Are you entering a stage in life where your current suburban home, or active senior community, just doesn’t fit the lifestyle or mix of neighbors you want?
Are you kicking the curb (pun intended) on condo living, but aren’t completely sold it’s a fit for you?
Are you struggling to figure out how to inject style, life and personality into a ‘stuck-in-the-80’s-big-hair-shoulder-pad-looking’ condo which needs a swift fashion ‘kick-in-the-pants?”
Bob and Nona Pickering recently hit this stage of life. Their existing condo in an active senior community in the middle of “Go-Blue-Land” just wasn’t cutting it for them. (note: for those of you playing at home “Go Blue” land would be Ann Arbor, Michigan home of the University and Michigan. It’s a beautiful college town. Sorry for saying this Buckeye fans).
While this active-adult community was perfectly fine – they wanted a broad mix (and age range) of neighbors and less traffic (Ann Arbor can get crazy on game-day weekends). While Bob and Nona are both U or M grads – and big fans – game-day they can largely do without.
They wanted more time for golf and relaxing. They like the idea of being part of a larger development with a more variety of housing and people. So, the search for a new home and location began.
As Bob told me, “Mike, Nona and I found our condo in a strange way. As Nona was looking for a home for her sister they found one on a golf course with a décor which screamed out – D-A-T-E-D! Nona’s sister wanted no part of the extensive remodeling and redecorating challenge. Nona and I loved the golf course setting and proximity to Ann Arbor.
Our new condo is in Brighton Michigan (in the Pine Eagles subdivision within the Oak Pointe Community). It’s only 35 minutes from the University of Michigan and has view views of the golf course and a broad mix of neighbors.
We can still go and watch our Wolverines hopefully beat the Buckeyes (OK I’m an Ohio State fan so I had to throw the word ‘hopefully’ in there) but be outside the hustle and bustle of Ann Arbor.
The tired 1988 layout and décor had to go. Nona and I asked her sister if she would let us put a bid in on the home – since she was planning to pass on it. Our bid was accepted and that’s how this condo redesign journey began.”
In this article I’m going to highlight 5 condo design ideas Bob and Nona used to recraft their space around their needs and tastes. This project is an example of how a condo can combine good function (practicality) and good form (personality). Let’s check out these 5 ideas.
Condo Design Idea #1 – Start with a Fashionable Focal Point
Condominium living shouldn’t scream out boring beige walls! Just because the physical structure of your unit is extensively the same layout as your neighbors, DOES NOT mean the experience and design inside cannot be dramatically you! Bob and Nona took this concept to heart.
Their master bathroom is one eye-popping example.
The design began with a bird. Yes – you heard that right a bird. It’s a fun and playful deep blue rooster mural created by one of the largest producers of premium porcelain and ceramic products – Villeroy and Boch. This company’s ceramic tiles have been fashionable enough to be included in the film the Titanic, New York’s Holland Tunnel and Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater. What’s even more impressive they are also fun enough to create an inspirational impact in Nona and Bob’s ‘way-kicked-up-a-notch’ condo.
Injecting fun. Injecting timelessly traditional elements – even in a bathroom – can turn a bland condo into a fun experience!
Refuse to live in a boring condo.
Condo Design Idea #2 – Let your function (glass block shower walls) fit your form (a curved freestanding tub)
While it’s nice for everything to be built as it’s drawn on an architectural plan – in life – sometimes design needs room to breathe. Design needs room to evolve around the elements you’re going to include.
Bob and Nona knew they wanted the convenience of a glass block shower wall. They loved the low maintenance, durability, and style of the one they enjoyed in a former home in Illinois.
When Nona chose a small freestanding Empava Jacuzzi Tub to go in the center of their bathroom, Bob came up with a (somewhat) crazy idea.
Why not shape the glass block walls to curve and ‘snake’ around the freestanding tub?
This is where the design evolution began.
I was fortunate enough to have Bob ask me to work on this concept with him. Here’s how it went:
I created a design on my office floor using our cool little puzzle piece layout cards (see below). I took a picture of the design and emailed it to Bob. (He rejected it – C’mon Bob!).
I created another design on my office floor. Bob rejected it again (boy – this guy is tough!).
We rinsed and repeated a half a dozen times.
Finally, the design was set. A curved glass block wall which follows the form of the freestanding tub (all done over the phone and through the Internet)!
The result is two graceful and distinctive glass block shower walls. A plain-Jane wall it’s not. Bob and I worked as a team and (as Larry the Cable Guy would say) “Got ‘Er Done!”
