Any thoughts on Downsizing?

Pull the trigger on Downsizing!

Your present home may be too big for your needs of today. The kids and grand kids, which came regularly in the first few years to the mountains, have their own lives to live and one or two or even more bedrooms are empty most of the time.

a downsized home with all the conveniences

a downsized home with all the conveniences

 Why heating and air conditioning rooms for the well being of spiders?

 Downsize and upscale! A contradiction?  A patio home is the answer. You deserve it!

 The first step in this direction is to find a suitable property. There are plenty of (almost) level lots around. Why? Unlike sloped lots, most of the level lots do not have a long range view and, therefore, are very inexpensive. You may also be lucky to find a smaller home; but beware: Is it age friendly?

 To build a house for the next decade and more, which is just right for you, can hardly be found in the familiar home plan books. That may, however, be a good start. A professional building designer can take your ideas and go from here. Folks in advanced years need about 1500 sqft to live in, they need a decent size master bedroom, and an additional bedroom, which can also be used as a hobby room, a study or a multimedia room. Condominiums come to mind, but these layouts are mostly designed for vacationers, not for permanent living.

 The custom patio home for people in their later years should have, among many other useful features, no stairs in the home and if possible, no stairs to the main entrance. The one car garage should be level with the main floor and all doors in the home must be 3 ft wide for easier access, should the need for a wheel chair, even temporary, ever be necessary. The bathrooms have to have ample room according to ADA standards. We do not even want to think about disability, but these are standards that make your future home a special value if you ever have to sell it.

 Upscale to your favorite amenities in your cozy nest for two! How about an oversized whirlpool with an ozone pump? A dry sauna? A walk-in shower? Have user friendly windows and doors with handles rather than door knobs for these sometimes arthritic prone hands. Large closets for storage are a huge plus for every house. Have your professional building designer create a floor plan that works best just for you with the most efficient traffic flow. Short walking distances for all repetitive activities are a must. Separate bathrooms can be a consideration, with bidet of course.

 If you do have a sloped lot, then the not so big house may have a small partial basement, which comes handy for all utilities like the air conditioning unit and the water heater, which otherwise would take up valuable space on the main floor. Last not least think of energy efficiency. The outside walls should have 2 x 6 studs for better insulation. As energy costs are sure to rise in the coming years, houses with 2 x 4 outside walls will soon be obsolete.

 Venture into a new home which fits you like a glove for the next decade and more. Kids and grandkids? Welcome them at any time and have them stay over night in a condo. Somebody else can clean up after them while you enjoy your day.

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Kitchen Work Triangle

Is the Work Triangle in Your Kitchen Outdated?

The work triangle

The work triangle

If you ever thought of renovating or redesigning your kitchen, I am sure you heard of the “Work triangle”.

What is it really? According to the Universal Design Principles, it should adhere to the following:

  • No leg of the triangle should be less than 4 feet or more than 9 feet.
  • The sum of all three sides of the triangle should be between 13 feet and 26 feet.
  • Cabinets or other obstacles should not intersect any leg of the triangle by more than 12 inches
  • There should be no major traffic flow through the triangle.
  • A tall cabinet should not come between any two points of the triangle.

Check these parameters and see how it applies to your own kitchen today. Kitchen designers in the United States used this kitchen triangle for the last 60 to 70 years. You may remember the days of affordable housing, when only one person cooked, cleaned, ironed and served the family meals. This many years ago, the kitchen was considered a working area only. At this time we could not afford larger kitchens as we can now.

Today, the kitchen has a multitude of additional functions. It is not only the place to prepare meals, it very often doubles as an eating place and a gathering place as well. With both spouses working a job outside the house, the kitchen very often has more than one cook to prepare and serve meals. This means the 42 inches normally required for working between cabinets has to be larger to accommodate two persons multitasking in the kitchen. This is possible by modern technology, which has invaded the kitchen environment.

That is why our beloved work triangle in the kitchen comes into question nowadays. It still can work as a basis of design to reduce unnecessary steps, but other factors, not available and not even thought of in the 1940s have, to be considered:

An island has come into focus several years ago, which can be incorporated, if space allows and if it does not interfere with the flow of traffic, considering the triangle.

A raised area along the back of the kitchen cabinets is the way to go nowadays, to get a quick bite to eat before rushing out to work or to play.

