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10 Must-Have Features for Your Home Once the Kids Leave the “Nest”

From Downsizing to Restyling, Heres What Empty Nesters Need in a New Home


Will it be a “new look” old home with the same memories? Or will it be a completely different place? Perhaps bigger or smaller? As the kids leave the nest, parents face the daunting but exciting challenge of transforming their residence into an ideal home that focuses on their new lifestyle. Some may want a smaller home; others may prefer a bigger place where everyone can gather for holidays, weekends, and summer vacations. And some may want to remain in their old home.

Whatever the choice – depending on budget and needs – here’s a look at some changes that are attractive and appealing to “empty nesters.”


1.   One-Story Designs The huge two- or three-story house plans are out for this segment of the population. Who wants to navigate stairs when you can have everything on one floor? Empty nesters emphasize efficiency and ease of upkeep/maintenance. But they also want luxury amenities like a gourmet kitchen, a master bath with spa features, a grilling porch, and a “getaway” room – all on the main level.

Delightful Acadian-style house with more than 1,900 sq. ft. of living space

It’s not so much the square footage. Empty nesters look for the ease and convenience of 1-level homes like this delightful Acadian-style house with more than 1,900 sq. ft. of living space, an open floor design, 3 bedrooms, 2 full baths, 3 garage bays, and covered front and rear porches (Plan #142-1090).


2.   Master Suite on the Main Floor As empty nesters anticipate their senior years, a master suite on the main floor will make getting around the house much easier. Today’s plans feature split master bedroom designs – where the master suite is situated on one side of the home and the rest of the bedrooms on the opposite side – with the Great Room as a “divider.” This floor plan allows greater privacy and quiet moments – especially when there are guests, and the kids (and grandkids) are visiting.

 Floor plan (left) of a 3-bedroom, 2-bath Tuscan-style home

Master bedroom in a 3-bedroom, 2-bath Tuscan-style home

The floor plan (top) of a 3-bedroom, 2-bath Tuscan-style home shows a split master bedroom design – with the master bedroom (bottom) placed across the Great Room and away from the other bedrooms (Plan #153-1906).


3.   Large Walk-in Closet(s) in the Master Suite – Say goodbye to crammed clothes and belongings in small closets and cabinets. Hello, large walk-in closet where clothes and accessories can be organized properly and neatly. An extra walk-in closet can also be installed inside the master bathroom.

Walk-in closet off master bathroom

The luxury of a spacious walk-in closet (here, off the master bath in a 3-bedroom, 3.5-bath Mid-century Modern home) is now available to empty nesters who can expand the master suite to include this feature (Plan #202-1013).


4.   Open Floor Design The uncluttered and airy look of an open floor plan – with the kitchen/kitchen island, dining area/breakfast nook and living room merging into one Great Room – fits perfectly into the casual and relaxed lifestyle of empty nesters.

Open floor plan Great Room of a 3-bedroom, 2-bath Ranch-style home

Kitchen with eating bar and breakfast nook in a 3-bedroom, 2-bath Ranch-style home

In the open floor design (top) of a 3-bedroom, 2-bath Ranch-style home, the living room/dining area/kitchen (bottom) flow into one smooth space … and opens into a rear porch (Plan #142-1002).


5.   Outdoor Living Areas Whether it’s a patio, deck, covered porch or a grilling kitchen, today’s empty nesters have a range of outdoor living options to suit their tastes and needs. A deck or patio that opens from the Great Room is a wonderful way to connect the indoors to the outdoor landscape. A porch in the floor plan – covered or otherwise – provides a place to sit back, and relax. For those who love to entertain friends and family, an outdoor kitchen with grilling equipment is a welcome addition.

Dining area showing indoor/outdoor capability

Great Room in 3-bedroom, 3.5-bath Contemporary home

The dining area (top) and Great Room (bottom) of a 3-bedroom, 3½-bath Contemporary 1-story house shows how the home connects the indoors to the outdoors (Plan #202-1020).


Screened porch of a 1-story, 5-bedroom mountain style ranch home plan

Grilling porch of a 3-bedroom, 3-bath European-style home

Top: From the Great Room, one can step out to the screened porch of a 1-story, 5-bedroom mountain style ranch home. Here you can sit, relax, read, or enjoy the outdoor landscape (Plan #163-1055). Right: Love an outdoor barbecue? Entertaining is made easy when you can open the doors of the hearth room or the master suite to walk out onto the grilling porch of a 3-bedroom, 3-bath European-style home (Plan #153-1897).



6.   Guest Suite – One of the latest trends for people who decide to “upsize” is to tear down walls between two bedrooms and combine them into a guest suite. The new and spacious suite can include full baths, a nook/sitting area, a wet bar, even a mini fridge stocked with beverages and snacks.


7.   Gourmet Kitchen – The days of rushed dinners in order to drive the children to school events, music lessons, ball games and other extracurricular activities are finally over. With more time to cook and entertain, most empty nesters choose to remodel their kitchens to include modern appliances, and lots of counter and storage space.

Here’s an amazing modern kitchen where empty nesters can indulge their inner Rachael Ray or Bobby Flay. It’s featured in a 3-bedroom, 2-½-bath Craftsman style home and comes with a peninsula eating bar and lots of storage space (Plan #108-1789).



8.   Exercise Room – Too busy to go to the gym? Remodel the extra bedroom into an exercise room, and put in basic affordable equipment. Throw in a couch and chairs where you can sit and relax after your daily routine. Some empty nesters may also decide to add spa-like features such as a massage table and aromatherapy.

Exercise room in the basement of a charming Ranch style home

Put space in a finihsed basement to good use – as in this space transformed into a home gym/exercise area (Plan #161-1091). 


9.   Hobby Room/Play Area/Entertainment Area – While most couples love their time together, they also want some “alone” time in a “room of their own.” If the old house has a bonus room, there are lots of options for that space. It can be designed as a hobby/play room or an entertainment area.

You can turn a bonus room into a hobby/play/media room like this space in a 6-bedroom Craftsman-style home. There’s a table for a game of chess, checkers, or cards; big screen TV, and chairs where one can sit and relax (Plan #163-1047).


A well-appointed “getaway/entertainment” room – from a 4-bedroom, 2-bath European Victorian-style home plan – provides privacy and alone time to pursue personal interests. (Plan #153-1750).



10.   Laundry Room on the Main Floor – No more trips to the basement and going up and down the stairs to do laundry. The spare bedroom can be turned into a laundry room with some conveniences, including a table for folding the laundry and stacking baskets; and cabinets for storage space and laundry needs.

A main-level laundry in a 3-bedroom, 2-bath Acadian-style home features a table for folding the laundry and some built-in wall cabinets (Plan #142-1002).


As you navigate this next chapter in life, just be sure that all the upgrades reflect your lifestyle and improve your daily routine.


Footnote: The lead image in this article is a stylish 1-story, 5-bedroom Craftsman style house with distinct “Colorado” touches. For more details, click here  (Plan #161-1005)


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