Jillian Builds an Empty Nest Retreat in Westport
One of my most favorite things to do as a child was to sketch dream houses I would someday like to live in.
My husband and I are now empty nester’s and have spent considerable time thinking of a new home where we would spend our later years. We needed to downsize. Our current home, filled with rooms we never use, wasn’t meeting our need for useful space and our low-maintenance lifestyle. We wanted to have a home that meets our life now, with our adult children and their children, all of whom we love spending time with. We also are a dual-career couple, and we both needed home offices.
I knew I didn’t want to live in a condo or a townhouse. We had always renovated our homes and we didn’t want to re-do another one. It’s too expensive and time-consuming. So we decided it was time to build what we wanted, the way we wanted. We were lucky to find an odd-shaped and quirky lot that had sat on the market for some time, so we bought it. It’s in the perfect area for us, near the beach in Westport, Connecticut.
I love Westport. This is where my business has been, where I’ve raised my family, and enjoyed the lifestyle it offers us. The beautiful classic Connecticut homes, the beaches, Longshore, the lively arts and culture that is thriving in this community, our restaurants and proximity to New York City — all this and more — is why we’ve called it home for 23 years.
Follow Jillian through the new construction process
I’m no stranger to new home construction. I’ve spent much of my career working with builders to create new homes for buyers. Helping buyers from the first stage of introducing them to my wide network of contacts in the building industry — from luxury custom builders to architects and designers, landscape architects, and more — to handing them the key to their finished house when it is completed, gives me huge satisfaction.
The house I am creating is a classic yet modern Connecticut farmhouse, designed by Robert Storm Architects. It has open floor plans, ample room for family and entertaining, and an elevator which will make life on a four-level home easy and streamlined and will be terrifically useful both as a mover of stuff and for ourselves as we age. No need to live on one floor. The house will be 3,400 square feet.
We made the decision to construct our home on a small lot so we wouldn’t have to have the upkeep of a large piece of property. We wanted ease of living and maintenance. We do enjoy having a garden, and we intend to use a landscape architect to create a space in the back with a bluestone patio and possibly a fire pit, designed using greenery for privacy. It will become a little haven of our own.
Stay tuned for my next blog post at Jillian Klaff Homes, experts in new construction.
This series will take you through the entire build with me, from empty lot to finished home.
New Construction Tips from Jillian Klaff
- No need for one-floor living as you age — when you plan an elevator into the design. It is a critical design element that will allow incredible ease of living and practicality. It will allow you more living space — and utter convenience when moving heavy luggage, shopping bags, baby strollers, really anything. Elevators are great.
- An open floor plan is very trendy these days. Light and airy feeling and a really wonderful way to live, but requiring special consideration if you have an extensive art or book collection, as we do. With an open floor plan home, wallspace is at a premium. The more open the home, the less wall space to display your art. This is where working with your designer and architect comes in handy. Together, we came up with the ideas to have both the openness we wanted while still being able to have the art and books we love to live with.Our shared office on the third floor of the house will have 12-foot ceilings and floor-to-ceiling built-in book shelves, with a rolling library ladder that will make accessing my books easy and attractive.In the master bedroom suite, a custom cubby display cabinet will beautifully showcase my collection of ceramics which I have collected for many years. It’s important to know what you want, and know what you like. Fortunately, with my many years of experience working with new construction, I have come to have a keen eye for detail and getting things just right. I love to do that for my buyers, too, as in any new construction, having an eye for what things are needed is a useful skill to have.
- Small lots may not be for everyone. But for empty nesters and downsizers the expense and work of maintaining extensive landscaping is something they are happy to give up. By using a landscape designer, small lots can still privacy as well as space for outdoor entertaining and relaxation.
- Find a good team to work with. A good team is really critical. My many years as an agent working with clients buying a home built from scratch has taught me a great deal about the importance of this. I have developed a really extensive list of excellent designers, architects, and contractors and am happy to provide them to you.