Baby Boomer Housing Trends

January
21
2014

Here’s a good article by the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders).  They say that baby boomers dominate new housing trends.  And if we are any indication – being both baby boomers, and on our way to building our retirement home, then what they are saying is very true!  See if you agree.

The largest American generation is either retired or quickly nearing retirement age. Baby boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964 and who count more than 76 million, may be getting older, but they are definitely not ready to head to an elder care facility! 

I love this design!

I love this design!

The boomer generation is more active than generations past, has a more sophisticated style and wants options and choices in their homes. Whether they are selling the homes where they raised their children and heading to sunnier pastures, or staying put and redesigning to accommodate their retired lifestyle, boomers are making an impact on new housing trends. Some features that home builders and re-modelers are seeing as they begin to cater to the boomers include:

Home Offices – Many, many boomers are continuing to work past the age of 65 either because they love their work, or because their retirement savings lost value in the recession. As they transition from a traditional 9-to-5 job, however, many want home offices for flexibility. A second career or part-time employment often eliminates the hassle of commuting while keeping them active and bringing in supplementary income.   

Technology – The tech-savvy boomer generation wants a home that will support all their personal technology. That can mean structured wiring that can drive a network of services that include lighting controls, a security system or a home media center. And they may want a wireless home network with broadband internet access for laptops, tablets and streaming movies.  

Wider Doors and Hallways – Designing a home that is livable now but can transition and be functional as the occupant ages is important in ensuring that the home will be a good long-term investment. Wider doors and hallways are useful for moving larger furniture today, and will allow the home owners to use mobility devices such as walkers and wheelchairs, should they become necessary.

Better Lighting/Bigger Windows – The need for more lighting increases as we grow older. To accommodate this, builders are adding more windows, making them larger to let in more natural light, and making them more energy-efficient as well. They are also adding more light fixtures in areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, and stairways, where dim light can lead to accidental injury. Switches at the top and bottom of a stairwell, and the use of dimmer controls to eliminate glare are other helpful options.

This one from Great Falls Construction is also beautiful!

This one from Great Falls Construction is also beautiful!

First-Floor Bedrooms and Bathrooms – NAHB data shows that 73 percent of buyers aged 55 and up don’t want a second-floor master suite. Boomers wishing to save their joints and avoid stairs have helped fuel this trend. Today’s bedrooms are also bigger, with larger walk-in closets and bathrooms that often have a separate tub and shower and dual sinks.

Easy to Maintain Exteriors/Landscaping Yard work, painting, and other landscaping chores may no longer be enjoyable to aging home owners. People who move to a new home when they retire may opt for a maintenance-free community. Those that choose to stay in their homes might make improvements to exterior surfaces such as installing stucco, brick or low-maintenance siding. Lawns are being replaced with outdoor rooms, decorative landscaping, or flower beds for gardening enthusiasts — either at ground level or raised for seated access.

Our new house will be similar to this design by Dan Sater.

Our new house will be similar to this design by Dan Sater.

Flex Space – Flexible space has become more prevalent in both new homes and remodeling. Flex spaces are rooms that serve the present home owner’s needs but can adjust to changes as they occur. What may have once started out as a child’s bedroom can be redecorated to serve as a hobby room, library or home office, and can be repurposed later for a bedroom for visiting grandchildren or for an in-home caregiver. This flexibility allows home owners to stay in their homes longer, meeting their needs throughout life’s stages.

We will actually be following all of these examples.  We plan on having two home offices, we’ll keep our master on the first floor,  our home will be more technologically advanced, the doorways will be wider, the lighting and amount of windows will be greater, and we plan on keeping the grounds as low maintenance as we possibly can.  I was also planning on adding closets to the room that will be dedicated to storage, qualifying as flex space because it could then be turned into a bedroom if needed one day.  We’ll be going against the tide in a way, since we will not be downsizing, but we will still be following what will be the norm for the baby boomer generation.  Will you be following these guidelines also?

December sky in the backyard.

December sky in the backyard.

Beautiful vs. Practical

November
6
2013

When I did my post on kitchen sinks, I actually was going to start writing about a post I read regarding a square sink.  The inside was totally squared off, and people were weighing in on whether it was worth it because it was such a pain to clean.  One person commented she would take beauty over easy any day.  And that got me thinking that I was probably the opposite.

