Retirees Custom Build Bigger and Better Homes

Couples in Utah and Massachusetts choose to age in place in larger homes with accessible features and fine finishes.

Custom barrel ceiling in great room
August 28, 2015

Many couples downsize when they become empty nesters, but there are always exceptions to the rule. The Utah home profiled in this article is approximately 9,000 square feet and is equipped with everything that visiting children (whatever their ages) would love, including a sports court and a swimming pool with a 23-foot water slide. 

The Massachusetts home was a dream project for the clients, who want to spend their retirement pursuing passions such as theater and music. The finished space totals 7,900 square feet, but including unfinished space in the basement and over the garage, it’s approximately 10,000 square feet. 
Both homes are exquisitely detailed and feature an abundance of custom-made cabinetry and millwork. Consequently, they were long-term projects that each took 2½ years to complete. 

With its mix of natural stone and stucco, swooping roof lines, and the eyebrow window over the front door, the exterior suggests mountain retreat with a dash of European country estate. The man-made slate roof tiles weigh less than real slate, “which was important because we already had a heavy snow load for the roof,” says builder Brandon Quinton (Photos: Lucy Call).

Bountiful Blessings

Custom builders rarely hear a client say “Money is no object,” but in this case, it was true. Money was not the driving factor for this project in Bountiful City, Utah.
The home started out as a residence for a businessman who was relocating from Chicago. Salt Lake City-based Cameo Homes had previously built a home in Park City for the client’s anticipated retirement, which ended when he started up a consulting business. 
“He wanted to be closer to the Salt Lake City airport and his daughter and son, who live a bit north of Bountiful,” explains Cameo’s Brandon Quinton. 

Finish Carpenters Outdo Themselves

Barrel ceiling
The great room of this home in Bountiful City, Utah, has a 26-foot barrel ceiling that is made of alder wood from the base to the beams and crown moldings. Hundreds of hours went into getting the lighting lined up correctly with the fireplace and bookcases, says Brandon Quinton of Cameo Homes in Salt Lake City. 
“We were more or less trying to build it off a conceptual drawing,” says Quinton. “Honestly, most of the guys had never done anything quite this extensive. It’s what they would typically do on a flat ceiling with all the boxes and crown. Costs went through the roof.” 
The great room has tall fixed windows that capture views of the mountains and the Great Salt Lake, and a fireplace that was hand-carved from limestone. The fireplace weighs 10,000 pounds. It cost approximately $60,000 and was installed piece by piece. 
The amount of finish carpentry in the home is “unreal,” Quinton says — enough for 10 large homes. It took six weeks to do the finish carpentry in the great room alone. 
The client’s first wife had passed away. He remarried when framing was about two-thirds complete on the Bountiful City house. His new wife had been living in a Connecticut home “where everything was super-sized,” Quinton says, and she immediately started making modifications. 
“[The project] grew to meet the clients’ wishes and desires,” says architect Craig Siggard of Empirical Design Studio, in West Jordan, Utah. “That made it a little bigger than when we originally started. But it got better with every change that was made.” For example, radiant heat was installed after the framing was complete on the underside of the subfloor on the main level.
Siggard worked with the clients and their interior designer on several iterations of the home, which tops out at just over 9,000 square feet. The architect, who hand-drew the plans, says that the biggest issue was the grade of the lot. 
“It was steep, which required a lot of rock retaining walls,” he says. “Bountiful City allows a maximum 3-foot 10-inch boulder height for each section of retaining wall, plus a maximum 8-foot cut. The [clients] wanted a sports court and a swimming pool, which require flat pads, so it was very interesting.”
“As the home got bigger and was pushed back on the lot to capture views, we were no longer able to [connect to the existing sewer line] in front of the home,” Quinton says. “We had to go out the back of the lot to the street below, cut into all of the utilities, and run a new sewer line, which was quite the ordeal.”
The husband wanted a completely different style from his home in Park City, Quinton says. “He didn’t want mountain living anymore. The design of this home is influenced by European architecture.” The European influence is most apparent on the main level, where the master suite, library, great room, kitchen, dining room, and guest bedroom suite are located. 
Great Room of Utah Home

The dining room has views of the foothills through sliding glass doors on one side, and an ornate balcony railing on the other that overlooks the stairs to the lower level. 

