — which is how we typically think of our relationships with our clients.  But we also enjoy working with other industry professionals.  One such professional is Gina Wegner, a talented designer with Seed Interiors.

Our client had hired Gina for the interior design of their bathroom update, which was carried out as part of a larger remodel effort, and we were pleased to be the partner that was entrusted with bringing Gina’s vision to life.

Vision

Our client had decided to convert a child’s room into the master bedroom, and in the process convert the existing bathroom into something befitting this transformation.  Seed Interior’s design for the room included a frameless shower that required some structural changes to the floor, as well moving a lot of plumbing.

Challenge

To fulfill the vision of the interior designer, our biggest challenge was structural.  To create the frameless shower, we needed to slope the bathroom floor.  This meant notching out a floor joist that went down about three inches.  Fortunately, we had a partition wall with a full basement underneath that served as a load bearing wall for the space we created.

Accomplishment

By sloping the bathroom floor to the shower we were able to keep the same tile as the rest of the bathroom.  By taking out a wall and shortening an existing vanity, we were also able to add sufficient space to put in a huge walk-in closet, a double vanity with counter top, and a powder room.  Additional designer touches included the use of hanging pendants that provided more precise lighting for the wider mirror we installed.  We also added a window for additional natural light and airiness.

Highlights

What started as a kid’s room and adjoining bathroom became a beautifully designed master bedroom and bath combination that flowed attractively together into a more private space for the parents.  This was a great design that was fun to work on, despite the structural challenges that had to be overcome to pull it together.  Of course, one of the hallmarks of a great remodel project is to make it appear effortless — no matter the reality.

Click on photos to enlarge. 

Meet Smokey Ensey

“I’m just one of those ‘handy, do anything’ type of guys…and that’s what I like.”

Smokey Ensey officially joined STRITE design + remodel in 2015, but we’ve worked with him for 25 years — long enough to know that his skill as a craftsperson, attention to detail, and all around good nature are a great compliment to our organization, and especially to our customers. This is his story.

I’ve been known as “Smokey” since I was born, which was along the Northern California coast near Santa Rosa, in a town up in the mountains called Annapolis. It was basically not much more than a store — but it was a gorgeous place to live.

Back in the ‘70s I was building electronic digital scales — high precision instruments ranging from pharmaceuticals to trucking. The recession in the ‘70s hit our industry hard, so I opted for a voluntary lay off and took up tile work, thanks to an acquaintance who was a tile contractor and worked throughout the Bay Area.

My family and I left California in 1988 and went to Montana. Montana is wonderful for hunting, fishing, back packing…and that’s what we do, along with riding motorcycles and dirt bikes. But it’s hard to make a living in Montana…and the winters get pretty long. We came to Boise on the 4th of July 1991, back when it was about the size of Santa Rosa, but with four seasons. Everything we want to do is a short drive away.

I became a tile contractor in 1992, and STRITE was always my number one customer. STRITE and I were always on the same scale when it comes to cleanliness, detail, and keeping the job site clean. I also preferred remodel projects to new construction, which I quit doing around 2001. They want you to do an entire house in one week when you should spend two to three weeks to do the job right. They had crews back then who would knock these jobs out, and that is a lot of what is getting redone today: leaking showers, tile falling off the walls — not quality work. You get what you pay for, and I’m very quality-oriented. I don’t think I’m anal, but it’s either right or wrong. There is a line you cross between efficiency and quality, and I refuse to cross the line on quality.

Since joining STRITE, I don’t set tile anymore. I’m one of those “handy, do anything” types, and that’s what I like — but what I am primarily is a “punch list” guy. I go in at the end of a job and make sure everything is detailed, and I work with the clients on their accessories. It’s right up my alley — it’s the quality end of the job, making sure that every detail is the way the client wants it. I keep them in the loop, and every evening or morning I let them know what has happened and what is going to happen next.

