Extreme Home Makeover: Residents Flip Rooms, Providers Benefit

Senior living providers are ditching the cookie-cutter designs and drab decor of the past—and they don’t have to rely only on professional firms to create appealing rooms. These days, residents are making their rooms completely their own, and they sometimes spend thousands of dollars to do so.

Take The Clare, for example, a 53-story continuing care retirement community in Chicago’s Gold Coast where many residents are said to spend $100,000 or more on renovations. With the help of the CCRC’s design coordinator Lynne Weiss, their abodes become blank, customizable canvases ready for anything from window treatments and different paint colors to knocking down walls entirely to create a more open layout.

“I usually don’t say no,” Weiss tells Senior Housing News. “If it can be done, they can do it.”


Weiss typically sits down with residents at The Clare’s design center before they move in to walk them through their options for finishes, carpet and more. She also visits their current residences to get a better sense of their style and what might work in their new space, she says.

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While most renovations tend to be pretty basic—floor installations or wallpapering—Weiss says she has had a few cases where residents wanted more extreme remodels. One client decided to get rid of any walls in her apartment to convert it into a loft, while another requested custom closets.

“Not a lot of people want that kind of upgrade, but if they want to, they can,” Weiss says.


Limitations are few and far between, but residents are told they must pay to restore their spaces to pre-makeover condition if they move out—though that rarely happens, Executive Director Kyle Exline tells SHN.

“Our agreement requires residents to return the items they renovate back to the original layout,” Exliner says. “However, in nearly all cases, residents are upgrading the unit, and we believe the changes increase the value and therefore don’t require that it’s put back to normal. If we had someone who wanted to remove all the doors from the apartment, for example, we would charge them to put them back.”

Allowing residents this freedom has generated nothing but positive feedback, Weiss says.

“The feedback has been that [the residents] are so happy with the process and [they] should have come sooner,” she says.

Written by Kourtney Liepelt

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