The Big Shrink

Project Location

Raleigh, NC

Product

SL70

Case Study: The Big Shrink

The urge to downsize is not limited to empty nesters and retirees. It can hit anyone at any time. And sometimes it’s the family dog that helps you realize you have more space than you need.

This is how it was for Greg Kelly, a 50-year-old business appraiser in Raleigh, N.C., and his wife, Laura Herring, a 45-year-old pediatrician, who have two teenage sons, Troy and John. Earlier this year, they downsized from a house with more than 3,000 square feet to one that is half that size, cutting their property taxes in half and their aggravation even more.

Looking back on the unused space they once had, Mr. Kelly laughs. “It was a five-bedroom house, one bedroom used for a playroom, one for an office, with a separate dining room and a bathroom upstairs that literally we only used to wash the dog,” he says. “We had a dining room and a formal living room — that was where the dog lay on the couch, that was his room.”

So if the dog, a collie named Toby, was in the living room, where did the family hang out?

“The eat-in kitchen and the family room in the back of the house,” Mr. Kelly says. “If we looked at where we lived as a family, it was the back of the house. When I thought about it, I realized we never spent any time in the bedrooms, except to sleep. The boys did their homework in the kitchen. The house was a waste. My wife and I don’t pay to have houses cleaned, we’re just not wired that way, and it was killer to vacuum and clean a 3,200-square-foot house. It’s a breeze now. We were heating and cooling this huge house, it took a lot of physical and emotional energy to maintain it, and we were not living in that space.”

“They downsized from a house with more than 3,000 square feet to one that is half that size, cutting their property taxes in half and their aggravation even more.”

The couple began by figuring out how much space they actually used — about 1,300 square feet.

Then they started looking around. They wanted to stay in the same neighborhood, so Troy, who is now 17, and John, now 13, would not have to change schools. Last year, they found what they were looking for: a 1954 ranch house, just around the corner, that was 1,215 square feet, with three small bedrooms, a dining room that was partly open to the living room, a separate kitchen, a small screened-in porch and a classic peaked roof. The Kellys sold their old home for $675,000 and paid $245,000 for the new one.

The renovation cost a little more than $300,000. Working with Richard Hall Designs, a local firm, the Kellys kept the house’s original footprint and left the bedrooms where they were. But they knocked down the walls separating the kitchen and the dining and living rooms, and extended the roofline from the carport, creating a great room with ceilings that rise to 13 feet. And at one end of the house, they installed a wall of glass, with NanaWall glass doors that open onto a 15-by-45-foot deck.

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