Empty nesters often experience mixed emotions as they bid farewell to adult children ready to spread their wings and fly the coop. Whether you’ve got a tissue box close at hand or are secretly (or not so secretly) excited for this next chapter in your life, you might be thinking about selling the family home and moving to a smaller place.
But many aging Canadian homeowners are deciding to stay where they are and renovate instead. It’s a trend that designers like Rebecca Hay, president and principal designer of Rebecca Hay Designs in Toronto, have noticed.
“The primary reason (to stay put) is that it can be more expensive to move than renovate,” says Hay, who has worked as a show segment designer on HGTV’s Income Property and The Property Brothers. “It sometimes feels a lot less daunting to renovate and decorate your existing home than having to uproot altogether. Especially as our clients become grandparents, they tend to want more space for grandkids to play and spend the night.”
Many of her clients want to update their homes for entertaining. “More often than not, their homes have become dated and they haven’t had the energy or desire to do it with teenagers in the house,” Hay says. “They often no longer have to support their kids and so have the extra income to spend on themselves.”
While kitchens are a popular starting point for a renovation, Hay finds homeowners most often opt for a major decorating overhaul. “We look for ways to incorporate some of their existing furniture items that are quality and classic pieces and then add in more contemporary upholstery and lighting elements,” she says.
“Consider what items you own that are absolute must-haves to keep so your designer can work with them,” Hay advises. “Remember that you don’t have to get rid of everything in order to update your space. You might have a fantastic grandfather clock or cute marble side table that will add character to your newly designed space. Also, be open to changing how your use the rooms in your home now that your lifestyle is changing.”
Linda Mazur, principal of Linda Mazur Design Group in Toronto, agrees. “Gourmet kitchens and a dream spa bathroom are usually at the top of the list, as clients feel they’re at a place in their lives where they’re finally able to splurge on themselves more,” she says. “Kitchens tend to be the most common starting point – and kitchens that are designed for entertaining, not just functionality.”
A luxury master bathroom and bedroom are also high on the list, as well as a general update of a home’s décor and furnishings and creating open-concept spaces comfortable not only for living but entertaining. Mazur has also received numerous requests for comfortable entertainment/movie spaces. “This isn’t the old version of theatre rooms, but rather a main living space like a family room or great room that has upgraded technology for movie watching,” she says.
While it’s not uncommon to convert a child’s empty bedroom into a home office, you might also want to use the space to enlarge the master bedroom or en suite bathroom, thereby creating extra space that could be helpful if you require assistance down the road, Mazur advises. She has also amalgamated bedrooms to create one large area should the empty nesters’ parents require long-term care one day.
If you’re planning to renovate rather than move, Mazur encourages you to make “wise decisions” that will allow you to age in place. For example: widen doorways and ensure kitchen storage is easily accessible so there’s no need to climb a ladder to reach the top shelves. Create a spacious bathroom with a curb-less shower entry and avoid polished tile, which becomes slippery when wet. Consider a large, comfortable shower, which will be easier to access than a tub/shower combination as you age.
A main floor or second-floor laundry can also offer welcome convenience. “Don’t plan your renovation around resale,” Mazur says. “If you’re planning on remaining in your home for a long time, then your home should be customized to your needs, style and possible future needs.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019