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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.

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.

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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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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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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: An Eagle Remodel Looks at the “Big Picture”

Whole House Remodel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2013 NARI Remodeled Homes Video Tour

Trends

For those of you who were unable to attend this year’s Remodeled Homes Tour, we wanted to share the story behind the two projects we featured.  Since a picture is worth a thousand words, we thought we’d save a whole lot of pages by simply putting together this five minute slideshow presentation.

You’ll not only see the obligatory “befores” and “afters,” but the “whys and wherefores” as well!