How to reinvent your home after the kiddos are gone.
It is no secret that Williamson County and particularly Franklin, TN has recently landed on every “Top Ten” list of fabulous places. With that surge in popularity the real estate market has heated up. This is the perfect time to consider selling your home and perhaps look for a new one. Home prices are booming. Sellers are eager to get their homes on the market to cash in on the rush of newcomers to our community.
At the same time, my social media feed is full of families moving their kiddos off to college. And I have to say… the dorm room decorating is quite impressive. Mom and Dad return home thinking, “What are we going to do with all of this space now that the kids are all gone? We don’t need all this space. After all, who needs a theater room when it’s just the two of us?”
The conversation starts between husband and wife, “Let’s get rid of this big house and get something we can manage and still accommodate the kids when they come home for holidays and summer.”
This is a seemingly great idea…until the couple starts to look for a home to replace their McMansion. I have had several clients this year alone try to downsize. However, when they start to look at what’s available, they find that they will have to pay more to acquire less house. This has been a sticking point for my clients who are wanting to sell the nest. They don’t want to have to spend more money to buy a smaller house. That’s when I get a call from them asking how we can rework their existing home to work for them now that the children are gone.
In my experience, I have found that most of my interior design clients who want to sell their larger homes and downsize due to the empty nest syndrome really just want smaller homes with updated finishes. While I cannot shrink homes, I can help you rethink how you are using them. The goal is to get the rooms you use for daily living on one floor while using this opportunity to update and upgrade the finishes.
The first thing to consider when evaluating if you need to downsize or just re-size is where is the master bedroom located. With the surge of new homes built in the late 1990s the master on main became a mainstay. So this isn’t a problem with most client’s existing homes. If you’re master is on the main floor you can check that off your “resize” list. However, if your home is from 1990, the master bedroom and bathroom will need an update. No ifs, ands or buts, it NEEDS it. I need you to hear me on this. If you don’t update the bathroom now you will eventually be buying the next homeowner a new bathroom. What do I mean by that? Well, think about it. If your bathroom is tired and dated, you are going to have to decrease your selling price to compete with other homes on the market that do have updated bathrooms. So, you can redo your bathroom now and enjoy it until you sell it, or you can keep your old bathroom and buy the new homeowner a new bathroom. Isn’t the choice obvious?!
The second item most clients want is renovated or, preferably, an open kitchen and great room. With children leaving the house there is less noise and fewer activities that can impede on privacy and the need for separation. To achieve this in an existing home we look at reworking room placement. Sometimes we swap the locations of the kitchen and dining room to get more access to the family room. Sometimes we add a kitchen on the rear of the house with access now to the den. This is a great solution because you can really create a dream kitchen with no preset boundaries set by foundations. Then we rework the previous kitchen space into a new large laundry/office or catering kitchen. (You shouldn’t mess up the decorative kitchen… it’s like hand-towels in the powder room). Of course all of this is depending on the clients needs.
Another item most clients who are empty-nesters want is a study or home office. (I prefer study because it just has more élan, don’t you think?) In a lot of circumstances I find that I can commandeer an underutilized dining room and repurpose it to a study or create a combination dining room/study. While my wife and I use our dining room several times a year, I have found that most of my client’s do not. A simple solution is to place a large round or rectangular table in the center of the previous dining room and pile it high with books for multi-purpose as a desk. Then we can scatter dining chairs around the house in hallways and bedrooms that can be collected together if a need for formal dining arises. I also surround the room with bookcases that can hold china and books and add deep seating in club chairs for reading. I have also used large foyers for dining rooms freeing up the formal dining for home office use much the same way. The idea is multi-functionality.
A final must-have for empty nesters is outdoor living space. This is a huge new category in the interior design business. Clients want to extend their entertaining space to the exterior of their homes. This allows them to maximize opportunities to more entertainment space if we have to take over any living space for a larger kitchen or new items like a main floor laundry or mudroom. Creating outdoor rooms is very easy to do. Unlike most home renovations, this doesn’t necessitate gutting any rooms or building a structure that has to be insulated and heated and cooled. Also, most homes in Williamson County have generous lot sizes, so we can easily find space to create an outdoor room. (I could talk about more advantages and how to design these spaces, but that’s a whole article in itself.)
I find that once we go through this simple checklist: 1.) Master suite on main; 2.) Renovated open kitchen/great room; 3.) Main floor home office and 4.) Outdoor living space; these are really all empty nesters are looking for. Once you investigate the real needs you have in your dream empty nest, you can find ways to adapt your existing nest to meet those wishes. By rethinking how you can use your home differently, sometimes by simply swapping room placement and at the same time updating the finishes, you can invest in staying put so the little birds know where to come back to… that is, if you want them to.