“Outgrowing” a home is a common motivation for remodeling it — especially as households expand with the addition of children or extended family members. When it comes to aging, however, the concept of outgrowing a home takes on an entirely new meaning — a reality that our clients Pete and Diane discovered with regard to their West Boise residence.
“We both had bad knees and some hip arthritis, and our master suite was located upstairs,” says Pete. “We considered options — moving, elevators, etc. — and in the end we decided instead to expand the house and put a master suite on the ground floor. Our kids came home often enough that we knew we could still use the one upstairs as well.”
In approaching the design of their remodel, which would involve the conversion of two existing rooms (a laundry room and a downstairs bedroom) along with the construction of an additional space, the couple drew on past experience.
Says Pete, “We had been involved in the redesign of places that our parents lived in, and we had also observed my brother as he built a home that he designed himself. We merged the best ideas from those experiences and brought them to our meeting with (STRITE designer) Michael Snow, who contributed more ideas as well. The final product was a compilation of good ideas.”
Among this compilation of good ideas were certain “must haves” for Pete and Diane. These included combining a downstairs bathroom and laundry room to increase the functionality and convenience of washer/dryer/storage orientations, and adding a large walk-in shower and a urinal. On this last item, Pete wryly comments, “Any family that has young boys or an older man should have a urinal. It’s much easier to clean and use — and it makes living easier with the wife.”
Along with the Pete and Diane’s design preferences, Michael Snow came up with a plan that would also give the couple the larger bedroom space they were looking for, while only adding around 500 square feet to the total space of the home. As Pete recalls, STRITE came up with some other enhancements as well. “At first, we were more focused on minimizing cost by placing the plumbing close to the existing fixtures, but Michael showed us a better way to locate them that didn’t really increase cost, but created a much better flow. He also included skylights and a sun tunnel that really added a lot to the space. The biggest contribution he made, however, was with helping us see the best overall layout for the rooms.”
While the middle of winter might not seem the ideal time to start a residential remodel/addition project in Boise, Pete and Diane’s project began in January. Although the cold weather presented challenges, the new master suite was ready that summer. “The weather caused us some grief — I remember trying to get the backhoe work completed before the ground froze, and there were rainy days that complicated things, but there weren’t many issues that extended the completion date for the project.”
Pete and Diane’s patience with the construction process was more than rewarded by its results. “The remodel is the best thing we’ve done — it’s just phenomenal,” Pete says. “As you get older, there is a greater ease of living with having everything on one floor. At the same time, we have an expandable part of the house upstairs for when the kids come. We can have both our children’s families stay with us, and there’s plenty of room. We can take things out of the dryer and put them in drawers or hang them up — that’s a real convenience — and our new bathrooms are safer with the walk-in shower instead of the tub shower.”
Flush from the success of the master bedroom addition, Pete and Diane decided to take on yet another project aimed at further accommodating children and grandchildren: a family room remodel. As Pete explains their decision, “Our motivation was simply to have enough room for five grandsons to be here and romp and stomp and enjoy themselves, while allowing us to participate in whatever is going on.”
The couple’s home had a great room where their kitchen and family room met, with an eating area in between the two. The original family room was a too small for five boys (who are now between the ages of 18 and 8), so STRITE added about 200 square feet to the area by repositioning a fireplace and windows, then putting in a couple of sliding glass doors to allow access to the back and side yards.
“It was a fairly straight forward remodel,” Pete explains. “The biggest issue was the positioning of the windows and moving the fireplace, which was in the center of a wall that had to go in order to open the space up. It either had to move, or be converted to a walk around, which conflicted with having the open space for the grandkids.” In addition to relocating the fireplace, STRITE converted it from wood burning to gas — another lifestyle convenience that the couple appreciates every winter. “The area we spend most of our time in is warmed enough by the gas fireplace that the furnace doesn’t come on unless it gets really cold,” says Pete, “which saves us from having to heat all the other rooms. I wish I had put one in the bathroom!”
Looking back at the modification of the family room, Pete still marvels at the way it complimented the existing design. “Michael did great work on blending the rooflines, so as with the main suite extension, you can’t tell that it was added on — it just looks like it was built that way from the get go. STRITE has an unbelievable talent for this.”
Having experienced home construction and remodeling on a first hand basis, as well as an interested bystander, Pete succinctly sums up his lessons learned: “You get what you pay for.” Another especially applicable piece of advice that Pete offers anyone considering a remodel is to “be involved from start to finish — you’ll end up with a much better product in the end.” And since living with the remodel process for six months can be trying, Pete also advocates patience.
“You know its going to be a mess — it’s going to be noisy, it’s going to be dusty — but all that will eventually be gone and you’ll be happy with the results. STRITE is very conscious of the impact of a remodel on your life, and they isolate the work area from you as much as they possibly can. In our case, they totally isolated the construction area with false walls. They protected the house, even while still making the laundry room accessible. It was more like living next door to a construction site than living in one.”
Thinking about the most enjoyable aspects of his and his wife’s remodel experience, Pete describes it in two words: Michael Snow. “Doing the design was a lot of fun, and Michael made it that way. Diane and I had our little square footage models and cut outs that we played with, and we had the enjoyment of actually seeing our ideas come into being. Michael would do anything for us, and we know that STRITE will stand by what they say. If we called them today and said that something needed to be fixed, they’d send someone over to do it.”
Thinking about his home, post-remodel, Pete can’t imagine that he and Diane will ever want to leave — and thanks to their remodel, there is no reason they should have to anytime soon. Which begs a question going back to Pete’s earlier comment on cost: How do you amortize peace of mind?