It was bad enough that this ‘80s style bathroom was weighed down in oak and somber finishes — it was also strangely configured. We breathed new life into its design by opening it up and letting the light shine in!
Here was a master bathroom that enjoyed a killer view of downtown Boise — but the spatial constraints of its layout hardly did justice to the expansive view from its foothills perch. Our goal was to not only create a sense of spaciousness, but to further enhance this with a lighter and cleaner look and feel.
Two major factors to the choppy layout of this bathroom were the peninsula vanity in its center and the large spa tub that took up an entire corner. An existing shower that was enclosed in a 3’x3’ space added to a claustrophobic feeling. To dramatically change the layout of this room, the vanity and the tub had to go.
Removing the peninsula vanity and the spa tub dramatically opened up this room. We kept the location of the existing shower, but increased its size and installed a glass enclosure. This gave the space a transparency that complimented the room’s newly discovered openness. We created a half wall for the shower to give it some privacy, and installed the shower controls in this wall. In place of the spa tub we added a stylish free standing tub. We replaced the existing brown carpet with lighter colored tile. What had formerly been a single vanity against the wall became a double vanity with new cabinetry and a full tile backsplash.
It was our good fortune that a skylight already existed in this room — but thanks to the changes we made to its layout and fixtures, its light was no longer swallowed up in a morass of dark wood, tile, and carpeting. At last, the open dimensions of the space inside did justice to scene it overlooked outside.
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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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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When the rooms you live in most are too confining, it’s time to think about annexing some interior real estate from the rooms you live in least. Our client liked to entertain, but the kitchen was too cramped, the dining room was tucked awkwardly behind a partition wall, and the space occupied by the kitchen table obstructed the flow of traffic to the outside of the house. Our goal was to improve the livability of all these rooms and to update the look of the kitchen.
Adding space to the kitchen meant taking it from the adjoining dining room — which meant taking out a wall. With a full-fledged second story above the kitchen, this also meant relocating plumbing and duct work. While we preserved the basic layout of the room, we shifted its location to open up more space between it and the family room. In the process, we removed one window and enlarged and moved a second and centered it over the new sink.
Moving the wall back between the kitchen and the dining room gave us an additional five feet of kitchen area. In the remaining space from the former dining room we created a spacious and far more useful walk-in pantry. We complimented the added sense of openness in the kitchen by removing the drop down soffits from the ceiling and replacing the old florescent lighting with can lights. In place of the former sit down bar we created a larger, two-tiered counter that was more appropriate for entertaining. Rather than the more expensive option of replacing the hardwood flooring, we refinished and stained ti to go with the new cabinetry we installed. We even had a stainless steel facade fabricated to replace the panel on the existing refrigerator. Why replace a perfectly good appliance just for the sake of making it “fit in” with its new surroundings?
The new kitchen was a stunning success, and redefined the look of the home. We should mention, however, that one of the children in the family had severe allergies. We’re pleased to say that because of our efforts in isolating the construction area, no one experienced any ill effects. We also set up a temporary kitchen in the garage, complete with carpet, so the family could maintain some normalcy in their lives. When it comes to transforming a family’s living space, we believe in taking the trauma out of the drama.
Good design has a timeliness that remains long after other homes from a similar era become “dated.” Unfortunately, this isn’t generally the case with kitchens — which are usually one of the first rooms in a home to get long in the tooth. This architect designed and built home from the 60’s had the bones of a great house, but it was high time to update the kitchen — and in the process create an impact that extended beyond just one room.
For its time, the kitchen of this home was quite advanced, with amenities you typically wouldn’t have found in homes of its vintage. It suffered, however, from a lack of access from the “public” spaces of the house. Beyond just creating a more contemporary look for their kitchen, our clients wanted a layout with an openness consistent with their love of entertaining.
The approach to the kitchen was through an area that had been designed to create a dining “nook,” but ended up forcing traffic along its edge rather than a more direct diagonal path. In addition to being “out of the flow,” the kitchen suffered from a light imbalance, which could be helped in part by not only replacing the existing windows, but also by incorporating a bank of windows that was currently blocked by the dining room wall.
Removing the dining room wall not only made a dramatic difference in the flow of traffic to the kitchen, but also allowed us to tie in the new and enlarged windows in that room with the bank of windows in the dining room. To further balance the resulting light, we were able to save a lot on the electricity bill. So we added two skylights to the kitchen ceiling, along with can and pendant lighting. In addition to a long marble topped island that served both as a counter and cooking station, we framed in half walls on the left and right in the area between the kitchen and the newly modified dining area, which helped further define the space as well as create an entrance to the room. We also installed new cabinets, painted the walls, and laid down a cherry hardwood floor.
As you look over the before and after photographs of this remodel, it may be hard to believe that they were taken in the same house. More than just a dramatic kitchen remodel, this project affected two rooms, and improved traffic flow through the entire home. Notice also that we kept the existing teak wall. Some things are just timeless.
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We approach every remodel project with the intent of having a dramatic impact on the lives of our clients. You might say that we are in the business of amazing.
Our client wanted a dining area that would fit her entertainment aspirations, but her current dining room was just too small to meet her needs.
