Text by Lori Lovely |
Photography by E.Anthony Valainis
The Hamilton County couple lived in their home
for 18 years before they started thinking about moving. A home
under construction caught the man's eye one day while he was commuting
to work, and as the weeks went past and the cedar-shingled house
took shape, he started to think about building a home with a similar
style. A quick phone call to the builder, W.G. Tait Inc., resulted
in a new construction project for the couple. But the project
turned out to be a remodel of their current home rather than new
The family's home, a 1920s farmhouse near Spring
Mill and Ditch roads, was the first home in the community, and
served as a weekend getaway for the architect who built it. The
house sits on a wooded hillside near Williams Creek, with spectacular
views. "We just love the property," says the homeowner.
"We have trees, deer, owls, birds. There's enough distance
from our neighbors that we don't even need draperies—so
we take full advantage of the views."
A builder and remodeler with years of experience
in the Indianapolis area, Tait says location is the most common
reason homeowners choose remodeling over relocating. "Many
of the older homes have bigger lots with more big trees,"
he says. "There's more topography, including trees, streams
In addition to the physical attributes of an
established home's property, Tait lists other reasons for staying
put: the soaring price of land; nearby amenities like schools,
churches and shopping; and a shorter commute. "A lot of our
clients are moving back from Carmel because they're tired of fighting
traffic to get there," he says. "They're starting to
realize there's a lot of good property in the city."
More and more homeowners across the country
are opting for remodeling rather than relocation: The National
Association for the Remodeling Industry reports that the remodeling
market is projected to grow to $224 billion or more in 2004 (from
$214 billion in 2003), and estimates that more than a million
homes per year undergo major renovation or remodeling.
Remodel projects can
give families some much-needed personal space while avoiding
the hassles of a move. The remodeled family room in this
home near Williams Creek provides room for comfortable conversation,
a game of pool and even a quick meal.
ASSESSING THE NEEDS AND MEETING CHALLENGES
Homeowners often start to consider remodeling when they read or
hear about new kinds of amenities in other homes that their home
lacks. "A common statement from homeowners is, 'I've been
here for X number of years, but I don't have a "blank"
room,'" says Tait. In the Hamilton County couple's case,
what was missing was a family room. Although three of the children
no longer live at home, the tight-knit family likes to spend time
together, but had no place big enough for everyone to gather.
The solution: add a family room.
The remodel's goal was to create a space large
enough for large gatherings of family and friends, yet versatile
enough to accommodate different types of activities. Tait faced
tricky interior-design challenges in creating the desired results,
as well as demanding exterior-design challenges to produce a consistent
"The key ingredient in any remodel is to
preserve and enhance the value and integrity of the home,"
Tait says. Industry appraisal experts advise that homeowners choose
their remodeling project carefully, in order to get the best return
on their investment. Most appraisers feel the addition of a bedroom
or family room ranks highest on the list of good investments,
even above adding a home office. Renovations that improve the
appearance of a house, as opposed to additions of luxury features,
bring a satisfactory return on investment. The addition of a family
room generally returns 84 to 115 percent of its investment in
the home's resale value.
To ensure the Pearsons' satisfaction with the
new family room, Tait designed the 1,210-square-foot room addition
to balance with the opposite end of the house and to match the
period details. "The new quadrant looks proportional,"
he says. The homeowner liked the new room's outward appearance.
"Bill did an excellent job making the architectural features
blend into the existing house," she says.
In addition to maintaining the exterior style
of the existing house, Tait matched the original exterior wood
and brick. "When doing a design like this, you know what
wood and trim details to use," says Tait. "They're from
the original house. The materials were already selected, we just
had to find them!" It's a time-intensive search to find brick
that matches a nearly one-hundred-year-old house, just as it's
labor-intensive to color grout to match the original, and to finish
new wood so it blends with the old, but the results are worth
the efforts. "The home has shingle siding that we didn't
want to over-finish, so we finished it somewhat and decided to
let nature takes its course in aging it," he continues. "You
have to be patient and think ahead about what it will look like
BLENDING NEW AND OLD
That same meticulous craftsmanship went into every detail of the
new room addition, including areas where matching was more of
a blend than an exact reproduction. Tait matched the profiles
of the home's original windows to maintain continuity, but designed
the addition with more and larger glass for an open, bright atmosphere.
He incorporated two window systems into the room (a box in the
front, and a bay in the rear) to capitalize on the magnificent
views. "We put windows on the north, south and west sides
of the addition," he says. "There's a lot of light in
"The challenge inside was to design a room
that's really three-in-one," Tait continues. "The family
wanted to incorporate a game room with a pool table and pinball
machine, a TV room with fireplace, and a food center with a bar.
