Lifelong design: happy at home forever

Photo by Kathryn Severns Avery

I despise the term “aging in place.” To me, it conjures up an image of a person stuck to a floor in their home, turning gray like some sort of moldy, old, cheese. Instead, I use the term “lifelong design” which incorporates both lifestyle and decorating elements.

When renovating our 1891 sea captain’s home in Rockland, I did not intentionally incorporate lifelong design elements. Nevertheless, as a result of the changes we made, our home now has them.

The room shown above is what we refer to as “The Puffin Lounge” in our home. Originally, the room would have been a men’s smoking lounge or drawing room just off the parlor. In one corner of the room, the previous owner of our house had installed a wood burning stove that was illegally vented into the chimney used for furnace exhaust. A great hulking brick hearth for the stove and a built-in storage box for wood remained which had to be demolished and removed.

As you can see in the picture below, when we purchased the house there was an odd, half wall in the dining room. The opening provided a sight line into the room, but little in the way of aesthetics. I wanted a more open concept plan for the two rooms, but how to go about it? It was my niece, Suzanne, visiting during the demolition phase of the renovation who came up with the solution. She suggested placing a wide opening in the middle of the wall, flanked by two half walls to provide easy access to the space.

Photo by Kathryn Severns Avery

The renovated room has no threshold and the opening is more than wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair or walker if needed. Original pocket doors lead to the living room at the front of the house. That opening is also very wide and has no threshold, making access easy. If necessary, the living room could easily be converted into a main floor master as we age.

Creating a warm, welcoming feeling in the room was essential considering the amount of time we will spend there in the years to come. A small area rug anchored by a lobster trap coffee table keeps most of the wood floor in the room exposed. This does several things. The wood floors are easily cleaned. Mobility devices have plenty of space to maneuver. The small rug size minimizes the trip hazard a larger rug could present.

I chose a light, but warm, color for the walls and used sheers (not shown) on the windows to capture as much of Maine’s beautiful sunlight as possible. Flow, a sense of connection between the “Puffin Lounge” and the dining room, is achieved by shared wall color, identical style rugs in different sizes, and decorative accents in the same color palette.

Our home is a short term rental in the summer and guests have raved about how we have kept the original Victorian style of the home while incorporating open concept elements. What a happy coincidence the house is now suited in many ways for us to spend the rest of our lives in it.

Kathryn Avery

About Kathryn Avery

When Kathryn Severns Avery’s husband, Chris, began contemplating retirement in 2014, she knew they had to quickly come up with a multi-faceted plan. They spent the next year discussing, sometimes heatedly, what they would do once he stopped working. On paper their plan looked exciting. They would head from Colorado to the 1891 sea captain’s house they bought and renovated in Rockland on Maine’s midcoast. But the reality of planning and implementing retirement was much different than expected. Kathryn has worked in radio, television, marketing, and public relations. She is the author of five books and has written articles on interior design and crafts for national and regional publications including Romantic Homes, Log Homes Illustrated, The Rocky Mountain News and Colorado Homes and Lifestyles.