Plan now, relax later

Local professionals shed some light on what Nova Scotians are planning for their homes – or should be.

When it comes to home renovation, design and planning, there will always be two major factors homeowners consider – style and functionality. Especially with the aging population here in Canada, designing the home for the long-term is becoming more common. Fortunately for the style-conscious Baby Boomers, this no longer means compromising on style. Nova Scotians can now have a home they love now and can stay in for years to come.

Whitestone Developments, a leader in identifying and shaping trends in new home construction, works to educate and encourage homeowners on the benefits of building energy efficient homes and homes with age-in-place capacities. With the rising cost of heating and maintaining a home, energy efficiency has become a focus for building or renovating a successful aging-in-place model.

“Homeowners are spending more money now on making these necessary changes to the home,” says Andrew Watson of Whitestone Developments. “People are more conscious of the cost of running and maintaining a home and they are now more than ever willing to invest in the overall look of their property as well as the long-term mechanics of it.”

In the past, homeowners concentrated on achieving the desired look for less financial investment. But homeowners today have become highly educated, thorough, and market-conscious when making any home renovation decisions.

Bathrooms are one of the key areas of the home that usually see updates or renovations.

Although style and design continue to dictate the overall end goal of the project, there is a definite emphasis on comfort, accessibility, functionality and energy efficiency.

Whether it be installing energy efficient windows, lowering light switches or designing in wheelchair access, homeowners are asking for these changes now and understand that thinking ahead can save them money and time in the future.

Any space in a home can be renovated or designed with aging-in-place in mind. However a room that will always be a priority on a renovation to-do list is the bathroom. Natasha Levy of Emco’s The Ensuite Kitchen and Bath Showroom says clients are adding more comfort and convenience elements that range from towel heaters to advanced products like the Kohler’s DTV Custom Showering Experience that allow the home-owner to preset a temperature, control lights, sound and steam from a single digital platform.

“Items like this are introducing luxuries into the bathrooms like aromatherapy or steam but are also making it easier for the homeowner as they age,” says Levy. “It’s quite an experience.”

In addition to aromatherapy, Angela Johnson of Eddy Group is seeing a surge in interest for chromatherapy tubs. Companies like Bain Ultra are introducing revolutionary colour therapy and light therapy products into the home that are as stylish as they are luxurious.

“Luxury items in a home increase the comfort level exponentially and make living in the home easier down the road,” says Johnson. And if style, comfort and functionality continue to be driving forces behind home renovations and long-term planning in 2012, then Johnson sees items like the TV mirror, humidity-sensor ventilation and in-floor heating as definite frontrunners for the upcoming year.

In addition to creating the perfect spa experience, many homeowners are choosing to redo their spa-space to accommodate future needs, with seemless/accessible showers, wide hallways, grab bars and roll-under vanities.

The move to more contemporary design and high functionality products is being mirrored throughout the home. With items such as grab bars, TechReady wiring, space-saving furniture and comfort-height appliances at the forefront of home renovation, homes are becoming sanctuaries for relaxation and true family life.

The most notable part of these upgrades and aging-in-place renovations is that they increase level of comfort and reduce the level of difficulty when it comes to cleaning, maintaining and operating – but the overall wow factor remains and continues to impress even the most style-conscious customers.

“Today, a bathroom grab bar doesn’t need to look like a grab bar. It can be designed to match the style of the faucet and become an accessory adding to the room’s décor,” says Levy. “The same can be done throughout the house.”

As accessibility and limited mobility become factors in the homeowner’s lifestyle, using integrated wiring systems, comfort-level products and storage tricks can reduce clutter and help a homeowner live better in the same space.

“Introducing space-saving devices and appliances and just making a room more livable and functional is another popular renovation trend we are seeing in kitchens and bathrooms today,” says Glen MacDonald of Cabinetworks. “Many homeowners are opting for an island when the kitchen offers enough space. It acts as extra storage, extra work surface and is built to look like a piece of furniture.”

Another convenience-enhancing kitchen addition is the stovetop pot filler, designed to reduce the need for lifting and transporting pots when cooking. This added luxury maintains a contemporary feel of the space while taking future needs into consideration.

The kitchen is the primary gathering area for the family, and today’s designs reflect this by incorporating open concepts, specialized lighting, islands and bar-tops for extra seating, and wiring for computer desks, TV and stereo.

Making the home appealing to live in at the age of 30, 40 and 50 is easy to do. But making it safe, comfortable and functional for homeowners in their 60s and 70s can be a challenge if not properly planned and executed. Privacy, for example, can be an obstacle if not dealt with in the design and planning stages of the renovation.

In some cases, homeowners or their live-in parents with limited mobility are moving the bedroom to the main floor. Privacy-enhancing options such as cork flooring provide comfort, warmth and reduce noise in high-traffic areas notes Dave Cole of Wacky’s Flooring – and is designed to compliment the modern décor of any home.

“Cork works well in kitchens, bathrooms and basements and does not trap dust,” says Cole. “It’s a material that is easy to clean and requires less maintenance than other flooring options.”

Carpet – Berber in particular, still tends to be a popular choice for bedrooms due to

comfort and warmth says Cole, but for maintenance purposes and style, many homeowners are looking towards hard surface flooring for the rest of the house. Cole and Darrell Cooke of Vintage Hardwood are noticing that oversized tiles or wide board hardwood are gaining popularity and adding a dramatic effect to any space.