Condo Design Idea # 3 – “Futureproof Your World’ – Design around your future needs
Life has a way of taking nasty twists and turns. I never would have guessed my amazing, loving and caring Father and Mother in Law would have their mobility and eventually their minds (through Alzheimer’s) taken away. Sad – but unfortunately true.
The problem with life – there is no way of knowing what the future holds for our health and mobility. However, it doesn’t mean we should bury our head in the sand and not plan thoughtfully so we can stay in our homes for as long as possible.
Bob and Nona wanted to make sure their condo was designed to work in the long run – even if their mobility is compromised (hopefully not!).
One smart idea was the zero-threshold barrier free solid surface shower base. It’s simple to enter with a 32” wide ramped opening.
They also listened to their son DJ who suggested they get hardwood floors for their “old age” (now DJ, that comment might get you taken out of the will – ha! ha!). This will make it a breeze to move around if a wheelchair or walker are needed.
Smart condo remodeling must be designed to continue working and working – despite the crazy curve-balls life may dish out.
Condo Design Idea #4 – Celebrate the family hub – the kitchen
Does your life revolve around food – or is that only how I (and my family) live our lives? Our kids favorite question is, “What’s for dinner?”
In most homes the hub is the kitchen. And why shouldn’t it be? The most important meal of the day is …. the next one!
However, the kitchen is about more than meals. It’s about friendship and a place to gather and talk. Bob and Nona certainly kicked up the old kitchen. They enlarged it to add a cool-looking sparkly blue granite top to compliment a top-of-the-line Viking stove. They extended the island to make it better for entertaining. They used fashion-forward Shaker style cabinets. They even added some fun accent pieces (I love the pendant light over the island countertop).
An inspired condo MUST have an inspired place to eat (or at least that’s true in this Italian guy’s opinion).
Condo Design Idea #5 – Wisdom begins with knowing what you don’t know (or knowing what you know that just ain’t so)
When you get a few (or even more than a few) gray hairs, this reflective wisdom thing starts seeping in. You begin to understand two of my favorite quotes:
- “The wise man is one who knows what he doesn’t know.” Lao Tzu, Chinese Philosopher
- “It’s not what you know. It’s what you know that just ain’t so.” Satchel Paige, First African American Pitcher in the American Leagues
Effective condo design improves when you draw on the experience and integrity of others (contractors, suppliers, decorators etc.). Yes – it’s good to do your own research and participate in the process (in this job, for example, Bob became my ‘design buddy’ for the shaped glass block walls), but there are instances when it’s also smart to step aside and be lead by others.
When it came to colors, tile, cabinet selections and finishes, Bob and Nona let Jane Hughes of Organizational Designs ‘drive the proverbial bus.” She made the rooms blend and flow between beiges, grays and blues. She even passed on her designer product discounts. Bob and Nona were also impressed with their general contractor, Derrick Dixon of Trademark Building Solutions. As Bob told me, “Derrick quoted a firm price for all the labor on the job – and actually stuck to it!”
If the ‘empty-nester’ stage of life has crept up on you, ask yourself, “Is it time to consider a new place to live to go along with a relaunched lifestyle?”
If you’re thinking a condo may be a sound choice don’t be dissuaded if the one you visit is a lifeless as a dead jellyfish staring unappetizingly at you on a sandy beach.
Bob and Nona didn’t let an outdated and uninspired condo stop them from injecting their golf course home with style, personality – and practicality.
If you want help adding fun features in your next empty-nester condo (or home), we’d love to be there for you. Whether it’s with a wild serpentine glass block wall like the one I worked on with Bob, or a mind-blowing glass floor featured in 5 Tips for an Imaginative and Expressive Luxury Condominium – we love the challenge of a somewhat-crazy project! Give us a call – or ask your questions in the area below.
How can I (my team) or Bob’s team on this project be of value to you?
Call me (or a member of my team) at Innovate Building Solutions at 877-668-5888. We’ll not only help you design your fun glass block or glass flooring feature – but we’ll ship the system to you or your contractor.
If you’re in Michigan and want some design assistance contact Jane Hughes at 734-662-9458 or for building or remodeling Derrick Dixon at 248-278-6155.
Tags: bathroom remodeling Brighton Michigan, condo design, condo design ideas, condo remodeling, curved glass, curved glass wall, empty nester home, futureproof a condo, futureproofing, glass block shower, glass block wall, serpentine glass block walls, serpentine glass wall, serpentine wall, Villeroy and Boch
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