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Remodeling trend: Aging in place, with style -- Page 2

Creating an outdoor living space is cheaper than building an indoor addition, or buying a bigger house. As architect Ralph Gillis says: "You've got your property, you've been working on the garden, it's a good location and everybody knows how to get there already. Why move?"

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The primordial remodeler
Why, indeed? When you ask about trends in home renovation, professionals tend to talk more about why people remodel their houses, and less about what they actually do. Tastes and budgets vary, but underlying motivations don't.

Evan Galen, an architect and decorator based in New York City, works for wealthy clients on both coasts. "What I'm finding now is people have gotten over that enchantment with how rich they are, and they want places that are beautifully made -- that are distinctive and are distinctively theirs," Galen says. "They want a place where they can look good and feel good. They don't want a place that's pretentious."

While the wealthy crave elegant spaces in which to entertain, they're TV addicts like everyone else, Galen says. Now that people can hang flat-screen televisions on walls, "TV is encroaching more and more" into living rooms and formal spaces, he says.

A jug of wine, a tub of water and friends
Gillis, of Gillis Previti Architects, does a lot of work in the wealthy Hamptons on Long Island. The people there already have spectacular laundry rooms and state-of-the-art media rooms. Now, he says, a lot of these homeowners are setting their sights on the outdoors, just as middle-class folks are doing. They're newly interested in, of all things, hot tubs.

"Even if the weather is pretty cold, you wrap up in a terrycloth robe and take your bottle of wine out there and your spouse and friends and kids and sit there and socialize" in the hot tub, Gillis says. "I think it's great that people are rediscovering the art of conversation."

You can enjoy a hot tub in cold weather, but what about an outdoor kitchen or dining room or TV-viewing area? "We've done houses with outside fireplaces that can be a barbecue pit and people can sit outside in front of the fireplace in the spring and fall, when it's cool," Gillis says.

Smoking hot trends
Indeed, by all accounts, outdoor fireplaces are, well, hot. "The kids are asking almost every night, 'Can we have a fire tonight?'" says Tom Kraeutler, co-host of The Money Pit, a radio home-improvement program. He bought an outdoor fireplace a few years ago and his kids like to use it to roast marshmallows.

That's fine in New Jersey. What if you live in Southlake, Texas, near DFW Airport? That's the home of Judy Gaman, owner of a remodeling and design company called La Dame Aux Lavande Designs. (The company's name means "The Lavender Lady.") Gaman says outdoor living areas are big in Texas, but she wonders if they're a fad. "Who wants to sit out in 110-degree weather and watch TV?" she says. If you've been in North Texas in August, you know she's not exaggerating.

Like others in her field, Gaman is prone to ruminating about aging. "The biggest growing thing is aging in place," she says. People want to remain in their homes through their 60s and beyond. They start getting ready while in their 50s.

They don't just reinforce tub and shower enclosures to accommodate grab bars. They're creating spaces to accommodate visits from extended family and old friends, or to welcome groups of visitors.

"They like to add either sun rooms or game rooms," Gaman says. "Entertainment is a big deal. In this area, it's common for people to add rooms so the Bible study group can meet there, or for family Thanksgiving gatherings." Homeowners prefer to create the extra room by finishing attics and building above garages, she says, because those projects are less expensive than building additions to the side or back of the house.

-- Posted: May 5, 2005




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