Tasteful touches add cachet to small homes

November 19, 2005|By CHRISTINE BRUN

Count on baby boomers to continue shaping trends in residential design as they age and evolve into their next phase of living without children or jobs. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the fastest-growing part of the housing market is the 50-plus segment of buyers. This group includes nearly 76 million people who were born between 1946 and 1964 - empty-nesters, pre-retirees, and other types of older buyers.

A huge range of lifestyle differences characterizes this large and trendsetting group. Designers of new homes are responding with flexibility and lots of extra options. It's a time for experimenting with fun premium features and trying lifestyle accessories on for size.

Typically this group is looking for amenities like walking and jogging trails, open space, lakes and pools. They want the good life and all that is associated with a time of moving from a hectic pace into one that is directed by personal choices.


Older couples often sell the houses where they raised their families and begin a process of buying a series of smaller and more glamorous homes. They want less space, but they still expect all the conveniences of larger places. That's where specially made products can fill the bill.

One possibility is to create a "cave" for enjoying wine and cigars. It may have to be in the same extra bedroom that serves as a home office, but a perfectly chilled glass of wine can be at their fingertips.

A 24-inch-wide wine cellar will accept the new Humidrawer made by Marvel. This product holds up to 200 cigars in a compartment made of aromatic Spanish cedar. The drawer fits into the top of a 50- or 100-bottle wine chiller. All of this could be built into a desk unit or a serving piece, as shown in the photo here.

For someone even more space-challenged, Cuisinart offers the Private Reserve portable cellar. This stainless-steel 16-inch cube can easily sit right on a secondary bathroom countertop or on a bookshelf and is capable of chilling 11 bottles of wine. In these settings, it is not the size that counts. Rather, the important thing is that a long-postponed set of conveniences or luxuries can be supplied in a way that works in small space.

A feature such as a fully organized closet can deliver a sense of convenience and sophistication to the owner of a smaller house. Perhaps a built-in ironing board has been the long-standing wish. Or it might be something as simple as a pullout clothes hamper in the bathroom that makes life more convenient.

Often older home buyers are in a position to afford things they've only dreamed about before. At last they can consider the many options available when it comes to choices such as interior finishes - higher-end materials such as granite, quarry stone, hardwood floors and extra wood millwork.

The small home that is totally decked out and finished in a lovely and complete way can be spectacular. A well-designed little place can feel so comfortable and snug that it is hard to leave. Often what is given up in square footage is recaptured by sheer charm.

This is also the time to bring out all of those treasures that have been put away so they wouldn't get broken or dirty. I recently encouraged a client to bring out her inherited silk pieces and hang them up instead of worrying over fading issues. As the saying goes, "It's time to use the good china." In other words, it's time to create a well-appointed home, however small, and start to really enjoy life.

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at or to Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112.

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