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Staying in Place – Aging in Place

•    We want to live in our home forever!
•    We never want to move again!
•    What can we do to stay in our home as we age?

We hear these comments and questions often at live-work-play.  We’ve seen and heard from multiple sources that the next housing crisis is, in fact, that aging American’s are not going to be able to remain in their homes.

Sometimes it can feel disconcerting to think about getting older.  Even so, be proactive when considering new construction or a home remodel.  When doing your home needs assessment, whether on your own or with your design professional, analyze your long-term use of your home and discuss changes to meet those needs.

In the industry, we use the term “Universal Design.” Universal Design principles incorporate the products and processes in the built environment so that all people can “live actively by design,” regardless of age or ability. Economics plays an important role, but there are many reasons to consider Universal Design for long-term planning.

The Principles of Universal Design are:
•    Equitable Use
•    Flexibility in Use
•    Simple and Intuitive Use
•    Perceptible Information
•    Tolerance for Error
•    Low Physical Effort
•    Size and Space for Approach and Use

In current studies, only one percent of U.S. housing units have all five of what are called “Universal Design” features: no-step entry; single-floor living; extra-wide doorways and halls; accessible electrical controls and switches and lever-style door and faucet handles. Just 57 percent of homes have more than one of them.

Some additional changes you can incorporate into your building or remodeling plans include: ramps and lifts; risers for beds, toilets; step stools; hand rails and grab bars.  Read more here about Economics in Universal Design.

The physical structure is not the only thing for you to consider for ‘aging in place” but you should also think about safety.

From a blog post at the Idaho State Journal, “According to AARP, aging homeowners largely prefer to “age in place,” or live in their home safely and independently, regardless of age or ability level. For some seniors this is entirely possible, but to keep residents safe, considerations should be made about a house and what’s in it.”   This article addresses safety issues from the bedroom, to the kitchen, to outside, and points out that safety measures should be a consideration for all homeowners, no matter what age. Read the full article here.

Talk to your design professional about your long-term goals. Whether you’re downsizing, re-creating living spaces or just planning for the future, at live-work-play we can help you assess your changing needs and lifestyle.

Call or e-mail live-work-play now to discuss your new design or remodeling project. 206.726.0077

Additional info and resources:

King County Aging

The Next Housing Crisis: Aging Americans’ Homes


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Navigating the Backyard Cottage (DADU)

You may have heard quite a bit lately about the need for more housing in the Seattle area and we are seeing a plethora of new hi-rises under construction on both sides of the lake. Many residents are thinking about adding housing units to their properties for a variety of reasons. We talked a bit about this new trend in our April 2013 blog post  “Live Small Strategies” and the many reasons a homeowner might make the decision to build a Backyard Cottage. With this on-going growth in our neighborhoods, we want to discuss additional questions you may have if you are considering a BYC or ADU, and help you navigate the process.

Before we start, here are some acronym definitions:  a backyard cottage is a separate structure also known as a “detached accessory dwelling unit” or DADU.  An “accessory dwelling unit” is a separate living unit within your home that is also called a “mother in law unit” or ADU.

Of course, the first issue to be discuss is who the new home is for? Whether it is for a current use, or flexibility for a different use down the road, the lifestyle of the intended resident(s) will help determine size, structure and design.

Who is the new home for?

–older family member (does it need to be accessible for aging in place?)
–younger family member?
–all of the above at some point or another?

You’ll have to determine some basic background info before you move forward.

Some basic background info to look at:
–is your property eligible (most are)
–how large a unit would work for you?
–typically an additional parking space is required, is there room?
–will you be converting an existing structure such as a garage or building a new one?
–would you like to add a separate living unit within your home, such as your basement?

Next, you’ll need to determine costs and how you’ll pay for your investment.

what are the costs?
–permit fees
–design fees
–construction cost
–will you borrow money or pay for the investment in a different way?

Live-work-play will help you answer these questions and design a solution while collaborating with you based on your needs, the above background information, and the individual property  in your neighborhood to keep it in scale with the existing houses.  We’ll help you pull it all together…then the fun begins!

Further reading–if you would like more generalized national information about DADUs, check here.  Plus, an article about DADUs in San Francisco.

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Up, Down, or Out?

Did you just buy a new home? Or have you lived in your current home for a while? Perhaps you’re experiencing some life changes and realize you need additional space or reconfiguration of your current space.  What should you do? Live-work-play suggests you go out, down or up!

The decision lies not only on your current building structure, but on your personal needs and vision. Do you need extra space for an office, or perhaps another bedroom and bath? Are you looking for more live-ability, accessibility or room for an aging parent? We’ll help you assess your space, create a solution and determine whether to go out, down or up.

Choosing ‘out’ means adding on to the footprint of your home. Out to the side, back or even the front. A choice could also be made to add a basement below the new addition. Keep in mind, your property will need to be large enough to accommodate the additional structure within the lot or land available. Going ‘out’ can sometimes be the most expedient addition, but you need to determine if it fits with your home and lifestyle.  See some “out” examples here, here and here.

If choosing ‘down,’ the first question you should answer is whether or not your basement is dry. We can drain water away with an internal or external drainage system if it is not dry, in addition to renovating the space. Next, ask yourself: Is there enough headroom?  A minimum of  6 feet 4 inches is a good rule of thumb in an older home, but higher is a lot more comfortable. Beyond these concerns, does it makes sense to excavate underneath the home and possibly change the foundation?  It might, if the foundation is sub-standard to begin with. Your house could also be lifted to create more headroom.

Choosing ‘up’ could mean a second level addition, added dormers, or a renovation of the attic under the current roofline, if there is enough head room. Do you have upward stairs that are already in place?  If not, we can carve out space to insert stairs into your home. Going ‘up’ is potentially the lightest and airiest  option, but also potentially more expensive than ‘out’ or ‘down.’  You can view some “up” examples here, here, and here.

Consider all three options – out, down and up – when thinking about expanding, adding on or remodeling. Ask us at live-work-play to help you analyze and review your space before you go too far down the road in visualizing your ideal home. Our creative, innovative ideas will start you on the path to realizing your dream.

Contact us for more information at or 206-726-0077.

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