While people often think of home remodeling as synonymous with building an “addition,” there are a number of reasons it makes sense to remodel besides adding needed living space. Some of the most common reasons that we have seen in our 40 years of residential design and remodel experience are the following.
Updating the Look of Your Home
Like fashion in general, what was once fresh in the layout and design of a home can become stale over time. Believe it or not, harvest gold and avocado were once trendy, but unless you’re way into the “retro” look, you’d probably prefer a more contemporary style for your kitchen. As our case studies demonstrate, Strite has a long track record of design and build updates that wear well with time.
Improving the Functionality of a Living Space
Unless your home was custom built, its design made generic lifestyle assumptions that simply may not apply to you. We find this to be particularly true in the kitchen, where your own unique approach to food and entertaining can make a huge difference in a room’s size, layout and finishes. Your lifestyle and interests are paramount when we address the functional remodel of your home.
Aging in Place
Homes age…and so do we. As we age, we eventually face mobility issues that in turn affect the livability of our homes. Rather than going through the dislocation of moving to a new house, a remodel that transforms obstacles into conveniences (particularly with regard to bathrooms) can be a better option for how we deal with aging in our homes.
To read more about how STRITE design + remodel addresses these and other needs, view the Services page of our website.
STRITE design + remodel has once again been ranked by the trade publication Qualified Remodeler as among the top 500 remodeling companies in the U.S. While this is a notable achievement in itself — especially considering that we operate in a much smaller market than most of the other companies in this prestigious ranking — the larger story behind this recognition is something worth sharing for what it reveals about our industry and the environment in which it currently operates.
To gain some insight into the dynamics of the Treasure Valley residential remodeling market, I turned to a veteran of both the upturns and downturns of our industry: STRITE’s president, Bob Mundy. I asked Bob to characterize and contrast the current remodeling environment with what was happening in our industry just a few years ago. Whether you are a homeowner who is contemplating a residential remodel, or simply a keen observer of our local economy, his perspective is worth noting.
If the remodeling business is a less volatile place to be since the bursting of the real estate bubble five or so years ago, some credit is due to an overall improvement in the regional economy. However, this explanation only goes so far. For one thing, while STRITE has seen its estimated revenue for 2013 improve by roughly 20 percent over the previous year, the pace of economic growth in the Treasure Valley has been far less robust.
From Bob’s perspective, the improvement STRITE has seen in the remodel market can be attributed to five factors that, while they may not constitute a “perfect storm” of business opportunity, at least point to a more sustainable environment in which to continue to do what we’ve been doing for the past 37 years. In no particular order, Bob Mundy characterizes these factors as follows.
Pent up demand — After a lot of fear and trepidation regarding their economic future, home owners are deciding to no longer put off their home improvement goals. “People are deciding to live their lives, and they want to genuinely add more value to their homes, and to their experience of their homes. Folks are just more positive about the future.”
An acceleration of new products and technologies — Not that many years ago, the pace of new products and technologies being introduced into the home improvement market was much slower than it is today. “We used to wait for five years to entertain new products in the market place. Now, the quality that is coming out is really exciting to both us and our clients, and we can move forward with much more confidence because of the improved quality of innovations in lighting, materials, colors — things that are really having an impact on peoples’ lifestyles.”
The role of the Internet — In a trend related to the one previously cited, the Internet is fueling an increased awareness of new product and design trends — especially through social media sites such as Facebook, HOUZZ, and Pinterest. “Thanks to the Internet, people are not only exposed to new ideas, but they are able to share them and create conversations around them that add to the ‘buzz’ taking place in our industry.”
The desire to update rather than move — Moving is no guarantee that people will be able to more closely align their lifestyle needs with their homes. This is especially true if they want to stay in the neighborhood where they currently live. In that regard, remodeling is an option that allows homeowners to have their cake and eat it too — or at least redecorate it. “Builders are hard pressed to respond to all the new design ideas that are out there today, so they tend to stick to more generic products and designs. Remodelers don’t face that constraint. More than ever, if you want your home to reflect the latest design and product innovations, remodeling is the best avenue.”
Adapting to lifestyle needs — As more people choose to invest in the long term livability of their homes, they are taking a more critical look at how they use their living space. “We’re seeing less of an interest in adding space through additions, and more of an interest in better using existing space through changes in layout. This is going to be an even more pronounced trend as the aging ‘boomer’ population increasingly looks at ‘aging in place’ as an option to retirement communities or assisted living situations.”
