STRANGE & INTERESTING TALES from a Custom Home Builder

As a custom home builder, we’ve encountered all kinds of strange and interesting tales. Thought I would do a short, lighthearted, post about some of these.

One of the more memorable and strange requests was from, I’ll call him “The Bachelor”. He was doing a whole house remodel and wanted his and her toilets….side by side. I couldn’t ask about why because I didn’t want to know. Oh boy, women want the man to use an entirely different bathroom, much less sitting on the john next to him! We didn’t end up doing the job but I often wonder if he found “The One who would sit by his side, come what may”!

Women don’t want this kind of sharing!

Then there were the people who wanted us to remodel their home and at our first meeting, they produced a sketch of the layout they had drawn up. Wait…why is there a bathroom that opens up into the kitchen? The woman thought it would be really convenient. I will always laugh replaying in my mind Kevin trying to explain to them why it wasn’t a good idea!

Kevin recently visited a home that the people had purchased for the land, not the home.  They were wondering if we could help them fix the home. Some of the problems would have been hilarious if someone didn’t have to figure out how to fix and pay for them. Here are just a few of the problems:

  • The showers controls were totally outside of the shower, requiring one to exit the shower to change temp or pressure.
  • The hood over the stove was so high that the exhaust system was useless.
  • An old remodel had expanded the kitchen but they placed the refrigerator around the corner and from the cooking triangle one had to go around this large island to get to the refrigerator.
  • Then there was the wet bar where someone had either not wanted to waste a pre-cut countertop or someone did a lousy job of measuring and the top hung over the sink on one side by about 2 inches.

Several years ago we encountered the strangest floor plan I’ve ever seen. The people had bought it site unseen before moving here from Ohio. First of all, there was so much wasted space. The rooms were small but the halls were huge- like 6 feet wide and when you walked through the front door, you stepped right into the dining room. There was no pantry in what was a huge kitchen but rather it was a converted bedroom that was located down a long hallway. Words cannot express my dismay!

Then there was our client who didn’t want to have to leave the Master suite to get to his liquor- well it would have been a long walk- I’ll give him that. So, we built a wet bar in the bedroom. Along the same line, we built an indoor putting green adjacent to the master so that our client, an insomniac, could practice his game instead of roaming the halls at night. Hey, this is exactly why people build custom homes!

And, of course, we’ve built many cool safe rooms but I can’t disclose any details. Let’s just say that the options out there now for these are mind blowing.

Or our custom home client who had a little kid’s mini kitchen just off the main kitchen. Mini fridge, microwave, sink and cabinets were stocked with all of their favorite snacks. I actually really like this- it’s keeps their little fingerprints off the one in the main kitchen ūüôā

Then there was the time we built the rectory for the Catholic church in Ahwatukee and Kevin opened up a cabinet door and a huge gila monster emerged! I’m sure the priest forgave his language, given the situation.

Back when we were first getting started, we built a custom home for an engineer who counted every 2 x 4, 2 x 6 and piece of wood in the entire house making sure he wasn’t getting ripped off. Nothing against engineers, as they happen to be some of our best clients, as they appreciate the quality and efficiency of our homes.

Some of our favorite clients were Italians who immigrated to Canada and we built their second home here in Arizona. She was Sicilian and about 4′ 10″. I think I told in a past blog how she rolled out her homemade pasta every day but couldn’t comfortably do this with a normal counter height. So, we built the island at a very low height and made some other adjustments to make living more convenient for her.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this. We did a full remodel on a townhome and Kevin went to pick up the final check. He left and was at the end of the block when his phone rang. It was the woman. She asked him if he could come back. When she opened the door, she grabbed him and hugged him in a full-on frontal position and kissed him before he knew what was happening! I guess she was super happy with us- or with him rather. A simple thank you is just fine!

Hope you’ve enjoyed these Strange and Interesting Tales!

AGING IN PLACE: STRATEGIES (Part 2)

Continuing our conversation about Aging in Place strategies….

KITCHEN CABINETS

Cabinets can be particularly frustrating when aging in place is a priority.  Replace lower cabinet doors with large, deep drawers.   This helps a person easily get what they need without reaching in and trying to pull things out from the back of the shelf.

Rev-a-shelf

Rev a shelf¬† makes some really innovative solutions; such as, pull down shelves that can be installed in the uppers.¬† This also keeps them off a step stool, which can be dangerous.¬†¬†We built a custom home for an Italian couple where the woman was 4′ 10″ and she rolled out homemade pasta every day.¬† They wanted the kitchen island very low to make this easy for her.¬† She also had had hip replacements, so we did all the cabinets with roll out drawers and pull down shelves so she didn’t have to bend down.¬† The small appliances that she used everyday (espresso machine, pasta maker, Kitchenaid mixer)¬† had places on the counter with outlets in the right spots so she could leave them out.¬† When they went to sell, people didn’t like the low island but they lived in the house for over 20 years and the entire family benefited from that low island, so who cares, right?¬† ¬†A custom home is all about creating an environment that enhances and facilities your lifestyle, so it was worth it to them to make the kitchen function specifically for her needs. The cost to put in a new island was small compared to the use they got out of it.¬†

BATHROOM CABINETS

Make sure there is knee space in the cabinet area where a person can sit down to get ready.  Also, if a person is much shorter or taller than the average, their vanity can be made to a specific height to minimize stooping or counters that are too high.

