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Thorne Group

THORNE GROUP: BUILDING ARCHITECTURAL HOMES SINCE 2007

11 Key Design Elements to consider for 'Empty Nesters'

The next stage but not ready for the retirement village!

“The kids have left home (or live the majority of time outside the home), and we no longer need a lot of space. We want to downsize to a new, low maintenance home – one that is compact but cleverly designed with quality specs” - this is an increasingly common scenario we encounter.

As we have designed and built hundreds of homes within the highly sought-after Urban Ridge development (and in fact all over the Bay of Plenty) for clients approaching the third age in life, we have collected a range of helpful design tips over the years. Here are our most requested design features and tips.


  • 1. Multi-functional Spaces: This decision depends on whether the kids still come back and stay, or you host guests on a regular basis. Whatever the case, clients often want their spare rooms to be multi-functional spaces when not in use – for example, an art or yoga studio, craft space or office. Providing a separate entrance and access to its own bathroom, a pull down bed, and even a kitchenette provides additional flexibility for use as guest or Airbnb space.


Kitchenette (above), Pull down bed (below)


  • 2. Study nook. Opting for a more central location to do paperwork avoids this becoming a dark unappealing space. A study nook can either be open and created as a design feature or able to be shut away when not in use.

  • 3. Good storage. Whilst furniture can be scaled back, a lifetime of mementos and photos (remember when not everything was digital?) needs to be stored somewhere when not on display. Utilising otherwise unused areas like attic space and walls for overhead cupboards should be part of your design thinking.

  • 4. Walk in pantry. Keeping with the theme of storage, whilst a big kitchen isn’t always necessary, having sufficient storage is essential. A well-designed walk-in pantry (or scullery if it includes a sink) should provide a mix of display, storage and functional bench space.


  • 5. Window seat. This is a feature you will find in many of the homes we build, regardless of size. Window seats are not only a place to curl up with a book in the sun but can also function as additional guest seating (or sleeping if made extra deep) and storage with the addition of drawers underneath.


  • 6. Dual outdoor spaces. Multiple outdoor spaces can be incorporated into even the most compact footprint through clever design. Well thought out design should allow you to opt for sun or shade depending on the season, and escape out of the wind when you choose.

  • 7. Covered outdoor entertaining. A must in summer for shade, but also good to have as an additional entertaining space in winter. Add an outdoor heater for year-round comfort.


  • 8. Parking for the campervan, caravan or boat. An extremely common request and surprisingly, something that is often overlooked in the planning stage.

  • 9. Garage workshop / potting bench. Whether you are a keen gardener or home handyperson - remember to set aside some space in the garage for a bench and area to get a bit creative.

  • 10. Future proofing: For those thinking ahead into future years and plan to remain in their own home as long as practically possible (or have potential health issues), give some thought to potential mobility issues in future years. Allowing for easy access with a walker or wheelchair, low or no transitions between indoor and outdoor surfaces, wider hallways and doorways, wet room showers and grab rails – are all features to consider.

  • 11. Security: Feeling safe in your own home is essential. Ensuring there is a good quality security system, sensor activated lighting and even cameras can provide peace of mind.

Some kind words.....





“Smart design, quality build and the experience of others is what initially attracted us to the Thorne Group. Being a local family business with a great reputation also gave us confidence that we chose the right company for our project. We are absolutely delighted with our new home and the design and build process could not have been smoother.


Our home was designed by Thorne Architecture. Jon understood what we were hoping to achieve right away and produced a design that is perfect for us – smart, compact, stylish and practical. Quality of the workmanship was just that – quality, and the attention to detail with the contracting, invoicing and any variations, meant there were no surprises – except our surprise at how easy and enjoyable the whole process has been. We have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Thorne Group to anyone who is wanting to build a new home – we are so very pleased we did.” | Richard & Jenni


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