Maybe it’s because after 30 some years of marriage and motherhood I’d rather take an easier route.  But if I want to be honest here, I think I was always that way.  I just think things should be practical.  Don’t get me wrong, I love beautiful also.  Both would be nice, but if I had to choose?  I think practical would win.  For instance, let’s go back to sinks for a minute.  There is a style of sink that is totally squared off inside.  It’s an interesting look, but I’ve read it is very difficult to clean in the corners.

square sink

square sink3

square sink2

This last picture actually shows (to me anyway) how it can get gunked up at the bottom.  Beautiful design? Yes.  Practical? No!

There are other applications that I also would choose the practical, like for instance the rope handrails.  As you know, we will be building a house on the water.  And yes, we love the beachy theme.  Rope handrails would fit right in as a design element.  But could you even use them as an actual handrail?  Can you lean on them to any extent?  Or, when you’ve just been through knee surgery and need to hold on for dear life going up and down the stairs, will a rope actually do the job?   Okay, that was me recently, but I digress.  Here are some examples:

rope stair rail

rope stair rail2

rope stair rail3

Again, beautiful, but I’ll stay with the normal a/k/a practical.

The next item, and this is something I have to admit I have never understood, is the “for show” towels in the bathroom.  I mean, really, what’s the point and how am I supposed to dry my hands?  Yes, sometimes people put out the little paper towel holders, we can each take our own little paper napkin so we don’t spread germs.  But here are gorgeous matching towels hanging on a beautiful towel rack, just asking to be used, and I can’t touch them for fear of messing them up.

towels2

Towelstowels3

I get it, I really do, and I’m only half serious.  I’m somewhat of a germaphobe myself, so I understand how useful it is that we all get our own little paper napkin.  But people don’t actually live like this with towels hanging just for show, do they?  Do you?  We don’t.  We have one big towel hanging for people to dry their hands on after they wash them.  The hands are clean at that point, right?  Do people live like that when company isn’t around?  I’ve always wondered that.

I also have issues with a product that, I have to admit, I have chosen the “beautiful” in the Crab Shack.  Glass shower doors.  In my present older home, we haven’t completely redone either bathroom, one has glass doors but it’s that old-fashioned patterned type of glass that doesn’t have to be wiped down every time, so not the same.  In the Crab Shack we wanted the clear glass that is shown all over now, and is truly beautiful.  But…. come on, you’ve got to agree with me here, it’s a total pain to squeegee it down all the time!  I try to get into the shower before John does sometimes just so I won’t have to do it!  (Don’t tell him.)

glass shower doors2

glass shower doors

We’re trying to come up with ideas for when we build the house.  We’ve tossed around the idea of glass blocks (John just loves these, me… not as much) or a curved type of tile wall with no actual door.  Do you have any ideas for us on this issue?   There are some frosted or patterned glass doors, maybe they wouldn’t show the water as much:

glass shower door frosted2

glass shower door frosted

But, yeah, they’re not the same.  I really haven’t come up with a solution to this yet, but I really, really, really don’t want to be cleaning those glass doors every morning!  I have better things to do, like go fishing, or kayaking, or reading, or cooking, or writing, or thinking or watching tv or having my teeth pulled.  Okay, not that.  But you get what I’m saying.

I’d go for the practical.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Am I the only one?

Thank you to “Houzz” for all the pictures.

 

Let’s Talk Kitchen Sinks

October
23
2013

 

 

I was browsing around the Houzz site the other day, when I saw a discussion about sinks.  I haven’t decided yet on what type of sink I want to install in the kitchen of our new house, (although I know I want just the one bowl, very large and deep) and I’d love to hear your opinions on what you have, and why you love it or hate it.

In the Crab Shack I have a stainless steel sink, and here at my present home I have a Corian sink, since we have Corian counters and I wanted a totally seamless design. (This kitchen was put in over 20 years ago, and Corian was a big upgrade.  I didn’t realize how much I would have loved granite!)  In other places we’ve lived I’ve also had stainless and clay, now updated to be called “fireclay.”  I suspect all of them have their good points and bad points.  There are some new materials I didn’t know about though, or didn’t realize were being used as sinks.   Here’s a rundown:

