Reprinted from Hook Magazine November 2017, Story by Cathleen Kenney with photography by Andrea B. Swenson
Starting a new chapter.
Exploring the renewal of redesign – a look at two different downsizing life strategies.
Renovating takes energy, aspiration, and inspiration. People who engage in renovations are engaged in planning their lives. They are thinking, is this where I want to stay, does this place serve me….? This is true for 1st time homeowners in their 30’s settling in, those in their 50’s and 60’s reinventing their lives without kids at home, or forging new lives with new partners. It’s true for people in their 70’s and 80’s crafting spaces that really serve them — just them. They are all excited at the prospect of creating something that is forward looking, says Maggie McManus, founder 25 years ago of Nyack’s McManus Group designers. All in all, it requires a special kind of person to take on the job, and it just so happens that Maggie has recently worked on two special projects helping clients who had decided that it was time for a change.
In the one project, client Diane Coupe decided that it was time to leave behind her two-story home in West Nyack and move right into the heart of a bustling Rockland village. “I had wanted to live in Nyack for a while,” says Coupe, founder of Coupe Theatre Studio in Nanuet, “but the apartment needed some tender love and care.” This is where the McManus team came in. This home design agency specializes in space planning, making it the perfect choice for prospective downsizers. “We design architectural spaces,” says Maggie. “Function is the lead.” Combining form and function is no easy task, but the designers maintain an individualized approach to renovation. “Every project is different; it’s about prioritizing the things that you need to use most frequently,” says Project Manager Sean Conway.
For some, this can be as simple as rearranging furniture to create a more open space. For others, It may require some serious renovation. “Everybody has a wish list,” says Maggie. “Our task is to give them what they want within the confines of the space.” According to Coupe, she didn’t have a clue what to expect from the design process. The initial visit was a “meeting of the minds,” where they determined exactly how the space could be altered to best fit her future needs. “The apartment was in a little bit of disarray,” she says. “It was really a matter of clearing out what existed, tearing down a few things, and coming up with ideas that would best serve my purposes, and that’s what we did.” In Coupe’s case, functionality meant two completely renovated bathrooms and the removal of a half-wall.
For the other renovation project, however, things were a bit more complex. As Maggie explains, “This client had two houses. Her estate in the country was where she did all of her entertaining and fundraising events. She lived in her other house, where she had raised her kids. But she always had to travel for her professional life, and it was a huge amount of work, and upkeep, and responsibility to care for two houses. She wanted to be involved in her intellectual life, but she didn’t want to be dealing with those two places. But the house where she lived couldn’t accommodate all her entertaining, so we built an addition onto her house, and then we brought over all of her good furniture, her special art, and rugs, and we picked out the things that were really going to work in her home. It was a very conscious and proactive way of planning her life moving forward. Having sold her estate in the country, the client now needed assistance consolidating all of her possessions into a 1500 square foot home. Because of the smaller space, we really needed to select and identify the important pieces of furniture that were going to serve that space’s function. The addition made it possible to do her fundraising events, host her club meetings, and have 30 people over for a sit-down luncheon at her newly renovated home. When it came to function, this client knew exactly what she wanted. “Besides the very large space to accommodate entertaining large crowds,” says Maggie, “she liked having a couple of conversation areas. We took those as things that needed to be incorporated into the new space.” Maggie continued, “The common question for people embarking on renovation is: what do I want the next 5, 10, or 20 years to look like?”
Having designed spaces for everyone from young families with children to empty nesters, she understands the varying circumstances that come with each renovation. “It’s about extracting the particulars of how they imagine their life,” she says.
“Usually when people are more experienced they are more in tune with what they want or need,” says Conway. “They are much more aware of what their hobbies and interests are.” These interests, whether they involve hosting a 30-person luncheon, or simply looking out at a gorgeous view every morning, are something that McManus Group aims to integrate into their design. “The information gathering process in the beginning is about discussing all of these things,” says Conway. “It’s not just about who is living in the space, but who is using it.” This allows clients to outline their lifestyle, leaving the designers to fit the puzzle pieces of their home around that. “Our profession is to really solve the design issues,” says Maggie. “The decision to renovate depends an how old you are, where you are in your life progression, and what your hopes and aspirations are.”
Now, these two clients are able to live out those aspirations in their newly designed spaces. “I’m happy with the Nyack apartment,” says Coupe, “I’m happy where I am and the changes that were made were exactly what should have been done.”