Form, ultimately, does follow function. So when Hanley Wood, the company that publishes UPSCALE REMODELING, commissioned “The Next American Home” study surveying baby boomers between the ages of 50 and 60 with annual incomes of approximately $100,000, it was inevitable that the survey would show that boomer attitudes and interests have an impact on the design of their homes. The study findings were presented at a recent conference by Ed Binkley, of BSB Design, Orlando, Fla., who focused on results related to new construction, and Dennis Wedlick, of Dennis Wedlick Architect, New York, who addressed remodeled spaces. Both agree that the boomer mindset revealed in the survey is in line with their own professional experience working with boomers.
“AGELESS” MINDSET “It seems that 75 is the new 50,” says Binkley, who makes the point that baby boomers see themselves as a vibrant, energetic, cultured generation, still influenced by the independent thinking that marked the anti-establishment “Flower Power” phase of their adolescence and early adulthood in the 1960s. “They are not afraid of new challenges,” he says.
Wedlick adds, “Though many of the baby boomers have not yet reached retirement age, they are excited to retire. For them, retirement isn't an ending, but the beginning of a new phase. They want to do something fun and different after they retire.”
This attitude vastly differs from the mindset of past generations, which approached retirement as a relaxing retreat from the world at large. “Previous generations,” Wedlick explains, “were more practical, conservative, and traditional in their views, particularly when it came to their homes. They were concerned about home resale value, for example.
Baby boomers are more interested in customizing their homes,” he says. “They speak about the home they live in when they retire as being their last home. The home is not a stepping stone — this is ‘it' for them. “And they want features that will see them smoothly through this phase of their lives, allowing them — as they age — to live as long as they can in their homes, even in second homes,” Wedlick says. “They request not to have to climb stairs, for example.”
“In homes they have built,” Binkley adds, “they want one-floor living. They frequently entertain, and want open, flexible spaces. They don't want smaller rooms that they won't use.”
“They are not shy about demanding larger spaces in their remodels,” Wedlick concurs, “but they don't want a house that includes wasted space. They don't want dining rooms, for example, that they won't use, or extra guest rooms or hallways. They would want the dining room space added onto another room that they would use. They don't need a traditional home layout. Remodels for them often reconfigure an old layout.
“Fond of entertaining, they like to have generous kitchens and hold large dinner parties,” Wedlick says. Versatility, as well as space, is an issue. “Boomers want kitchens that can accommodate parties, as well as function for two,” Binkley adds. “In fact, the kitchen, master bedroom, and bath, and the outdoor living areas are the focus of the boomer home. In a new house, this group wants a walk-in shower, a bath with a retreat area, and several outdoor areas, including one off the kitchen that is large enough to be a functional entertaining space with a fireplace, grill, and entertainment systems.”
RESORT-LIKE LIVING “In the remodels, the master bedroom suite tends to have more of a resort-like feel,” Wedlick says. “Boomers have stayed in some of the best hotels, and they want to enjoy aspects of that everyday pampering in their homes.