Stainless Steel: this is the most popular material for a sink by far.  Many people have it and love it. I have it in the Crab Shack because Lowe’s gave it to me free with the Granite counter top.  (Yes, we bought the counter top at Lowe’s.  It was the same one as in the kitchen store we were looking in, for about half the price.)  I’m going to admit something here because we’re buds and I know you won’t judge me too harshly….   I hate stainless steel.  There I said it.  And the ceiling didn’t fall in.  I just cannot stand the fingerprints.  It never looks clean, even after it’s just been cleaned. The sink has marks that look like scratches and constantly shows water spots. I want to love it, it looks so professional. But I just don’t want to spend that much time trying, without too much luck, to keep it shiny and finger-print free.  And no, my mind hasn’t really changed.  This will be an issue in my new kitchen.  I’ve already planned on getting the refrigerator with the panels that look like the cabinets (I have that now and love it!!) but I’ll probably be getting a stainless dishwasher, double oven and microwave.  But not a stainless sink, that’s for sure.

Stainless Steel

Stainless Apron

Composite Granite: These sinks are 80% granite and 20% acrylic resin.   They are supposed to be very durable and come in a variety of hues. They have been known to crack during shipment, so it must be inspected carefully when it arrives.  It’s only available in matte and the finish can dull over time, but people have noted that this adds to the personality of it, and it’s not a “bad” thing.  The dark colors seem to be the overwhelming favorite because they don’t show the spots. It’s been recommended to clean and dry it with a dishcloth every night, which seems like too much work, (the drying, not the cleaning)  but again, people have noted that it’s not that big a deal, and with the darker colors, this isn’t even necessary.  These sinks are very pretty, I’m adding it to my list of possibilities.

Composite Granite

 Fireclay:  These clay sinks are highly resistant to scratches but can stain and chip!  Cleanup, however, is easy.  If you want a white sink, this material comes highly recommended.  It is mostly seen in the “Farmhouse” or apron style sinks.  It doesn’t come in a large variety of sizes, although I wouldn’t think this would be an issue.  It is very heavy, and would need adequate support and it’s not “friendly” to dropped dishes.  I’m probably not going with this one.

Fireclay apron sink

Enameled Cast Iron:  This sink is smooth, glossy and shiny, which gives it some appeal.  It won’t crack or dent, but I don’t think most sinks would dent.  (Maybe stainless)  It would be a consideration if you know you want a white sparkly sink.  (Although other colors are available.) It is also very durable, but can chip, and show stains and nicks.  Some people have said it shows pot “scrapes” and it is very, very heavy!  This (like the clay sink) will not be one of my choices.

cast iron

Natural Stone:  There are a couple of different “stone” sinks on the market, I hadn’t heard about them before but they are beautiful.  Like all the other options however, they have pros and cons.

Soapstone -  This sink is non-porous and unaffected by heat, bacteria and stains. It’s a little “softer” than other materials so some care has to be taken with it because it could get scratched or nicked.   I’ve read it’s not easy to install, but compared to the heavy cast iron or clay sinks, how hard could it be?  Also, I’ve read it’s not cheap.  But who wants a cheap sink?  If you buy cheap, you get cheap, that’s my motto.  (Well, it is now.)  The one thing in its favor is it’s absolutely beautiful!  I’m going to have white cabinets and this sink would be just gorgeous!  I wasn’t thinking about getting soapstone counters though, I was thinking granite.  And with the veining in the granite, do I need a sink with veining also?  I’ll put it on my list as a possibility for now.

soapstone sink

Slate -  I did not even realize this was a sink material.  However, it is resistant to fading, burning and scratching.  And custom designs can be sand blasted into it to make a truly custom look.  This feature would only be helpful if you have having the apron type sink, which I am not leaning towards, but am still undecided about.  It is a material that will last forever, and people have written it keeps its beauty, and even if it got a nick or two, it’s hardly visible.  The etching on this one is adorable, especially since our house is on the water, and we love the “water” theme.

Slate Sink

slate

Quartz -  This sink is made from 70% quartz and 30% resin filler.  It is a step below the granite composite in terms of wear and durability, but still a good choice.  It is resistant to dings, dents and stains, but the darker ones tend to show scratches more than the lighter colors, on ones with more of a pattern.  It would be a good choice if you’re using quartz countertops and want a seemless look.

Quartz

 

 

quartz.2

 

Copper:  Copper comes in various thicknesses like stainless, and that will be reflected in the price.It’s easy to shape so can come in a wide variety of sizes.  It is anti microbial, which is good, but people have written they would be worried about the copper leaching into food, such as vegetables soaking in the sink.  The finish will almost certainly change over time, this could be either a pro or a con, depending on how you feel about that.  For me it’s a con, the copper is pretty when it’s brand new, but I don’t like the change.  The thinner variety can dent and scratch.  The hammered sink is very pretty, in my opinion, but I don’t think this is one product that I will consider.