I’m having a great time, doing what I want to do. We get some great projects to work on, and we’re the number one remodeler in Idaho. I’m on my first remodel as the project manager — but the best part of my day is still coming home to my wife. She is my best friend, and we both enjoy the outdoors and cooking. I look at food the way I look at music and clothes: variety is the spice of life!

Read Smokey’s Team Bio.

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.”

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

 

Retire…Reflect…Remodel

Whole House Remodel

For an active Boise couple, retirement meant re-examining their lifestyle and priorities.  It also meant rethinking their home’s suitability for the next chapter in their life story.   

Vision

For our clients, retirement didn’t mean slowing down — it simply meant having more time to pursue other interests beyond their professions.  Given their active role in the non-profit sector, these interests included entertaining, and they wanted to make sure their home was up to the task.  This meant improving the functionality of their kitchen and expanding their outdoor living spaces to take advantage of a beautiful vista.  While addressing the issue of public space, they also decided it was time to give their private space a much needed facelift.

Challenge

Situated on four acres of mature trees and stunning views, our clients’ two-story home, built in the early 1900s, had plenty of entertainment potential.  The kitchen, however, had not been updated since the couple bought the home thirty years earlier.  With worn out formica and linoleum, and appliances that barely worked, it needed a serious update — and during the demolition phase we discovered that it also needed new floor joists.  Turning our attention to outside entertaining, we needed to address both the creation of a gathering space as well as improving the esthetics of the home’s east-facing facade.  Meanwhile, on the private side of their home, we focused our engineering on a master bedroom untouched, save for the addition of a six dollar light fixture, since its owners acquired it, and that suffered from a sense of claustrophobia imposed by attic-like angularities.

Accomplishment

Other than rebuilding the floor joists, the main work in the kitchen had to do with updating rather than reconfiguring.  To make the room a more pleasing gathering space, granite replaced formica, and slate replaced linoleum.  Our clients liked their existing cabinets, and elected to add to rather than replace them for this using the best equipment from the BestofMachinery site online.  We worked with a local cabinet maker to customize cabinet facades that blended the new with the old.  To enhance our clients’ culinary interests, we added a prep sink and an under-the-counter refrigerator, along with something they had long wanted: a gas range — then installed a window above it to bring in another necessary component to great cooking: light.  To provide more room for outside gatherings, and to take greater advantage of the view from the east side of their home, we worked closely with our clients to design a patio roof that doubled as a rooftop patio, and connected that space to their ground floor patio via a custom spiral staircase that they helped design.  We also connected it to an existing rooftop space on the other side of the master bedroom.  In this room, we reengineered the ceiling joist system to remove constraining angles and open the room up to become a place of space and light that invited one to do more in it than go to bed.

Highlights

Over the course of a five-month remodel project, the changes to our clients’ home transformed it from a place whose drawbacks they had learned to live with for some 30 years into a home that elegantly and efficiently supported their evolving lifestyle needs.  Getting to that point was made possible by a very close collaboration between our clients, who were very detail oriented and clear about their remodel intentions, and a STRITE designer, project manager, and construction lead.  The result of this collaboration for our clients was not just a home they wanted to live in for the rest of their lives, but the satisfaction of having played a major role in its creation.  For STRITE, the satisfaction was not only in a job well executed, but in knowing that we had the people and processes in place to accommodate the level of involvement our clients desired.

Like so many homebuyers, Janet and Russ had to carefully weigh the allure of their ideal home against its affordability — and like so many homebuyers, their decision was to stretch their budget to accommodate a house they knew they could live in and love for many years.

There was indeed plenty to love about their north Eagle home.  Built in the early 1900s, the two-story house was situated on four acres with mature trees and a beautiful view, and it was close to Hewlett-Packard, where both Russ and Janet were employed.  But after 30 years, they were ready to rekindle the love affair with their home, and that meant addressing its imperfections — some of which dated back to when they first moved in, and some that simply reflected the toll of passing years.

