As we move through life, we need different things from our houses. Different ages and stages bring different expectations, needs and wants. College campuses have dorm rooms because all a young college student needs is a place to study and to sleep. That obviously changes as we get older.

Once a person decides to put down roots, his or her first home is commonly not what the person expects to end with. That is why it is called a “starter home.” As time passes, a person and their family’s wants and needs continue to evolve as they become more established.

By reconfiguring the space and adding a family room and deck off the kitchen, the space is now big enough to allow for large family gatherings comfortably.

Marriage and children change the needs and expectations of our homes as well. Nurseries, play rooms and enough bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate the children drive our housing needs. A different dynamic is created as those little ones become teenagers needing their own rooms and areas to study and hangout. Then, in what seems a blink of the eye, those children grow up and leave the family home. With that comes another transition yet again requiring different things from a house.

A few years ago, we had a client that many people in Utah can relate to. The Vernons had reached the stage commonly known as “empty nesters.” They had lived in their Kaysville home for 20 years. They reared their four children there, two of whom stayed in Utah with their families. Every Sunday, the children and their families came home for dinner.

“Basically, we didn’t have a place for everyone to gather,” said Brenda Vernon. “Everyone tended to congregate in the kitchen, even though it was really small. … We didn’t need the big bedrooms anymore. What we needed was a bigger kitchen and a place for everyone to gather.”

The Vernons considered moving, but they couldn’t find what they wanted in the market. “We just couldn’t agree on a different house,” she said. “We love our neighbors and our yard.” (They have a half-acre lot with many mature trees.) Her husband wanted a shop as well, which their current lot could easily accommodate. “Remodeling just was a better option for us.”

The design solution was to reconfigure the existing space to create a more functional kitchen. In the former kitchen, a peninsula trapped people inside the kitchen; the peninsula was replaced with an island that allowed better circulation and opened the kitchen up to the dining area. In addition, the home was expanded to the rear to add a family room that provided more space for gathering groups together. An existing cement patio was transformed into a beautiful deck off the family room. The addition isn’t huge (it is approximately 18 feet by 18 feet with the deck about the same size), but it made a huge difference for family gatherings.

“We still congregate in the kitchen, but now there is space in there,” Vernon said. “There is more space for people to spread out, but we are still close.”

“The great room off the kitchen connects to the deck, so we use that area a lot. When it is good weather, we use the deck as more living space,” she added.

The new family room also has vaulted ceilings.

“We love the vaulted ceilings,” she said. “That was something our architect came up with.”

In the remodel, they updated the rest of the house with new paint, carpet and tile. Now, their home is just what they need and want for this stage of their lives.

“If I could give any advice to someone looking to remodel, it would be do it sooner rather than later,” she said.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at Send comments or questions to

Empty nesters find family togetherness in new remodel