CopperCopper.2

The last two sinks I looked into and have pictures of are tile and hand painted.  But these, along with glass sinks, are better left as a “show” sink in the powder room.  Yes, they are beautiful and different, but keeping them clean and free of dings would be difficult in the hard-working kitchen area.

Tile -

Tiletiled sink

Hand painted -

Hand Paintedpainted

 

Well, suffice it to say today we have many, many choices when it comes to kitchen sinks.  It’s overwhelming at times.  But by narrowing it down, and doing a little research, and by being honest about how much you are willing to clean, or live with in terms of water spots or nicks, you and I  will finally figure out which one is the best choice.  I hope.

 

“What Your Contractor Can’t Tell You”

August
14
2013

Book Review

 

I was surprised to learn that you can expect to make 1500 decisions when you are building a new home.  Scary!  Especially when you don’t really like making decisions anyway! The author tells us, “Your choices are infinite when you start, so design is more a process of de-selecting than selecting.” The author, Amy Johnston, guides us through this process.  She says owners will be entering a culture that is much less straight forward than it appears, and everyone in that culture knows more than we do. And added to that are all the new relationships, deadlines, quality standards and more money than we’ve spent on probably anything else, and it becomes a huge undertaking that most people don’t know how to prepare for, and few have wanted to tell us. Until now.

If you are planning on building a house, (and by building I mean hiring contractors and builders to do the actual work) or even if you are just thinking about building your dream home, this book is a must to have on hand.  Ms Johnston says, “This book is not about how to swing a hammer, or even how to be your own general contractor.  It is about how to be a savvy consumer of design and construction services and a competent participant in your own project.” And she does not disappoint.

Her advice covers how to start a project, including picking the people on your team, from bankers to surveyors. It also talks about the project plan, how to keep good notes and information, and how to distinguish between needs and wants.  She also suggests (and this really is great advice) be true to yourself and the way you really live, accept your own lifestyle.  For instance, if you spend the evenings watching TV (like we do), don’t make the fireplace the focal point in the room the TV is in.  And I don’t know about you, but I can’t really understand the TV over the fireplace design element.  I would think your neck would hurt by the end of the evening, plus it seems to “take away” from both items!

My well used book

My well used book

Ms. Johnston suggests not to ignore the tried and true.  Yes, newer and sometimes even more efficient designs, materials, supplies and equipment come on the market every day, some are great, but some will be off the market in a few years.  You don’t want to try to replace a broken part or find someone to fix it then, which is especially true in heating and air conditioning.

She discusses and helps with how to work together as a couple and make more balanced choices, how to provide more details so the project runs smoother and how to work well with a contractor and/or architect.  Also, what gets you the most bang for your buck, and cost estimating and budgets.  She talks about contract structures (I spoke about that in a previous post), putting the contract out to bid, insurance, rules for change orders (there are 4 kinds), permits and the way to monitor your project.  Her advice is invaluable and will save you both time and money.  And hopefully, you (and I) will be a more educated homeowner, and wind up with a project that runs much more smoothly than it would have.

Enjoy the sunset.

 

Sunset on the Little Choptank River

Sunset on the Little Choptank River

One or Two Stories?

July
27
2013

I’ve just had knee surgery.  And this has started me thinking about how many stories our new house should be. But here’s the problem…. I already have house plans!  It has taken me years to come up with house plans I am happy with.  Literally, years. (And don’t think I didn’t drive everyone around here crazy talking about it, and pondering, and questioning and even arguing.) It’s been a long process.   I searched online, and you know how many plans there are to look at?  Hundreds of thousands.  I searched in books,  which I bought new or second-hand.  I searched in the library. And I’ve been to many open houses.  Finally, I took all the different plans I saved, and I came up with my own.  (This was no small feat.) Then we had a residential draftsman draw them up. Finally, after years of research and drawings and conversations, we’re all done, right?  And now I’ve had knee surgery.  And I’m wondering, do I want a two-story house?

This is the kind of house I'd be looking at

This is the kind of house I’d be looking at

 

And this one!

And this one!

