BOOMER Home: Should You Stay?

By Paula Neely | April 5th, 2014

... and convert your old home into your dream home.


As they transition into retirement, many baby boomers are planning to stay put. According to the AARP, 83 percent of boomers ages 55 and up expect to stay in their existing homes as long as possible.

Those in the Richmond area are no exception, and they’re beginning to transform their existing homes into their next dream homes, say local experts. They’re creating first-floor master suites and updating bathrooms and kitchens, all with an eye toward a fresh new look that reflects a new, more relaxed, more luxurious, simplified lifestyle.

Empty-nesters are also creating niches for their grandchildren to sleep and play and knocking down walls to create more open spaces for entertaining. With more time for relaxation, boomers are also adding upscale low-maintenance screen porches.

Many in the 50-plus crowd want energy efficiency, low maintenance and practical features such as grab bars and wider doors and hallways that will enable them to stay in their homes as long as possible if they one day will need a wheelchair or walker.

For our annual Home issue, BOOMER consulted local experts to find just what’s out there. (And an important note: While the experts sometimes cite brand names as examples below, you may find competing brands that offer similar performance and/or value. Don’t hesitate to ask.)

SPA-LIKE BATHROOMS

Boomers are tearing out their old bathtubs and replacing them with large frameless glass showers with curbless entries that feature multiple shower heads, rain showers, adjustable body jets, recessed shower tiles, handheld showers, bench seating and tile walls and floors, according to Leo Lantz Construction and Balducci Additions and Remodeling.

Some are adding free-standing soaking tubs that are higher, wider and longer than their old tubs, according to Patricia Kropac, owner of Tailor Made Kitchens and Baths.

Sara Hillery, a local interior designer, said some are creating an even more spalike atmosphere with Jacuzzis or other hot tub spas and soaker tubs that incorporate bubbles and chromatherapy, which uses color to stimulate and relax.

Other features on boomers’ wish lists include heated bathroom floors, comfort-height toilets, touchless faucets, one-lever spout handles and taller vanities that look like furniture.

DREAM KITCHENS

In the kitchen, boomers are getting what they’ve always wanted. They’re upgrading to higher quality stainless steel appliances that won’t require as much maintenance, and installing natural stone countertops and pendant lighting.

Double ovens are very popular, as are under-the-counter microwave drawers and dishwashers that allow you to wash the upper level independent of the lower level, such as those made by Fisher & Paykel, according to remodeler Leo Lantz.

Gourmet appliances such as steamer ovens and Ilvee, Viking, Sub-Zero and Wolf brand-name appliances are appearing in more high-end kitchens.

Tile backsplashes with glass accents and granite or quartz countertops are still in vogue. Stained cherry cabinets with simple lines and handles instead of knobs, Lazy Susans and roll-out trays are also popular, according to Tailor Made Kitchens and Baths.

In addition to hardwood floors, luxury vinyl tile has become a fashionable flooring option in the Richmond area, according to several remodelers. It looks like stone, but it’s not as thick or as cold as tile. It’s also easier to clean.

CABINETS, CLOSETS AND MURPHY BEDS

As many convert spare bedrooms into home offices and craft rooms, Bryan Mueller, owner of The Closet Factory, has seen an increased demand for custom-built Murphy beds and tables. The beds and tables can be folded away until they are needed, but how they look is as important as the function, he said.

Boomers who are downsizing are creating more efficient storage areas in their garages and updating their closets. Mueller said ironing board drawers that allow you to pull out the board, fold it open and slide it back when you’re finished are very popular.

Cameron Hopper, a salesman with Balducci, said their clients are installing custom bookshelves and entertainment centers surrounded by shelves. “They don’t want just four walls anymore,” he said.

Green construction materials are also in demand, according to Steve Donohoe at Cary’s Mill Woodworking, where they use formaldehyde-free hardwood plywood that promotes healthy indoor air quality and finishes that don’t release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air.

SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY

Debbie and Tony Lovette, owners of Specialty Drapery, are making life easier for homeowners and helping them save energy costs with motorized window shades and drapes, as well as smart lighting controls and thermostats that can all be operated remotely through Wi-Fi. The Nest Learning Thermostat is one type that memorizes your settings and automatically adjusts temperatures throughout the day to help you save money on heating and cooling; many other brands of programmable thermostats do likewise.

Likewise, the Philips Hue Connected Bulb lighting system, among others, memorizes lighting scenarios that can be repeated when you are away so that it looks like someone is at home. And, if you need emergency help, you can push a button and all the lights in the house will flash on and off. Even better, with a Lutron RadioRa or similar central control device, all the environmental controls can be pulled together and operated through an app on an iPhone or iPad from miles away.

Boomers are also going for comfort and convenience, especially with their entertainment needs, says John Dessoffy, owner of TheaterXtreme of Richmond. A major trend for boomers is making their homes a sort of entertainment venue, opting to have installed a home theater system equipped with large cinema screens, projectors and surround sound. “Many would rather stay at home and watch movies with their family – or by themselves – than sit in a theater with complete strangers,” he adds.

Dessoffy says this kind of personalized entertainment system is now more affordable than ever. “It used to be for the rich and famous – but that’s no longer the case.”

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