It wasn’t as if Janet and Russ hadn’t made home improvements along the way.  Twenty years earlier they had put in an office/closet/bathroom addition, and in 2005 they added a full basement, bringing their house up to 2,600 square feet of living space that better accommodated guests and hobbies.  A few years ago they created a large patio with pavers, leaving additional footers for an eventual roof.

Unfortunately, their initial remodel project created an exterior appearance that didn’t match the rest of the home.  As Russ describes it, “It left an ugly wall on the east side of the house that clearly looked like an addition.”  For Janet, one of the biggest drawbacks to her aging home was its kitchen.  “We had redone the kitchen when we first bought our home, but hadn’t touched it since. We had formica and linoleum that was worn through, and the appliances were getting very old.”  The couple was ready as well for some changes to their bedroom, which Janet described somewhat charitably as “old and dark.”

“It was faded and dingy,” she states more bluntly, “and the only source of light was a fixture we bought for $5.99 when we moved in.  It was just not a place you wanted to be.”  Clearly, it was time to make some improvements — and time was an additional concern of the now retired couple, who wanted to spend the rest of their lives loving their home as much as they had three decades earlier.

Russ and Janet had first talked to STRITE when they considered doing their patio addition — but this was prior to the economic downturn that caused many would-be home renovations to be put on the back burner.

“We ran into STRITE every year at the Tour of Remodeled Homes,” Janet remembers, “and we thought they were very nice people, and we admired the quality and creativity of their work.  They clearly know how to remodel challenging spaces.”  By the end of 2013, however, Janet and Russ were ready to do more than just talk to the nice people.  They were ready to make some major changes of their own.

Russ and Janet’s remodel project, which began just before Christmas 2013, started with the master bedroom.  Constrained by odd angles that made the room feel more like a cave (Russ’s description) than a living space, STRITE set about solving some structural challenges — challenges that the couple could especially appreciate given their engineering backgrounds.  As Janet recalls, “In every spot STRITE had to do some pretty miraculous figuring — and figuring out how to make all those angles come together in a nice cohesive look was a lot of hard work.”  To bring additional light into the room, STRITE replaced an attic vent with a window.

Moving into the kitchen, the project hit a delay when it was discovered during the demolition phase that the floor joist system would have to be replaced.  “It was a mess,” says Janet.  “We were putting in a slate floor, and you want that to be well supported.  The more layers of old house we got down to, the worse it was.”  Ah, the charms of an older home.

Other than rebuilding the floor joists, the main work in the kitchen had to do with updating rather than reconfiguring.  Russ and Janet liked the existing cabinets made with quarter-sawn white oak, and elected to add to rather than replace them.  “The biggest changes to the kitchen were going from formica to granite and from linoleum to slate,” says Janet.  Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the kitchen remodel was choosing the appliances.  “We wanted to avoid the stainless look,” Russ says.  “Big surfaces of cold stainless steel don’t go very well with the warmth of natural wood cabinets.”

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A Kitchen Sees the Light

Kitchen Remodel

In reading our stories about kitchen remodels, you’d be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that we have a thing about drop ceilings.  Suffice it to say that we’ve removed more than a few of them in our career.

It’s not a bias per se, it’s just that they generally serve no other purpose than housing florescent light fixtures — and we think there are better alternatives when it comes to bringing light into a living space, as this case study demonstrates.

Vision

In this remodel project, our client wanted to not only update the look of their kitchen, but address an issue unique to its original design: the quality of the light.  In the process of improving this aspect of the kitchen, we also suggested a change that enhanced the flow of activity in the adjoining room.  In our business, the obvious is quite often hidden.

Challenge

While the original kitchen was spacious and well designed overall, it suffered from one particular drawback.  Because it faced east, with a wall almost entirely of windows, it received early morning sun.  With no other windows to balance this out, there was a lot of contrast.  To address this, we removed the drop ceiling and added a skylight along with strategically placed can lights to achieve the balance we were looking for.  An additional challenge in this kitchen was that it had only one wall to serve as both the location for appliances and storage.