Today we can buy semi prepared or fully prepared food in the grocery store, which was not possible 60 years ago. Because of this fact we can come up with different areas in the kitchen: one zone is to prepare the food for cooking and another to prepare and wash raw food and vegetables. We may incorporate an addional refrigerator into the island and part of the island could have a drawer unit, which could be stocked with items for socializing purposes.

Contrary to the past, an open kitchen design is the norm today. The gathering place, where family and guests just “hang around”, is simply the area where the food is in reach. The modern person in the kitchen wants to be participating and interact with the folks around him or her. The idea of the cook being isolated in the kitchen is long history. An intermediate solution in the past few decades was an opening in the kitchen wall, where food could be handed through to the dining area. Both the opening in the kitchen wall and the formal dining room are a thing of the past as well. An open environment, from where the folks in the kitchen area can overlook and interact with the folks in the dining area, which can also be multi functional, is the way to go nowadays.

Are you ready for a remodeling project?

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His and Her Bathroom – The Best of Both Worlds

Wolfgang Richter professional residential home designer

Wolfgang Richter
professional residential home designer

A bathroom is a very personal thing. It is, most importantly, very, very private. To increase the value of any house, the money you spend on a bathroom remodel is almost always worth it, for the present enjoyment and for the later resale of your home.

The most prevalent bathroom trend is simple enough—bigger and better. Bathroom remodels remain one of the most common home improvement projects, and there’s no end in sight. These remodels can include knocking out walls to create more space. New home construction is continually upping the ante for bathroom size. Similarly, bathroom design is about maximizing the use of that space. If your bathroom hasn’t been updated in a while, you may be surprised to find there’s a whole new array of choices. Today’s bathrooms are no longer utilitarian, but a showroom of their own.

Depending upon the user of the bathroom, there are different choices and layouts. You may opt for a full bathroom of minimum size, or a bathroom, which is compartmentalized, to double the usability by adding a privacy wall. For guest rooms, a shared bathroom is a common solution and for couples, a bathroom with separate areas comes to mind.

His and Hers private bath room


How sweet it is!

The ultimate bathroom layout is to have separate His and Her bathrooms off the master bedroom. It serves the very private needs of both spouses and at the same time, the whirl pool with common access provides delight at the right time. The layouts show some of many solutions, but a lot of variations are possible and countless different interior designs can have a multitude of special effects for the personal taste of the user of his and her “sanctum sanctorium”. Glass walls, tiles of unbelievable diversity, sizes and price ranges, showers with “tower showers” and music are just a few examples. Whirlpools in bay windows can be a focal point and decorated with tiles to have a special personalized effect. The bay window can be a picture window with a view to wonderful mountains to soothe your senses after a hectic day.

Double Showers and Horizontal Spas

Various luxury shower installations are as various as they are popular. Everybody has their own preferences and needs, but everybody wants to have a quality shower experience every time. Double shower heads can maximize space and give you a total shower experience that won’t leave half your body still freezing when you enter the shower. Two-person showers and separate shower and tub installations are also becoming increasingly popular for large bathrooms.

Whirlpools provide the ultimate therapeutic massage, but the vertical spa is a way of achieving close to a full-body massage in your shower stall. Water jets are aligned vertically along your shower wall. High-end vertical spas will come with a number of adjustable settings and can be customized to any set of specifications.


The ultimate
Spa Experience

Your Private Spa – Is a Home Addition in your Future?

As mentioned above, the trend is bigger and better. This may necessitate putting a small addition on your existing home. This is all precious real estate you are adding to your home. Enjoy it now, the higher value of your home, whenever you decide to sell it, is guarantied.

Click here for further ideas and information:

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Is a Vacation Home fit for Retirement Living?

This home was designed according to the Richter Design Scale for easy living in your golden years.

This home was designed according to the Richter Design Scale for easy living in your golden years.

Whether a vacation home is also good for retirement living is a concern for many people. The question is not that easy to answer. Every house is built for a special purpose and so is a vacation home. It is basically built for short-term living or possibly for a rental purpose, to get some better return of investment. A good location to entertain kids was also a consideration at the time. The amenities should be close. Since it is in most cases a summer home, the insultation is of secondary importance. It probably has only 2 x 4 exterior walls, which is not good enough for year-round living.

