Place residence

Her mother inspires an award-winning renovation for aging in place

Bernice Baron has a multi-award winning home waiting for her. She’s not ready to move in yet.

The 94-year-old is still clinging to the home she’s lived in for 60 years, but will eventually migrate to the ‘basement bungalow’ that her son Gordon Baron, founder and chairman of Ways of life of the barons custom home improvement company built for her in her own home.

“A lot of our clients are seniors, so we’re doing a lot of renovations that will allow them to avoid institutional life. It takes creative thinking and the right features that offer the same safety precautions as a long-term care home. It was an opportunity to do it for my own mother,” Gordon said.

The renovation was awarded the Most Unique Space Customization award, recognizing the most creative and innovative adaptation of existing space to suit homeowners’ lifestyle and requirements, during the BILD Renovation and Custom Home Awards this year. It also won awards for Best Basement Renovation Over $125,000 and Best Innovative Renovation.

The dramatic results serve as the perfect sanctuary for a senior to age in place.

The pantry shelves are accessible and lighted, and a freezer drawer is hidden behind the cabinet doors downstairs.

Gordon and his team dug the 1,300 square feet. basement of his Georgetown home to transform it from a drab, dark space into a bright, two-bedroom home with seven-foot windows, 10-foot ceilings, radiant heating throughout, and a barrier-free entrance to the back and front of the house. Then he tricked him with just about every aging-in-place innovation imaginable.

When Bernice moves in, her trip hazard in the bathroom will be minimal thanks to functional design details that include LED floor lighting along the perimeter of the room. All he has to do is touch the work surface to turn on or dim the lighting. And if it touches the cabinet above the toilet, it will also trigger light there.

The chromotherapy tub, complete with body jets and spray arms, doubles as a bench for her to sit on while she showers, and the reinforced stone on the wall is designed to double as grab bars to enter and exit. She can also use the shelves in the tub area as a seat. The ground is encrusted with soft pebbles that do not become slippery when wet. A frosted window above the door allows natural light to flood into the bathroom and adjacent laundry room.

Floor-to-ceiling windows let natural light into the suite. "The whole purpose of the space was to make everyone forget that it is, technically, a basement and to provide a safe, barrier-free home for my mother," said Gordon Baron with his mother Bernice.

“We looked at all the ways to make the bathroom safe without feeling institutional,” Gordon said.

Even cleaning is easy. Gordon built the central vacuum into the frame of the house. Rather than dragging the pipe, Bernice can remove it from the wall. It rolls up automatically at the push of a button.

“It’s something that has to be done when you clear out a place. It’s not possible to do that in retrofit,” Gordon said.

Kitchen utensils are close at hand in a pull-out organizer.

He had his mother’s interests in mind when he designed the kitchen, including a pantry with 11-inch-deep floor-to-ceiling shelves that make it easy to see Bernice’s inventory.

“My mom is a Costco fanatic but it’s miserable to find things in a small closet. We took a small space and designed it like a grocery store so she could easily access all the dry goods. Every shelf is illuminated.At the bottom we have added a hidden freezer drawer.

Built-in cabinets next to the kitchen showcase two wine fridges and store all the glassware and crockery typically found in a bulky china cabinet.

Baron demonstrates how the hidden lights come on by touching the wooden mantle above the fireplace.

The kitchen serves several functions as a place to cook, entertain and dine. Just like the bathroom, there is floor lighting along the floor. All cupboards and even the fridge and freezer can be opened with the touch of a finger – no need to grab the hardware. The devices have been strategically raised so that Bernice does not have to bend down.

“She has a steamer, deep fryer, microwave and full-size convection oven, all easily accessible. The gas Dacor The stove is connected to the exhaust system via Bluetooth, so when she uses it, the exhaust turns on immediately. When she turns off the burners, the exhaust automatically shuts off. It makes cooking foolproof,” Gordon said.

Behind the seamless marble backsplash is a custom LED light panel that can glow in a variety of colors. The glass shelves also feature light channels for a more diffuse lighting effect.

The bathroom lights turn on by touching the counter or cabinet above the toilet.  The tub doubles as a bench for seated showers, and the tub floor is inlaid with soft pebbles that don't get slippery when wet.

A smooth wooden column hides more pantry space while anchoring the peninsula, which is a workspace, seats six, and serves as a transition to the living room where a natural stone fireplace takes center stage . Bernice can turn on hidden lights by touching the coat.

Floor-to-ceiling windows that bring sunlight into the living and dining area are a marked improvement over the original turret windows in the basement.

“The whole purpose of the space was to make everyone forget that it is, technically, a basement and to provide a safe, barrier-free home for my mother. When she goes to bed, she can close all the blinds and turn off all the lights at the touch of a button.

A push of a button closes all shades and turns off bedroom lights.

As Bernice gradually moves into her new home, Gordon and his team use the space as a showcase to show clients what an aging home can look like on site.

“I wanted to create a space for my mom where she could maintain her dignity and independence while living with the safety of her family around her. I didn’t want her to live in a basement, so we have everything. made to feel like an upscale condo on the ground floor. I think we accomplished that,” Gordon said.


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