Adding drama to a space while keeping future needs in mind is becoming easier to do – not only with flooring and accessories, but also with lighting.

“Lighting is about having fun and thinking outside the box,” says Terri Langlois of Living Lighting. “Make an instant impact in a room with a statement fixture, like a dramatic chandelier, in an unexpected area.”

Langlois encourages homeowners to start thinking about lighting – the fixture, placement and type of bulb – during the building and planning stages of a new home construction or renovation. The same goes for landscape lighting explains Langlois, who has seen increased attention to outdoor lighting over the past year.

When it comes to lighting, Mary Kyd of Atlantic Lighting Studio says energy efficient LED lighting, while still selling at a higher price point, is also gaining popularityamong homeowners for a number of reasons. The mercury and UV-free LED technology is non-damaging to fabrics and paintings and comes in a variety of sleek and streamline under cabinet or strip lighting options.

“Lots of money is going into the research and development of LED lighting,” explains Kyd. “And in a few years the pricing should start to reflect that.”

In addition to energy efficient lighting, homeowners are investing in advanced lighting systems such as home theatre lighting or dimming control systems that allow for multiple areas of the home to be programmable and controllable from a single control.

There are many popular brands that offer innovative dimming systems that are both energy efficient and convenient. Today, homeowners looking to upgrade the look and functionality of their home lighting system have a number of options, down to the colour and design of the switch plate.

With energy efficient lighting options on the rise, other household features are quickly following suit. Percy Gouchie of Metro Windows knows the importance of energy efficiency in the home, but also
recognizes the importance of aesthetics and long-term value when it comes to choosing the right windows and doors.

“Take a $500,000 home and put in the wrong window package,” says Gouchie. “And it can make or break the resale value.”

He is referring to the overall aesthetic appeal of the windows as well as the level of energy efficiency the windows contribute to the house as a whole. Because there are unlimited design and size options, it comes down to choosing the windows that will protect your home from the elements and provide the right amount of insulation.

Gouchie understands that many home-owners are now building and renovating with the mentality of aging-in-place and are unwilling to compromise on style or quality. This makes choosing quality triple glaze, low-E with argon window features important in the long-term both financially and environmentally – and the endless style options are still available.

Energy efficiency is sometime undetectable by merely looking at a window – it’s the composition, construction and installation process that contribute in many ways. However, many builders and renovators are noticing that energy efficient products are becoming statement pieces for many homeowners. Being green is in. And it’s a trend that doesn’t show any sign of slowing in 2012.

“Integrating solar into an existing home diminishes the fossil fuel usage per year, reducing the cost of heating a home and continues to pay back over the years,” says Kelly Lunn of EnCom Alternative Energy Solutions. “For homeowners planning on staying in a home for a significant period of time, they can expect the investment to pay back within three to five years and continue to enjoy the financial benefits of the system as the cost of fuel continues to increases.”

EnCom Alternative Energy Solutions designs solar systems for new and existing homes and has branded the Ultra Energy Efficient Heating System that incorporates evacuated solar heating tubes, multiple stainless steel hot water tanks and an integrated intelligent control system. This advanced system allows the programmable boiler to have set temperatures to reduce wasted energy while providing the majority of the home’s domestic hot water and, if connected, in-floor heat.

“People want to stay in their homes longer and are beginning to look towards solar as an alternative energy source and an alternative lifestyle choice,” says Lunn.

Whether choosing energy efficient features for financial, environmental or social impact, the move to green is popular in Nova Scotia among homeowners and potential buyers. Many Nova Scotia builders are expecting to see an increase in installation
of energy efficient home products and systems in the upcoming years and expect rapid expansion in product selection.

The demands of the aging population of homeowners are turning the tables on the building industry and making it more important than ever to provide high quality, long-term options, stylish products – and the public is fully understanding and willing to invest financially so long as all criteria are met. Homeowners are expecting to live in their homes longer – making everything from the smallest fixtures, to the heating system, to the layout essential aspects of lasting, low-maintenance home.

“Single level living is becoming increasingly popular among Nova Scotians for those exact reasons,” says Ryan McNeil of Stonewater Homes. “Ease of living, low-maintenance, accessibility for now and later, and the customizable aspect of the home itself.”

On the homeowner wish list of 2011 and 2012, McNeil noted that in-ground and above-ground pools have also been in high demand. And with the advancements in solar and other energy-efficient heating systems, it’s within reach to create an outdoor oasis that is enjoyable, and cost-effective to maintain in the long term.

In Nova Scotia, we understand that life is about enjoying our indoor and outdoor spaces. We’ve been thinking this way for years. The only difference between then and now is how well we’ve adopted the act of planning. Homeowners are moving
beyond quick fixes and cosmetic changes and are tapped into the real meaning of investment – not only financially, but in terms of overall ease of living. Today, Nova Scotians understand that with a little planning and investment, east coast living can be model for the rest of Canada.

Mari Suyama

Mari Suyama

With a degree in Journalism and Spanish from the University of King’s College, Mari has turned her passion for writing, languages and travel into a career she loves. Diving into the world of freelance after university, she moved to Latin America

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