VICTOR - When a retired Victor couple decided the time had come to find a better home to grow old in, they began an exhaustive hunt for a one-level house.

But the expedition led them straight back to their own two-story home on Indian Prairie Loop.

Parting with their scenic spot in a grove of trees on the edge of Big Creek just didn't make sense, so the couple turned to longtime Bitterroot Valley builder Ray Tipton and architect Lee Kierig for help.

Between the two experts came the answer to the couple's conundrum.

The solution? Build a 2,000-square-foot single-floor addition to the existing 1,200-square-foot structure, and make the addition look as if it had always been there.

In the end, the couple created the home they had been looking for.

Unlike many remodels, the addition was relatively easy because it was like building a small house from the ground up and there weren't a lot of complicated roof lines or structural elements to deal with when it came to blending the two structures, Tipton said.

The house started as a living area above a garage with clean, straightforward lines; it was transformed into an elegant modern home with an easy-to-navigate interior. From the outside, the home now has a distinctive Montana Craftsman look with timber-framing accents and an attractive variety of siding, including corrugated metal.

More importantly, the addition was built with aging issues in mind, Tipton said.

Aside from the gourmet kitchen with Wolf appliances, walnut flooring, a spacious master bedroom with two walk-in closets, and floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook Big Creek, the home also includes equally impressive, albeit more subtle, elements.

Among the highlights: a curbless roll-in shower, doorways wide enough to someday accommodate a person in a wheelchair or a walker, an open floor plan with hardly any hallways, lever-style doorknobs, and easy-to-use cabinet pulls and drawers.

When possible, Tipton said, he always recommends including these aging-friendly design elements because they are inexpensive to install initially, but become expensive when it a retrofit is needed.

"It's become one of our specialties," Tipton said. "We always suggest making these improvements and when people realize how easy it is to do and how cost effective it is, very few say no."

Another key element to an aging-friendly home is to make the most of living space by removing or minimizing hallways.

An open floor plan not only helps create a comfortable and inviting home, it also makes for a home that's easy to live in for people with mobility challenges.

No matter how people feel about aging and the realities that come with getting older, it's possible - even easy - to have a beautiful home that ages well with you.

"All you need to do is to have some options laid out before building begins," Tipton said. "It's that simple."

Have more questions about creating an aging-friendly home? Contact Tipton at Big Sky Builders at (406) 961-2440, ray@bigskybuilders.net or www.bigskybuilders.net.

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