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The Perfect Place to Retire
By Tracy Dickinson | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
home :: home & garden :: featured remodels

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A well-designed remodel transformed this Waukee home.

When the golden years finally draw near, some people downsize and opt for a low-maintenance townhome or a no-maintenance retirement community. Some go so far as to trade in the family house for a home on wheels so they can follow the sunshine.

Jerel and Elaine Merical found the perfect place to retire—without going anywhere. “We’d been in our house since 1998,” Elaine explains. “And the walls just really needed repainting.”

“But we’re not getting any younger,” Jerel adds. “So we were talking about what we wanted for the long term, what we would need in a home.”

Elaine says Jerel started that discussion just because he didn’t want to repaint. But eventually the couple came to the same conclusion. “Our house wasn’t really accessible for things like wheelchairs. But we really like our neighborhood. We’re just blocks from our church, our doctors, our friends, and we didn’t want to relocate,” she says. “But that meant more than repainting obviously.”

Jerel adds, “At the very least, we knew we’d have to move the laundry upstairs from the basement. And that was a slippery slope once we started talking about that possibility. Then we started asking, ‘What about wheelchair access? What about a zero-entry shower? And what about a heated bathroom floor?’”

Once the Mericals realized they wanted to make their current home their retirement home, they began the search for the right remodeler. “Jerel’s a researcher,” Elaine laughs. “So we started watching other projects, going to home shows, seeing who the contractors were.”

The couple ultimately chose Kaufman Construction because of the work the company had done and the handyman service it offers, but they also valued the Kaufman approach to the entire project.

"We just can't say enough good things about the folks at Kaufman," says Elaine. "From what we saw in all our research, Kaufman offered distinctive differences. The handyman service, the interactive client website, and the details that other remodelers sometimes overlook—those things all made us feel secure in the choice we made."

“It was a developing plan over several months,” adds Jerel. “I think that was one of the strong points that I liked—we didn’t go right in and start tearing down walls. Kaufman would offer a plan, and we’d talk about it.”

The Mericals had several items on their remodel bucket list, and Kaufman’s design and construction experts were able to accomplish every one of them, even things that weren’t on their list to begin with but provided big benefits.

“I suppose that’s one of the problems if you’ve never done this sort of thing before,” Elaine says. “You don’t know what’s possible and what’s not. You don’t know what you’re asking. But I’m not kidding—Kaufman addressed each and every one of them.”

The Mericals really didn’t know what they were asking. They wanted to add a main-level laundry space. They wanted to open up the kitchen to bring in more light. They wanted the home to be wheelchair accessible. They also wanted a zero-entry shower. And they didn’t want to lose any storage space in the process.

“I know it sounds like a sales pitch, but I truly like challenges,” Kaufman Construction’s Devan Kaufman says. “That’s where we come up with our best designs. Maximizing the space was our biggest challenge, and we accomplished that. We didn’t add on, didn’t create any additional space. We just made better use of every inch we had.”

The Mericals moved into the lower level of their home while the Kaufman Construction crew went to work. Several months later, just days before Elaine underwent knee surgery, the couple moved into their “new” home.

“There were a lot of little things we knew we would want some day, and Kaufman incorporated them now. Things like grab bars in the bathroom and the whole ‘wet room’ concept,” Jerel says.

“That concept is new to a lot of people,” Kaufman explains. “So we try to educate them on how the design works.”

With its heated floors and superior ventilation, the room dries quickly and actually feels less humid and damp than a traditional bathroom does, according to Elaine. “Really, we chose everything we did because they were our favorite things, so it’s hard to choose a favorite feature. But I love the way the kitchen works; it’s arranged perfectly. And that bathroom shower is very nice.”

Jerel smiles at Elaine’s response. “She just wanted to repaint, you know.”

A Purpose for Everything

Although the Mericals’ home has a finished lower level and bedrooms on the upper floor, they wanted to maintain their primary living spaces on the main level in anticipation of a time when they may not be physically able to use the stairs.

For that reason, most of their living room furniture is multifunctional—ottomans that double as storage, tables that include hidden extensions.

Even the artwork was chosen with a purpose. “Every piece has meaning for us,” Elaine explains, pointing out paintings and photographs and the stories behind them. “Nothing comes into the house at this point unless it has a purpose.”

And most things that went out during the remodel went with a purpose as well. “Just as we were starting our remodel, a family in Waukee lost everything when their house burned down,” Elaine says. “We had all these things we didn’t need, and they were trying to replace everything they’d lost. We were able to give them our appliances, our cupboards, even some of the furniture.”


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