Rather than try to expand the size of the dining room within the existing footprint of the home, we saw an opportunity to create an addition that would not only serve as a dedicated dining space, but would also transform the backyard. One thing we needed to be sure of, however, was that we protected the gorgeous catalpa tree was a key feature of the backyard.
With its high ceiling and multitude of windows, the new room made for a dramatic setting for entertaining. This was especially the case at night, when the landscape lighting made the windows instantly transparent — to beautiful effect! To protect the catalpa tree, we exposed its roots and hired a tree preservationist to cut and treat the root following his evaluation of the construction’s impact on the tree.
Besides adding a beautiful dining area for our client, the new addition gave a courtyard feel to the back patio. Since the kitchen had looked into the backyard before the addition of the dining room, we added a skylight to preserve its source of natural light. Sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too.
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Here is a link to see a before – during – after sequence from one point of view of this dining room addition.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
“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.
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Even after 30 years, our clients loved their home in the foothills above Warm Springs Avenue in Boise. The floor plan gave it an intimacy that one of them described as like “living in a treehouse.” Eventually, however, one aspect of any home that can become not only outdated but dysfunctional are its bathrooms. It was time to rekindle the magic with a master bath and guest bath makeover.
Our clients had never really cared for the bathrooms in their home from the day they moved in, and as the years went by, both the master and guest bathrooms became increasingly outdated. The original plan was to update the master bathroom, but on closer inspection of the tile in the guest bath/powder room, we discovered that the wall behind it was rotting out. Fortunately, our clients had had thirty years of thinking about how they would ideally like both rooms to look that they could share with us.
The master bathroom was cramped and dark, a feeling that both he original wallpaper (which was beginning to peel away) and the dark brown tile in the shower and tub areas contributed to. While we wanted to give the room a more spacious and lighter feeling, keeping the costs of the remodel to a minimum dictated that we stay with the same layout — which was fortunately a good one. In the case of the guest bath/powder room, our client wanted the update to reflect a feeling of water through softer colors and more light. A Google search using the words “zen bathrooms” yielded plenty of inspiration when it came time to choose tile, cabinetry, and finishes.
To open up the master bath space, we removed full height walls, including the shower wall, and put in a new window. The vanity and toilet stayed in the same location, but we shifted the shower just enough to install a custom pan, while keeping the new tub in same location. New cabinets, sinks, floors, and fixtures not only gave the room a more contemporary look, but contributed to the overall feeling of light and space. For the guest bathroom, our project manager painstakingly ferreted out the elements that fit with our client’s design vision, including exactly the tile to achieve the “water effect” she was looking for.
Among the happy surprises with the guest bathroom remodel was our discovery of an affordable frameless glass shower enclosure and a frameless mirror that created what our client described as a “floating” effect. How zen is that?
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As important a center of family life as our kitchens have become, there are some that make you wonder if they weren’t designed as an afterthought. This kitchen remodel not only dramatically improved its utility and appearance, but took advantage of views of the outside to enhance its sense of spaciousness and light.
The former kitchen in this home reflected an early ‘60s floor plan that might at one time have been open, but which suffered a remodel that separated the galley-style kitchen from the rest of the house. The prescription was nothing short of a serious makeover that would redefine the space itself.
Some kitchen remodels can be effectively accomplished in place. In the case of this kitchen, however, what was required was a relocation — starting with removing a full height wall and built-in cabinet that had resulted in a cramped dining room and wasted space that could be better put to use. Adding insult to injury was the blue cabinetry!
In addition to removing a wall, we also took out the original soffit. To bring in some nice views of the backyard landscaping, we took out one window and enlarged another. With the space that we gained, we were not only able to expand the working area of the kitchen through its relocation, but also include a pantry. To improve the overall look, we installed painted cabinets (bye, bye blues!), a butcher block island, and Cambria counter tops. We also refinished the hardwood floors. The plumbing system was also changed to make sure there are no issues once new cabinets are installed. Our partners from Marine Plumbing did their best and finished their work even quicker than we expected. The before and after photos speak at least a thousand words to the difference this remodel made!
A change as dramatic as this remodel can require quite a leap of faith, as well as a financial investment. To help ease into the transition between the old and the new, we like to employ 3D modeling to help our clients better understand the ramifications of the design decisions we guide them through. With this remodel, we should point out that the original kitchen included a tile element that the clients wanted to carry over into the redesign. We took the extra step of scanning it into our model, much to our client’s delight!
Notice the location of the two windows on the right and the hanging chandelier as the location did not change. Scroll down for several before, during and after pictures, including a 3D rendering completed during the design phase.
Goodbye blue cabinets…note the ceiling voids showing the former wall location. We constructed a temporary wall (left) with a secure door to separate the living area from the construction area. The large pipe is our filtration system to help keep the air clear of dust.
We modeled the kitchen prior to construction – the cabinet to the left of the window was added later.
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Founded in 1975, STRITE design + remodel is a full-service residential remodeling firm specializing in the creative and functional design and construction of room additions, kitchens, baths, and whole house renovations.
2650 Grover Court
Boise, Idaho 83705