‘Really comfortable and efficient’: Lawrence empty-nesters build cozy, light-filled home to age in place

photo by: Mike Yoder

Pat and Linda Slimmer recently moved into their custom home - which Pat helped build - at 1751 Learnard Ave.

Back in 2006 when they still had children living with them, Linda and Pat Slimmer bought a plot of land at 1751 Learnard Ave., intending to build a typical family home. In 2008, they even drew plans for a two-story house; however, because of the volatile nature of the housing market, the timing was never right.

Eventually the Slimmers’ children grew up and moved out. By the time the Slimmers were ready to build, their vision of a home had altered completely: Instead of a standard two-story house, the couple now envisioned an age-in-place one-level home they could spend the duration of their lives in.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Pat and Linda Slimmer’s residence at 1751 Learnard Ave. is a single-level, age-in-place home.

“It was a good thing we waited because our needs completely changed,” Pat says. “We talked to a lot of people our age, and an age-in-place house kept coming up. A lot of people think about it. It’s something we both wanted to do.”

According to research by the American Association of Retired Persons, 77% of adults 50 and older wish to stay in their homes throughout their lives. But without major alterations, most already-built homes and new construction are not accessible for older people with mobility limitations. Age-in-place homes include modifications that enhance independence for people with physical limitations, allowing seniors to remain in their homes longer rather than moving to an assisted-living facility. Some age-in-place features that Pat, 62, and Linda, 60, integrated include wider hallways for wheelchairs, sliding doors, lever-style door handles, no-step entries and ample artificial and natural light.

Linda says builder Scott Weber helped acclimate them to the age-in-place concept.

“Besides being a great builder and craftsman he helped guide us through the whole process of building a house,” Linda says.

photo by: Mike Yoder

A long hallway runs the length of one wing of the house and opens to an outdoor courtyard. At left is a wet bar in the living room area at 1751 Learnard Ave.

Pat helped physically build the 2,300-square-foot house and its accompanying 1,200-square-foot garage and shop.

“I cherish the experience,” Pat says. “How many people get to build their own house? To be an integral part of that? I feel very fortunate to be part of that experience. I have a deep connection to the house, and from the first night we spent there it immediately felt like home.”

Building began at the beginning of 2020. The house normally would have been completed by May, but the housing-supply shortage caused by the pandemic hobbled the house’s progress, and work on the house didn’t finish until October.

“(Weber) said he’d never spent so long building a house,” Pat says. “We had to wait six months for siding; even our doors; it took four months to get our doors.”

Though the construction took a long time, it was also measured and precise, and the Slimmers find the house aesthetically pleasing as well as practical. For instance, the extra-wide hallway that leads from their living room to their master bedroom features clean, eye-catching lines, Pat says. It’s one of his favorite features.

photo by: Mike Yoder

The Slimmers’ home at 1751 Learnard Ave. has only a single level with a spacious open floor plan, raised ceilings and plenty of windows for natural light.

The living room is an open space with minimal furniture and a gas fireplace. A skylight enhances the ambient light.

“I love the amount of light inside,” Linda says. “We both wanted a house that had a central courtyard and a lot of natural light.”

Glass doors allow the Slimmers to look out onto the courtyard, which features seating for guests. Integrating livable outdoor space was something they both desired. The house also has a screened-in side porch that serves as a greenhouse and a hang-out spot.

photo by: Mike Yoder

A dining area is located between the living room and kitchen and close to the sliding glass doors to the home’s outdoor courtyard at 1751 Learnard Ave.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Three wings of the house at 1751 Learnard Ave. surround an exterior courtyard.

Recently retired from Slimmer’s Automotive Service, Pat is also a metal sculptor. When he was working, he would create his art at his shop, but now that he’s retired, he wanted a workspace at home. He decided to build an extra-large garage so he could have an art studio.

“It’s a very large garage for a house this size,” says Pat, who has had sculptures on display in Topeka’s NOTO Arts District, the Juried Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition in Manhattan and the Downtown Lawrence Sculpture Exhibition.

The Slimmers are pleased with their house: The central courtyard, the screened-in porch, the open living room and the natural lighting keep it cozy, they say.

“We were just trying to go for a house that was really comfortable and efficient,” Pat says. “I love how the house feels, the amount of natural light, the outdoor spaces, the flow and the peacefulness of the location. … I really love that it was something that Linda and I did together as a team and couple.”

photo by: Mike Yoder

A spacious and bright kitchen featuring a skylight is open to the living and dining room at 1751 Learnard Ave.

photo by: Mike Yoder

A spacious, screened-in sun porch is located on the south side of the Slimmers’ home at 1751 Learnard Ave.

photo by: Mike Yoder

A large walk-in shower is a feature in the bedroom of owners Pat and Linda Slimmer, who recently moved into their custom-built home at 1751 Learnard Ave.

photo by: Mike Yoder

A large garden shed, left, and some of Pat Slimmer’s metal sculptures are located in the backyard at 1751 Learnard Ave.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Pat Slimmer included an extra garage/studio space at the new house at 1751 Learnard Ave. where he has room to work on his sculptures.


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.