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, the completed design does utilize 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 we had to demolish and remove.
As you can see in the picture below, there was an odd, half wall in the dining room that 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, who visited 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.
With no threshold, the opening is 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 exposed 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 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 there.