In addition to the main-floor laundry room, there is a laundry room adjacent to the pool bath on the walkout lower level, which was primarily designed for the clients’ children and grandchildren. The lower level also features three bedrooms, 4½ baths including the pool bath, an exercise room, a family room with a fireplace, a game area, a wet bar, and a home theater that was built underneath the two-car portion of the garage. 
A covered patio from the walkout level provides access to the pool and sports court. There’s also a hot tub and an outdoor kitchen.
In projects such as this one, where the spouses have different tastes, it can be a challenge for designers to make them both happy. “But in the end,” Quinton says, “I think we did a great job.” 

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Take a video walkthrough of this home at 

New England style custom home

The New England shingle-style home has cedar shingles and a natural stone veneer, and was angled for optimum fit on the cul-de-sac lot (Exterior photo: Geraldine Kehow/Innitou).

New England Roots

A retired couple decided to get back to their roots in Massachusetts after living and working in Texas for 21 years. They searched the Internet for Boston-area residential architects and found The MZO Group, which is based in Stoneham, Mass., and also has offices 
in Houston. 
“We clicked right away, and they left it to me to find them a piece of property in the western suburbs of Boston,” says John Cronin, MZO’s vice president. 
The clients wanted to live in a close-in suburb with plenty of amenities and easy access to Boston by automobile or public transportation. With the help of a local Realtor, Cronin located a lot on a relatively new street in Needham with just six homes. 
Foyer from the fformal living room
A two-story foyer leads to the formal living room, which underscores the couple’s passion for music and art. The wife plays the grand piano visible at right. Lighted niches display treasured art pieces  (Interior photos: Greg Premru Photography).
The New England shingle-style home is “quite a step up from the couple’s Texas home, which was 6,000 square feet,” Cronin says. An elevator services the first floor, second floor, and basement, giving the homeowners full access while aging in place. Doorways are 3 feet wide to allow wheelchair access if needed. The shower stall in the master bath is barrier-free and can be entered from two sides. Each door casing is lighted, so the clients can follow a path through the house at night without having to locate and turn on a light switch.
The 5.3-acre site backs up to a Charles River inlet. It’s narrow toward the front and flares out toward the back, and is heavily wooded with a seasonal pond in the middle. Wetlands constraints dictated that the home be placed close to the front setback line and angled to fit the shape of the cul-de-sac lot. The sloping lot also allowed for a walk-out basement. The rear of the home is oriented to the south to draw in as much natural light as possible. 
The basement wine cellar holds 2,000 bottles. When a new bottle is added, the client affixes a bar code and logs it into a computerized inverntory system.
Fallon Custom Homes, in Needham, designed and fabricated the cabinetry, casing, baseboards, crown moldings, doors, fireplace mantels, and other pieces in its millwork shop. “We did whole-wall mockups of various rooms in my warehouse so [the client could] see the trim and how it was going to relate to everything else around it,” builder Peter Fallon says. 
The clients live, for the most part, on the main floor where the living room, kitchen, dining room, family room, library, offices (one for each spouse), and the master suite are located. The master suite offers the ultimate in comfort and convenience with his-and-hers dressing rooms, vanity areas, and commodes. 
An angled, four-car garage forms a wing on the right side of the home. The husband, explains Cronin, is an avid Porsche collector who is part owner of a race car in Alabama. 
Pocket doors from foyer leading to formal dining room
Pocket doors with pebbled glass lead from the foyer to the formal dining room.
On the second floor, a bedroom suite with a morning kitchen is adjacent to an exercise room, and there are two more bedroom suites across the bridge overlooking the living room and foyer below. The suites are guest quarters for out-of-town family and friends, including the couple’s children, who live in Colorado and California. 
The space over the garage was designed as a future 864-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment. Fallon says that at some point, the clients anticipate having full-time, live-in help move into the apartment. 
Aside from a 2,000-bottle wine cellar—another one of the husband’s passions—the basement is unfinished. Outdoor living space is comparatively modest: a built-in gas grill on a side patio off the kitchen and breakfast nook, and a deck that has direct access from the master bedroom and the family room. 
Although large, the home is energy efficient, with a state-of-the-art HVAC system and LED lighting, all of which can be remotely controlled using an iPhone or iPad. 
Fallon kept a construction trailer on site, which Cronin says is unusual for a single-family home project, and the crew was there every day. 
“True teamwork made this an enjoyable experience for all involved, especially the homeowners who, except for occasional visits, remained in Texas while the home was under construction,” he says. “The synergy of the team remains after completion; all of us have become friends.” 


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