Now that our children are gone, we need a bigger house!
This is a sentiment we, as architects specializing in residential remodeling, hear a lot.
Though it may not make sense on the surface, many "boomer" couples and individuals are experiencing this phenomenon.
The actual need is not always for more square footage, but often for a different distribution of the space they already have. What families need is a place to gather, and as time goes on, most families increase in size.
The addition of sons- and daughters-in-law leads to the fabulous addition of grandchildren, and soon those Sunday dinners begin to feel more like what used to happen only on Thanksgiving.
The need for more space also extends into the master bedroom area. The small bathroom off that bedroom that seemed so great when you bought the house is now dated and, well, small.
There is a sense among boomers that they have worked hard for years and now it's time to reap the benefits with a little extra personal luxury. And we don't even need to mention those closets, do we?
Another relevant remodeling goal is to keep our houses competitive with the rest of the market. So, master suites and great rooms meet both personal and practical goals.
It is interesting to note baby boomers have acquired their own style as they are now re-imagining their spaces to meet these goals. Many of those in or approaching the "empty-nester" stage grew up in the independent-minded age of flower power. This means that while their parents may have hired design professionals to come in to provide a new look or layout for their homes, boomers are apt to be much more involved and opinionated about what they want.
There is also a more daring attitude to try new ideas; for instance, today color is a tool to be used boldly to help define spaces and self.
These clients may need help in identifying their personal design styles, but they know they want their surroundings to reflect who they are. The new space should include memories gathered over a lifetime. Incorporating treasures acquired when traveling and galleries of family pictures are high priorities.
Interested in reinventing their surroundings to meet their new circumstances in life, boomers are dealing with issues both personal and global. The great upsurge of interest in green or sustainable building is not a phenomenon of the rising generation. In fact, while there are many affordable green solutions, it is often those with more disposable income who choose environmentally friendly systems that require a greater up-front investment, such as radiant heat or ground-source heat pumps.
Renovation projects taken on by people of a "more mature age" are often thought of as the "last" remodel. This means that while they may have settled for lesser quality appliances or finishes in previous homes or remodels, this time they feel they deserve more. They want to do it right so the project will age well in terms of both looks and utility, allowing them to enjoy their new space for years to come.
Aging in place is often an issue for clients even as young as their 40s. While they are still vigorous themselves, dealing with older parents teaches some lessons about the need for the physical environment to support changes that will inevitably come to most of us. Suddenly, main-floor living is more appealing when they realize stairs are not going to be practical forever. Even small changes (wider halls and doors) can make a big difference in future function.Overall, boomers seek more upscale living combined with more simplicity and fewer complications. While they are not lacking in opinions, there is still a lot to be said about working with design professionals in the reinvention process. Astute designers (interior or architectural) will recognize the difference in approach needed as they work to guide, counsel, help prioritize, and react to clients' input. Though not the passive clients of yesteryear, we can all use some help when the pressure is on to make this "last" remodel the best ever.
Architects Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon founded Renovation Design Group, www.renovationdesigngroup.com, a local architectural design firm specializing in residential remodels.