 

We’re building on the water, so we already need the house to be raised up in case of flooding. So we already have one set of stairs just to get in the house. In our present floor plans I have the spare bedrooms on the second floor, plus my office and a craft room.  I can change the craft room I think, and put it in the garage, although then I am left with an extra room.  I originally wanted that room to be a storage room, so I guess I could go back to that.  That wouldn’t make me unhappy, but when you’re paying for every square foot that’s being built, having an extra storage room might not be the best use of our money. So if we say yeah, that can go back to storage,  now we have the two guest bedrooms and a storage room up stairs, not places I’d have to go on a daily basis.

But now we’re onto what the main issue would be…. my office.   This is a place I WOULD go to, not just every day, but many times during the day.   Originally my thoughts were -  we are more active down there, the water and openness just lends itself to being outside more, so there’s more walking, more gardening, more kayaking, more bocce playing.  (Ah, we can’t wait!)   And I figured stairs wouldn’t be an issue. But what if?  That’s the big question.  What if?

Dan Sater design, a beautiful house for a waterfront home

Dan Sater design, a beautiful house for a waterfront home

Do I change years of work and start over drawing up a one story house?  We both definitely want a “widow’s walk” on top of the house, would that look silly on a one story?  And truthfully, I’ve never been that crazy about ranch houses, although I do think architects and draftspeople are making them look better now.  They don’t look as much like a train, all flat and low.  Do we just keep the house the way it is, and hope we won’t run into any kind of health issues that would hinder our doing stairs?  Should I just redo the floor plans somewhat, leave the upstairs with two bedrooms (thereby considerably altering the design of the house) but move my office downstairs somewhere?

So many designs and floor plans for “retirement” homes are one story, and many also have a “universal” design, with wider doorways to accommodate wheelchairs, or railings in the bathrooms.  It makes sense. And we’ll probably incorporate some of these designs into the house. But it’s difficult to realize we’ll be in the position one day where stairs may just prove to be too difficult.

For now, since we’re still a year away from building, we decided we’ll get a price to build the plans we presently have, and then we’ll go from there.  But stay tuned, things could change any minute.

 

Book Review

 

June
11
2013

Designing_Your_Dream_Home_book

Designing Your Dream Home by Susan Lang

This book is an amazing accomplishment and must have taken Ms. Lang an extraordinary amount of time to organize and assemble.  In my opinion, everyone who is considering building a house should buy, borrow or steal a copy. Truthfully, even if you’re not building a house you should get a copy, just to thank her for all the work she put into this book.  Seriously, even if you don’t use all the information she has assembled, you will use some of it and have a better house because of it.

That being said, even though I consider myself to be very organized, the organizational duties in the book go way beyond what most people will do.  She suggests getting 12 binders (she tells you the sizes and types), 3 to 5 tote bags, zippered  plastic bags for samples and a piece of wheeled luggage.  I don’t know if I could be that regimented.  I am, however, an advocate of the binders.  I keep 4 or 5, (floor plans and exteriors, inside the house, landscaping, and products) and keep the pages in them in plastic sleeves.  Then, every few months, I go through them to weed things out, either because a newer product has come out, or I’ve changed my mind on the design.  I would also say it’s a good idea to keep some pictures of things you absolutely DO NOT like, just to give your builder, draftsperson, designer or architect an idea of what you would not want to see in your home.

Some examples of her binders are:  Binder One (3″) Blank Forms.  Here you are supposed to keep blank copies of all the forms (she supplies them) that are related to your home and the rooms you will have in it. Her book gives you forms for 32 rooms, but if you’ll have 12 rooms, you’ll only need to copy those.  She also has forms for every possible scenario you might encounter, builder discussion forms, hiring my team forms, room checklist forms and meeting notes forms, just to name a few.  Then, each new binder correlates with these forms – one for hiring your team, one for due diligence (on the property you want to purchase), one for design, etc.  The design one to me is the most important.  The forms have a checklist that goes over every aspect of each and every room, and also includes the most common mistakes and how to avoid them.  The cover of the book states, ”Every question to ask, every detail to consider, and everything you need to know before you build or remodel” and this is not an exaggeration.

I probably wouldn’t have a binder for every aspect as she suggests.  It’s just too time consuming and too much work.  Will I still have a better product – I definitely will.  And so will you if you take even a small amount of advice from this book.  I highly recommend it.  Here’s a link in case you want to get a copy.  You’ll be glad you did.