APPLIANCES

Appliances can pose a danger to the elderly if they are not well thought out.  The controls need to be easy to read and the appliances should be located where one can see, open and put things in and out safely.

Induction cooking can be a great choice for aging in place:¬† So, gas cooking has been all the rage with the professional chefs and foodies who love to cook but there’s a new game in town (actually not new but recently embraced) and it is very safe for young and old!¬† Induction is the cooking method of choice for many high profile chefs these days.¬† What makes it so safe is that it heats the cooking vessel by magnetic induction but the cook top does not get hot.¬† So, when the pan or skillet is removed from the top, there is no heat and that makes it a safe option.¬† Also, gas can sometimes be left on when people start getting forgetful but with induction, once the pan is removed, there is no conduction of heat.¬†¬†Frigidaire explains induction cooking.

Also, many appliances can now be connected to an app on ones phone, voice activated, controlled from a distance, etc., etc.   While it may not be easy for all people to learn a new way of operating appliances, it can be a great thing for family members to be able to check and make sure things are turned off, etc., from a distance.

DOORWAYS & HALLWAYS:

Doorways and hallways are very important for those who aging in place is important.¬† If they can’t navigate with a wheelchair or walker, it is very difficult to stay at home.¬† ¬† Also, the areas around the toilets, sinks, laundry, etc. need to receive consideration.¬† Areas should allow for walkers and/or wheelchairs to have plenty of access.¬† 5′ x 5′ turn around spaces are needed in areas such as kitchens, in front of bathroom sinks, toilets. etc. .¬† Use 36″ min. interior doors to allow for 32″ of clearance.

ELECTRICAL

By age 75, a person needs lighting that is twice as bright as younger people. Lighting is a very important issue.   Here are just a few tips on lighting that we implement in our homes.

  • Lighting systems where single buttons turn on specific “scenes” can be very helpful.¬† Such as; a “hello” button by the door so that when one arrives home that turns on specific lights with one touch.
  • Automatic lighting where a light comes on automatically when a door is opened, such as closets and pantries.¬† Kevin puts these in as a standard thing in our clients’ pantries so that if their arms are full of groceries, etc., they won’t have to fumble for the light switch.
  • Night lighting can be installed to shine dimly at night near the floor or come on when motion is detected.
  • High tech security systems for video¬† monitoring of home and the front door are extremely important. Also, family members can check in on them remotely.
  • Replacing incandescent bulbs with LED so that bulbs are not constantly needing replacement.

DOORKNOBS & FAUCETS

Instead of handles that twist, which are difficult for people with arthritis to navigate, choose levers.

FLOORING

Flooring material is very important, as as one ages, ones skeletal structure becomes more sensitive and often there are issues with ones feet.¬† For optimal aging in place, the flooring should be non-slip and softer materials; such as wood floors, should be used.¬† Also, it’s important to have some contrast where there are steps or stairs.¬† We sometimes do this on the rise- even a subtle change alerts one to a change in the terrain.¬† A friend of mine just told me that she fell at a home where there were¬† curved steps that were the same color as the surrounding flooring.¬† She didn’t notice them and walked right into them.¬† I am a rug lover but they¬†should be minimized and any carpeting should be a low pile.

I hope that you found this article about aging in place helpful!  These are just a few strategies but feel free to ask me about specific needs that you might have.   Also, I would love to know your thoughts and ideas on this subject.

 

 

 

A TREND called Hygge

 

Old School Home Gym

Brooklyn Pub style Home Gym

TRENDS come and go but I think that this trend called “Hygge” is here to stay.¬† “Hygge” is a Danish word that refers to “the constant pursuit of homespun pleasures”.¬† ¬†I read about this predicted trend years ago in a book by Faith Popcorn called The Popcorn Report.¬† She called it”cocooning”.¬† As custom home builders, we have definitely seen this trend taking hold in¬† the past few years.
Today’s home owners are looking to incorporate more of their desired activities into their home lifestyle.¬†They want to exercise, cook gourmet meals (inside and outside), enjoy a resort style pool, watch movies on a big screen and work from the home office- all without ever leaving their homes.¬† This creates more¬†time in their days by cutting down on time commuting.
Speaking of this trend, we are just finishing up this super cool home gym!¬† These clients both have high-powered careers and were having to get up at 4AM to go to the gym before work; so, they decided to add one to their home.¬† ¬†These clients are from Pittsburgh and wanted an old English pub feel to their workout room.¬† I love the gorgeous¬† copper ceiling and old brick, which was the homeowner’s vision.¬† They wanted to walk out of their home gym and cool off in their own resort-style pool, which we are almost finished with and will post when it’s complete.