Accomplishment

To update the overall look of the kitchen, we added new cabinets and stained a built-in bench to match them.  We also replaced the existing linoleum with hardwood and put in new windows with a raised sill height to reduce the amount of splash clean up.  To give folks the option of standing at the kitchen bar, we raised the height of the counter.  In addition to improving the light in the kitchen, we also improved its functionality by taking out an existing double oven, which we replaced with added counter space and cabinets.  We then added a range and oven in the center of the kitchen wall, along with a stone tile back splash.

Highlights

Before undertaking this remodel, we noticed that the existing placement of the sliding door to an outside deck in the adjoining room resulted in wasted space.  We suggested moving the sliding door further along the wall.  Our client’s trust in letting us do this created a more logical pathway outdoors, as well as a better seating layout.  When you look holistically at the relationship between one space and another, good things happen.

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From Tuscan to Contemporary: a Whole House Remodel

Our clients loved their Southeast Boise 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 day they bought it.  Although our initial focus was the kitchen, this ambitious remodel soon extended well beyond.

Vision

Our clients’ home was certainly large enough from the standpoint of floor plan, but it always felt crowded to them — particularly when more than one person was in the kitchen.  Beyond updating the look of their home’s interior to reflect a more contemporary European style, what our clients wanted was a greater sense of spaciousness, and straighter, cleaner lines throughout.

Challenge

One of the drawbacks of the original kitchen was inefficient workflow, especially between the cooktop, the preparation space, and the refrigerator.  Our clients also wanted to improve the efficiency of their cabinetry as well.  Besides the kitchen, several other spaces suffered from what our clients repeatedly described as being “cramped” and dark.”  For one thing, the home had a beautiful backyard and patio area, but there was virtually no visual connection to it from inside.  The house had a separate dining room, but it wasn’t large enough to host the family gatherings they had envisioned — while the dining area next to the kitchen gave the term “nook” a meaning more synonymous with “cramped” than “cozy.”  Although it came as something of an afterthought, our clients asked us to address their home’s staircase, which while visually striking, also added to a bulky and dark look that plagued other areas of the home’s interior.

Accomplishment

Addressing our clients’ issues 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 followed function with a contemporary European sensibility.  Although we didn’t significantly change the footprint of the kitchen, we profoundly changed the nature of the space and visually opened it up — partly by adding a bank of windows over the kitchen sink.  This 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 the backyard to enhance the overall feeling of light and space in the home.  This effect was further heightened in the evening, thanks to the outdoor lighting.  The flow of the great room/kitchen/dining area was further enhanced by continuous cork flooring.

The staircase redesign took many hours to figure out.  The original had a half wall that went all the way up the stairs, and our clients had proposed taking out that wall to create an open bannister with a custom rail to match the curve of the stairs.  This would have been very costly, so we instead proposed demolishing the old staircase and reframing it to create the straight, clean lines that the couple was looking for as a consistent theme of their remodel.

In its original layout, guests who wanted to use the downstairs bathroom/powder room had to walk through a narrow passage way that led to the laundry room, and ultimately to the garage.  We relocated this bathroom to make it more accessible, then expanded the walls and ceiling of the laundry room area to make it a more practical workspace and quasi-mudroom.  We also remodeled the master bathroom, removing the soffits, updating the cabinets and fixtures, replacing the spa tub with a free standing model, and installed a more contemporary looking shower.  By removing the space that had been a separate toilet area, we were also able to expand the size of the walk-in closet, while adding to the overall sense of spaciousness in the master bath and giving it a sense of symmetry consistent with the rest of the remodel.

Highlights

Overall, this was a project that involved not only issues of esthetics and flow, but also a number of structural challenges as well — most notably with the staircase and dining room remodels.  Although Strite brought the best of its design and construction acumen to bear on the successful conclusion of this whole house remodel, that success was due in no small part to our clients’ participation in the design process.  The old adage in our profession remains true: the best work is engendered by the best customers.

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