The owners are probably in top physical condition and don’t even think about the need for possible physical limitations, such as climbing stairs. Vacation homes are simply not built for later years in mind.

To remodel a vacation home and convert it to a suitable retirement home is sometimes impossible. I personally run into these situations quite often. Renovating or remodeling is in many cases likely but painful. It ends up never being the ideal retirement home.

People in their mid-40s or early 50s think of investing money and a vacation place comes in mind. Of course this is not the subject of this article. In my many attempts to come up with the ideal retirement home, I developed the “Richter Scale for Convenient and Suitable Living in your Golden Years”.

There are certain aspects of a retirement home, which also takes in consideration future or even temporary physical limitations. We never want to think of permanent limitations, we even deny thinking that this will ever happen to us. We hope it never will. However, temporary limitations may occur, you may break an ankle and you will be confined to a wheel chair for a few weeks or have to have other walking inconveniences.

An ideal retirement home should have all the essentials for the Activities of Daily Living (ADL) on the main floor: we are talking about kitchen with a large pantry, dining area, one bedroom, a large convenient bath room, one additional room for individual activities (the “away room”), living room, laundry, powder room and possibly a deck or porch for outdoor enjoyment. A garage on the main level with a short entry to the kitchen to unload groceries is also of utmost importance.

It is essential for a retirement home to have a separate floor for visitors. On a flat lot this is normally the second level floor. However, in our hilly area we build houses “upside down” and the second level is usually the daylight basement or “lower level”.

All the above is fairly easy to accomplish in the flat land. However, here in our mountains, this presents a challenge. Many homes have been designed and built in our resort with many of the features mentioned, which make life easy and convenient for later years.

There are many other features listed on the “Richter Scale for Convenient Living”. In fact, this list contains about 80 features. However, it is very important not to overdo things. Your retirement home should resemble a vibrant living environment and not even remotely remind anyone of an old folk’s home.

To re-purpose your vacation home for permanent living can also be accomplished by adding a wing on the main level, if the setbacks allow. Check here for more information:

The floor plan of the home shown above is available. Send me an email:, ask for plan EZ 151.

Frank Lloyd Wright: “Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities.”

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Do You Buy a Car by the Pound ? (Part 2)

To buy or compare one home to another by the square foot method is misleading to all concerned. This worked well in the olden days, when Lincoln style cabins or shotgun houses was the way to build houses. We still, grudgingly, apply this method, because there does not seem a better way.

The better approach: The design method

Residential retirement home designed by Wolfgang

Residential retirement home designed by Wolfgang

 To give you a better and much narrower range of the cost of your future home, have a designer put all your ideas on paper. This includes several steps, where the home of your dreams and its features are documented in floor plans, elevations, colored 3D pictures inside and outside, ceiling heights, personalized kitchen layouts, external features and many others. And, as always, keep later years in mind and avoid steps you have to climb as a daily necessity. There will be many questions early in this process, but they will come sooner or later anyway. When they come sooner, changes have to be made on paper, which is much cheaper than the changes in the field, when walls, windows or fixtures have to be moved. A residential designer can save you lots of money in cost over-runs after the house building process is complete. Cost over-runs can be avoided by proper planning and a complete 3d home design package, which you can give to the prospective builder for bidding. Only this approach is fair to both parties, the owner and the builder of your future home. In fact, what you pay the design professional is what you save manifold during the construction process.

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Do You Buy a Car by the Pound? (Part1)

When people start to think about building a home, they immediately begin to calculate how much a particular home would cost. Unfortunately, there is a time-honored industry yardstick, called the “square foot method”. This determines, it is believed, the cost of a home. When you have a square-foot cost, it enables you to make a quick comparison not only between different-sized homes, but between builders, who quote you a price for your future home. Right? Wrong!

Comparing a cost of a home on the basis of the square foot area should be avoided. You do not purchase cars by the pound and you should not buy homes by the square foot. What square foot area do we consider? There is heated square footage, there are square footages for decks, garages, unfinished basements, all have different cost involved. If all the homes and builders would be alike, the theory would work. But all homes and builders are not the same, and considering the cost of a house based on the square footage does you and them both a disservice.

Retirement Home

Home built to universal design principals

There are several reasons why the cost analysis by the square foot is inappropriate:

Home styles vary. The square foot method is not helpful in comparing different styles – a contemporary to a Continue reading

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