This last trend points to a broader and more fundamental factor that STRITE believes will contribute to a more sustainable growth in the remodeling business over the next decade: the growing interest in universal design. “While the new construction industry may continue to experience ups and downs along with the economy, the interest in adapting homes for changing lifestyle needs such as aging in place will be more significant as time goes by. People will always have an interest in updating the look of their homes, but improving the livability of their homes is a more fundamental investment in value that bodes well for our business.”
For some additional perspective on the Treasure Valley remodeling market, read our blog “The New Normal.”
While residential design trends may not be as subject to the vagaries of fashion as hemlines, they do change. Consequently, what is esthetically pleasing today will probably appear “dated” in a couple of decades. As a remodeling company, the best we can do at chasing the ephemera of “timelessness” is to focus not just on appeal, but on functionality — especially functionality that evolves with the needs of a homeowner over time.
Which is why a recent article in Qualified Remodeler (Actionable Ideas for Universal Design) caught my eye. If the concept of universal design (aka, UD) is a new one to you, the article’s author offers the following definition: “Universal design simply means inclusive design – thoughtfully filling homes with features that provide comfort and convenience, regardless of age, stature or ability.”
The article goes on to point out that the appeal of universal design has been somewhat muted by its association with “aging-in-place” — a misconception, the author notes, that is best addressed with examples such as the following.
“Let’s say you are building a bath sink vanity. If you built it with an open knee space under the sink with clearance for a wheelchair user, that would be a typical aging-in-place element. However, if you added a removable cabinet front that could convert it easily to a typical sink base with a floor and cabinet doors, that would be a universal design element because it could easily be converted to fit a variety of user’s needs.”
In an effort to “rebrand” UD, a number of industry notables have come together to create Better Living Design, an institute whose goal is to “promote, educate and encourage wide adoption of Better Living Design, the sensible design approach to improve how homes are built and remodeled in America.”
BLD’s mission to “change how homes and the products that go in them are designed, built and remodeled to better meet the needs of everyone at every age, life stage and ability” is an ambitious one, but it has some heavy hitters backing it, including not only the AARP, but more than 30 other organizations, companies, universities, and leaders in the universal design category.
With an aging boomer population that has indicated a strong desire to stay in their homes, STRITE echoes BLD’s observation that “the demand for more livable home design across the life span becomes increasingly more important” — which is why we will be paying attention to BLD and its recommendations to designers, builders, and remodelers. Regardless of your age, if you are considering a home remodel, we recommend BLD’s website as a resource for ideas on how create a more livable home for any stage in your life.
For a case study on how STRITE approached an “aging-in-place” remodel, click here.
Master Bath Remodel
No home, however well designed, can continually meet our needs — much less our desires — because these both continually change. In the case of one couple that we had worked for in the past, ambulatory challenges required a master bathroom remodel that combined convenience, accessibility, and more efficient use of space with a fresh look.
In previous blogs, we’ve talked about how spa tubs can be not only an impractical, but a huge waste of space. In the case of one bathroom remodel, ambulatory issues required the redesign of a shower to make it both safer and more accessible. Creating the space to accomplish this, as well as addressing other features that would better suit our clients‘ needs as they aged, meant removing the old tub — but that was just the start.
Besides making the shower easier to get in and out of, including accommodating a chair if needed, we wanted to get rid of the old shower pan. These will eventually crack and fail and are impossible to clean. And while new showers have curbs, we wanted to avoid these because of our clients’ ambulatory concerns. Addressing these issues also required us to make the toilet more accessible rather than have our clients negotiate another doorway.
Removing the old spa tub and replacing it with a vintage standalone bathtub opened up a lot of space for the rest of our remodel, which included integrating the toilet into the main room rather than have it situated in a separate space. At the same time, we both protected the toilet and maintained some privacy with a half wall. We were able to forego the use of curbs in the shower by notching out a floor joist where it was being installed and insetting a new floor into the joist, creating a gentle slope toward the drain. We also built a bench into the shower. By removing the soffit above the vanity, we created additional space for a cabinet, since our clients had also wanted more storage in the bathroom. We were able to add even more storage by setting the toilet out just enough to install a deeper cabinet above it. As a final convenience, we installed heated floors with a programmable thermostat for added comfort on chilly mornings.
This remodel project did much more than respond to the changing needs of an aging couple — we created a much better flow to the room, in part by squaring up the angles. We also updated its appearance through new tile, his and her sinks, and new cabinets. After all, even as we age, we still appreciate a fresh take on the world.
Click on photos to enlarge.