It was tricky to differentiate areas for three separate activities,
and make it all look like one unified space."
The home's traffic pattern had a lot to do with the remodeling
plans. Tait created a circular path leading from the front door
and kitchen through French doors to the family room, and another
doorway from the family room to the powder room. "The circular
design provides ease of use," explains Tait.
The traffic pattern was crucial in defining
separate areas in the sizeable family room, without closing off
any portion of the room. The interior designer Tait recommended,
Forrest McGinnis, enhanced the room's functionality by incorporating
simple and inspired details, such as the angled television corner
that makes the screen visible from anywhere in the room. Because
the family's children are all relatively tall, part of the functionality
of the new room meant vertical as well as horizontal space. Twelve-foot
ceilings help open the room, but to preserve the feel from the
rest of the home, Tait installed tongue-in-groove beadboard (painted
white) to match the existing color scheme. Similarly, new hardwood
floors received a light stain for an aged appearance to better
match existing floors.
"We're not creating a contemporary look,"
Tait says of the room addition. "We were careful to carry
the detail and craftsmanship of the existing house into the new
areas so the family room looks like an extension of the house."
LIFE AFTER REMODEL
The family stayed in their home through the remodeling process.
"It was easy at first," one of the homeowners remembers,
"but they kept creeping further and further into where we
were living." Fortunately, because it was an addition rather
than an interior remodel, it didn't affect their life as much
as the previous three remodeling projects the home has been through.
At least this time they were able to cook.
"Remodeling is a painful process to live
through," agrees Tait, who notes that other projects in the
home were completed at the same time as the five-month family
room addition. Tait added a new covered front entry with railings
and pillars, and the office was redone with new built-in cabinets
that match the original paneling.
The family also added landscaping around the
new addition. "The area was really neglected before,"
says the homeowner. "It was a wooded area we didn't pay much
attention to. But the new room had so many windows, we got motivated.
We added a patio accessible from the family room and did a lot
of landscaping all around."
As soon as work finished, the family put the
new family room to good use. Fifty-five people shared Thanksgiving
dinner at the house, and the home has hosted bridal showers, graduation
parties, lacrosse parties and tailgate parties. "Things happen,"
the homeowner laughs. "It's nice that the kids are able to
invite friends over and we have room for everyone to be here."
Tait adds, "It's gratifying to hear the family report wonderful
SURVIVING A REMODEL
While admitting that every remodel is different, Tait believes
there are three constants to consider in every project. "First:
Expense. You either have the money or you don't," he says
frankly. "The most over-used statement in this business is
'Make it look like it's always been there.' It's the easiest thing
to say, but the hardest thing to do. And it's the most expensive
statement in the business!" Remodeling is often more expensive
per square foot than building a new home because of tie-in and
other structural considerations. And sometimes remodeling projects
reveal serious problems that need to be fixed.
The homeowners admit that the family modified
their budget upward as the project progressed. "We discovered
things as the work went on, such as, some of the gutters weren't
working. We decided, 'Now's the time to do it.'" The family
also painted the rest of the first floor once the work was completed.
"We painted and re-hung art," she says. "It was
invigorating, and gave the house a whole new feel. It was fun."
Tait cautions against spending too much money,
however. If the value of the home plus the remodeling cost exceeds
the average value of homes in the neighborhood, the homeowner
has to decide if personal satisfaction is enough to justify the
expense. Often the cost recouped in selling a remodeled home does
not equal the amount spent on the remodeling work. However, when
the house is sold, the equity is tax-free. Few other investments
can make the same claim.
"It's important for the contractor to know
the market value of the home and the neighborhood," Tait
explains. "Remodeling is a major investment; it enhances
and preserves the value of the home." Once again, Tait looks
to the future, suggesting that it's not wrong to "over-improve"
a house if you intend to stay, but adds that "you have to
manage your money and consider your quality of life as well as
the value of the property."
Quality of life and enjoyment of the space comprise
his third rule of thumb. The family thinks the remodel was well
worth the effort. "It's nice to have space when the space
is useable," says the homeowner. But she adds a few suggestions
that she's learned through experience.
"Think through every detail before you
commit, but be flexible as work progresses because inevitably,
some unexpected surprises will come up," she advises. "Especially
in older homes, when you don't know what kind of electrical or
plumbing designs you're going to uncover."
She also believes good communication with the
contractor is important, and says their relationship with Tait
is part of what made this remodel such a good experience. "Bill
made things very easy," she says. "We enjoyed working
with him. He was very considerate and responsive; he listened
to us and got a feel for our needs; and he was on site any time
there was a problem. He lives in the real world."
Other considerations when interviewing contractors include: